In a flash, Li Chengfeng started to move in Zhan Qisheng’s direction. Zhan Qisheng, who had also spotted Chengfeng at the same time, smirked and leapt towards the ball of fighting humans at the foot of the steps. He then sprinted up the steps and turned around with another grin, climbing up step by step.
Chengfeng wanted to run after him to have the last word but gave up. This was the first test, and the objective was simple- this was a test of physical strength and willpower.
A cultivator cannot succeed without a good physical body.
Although the internal True Yuan was the main focus of cultivation, it was still stored within a flesh body. Even the best pills would have to be made in the best cauldrons. If one’s body was not maintained in good health, then cultivation could fail and the risk of going insane would increase by thousandfold.
Willpower was even more important. Cultivation was an extremely long process. Without iron determination, one would not last.
Chengfeng waited calmly, closing his eyes to rest. He waited until he was the last one to go on the steps.
Sun Boyi smirked. “Even the dumbest bird knows to fly first. Aren’t you afraid of not qualifying if you’re the last?”
He smiled. “The winner isn’t the rabbit but the tortoise! Heaven’s Stairs tests one’s physical and mental strength. Managing one’s strength and rhythm over a long stretch is the most important!”
As he spoke, he climbed up the steps at a moderate pace. Sun Boyi squinted at Li Chengfeng at the end, thinking, ‘Not only did he guess the test objectives correctly, he also had a good strategy! Walking last means he can avoid being harmed by other candidates, as long as he maintains this for a while, when he catches up to the rest, most of the people in front will be too exhausted to harass him! Impressive indeed!”
Li Chengfeng climbed each step with almost identical pacing and breathwork. This reminded him of how his mother used to train him when he was younger.
When he had climbed for approximately fifteen minutes, he realised there were people starting to sit on the steps to rest. The first person was the fat man who previously cried.
This plump rich son had lived a life of luxury, thinking he could become a successful cultivator just because he had the golden invitation. He had not expected to participate in such horrible tests!
He sat on the edge, staring at Li Chengfeng pitifully and extended a hand. “Brother, help pull me up. As long as you help me reach the top, I will reward you!”
Chengfeng took one look at him and then walked past as if he had not heard the fat man at all. The fat man erupted in a string of curses, “I curse you and your ancestors! I hope you fall off the stairs, I hope you smash your brains! I hope you die!”
The curses did not last long. Chengfeng did not think much of them either. Along the way, he occasionally encountered people resting on the steps. When they saw him going up at a moderate pace, anyone who saw through his quiet calmness at this consistent rhythm knew that they had met a strong opponent!
Glares came in his direction. When Chengfeng passed them, an arm suddenly shot out to grab his heel.
As if he had eyes on his heels, he side-stepped the arm and took his next step as usual.
Chengfeng quietly kept count as he climbed. When he had taken his two-thousandth step, he had already shaken off about seven to eight hundred people. Most of the people who had fought to go up before him were all left behind.
When they saw him climb so calmly, some cursed, some reached out to grab him, some rearranged their pacing thoughtfully while others sat on the ground hopelessly, panting like a dying dog. There were many girls who sat on the edge of the steps, sobbing, “Mom, Dad, I have disappointed you! I can’t even pass the first test!”
Li Chengfeng sighed after taking a look at them but continued walking.
At the five-thousandth step, his face had slowly turned red while his body heated up. Sweat sprouted from his forehead. There was still forest on both sides of the steps but they were shorter shrubs now.
As he climbed up, he met fewer people. Chengfeng only saw one person after every hour of walking. It seemed increasingly difficult to shake these people off either. He had to spend another hour to shake anyone who tailed him. They gradually disappeared into the mist behind him as they fell behind.
When he reached the six thousandth step, he saw a slender girl clad in a yellow dress yell and trip, then roll down the steps.
Chengfeng hesitated, wondering if he should move aside. However, after rolling down a few steps, the girl forced herself to a stop a few metres away from him.
She ignored her injuries, scrambling to get up. Chengfeng saw that her palms had been scratched bloody, as well as several spots on her face. She looked haggard but despite that, she knowingly moved aside for Chengfeng.
This action made him like her very much. After some thought, he stopped to take out a small paper bundle from his clothes. “Here you go. Apply topically on your wounds. Jinchuang Medicine.”
The girl looked at him in suspicion, confused why he would voluntarily help her.
He sighed and put it at her feet. “It’s up to you to use it.” When he finished, he continued upwards.
A few steps later, the girl in the yellow dress yelled, ‘Wait!”
Her voice was melodious but she yelled again in an arrogant tone, “Why are you helping me?”
Li Chengfeng smiled. “Why did you make way for me?”
“I’m a girl so I will be entering the Hidden Beauty Court. They only recruit five people at a time and there are twenty-seven female candidates this year. This means I only have to compete against twenty-six others. It does not matter to me how many men are ahead of me. Even if the first one hundred candidates are all men, the Hidden Beauty Court must still accept recruits, right?”
Chengfeng listened in slight astonishment, then greeted her. “Makes sense! I’m Li Chengfeng of Cheng’an’s Cleansing Moon Sect! And you are?”
She patted the dust off her clothes. “Huang Nishang of Songshan’s Wuji Sect!”
Chengfeng smiled. “Guess most of the people who can reach this point have martial arts backgrounds. This test really is unfair to all those physically weak scholars and academicians!”
“Hey, are you looking down on us girls? Don’t you have a mother?” Huang Nishang stood, arms akimbo.
Hey, when did I even say that?
Li Chengfeng rolled his eyes, took the medicine and turned to leave but she said, “Hey, how could you take back something you gave away?”
He turned around, not knowing what to say, when she snatched the medicine from him and kept it in her clothes. Then, she took out another pack of Jinchuang medicine to apply to her wounds. “Why are you looking at me like that? The world is a cruel place, everyone has got to be smart in their own ways, no?”
His smile froze as he cursed privately, ‘Hmmph! You took advantage of me! And I tried to be a good person!’
Two hundred steps later, his stomach started to growl. When it became unbearable, he stopped and opened a bundle with his dried meat and water pouch to replenish his energy.
He sat and ate for a while only to see a yellow silhouette approach. When the person came closer, he realised it was the bossy Huang Nishang.
When she saw him feasting, her stomach started to complain too. Then, Li Chengfeng heard her stomach growl.
At this moment, two people, one at the top and the other at the bottom, glared at each other.