Seconds passed into minutes as Yan Qingsang battled on within the fourth cave. He was already exhausted, but he wasn’t going to give up now. He knew that he wouldn’t have any strength remaining after this fight to challenge the fifth. This made the current opportunity all the more valuable.
He wanted to pass this trial, even if it cost him all he had.
Though he seemed a bit whimsical and off-key ordinarily, he was unimaginably stubborn when it came to certain things. Jiang Chen had discovered precisely this character trait. What reason was there for someone with such conviction not to find success?
Yan Qingsang suddenly recalled many things. His family, his grandfather, his unfortunate cousin, and the brother waiting for him outside…
His waning battle spirit roared to life once more.
“I can’t fall here. Even if I die, I won’t give up here!” An inner voice shrieked inside him. Maddeningly intense willpower burned.
Jiang Chen could sense ripples of this furious mentality. He was quite pleased by this turn of events, and had a very strong feeling that Yan Qingsang would pass the fourth cave.
The elders had already been very surprised to see Yan Qingsang pass the third trial. Evidently, they’d all felt it rather inconceivable.
From their point of view, it was impossible for the Yan genius to pass the third trial. Within that entire house, the only person who was supposed to have that ability was Yan Zhenhuai – and perhaps Yan Qinghuang as well.
They hadn’t anticipated Yan Qingsang’s success, and their shocked reaction showed it.
When he’d first entered the sacred land, many people hadn’t spared him a single glance before pronouncing judgment about his future failure. It had only been a month since then. Had he really managed to forge himself anew?
Even Ziju Min was mildly astonished. He found the entire affair rather odd. He hadn’t been particularly sure that Yan Qingsang would pass at the start, either. In fact, he had prepared himself for the eventuality that the young man would be kicked out.
Yan Qingsang’s present display was a huge, but welcome, surprise. For one, it brought great honor to Ziju Min. Since the boy had originally come as Shao Yuan’s accessory, no one had had any expectations for him.
Under these circumstances, his reasonably good results excited Ziju Min more. If the accessory was like this, how would the man of the hour fare? Surely even better than Yan Qingsang!
A flash of light rose into the air above the fourth cave.
This pillar of radiance indicated that the challenger within had found success. In the next moment, the entire surrounding area was lit up by an incandescent array.
Yan Qingsang dragged himself out with tired steps. He lurched from side to side; blood and sweat caked on his skin. He looked dreadfully fatigued, but a cheerful grin hung on his lips.
He fell to the ground after taking a few strides, causing a cloud of dust to rise from the impact.
“I did it!” He gasped breaths of noxious air, gulping in fresh wind to replace it.
Smiling, Jiang Chen lifted him up and placed him to the side. “Brother Yan, you’re a real disciple of the Eternal Sacred Land now. The entire world will think more highly of you from now on!”
Yan Qingsang wanted to laugh, but had no strength to do so. It was all he could do to maintain the wide grin already plastered upon his face. There was untold joy in his expression.
Ziju Min chose this moment to come out as well. “Congratulations, Qingsang,” he directed his words at the young man. “The Eternal Sacred Land formally welcomes your membership. You have done well, both on your own behalf and your house’s. I believe that House Yan will be proud of you when they hear of this as well.”
This was not praise, but fact.
Yan Qingsang’s results were more than enough for House Yan to be proud of. Aside from Yan Zhenhuai and Yan Qinghuang, who in the younger generation could say they would definitely pass the sacred land’s evaluation?
And yet, Yan Qingsang had done so. Just this was enough for him to hold his head high.
“Alright, Shao Yuan, it’s your turn.”
Ziju Min smiled faintly at Jiang Chen. “Your cultivation level seems to have increased as well. You’re always full of surprises, young man. Even the people around you are infected by it. Yan Qingsang has changed a great deal in the past few days. Were you the catalyst for that?”
Jiang Chen shrugged. “Perhaps.”
His gaze had already turned towards the Nine Winding Caves. His goal was to conquer the entire course, in order to put his potential on full display before the sacred land.
His body vanished from its original place.
The first cave was a rudimentary test, and Jiang Chen passed it trivially.
The second cave was an enhanced version of the first cave, with the difficulty somewhat adjusted upward. The attackers in this case were once again, puppets hidden in the darkness.
But Jiang Chen’s senses were sharper than those of a mid empyrean expert’s. It was impossible for any puppet to ambush him merely from cover of darkness. He passed the second trial as easily as the first.
The third trial was designed in the same vein. Aside from the puppets, many unknown organisms had joined the fray. The organisms in question weren’t large, but moved extremely rapidly. It was more difficult to defend himself because of this.
Jiang Chen was both alert and quick enough to render the third trial frivolous as well. He passed without breaking a sweat.
Many elders in the Hall who wanted to have a good laugh at his expense were sorely disappointed. They were the same ones who’d observed him in secret when he had first entered. Because he was only at peak great emperor – not even half-step empyrean, they had largely written off his martial dao talent.
At least he would make a good spectacle to watch! Ziju Min would be embarrassed in the process too.
Or so they thought.
But it was a month later, and the joke they’d long anticipated hadn’t materialized. Shao Yuan had almost offhandedly passed three trials in a row. It was as if someone was helping him cheat.
Some were exasperated at this. More, however, were shocked with amazement.
Passing three trials wasn’t amazing in itself. Rather, that was quite an ordinary feat. But the way that Shao Yuan had passed through so easily was!
It looked like he hadn’t even warmed up yet after three rounds. So far, he was having a nice stroll in the park. Many began to have higher hopes for the young man named Shao Yuan.
Jiang Chen quickly entered the fourth trial.
“From the way he’s been going so far, I don’t think the fourth will stop him either,” someone remarked in restrained admiration.
“Not necessarily. Before him, Yan Qingsang had an easy time with the first three trials too. But the fourth trial exhausted him. Shao Yuan isn’t even part of House Yan’s bloodline, so how could he be stronger than Yan Qingsang?”
“Well, I think that’s obvious. Aside from Yan Zhenhuai, who can compare to Shao Yuan from that house?”
“Don’t get too excited, gentlemen. We’ll see how our contender does soon enough.”
Ziju Min remained completely quiet as he beheld Jiang Chen’s performance. He had been a bit concerned about the young man’s martial dao talent before, but his heart was completely calm now.
Jiang Chen did not disappoint. The fourth trial that’d exhausted Yan Qingsang wasn’t even a burdensome challenge to him. None of the attacks could get through his defenses. Though it did take him a bit more energy than the previous ones, he had plenty of strength left to spare.
“Tsk tsk, this kid is starting to look interesting. Passing four trials means he’s at least first-rate.”
“Isn’t that right? He’s already at least as good as an elite disciple, but he has a lot of fuel left.”
“Haha, the fifth cave isn’t going to be this easy. The earth attribute surroundings, the fivefold gravity, and the various subterranean creatures will be multiple problems for him to solve. It’s essentially impossible for him to pass the fifth trial. He’s just an outsider in the end.”
“Ah, he’ll have succeeded even if he doesn’t pass. He wasn’t born in the sacred land, after all. If he were, he could very likely try himself against the sixth or seventh trial.”
The Nine Winding Caves geometrically increased its difficulty with every additional trial.
Just because the fourth trial wasn’t particularly difficult didn’t mean the fifth would be the same.
Of course, Jiang Chen wasn’t accustomed to underestimating his obstacles. Since he’d planned to use his full strength to challenge the Nine Winding Caves, he would be cautious every step of the way rather than losing a crucial opportunity because of carelessness.
When he entered the fifth cave, the gravity restriction immediately bore down on him. No matter how he tried to move, the powerful force weighed down on his body and footsteps. Jiang Chen was quick enough to realize that he had entered a gravity-based domain.
“Heh heh, gravity at this level is somewhat intriguing. It’s not going to pose a problem for me, though!” Jiang Chen called upon his Earth Bodhisattva Orb.
The Orb had once been the crowning treasure of the foremost formation sect in ancient times, the Earth Bodhisattva Sect. It was one of the most valuable earth attribute treasures around.
The orb could neutralize gravity of this level with ease in an untraceable manner.
The treasure swiftly hummed to life, causing the gravity domain around him to disappear in a two-yard radius around it. Though gravity acted with terrifying efficiency outside these boundaries, the Earth Bodhisattva Orb had created a safe passage for him!