Nothing but flames came into view when Jiang Chen fully expanded his God’s Eye. The heat was rising so rapidly that it felt like the surrounding air had spontaneously combust.
The weaker cultivators began to crumble beneath the heat. Sweat trickled unceasingly down from their foreheads.
“Damn! Is there a huge lake of lava underneath Agarwood Valley?” Someone amongst the crowd complained.
“Master, the heat is unbearable!”
“It’s so hot! I feel like I’m going to explode!”
“This place is clearly hell! How can anyone mistake it for a secret realm?” The crowd complained endlessly.
Jiang Chen was standing amongst the crowd. He noticed that the weaker cultivators had already begun to lose heart.
The Purple Smoke Sect’s forefather was also sneaking glances at Jiang Chen from the corner of his eyes, observing if he should advance or retreat. A crack had likely emerged in the forefather’s dao heart.
“Zi Tan, stop looking at me. If you want to advance, then stop trembling in your boots. If retreating is your answer, then you should make haste.” Jiang Chen warned through his consciousness. “Hesitation is deadly in places like these. Those who wish to advance yet also retreat die the quickest.”
People who hesitated during dangerous situations did often die the quickest because they couldn’t focus on dealing with the danger itself. The more one was afraid of something, the more likely one’s fear would approach.
The entrance was now shrouded by an impenetrable fog. They could no longer discern the direction of whence they came from.
Out of nowhere, pillars of light suddenly shot far into the clouds. They looked like rainbows originating from the deepest parts of the valley. The bedazzling glow was extremely mesmerizing.
“One, two, three… seven pillars in total!”
There were tiny shimmering fragments of gold, silver, purple, and green inside the pillars...
Sparks and motes of light flew, the cascading radiance like a suddenly opened chest filled of treasures and jewels.
“What is that?”
“Tsk tsk. Look at how mesmerizing it is! A priceless treasure must be emerging!”
“Listen! What’s that sound?”
“Ah! I hear it too!”
A majestic and sonorous melody could be heard in the distance. Its grandeur was comparable to waves crashing onto the beach, a flock of cranes crooning in the skies, and the cosmic hymns of countless gods.
The crowd was completely enthralled by it.
Jiang Chen however, remained as nonchalant as ever as his consciousness was far stronger than the average cultivator. In fact, no great emperor could even hope to compete.
The dignified melody continued to reverberate in the air. Peculiarly enough, there was a strange rhythm within that could influence one’s mood.
Such powerful strength of consciousness! Alarm filled Jiang Chen. Like a savage beast facing attack, the chain seal in his consciousness suddenly took on a defensive stance.
Every time this happened, it meant that the situation was awfully amiss.
Is the melody actually a trap for the consciousness? Jiang Chen stared suspiciously at the glowing pillars.
In the eyes of those present, one could clearly glimpse the undertones of obsession hidden behind the confusion. Their faces were flushed red and the melody had brought their minds to a state of extreme stimulation.
A chill ran down Jiang Chen’s spine. Cultivators would only enter that state during the extremest of extremes, whether good and bad. For example, cultivators could enter a state of wild euphoria when on the edge of a breakthrough. Inspired by a new realm in martial dao, that state would then become an extremely potent motivator.
However, this was clearly not the case here.
The other was during extreme danger, such as when their minds were being taken over or influenced in some way.
Jiang Chen could tell that it was the latter. He raised his guard even further as he had a feeling that Agarwood Valley was a lot more dangerous than any secret realm he’d ever entered.
The Maze Realm Autumn Hunt in Skylaurel Kingdom, the Hidden Dragon Trials of the sixteen alliance kingdom, Regal Pill Palace’s Mt. Rippling Mirage, and the Paramount Realm were only a few examples of secret realms he’d been to, each realm more extraordinary than the one before.
However, he’d never been to any that was quite as mysterious as this one. He made great efforts to calm down and block out the music. Fortunately, the chain seal had been an insulator to prevent the sound from advancing beyond mere irritation.
Right now, he was a genius disciple from the Purple Smoke Sect. Even if he did realize something, It would be most inappropriate for him to make any outlandish moves. Doing so would be like painting a target on his head.
He glanced at the heavyweights of the great factions. They seemed to be observing something. Due to the peculiarities of the situation, it’d be most inappropriate to charge in blindly.
“Hmm? Do you feel it? The temperature has dropped a little.”
“You’re right! It’s no longer as hot as before!”
“Haha! Did the light pillars suppress the heat?”
The surrounding temperature had indeed dropped a little. Even the crimson red of the air dimmed slightly, seemingly countered by the seven glowing pillars.
Yet, the towering pillars continued to be as eye-catching and mesmerizing as ever, standing out with resolution and creating vortexes of incandescent beauty. They were like lighthouses, guiding the cultivators to the right path.
The temperature was still far from normal, but it was now within acceptable range for these cultivators.
“Doaist Cloudbillow, shall we proceed?” A Pillfire cultivator glanced at Emperor Cloudbillow enthusiastically.
Cloudbillow responded by turning towards the others. “What does everyone else think?”
“I agree that we should proceed!”
“Yes! There must be a heavenly secret behind these light pillars. For all we know, it might be an ancient realm that could change the course of the human domain!”
“Indeed! Just look at the majestic grandeur of these pillars! An extraordinary ancient realm must be hidden behind them! The human domain’s heritage is growing weaker with each passing generation, there’s no reason for us to hesitate in front of this fortuitous encounter!”
“Wealth can only be obtained with risk! Let’s proceed!”
The crowd were surprisingly unanimous in their decision. They’d been thoroughly tantalized by the glowing pillars. None of them would go back at this point for the world.
Most great emperors had a fair number of experience exploring secret realms. But even the most experienced among them had never seen one as vast and impressive as this.
The pillars seemed to connect the sky and earth, a bridge that extended into the void. The towering sight paired with the enthralling melody coalesced into a singular notion -- forward, forward!
There was no place to go but forward!
Emperor Cloudbillow nodded. “Very well. Let us proceed forward then.”
Pillfire led the way, while the Empyrean River Palace, Sublime Chord Temple, and Eternal Celestial Capital followed. They’d completely submitted to the faction.
However, the Ninesuns Sky Sect and Heavenly Dragon Sect didn’t follow Cloudbillow. They had their own plans. The two first rank sects seemed to have formed a pact. If Pillfire tried to oppress either of them, they might act together.
There were over a dozen second and third rank sects from the surrounding areas, but they were merely a pile of loose sand due to the lack of leadership. They were fated to be sidelined, never to stand beneath the spotlight.
The crowd continued onwards. Jiang Chen blended seamlessly with Phoenix Cry’s party.
The deeper they penetrated, the louder and clearer the melody became. Suddenly, they seemed to have stepped into an ancient god’s realm. The world was composed of pure, multi-colored lazurite glass. The seven colors of the rainbow were now center stage.
Hmm? Jiang Chen was taken aback. Why had the scenery abruptly changed?
The sea of fire and plumes of smoke were almost completely gone, replaced by a land that teemed with treasure. Benevolent clouds parted, allowing auspicious and peaceful light to filter down.
The leading party came to a complete halt again. The sudden change took them completely off guard.
“Tsk tsk. What is this place? Why does it feel like I’ve left the mortal realm and entered the world of gods?”
“Was this how beautiful our Divine Abyss Continent was in the ancient era?”
“This is so exciting! To think that a treasure trove is actually located in the most remote of areas. Quite ironic, if you think about it.”
“That’s where you’re wrong. There were no upper or lower regions in the ancient era. For all we know, this might have been humanity’s holy land in the past!”
“Mm. Makes sense. That could very well be right. The human domain was filled with powerful experts during the cataclysm. Just about any place could potentially be a holy land by today’s standards.”
“One can definitely find heaven-defying treasures and heritage in a place like this!”
Like an echo chamber, the crowd had nothing but praise for the valley. Fanaticism colored their eyes and they wanted nothing more than to dive right in and loot the secret realm.
This is a surprise bonus release! Last week I asked on Twitter if I should work on SOTR first or ROS first, and the SOTR responses had it! So heck, thank y'all for your patience with the wonky release times this month. I finally had some downtime from the nonstop rounds of family and could get a bit ahead on work today so have an extra! <3