For both Jiang Chen and his observers outside, the last day seemed by far the longest. He felt hopeless exhaustion. There seemed to be many mountains sitting on his consciousness, their heavy weights pressing down on him. The endless trials of the three past days had forced his stamina to its limit. If the test had gone on for three more days, Jiang Chen would surely have been strained to the point of failure. He was truly at his wit's end this time. Thankfully, a day only consisted of twenty-four hours. No matter how long one sometimes seemed, every day eventually came to an end at some point.
When the last second of the final day finally passed, the ninth Veluriyam Obelisk gave off a cheerful ring. In the next instant, the Pelagic Dragon Obelisk shone with a brilliant light. The entire obelisk shimmered a jadeite green, giving off the appearance of an enormous stele of emerald. In that moment, its radiance was unparalleled.
"Congratulations on conquering the ninth Veluriyam Obelisk, young man. You are the third genius to have done so for the past hundred thousand years! Do not be reluctant or surprised. You are every bit worthy of being called a 'genius'. Your erstwhile accomplishment proves this, and the Veluriyam Pagoda welcomes true geniuses like you. Guard your heart. You are about to be brought into the territory of the Six Palaces of Heritage."
Hurriedly, Jiang Chen steeled his heart and kept his consciousness closed. He prepared himself as well as he could. Before long, the ninth obelisk's verdant light enveloped the heavens, the earth, and the void. It sucked in Jiang Chen entirely. It was as if there was a dimensional gate that had now been opened. In the next moment, Jiang Chen disappeared entirely from in front of the obelisk. The obelisk became silent once more. All of its former light and radiance had completely disappeared, as if they had never appeared in the first place.
"Has he broken through?"
"He… he really passed the ninth Veluriyam Obelisk?"
"Genius… a real genius… I didn't think that I'd be able to see someone break through the ninth Veluriyam Obelisk during my lifetime!"
"Young lord Zhen has nothing stopping him now!"
"The young lord of Sacred Peafowl Mountain has broken through the ninth Veluriyam Obelisk… Sacred Peafowl Mountain's fortunes are truly unwavering!"
"That much is obvious. Me personally, I've never even considered the other six emperors capable of challenging Sacred Peafowl Mountain, much less replacing it." Discussion and exclamation took place all around, quiet but incessant. They were filled with shock and envy, and perhaps a dash of sour jealousy as well.
Emperor Peafowl's mood brightened all of a sudden, his eyebrows unfurling. A lock had been removed from his heart, lightening up his burden many times over. Good… that kid didn't let me down, huh. The emperor's joy was entirely heartfelt. It was his unique eye for talent that had led him to Jiang Chen. Finally, he was able to see his labor come to fruition. After conquering the ninth Veluriyam Obelisk, Jiang Chen would inevitably enter into the innermost layers of the Veluriyam Pagoda. Perhaps he would have the opportunity to shed some light upon its archaic mysteries.
Beginning from only moments after his breakthrough, the news began to fervently spread throughout the city's streets. It made its way into every house, around every corner. All at once, Veluriyam Capital began to boil over with activity. Its residents came out from their homes into the lanes and avenues, shouting and cheering in celebratory joy. This was a stirring occasion.
Though the other geniuses had returned to the secret realm of heritage in order to spend their spare bits of remaining time on the seventh Veluriyam Obelisk, all of them ultimately failed including Zhou Yan, Shui Rutian, Ye Piaoling, and the rest. It was quite the stark contrast to Jiang Chen's bold accomplishments. Despite being ranked amongst the top five in this year's Ranking of Young Lords, there were obvious limits to their ability. Their potentials were remarkable, but nevertheless lesser than Emperor Peafowl's of yesteryear.
After their humbling challenges concluded, young master Ji San began to prepare for his own challenge of the eighth Veluriyam Obelisk. His posture and momentum were rather like a king's return. Only two people remained in the Main Pagoda: Jiang Chen and Ji San. The other geniuses from the Ranking of Young Lords had all been eliminated by now. Having awakened his draconic bloodline, his skill in cultivation grew by leaps and bounds, his drive onward relentless.
He had spent his time in the secret realm of battle, accumulating a great deal of practical combat experience in the process. Through the endless melee, his heart had also grown in fortitude. Ji San was a promising youth indeed. When his true dragon blood's advantages emerged, he began to progress at a breakneck pace. Doing so allowed him to gather up enough confidence to try breaking through the eighth Veluriyam Obelisk. Though the outside audience did not look well on the attempt, something that even he himself gathered, Ji San used his actions to mock them once again.
He showed no cowardice before the obelisk, and was actually almost like a fish in water. Jiang Chen had been someone who had practiced the art of producing images, but the same was true for Ji San. He had a draconic bloodline, after all. Compared to his sworn brother, he lacked only in experience and prowess. The eighth Veluriyam Obelisk's demand for him to cultivate its image wasn't particularly hard for the young master.
After feeling things out for a while Ji San amply succeeded in conquering the eighth Veluriyam Obelisk as well. Nevertheless, he knew that he had overreached a little in his advancement. It wasn't that he lacked the potential, but rather that he had overexerted his own body. He knew that Jiang Chen had broken through the ninth Veluriyam Obelisk, but blood didn't rush to his head because of it. He had no intention of challenging the ninth Veluriyam Obelisk straight away.
"Brother, you're sprinting so quickly ahead of me. I should follow through on my own ideas too, right? I have two extra years thanks to beating the eighth obelisk, so I have plenty of time to ready myself for the ninth." The trial had been a baptism of sorts. Ji San traded some of his flightiness away, replacing it with calm. He had enough self-awareness to understand that he had absolutely no chance of going against the ninth obelisk at present. Why rush things? He had a two-year reward to spend, no?
Ji San was perfectly content with his own position. He no longer cared much about perceived face. He would be eager enough to compete with any genius, but he was completely and utterly deferential towards his sworn brother's ability. Without the true dragon blood Jiang Chen had given him, Ji San would have been stopped much earlier at the fifth Veluriyam Obelisk, or the sixth at most, perhaps. That he was now qualified to challenge the ninth Veluriyam Obelisk was something he hadn't even dreamed of.
Wrapped in the strange interdimensional passage, Jiang Chen waited for an indeterminate amount of time before he felt his entire body relax. Subsequently opening his eyes, he found that he'd been taken to an expanse of glittering space. More accurately, an endless starry sky served as his backdrop. A river of stars, glistening like a belt of jade, blazed in milky radiance.
Are these the Six Palaces of Heritage? The question popped into Jiang Chen's mind as he observed his surroundings. Within the infinitely extending astral vault were many buildings, ancient and great. The age of the structures could be felt in the sense of antiquity they exuded.
Each stone and pillar were steeped in tradition. Each masoned step had over a hundred thousand years of history. Each inch of ground held the footsteps of countless sages from ages past. Standing upon a plain patch of ground, Jiang Chen looked at the timeworn buildings around him in awe. It was as if he had traveled back into the distant past through a dream. Each time he raised his head, a fan of galaxies greeted him.
"Welcome to the Six Palaces of Heritage, young man. That's right—the buildings you perceive before you are precisely what you think. Don't be surprised. The Veluriyam Pagoda was a work of extraordinary ingenuity. Neither divine nor demonic can discern its truths. It has countless formations embedded within, and everything you see here is merely an intersection of the mysteries of space and time, accomplished through the profoundness of yet another formation. Each man that enters may see something entirely different."
The explanation wasn't easy to understand. Jiang Chen was just barely able to comprehend it. The Six Palaces of Tradition had likely been created by an ancient master, or even several, through many methods of fusion and synthesis. In this way, a grand complex had been erected from nothingness.
"Young man, the area you are currently in is surrounded by the Six Palaces. When the transportation formation is activated, you will be moved randomly to one of them. Before that, however, you have an opportunity: do you choose to depart, or explore?
"If you choose to depart, you'll have another chance to re-enter the Veluriyam Pagoda. If you choose to explore further and fail in your exploration of the first palace, you'll get another chance to return to the Pagoda at that time as well. Therefore, most clever people choose to explore.
"Do you see the taiji diagram before you? The white area means exploration, and the black means departure."
Jiang Chen considered it for a moment. If failing on the first palace gave him another chance anyway, what was the point of departing? Since I'm here, there's no reason for me not to explore. I need to understand what these Six Palaces are all about, anyway. His curiosity and desire for victory fueled him. Without hesitation, he stepped into the white area of the taiji diagram.
"Very good, I admire your courage. I hope that you will give a marvelous showing in the first of the six palaces." The voice disappeared, and a frost-white light began to glow in the white area around Jiang Chen. Its rays swept across his body, dissipating it into thin air. When Jiang Chen's footsteps touched ground again, he was in one of the palaces.
"You're finally here, young man." An old, weary voice sighed, filled with unfathomable sorrow and desolation.