Splitting two red mountains and allowing the passage of a glittering, emerald river, in a world of magic and wonders, the Tribulation Valley wouldn't have seemed that peculiar, were it not for the oppressive fate power lying within.
Even while hovering above the mountains, Konrad could feel that oppressive force surround him from all side, and establishing an unauthorized connection to his depraved soul.
His eyes lowered onto the emerald river below and recalling the old man's words, he began a slow descent on the emerald river. The lower he went, the more he felt his body laced by otherworldly fate powers, and the river calling for a nirvana of the soul.
Though he'd yet to step inside, his heart shook, and his soul trembled. The belief that should he step in, he would undoubtedly not return the same, caused a wave of hesitation to flash within his mind.
But as soon as it came, it left. To perfect his embryonic dao, and accelerate his growth, to build the foundation of his ascension, there was no trial he was unwilling to face.
Without hesitation, Konrad dived in, sinking into the river till he reached the center. There, as if standing in perfect equilibrium, his body no longer sank and, in a heartbeat, his consciousness faded.
With the invisible force guiding him, Konrad laid on his back with his arms outstretched, and his mind drifting to new worlds.
With his memories of the real world cast aside, after drifting for an inestimable amount of time, Konrad awoke as a twelve years old peasant boy.
In this new world, magic and cultivation didn't exist. Men were divided into four classes; which, from highest to lowest were:
Gentry, peasants, craftsmen, and merchants. With slaves standing below the ranks and the imperial family above them all.
But while peasants ranked second, they usually were the poorest of the four classes, owning their status solely to their contributions to the state.
In this life, though Konrad possessed the same body, without otherworldly bloodlines, cultivation or the support of an affluent family, he'd lost much of his entrancing looks.
Still, he stood in a league of his own, and none doubted that he would grow into a ladies' man.
Moreover, this world's Konrad was mischievous but gentle. Devoid of the innate ruthlessness of his previous self. He knew family love, kindness, and gentleness. And while life was difficult, he never complained.
A good boy, really.
But on this fated day, as he helped his mother in cleaning and arranging the house, his world collapsed!
The sound of a relentless horde thundered within the small village, echoing with a large dust cloud that followed the dozens of horses and their riders. Even from the room, Konrad could feel it all.
"Mom…w-what's going on?"
The nervous boy asked while raising his eyes toward his mother's. There, fright clearly shone!
Without hesitation, his mother hid him in a crate, urging him to say nothing and do nothing. Then exited the house. The booming laughter of the bandit horde soon merged with the screams of the men and women that fell under their blades.
Within his box, Konrad trembled, clenching on his arms, not daring to step out.
Alas, this was no fairy tale, and the boy wouldn't escape danger. The bandits soon dived in to sack the room, leaving no box untouched. The crate was forced open, and the boy pulled out by a tall, gruff and unshaved bandit.
"Tss, tss, tss, tss…you didn't really think you could escape this way, right? Stupid lad."
The bandit sneered, then tossed the immobile Konrad out of his little house. He landed in a scene of carnage, his eyes locking on his beheaded father whose head was being kicked between two bandits.
Around them, the corpses of dozens of men and elderly littered the ground. No man above the age of seventeen was spared. As for the women, they had an arguably better fate.
Those aged thirty or below were allowed to keep their lives while the bandits played with the corpses of their brothers, sons, fathers, and husbands.
Screams and misery filled the air, and Konrad's eyes went bloodshot!
He howled! But to no avail. Reality didn't change. And if anything, the bandits only seemed kindled by his pain. No amount of tears could change this harsh reality. In that instant, Konrad wondered why such injustice occurred. Where were the gods his people prayed daily?
Where were the officials that eagerly collected taxes, but now failed to protect those they were sworn to?
No answer came. But the stabbing pain within his chest and the trickling of his tears confirmed that this was no dream.
Once the bandits were satisfied, they tossed women and children into cages, dragging them into the world of slave trading.
Because of his looks that stood out no matter where he went, Konrad ended up sold to a brothel, as a young male prostitute. First, it was training. All resistance was beaten out of him, while he learned the basics of how to flatter and please those "upscale" women that would soon pay to enjoy him.
Thinking of his mother that lied somewhere in that cruel world, he bore everything, learned what he needed to, and bowed when he needed to. Soon, it was time to serve. Women of all kinds appeared, and regardless of what he thought of them, Konrad served them all.
Learning from mistakes when they were committed and building skills while biding his time. Quickly, it became evident that he possessed outstanding talent in the bedchamber arts.
And having been exposed to all facets of humanity's ugliness. He never again showed a genuine smile.
Two years later, his skills reached their acme. And he got the opportunity to serve a breathtaking merchant woman in her late twenties. A cold and ruthless woman, she inherited her father's wealth after murdering her brothers and the father himself.
She now ran the family business with an iron fist and put down any that dared resist her. Though endowed with bewitching looks, the glaring malice within her eyes made her difficult to approach.
Konrad understood her type at a glance. She wasn't just here to satisfy carnal desires. She wanted to reassert her dominance over the hierarchically higher gender through the use of wealth.
Inwardly, he sneered, but seeing an opportunity, he served her to the full extent of his abilities. Bringing her more pleasure than all the money in the world could afford.
On the morrow, she was back. The following day, she still appeared. And so on until it became a regular thing she couldn't live without. Thus, using a year's worth of revenue, she bought Konrad's slave contract.
The move didn't please her husband, who served as a figurehead to maintain her hold over the business. Of course, he didn't dare resist.
For the next three years, Konrad worked on ingratiating himself with the merchant woman, going from pet to drug, and from drug to master.
By her side, he learned how to manage the business and slowly took control of it.
"Your husband is getting increasingly bolder and stands in our happiness' way."
Konrad whispered, and for him, the merchant woman killed her husband.
"Were it not for my slave status, you and I could now be legally and happily married."
Konrad lamented, one year after the husband's death, so she released him of his slave contract and prepared a grand wedding. Failing to realize he'd been poisoning her all along.
Three months following the wedding, she collapsed. And seeing his cold, impassive look, understood the betrayal. Her eyes contorted in anguish and warm tears flowed as she drew her last breath.
Konrad seized control of all she held. Using her business to create a criminal ring. For three years, he expended his wealth and deployed spies to track his enemies and retrace his mother's whereabouts.
Alas, fate still made him a fool. The bandits had long since been slaughtered, and his mother now lied under a pile of dirt. Lost and empty, Konrad sought a new purpose.
"Power is the only truth. Right and wrong matters not. Men are beast and beast submit to might! Only he who stands above all can live in true freedom and soar without restraints.
I must become the mightiest.
I must rule supreme!"
He pledged. And again, in this new life, Konrad pursued supremacy.
For that road, he passed the imperial examination and became an official. Then, using bribes, his criminal ring, and countless underhanded methods, climbed the political ladder.
At the tender age of twenty-five, he became the minister of finance, a rank one court official. Immense wealth and vast political power were his. But this was far from enough.
It was then that he met her, the woman who would eternally change his life:
The eldest princess.
Haughty and unbridled. Intelligent and loyal to those she cared for, merciless toward enemies. Aware of her own splendor and not shy of revealing it.
She appeared like the representation of all of Konrad's heart desires:
They were like a match made in heaven and soon came to rely on one another. With her support, Konrad climbed what remained, first becoming the Imperial Chancellor, then seizing court power in its entirety.
And if at first, he only wished to make use of her, he quickly came to realize that she'd turned into an integral part of him.
Alas, this wasn't a world where one could have it all. The emperor soon realized his weakness and tried to use her against him.
But before he could, the eldest princess killed herself to frame the emperor, giving Konrad a righteous cause to rebel. With his vast wealth, connections, and the army's support, he overthrew the monarch, becoming the country's new ruler.
But again, he felt empty. That unparalleled seat failing to fill the void that now devoured his heart. Worse, the belief he'd betrayed himself also crushed his shoulders.
Soon, he wallowed in degeneration and killed himself in alcohol.
Again, he was reincarnated. In another world, another circumstance, a different setting, but all ultimately led to the pursuit of supremacy. The eldest princess reappeared under various identities, always becoming the last stepping stone to Konrad's ascension. In one way or another, he obtained the world but lost all he cherished in the process.
This continued throughout thirty-six reincarnations. And with each, Konrad's Dao Heart crackled. At the thirty-sixth, supremacy felt like a sham, and his Dao Heart bordered destruction.