The crowd erupted in motion. Most were ecstatic, these were people who did not have the golden invitations.
A small portion of the crowd looked furious. One bad-tempered person raged, “My family has been paying the Spiritual Mountain Sect a small fortune every year for thirteen years, just to get this golden invitation! How could you declare it useless just like that? How is that reasonable?”
Now that the first person had spoken up, another person shouted in assent, “Yeah!”
It was obvious that these two wanted to take advantage of their invitations. With the invitation, they were practically culativators already, yet this announcement meant they had to suffer the three tests just like everyone else! How could anyone remain calm?
A fat man in expensive silk burst into tears. “Don’t play me like that1”
Sun Boyi looked at them in contempt, though a little delighted in himself. He looked at the first guy to speak up and said, “What is your name?”
The man puffed up his chest, “Zhang Haobo of the Botong Zhang family!”
Sun Boyi snickered. “Botong? What kind of place is that? Haven’t heard of it!”
Zhang Haobo yelled furiously, “YOU!”
“Ah, I remember now. The Zhang family of the Botong City from Nanhai County! Your family pays seven thousand silvers every year, that makes a total of ninety-one thousand silvers in thirteen years!”
The ones from poorer families looked at him in admiration, though some in envy.
He raised his head higher. “That’s right!”
“Alright, let me tell you this. In your first year of cultivating with our sect, regardless of your court, if you want to succeed, you need a good mentor, good magical items to help with combat and good spiritual medicine to train your body! Just a little bit of this medicine costs more than ten thousand silvers per month, and as for magical items… Hmmph, haven’t you heard of how magical items are rarer than gemstones?”
Sun Boyi’s expression changed and he spat on the ground. “Ptui, such imbeciles! Zhang family of Botong, right? Let me tell you this, your family’s yearly offerings are not even enough to cover the expenses of a month’s cultivation! How dare you put on airs when you’re so poor? You must be blind! Look around you! This is the Number One Spiritual Mountain! It’s the sect that battled at Heaven’s Corner three times, Nine Hells five times, thirteen times against Dijon Kingdom and nine times against Hunqi Kingdom! The sect that has never lost once out of the one-hundred and thirty-two battles we have fought!”
Zhang Haobo and the rest turned ashen and hung their heads as he yelled at them sternly.
Chengfeng was impressed. This speech was enough to make all the rich sons of powerful families humble and agreeable, plus it made them respect him.
When no one else spoke, Sun Boyi nodded satisfactorily. “Anyone else objects?”
It was silent, save for a few sobbing men.
Sun Boyi grinned, delighted with himself as he declared, “If that is the case, follow me! The next step is the most important point of your lives. We shall begin the three tests!”
The crowd followed Sun Boyi past the square up the mountain to the front of a stone door. Upon entry, Chengfeng felt as if an invisible hand had shoved him inside. He felt a slight vibration that seemed to push him into another world.
It was a vast, endless world. They were surrounded by silence, for all the insect and bird sounds had suddenly disappeared. All they saw were clouds and mist floating gently by.
Sun Boyi led them straight ahead until they arrived at a flight of stone steps. “This is the first test. Heaven’s Stairs!”
“It’s so high up, how can we get to the top?!” Many faces fell as they couldn’t help but cry.
Even the well-trained Chengfeng drew in a sharp breath at the sight of the steps!
Each step was about five metres wide and thirty centimetres tall. While these were acceptable measurements, the toughest part was the length of the flight! This was enough to shatter their hopes and dreams!
This pencil-straight flight of steps extended straight into the clouds, no one could see the top.
The steps were wide enough to fit four to five people at a time, with a narrow forest path on both sides. However, as the path extended upwards, the buffer path on both sides disappeared while the steps grew unbelievably narrower towards the top!
More than half the candidates had almost given up already, despite this being only the first test. Many of them were originally scholars who could barely lift weights.
“Senior Brother, how long is this flight of steps?” asked a delicate-looking girl timidly.
He did not give a straight answer. “Heaven’s Stairs! From the name, you can tell that it goes up to the sky! It’s the metaphor for the path to cultivation! You can dream of ascending to immortality, but you must not think that the heavens are a mere one step away!”
Everyone listened in silence.
“Cultivation is as difficult as walking up to the heavens! The only way to do it is step-by-step, climbing up patiently. That is the only way you’ll get a chance to touch the clouds, then eventually the sky! Anyone who wants to give up, leave as soon as possible! Don’t embarrass yourselves!”
Everyone looked at each other but did not move.
Everything they had ever wanted was here. They knew that they must climb up the steps no matter what!
Chengfeng asked loudly, “Senior BRother, may I ask how does one pass this test?”
Everyone grew anxious.
Sun Boyi smiled and looked at them with contempt. “Good question! Only the first hundred candidates who reach the end of the steps pass the test! Ranking does not matter! But I can tell you that although a hundred can pass this test, half of you will be eliminated in the next round, then another half in the next test! That is why…”
Before he could finish, someone dashed out from the crowd and sprinted up the stairs.
The crowd was stunned for a moment until another person sprinted up. There was a loud cry and as if fearing they would fall behind, the entire crowd squeezed towards the steps.
Sun Boyi laughed. “Right, just be enthusiastic and start early! Do your best, I’m waiting to be your senior! Hahaha!”
Chengfeng was not in a hurry. The crowd in front had already broken out in fights. There were several people punching each other on the ground while the rest tried to climb over them, only to trip or get pulled to the ground.
Chengfeng smirked as he watched them calmly only to realise there were many people with the same strategy. They were all waiting for the crowd to thin out before climbing the steps. At this moment, he noticed a familiar figure… it was Zhan Qisheng!
Tempers flared as the enemies saw each other!