Jiang Chen’s bearing and poise was what Yan Qingsang admired most. Many of his words, if spoken from the mouth of another, would be absurd. But his brother seemed astonishingly credible when he made such sweeping statements.
Yan Qingsang chuckled. “Brother, do you know? Your dominance is what I appreciate the most. I really can’t wait for the day when you stomp that guy underfoot and more, and turn his pride as number one genius into the joke of the capital. I’d laugh myself awake in my dreams if that day comes, and I’ll happily drink myself under the table with my new brother-in-law.”
He’d been a bit upset as to why Jiang Chen had initially approached him. But now, he didn’t mind at all. In fact, he found it rather more exciting. There was finally a genius in Eternal Divine Nation’s younger generation uncowed by Xiahou Zong!
Up to now, many people had been dissatisfied with Xiahou Zong partially out of envy. But Jiang Chen’s disdain for the man was very genuine. There was more than enough evidence to corroborate his attitude.
The young man in question didn’t have the time to waste on chatting with Yan Qingsang, though. “Brother Yan, keep cultivating according to the plans I made for you. I’m going to visit Elder Ziju shortly. He’s going to take me to the banks of Eternal River to comprehend heavenly dao.”
“You… you’re going to break through to empyrean realm?” Yan Qingsang was shocked.
“This day was going to come eventually. The earlier the better, I say.”
“Ah, I’d only get angry if I tried to compare myself to you.” Yan Qingsang let out a long sigh. “But don’t worry, I’ll catch up soon.”
Ziju Min had watched the fight between Jiang Chen and Gan Ning, though he hadn’t come to find his protégé immediately after. He only descended upon Jiang Chen’s residence once the young man had sent off his friend.
Jiang Chen knew of the elder’s arrival, and came out himself to receive the older man.
“Well done,” Ziju Min smiled. “Your battle with Gan Ning has improved your reputation. If you manage the breakthrough at the Eternal River, your illustrious name will spread through the sacred land like wildfire. No one will doubt your prominence after this.”
Jiang Chen’s eyes were filled with spirit. “Please lead the way, Elder Ziju.”
The Eternal River was to the south of the sacred land. A waterway coursed through the land’s manifold peaks, widening from the source into a broadly running course. It was variously beautiful throughout the four seasons.
The river wasn’t a sight that just anyone could view.
Only those who wished to comprehend the heavenly dao could request time at its shores. All others were barred from entrance. In the Eternal Sacred Land, the waters of the river were sacred. Express permission from the administration was required to approach.
Jiang Chen had permission from the venerated forefather, the highest authority in the Sacred Land. Naturally there was no problem for him in this department.
“I can only take you this far, Shao Yuan. The forbidden ground ahead nearer to the river is land that even I cannot easily encroach upon.” Ziju Min stayed his steps after accompanying him to the boundary.
Jiang Chen proceeded beyond without hesitation.
The Eternal River wound through the mountains, sometimes calm, sometimes roaring. Different sections of the river could appear quite distinct from each other, depending on location and time of day.
He followed the waters opposite to their flow, taking in the aura of this natural wonder all the while. He didn’t let a single detail escape him. There had to be a very good reason for the venerated forefather to want him here at the Eternal River.
This place must be exceedingly appropriate for that purpose. As for exactly how that was the case, he needed to find that out on his own. Half a year wasn’t a long time, but it wasn’t short either. He was sure to reap considerable benefit by giving it his all.
Sometimes, he stood upon the bank and took in the sight of the roaring waters. Time seemed to take on much the same characteristic, streaming away before his eyes. It evoked the ancient saying that time was like an inexorable river, passing on in one relentless direction.
At other times, he hovered above the surface of the river itself. The towering, grey sentinels all around him contained a smattering of scenery. They were a microcosm of life’s adventures, in which peace was intermixed with strife, and valleys with crests. For a traveler, life was ever changing.
At times, he opened his eyes to take in birdsong.
At times, he turned to see the blooming and wilting of flowers.
At times, he snapped awake to find snowflakes drifting all around.
At times, he raised his head to register the roiling clouds.
Wondrous marvels suffused his perception and consciousness, filling his heart with awe.
He seemed to have already understood them in his previous life, but some truths were revealed only in the here and now. Suddenly, Jiang Chen felt the lines between his two lives blur. Had there ever been any difference between his last life and his present one?
Which was reality, and which was the one he’d reached through dreams?
Jiang Chen thought he had an answer, but perhaps there wasn’t just one.
“Heaven and earth, nature and creation, my own heart…” Images and thoughts flickered through Jiang Chen’s heart. Some belonged to his previous life, others belonged to this one, and still others were a jumble of sights and sounds, memory and fantasy.
A font of inspiration engulfed him, born out of a resonance with nature itself. All notion and conception between heaven and earth flocked to him with tremendous enthusiasm. They came as excited guests, knocking on his door.
The heavenly dao – heavenly order – was present everywhere in the world at this moment.
He saw it in the grass and trees, the mountains and rivers, the sun and clouds, and his very own self. When all embodied the dao, all held a fragment of the whole truth.
The dao was everywhere and anywhere. All about him and within him, permeating and saturating his senses, fusing together into a harmoniously concentrated whole.
All was one, one was all.
Both all and one were part of the dao.
In this moment, Jiang Chen finally counted himself as part of the rest of creation. He sensed the dao within himself and understood that he was related to the greater whole.
All this was amazingly natural.
The heavenly dao had generously opened its door to Jiang Chen, accepting him as its own.
“Heaven and earth birthed me. My father and mother engendered me. Creation and growth nurtured me. What I’ve lost and gained are both contained in the world. What have I truly lost then, and gained?”
As Jiang Chen comprehended more of the heavenly dao, it acted upon his body, molding him into a more perfect being. The essence of nature coalesced together into an empyrean decree, leaving a deep mark upon his consciousness in a flash of light.
My empyrean decree has formed. Jiang Chen’s thoughts fluttered. He knew that the heavenly dao had recognized him. Now, he needed to refine and build it up further to foster its growth.
Tears streamed out of his eyes.
He was grateful to heaven and earth for giving him life, opportunity, and everything he’d come to possess.
He was grateful to nature for creating all that he could see, hear, taste, and love.
He was grateful to the flora, fauna, mountains and rivers, clouds and existence itself. Through them, he learned of the joys and sorrows of all.
In the end, he was grateful for all of his experiences and that he could detach himself from them, ascending into a higher kind of existence.
He had escaped mortality and set foot upon the path to heaven. This was a fresh beginning.
In the world of martial dao, empyrean realm was the real starting point, the point in which one could begin exploration of the heavenly planes.
The entire process of breaking through and forming a decree had spanned only about a month. This incredible grasp of comprehension set a new record in the Eternal Sacred Land.
Other than himself, it was likely that no one would understand why he’d been able to do so. Jiang Chen’s memories from his previous life had been instrumental in it all. Without them, without his knowledge that had crowned the heavenly planes, without his millions of years of experience and existence –
He wouldn't have the glory of this moment.
He wasn't bogged down by self-satisfaction. Rather, he hungered for further advancement. After breaking through, he ravenously consolidated his empyrean decree.
Another three months passed before Jiang Chen let out a sigh of relief. After extensive refinement, his decree had finally stabilized.
Now, he was a full-fledged first level empyrean expert. Both the strength of his cultivation and consciousness far surpassed those on the same level. He was supremely confident in this fact.
After stabilizing his level, he needed to strengthen his martial methods, equipment, and other various techniques as well.
Thankfully, he had two months left of his half-year. It gave him plenty of room for anything he desired. He could clearly feel the difference between his old and new selves. The way he sensed and perceived the world was radically different.
Alas, I’m on a mission here in Myriad Abyss. If I were back in the human domain, I would be able to enter the fourth of the Six Palaces of Heritage. Jiang Chen was fixated upon the six palaces still.
They were the crowning treasure of the Veluriyam Pagoda, an all-encompassing heritage that the ancient leaders of humanity had left behind. The most powerful of ancient heritages necessarily resided within.
Even though Myriad Abyss’s Ten Divine Nations were strong in their own right, the pagoda’s heritage didn't pale in comparison to anything that could be found here. In fact, Jiang Chen considered it likely to solidly surpass any competition.
After all, the human domain had been the core of Divine Abyss Continent in ancient times. The prosperity of humanity back then meant that its leading cultivators represented the peak of achievement as well. What they’d left behind was sure to be something hotly anticipated.
Though Jiang Chen was eager, this wasn’t the best time to return. He decided to wait a bit more. Huang’er and the exploration of the Great Formation of Heavenly Soul Confinement were his top priorities.