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    Chapter 61: Regrets - The Throne

    Upon hearing the news, Ju Lang hastily rushed to the entrance of the Orchid Courtyard.

    With a gust of wind beneath his feet, he leaped over the crowd and landed in the courtyard's open space. Seeing Shen Yuan standing atop the roof, he cautioned, "Father, be careful."

    At that moment, applause echoed through the assembly.

    Dian Shan stood alongside Shen Yuan on the rooftop of the Orchid Courtyard, but only Dian Shan's black-purple robe danced in the wind, resembling a ghostly figure. He pointed in a direction and announced, "Hao Chang is here."

    As he spoke, the Jiuliu soldiers encircling the courtyard spontaneously parted to form a path.

    Following the trail, everyone saw a person seated in a wheelchair.

    A man and a woman were maneuvering the wheelchair towards them. As they drew closer, it became clear that the occupant was indeed Hao Chang.

    No words from Hao Chang were necessary; his presence, reduced to a stick-like figure, was enough to cause a stir among the spectators.

    "That's going too far! To seize power in such a cruel manner!"

    "As the saying goes, one should always leave a way out. This is utter annihilation! Ju Lang was brought up by Shen Yuan since he was young, just as Dian Shan predicted!"

    Ju Lang found himself unable to defend himself against these accusations.

    Shen Yuan spoke up calmly, defending him, "Ju Lang knows nothing about it."

    From the roof of the Orchid Pavilion, Dian Shan's voice echoed, "In truth, Ju Lang is the one named Leshi, the child of Leguang."

    Ju Lang gritted his teeth, his eyes bloodshot with anger as he glared at Dian Shan and growled, "Do I not know who I am? Do I need you to explain it to me here?!"

    As soon as he finished speaking, the man and woman who had pushed Hao Chang's wheelchair into the Orchid Haven rushed tearfully towards Shen Yuan, "Child! My child!"

    Dian Shan secretly cast a spell, causing the couple to leap onto the roof and approach Shen Yuan. Without warning, they slapped him across the face.

    The crisp sound of the slap echoed through the air above the Orchid Haven, instantly silencing the surroundings. Shen Yuan turned his head, momentarily stunned, staring blankly at the ground.

    The couple glared fiercely at Shen Yuan and loudly accused him, "You curse! Ever since you were born into our Fu family, you have brought nothing but calamity upon us."

    Shen Yuan had inhabited the body of an unnamed slave, one who was sold by his birth parents to pave the way for his younger brother Fu Xun's future.

    Now that his biological parents had come knocking, Shen Yuan asked on the slave's behalf, "Fu Xun is your son, but am I not as well?!"

    The couple was briefly taken aback before they laughed and responded, "So you're acknowledging that you're our son?"

    Shen Yuan nodded, "I never denied it from the beginning."

    Hao Chang said, "So you're not really Le Guang's son, Le Shi. You've been lying to all of us."

    Shen Yuan didn't refute, "Yes, that's right."

    Ju Lang hastily tried to defend him, "No! That's not—"

    Shen Yuan interrupted him loudly, "The real Le Shi is Ju Lang! He is the hope of your Demon Realm! Compared to Hao Chang, Ju Lang is more suitable to be the ruler of this realm!"

    Fuming with anger at being outmaneuvered, Hao Chang's face turned deathly pale.

    With a fierce glint in his phoenix-like eyes, teary-eyed, Ju Lang looked unwaveringly at Shen Yuan and, with a quivering voice, asked, "D-Don't you want me anymore?"

    Seeing this, Shen Yuan's heart tightened. Yes, he had no future, like an aged man, while Ju Lang was full of vitality. He could offer so little to Ju Lang, yet all he wanted was to give him a future and protect this nascent dawn from the taint of his own twilight.

    Immediately, his expression darkened. "Yes, I despise you."

    Ju Lang still believed in Shen Yuan. His eyes were deep and sincere as he said, "You're only afraid of implicating me. If you tell them the truth, even if the entire Demon Realm turns against you, I will stand by your side. You have nothing to fear; I don't care about life or death, power, or anything else. I only care about you. And I am the ruler of the Demon Realm. If they don't believe in you, I will make them do so."

    Shen Yuan replied, "You haven't experienced it, so you don't understand what it means for the law to be powerless against the masses. Even if you're the ruler of the Demon Realm, you wouldn't be able to withstand a rebellion from all directions."

    "A law that cannot punish the multitude," a monk emerged from Orchid Garden. "If you provoke the Ping Sha Wolf Clan, even the Demon Emperor might not be able to defeat them."

    Shen Yuan thought to himself: Jiaomiao's scheme is clearly meant to put me in a deadly situation.

    " bird clan's monk sage and his troop of surrendering soldiers!!" A sharp cry suddenly rose among the demons.

    Then, a large number of bird clan soldiers in black armor emerged from behind the monk.

    They streamed out and swiftly surrounded Orchid Garden and the Jiuli soldiers that Dian Shan had brought.

    Dian Shan remained unmoved at the sight.

    February's biting winds swept across his black-and-purple cloak, its purple fox fur collar fluttering gently against his cheeks.

    He stood on the roof of Orchid Pavilion like a ghostly observer, silently overseeing the scene from the shadows.

    Glancing around at the avian soldiers, Ju Lang asked Shen Yuan, "What does this mean? Didn't you convince the birds not to threaten Ping Sha anymore?"

    Shen Yuan chuckled softly, "Are you sure? Why don't you ask me how I managed to persuade the bird clan in such a short time?"

    "Enough!" One of the demons among the crowd exclaimed angrily, "Not only did Shen Yuan sink the two islands in the East Sea, but he also plans to bring harm to our wolf clan by opening the city gates for the birds! We've all been deceived by him!"

    "Hush! He's not Shen Yuan, the one who sank the Two Eastern Islands wasn't him!" Ju Lang fiercely defended Shen Yuan.

    Suppressing the restless crowd of demons, he granted Shen Yuan another chance to explain. "Tell them how you convinced the Bird Clan's High Priest."

    "Very well." Shen Yuan left Dian Shan behind and lightly leaped down from the roof of Orchid Pavilion.

    "Ju Lang—" He approached Ju Lang. "How can someone as wicked as I, be worthy of your trust—"

    Upon hearing this, Ju Lang's eyes narrowed, beads of cold sweat trickling down his forehead, dampening his inner clothing. A foreboding feeling crept over him—he realized that his trust in Shen Yuan had played right into the latter's hands, falling into a trap that pushed Shen Yuan further away from him, all at his own doing!

    He wanted to call out and stop it, but it was already too late.

    Shen Yuan looked at Ju Lang expressionlessly, remaining silent while stealthily reaching for his waist. He soon found a dagger concealed there.

    "I don't have much time left. Now that the moment is ripe, I must leave the Demon Domain to fulfill my plan. There's no more room for delay," he said, silently positioning the dagger at the intersection between Ju Lang's left anterior superior iliac spine and navel, one-third of the way from the side. Without warning, he plunged it in.

    Searing pain shot through Ju Lang's brain, causing him to furrow his brows in agony. A metallic taste filled his throat, and a trail of blood trickled down the corner of his mouth. Straining every ounce of his strength, he gasped, "You can't leave!..."

    Shen Yuan patted his shoulder gently. "Don't look for me. This is for your own good." With that, he pushed Ju Lang away.

    Ju Lang fell to the snowy ground like a plank, landing with a straight back.

    Shen Yuan gazed at Ju Lang, sprawled on the snow, as blood flowed profusely, staining the area beneath him. The red against the white snow was glaringly conspicuous.

    He knitted his brows slightly, worried about Ju Lang, but only hesitated for a second before turning to leave the Demon Domain.

    ...

    At the entrance where Jiu Li had entered the city, Shen Yuan stood before the towering Xixuan Gate, from where he once leaped down. Fear and panic gripped his heart, replacing any anticipation he might have had. Yet, faced with the situation at hand, he muttered to himself in reassurance, "What wrong have I done?"

    He let out a long sigh. After twenty-five years, he had once again set foot in Jiu Li.

    As soon as he entered the city, an elderly man holding a fox fur cloak behind the gate squinted his eyes and asked eagerly, "You are... You've returned home?"

    Shen Yuan didn't deny his identity but refuted the idea of returning home. "Only those with a home can say they've returned. I don't have a hometown."

    "The wandering son has no coat for the cold. This winter is colder than previous years. Take this fox fur," the elder offered the cloak.

    Shen Yuan replied, "Old man, I think you've mistaken me for someone else."

    The elder smiled. "Not at all."

    Upon hearing this, Shen Yuan gazed at the old man for a moment before scoffing. "Empress? You're...?"

    Jiaomiao said, "I'm here on the Empress's orders, waiting for you. Three thousand valiant generals are already in position, ready to face the dragon at your command. Also, don't forget about the wager."

    "I won't forget," Shen Yuan lifted the fox fur and draped it over his shoulder. "This is a dispute between me and Dian Shan. I won't rely on you."

    Jiaomiao said, "With your current self?"

    "Hao Chang has also said the same," Shen Yuan declared confidently. "I could defeat him before, and I can still do it now."

    Jiaomiao asked, "But what if you lose? You'll die."

    Shen Yuan replied, "I'm already dead."

    Jiaomiao acknowledged, "Impressive. Such fortitude."

    Dian Shan was resting in the Cangwu Palace when suddenly, the palace doors swung wide open, revealing a tall, sword-wielding figure standing with its back to the light.

    "Back already?" Dian Shan recognized the visitor as Shen Yuan.

    Shen Yuan confirmed, "Here I am."

    "Here to admit your mistake?" Dian Shan queried.

    Shen Yuan replied firmly, "I'd rather die than admit it."

    Three days later, at Xixuan Men, a group of people gathered around a damaged longsword, engaged in heated discussion:

    "Three days ago, Jiu Li still bore the surname Dian, yet three days later, Dian Shan fell to this very sword. Indeed, life is but a fleeting transformation."

    In the guise of an elder, Jiaomiao blended into the crowd and sighed, "He remains that prodigious son of heaven."

    "Ai, the new Emperor's first act upon ascension is to abdicate?!"

    "How can that be? What could he possibly gain from it?"

    "No idea."

    From all appearances, the newly ascended Emperor has spent his first three days on the throne doing only one thing — vindicating Shen Yuan with sound reasoning and evidence.

    "I, for one, refuse to believe it. Empress Jiaomiao is benevolent and righteous. How could she be a devil and plot against a mere prince? I won't accept that."

    Others chimed in, "I don't believe it either."

    Jiaomiao wore a triumphant smile. "Shen Yuan, I've won this wager."

    It seems that your request is for me to translate a piece of text into English in a manner that is elegant and contextually appropriate, but no specific text has been provided. Please provide the text you would like translated, and I will be more than happy to assist you.

    In the black iron prison that once held Shen Yuan, Dian Shan was now confined within – a deliberate act by Shen Yuan himself.

    In the dimly lit cell, Shen Yuan locked eyes with Dian Shan across the bars.

    Furious, Dian Shan, shackled by heavy chains on his limbs, rushed to the railing. Gripping it tightly, his knuckles turned white. He glared at Shen Yuan, "How dare you, to treat me like this!"

    Shen Yuan countered, "Now that I am Jiu Li's ruler, do you dare to call me reckless?"

    Dian Shan's eyes widened in rage, his chest heaving violently as he panted, too angered to speak.

    "Rest assured, my destination is not Jiu Li," Shen Yuan reassured Dian Shan.

    After saying this, he called for someone to drag Dian Shan out of the prison.

    Rumors had it that the newly enthroned emperor, after only three days, was playfully contemplating returning the throne to Dian Shan.

    It was an absurd and laughable notion, attracting curious onlookers from all around.

    At present, the entire imperial city's population had gathered here.

    "Kneel and receive the decree," Shen Yuan commanded Dian Shan from his elevated position.

    "You have dishonored me!"

    "I order you to kneel and accept the decree!"

    With great reluctance, Dian Shan gritted his back teeth and knelt before Shen Yuan.

    Shen Yuan declared in a clear voice, "From this moment on, Jiu Li belongs to Dian Shan!"

    "Someone!" Before Shen Yuan's words faded, Dian Shan eagerly gave an order, "Seize this person!"

    From the moment no one believed Shen Yuan after he revealed the truth, his heart had already turned cold.

    He had said that his destination was not Jiu Li. With the bet fulfilled, it was time for him to find an isolated place to lay his bones alone. In any case, it could not be Jiu Li. He hated this place.

    If he could defeat Dian Shan, he could also escape from his grasp.

    --------------------

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