Having just passed a harrowing trial, Jiang Chen actually felt a lot more relaxed but remained on his guard. Tests from the Pelagic Dragon Obelisk pervaded everywhere. At the same time, outside the Veluriyam Pagoda, most of the seven emperors' geniuses had already been eliminated. Less than a handful remained within the complex, enough to be counted with one hand.
Young lord Zhen had the flashiest performance up until now. He had shocked everyone by already reaching the ninth Veluriyam Obelisk. According to initial estimates, he would surely be stonewalled cold by this final challenge. But it had been ten days since then. He was perfectly intact and hadn't been eliminated.
Aside from Sacred Peafowl Mountain's young lord, young master Ji San shone the brightest. He had made his way about the secret realm of battle like a fish in water, scoring victories in the arena one after another. It was a tangible testament of his improvement. According to rumors, he had plans to challenge the eighth Veluriyam Obelisk at precisely three months on the clock. This year, young master Ji San and young lord Zhen were the only two geniuses to pass the seventh Veluriyam Obelisk. The others had either eschewed challenging it entirely or had been kicked out already.
The greatest element of suspense left for this year's Veluriyam Pagoda gathering was whether the young lord would conquer the ninth obelisk. Immediately after that was whether Ji San would do the same with the eighth. Was Coiling Dragon Clan's young master going to become the second-darkest horse right after his friend? If that question had been asked before the geniuses' entrance into the Pagoda, everyone would have thought that it was a joke. But now, no one dared say that Ji San had no hope whatsoever!
The young master was showing a surprising amount of hidden talent. Who would have thought that Ji San, ranked twenty-first, would be able to defeat the seventh Veluriyam Obelisk and succeed where rank one Li Jiancheng had failed? It was these untold surprises that made the road of martial dao all the more splendid. Defying expectations was how legends were born. On the whole, this year's Veluriyam Pagoda gathering had produced an above-average crop of geniuses. Uniformly speaking, they were a significant cut above the norm. It was considered rare in past years for just one or two geniuses to pass the sixth Veluriyam Obelisk. This year, there were six who had. As for the seventh obelisk, previously unsurpassed for the past several millennia—two geniuses had appeared, and both had been able to move past it. What was more, that wasn't the limit of their abilities. Thus, the current Veluriyam Pagoda Gathering was loaded with geniuses.
Jiang Chen was presently zeroed in on his goal. Completely attentive, he fused into the ninth obelisk's realm once more. This time, however, his mind was much clearer. None of the negative emotions prevailed, and the images shifting between reality and illusion could no longer invade his consciousness any more. The lesson that he had been taught had reinforced Jiang Chen's ocean of consciousness a fair bit.
The Pelagic Dragon Obelisk underwent many other changes after that, presenting fresh trials each time. However, Jiang Chen's consciousness seemed to have been spontaneously transformed into something much mightier. A layer of protective power had awakened in the chain seal, fortifying his mind several times over. No matter how fierce the obelisk's trials came at him, how manifold its alterations were, Jiang Chen was as immovable as a mountain. His dao heart was unshaken.
This state of mind allowed him to exist for the next half-month in a relative state of tranquility. It was something that Jiang Chen himself hadn't been able to foresee. The chain seal destroyed the Pelagic Dragon Obelisk's intimidating attacks on his consciousness each and every time, crushing them utterly. It thus appeared that the obelisk's tests had been greatly reduced in difficulty.
Jiang Chen knew fully well, however, that that wasn't actually the case. In fact, there were signs of quite the opposite. It was simply because his harrowing experience had caused his consciousness to improve qualitatively. The obelisk's own increase paled in comparison to it. If his count was correct, only three days remained in the month-long test.
The final days are sure to hold even more insane trials. Whether I'll be able to enter the Six Palaces of Heritage… that'll be decided here and now. The ninth Veluriyam Obelisk had mentioned that crossing its threshold represented entering into the might of a true dragon, fit to rule the heavens. To do otherwise was to remain a common fish in the dust of the world.
He didn't agree with such an extreme statement, but he didn't like being called a common fish either. I will bravely bear whatever comes my way in the next three days. Even if the sky falls, I shall withstand its aftermath! The young lord had no fear. Indeed, infinite courage was a prerequisite for even making it this far. His heart was completely placid as he prepared for the trial's final throes.
On the first day, Jiang Chen felt as if he'd been pushed into a boundless sea. Innumerable whirls and waves beat constantly against him from every direction. He was set adrift like a leaf in the vast ocean, liable to be swept away at any moment. He descended into a state of hibernation, keeping only his consciousness awake and alert. He could not let himself be overwhelmed by the trial's power.
The first day was finally over. Despite the immense strength of his consciousness, Jiang Chen felt a wave of fatigue wash over him. His trials were far from concluding. The scenery changed on the second day. This time, a burning expanse surrounded him. Flames shot up to the sky, tens and hundreds of yards tall. The crackling conflagration seemed to set the entire world aflame. There was fire everywhere, a sea of crimson as far as the eye could see.
Jiang Chen felt like a pill in the cauldron of an ancient master, unable to decide anything relating to his own fate. The flames burned with a refining truth, pummeling Jiang Chen's consciousness with extreme force. The terrifyingly fiery inferno appeared capable of rending his very flesh to incinerate the soul within. It threatened to burn up his entire ocean of consciousness.
Jiang Chen grit his teeth. He knew that his fate in the Veluriyam Pagoda depended on his performance in these next two days. If he endured, the Veluriyam Pagoda would unveil to him an even deeper set of mysteries. If he faltered in his attempt, all of his previous efforts would be useless. There wouldn't have been much point in coming this far. With this in mind, he pushed onwards and finally survived another day. The sea of fire carried a power that had almost destroyed his mental self-defense mechanisms.
The final day was also the scariest. Heralded by a howling tempest of dust, it barraged him with countless daunting trials. Most fearsome were the powerful arrows, formed of frightening presences that shot themselves at his ocean of consciousness.
Though it had begun with only a handful of arrows, there seemed to be more than ten thousand at the end. At the same time, the sounds of hooves and steel were also audible. The din of a million heavenly soldiers charging at him filled his eardrums. It was supremely intimidating. Anyone who possessed a consciousness of even slightly lower caliber was likely to have their mind shattered on the spot.
"Well come on! Bring it on!" Though his consciousness was being sorely tested, Jiang Chen nevertheless yelled silently. "I will pass this trial. I must pass this trial! Even if heaven falls and earth crumbles, I shall remain immovable!"
The latent ferocity hidden at the bottom of Jiang Chen's heart had fully risen to the top. Outside the Pagoda, the seven emperors and their retinues waited with bated breath. Strangely enough, there was no sign of casual conversation or rampant speculation. The audience had only a single focal point on their minds: young lord Zhen. Less than half a day remained. If the young lord was able to resist being ousted past that point, then the Veluriyam Pagoda would usher in a radical change. All eyes were fixated upon the image formation. Though they did not know how much torment young lord Zhen was experiencing at the moment, the image told them at least part of the tale. The young lord was in a difficult position, but far from the brink of disaster.
Some were pleased by this state of affairs, others quite bothered. Emperor Shura's faction was especially disappointed. Young lord Zhen's meteoric rise placed him squarely in front of them as an insurmountable obstacle. All of their ambitions had been crushed by it. The only thing they could do now was watch from the outside. Time and time again, young lord Zhen broke records and created miracles. Emperor Shura's number one genius, Li Jiancheng, was now just an observer.
Aside from Emperor Vastsea, who was one of Emperor Shura's staunchest supporters, none of the other emperors spared their outpourings of praise. They commended young lord Zhen because he had their wholehearted approval. With a genius like him, it was impossible for Sacred Peafowl Mountain's fortunes not to be preserved. Young lord Zhen carried so much momentum that Emperor Shura's faction was essentially irrelevant.
There was no possibility that Emperor Shura himself could do better than Emperor Peafowl. He lacked substantially in both strength and charisma compared to his peer. Young lord Zhen had the advantage of youth on his side. The potential and popularity he showed had signs of surpassing even the Emperor Peafowl of yesteryear. In fact, it was easy enough to say that he already had, considering the direction he was headed in.
The public opinion of the entire Veluriyam Capital was moving in a certain direction—that young lord Zhen would succeed Emperor Peafowl as leader of Sacred Peafowl Mountain. After that, he would naturally become the city's absolute ruler and master. In the hands of such an amazing genius, Veluriyam Capital was sure to move towards ever greater success. It was the final day. Was Jiang Chen going to pass the trial?
Everyone looked forward to that moment of truth. Even if young lord Zhen failed now, his challenge to the ninth Veluriyam Obelisk was enough to leave his name in the history books. If he did succeed, the exploit would be even more exciting. Perhaps this was the new beginning of Veluriyam Capital's road to glory. Even Emperor Peafowl felt a tinge of anticipation. For him, it was a hitherto unexperienced sensation.