The three primes conferred among themselves with their eyes. Surprise was reflected in each other. At first, they hadn’t paid much attention to the genius that Ziju Min had dug up from the garden of another. Shao Yuan was supposed to be much more important pill dao-wise than martial dao.
But the Eternal Sacred Land was where even the most exceptional pill dao master was only as an accent to its main force. Experts in that area couldn’t influence the faction’s direction as a whole.
Now they realized that they’d overlooked the young man’s potential. He was proficient in both martial and pill dao.
The Nine Winding Caves had a certain amount of difficulty, but it tested for talent even moreso; it was a cursory probe into young geniuses’ untapped ability. Thus, crushing or overwhelming strength wasn’t necessarily needed for success. Being talented in every area often conferred the superior advantage.
“Young man, the eighth cave is quite a bit more difficult and dangerous than the seventh. Are you sure you’re going to challenge it?” The first prime looked at Jiang Chen with some interest, curious as to the source of the youth’s intrepidity.
“Shao Yuan,” Ziju Min added his advice, “even if you don’t challenge the eighth cave right now, your performance has already earned you the highest level of treatment within the sacred land.”
Jiang Chen smiled slightly. “I seek not the best treatment in the sacred land, but to overcome my own psychological limits. I would regret it the rest of my life if I were to skip the eighth trial.”
Everyone understood what he meant by that.
In the world of martial dao, a cultivator’s heart was perpetually proud. Challenging the trial that others had stopped short at was a declaration of a certain attitude.
The three primes all smiled and nodded.
“Very good. The Eternal Sacred Land needs geniuses as confident as you. If you can pass the eighth cave, Shao Yuan, the sacred land will treat you as its top genius to raise. It will meet your every demand.” This was the promise given by the first prime. The other two inclined their heads in agreement.
Ziju Min was a bit excited, concerned, and expectant all at the same time. He knew the youth better than all the others. The young man wouldn’t act without being certain of his own success.
Since he’d made this decision, that meant he entertained at least a fifty to sixty percent likelihood of passing.
In actuality, Jiang Chen didn’t know what awaited him in the eighth cave. That was fine though. He based the eighth off of the difficulty he’d encountered in the seventh. He felt that someone with his talents and gear had a very good shot at withstanding the eighth trial. He would press on.
If the eighth trial was extremely difficult, then he may choose to give up challenging the ninth. That depended on what he saw in the near future.
The passage to the eighth cave thus opened, Jiang Chen entered without further ceremony.
He emerged into a staircase that marked a winding ascent. After a long while, he came to an empty plain.
Jiang Chen found this detail rather odd. He could see essentially everything in this expanse. There didn’t look to be any dangers, and even if there were, they wouldn’t threaten him in this wide-open place.
Still, he didn’t let his guard down. The more peaceful things appeared, the more lethal the threat beneath the surface. He was a veteran of a hundred battles. His instincts told him not to relax.
Stepping off the staircase, Jiang Chen noticed that there was a restriction against flight here. No matter how he powered his escape and flying methods, he couldn’t take off.
“So the eighth cave bans air travel then.” That was one characteristic of the trial out of the way. He needed to get to the exit on foot.
But there was no end to this vast expanse in sight. His God’s Eye failed to give him more information than his fleshly ones.
“This doesn’t make sense. The eighth cave didn’t look big from the outside. How could it contain such a huge space inside? Is this an illusion, or a formation?” Jiang Chen wasn’t too surprised though.
The world had a wide array of spectacularly wondrous things. Many formations could accomplish this kind of effect. A space that wasn’t that large could be expanded using dimensional abilities as well.
Jiang Chen took smallish strides. As he did, azure light flashed overhead. A bolt of lightning smashed down upon his head. He saw it explode on his body, unleashing terrifying radiance.
In the next moment, a storm of powerful, strangely colored electric snakes began a mad dance in the air.
“A lightning domain?” Jiang Chen finally realized what kind of trial he was in.
More and more dark clouds gathered overhead, their grey, leaden puffs dampening out the firmament. Around the clouds were more of the electric serpents. They gyrated through the air, proliferating with frenzied speed.
Bolts of lightning tore through the sky to strike the person beneath, as if they could sense life itself.
As their primary target, Jiang Chen was hit with a constant barrage of blasts. Thankfully, he possessed a gold cicada bloodline that protected him from all poisons and lightning.
Any lightning attribute attack was thoroughly non-threatening to him. However, the pace with which he pushed forth wasn’t a brisk one.
“I finally understand why they were so astonished that I would choose to challenge the eighth cave. Without my gold cicada bloodline, these incredibly dense electric serpents would hit me no matter how superb my agility is. A few glancing blows are alright, but a critical one would burn me to a crisp.”
The prismatic snakes of lightning had more than sufficient power to destroy any lifeform they hit. Without his gold cicada bloodline to defend himself, Jiang Chen had no idea if he would’ve been able to dodge all of them.
The unavailability of flight was another factor. Jiang Chen had to finish the wilderness trek on foot. Even so, the impact of the electric snakes upon his body strained his tempered body almost to its limit.
Thankfully, the frantic attack didn’t continue much longer. As he continued on at his sluggish pace, he finally arrived at a place where the lightning was more sparse.
The storm began to subside. It appeared that the worst of the electricity was behind him.
“Looks like the Nine Winding Caves rewards a well-rounded genius with a smattering of talents. Only then can one pass more and more trials. It doesn’t seem easy to pass multiple of these with talents concentrated in a single area.”
Having gotten to the eighth, Jiang Chen understood a bit more about the Nine Winding Caves. He felt that they’d practically been designed for him. He’d had a tremendous advantage with each so far.
He would’ve suffered a great deal on the eighth trial, especially without his gold cicada bloodline. It was non-trivial to fend off lightning attacks of this density.
When Jiang Chen reappeared triumphantly at the exit of the eighth cave, the three primes’ eyes lit up with pleasure. The young man really had managed to pass! Also dubbed the Cave of Lightning, it possessed so much snaking electricity that it was a natural lightning domain. The shocks it delivered were potent and advanced in level.
Many geniuses who attempted it brought items to instantly escape in case of failure. After all, none of them wanted the trial to cost their life in the process.
“Primes, elders, I’ve luckily completed my mission of passing the eighth trial.” Jiang Chen had no complicated feelings on the subject. In fact, he was in a very good mood.
The three primes traded looks, then collectively exhaled. Their eyes were filled with curiosity, but they were also sincerely pleased. After all these years, another genius who passed the eighth trial had appeared!
Ziju Min was positively glowing. Jiang Chen’s excellent performance made him and Yan Qingsang the happiest of all. The latter was a brother to the young man, so it was understandable that he would be overjoyed. The pill sovereign, on the other hand, pressed back some of his enthusiasm.
“Quick, notify the venerated forefather. We have finally obtained another genius who managed to pass the eighth cave!”
“What an amazing surprise beyond all our wildest dreams. Elder Ziju, your recommendation was more than invaluable.”
“Heheh, I only did what I should have. Truthfully, no one expected Shao Yuan to be so talented and capable – not even I.”
At the start, everyone had been betting on whether he would pass the third cave. Now, even those interested in making trouble had nothing to say. Jiang Chen had delivered a resounding slap to their faces.
“Daoist Ziju, congratulations!”
“Daoist Ziju, you must treat us to a feast today! You’ve achieved a deed of great merit.”
By now, Ziju Min had calmed down from his momentary elation. He looked at Jiang Chen seriously.
“Shao Yuan, you’ve passed the eighth cave now. I must let you know in advance that historically, the highest record in the sacred land is what you’ve just accomplished. No one has ever been able to make it through the ninth. It’s more difficult than all of the caves before it combined!
“Whether you are going to challenge it or not is entirely up to your heart. Being able to get this far means that you are a genius with an iron will. You should do as your heart tells you in order to strengthen yourself further.”
Such was Ziju Min’s advice for Jiang Chen. He considered the eighth cave to be a perfect score already. To go further beyond might bring blemish to that record.