Chapter 601: The Mysterious Ruins
Apart from the high-spirited and defiant words on the stone wall, names had also been carved into the stone wall as well. It was clear that these were the signatures left behind by the disciples of the Ancient Crimson Heavens Sect.
The calligraphy was elegant and bursting with energy, with the spirit of flying dragons and dancing phoenixes. Not a hint of the despondency and plaintive self pity of one about to die was present. Every single signature displayed the comprehension of one who’d transcended life and death.
One’s words were a marker of one’s person. Even though thousands of years had passed, Jiang Chen could still see the lofty sentiments of the Ancient Crimson Heavens Sect disciples. Even though they had charged into the frontlines to confront their implacable enemies, even though they were fully aware of their impending demise, they still held fast to their open-minded optimism and had found an understanding that transcended the cycle of life and death.
“Just what had happened in the ancient past? Such a powerful sect actually had to send all its members to the battlefield, and they all died in battle?” Jiang Chen’s mind was filled with questions. He also sensed something strange about the origins of that powerful enemy. However, there were no clues to that end in the carvings on the face of the stone cliff.
Heavy stone steps girdled the face of the cliff, providing a path to the clifftop. At the clifftop, Jiang Chen was greeted by three majestic statues. Each approximately one hundred and twenty meters tall, they towered over the cliff. Even though the trappings of time had eroded them, their valiant and formidable aura hadn’t diminished in the slightest. A stone tablet off to the side was inscribed with two words: Ancestor Cliff.
Jiang Chen nodded slightly. So this was a sacred ground meant to offer tribute to their ancestors. These three ancestor statues had been carved with exquisite detail, almost life-like. Although they were but sculpted stone, they seemed to possess wisps of an ancient will, to the point where Jiang Chen could almost detect faint traces of vitality surrounding the statue. It was as though they could come to life any moment.
Jiang Chen knew that once they reached a certain level of skill, experts were capable of imbuing a statue with their will and consciousness, leaving the inanimate object a bit of vitality. In other planes, there were even titans who could create copies of themselves from paintings and sculptures simply by melding a portion of their consciousness with the object. Those who lacked strength could only leave behind a trace of their intention and consciousness. On the other hand, the ones with powerful arts at their disposal could create a fully autonomous and independent doppelganger.
The three statues that Jiang Chen was gazing at might contain a trace of ancient will, but had obviously not reached the level of independent autonomy. It was also fortunate that it was Jiang Chen who stood there before them. Any other youth of the Myriad Domain would not have the level of consciousness necessary to detect the abnormality in these statues.
Jiang Chen stood beneath the statues, experiencing the ancient presence that these statues exuded.
Wisps of presence curled up from beneath the pedestal of the three statues. The stone statues seemed to be almost arresting the presence, as the spirit energy bubbling from below seemed on the verge of exploding forward. It was enough to pique Jiang Chen’s curiosity. He guessed that several extraordinary items were buried below the stone statues.
The words carved on the cliff face had explained that should any of the Ancient Crimson Heavens Sect disciples survive, they must return to revive the sect. However, it was apparent that all its disciples had perished in battle. And he, Jiang Chen, seemed to be the first person who’d discovered this place since that time. With that said, he really should be the one who could receive the Ancient Crimson Heavens Sect’s legacy.
It’s just… As Jiang Chen surveyed his surroundings, he was at a loss. With the exception of the overflowing spirit energy emanating from below the three statues, was there anything else belonging to this Ancient Crimson Heavens Sect that he could inherit?
Besides the graveyard that sprawled over the mountainous wilderness, apart from the pieces of fallen ruins and shattered walls, there was only this towering cliff. As he stood atop the cliff, Jiang Chen used his God’s Eye to carefully scan the area around him, but didn’t detect anything out of the ordinary.
Even after a few minutes spent walking around the top of the cliff, he still didn’t find anything. As for the spirit energy emitting from the bottom of the statues, Jiang Chen surmised that they were likely from spirit herbs.
However, Jiang Chen did not consider moving them. After all, these were three monuments that had been dedicated to their ancestors, clearly a sacred ground for the Ancient Crimson Heavens Sect. Even if there were treasures beneath, they could not be reached without destroying the statues. Only, to destroy someone else’s sacred statues for the sake of a few stalks of spirit herbs, Jiang Chen couldn’t be bothered to do so. And neither would he do it.
Not only was this blasphemy to the ancestors, it was further disrespect to the sect. If this had been a sect which had conducted all kinds of misdeeds, Jiang Chen might not have had any qualms about wrecking their grounds for herbs. But although Jiang Chen had never witnessed the conduct of the Ancient Crimson Heavens Sect first-hand, he could tell from the rousing words on the cliff face that this was a morally upright sect that inspired veneration from all.
Naturally, Jiang Chen would not desecrate their sacred grounds for some mere spirit herbs. Not to mention, he wasn’t particularly excited about the legacy of the Ancient Crimson Heavens Sect either. After all, with all the knowledge he’d retained from his previous life, no matter how impressive the ancient sect had been, it still wouldn’t measure up to his past.
He circled the area a few more times, still empty-handed. Although he was slightly disappointed, he wasn’t excessively upset. “Forget it. This Ancient Crimson Heavens Sect is already a thing of the past. Even if they had a legacy, I’m just an unrelated party. It’s fine, right now, time is of the essence. I should start thinking about how to get out of this place.”
Jiang Chen had not forgotten that there were only two more days that he could remain in Mt. Rippling Mirage. And if he remembered correctly, the ruins he had entered were in the area of the ancient herb garden. The formation covering this area opened only once in three thousand years. If he did not leave as soon as possible, he might be trapped here for the next three millennia.
The moment he thought of this, Jiang Chen stepped before the stone statues and cupped his fists in a show of respect. “The members of the Ancient Crimson Heavens Sect all died in defense of its homelands. This is worthy of nothing less than utmost respect. Even if I, Jiang Chen, have not found fortune here, I will remember this matter, and search for any descendents to send here.”
When all was said and done, Jiang Chen still deeply revered the Ancient Crimson Heavens Sect. No matter what, such an illustrious sect had actually sent all its members into battle, to the extent that it had sealed its gates shut. This kind of selflessness and noble integrity was something Jiang Chen admired greatly. This was why this sect had won Jiang Chen’s respect.
When he finished, Jiang Chen turned and descended along the stone steps, using the nameless saber to find his way back to the altar. However, the moment that Jiang Chen stepped off the cliff, rays of dazzling light suddenly exploded from the area around the cliff. In an instant, an enormous formation appeared on the ground beneath Jiang Chen. Every inch of the space around him was filled with numerous ancient characters and patterns. And on the lofty cliff face, an enormous Nine Palaces1 diagram appeared. This diagram shone with a light golden glow, emanating a terrifying feeling. The lines that delineated the Nine Palaces flickered on and off, bright and dark with a moment’s difference.
“The Nine Palaces Formation?” Jiang Chen was slightly taken aback. He had seen a great variety of things in his previous life so naturally, he knew what this was. This wasn’t even an extraordinarily complicated design, but this version couldn’t be considered a simple Nine Palaces Formation.
But to think that such a formation had been hidden on the cliff face?
Jiang Chen subconsciously took a step back, but he soon discovered that the area around the cliff had been enclosed by a ring-shaped formation, as though the the ground had been split by a circular crack. Frighteningly powerful spirit pulses overflowed from the crack, forming an enormous circular energy cyclone that covered this entire mountainous region.
“Formations amongst formations, this Ancient Crimson Heavens Sect seems to be a sect renowned for its formations.” In his previous life, Jiang Chen had studied formations rather extensively, so he could see that the Ancient Crimson Heavens Sect’s techniques were definitely extraordinary.
Apart from the formation that surrounded Mt. Rippling Mirage, another encircled the large waterfall at the entrance to the ancient herb garden. There was yet another formation around the interior of the island. And the position of that altar was clearly the location of another formation. Layers upon layers of formations covered the area around the cliff.
The road here had been dotted with formations. For a person entering this place from the outskirts of Mt. Rippling Mirage, he would have to face at least four or five formations along the way. If not for this chance, there would have been no other way to enter this place.
Jiang Chen pondered for a brief second before a ray of powerful light shot out from one of the grids of the Nine Palaces Formation, enclosing his entire body. With a quick, easy motion, Jiang Chen was sucked into the grid. He didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry. Once again, he had been summoned to a brand new territory without even the time to decide on his options.
This time, Jiang Chen entered a giant residence that had been carved into a mountain. The residence’s architecture was distinctly antique. The dense feeling of desolation and timelessness left Jiang Chen wondering if he had suddenly traveled back to an ancient era.
“Welcome.” An aged and desolate voice resounded.
Jiang Chen froze in his steps, instantly raising his guard. He spread out his senses and observed his surroundings. Never in his wildest imagination had he expected someone to be here in this cavern. However, he soon realized that the voice hadn’t emerged from a real person, but was rather a message left behind by an ancient consciousness.
“No matter who you may, no matter where you come from, if you are able to reach this point, you must have passed through several formations. Moreover, you must have possessed a token from our Ancient Crimson Heavens Sect. Along the way, you must have scaled the ancestor cliff.
“Fortune seems to have smiled upon you, because the ability to enter this cavern proves that you are not willing to throw away all your principles in order to accomplish your goals. At the very least, you are not a person completely devoid of conscience. Otherwise, not only would you have been unable to receive our Ancient Crimson Heavens Sect’s legacy, but you might even have perished in your attempt to do so.”
Jiang Chen was shocked. Why had this ancient message said something like that? Had they anticipated people trying to break into their place?
“Do not be alarmed. Different people have different natures, and the fate that befalls each person who enters our sect grounds is wholly different. In reality, amongst the nine gates of the Nine Palaces Formation, there is only one working gate. The other eight will lead either to your death or to your destruction.”
Only one working gate?
Jiang Chen broke out in cold sweat. There was actually only one gate that resulted in life in the Nine Palaces Formation? The other gates would lead to death and destruction? How could… how could this not cause Jiang Chen to feel nervous? He’d subconsciously walked up to and miraculously turned back right in front of the gates of hell. But, why was it that he’d been brought to the single working gate instead of being sent to his demise through the other gates?
Jiang Chen had some vague conjectures, but was still very much bewildered by this situation. Although the voice had told him that he had arrived at the gate of life, Jiang Chen did not dare to relax just yet. Every corner of this ancient sect had been filled with peculiarities. Jiang Chen certainly did not wish to fall into dire straits from just a momentary lapse in focus.
“Fated one, you must be curious as to why your luck is so good. Eight out of nine gates of the Nine Palace grid leads to death, and just one to life, yet you’ve been sent through to the single working gate? The reason behind that is your triumph over your greed. Although that does not automatically make you a noble person, it at least proves that you are not completely unscrupulous. And only this kind of person is qualified to receive the legacy of our Ancient Crimson Heaven Sect!”