The entrance evaluation for the Eternal Sacred Land had a set of strict standards. Even though Jiang Chen had been recommended in, he wasn’t spared from participation.
After a month of grueling cultivation, Yan Qingsang had improved with remarkable rapidity as well. He could already sense traces of the heavenly dao, and it seemed likely for him to break through at any moment.
Although he was peak great emperor, he hadn’t made much progress with empyrean comprehension for a long time. Over the past month, the details of his martial dao were adjusted to perfection under Jiang Chen’s imperceptible hand and eye, repairing his flaws. Because of this, he was finally beginning to sense what he hadn’t before.
The change manifested in him as a flash of divine inspiration. Due to this, Yan Qingsang prepared to receive the exam in prime condition.
On the eve of the exam, Ziju Min felt a mixture of emotions well up.
He occupied a quite prominent position in the Eternal Sacred Land — one of the upper elders in the Hall of Elders, one of the ten most important. Aside from the venerated forefather and the three primes ranking directly beneath, no one else could claim seniority over him.
Still, his recommendation of the young men had resulted in considerable pressure. Not so much with Shao Yuan, whose pill dao talent and expertise was well known, but the accessory Yan Qingsang was a source of ridicule.
Some felt that it was a joke for a second or third-rate young genius from House Yan to enter, and that it brought shame upon the faction. They didn’t want Ziju Min to start such a harmful practice, since they were concerned that the precedent would result in even more lawlessness.
Ziju Min didn’t defend himself. He had known as well that bringing Yan Qingsang into the fold would give those who opposed him an opportunity to criticize.
But he wasn’t really concerned with that. His status as a master of pill dao afforded him courtesy from even the three primes. As for the elders who were on the same level with him, he didn’t care about what they said.
“Elder Ziju, the exam is tomorrow. The Eternal Sacred Land carries its own set of rules and principles. If that House Yan kid can’t pass the exam, we’ll have to kick him out.”
“Haha, it’s not just the House Yan kid. If… what was his name again? Shao Yuan? If he doesn’t pass, the rules stipulate that he can’t stay either.”
Ziju Min was a respected and dependable man in Eternal Sacred Land. Still, he had a few that he didn’t get along with. The handful of elders who were hostile to him came forward now to poke at him.
Ziju Min smiled. “Don’t worry. I can’t guarantee anything on Yan Qingsang’s behalf, but Shao Yuan will pass the exam for sure. No question about it. Unless–”
The pill sovereign paused intentionally here before continuing. “Unless someone deliberately interferes with the process or doctors the exam.”
“Who dares do so? The sacred land’s rules are far-reaching and publicly recognized. Anyone who does challenges its authority. No matter his position, he will be punished.”
“Yes, Elder Ziju. No need to worry about that. As long as they are real geniuses, the sacred land will only welcome them. Why would someone meddle with the exam? No, no.”
Ziju Min’s customary magnanimity earned him quite a bit of support. Many others sounded their opinions in reassurance.
The pill sovereign smiled. “My fellow daoists, I have no doubt Shao Yuan will persevere. Keep your eyes peeled. I firmly believe that he will become an influential character in his own right one day.”
“Haha, you certainly have high hopes for him.”
“No matter how good his pill dao talent is, it’s not to the point of creating miracles, no?”
“Perhaps Daoist Ziju is planning to make Shao Yuan his successor?”
“If Eternal Sacred Land gains a second Daoist Ziju, that would be a wonderful thing.”
“Truly. The sacred land’s pill dao masters are too few in number.”
“It seems you all have underestimated Shao Yuan’s talent. My intention isn’t for him to become a copy of myself. Given enough time, his achievement in pill dao will be ten times mine. It’s quite likely he will be able to surpass all the divine nations’ pill dao masters.”
Ziju Min’s remarks were entirely heartfelt, but they sounded like colossal jokes to others.
Achievement ten times that of Ziju Min’s own?
What did that even mean?
Ziju Min’s pill dao achievement wasn’t necessarily the best in the Ten Divine Nations, but he was definitely among the top ten.
Ten times that was unimaginably eminent. The idea that the boy would surpass every other pill master in the Ten Divine Nations was absolutely incomprehensible.
Even the elders closest to Ziju Min chuckled without comment. Clearly, they felt that Ziju Min’s prediction was exaggerated as well.
“It’s not easy to surpass everybody else in the divine nations. Perhaps you’re overselling him a tad, Daoist Ziju? Out of his greatly promising talent, I’m sure.”
“I can’t even begin to fathom such a thing. The Ten Divine Nations have countless experts, some hidden from view entirely. You have very high hopes for this Shao Yuan, Daoist Ziju.”
Ziju Min remained silent. Actions spoke louder than words. Any declarations he made right now wouldn’t be believed. As a pill dao senior, he was very sensitive to all matters relating to his expertise. He recognized the true genius in Jiang Chen.
Those so-called pill dao geniuses in Eternal Sacred Land were like children before Shao Yuan, not fit to be mentioned.
Ziju Min knew that some of the elders doubted Shao Yuan because they too had children and grandchildren who were important pill dao geniuses.
They didn’t want the rise of a young man who had more talent and attracted more attention than their descendants. Genius could only outshine genius. Thus, he found it pointless to argue with biased individuals.
Tomorrow, Shao Yuan would use his actions to deliver a resounding slap to these old men’s faces.
On the day of the exam, Jiang Chen and Yan Qingsang came to the evaluation hall. There weren’t many being assessed today.
The material in Jiang Chen’s test was somewhat more extensive than that given to Yan Qingsang. Aside from martial dao, there were pill dao topics as well. His friend, on the other hand, was solely to be tested in martial dao.
Jiang Chen gave Yan Qingsang a meaningful glance. “Brother Yan,” he transmitted in consolation, “I’ve always had faith that you can pull this off. Prove it to them!”
Both young men were fired up as their exams began.
The martial dao exam was identical for Yan Qingsang and Jiang Chen. The exam tested the examinees’ combat abilities.
The Eternal Sacred Land had a geological formation high up in the mountains known as the Nine Winding Caves. Each cavern contained a trial.
According to the rules, passing three of the trials in succession rendered one an official disciple of the sacred land. Four, an elite disciple. Five, a core disciple; and passing six, a personal disciple of one of the masters. This was the best treatment one could hope for. Every successive trial passed meant a drastic change in accommodation and privilege.
In the history of the Eternal Sacred Land, the best record had been set by an extremely capable genius who passed through eight, only to be stopped by the final one.
Passing three trials was pretty good for a fresh disciple. Passing five was exceedingly rare. Eight? Unthinkable, since it’d occurred only once.
Yan Qingsang was up first, Jiang Chen behind him.
In truth, Jiang Chen was more anxious for Yan Qingsang than he was about his own trials. The Yan genius needed to pass to bolster his self-confidence. If he succeeded and received that tremendous boost, it would help him rise from a second-rate genius to a first-rate one.
The first trial didn’t pressure Yan Qingsang at all. The second trial cost him quite a bit more time, but he steadfastly pushed through.
The third trial was the most important. Jiang Chen broke into a sweat when the attempt started. The keeper of the trials had said that the third was significantly more difficult than the second. It was used to separate the wheat from the chaff.
If he could pass that, Yan Qingsang would become an official disciple of the Eternal Sacred Land – a status that no one could strip from him.
Jiang Chen silently prayed for his brother’s success.
Yan Qingsang managed to power through in a crucial moment, pulling through with a fierce struggle.
Jiang Chen was overjoyed to see the youth emerge from the third cave. The young man looked somewhat fatigued, but his fighting spirit had only increased.
“I want to challenge the fourth.” Yan Qingsang was raring to test his mettle.
“Well said!” Jiang Chen clapped. He could see that Yan Qingsang had more than enough fighting spirit left to fight on. Thus, he would only encourage his friend in his enterprise.
Yan Qingsang entered the fourth cave.
It was evidently much more difficult than the third as well. Yan Qingsang sank into embittered contention and failed to come back out after an hour and a half. But that he hadn’t been automatically ejected meant he hadn’t lost yet.
He was still exerting every ounce of his being to staying in the fight. This was where his will would be most sorely tested.
Jiang Chen believed that Yan Qingsang had a more than 50% chance of breaking through the fourth level, especially after his month-long training session.
If he did, his future determination would be empowered by this success. Jiang Chen sincerely hoped his friend would succeed here.
Perhaps passing the fourth trial would be Yan Qingsang’s current limit, but it was no means his overall limit in martial dao. Rather, it would be a new beginning for him.