The black-robed man sighed, his expression a mix of loneliness and bitter disappointment. Ye Zichen didn’t know why, but the sound left his heart trembling.
He frowned at the black-robed man, then checked on Yang Jian through his spiritual awareness.
“Those are all my problems. They have nothing to do you with you.”
“Nothing to do with me?” the man straightened his back, obviously agitated. The hood thoroughly concealed his face, but Ye Zichen could still vaguely discern the man’s eyes peering out at him through the slit.
“What about it?” said Ye Zichen noncommittally.
The black-robed man pulled off his black cloak and grinned. The garment immediately vanished from Ye Zichen’s consciousness.
Shortly after, Ye Zichen heard him say, “take a good look at me before you say this is none of my business.”
The instant he saw the man’s face, Ye Zichen’s spiritual body froze. After a long pause, his eyes widened in astonishment.
“You’re still alive!” exclaimed Ye Zichen, but before he finished his sentence, he noticed that the black-robed man’s left hand had disappeared.
“I lost a hand is all,” said the black-robed man. He smiled faintly, as if he didn’t care at all. “It doesn’t matter.”
Then he fixed his gaze on Ye Zichen. “The thing that disappoints me most is you, Ye Zichen… Do you understand? You’ve really let me down.”
“Mmm,” nodded Ye Zichen. “I’m sorry to have disappointed you, but can you let my friend go now? Gu Zichen!”
The man standing within his sea of consciousness was indeed Gu Zichen, the one who’d paved his way forward this whole time, ensuring he took the absolute fastest possible route.
Back when they’d dealt with the demons, he’d silently disappeared after placing the heaven-barring formation
Before long, the dimension he’d left behind collapsed, making Ye Zichen suspect he’d perished. Now, though, his spiritual body had shown up. In that case...
That obviously meant he was still alive.
Gu Zichen couldn’t help raise his eyebrows at Ye Zichen’s reaction. Nevertheless, the corners of his lips twitched upwards into a faint smile.
“You illuminated the Emperor Star, so you’re the heaven’s chosen emperor,” said Gu Zichen, nodding gently at Ye Zichen. “In the future, you will inevitably leave mortality further and further behind. You must not get caught up in mortal trifles. I’m very pleased with your performance just now.”
“Will you let him go?”Ye Zichen paid him no heed.
“Calm down. Of course I won’t harm him. He’s still one of your Auxiliary Stars, after all. Even if he’s not a primary star, he’s still an indispensable part of your path to the throne. Just now, I was just testing you. I’m surprised to see that the Emperor Star cares so much about his Auxiliary stars.”
“You’re saying Yang Jian is one of my Auxillary Stars?” said Ye Zichen in astonishment.
“You didn’t know?” Gu Zichen squinted at him. When he realized that Ye Zichen seemed to be telling the truth, his satisfied look gradually faded. “If you didn’t know he was one of your auxiliary stars, why did you threaten to blow yourself up if I didn’t release him?”
“Haven’t I made it clear? He’s my bro for life,” said Ye Zichen without so much as pausing to think.
Gu Zichen’s facial muscles twitched repeatedly, veins bulging in his forehead.
“It looks like I’d better teach you a lesson,” said Gu Zichen in obvious frustration. “Ye Zichen, please remember your status. You are the Chosen of Heaven, the one who illuminated the Emperor Star, the future Lord of All Creation, and the one who will rewrite the history of the Six Realms. Your life is far more important than anyone else’s. It’s okay for others to die for you; their deaths will not be in vain, but you must live. So long as you live, you can ascend to the throne. That’s the only way to change the current situation, understand?
“Oh,” Ye Zichen nodded dully. “Based on what?”
“Based on the fact that you’re Heaven’s Chosen!”
“I think I basically get it. You’re saying that since I’m the Chosen of Heaven, other people’s lives are all cheaper than mine. What I need to do is hide behind other people and obediently wait to ascend to the throne, right?”
“That’s truly idiotic,” snorted Ye Zichen, contempt flashing across his face.
“I don’t think my life matters more than everyone else’s. Haven’t you heard that all living things are equal? If you haven’t, perhaps you’ve heard the saying ‘all are equal before the law?’ A commoner is worth just as much as an imperial prince who received the mandate of heaven. So why do I have to weigh others’ lives against my own? I’m that much more important? Don’t you see how ridiculous you sound?”
“The Emperor Star….”
“So what if I lit up the Emperor Star?” Ye Zichen smiled coldly and shook his head at Gu Zichen. “Bro, I’m really…. Thankful? Your appearance made my life so... so... rich. And interesting. And exciting. You’ve truly helped me a lot. But did you know? I actually don’t especially care for you. If it weren’t for you, I might still be living an ordinary life right now. It might have been difficult, but that’s still the life I was meant to have.”
“Your appearance changed everything about me, and my changes went into influence countless other people through the butterfly effect. When Su Yan and Yu Xiaomei sobbed into my arms, crying that they wanted to go home, do you have any idea how I felt? I hated myself, hated that I dragged them into this. I will do everything I possibly can to take them back home with me. Understand?”
“Emperor Star? What good is it? Quite frankly, I don’t give a single shit. All I want is to be by their side as we wander the streets of the Modern Realm at night, eat street-food, go window-shopping at the mall, and watch television together. And here you are, trying to convince me of the Emperor Star’s value… Let me tell you, mine is just one ordinary life. I don’t believe I’m all that valuable. In my eyes, others are worth just as much. Right now, all I want you to do is release Yang Jian. That’s all, nothing else. Got it?”
Ye Zichen spoke sharply. The moment he finished speaking, an imperial aura exploded uncontrollably out of his spiritual body and he glowered threateningly at Gu Zichen.
“Oh yeah, there was something else I wanted to say to you. I know you come from a parallel dimension. Your world might’ve encountered some inhuman disaster and destruction and I might be your only hope of salvation, so you’ve forcefully placed everything onto my shoulders. To tell the truth, you’re being awfully selfish.”
“Even so, I won’t condemn you for it. I can understand your feelings: that sense of helplessness as you watch everything fall to pieces, your desperation to turn everything around… I can understand it! But what I’d like to say is, if you had to turn to me, you’ve obviously already failed once. You’ve been walking a losing path all this time. Don’t force your failures onto me or you’ll inevitably just fail again. If you want to change your future, then… please, shut your mouth and let me do things my way. Got it?”