Both the empyrean decree and relic did exist. However, that they were the Veluriyam Pagoda's heart was just a diversion. The true heart of the Veluriyam Pagoda was a hundred times more valuable. Though Master P'eng did not clearly say it outright, his tone was verification enough. The creator of the Veluriyam Pagoda was definitely beyond empyrean rank. Thus, the Pagoda's innermost secrets couldn't be as simple as they appeared on the surface.
The things that everyone's seen for over a hundred thousand years is only surface level, huh… how unexpected. So the Pagoda's real secrets haven't even shown themselves yet. Jiang Chen mused to himself. This made a lot more sense. If the Veluriyam Pagoda's secrets had been exposed long before, then there was no way it could stand this long without crumbling.
Other problems aside, the hidden experts of the Myriad Abyss Island were sure to come at any cost if they knew. The secrets of someone greater than empyrean realm were quite attractive indeed. However, just an empyrean decree and an empyrean relic were insufficient to draw those same experts out. Those who lived on the island were descendants of the ancients who had passed on their heritages to the present day. Empyrean realm experts were not uncommon there, and an empyrean decree had little value to the isle's inhabitants.
Empyrean realm experts relied firstly on their personal cultivation and understanding of the dao of heaven. In that way, they could create their own empyrean decree. Refining someone else's empyrean decree was possible as well, but that meant permanently forfeiting further progress in cultivation. Therefore, experts who had any shred of ambition never refined someone else's empyrean decree.
Only emperor realm cultivators at the end of their lifespans, who also had no hope of rising up naturally, would do such a thing. It was because of this that the Veluriyam Pagoda's empyrean decree and relic had remained unscathed all this time. Some were ambitious enough to lust after those treasures regardless, of course, but anyone who wanted only to pounce on them were unable to enter the Pagoda in the first place.
As soon as they entered into the restricted area, they were relentlessly attacked by the Pagoda's terrifying restrictions. Such schemers came every three to five decades, but they were always slain by the Pagoda's stalwart defenses. As time went on, the entire human domain grew to know that the Veluriyam Pagoda was not a place easily trespassed upon. And so, the number of intrepid thieves decreased.
The empyrean decree was attractive, but it had remained safe for over a hundred years in the Pagoda. That meant that there was no way that it could actually be obtained. If it were otherwise, the decree would be long gone. Historically, even Veluriyam Capital's rulers hadn't been able to touch it. There had been no shortage of powerful great emperors like Emperor Peafowl, but the threat of their mortal lives ending hadn't rendered the decree any closer to their grasps. Just like everyone else, they had been denied entrance to the Veluriyam Pagoda.
The restrictions of the Veluriyam Pagoda were omni-directional and indiscriminate. Aside from the gathering held every sixty years, the Pagoda did not allow visitors within. Anyone who tried was mercilessly struck down. It was different for Jiang Chen now, of course. Because he'd entered the Six Palaces of Heritage and received a spacetime sigil, he was considered half a master. He could enter any time he wanted as long as he had it.
"Take care of your spacetime sigil, kid. Don't let it fall into the wrong hands. Oh, yes, also… use the kunpeng blood I gave you very carefully."
"Is there any special meaning behind these three drops of blood?" Jiang Chen asked curiously.
"No special meaning at all. They're part of the bet I made with the master of this Pagoda. Each of these is potent enough to turn someone into an empyrean expert. The kunpeng bloodline is an empyrean bloodline, after all. Because the human race is so weak presently, you must be cautious in how you use the blood. If you become the Pagoda's next master, you'll need a team of your own as well as an impressive heritage. Therefore, you can use the blood either to gather additional followers and buy their hearts, or you can save them for your future disciples. I only have a single piece of advice: sometimes, less is more."
Less… is… more.
Jiang Chen thought about it for a second. He had a moment of epiphany. This was an empyrean bloodline. Even a single drop could whip up a crimson tempest in the human domain. A priceless treasure only served to bring out the worst of human nature. Master P'eng was advising him to be circumspect and wise with his confidants. No one who harbored ambition or malice could know about the blood. Otherwise, the only things they would bring him were death and bloodshed.
"You seem to have a bloodline in your body that rivals the kunpeng's. This is a big surprise, but there is no such thing as too much power. Amongst the races in the ancient times, the human race was one of the weakest. However, humans do have a singular advantage of extreme adaptability. A human can assimilate any bloodline of their choice, and human inclusivity when it comes to blood can be said to be one of the best."
The human race could survive on any plane. They weren't the strongest, or even particularly strong at all, but they thrived everywhere because of this inclusivity. No matter the environment and the creatures living there, humans were able to incorporate the advantages of the native creatures and adapt to the harsh conditions. No matter how much they had to alter themselves, their descendants managed to live on. This was the human race's biggest advantage. Recognizing that Master P'eng had noticed the true dragon bloodline within his body, Jiang Chen made no attempt to explain.
"Thank you for your wisdom, senior. I must now take my leave. I hope that I may receive your tutelage once again someday." His words of farewell were quite humble.
"The next time you come in, you'll be sent to the second palace." Master P'eng sighed softly. "If we are to meet again, it will be when you conquer all six palaces."
Jiang Chen's gaze was calm and exceptionally steely. "You can be sure of it."
Having said his goodbyes to the master, Jiang Chen walked into Skykun Palace's teleportation formation. Master P'eng's parting instruction echoed at his ear. "Remember the oath you made on your inner demons."
Before the voice fully settled, the formation was already activated. In the next moment, Jiang Chen landed at one of the formation openings on the outside of the Veluriyam Pagoda.
"Hmm? Has someone different come out?"
"Young master Ji San came out three months ago, right? He failed by just a hair's width against the ninth Veluriyam Obelisk. The person coming out right now can only be young lord Zhen."
"Oh, so it is him."
"Why is he coming out now? Did he fail in getting the Veluriyam Pagoda's ultimate heritage as well?"
"Look, look, he's coming over now."
Walking out from the formation opening, Jiang Chen raised his head to glance over in the seven emperors' direction. Both the emperors and their retinues were assembled here still.
Emperor Peafowl's eyes were unfathomable as he looked back at his young lord. There was a hint of worry there. Jiang Chen's apparently quick departure from the Veluriyam Pagoda was somewhat disappointing for the emperor. He'd wished for Jiang Chen to reap all the rewards he could from the Veluriyam Pagoda, but Jiang Chen didn't look like he'd accomplished anything particularly illustrious. Why had he come out in only six months, otherwise?
"Your Majesty." Stepping forward quickly, Jiang Chen gave Emperor Peafowl a prompt salute. Seeing his acquaintances present relieved the bulk of his worries. Emperor Peafowl was still here, which meant that Veluriyam Capital hadn't seen any significant change in the past few years. That was good.
"You came out." The city's leading emperor smiled faintly, looking back at Jiang Chen with the faintest tinge of inquiry.
"I'll say more when we get back to Sacred Peafowl Mountain." Jiang Chen refrained from elaborating. He scanned his surroundings before opening his mouth again. "How did young master Ji San do, if I may ask?"
"He performed excellently," Cloudsoar Monarch answered hurriedly. "He lacked a bit at the final Veluriyam Obelisk… it was only the slightest bit. A shame. He came out three months earlier than you did, and he's back at the Coiling Dragon Clan now."
Jiang Chen agreed with the remark somewhat. Ji San's untimely loss against the Pagoda's greatest obstacle was a bit of a shame. The fact that the young master had only assimilated the true dragon blood not long ago worked against him. Moreover, Long Xiaoxuan's own bloodline power was not yet at its peak. His draconic friend was only a child currently, and though his blood was pure, its transformative strength could not compare to that of a mature true dragon. Just getting to the ninth Veluriyam Obelisk was an impressive achievement enough.
None of the other geniuses on the Ranking of Young Lords had come remotely close. By now, a smiling Emperor Vastsea had sidled over as well. "Good nephew Zhen, congratulations on defeating all nine of the Veluriyam Obelisks. What kind of heritage did you obtain in the Pagoda?"
The other emperors were equally interested, following hotly on their colleague's heels. They wanted to hear it straight from the horse's mouth. Who didn't want to know more about the Veluriyam Pagoda? What kind of grand fortune lay behind the nine obelisks?
Emperor Peafowl waved a hand. "Each man's fortunes are his own. There is no need to ask."
It was an impressively dominant statement, enough to shut out everyone's questions produced by curiosity.
Jiang Chen sighed softly. "After the nine Veluriyam Obelisks, I was given the right to try for the empyrean decree. Alas, I faltered in the attempt. Aside from the experience of the exercise, I didn't receive anything substantial."
He didn't want the others to dwell upon what he had or had not done, and so he made a show of being open, telling a white lie. Given that everyone thought that the empyrean decree and relic were at the heart of the Veluriyam Pagoda, he fabricated a falsehood based around that conclusion. It was perfectly believable, wasn't it? The decree and relic were still at the top of the tower. Everyone could see that, so there was no room to suspect that he'd received the empyrean decree.
Emperor Shura let out an imperceptible breath when he heard Jiang Chen's words. It was truly wonderful that the young man hadn't gotten the empyrean decree. Otherwise, all of his ambitions would have been for naught. No matter how confident he was in his own abilities, he could not compete with an heir of Sacred Peafowl Mountain that also possessed the Pagoda's empyrean decree. He had that much self-awareness, at least.
The rest of the audience had mixed reactions. Some were skeptical, others mournful, still others completely quiet.