However, it was far from easy to hit the pupils of the snake.
Timing was of the essence, as well as the utilization of every other environmental and circumstantial factor. Jiang Chen’s mind was clear. The chain seal in his consciousness was especially active, allowing his senses to maintain peak keenness.
“The chance will be fleeting. I have to make this opportunity happen myself.”
In the span of a single thought, he made a hand seal and conjured countless vines from the Lotus from beneath the earth. They surged towards the serpent with alarming alacrity.
The Lotus’ potency lay not just in its dual attribute offense, but its vines’ terrifying ability to entangle as well.
One or two weren’t particularly effective at doing so, but hundreds to thousands of them combined in force were spectacular to behold.
Moreover, the Lotus was gradually improving itself alongside its master. It was drastically different in form from when Jiang Chen had first obtained it. Each vine was filled with vigor and tenacity.
The serpent was completely unprepared for the vines’ onslaught, and reacted by lashing out in berserk madness. Its body contorted to break through the organic bindings.
Jiang Chen knew that the serpent was strong enough to shake off the vines in no time at all. Thus, he levelled the Evil Golden Eye without hesitation. Fearsome aureate light shot toward his bestial opponent with terrifying killing intent.
The golden rays were almost too bright to behold, more brilliant than the glare of the midday sun. The serpent couldn’t quite keep its eyes open at the radiance.
“Now is the time!” Or so Jiang Chen’s instincts told him.
He drew back both arrows on his bow to form a full moon.
The ear-piercing sound of missiles tearing through air could be heard. The arrows soared forth, golden trails following behind them.
A flash of light marked their disappearance entirely. In the next moment, the serpent spirit howled with hysterical pain. Its clumsy physique writhed madly about, tail sweeping the air like a giant whip. Huge trees were smashed cleanly in half by its frenzied motions.
Yard-deep gashes were created upon the ground as well, their jagged edges painfully fresh.
The serpent continued its blood-crazed shrieks. Its eyes had been pierced straight through, and blood gushed out of them incessantly. Jiang Chen was exceedingly pleased.
“Go!” The thought flickered across his mind.
He was extraordinarily fleet of foot. A few quick hops were all he needed to get out of the serpent’s zone of control and bound far further into the distance.
Jiang Chen took a deep breath, then turned back to look at the agitated snake. A few pangs of relief were still running through him.
If his gambit hadn’t succeeded back there, he knew that he would need to use the Confounding Puppets. He really hadn’t wanted to use them. In fact, he considered it better for him to forfeit the trial rather than do so.
Thankfully, he’d managed to pull off a spectacular feat here.
His success wasn’t as simple as having forced his way past. His strategy and daring had both been proven as well. Without either of those traits, he wouldn’t have prevailed in the ordeal.
Having gotten past the serpent, Jiang Chen didn't let down his guard still. Presumably, the ninth cave’s trials were done, or nearly so. However, whether it really was the last test or not was still up in the air.
Thankfully, the appearance of an exit shortly thereafter smoothed his worries.
“Congratulations, contestant. You have passed all nine trials of the Nine Winding Caves.” The echoing voice sounded heavenly to Jiang Chen’s ears.
He took the portal offered to him.
Suddenly, he heard thunderous applause all about him. The three primes as well as all the congregated elders of the Hall offered him a deafening ovation. Surprise and recognition were plain in their collective eyes.
Ziju Min came forward without regard for his status. “Congratulations, Shao Yuan. I am proud of you and your achievement here, as are we all here at the Eternal Sacred Land. Come and greet the three primes. They have come personally to cheer you on. This is a first in our history, as far as I know.”
Jiang Chen smiled slightly. He had seen the three primes before and was uncowed by a repeat visit. “Your gracious support is immensely appreciated, great primes.” He saluted.
“I was wrong about you, young man.” The first prime sounded quite happy. Her gaze held nothing but appreciation. “I didn’t expect a young man to finally pass all nine of the Winding Caves. You are the first, and I hope this is the precedent for generations to come.”
“I’m sure that’ll be the case,” Jiang Chen smiled faintly.
Yan Qingsang ran over as well, enthusiasm plain on his face. He grabbed Jiang Chen’s shoulders. “Well done, brother!”
Many of the elders from the Hall came forward to offer their felicitations as well.
“Good job, young man!”
“Keep at it! We need more geniuses like you.”
“Don’t be too satisfied with your current achievement. We wouldn’t want your wonderful talent to go to waste now!”
The encouragement of these seniors were largely courtesy, but Jiang Chen nevertheless responded with notable politeness. His respectful attitude pleased every elder he interacted with.
Many young geniuses were proud to some degree. This young man possessed a calmness and modesty that weren’t characteristic of his peers. Though he had attained an unheard of feat, he remained rather down to earth.
“Shao Yuan, I have reported your performance to the venerated forefather as well. Perhaps he will host an audience for you in the near future,” the first prime remarked seriously to the young man.
“The venerated forefather?” Jiang Chen knew about the hierarchy here, but this senior of a forefather felt rather distant to him. Apparently, the venerated forefather had attained true divinity, which made him a pinnacle among all in Myriad Abyss.
Divine cultivators were the backbone of society in the heavenly planes.
Thus, he was mildly expectant upon hearing about the venerated forefather. He wanted to know just how strong the strongest experts in Myriad Abyss were exactly. He was also curious whether there was much of a difference between gods here and the ones of the heavenly planes.
Jiang Chen’s silence prompted some admonishment from Ziju Min. “Shao Yuan, the venerated forefather is a divine being who watches over the Eternal Sacred Land. He is our totem and protector. He has almost divorced himself from worldly affairs, so it’s an immeasurable honor for him to want to meet you.”
He was worried that Jiang Chen would feel a callous indifference because of ignorance.
A smile appeared on the young genius’ face. “I found it hard to believe that I’d be blessed with an audience with the venerated forefather. I needed a moment to recover my wits.”
Everyone roared with laughter.
The first prime smiled. “Well then, I hereby announce that from this day forth, Shao Yuan is considered a personal disciple of the highest rank. He is to receive the best treatment of his generation. If the venerated forefather will not take him as his disciple, I will teach him myself.”
This was a valuable promise. The first prime was the ruler of the Eternal Sacred Land in fact as well as name.
Though the venerated forefather held unrivaled prestige, he didn't mind the particulars of the sacred land or interfere in its operations. Therefore, the one who held authority in day-to-day affairs was the first prime.
The venerated forefather was more akin to a pillar of support and figurehead for the faction.
The rest looked at Jiang Chen with envious admiration. This young man had distinguished himself in a single move!
However, their recollections of how they did in their youth diluted that emotion. They couldn’t complain given his excellence in comparison. After all, he had performed marvellously – to a degree that it was impossible to refuse him.
“Yan Qingsang, you passed four trials. You’ve risen to the rank of an elite disciple, but your discovery of Shao Yuan elevates you to the treatment of a core one.”
Though he was an elite disciple in name, he was considered a core disciple in all other respects.
Core disciples were only one rank below personal disciples within the Eternal Sacred Land, but the latter group was a very small and exclusive category. Therefore, it was a tremendous honor for Yan Qingsang to receive this kind of treatment.
His original goal had been to remain in the sacred land as a regular disciple. He’d never dreamed to be treated as a core one.
Yan Qingsang was extremely excited. He was completely satisfied with Jiang Chen’s elevation to the highest rank of disciples. He knew that he had come this far largely to his friend’s help.
“Elder Ziju, I don’t think Shao Yuan’s pill dao evaluation is necessary any more? A pill dao genius that even the Jade Lake Sect has conceded to is plenty impressive.” The first prime smiled. “I will waive the requirement on his behalf.”
The first prime no longer saw the pill dao evaluation as particularly important. Even if the young man didn’t have an ounce of pill dao talent, what did that matter? His astoundingly terrific martial dao potential was enough cause for celebration.
“Of course you can waive it, First Prime,” Ziju Min smiled back.
As the ruler and administrator of the Eternal Sacred Land, the first prime had sufficient power to make that call.
“Take good care of these young men and don’t let any abuse happen to them. From now on, Shao Yuan is considered the foremost genius in the Eternal Sacred Land. You are all seniors and should thus tend to and teach your juniors.”
This was once again a cautionary statement from the first prime to those interested in making trouble for Shao Yuan. If they did so, they would be making trouble for themselves and the sacred land.
The few elders that had been opposed to Jiang Chen had only done so because of their lukewarm relationship with Ziju Min. Now that his plumage was filled out and he was under the protection of the first prime, not to mention the venerated forefather – who would be blind enough to obstruct him given these circumstances? Doing so would be tantamount to suicide.
To put it bluntly, some elders were entirely unnecessary to the sacred land, but geniuses of this caliber made a huge difference.