There probably didn't exist a person who knew Yao Jun better than Guo Luo, even his parents might not understand him as much as she did thanks to everything he had gone through after he left them. Seeing those faint lights flickering through his eyes, how could she not understand exactly what thoughts were racing through his mind? And it was exactly her understanding of his thoughts that made her step forward and grab hold of his hand, smiling calmly at Ren Shuren and Ren Yazhu.
"Hello, it's nice to finally meet you face to face, I'm Guo Luo. Forgive me for being a bit abrupt, but would you happen to have some communication jades? That way it would be much easier for us to contact each other in the future."
Ren Shuren was a little caught off-guard by Guo Luo suddenly stepping forward and practically cutting into the conversation, but Yao Jun didn't look like he was going to talk much more so it didn't really matter. He was also a bit surprised by her words, chuckling somewhat amusedly as he and his wife swept their interspatial rings and tossed over two orbs made from blue jade.
"Wow, actual subtlety, there's no way you learned that from him. Here, these are a speciality of our race, or at least we like to call them that. As long as we're in the same multiverse, and aren't hiding in some truly special areas, we can use them to contact each other. But alright, we won't be interrupting you lovebirds any longer, please continue to be an anchor for him, I think most living beings desire just that."
Ren Shuren took hold of his wife's hand and simply walked away, supporting the wounded Zue Angye that Yao Jun had turned into a loyal puppet without their knowledge. Neither Yao Jun nor Guo Luo commented on the start or end of Ren Shuren's statement, Yao Jun simply raised an eyebrow somewhat quizically.
"Why do I get the feeling that I'm about to be scolded for something?"
Guo Luo was different from Yao Jun, she was far calmer and amicable. It was exceedingly rare for her to usher others away like that, so for her to do so now it meant that she likely had something she wanted to say to Yao Jun. He was almost fully certain that she was about to raise a complaint, but she simply giggled sweetly while pulling on his hand.
"Hehe, isn't that because you're paranoid? Come, let's leave this city, there's something I want to show you."
Her words didn't do anything assuage Yao Jun's thoughts that he was about to receive a complaint, but he was completely helpless when faced with her smile and giggle so he could only smile in return. Guo Luo pulled out the mental energy Yao Jun had used to sink Yao Xuelian into an illusion, an ability he honestly didn't even know she had, the family of three quickly reaching the nearest spatial array.
They used the spatial array to leave Sunsong city and arrived in one of the smaller cities controlled by the weaker clans that were subordinate to the ruler of Sunsong city. From there, Yao Jun used his law of space to teleport them away from the city until they found an arid savannah that was nearly completely devoid of life. Guo Luo had just said to leave the city, but just as she could understand him better than others, so too could he understand her better than others.
He expanded his senses as far as he could to make sure that there truly weren't any threatening people or beasts in the area, bringing Yao Xuelian into his God Gate when he didn't spot anything. And once he made sure that they were alone, he turned to Guo Luo with a soft smile.
"Alright, lay into me."
He stretched out his arms in an inviting gesture, as if he was beckoning for Guo Luo that she could now wail on him as she pleased. But she didn't hit him or scold him, she simply smiled at him calmly while taking a few light steps back.
"It's simple really, you and I are going to fight here. Well, I say fight, but I know that neither of us really have the heart to hurt the other, so we'll both only unleash a single move."
Yao Jun's expression faltered slightly when Guo Luo told him what she wanted, she really wasn't the type that enjoyed fights so it was extremely rare for her to initiate one. But before he got the chance to utter a somewhat confused remark, she gave him a quick reminder.
"And don't you dare hold back, I might never forgive you if you do."
Her expression was exceedingly serious as she spoke, making it abundantly clear that she wasn't joking around just to be funny. She truly wanted him to hit her with everything he had in his one attack. But that determined and almost steely expression of hers also made Yao Jun's soft smile vanish somewhat.
"Why? I want to know at least that much."
Guo Luo was one of his greatest treasures. For her, he could do everything in the world. So how could he possibly attack her with everything he had, and why would she suddenly request something like that? Guo Luo didn't give him a conclusive answer, her gaze only growing steelier as she gave a short remark.
"Because there is something I must prove."
Guo Luo took several more steps back until there was a bit over 15 metres between her and Yao Jun. Her gaze had turned so steely that Yao Jun had never seen anything similar on her, giving him no choice but to admit that she was deathly serious about this. He let out a slow and deep breath, sliding his left leg forward while pulling his right arm back as if he was preparing to stab out with something.
The grass around him was flattened as a small burst of energy erupted from his body for a short second before it was quickly absorbed again, all his Qi gathering in his right arm. She wanted him to attack her with his full power, but she never said that he had to actually hit her with his attack. After all, Yao Jun really didn't dare to hit Guo Luo with his full power.
So he gathered all his energy in his right hand and then pushed it forward, his sword appearing in his grasp for a split second as a faint silver light left the tip and pierced through the air. The light cut through the air with a faint wooshing sound, faint cracks spreading throughout the space around the light.
But the light would miss Guo Luo by about a metre, so it didn't matter how strong it was. Or at least that was what Yao Jun expected. What he didn't expect was that Guo Luo would actually step to the side to ensure that the attack would at the very least hit her waist and tear straight through it.
But she chose her timing perfectly, moving to the side just before the attack would reach that spot, making sure that Yao Jun couldn't pull it back in time. As such, the attack hit her before Yao Jun could even utter a sound.
And then the attack passed directly through her, Guo Luo's body rippling like a lake that someone had just thrown a rock into. The hole left behind by the light didn't spill any blood and actually closed up as the ripples died down, it was as if Yao Jun had done nothing more than disturb a reflection cast on a tranquil lake. And while he was dumbfounded by the scene, Guo Luo gave him a soft reminder.
"That was your move so now it's my turn. Jun'er, take care."
Guo Luo's aura explosively shot up the moment she finished her words, rainbow-coloured light swimming within her veins and giving her a dream-like glow. The burst of energy was very similar to the Crumbling The Nine Heavens that Yao Jun had taught her, but as he himself had fully trained in that technique he was able to see that she wasn't using it right now.
But Guo Luo didn't give him the chance to ask any questions and raised her arm, a crystalline transparent sword appearing in her grasp as she slashed down. The attack didn't unleash any energy, but Yao Jun still felt a sense of danger surface in his mind as the sword was lowered, his defences instinctively rising.
As was the norm for him when he faced unknown attacks like this, layers of defences were erected around him, each layer containing one of his laws just in case the attack was able to counter one of his laws. But it seemed as if his defences simply didn't exist, a small gap appearing in every single one, even the defense set up using the Supreme Law of Defense fragment.
And it wasn't just his defences that acquired a new gap, a deep gash also appeared on his shoulder, blood gushing out. He quickly channelled his Monarch Essence, the body cultivation equivalent of Qi, to the wound to heal it, but it had no effect. Not only did his Monarch Essence fail to heal it, but the wound was also even growing larger with each passing second.
This was the second time he was engaging in a battle like this with Guo Luo, but just like the last time, the skill she brought out left him only baffled and confused. It obviously had something to do with illusions, but he had no idea what sort of ties an attack like this had with Guo Luo's type of illusions.
Guo Luo waved her hand just as the wound was about to grow so large that it would reach Yao Jun's throat, he knew she wouldn't actually hurt him so he hadn't bothered trying to push back the wound as he normally would. The wound vanished when Guo Luo waved her hand, only the blood staining Yao Jun's robe remained as he looked at Guo Luo with a questioning expression.
If an actual enemy hit him with an attack like that then things might be more than just a bit troublesome. Luckily, he had Guo Luo here that could explain things to him, leaving him better equipped to handle such attacks in the future. Guo Luo lost a bit of her steely expression as she walked over, the corners of her lips turning up in a somewhat pleased arc.
"Did you think that you were the only one who improved over time? Did you think that we didn't do our best to grow stronger so that we could help you?"
Yao Jun had constantly fought and suffered to increase his strength, but how could the same not be true for Guo Luo or the deceased Yun Yantian? She didn't immediately answer his dumbfounded question, gently cupping his cheeks and making sure that he looked directly into her eyes.
"Look at me, do I look like I'm about to vanish into thin air?"
Even if it wasn't for her holding onto his head, Yao Jun would still find himself looking directly into her eyes. Guo Luo's pink eyes had always been mesmerizing, and whenever he looked at them they would be filled with endless care and love. But right now they were filled with nothing but a gentle worry and a bone-deep determination. And as she was making sure that he was looking directly into her eyes, she started to gently poke at his heart.
"You're afraid, I know. You have always been afraid, a scared man using his fear to push forward so that you won't have to lose anything. It doesn't matter what we say, that fear has already become a part of you, that's just how emotions are. But you can't let that fear stand in the way of everything else."
That was the deepest truth about Yao Jun, the emotion he held deepest in his heart. He had gained many things over the years, and lost a few, and the more things he gained, the greater his fear of losing them became. The more he gained, the more he feared, the more he forced himself to push onward so that he wouldn't lose anything. Guo Luo knew this, so she continued to prod at his heart.
"You want to reach the King rank on the multiverse list to bring back Yun Yantian? You want to become strong enough to find everything needed to revive Little Thunder? You want to become so strong that no one will dare even think about making a move on anyone close to you? Tell me honestly, Jun'er, can you do it if you continue at your current pace? If so, how long will it take? And do you expect us to just stay behind you while you do this? Does the thought of us helping you scare you that much?"
Yao Jun had no answer to her questions, he simply didn't know how long it would take him to accomplish any of those goals. His current Divine Beast hunt was certainly a good start, but there was no guarantee that it would be enough for even the smallest of his goals. As for what to do after that, he really didn't have an idea, there were simply too few places where he felt comfortable bringing Guo Luo and the others. These were indeed some of his worries and fears, but Guo Luo simply didn't let up.
"Do you expect us to just stand around and watch as you shed more and more blood? Do you think Yantian would have accepted something like that, do you think I will accept something like that?"
Yao Jun felt heart-piercing pain whenever he saw any of them get hurt, but how could the same not be true for them? He wasn't the only one with deep emotions, Yun Yantian had even willingly laid down his own life so that Yao Jun could escape, he had even handed him his God Gate in the process. Even Yun Yantian could feel that strongly so there was no way that Guo Luo didn't feel at least as strongly. Guo Luo continued to make sure that Yao Jun was looking directly into her eyes, laying the truth he already knew bare to him.
"I am strong. I don't fight that often because I prefer calm and peace, and because I know that you worry every time I fight. But Yao Jun, I am strong, strong enough to shoulder some of your fears, and strong enough to stand at your side, not behind you. You do not need to worry about where you can go just because you're afraid that we might get hurt. True, we might get hurt and bleed, but we'll gladly do so if it means that we can stay by your side and bear some of your burdens."
This was the one point she wanted to hammer home with their quick fight, the one point she wanted to make so clear that not a single person could deny it. She hadn't wasted the years, she hadn't wasted the time Yao Jun was gone, she was strong enough to shoulder some of his fears.
And Yao Jun knew this, he had known it even before this small exchange, but it was still extremely hard for him to bring Guo Luo with him to any dangerous areas. After all, he had been confident when he brought Yun Yantian to the Lin clan, and where had that brought him? He had lost a friend as well as his confidence and pride, allowing his fear to flourish even further. And since she had forced the truth to the surface, Guo Luo proceeded with the finishing blow.
"I will help you hunt down the remaining Divine Beasts, but after that, I will make my way to where the Dreamland Convergence is held. That is the perfect place for me to raise my strength, and the perfect place for you to raise your strength is the grandest stage of this universe. You know that, right?"
Guo Luo held the Illusion God's Gate, there truly wasn't a better place for her than the Dreamland Convergence, a large event focused solely on illusions. Yao Jun knew this, he also knew what was likely the best place for him to quickly raise his strength, but his fear still made it hard for him to admit it. As a result, Guo Luo simply continued to push further without mercy, she had clearly already thought along these lines even before they learned about the Dreamland Convergence.
"Tell me, Jun'er, what was your cultivation level when we were first separated? And what level were you at when we met again?"
Many people might fear Yao Jun, but the number of people who knew the terrifying answer to this question was extremely few. Yao Jun was the one who had personally gone through that journey, so after a bit of hesitation, he gave a low response.
"...3rd stage of the Mortal Earth, and then the early stage of the Earthly Deity realm..."
When Yao Jun was first dragged into the spatial rift that brought him away from his home planet, he was still at the earliest of the early cultivation realm, weaker than even many babies and children. But he moved forward without pause, and by the time he met Guo Luo again, after losing Little Thunder, he had already become feared. But what was even scarier than the growth to his strength was the time it took, a time that Guo Luo could recount down to the days if she had to.
"Exactly, and how few years passed during that separation? They can be counted on just one hand! You achieved what others don't even dare dream of in such a short amount of time! Tell me, if I or Lan'er had been at your side and you had constantly worried about where to go while bringing us, would you have reached the same stage?"
That was the only answer Yao Jun could give to that question, the honest answer. There was no way he would dare go to half of the places where he grew stronger if he had been with Guo Luo and Yao Xuelian, he would be too worried about their safety. He would be missing multiple companion beasts, multiple God Gates and Supreme Law Fragments, and a great portion of his strength. And admitting that was something that required nearly all his strength.
"Exactly, and neither would we. I would probably still be in the earliest cultivation realm if I constantly stayed by your side and allowed you to face all the battles on your own."
Yao Jun had grown stronger during their separation, but the same was also true for her. It was just that she was a bit safer while doing it, at least until they too left their home planet and entered the wider universe. She thought she had grown a fair bit during their separation, but their reunion back then had made it clear that her growth was far from enough. And that realization led her to only one conclusion.
"But I am not content with that, and I never will be. So I will go to the Dreamland Convergence, and I will come out alive and stronger than ever before. And you, you will go to the only battlefield in this universe that is worthy of you, and you will return to me as a man stronger than any other."
Guo Luo had indeed been thinking something along these lines for a bit, but it was only after seeing Yao Jun's thoughts after Ren Shuren told him about the three upcoming competitions that she truly settled her mind. Even now he was still worried about her, and he might always be, but she still wanted to become strong enough to alleviate at least a bit of his fear. And the usual cultivation was clearly not enough for that, she needed to be faster, she needed more pressure.
The steely determination lurking within the depths of her pupils vanished a bit after she finished talking. Gentle worry was the sole emotion that remained in her eyes as she gazed deeply into Yao Jun's ghastly grey and pain-filled eyes.
"Others may fear you as a great Demon God, but to me, you'll never be anything more than my own dumbo demon, my scared little man. So won't you let me leave so that I can eventually return to you and remove that fear?"
She flashed him a radiant smile as she spoke, the curve of her lips filled with such love and concern that it stabbed directly into Yao Jun's heart to finish the job that Guo Luo had started. He couldn't even muster any resistance when faced with that dazzling sight, his own expression left with no choice but to turn bitter.
"Unfair, you really are unfair, aren't you?"
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