The Little Demon Empress’ icy voice reverberated in the Demon Imperial Hall, causing everyone’s face to become extreme ugly. The Little Demon Empress had only mentioned Duke Xuan… and that also meant that she was not going to handle all these sinners who were kneeling here at the same time. Instead, she was going to have a private chat with each and every one of them.
All those present felt their hearts beat violently in their chests. They faced the Little Demon Empress together so they felt a slight sense of camaraderie from one another, but if it was a private summons… then everyone would do their utmost to try to make amends for their crimes and reveal everything they knew about everyone else’s sin. In order to live, they would do whatever it took prove their loyalty at all costs…
And besides the Little Demon Empress, no one else would know what the other person said or vowed, so they would not even know who betrayed whom.
Not only that, if anyone left anything out or did not prove their loyalty enough, it was extremely likely that they would be made into examples by the Little Demon Empress.
In addition, given the Little Demon Empress’ current power, killing anyone present would be as simple as squashing a bug.
With that, in an instant, these people, who were already soaked in sweat, started to sweat even more as they desperately tried to think of what they ought to say. Moreover, in this seven day period, the plan they had come up with to present a united front and cover up each other’s ugly deeds quietly collapsed amidst the desolate and terrifying atmosphere.
Duke Xuan, who had been first to be summoned, trembled with fear as he rose, and under the gazes of all who were present, he made his way, step by step, towards the stone room. With only the intervening space of less than two hundred paces, he nearly collapsed to the floor on at least three different occasions. Each and every step he took made it seem as if he was approaching an endless abyss.
The Duke Xuan in Yun Che’s memory was short and fat man with a sincere smile. But in just these short seven days, he had actually shrunk considerably. Once Duke Xuan entered the stone room, he collapsed to his knees and his entire body shook like a leaf. “This insignificant duke… gree… greets the Little Demon Empress… this insignificant duke knows that he has sinned… but it was only this insignificant duke who had sinned… and even this insignificant duke’s wife had advised him to never ever become involved with Duke Huai. But this insignificant duke lost his mind… and the rest of my Duke Palace was really not involved at all.”
“I beg the Little Demon Empress to kill this insignificant duke alone. The others in my Duke Palace, they really do not know anything. They were only dragged down by this insignificant duke… I beg the Little Demon Empress to show mercy and let off this insignificant duke’s family… after this insignificant duke has been executed, I will definitely be deeply grateful to you… I just beg that the Little Demon Empress will show mercy regarding…”
Duke Xuan’s entire body kept shaking, and he was weeping violently as his face was filled with a mixture of extreme regret and terror. As he continued to desperately beg the Little Demon Empress, he had already kowtowed many times to her and had bashed his head against the floor with such force that his forehead was covered in blood.
“Did this empress say that she wanted to kill you? Do you really desire death that much?” coldly asked the Little Demon Empress.
Duke Xuan lifted his head, and his expression turned blank as he could scarcely believe the words that he had just heard.
“Hmph!” The Little Demon Empress gave a cold snort and continued in a solemn voice, “Even though your Duke Xuan Palace has not made any major contributions in these hundred years, you have not committed any errors either. What was truly rare was that when this empress’ power had waned and a good majority of the Duke Palaces secretly defected over to Duke Huai, your Duke Xuan Palace had never betrayed or abandoned this empress before. In addition, even if you had thrown your lot in with Duke Huai, it was only because you thought that this empress had died, and it was the only way to ensure the safety of your Duke Palace.”
“Duke Xuan, you are at fault. But this empress is also at fault. My fault lay in the fact that I was too weak, so weak that those who were loyal to this empress were subjected to continuous abuse and humiliation by those traitors and renegades. Furthermore, in the hundred years of this empress’ decline, you had never once thought to betray or abandon me. Instead, you remained faithful, and that in and of itself is enough to cover the greater than four months of wrongdoing… so you may rise.”
Duke Xuan’s expression was sluggish and tears filled his eyes as he did not dare believe each and every word that he had just heard. Ever since the Little Demon Empress had returned, every gaze from her was like being dropped into an icy abyss. Every word was filled with a chilling/imposing killing intent, every order seemed like it would cause rivers of blood to run through the streets of the Demon Imperial City… As a sinner, he could not sleep for a whole seven days. Not only that, every single day was filled with fear and trepidation, and he had already prepared his own coffin. His greatest desire was to preserve his wife and his Duke Palace… But who would have thought that when it was his turn to be judged by the Little Demon Empress, not only was there not a single hint of killing intent, he was not even condemned but praised instead.
It was as if he had instantly flown from the borders of hell straight up to heaven. Duke Xuan’s eyes instantly overflowed with tears, and he did not rise up. Instead, he collapsed onto the ground and prostrated himself. He wept loudly as he spoke, “This insignificant duke… thanks the Little Demon Empress for her divine mercy! This insignificant duke had received royal favor, but he instead repaid it with perfidy. This in and of itself is enough for me to die a thousand times over… but the Little Demon Empress’ divine mercy is like that of the heavens. This insignificant duke is unable to repay this in any way. So the only thing this insignificant duke can do is to swear my eternal loyalty and devotion to you. It will be constant even in death… If I ever dare to even show a hint of betrayal again, may the heavens smite me…”
“There is no need for further words, rise.” The Little Demon Empress casually waved her hand “Your wife and children are definitely worried sick for you back at your palace. So quickly return to them and allay their worries. Withdraw.”
“I thank the Little Demon Empress for her divine mercy… I thank the Little Demon Empress for her divine mercy…” Duke Xuan once more rose while trembling… but this time, he was trembling due to gratitude. He remained bowed as he retreated and could not stop giving thanks. Even after his feet had stepped out of the barrier, he still had not stopped.
“I thank the Little Demon Empress for her divine mercy… I thank the Little Demon Empress for her divine mercy…”
The people kneeling in the great hall saw Duke Xuan make a quick exit, without a single wound on his body and with a face that was flushed red with excitement and gratitude, his mouth uttering ceaseless thanks.
A few people tried to talk to him, but Duke Xuan did not pay attention to anyone. Instead, he turned around and quickly left the place. But everyone could see clearly that, while his expression was clearly one of relief… there was some joy hidden there as well.
“Could it be that the Little Demon Empress actually pardoned him?”
Everyone looked at one another in dismay, but Duke Xuan came out unscathed and his face was filled with joy and astonishment, so that caused the pressure in everyone’s heart to lessen several times. The miserable fate of the Duke Huai Palace had caused them to be so anxious that they could scarcely carry on. Moreover, every single moment spent in the presence of the Little Demon Empress filled them with boundless terror, and their minds could not help but illustrate various terrible scenarios. But Duke Xuan had only gone in for a few moments, and he had clearly been pardoned at the end of it.
They began to feel that, perhaps their sheer terror had been overblown… That was right, after all, they all belonged to Guardian Families and Duke Palaces, and they were the pillars supporting the Illusory Demon Realm! The Illusory Demon Realm had just gone through such a big change, so the foundations and supports were even more inviolate at this time!
Among all the Duke Palaces, Duke Xuan was already among the weakest, and his palace could not even compare to the Guardian Families, but he was safe and sound… As long as they gave all their effort to repent and prove their loyalty, the Little Demon Empress would definitely go with the flow and absolve them. They would receive a warning at most…
At this thought, everyone’s hearts immediately calmed down a great deal, and even the atmosphere of the great hall did not seem so stifling and oppressive anymore.
“Helian Kuang, enter.”
The Little Demon Empress’ voice pierced the barrier as it rang out from the stone room, and this time, her voice summoned the Helian Family Patriarch, Helian Kuang.
“Patriarch…” A few of the core elders in the Helian Family looked at Helian Kuang with worried expressions on their faces.
“Don’t worry. After all, I am the Patriarch of a Guardian Family, so nothing will happen to me.” Helian Kuang sucked in a heavy breath as he strode towards the stone room.
Once he entered the stone room, a heart-piercing icy sensation assaulted him and caused him to feel chills all over, so he involuntarily shivered. Helian Kuang did not dare to meet the Little Demon Empress’ eyes, instead he hurriedly kneeled and said, “This sinner Helian Kuang greets the Little Demon Empress.”
“You may rise.” The Little Demon Empress’ voice was incomparably calm, and there was not single fluctuation in her emotions. She gazed at a stone seat to her right and said, “Be seated.”
There was no killing intent, no fury, not even a feeling of oppression, and he did not even need to kneel. All of this caused Helian Kuang’s heart to be steadied. He slowly rose to his feet and carefully shifted into the stone seat.
The Little Demon Empress extended her hand and a delicate white jade teacup appeared in her palm. With a flip of her hand, the teacup rose in the air as if it was being guided by a light wind and it floated across to the land on the stone table in front of Helian Kuang, “Patriarch Helian, please have some tea.”
The white jade of the teacup was flawless, but its contents were empty and there was not even a drop of tea inside of it. But how would Helian Kuang dare to show even the slightest bit of dissent. Even if the Little Demon Empress were to declare that he was a dog right now, he would respond by barking a few times. He lifted up the teacup with both hands and brought it to his mouth. He carefully raised his head and made the appearance of slowly savoring his tea, and it was only after a good long while that he set the teacup down with the utmost care.
“Have you finished drinking?” The Little Demon Empress’ eyes slightly narrowed, but her words were bland.
Helian Kuang hurriedly cupped his hands and said, “Yes… the rich and mellow fragrance of this tea belongs only in the heavens… I thank the Little Demon Empress for this drink.”
“Since the tea has already been drunk,” The Little Demon Empress’ eyes shone faintly, “then you can leave on your journey with your mind at ease!”
As her final word fell, the Little Demon Empress had already stepped through space, and she suddenly appeared in front of Helian Kuang as if she were a demon out of hell. A small snow-jade delicate hand held flames that seemed to emanate from the fiery pits of hell, and it heavily smashed into Helian Kuang’s chest. The wild and violent Golden Crow Flames crazily surged into his body, and in a single instant, all his internal organs had been completely incinerated.
“Urgh…” Helian Kuang’s eyes widened rigidly as the world spun around him.
An ear-shattering explosion rang out, and Helian Kuang’s body flew out of the stone room and violently smashed into the crowd of people that were kneeling there. When he landed on the ground, his eyes had widened into circles as he stared at the ceiling. There was no sound coming from him at all. Not only that, on his chest, there was a ghastly, black scorch mark.
“Patriarch… Patriarch!!” The gathered core elders of the Helian Family screamed in alarm as they rushed forward, but there was not even a sliver of life left in Helian Kuang’s body. A thick and acrid smell of burnt flesh wafted from his entire body, and his death could not be anymore complete.
“Patriarch…” Staring at the body in front of them, the core elders of the Helian Family had been scared out of their minds, and they just stood there trembling all over. At this time, the Little Demon Empress’ low and cold voice rang out from the stone room, “Despite being the Patriarch of a Guardian Family, Helian Kuang colluded with Duke Huai and conspired to rebel against the throne, so his death was richly deserved. Furthermore, this punishment was originally to be extended to the entire Helian Family. But on account of the Helian Clan having faithfully served and protected the clan of the Demon Emperor for the past ten thousand years, this empress has decided to give you a chance and grant your Helian Family an opportunity to turn over a new leaf… Helian Tu!”
The Second Elder of the Helian Family, whose name had just been called, jerked up with a start as he frantically turned around and sank to his knees.
“From today onward, you will be the new Patriarch of the Helian Family! this empress orders you to drag Helian Kuang’s carcass over to the North Gate in two hours time and suspend it there! Leave it exposed to the public for seven days, and within these seven days, if anyone dares to retrieve his corpse, plead for mercy, or publicly mourn for him, execute that person on the spot!”
“Moreover, if anyone in your Helian Family shows even the slightest bit of dissent, if this empress is aware of it, I will kill that person! If any of you have the audacity to put your clan first and defy my order or if any one of you show even the slightest hint of perfidy again, this empress will ensure that this world will no longer have a Helian Family!”
Every word that the Little Demon Empress uttered caused the dread within the hearts of the core elders of the Helian Family to escalate exponentially. But if the death of one person could be exchanged for the safety of the entire Helian Family, then no one would be stupid enough to be indignant over his death. Helian Tu said in a shaky voice, “We will obey the commands of the Little Demon Empress… I thank the Little Demon Empress for her mercy. Our Helian Family will remain steadfastly loyal to the Little Demon Empress from this day forth, and we will gladly give our lives for you…”
“Also, the Purple Veined Divine Crystals that you owe the Yun Family, definitely do not forget about them.”
“Yes… Yes…” Helian Tu dragged Helian Kuang’s body away as his head jerked up and down in fear. He scrambled to leave, his steps teetering as if he was walking on the edge of a blade.
Terror wildly swept across the Demon Imperial Hall like an epidemic. The slight relief that they had felt after seeing Duke Xuan come out unscathed completely disappeared in an instant, and everyone’s faces were so pale that it seemed all the blood had been drained out of them… For ten thousand years, the Helian Family’s status as a Guardian Family had been second only to the Yun Family, but the Helian Patriarch, Helian Kuang, had been personally executed by the Little Demon Empress… So if that could happen to him, what lay in store for the other Guardian Families and Duke Palaces.
“Jiufang Kui, enter.”
All eyes turned towards the Jiufang Family. Jiufang Kui rose with much trembling, but just as he managed to stand up, his legs went soft, and he sank to his knees once more. His wide and bulging eyes clearly displayed the boundless dread that had welled up in his heart. The horrific death of Helian Kuang had planted a devil in his heart… because he was extremely clear that among the Twelve Guardian Families, even though the Helian Family may have been the first to switch their loyalties over to the Duke Huai Palace, his Jiufang Family was a close second! In addition, his Jiufang Clan and the Helian Clan had originally been close because of their shared race.They had also intermarried over the generations…
She had just killed Helian Kuang and then called for him, Jiufang Kui… how could he not be terrified?