After Ouyang Ting was blasted down, other than Duan Qingshan, no one else displayed any show of concern regarding her failure.
Today when they made the choice to step on the Heavenly Stele Steps, they had already decided to contend against the ancient will of the Stele. If they were to fail too easily, what would their respective sects or clans feel?
This was an opportunity, but it was also a path of destruction. None of them could afford to lose.
All of them were incomparably cautious, taking this extremely seriously. Every time their feet landed upon a step, they would halt there momentarily, readjusting their spirit and mentality to its peak before advancing again.
Qin Wentian was currently on the 4th step. That gush of impact from earlier caused all his internal organs to shudder. Feeling great shock in his heart, he mused that this test of the Heavenly Stele Steps was truly difficult indeed.
“Can your body of flesh and blood withstand this level of power?”
That voice resounded through his mind, trying to shake his conviction. Qin Wentian’s eyes flickered brightly as he turned his gaze onto that resplendent light shining from the three-sided Heavenly Stele.
“This rebound pressure seems to be based on my own strength; the stronger I am, the greater the pressure pushing against me. If I increase my strength, the pushing forth would scale upwards in proportion to the increase,” Qin Wentian speculated. In front of the Heavenly Stele, there was no one that could hide their strength. Depending on the level of the step, every iota of power they had would be forced out by the Stele, to be used against them.
His body transformed as he took on his demonic form, Qin Wentian’s bloodline limit activated. He closed his eyes, disregarding the steps ahead as the candle flame in his heart blazed silently. His will didn’t waver in the slightest.
His body erupted with boundless strength. That was the power of his demonic physique, as well as the strength of his beliefs and conviction.
“BOOM!” Qin Wentian adamantly took another step forward, the gushing impact causing his blood and qi to circulate chaotically. Nonetheless, the magnitude of the damage received was something he paid little heed to; he’d been injured way worse before, it wasn’t sufficient to block his path to the top.
With another step, Qin Wentian stood on the 6th step. An overwhelming primordial, demonic pressure bore down on him when he tried to ascend to the 7th step. He coughed up a mouthful of blood but he still stood upright, unmoving in his determination, as though in defiance.
As he stepped on the 8th step, a massive wind kicked up out of nowhere, slamming against him. Qin Wentian’s feet trembled slightly, as though he had no way to consolidate his footing.
For two consecutive times, the fearsome power of the wind pushed Qin Wentian back involuntarily, little by little , causing his feet to eventually reach the boundary of the 8th step. His countenance was as white as paper, after he stabilized himself, he continuously spat out two mouthfuls of blood as his chest heaved, circulating the Astral Energy in his body around to disperse some of the pressure.
“Currently, Qin Wentian is the fifth person to stabilize and secure his footing on the 8th step. Indeed, he does live up to his reputation as one of the top geniuses from the Unmatched Realm.”
The crowd was monitoring Qin Wentian’s every movement. Qiao Xuan from the Mystic Maiden Palace had been blasted off at the 6th step, and Wang Xiao, who was preparing to step upon the 7th step, his countenance couldn’t help but look rattled when he saw what happened. Luckily, Qiao Xuan only suffered some external injuries after being blasted to the ground, but her life wasn’t in danger.
“The 8th step is like the first wall, I wonder how many people can step upon it.” Many in the crowd had sharp glints of light in their eyes. Currently, Situ Po, Ouyang Zheng, Zang Lengfeng, and Qin Wentian all halted on the 8th step, making no further movements to advance further. Evidently, they could clearly sense the difference between the 8th and the 7th step.
If there was already a variable element when they stepped on the 8th step, what would they face on the 9th? They had to be prudent.
Those that arrived first on the 8th step, stopped and readjusted their mental states to the optimal level, as for those other cultivators that had caught up, there were several that were blasted down before they could even stablize their footing on the 8th step.
One of them was Liu Xi from the Mystic Maiden Palace, she instantly fainted after being ruthlessly blasted down the steps. All her suitors had no time to concern themselves with her, they were already occupied in worrying about their own advancement. Shortly after, the members of her sect rushed to the bottom of the steps to carry her away.
Wang Xiao howled in rage, his entire body exuded an aura that felt as sharp as a Divine Weapon, the resoluteness in his eyes never faded as he eventually managed to stabilize and secure his footing onto the 8th step. His success caused many among the crowd to exclaim in wonder—this Wang Xiao was quite a character.
Those that were able to reach the 8th step were all geniuses in their own rights. Such a performance was already considered impressive.
Fan Le was completely red-faced from his exertions, as the blood within his body burned. He was cloaked in golden flames and eventually, after some moments, let out a low growl of utter determination, and also secured his footing on the 8th step, standing next to Qin Wentian.
Similarly, Ouyang Kuangsheng had also steadied himself, he was like an immovable mountain, unbendable despite the pressure. Although he could be considered slightly slower, his every movement had a sense of careful deliberation and self-control; both were attributes that didn’t suit his name, Kuangsheng, which also meant ‘brazen’.
Chu Mang glanced at the steps above as a look of unmatched resolve filled his eyes. He too, advanced to the 8th step.
“The number nine could be considered the ultimate number, the first segment of nine among the three segments of twenty-seven, we’d better be careful,” Ouyang Kuangsheng warned in a low voice. Qin Wentian had already stepped out and the instant his feet landed on the 9th step, he felt as if he’d been abruptly plunged into the depths of a tsunami wave.
“BOOM!” Another gigantic wave crashed into him, he was a lone boat floating on the endless ocean.
“BOOOOM!” Another wave came crashing, the ‘boat’ shattered. Qin Wentian felt blood rising up his throat but he managed to suppress it, forcing it back down.
“BOOOMMMMMM!” The intensity of the third tsunami wave was many times more violent compared to the first two. The force made Qin Wentian bow over, threatening to blast him away. However, an instant later, his hunched body straightened. This was merely the 9th step, he couldn’t fall here.
How could he be defeated here?!
He extended his hands and wiped away the traces of blood off the corners of his lips. Within seconds, his entire sleeve turned a vibrant red after being soaked in his blood. His eyes, which were closed before, finally opened. He had stabilized himself on the 9th step.
“Three-layered attack, each stronger than the last. Be careful,” Qin Wentian warned Fan Le and the rest.
Fan Le glanced over in the direction of Xuan Xin only to see her staring back at him. The two locked gazes as they shared a smile.
Xuan Yan’s gaze flashed with a strange glow of light. This Fan Le had actually managed to step upon the 8th step. But no matter, the 9th step wouldn’t be so easy to overcome.
“I will definitely step higher than you.” Fan Le grinned as he glanced towards Xuan Yan. Momentarily, he shifted his gaze forward as he stepped out. The resplendent light emitting from the Heavenly Stele focused on Fan Le and an instant later, his conspicuous frame wobbled violently as though his body was about to be destroyed at any moment.
His frame was bent over, like a drawn bow, and he continuously coughed up blood. But eventually, he also stabilized himself. Glancing backwards at Xuan Yan, his bloodstained lips curled up in a radiant smile as he grinned at her.
“Xuan Xin, I won’t disappoint you,” Fan Le stated, with a seriousness rarely seen in him. Xuan Xin nodded her head and after that, she, along with Xuan Yan, started to step on the 9th step.
Ouyang Kuangsheng and Chu Mang advanced forwards as well, they weren’t willing to fall behind.
“This Heavenly Stele will not block my path!” Chu Mang roared as he took that next step. Regardless of the ferociousness of the tsunami waves, his body stood straight and tall, an unwavering glint of determination flickering in his eyes.
In that moment, he resembled a mountain. Back then, his eldest brother Chu Wuwei had been the mountain for him to depend on. In the future, he wanted to be the mountain that Chu Wuwei could depend on. He didn’t want Chu Wuwei to grow feeble from age and die, he had to find a method to allow Chu Wuwei to cultivate.
“Big Bro Chu Mang, awesome.” Qin Wentian had a brilliant smile on his face when he saw that Chu Mang had similarly succeeded.
He was ranked first out of the ten prodigies of Chu, and although this simple-minded, and somewhat clumsy guy didn’t like to talk much, his heart was many times more resolute compared to ordinary people.
“We will do this together, and conquer at least the 18th level.” Chu Mang beamed, “We must conquer this test of the Heavenly Stele Steps.”
“Mhm.” Qin Wentian merrily nodded, the hearts of those below couldn’t help but tremble when they witness this scene.
At the beginning of the test, many participants had grouped together at the foot of the steps. Qin Wentian, Ouyang Kuangsheng, Chu Mang and Fan Le had attempted the test in their group of four. Now, they were the only group who had passed the 8th step together, without a single one failing, and then stepping steadily on the 9th step. This group of people, of which the majority had been nameless cultivators prior to this, were exhibiting their radiance to everyone watching.
“ARGHH…” A miserable scream echoed in the still air. Yue Bingying from the Azure Emperor Palace was blasted down from the 9th steps, and the instant she slammed into the ground, the impact caused her to sink into the sweet oblivion of unconsciousness.
Situ Po’s countenance stiffened as he turned back and glanced at Yue Bingying, taking deep breaths to calm himself.
“The steps that you failed to complete, I will complete them on your behalf,” Situ Po stated with utter confidence. Turning his gaze ahead, his eyes were as determined as before. He took another step forwards, being the first to reach the 10th step.
After Situ Po stepped on the 10th step, unexpectedly his body didn’t waver in the slightest. It looked as simple as climbing an ordinary step, with no pressure whatsoever. This scenario made the crowd understand that after the 9th step, the 10th step contained within it another variation.
“Let me test it out.” Qin Wentian took the initiative and stepped up. Upon coming into contact with the 10th step, indeed there was no overwhelming pressure but rather, it seemed as though his entire person was immersed in a unique, mysterious state.
“Your pathetic will, can it stand up to the ancient will of the Heavenly Stele?”
Another voice boomed in his mind. As he stared at the Heavenly Stele, a shadow flashed as a silhouette resembling him appeared, blasting out a terrifying ancient will that threatened to wipe out his consciousness. The will smashed through his mental defenses, right into his mind.
“SCRAM!” Qin Wentian roared in anger as the will of his Mandates gushed out. The Mandate of Force manifested its will and clashed against that ancient will of the Heavenly Stele.
Although he appeared to be standing there calmly, he understood that the magnitude of this danger on the 10th step was countless times more formidable compared to the mounting pressure he’d faced before. The slightest slip up could cause one’s will to be eradicated—the path of cultivation forever severed.
His will of the Mandate of Dreams and the Mandate of Demons also gushed forth and momentarily, three silhouettes that resembled Qin Wentian manifested above the Heavenly Stele Platform, staring disdainfully down at him with cold eyes. The three doppelgangers transformed into three streams of ancient will and bore down on him.
“Using my own will to suppress me? How can I let you succeed?” Qin Wentian mumbled, his words causing the hearts of Fan Le and the rest below to tremble. They only saw Qin Wentian continue to walk forward, intending on placing his feet onto the 11th step.
This time, he didn’t pause to linger but advanced boldly forward onto the 11th step instead. His power of will clashed against that of the ancient will countless times.
“Boom, boom, boom!”
Every step he made appeared easy and casual, yet there was an unusual sensation that caused people to feel as though their hearts were leaping out of their body when they watched him.
“12th, 13th, 14th, 15th…” In the blink of an eye, Qin Wentian already stepped onto the 15th step. With just three more steps, he would reach the same number as the previous record holder, whose record hadn’t been broken in the past ten years.
However, it was clear to everyone watching that those last three steps would prove to be even more perilous than all the ones before. These last three steps wouldn’t just cause damage, they could sever one’s pathway to cultivation, leaving the defeated to a life worse than death!