AGM 330 - Ascending to the Peak
Time flowed on as many in the crowd left.
Ouyang Zheng, Zang Lengfeng and the rest all went into closed-door seclusion. Similarly, many of those from the major powers all left as well.
Only Situ Po and Qin Wentian remained on the Heavenly Stele Steps. No matter how many steps Situ Po ended up climbing, the news would be spread regardless, so there was no need to wait there like an idiot. Only those close to Situ Po, such as people from the Sword Extinction Sect and the Azure Emperor Palace, still remained below.
Aside from them, Ouyang Kuangsheng, Chu Mang, Fan Le and those in their camp were also there. Two months had already passed and all their injuries had healed, yet Qin Wentian still didn't move a single inch. This caused Fan Le and the rest to feel somewhat depressed. Cutting words about Qin Wentian's actions were discussed all around-what's the point of persisting there if he dared not advance? Was he going to waste his time until Situ Po cleared all 27 steps?
Right now, Situ Po was already on the 23rd step and he appeared to be closing his eyes in meditation while in a standing position.
Barely anyone believed that Qin Wentian could surpass Situ Po. The ending of their battle had already been decided. The difficulty of advancing a total of five steps from 18th to 23rd was so high that it was almost impossible.
"How long does Qin Wentian still intend to cultivate?" Xuan Xin whispered, she was also accompanying Fan Le. Those from the Mystic Maiden Palace were no longer as opposed to her being together with Fan Le after his outstanding performance. That still didn't mean that the sect had accepted their love, but at least Fan Le made a huge step forward in terms of bridging the wall of animosity that used to exist between them.
"Could it be that he's shameless enough to wait till the end of the year? By then Situ Po will surely go to the Ancient Kingdom, so even though Qin Wentian will have lost, he won't have to die." Nearby, Yue Bingying stated with contempt, not bothering to lower her volume. Situ Po was her pride, she wanted to be here to witness the ending, to see how badly Qin Wentian would be defeated.
"RUMBLE!" At this moment, an overwhelming aura gushed out from Situ Po as he straightened his back and opened his eyes, gazing at the Heavenly Stele ahead.
His cultivation base was at the ninth level of Yuanfu, and all three of his Mandates were already at the Perfection Boundary.
From today onwards, he possessed the qualifications to contend against the other top rankers in the Heavenly Fate Rankings. His power level now was already comparable to theirs.
"He broke through." A gleam of fascination flashed through Yue Bingying's eyes. From today onwards, Situ Po was no longer a mere chosen, he would be a Heaven's Chosen presiding over all others.
Xuan Yan and Li Shiyu, who had also witnessed the sight, couldn't help but lament in their hearts when they saw Situ Po breaking through. He was truly powerful.
"Speaking of which, I have to thank you. Without you, there wouldn't be an opportunity for me to challenge the Heavenly Stele Step. The last of my Mandate wouldn't have reached the Perfection Boundary so fast, nor would I have stepped into the ninth level of Yuanfu that quickly. I initially thought that I would only have this breakthrough when I journey to the Ginkou Continent. But thanks to you, I have even more time to prepare now."
Situ Po serenely stated, his words causing many to sigh. Qin Wentian's dispute with him caused the eccentrics of the Unmatched Realm to borrow the Heavenly Stele. Who would have thought that it would end up benefiting Situ Po instead?
"Situ Po does have Qin Wentian to thank indeed," Li Shiyu calmly added. Xuan Yan nodded her head slightly, she knew that Situ Po at this moment had already exceeded her.
When he was at the eighth level of Yuanfu, his combat prowess was already extremely terrifying.
However, Situ Po spoke again, "Although I have you to thank for this, you will still die by my hands."
After speaking, Situ Po took another step upwards, an incomparable stubbornness set within his heart. By securing his position on the 24th step, he had reached yet another fearsome height.
"The path upwards to the Heavenly Stele is too difficult, I wonder how many heroes have fallen before it." Situ Po's voice contained a hint of melancholy to it. After which, he sat down cross-legged on the 24th step, closing his eyes in meditation.
"24th step, the 24th step!" A radiant smile of pride suffused Yue Bingying's face. "Other than Situ Po, who can accomplish this?"
As the sound of her voice faded, a figure clad in snowy-white leisurely walked over. She appeared otherworldly, untouched by mortal dust, exuding an oppressive coldness wherever she passed.
Moments later, she was at the bottom of the Heavenly Stele Steps.
One step, two step, all the way to the ninth, she didn't stop for a single instant. On the ninth step, she finally coughed out a mouth of blood, but it didn't stain her robes of purest white.
Yue Bingying's expression faltered, while Li Shiyu and the rest froze.
A maiden clad in pure-white robes, akin to a snow lotus atop an icy mountain. She was Yun Mengyi.
Her simple and elegant form seemed untouched by mortal dust, yet she was actually attempting the test of the Heavenly Stele.
In the blink of an eye, she crossed another nine steps and stood shoulder to shoulder with Qin Wentian.
"What the? How is she so powerful?" Everyone was thunderstruck upon witnessing this. Yun Mengyi had also gained access to all thirty-six halls. The speed in which she traversed the 18th step clearly showed how resolute her heart was, how firm her conviction.
Not only that, she didn't halt in her steps. She continued forwards, stepping onto the 19th, 20th... all the way to the 24th, standing side by side with Situ Po.
Situ Po's eyes narrowed as his heart pounded. How could this be?
Earlier, he was still so proud of himself, saying how many heroes except for him had fallen before the Heavenly Stele Steps.
Yun Mengyi didn't even glance at him, and instead continued to advance. Climbing up the 25th step, and then the 26th, where she finally paused and stood there, like an immortal lady from another world, an unparalleled existence in this world.
Situ Po had had to strain himself with so much effort to even reach the 24th step, yet Yun Mengyi only used less than half an hour of time to advance to the 26th. He was completely suppressed.
This scenario caused the expressions of all below to turn dumbfounded. Situ Po wasn't willing to admit defeat, he had to continue forwards, gritting his teeth, advancing all the way to the peak. He stepped on to the 25th step, the pressure heating him within until it almost baked him alive. He was now only one step away from Yun Mengyi. But for the final step, he hesitated. He finally hesitated.
At this moment, Qin Wentian moved.
"Qin Wentian is starting to move, he's finally advancing to the 19th step."
The gazes of the crowd instantly riveted onto Qin Wentian, only to see the demonic qi exuding from him was now at an unbelievable level. It was as though he wasn't a human at all.
He stepped upon the 19th step.
Nine rays of light from the three Heavenly Steles slammed onto him, there was no way to avoid them.
"Puchi..." A crisp sound rang out, Qin Wentian's body contorted as the light cleaved downwards. He finally understood why so many geniuses had failed when they tried to advance to the 19th step.
A body made from flesh and blood, imbued with a mortal's fear. How could it not be afraid when facing this heavenly wrath?
An intense pain circulated around him as Qin Wentian's heart grew cold. There was a hole in his chest where fresh blood was leaking out.
He finally understood what Fan Le experienced, what he had to endure.
Was this reality? Or an illusion?
If it was real, why was he still alive? How could anyone withstand such pain and not die? If it was fake, where did the blood come from? Why was the pain this intense?
Whether an Illusion or Reality, a single thought from him would determine which was true.
Qin Wentian continued, taking another step forwards, advancing to the 20th step.
There was no doubt, Qin Wentian was the fourth person after Situ Po, Fan Le, and Yun Mengyi to reach the 19th step.
As his feet landed on the 20th step, a column of light penetrated through his heart. He had never experienced such pain before, but he'd already understood the truth between illusions and reality. The only thing that mattered was what he thought.
If he retreated now, he would die.
Qin Wentian laughed, and continued forward. He understood the crux of this test.
With insufficient conviction, he would die. If his will wavered even in the slightest, he would also die.
Every step was a battle between illusion and truth, bringing him closer and closer into contact with Death.
If it were earlier, if there was even the slightest wavering of his will, then the beam of light that penetrated his heart would instantly turn the illusion into reality. He would die for real. That was why even at the 19th step, so many people were injured. They didn't believe that they could withstand that pressure.
"How can this be? He succeeded as well?"
Those below couldn't believe their eyes. Qin Wentian didn't pause, he instantly stepped on the 21st, 22nd, all the way to the 25th step. He was similar to Yun Mengyi, advancing so many steps with a single breath. At this moment, he stood side by side with Situ Po.
Who said that he'd already lost?
After being surpassed by Yun Mengyi, after being caught up by Qin Wentian, the smile on Situ Po's face had long faded away. The confidence he'd had, the vigor he felt, were all replaced by a jarring feeling of disbelief. How could this be? Was their will stronger than his? Was their conviction stronger? Impossible.
"You've lost," Qin Wentian calmly stated. Situ Po's countenance changed as he coldly replied, "Even if you are on the same step as me, you don't have the qualifications to say that yet."
"The belief you had in yourself is already wavering," Qin Wentian replied. He continued upwards, stepping onto the 26th step. At this moment, he stood side by side with Yun Mengyi, surpassing Situ Po.
"AWESOME!" Fan Le shouted. The expression on Situ Po's face was too riveting.
"Look, Situ Po is the last now." Fan Le laughed, directing his statement to Yue Bingying, harshly refuting her earlier words. So no one else other than Situ Po could reach the 24th step? What a load of baloney.
"Since you've succeeded, how can I fail now?" Situ Po spat out, after which, he too, took the next step upwards.
On the 26th step, there was only indescribable pain. His will was forcefully chopped away little by little, his conviction was peeled apart bit by bit. Yet, he continued to stand.
"ARGHHH!" A voice of agony echoed out, a blood vessel in Situ Po's eyes burst. He was unwilling to give up, even as blood continued leaking freely from his eyes. Yet, he persevered, and finally stabilised his footing.
Drawing in a deep breath, Situ Po's frame continued to tremble. He finally stepped on the 26th step. He had succeeded.
The three of them stood on equal footing, the 26th step.
"The final step!" Those below could feel their hearts trembling violently. They were witnessing history being made. Luckily, they had chosen to stay on.
The three of them needed only a single step to ascend to the pinnacle of the Heavenly Stele Steps. Just one step, yet who dared to take it?
Yun Mengyi took the lead. In an instant, countless streams of Ancient Will cascaded down, making contact with her body. Instantly, an appalling scene appeared-Yun Mengyi's body was sliced apart bit by bit. The countless streams of Ancient Will wanted to destroy her body, reducing her into ashes.
"Puchi..." A crimson glow covered the skies as her blood dyed her pure-white robes a deep red. Yun Mengyi stumbled as she fell down the steps-so much blood covered her it was as though she had transformed into a being of blood.
Yun Mengyi could be said to be the most dazzling of all blazing suns that attempted the test, from the start of its history until now. She used the shortest amount of time to reach the 26th step, yet she was also the one that suffered the most grievous of injuries. The amount of blood was horrendous, the spectators had only one thought in their minds when they glanced at her. Was she already dead?
Situ Po's heart was shaking. Yun Mengyi, someone so much stronger than him had ended up in such a state. His heart began to waver. On the 26th step, his mind had already been close to crumbling apart. What would happen if he took the 27th step?
No matter how strong one's conviction was, in front of death, it would similarly waver.
"The seeds of fear have blossomed in your heart," Qin Wentian calmly stated. Situ Po's countenance stiffened as he glanced at the man beside him, adding, "This final step would be impossible for anyone to attempt."
"What of it? At the very least, I want to see it with my own eyes." Qin Wentian had never felt this composed before. He wanted to ranked among the top three in the Heavenly Fate Rankings. How many thistles and thorns would he have to tread on his path in future? He couldn't afford to lose now.
How could he lose?
"DO YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE?!" A thunderous sound reverberated within his mind. A silly-looking smile couldn't help but appear on his face when he heard that. Who was he? He was Qin Wentian!
As he stood upon the last steps of the Heavenly Stele Steps, he experienced what Yun Mengyi experienced. The boundless Ancient Will split into countless streams that lacerated him, seemingly trying to peel him off layer by layer. With a smile on his face, he transcended the pain and stared right at the Heavenly Stele in front of him.
"Your will won't destroy my body, Your will won't destroy my intent, your will won't waver my heart." Qin Wentian stared at the Ancient Stele as he softly spoke, "I am Qin Wentian, my life, my fate, my destiny, is that of a demon!"