Chapter 1458: The Long and Broad View
The ancient sound of the bell echoed out through the Ninth Sect. It was like a gust of wind from ancient times, filling the sect, causing the eyes of countless disciples to go wide as they looked in the direction of the mountain peak where the Vast Expanse Shrine was located.
“Someone challenging the Vast Expanse Shrine actually… passed 1,000 stairs!!”
“That’s not very common. In the past several years, only a few people have done it.”
“I wonder who it is? The 1,000 stair bell can lead to a Baptism which gives good fortune. But it will only toll the first time someone reaches that many steps. Therefore, the bell can’t be tolling for a current Chosen, only someone new!”
The buzz of conversation rose up everywhere, and yet, it wasn’t filled with the sound of shock. After all… it was only a mere 1,000 stairs. Most people were simply curious as to who was making a name for the first time in the sect.
The curiosity soon faded, and everything went quiet. In fact, no one even flew over to the Vast Expanse Shrine to check out the situation other than the few hundred people who were already nearby. And in the Ninth Sect, which had tens of millions of members, a few hundred people… was like nothing.
However, all of the disciples who were below the 1,000 stair mark were completely shocked. All of them had watched as Meng Hao walked past them onto the steps they had been unable to reach. And then the bell tolled, and they all gasped.
They had no time to wonder who he was, but all of them had the intense premonition that this person… was completely exceptional!!
“He’s going too fast!!”
“I remember watching Elder Brother Bi Yun and some of the others, and they were agile too, but… but they were all people who made it to the top 1,000. Some of them even reached the top 100!!”
“This guy… might be able to make it into the top 10,000 in the rankings!!” While everyone was shaking in astonishment, Meng Hao calmly continued on one step at a time. As he moved, he maintained the same pace, moving neither faster nor slower.
1,200 steps. 1,500 steps. He continued to pass other disciples, all of whom stared in shock as he casually walked by.
His relaxed appearance and way of walking caused more gasps to rise up.
1,800 steps…. Soon, he was approaching the 1,999th step!
On that step was a middle-aged cultivator, who stood there, eyes bloodshot, panting. His body trembled as he lifted his foot into the air, using all the strength he could muster, the full power of his cultivation base, to take that next step onto the 2,000th stair.
“You can do it, Xu Liu!” he growled to himself. “All you have to do is step down. Then the bell will toll, and you’ll receive the Baptism. Your cultivation base will make some progress, and you’ll finally be able to make a name for yourself in the sect!!” However, there was a power that seemed to rise up from the ground, making it impossible for him to lower his foot.
At this moment of incredible difficulty, he suddenly realized that there was a young man behind him. He was handsome, and seemed to have no trouble at all as he walked up. He even looked over with a smile.
The middle-aged man stared in shock. Feeling somewhat muddled, he had no chance to even react before Meng Hao walked past him, stepping onto the 2,000th step and then beyond.
“Impossible!!” the man thought, his mind reeling, his face filling with astonishment and shock. He looked at Meng Hao, and then at his own foot. To him, that step was one of incredible difficulty, and yet this young man had just walked on past it as if it were level ground. The man almost couldn’t believe what he had just seen.
Rumbling filled his mind, and his thoughts were thrown into chaos. A massive force pushed against him, making it impossible to make that final step. He staggered backward, looking up at Meng Hao’s retreating back.
It was then that the bell tolled out yet again, this time, twice.
The sound echoed out from the Vast Expanse Shrine to fill the entire Ninth Sect, causing widespread astonishment.
The main reason for that was because the time between the first tolling of the bell and the second had been too short, less time than it takes an incense stick to burn!
“What’s going on today? How funny. First someone reached the 1,000th step, and then right after that, someone reached 2,000 steps.”
“Interesting, interesting. I wonder if someone will reach 3,000 steps next?” Countless people in the Ninth Sect were surprised, but then began to laugh and joke about it. It wasn’t that people didn’t think about the possibility of a single person causing the bell to toll twice. But when they realized that only enough time had passed for an incense stick to burn, they dismissed any such notions.
It seemed to be a complete impossibility. Unless… someone was walking up the steps who qualified to be in the top 1,000 of the Vast Expanse Shrine.
Even Yan’er was shocked as she flew through the air toward the Vast Expanse Shrine. Suddenly, keen anticipation rose up in her heart.
“Could it be… could it be that Master has something to do with the tolling of the bell?” Earlier, she would probably have taken that to be impossible. But now she couldn’t shake the feeling that the Ninth Paragon and her Master were very similar. It wasn’t that their facial features were exactly the same, but there was something about them, something about their auras, that was almost the same.
Yan’er’s heart began to pound. She took out a medicinal pill and consumed it, causing her cultivation base to surge and giving her an added burst of speed.
The two bell tolls caused more disciples to gather. Before, there had been a few hundred, but now there were over a thousand, all of whom were looking up with interest at the Vast Expanse Shrine.
“It’s too bad we can’t see who it is that passed 1,000 steps, or whoever it was that passed 2,000 steps…. Maybe it’s Elder Brother Xu Liu. I remember that, years ago, he got stuck at the 1,999th step!”
“The Vast Expanse Shrine has a total of 100,000 steps. In the first 10,000, a bell will toll for every thousand steps. After that, the bell tolls every 10,000 steps. Then, once you reach 80,000 steps, you’ll be listed in the top 3,000, and your name will appear on the Vast Expanse Stele.”
“I’m actually hoping to hear that third tolling of the bell.” Everyone was talking and laughing, but no one really expected that a third bell toll would occur. But then….
The Vast Expanse Shrine shook, and the mountain shook as a third tolling of the bell… filled the air!
Dong, dong, dong!!
A series of three tolls echoed out, along with an ancient aura that buffeted the faces of the onlookers. The surrounding disciples cried out in astonishment, and their eyes went wide. Gasps could be heard as everyone looked up at the Vast Expanse Shrine.
It wasn’t just that small group. More disciples in the Ninth Sect turned in their astonishment to look in the direction of the Vast Expanse Shrine.
“A third tolling of the bell!!”
“Not even enough time passed for an incense stick to burn!!”
“Who could this tolling be for…? How shocking! Three people caused the bell to toll today, one for 1,000 steps, one for 2,000 and one for 3,000….”
In sharp contrast, all of the disciples on the mountain below the 3,000 step mark were certain of what was happening. Their minds reeled, for they knew that it wasn’t three people who had caused the bell tolls, it was… a single individual!
In less time than it takes three incense sticks to burn, he passed everyone. He was the one… to cause three tolls of the bell!
“How is this even possible? One incense stick’s worth of time, one thousand steps….”
“Something big is happening today!!” None of these people felt much like climbing the stairs any more. They were panting as they looked up the staircase, almost as if they could see Meng Hao… causally climbing up one step after another.
To Meng Hao, it really was a casual thing. At this point, he had already climbed 3,500 stairs, and so far, hadn’t felt any pressure at all. Furthermore, the three tolls of the bell left him tingling with traces of Baptism.
Unfortunately, it was always an incomplete feeling, as if the tolling of the bell hadn’t reached the point where it could thoroughly Baptise him.
“Interesting,” he thought. “It seems you need multiple tolls of the bell. The best would be to make sure they keep tolling constantly.” He moved forward again, but instead of stepping up by a single step, he started taking them three at a time!
His speed tripled, and soon he reached the 3,700th step . Then 3,800. 3,900. 4,000!!
He whizzed past all of the cultivators who were between the 3,000th and 4,000th steps. They could hardly believe what they were seeing as a blurred figure raced past them, kicking up a wind.
“Who… who is that?”
Everyone was left with minds spinning as the fourth tolling of the bell rang out!!
The sound shook the entire Ninth Sect. More and more cultivators were converging near the mountain. By now, there were several thousand, and the sound of their conversations rose up into the air.
However… before much conversation could take place, a fifth tolling of the bell rang out!!
Meng Hao had increased his speed again! Instead of walking up the stairs three at a time, he was taking them ten at a time! Because of that increased speed, the sixth tolling of the bell rang out, and moments later, the seventh! They were tolling together!
Before the sound of the seventh tolling of the bell faded away, the eighth tolling began…. What a shocking turn of events! Next was the ninth tolling, which shook the whole sect. Then the tenth…. Everyone was staring with wide eyes and slack jaws.