The source of this c𝓸ntent is 𝐟𝗿𝗲𝗲𝐰𝗲𝐛𝐧𝐨𝘃𝗲𝗹.𝗰𝐨𝐦
Billions of cells, from skin to marrow, replicated [Void Heart]'s devouring ability. Golden cyclones sped up while rippling ponds grew darker, dragging all matter to their depths. Each could only swallow a minute amount of lightning, but small streams make great rivers. The unbearable levels of destruction that the nineteenth spike and the Law of Balance levied were brought to balance as the Void accepted what Zac could not.
It actually worked.
It was an idea born from desperation, but not one without merit. Zac's experience in the Abyssal Pond and its aftermath had proven there was a yet unexplained connection between his attuned constitutions and the Void Emperor Bloodline. First, the Void siphoned the energy from his cells during his dip in the pond. Only by connecting with the true Abyssal Lake had he absorbed enough Abyssal Energy to satiate the Void and advance his Draugr bloodline.
A few days later, [Void Heart] finally released the vast amounts of energy it had refined. It left Zac in a similar situation to the one he currently faced, except he was dealing with overwhelming amounts of refined Abyssal Energy instead of simulated Tribulation Lightning.
Left without better options, he'd forcibly pushed the excess Abyssal Energy into his cells to replicate the events in the pond. The Void accepted the offering and even returned a mysterious force that helped nurture his Eoz bloodline, leading to the discovery of how to accelerate the growth of his constitutions.
Zac wasn't necessarily expecting that he'd reap similar benefits by consuming the Tribulation Lightning. His goal was simply to use the Void as a storage facility where he could offload some excess energy, which would allow him to keep going. Then again, the azure lightning certainly had some similarities to [Void Heart]'s refined energy. It was man-made and designed to help rather than harm. Perhaps his bloodline could really use it to advance his Void Vajra Constitution and Eoz Bloodline.
The destruction of equal exchange still transformed flesh into lightning, but Zac no longer felt like he was facing death. The intensity was kept in check, and he felt his consciousness stabilize. Feeling his body disappear was terrifying, but Zac knew you sometimes had to break down something to rebuild it better. He'd survived something similar when entering Minor Sublimation, and he'd survive it today.
The Law of Balance finished its work and the Law of Cosmos took over. Zac's newfound confidence almost shattered as a wave of navy-blue lightning swept through his bodies, turning Miasma, Cosmic Energy, and Divine Energy into more lightning. Not even the Mental Energy was spared, and his Soul Cores dimmed like dying suns.
The same happened to his Cosmic Core. The unceasing font of energy Zac had relied on during the war saw its pathways forcibly drained of energy before being filled with crippling lightning. His constitutions had survived his body's transformation, but they suddenly felt hollow and distant. Without Dao, form, or energy, what else remained?𝑓𝘳𝑒𝑒𝘸𝑒𝑏𝓃𝑜𝑣𝑒𝓁.𝘤𝑜𝓂
The Law of Truth governed Dao and how it shaped the world, while the Law of Cosmos governed energy. While being targeted by both, Zac felt like he'd been stripped of his hard-earned power and reduced to a pre-cultivation mortal again. It was a terrifying experience that affected his Dao Heart more than the Law of Truth did before.
Zac felt so small and insignificant when faced with the fundamental precepts of the universe, but he knew he had to keep going. Stopping at the 17th spike or at the beginning of the 18th would have been fine. He would be worse for the wear, but the large number of impurities cleansed would more than make up for the torment. However, it was different now that he'd pushed so far into the third circle.
Tribulation Lightning holding punishment of the cardinal laws was called the Four Desolates Tribulation. It wasn't something a Hegemon should come in contact with, at least not with how cultivation currently worked. Zac wasn't even sure if Monarchs had to defend against the laws. It was simply too early to come in contact with such lofty concepts, and each law would damage an aspect of his cultivation if he stopped early.
However, the Tribulation Throne wouldn't include them for 'Awakened Lords' without reason or a plan. Zac guessed that passing all four desolates would return what was taken and more. At least, he hoped that was the case. He'd endured three already, proving they only carried a sliver of the true desolates power. And despite his wretched state, Zac could still feel a steady stream of Tribulation Lightning being dragged into the Void, keeping him above water.
Just one more.
A fourth wave of extermination descended, compressing and darkening the lightning. Zac felt himself rapidly wither in a way that would scare any cultivator witless. It was his life force being targeted, the very thing cultivators fought so desperately to seize. Zac could feel his longevity become lightning and his providence scattered by thunder. It was the work of the Law of Impermanence, the final hurdle of the third round of tribulation.
Impermanence was the inviolable rule his Evolutionary Path railed against and his Inexorable Path emulated. Nothing was Eternal, not even the Cosmos itself. Cultivators could siphon longevity and play tricks to extend their stay, but the Law of Impermanence couldn't be cheated forever.
The only way to break free from the chains of mortality and achieve Eternity was to surpass the Heavens and the laws that bound it. So far, none had succeeded, yet cultivators kept trying Era after Era. This pursuit stood at the center of the conflict between the Thrones and the Seals, and even Zac had been dragged into the struggle by the fifth pillar's ascent.
Seventeen layers of tribulation impressed the Grand Dao onto his body. The cardinal laws expunged the four dimensions of cultivation, leaving only a seed of fraught self in a sea of lightning. Yet Zac held on, trusting himself and the Void to take him to the other shore.
The last embers died. He was nothing, yet everything, when all extraneous had been removed. The agony that threatened to break his mind and spirit faded as his consciousness rose to a higher state of existence. Zac felt like he'd been sent to the first day of the Era, perhaps of all Eras, seeing it in its most primal and pristine state.
He finally understood. Passing the four desolates allowed the trialtaker to briefly fuse with the Cosmos and glimpse its true nature. Only by letting go of the anchors that bound you to the mundane could you peek behind the curtain. It was a concept Zac was more than familiar with, thanks to the [Boundless Vajra Sublimation]. Relinquish all to become one with all.
That teaching was a genuine approach to enlightenment and not limited to the Buddhist Sangha. However, that concept almost became the backdoor, replacing his will with an unthinking Arhat. It left Zac wary of the Tribulation Throne's final stage as his consciousness drifted in the origin of all creation.
Time had lost all meaning. Zac rationally knew he hadn't been in this state for more than a second, but it could just as well have been decades. It was comforting, yet lonely, so Zac welcomed the change to his brief existence of non-existence.
Not one, but two spikes lit up simultaneously, each filling up half his consciousness and the primordial space the Tribulation Throne had conjured. One was so radiantly white Zac felt it transcended the concept of color, exuding faith, strength, and unbending purpose. The other was darker than black, but not the cold, deathly gloom of the Abyss. It was the alluring night sky that drew Eoz's attention the day he emerged from the depths, holding boundless mystery and possibilities.
It wasn't hard to guess the next step—a choice must be made.
Zac would have snorted if he wasn't a discarnate consciousness locked in an unfathomable tribulation. He finally understood the truth of the twenty-three layers. Nine Seals, Eight Thrones, Four Laws, and the One Destiny. Zac had guessed the twenty-third was the 'self,' representing the will of man and the struggle of cultivation. But he'd looked at it from his own vantage, forgetting to consider who built the Tribulation Throne.
Who but the Limitless Emperor deserved to stand at the very summit, surpassing the Dao and all Laws?
Imperial Fate or Cosmic Destiny. War or self-discovery. Those were the choices presented. Whichever he chose would add the final layer, complete the circuit, and finish the tribulation. Neither was objectively better. The lighting in the two final spikes held such immense profundity that the previous arcs paled in comparison.
Zac couldn't even begin to fathom the concepts hidden within. It was no surprise, considering he still didn't understand what the 'One Destiny' referred to. Zac only knew it was placed above Dao and Law and was represented by Buddha's awakening inside the Sangha's doctrine. The dark lighting didn't promise anything. It was a vast ocean filled with secrets and opportunities. What you'd find depended on fate's winds.
The radiant lightning of the Limitless Empire didn't pale in comparison. Looking at it filled Zac with a sense of purpose. It made him feel part of something greater than himself, something that could withstand the test of time, even the passing of Eras. He'd pick up where the ancestors left off, each generation reaching new heights.
Both held a fatal attraction, yet Zac instinctively recoiled at their gifts. He didn't think the choice was a trick question, even if it seemed odd to disregard the Emperor's path in favor of the Cosmos. Neither did Zac believe it was a trap like the one hidden within the [Boundless Vajra Sublimation]. The lightning wouldn't change his heart or his will. It was more a test of character, fate, and suitability.
And that was precisely the problem. He had already made his choice, one that precluded both paths presented. How many times had he railed at being used as a pawn, becoming an unwilling cog in someone else's schemes? How many times had he cursed fate for pushing him and those around him into dangerous situations? His struggles were all aimed at taking control of his destiny.
Picking either side felt like carving an unsuitable pathway onto his body. Zac was certain either choice would still improve his cultivation, but he was unwilling to betray his path like that. Zac's instincts told him this was one of those situations where compromising would leave a shadow in his heart. It was better to choose neither than betray his path.
He was the Void.
What did it matter if he gave up on the wisdom of the ancestors? He'd forged his own path and would continue to do so until he reached its end. It didn't matter how long it was, so long as it was his.
So what if he rejected destiny? He would create his own fate, seizing what he lacked with his two hands. He had no regrets, even if it meant stepping off the road to enter untamed and unexplored wilderness.
Crashing thunder shook the primordial Cosmos, and the two seas of lightning no longer felt profound and inviting. His declaration was an act of apostasy, angering the Gods and inviting their judgment. The soul-rending agony came crashing back with redoubled force, sweeping away his connection with the cosmos. It was like the trial had turned into a true Tribulation. Zac knew this was his time to cut his losses, only to find the Tribulation Throne ignoring his deactivation command.
He tried to escape or ask Emily for help. However, he couldn't even feel his body, let alone communicate with the outside. Zac despaired, wondering if his death-defying behavior had finally caught up with him. No, he wouldn't go down without a fight! He pushed back against the lightning, unleashing the floodgates to his bloodline to fight back against the Heavens. He'd chosen Void over certainty in the face of all reason. Having it reciprocate wasn't too much to ask, right?
Sometimes, a determined heart can even move mountains.
An immense pressure descended on the cosmic realm, freezing the lightning. Reality shifted, and the Heavens became the earth. The black-and-white seas towering above were now suppressed beneath his feet. And floating above was an inverted mountain vast beyond compare.
It was silent, waiting. Waiting for Zac to follow the voice in his heart and do what needed to be done. To become the Void, take what he needed and discard all else.
Innumerable streaks of unwilling white and black were forcibly dragged from the ground to complement the incomplete system in his body. They buckled and resisted, their wrath enough to incinerate the sky. However, Zac's will carried the weight of the Void Mountain, and the lightning was unable to break free from the hold.
Meanwhile, a third force rained down from above, turning duality into a triumvirate. Together, they'd open the path he sought. Zac felt he was at the precipice of greatness, but an alarming realization struck him like a punch to the face. He had no idea what to do, and the Void Mountain didn't provide any answers.
It was too soon. He was just an Early Hegemon, and this undertaking involved concepts that stumped even Supremacies. It touched upon the Terminus, and a single mistake would collapse the whole system like a house of cards. The trapped streaks of lightning were already exploiting the imperfections to break free. Zac frantically asked the Void for instruction and was met with deafening silence.
However, someone else answered the call.
'Old friend…' an ancient sigh echoed through the universe.
It felt like it came from a time before time, stretching to the very end of all existence. It transcended the Dao, yet was one with it. It was unstoppable, unfathomable, and too much for Zac's mind to contain. Even Sendor paled before the unquestionable might embodied within those two words. Had someone actually reached Eternity already?
Time was reversed to redirect the river of fate down another trajectory. The twenty-three forms of lightning stopped their destructive rampage like they'd become docile kittens. Imperfections smoothed out to pave the way for an unbelievably complex pattern. Zac gasped at its intricacy and beauty. He couldn't even comprehend a corner, but he knew the road he looked for had appeared—the unique road of the Void Emperor.
The pattern sank into his consciousness, and Zac was beset with an immense sense of loss as he was dragged back to his mundane reality. The clarity was gone, and the complex pattern slipped through the cracks in his mind and disappeared. It was like when he encountered the Chaos Pattern and the Void Mountain, leaving him agonizingly curious and desperately wanting more.
Zac could barely tell what was real and what was imaginary as he suddenly was made aware of his immediate surroundings. He was still stuck on the Tribulation Throne in his human form, but he hadn't expected a throne of lightning to have appeared atop the monolith in the Ensolus Ruins. Atop them were his two incorporeal forms, resembling unmoving Gods of Thunder.
All twenty-three waves on the sculpture were glowing, radiating a transcendent force like a celestial beacon. Only a sliver entered his body, but that was enough to trigger a great rebirth. Meanwhile, unprecedented waves shook the Tribulation Throne. It flooded him with the Dao of the Earthly Peak with such force the metal throne twisted and began melting.f reeweb novel.com
Zac accepted it all and even called upon the remnant energies left by the cactus spine and the [Myriad Paths Water]. He was like an arid desert, a desolate wasteland without a future. He'd stayed alive through willpower alone, but it was finally time to take back what was his.
Divine flowers burgeoning with untainted lifeforce bloomed in the sea of lightning. Their celestial nectar rushed forth, replacing what was taken and more. Longevity contained the life-giving waters of possibility, allowing Zac to reembark on the path of cultivation. The parched canals of his Cosmic Core filled with pristine waters that traveled through every corner of his bodies to awaken them from their slumber.
Wherever his energy passed, lightning reverted to flesh and bones. It was like the great rivers of his energy reclaimed the desert and transformed the continent into a lush forest. A forest taller and stronger than the one that stood there before. Finally, a gentle rain of truth fell from the skies on the reformed landscape. Life, Death, and Conflict painted Zac's body in the shades of his path.
Never before had Zac felt so connected with himself. He had been realigned with his path and the cosmos, and it seemed every aspect of his cultivation had seen some form of improvement. However, a dark cloud of premonition covered the skies before Zac had the chance to celebrate.
The process was still ongoing, and Zac was still unable to move. However, a deep rumble joined the apocalyptic chaos of the crumbling Tribulation Throne. It was his stomach incessantly growling, and it was just the tip of the iceberg of the unfathomable hunger that suddenly tore at his insides.
Zac tried to quell it by redirecting some of the immense energies coursing through his body, but it only made his cells more agitated. They were like baby birds screaming for nourishment, and their call only grew louder and more urgent. It had been a while since he last felt this unrelenting and unbearable craving, but it was a sensation he'd never forget.
The unexpected events in the Tribulation Throne had triggered his Bloodline Evolution. He'd chosen the Void and received its aid. Now, it demanded Zac prove his conviction. He could tell there was no stopping this train; he could either jump aboard or get run over. At best, he could suppress it a while longer, but it was just a matter of time.
He had an hour at best.