Li Chengfeng took a moment to think and decided to continue the path that was going straight ahead. His decision coincided with his ideology — once you are committed to a path, you must stick to it until the end!
Or, to put it simply, once you had chosen a path for yourself, you must finish it even if it meant that you had to crawl all the way through!
After passing the crossroad, Li Chengfeng noticed that the road did not contain as many competitors anymore. What lay ahead of him was just misty fog and a staircase that seemed to be endless. He didn't know how many steps he had taken on these stairs, even less so about the time that had passed since he started climbing.
The sweat on Li Chengfeng's body had already evaporated at this point; it made him look like he was shrouded in mist. He knew that after completing today's climb, his body would reach a critical point. He had started to feel unbelievably exhausted, but he knew he had to persevere! After breaking his critical point, his body's performance would enter into a brand new phase.
As he continued to climb another three thousand steps, Chengfeng could feel his body shaking from fatigue; his legs felt as if they weighed five hundred kilograms. Each step he took felt just like his feet were sinking into the ground, and it was getting harder and harder to lift them.
Before, Li Chengfeng always felt a sense of achievement when he passed his competitors one by one. But now, with no one to compete with, all he felt was a constant feeling of emptiness and fatigue.
Li Chengfeng gritted his teeth and continued his climb as he thought to himself, 'Could this be a way for the test to tell us that once we reach a specific phase in cultivation, we would not be competing with others anymore? Our competition afterwards would be none other than ourselves? Or could the test be trying to tell us that once we reach a specific stage in cultivation, this would be how it might feel like -- a persistent feeling of emptiness and pain?'
Li Chengfeng's analysis was spot on! It was indeed the core objective of the first challenge. The road to cultivation was no bed of roses; it was a long and rocky road ahead. As one began the cultivation path, in the beginning, they would have to face many competitors, and they had to figure out how to stand out amongst the sea of competitors as well — a problem that every cultivator must figure out on their own.
However, as one had cultivated to a particular stage, using others as a means of reference or motivation would be unsuitable. This was because they ultimately had to face themselves, as the only ones they had to surpass eventually were themselves.
After Li Chengfeng continued to climb two hundred steps more, his body's temperature started rising, and he began to feel light-headed. His body shook like a leaf as his chest felt like there was a giant boulder crushing it, suffocating him.
Li Chengfeng gritted his teeth once again and continued to climb fifty more steps. Suddenly, he heard a 'pop' sound coming from his chest; a warm wave seemed to circulate through his body. The fatigue, shakiness, and pain he felt suddenly disappeared as his entire body felt light and mobile!
Li Chengfeng knew that he had overcome the most formidable obstacle of this challenge and had a breakthrough at his critical point. He was successfully entering a stage where he could utilise his Yuan Qi.
The human body is like a storage box — Our energy, blood, breath, and true yuan stored within it. The energy that one usually depletes comes from the outside portion of the storage box; this can be represented by physical strength. But once that part has been wholly overdrawn, the utilisation of the inner portion of the storage box begins. The inner portion represents a human's very essence: Yuan Qi.
To utilise this part of the human body would be equivalent to spending all of an entire household's savings. The amount you spend would be the money you lose; replenishing these stores will not be easy in the future.
But this is where the miracle of the human body comes in. If a person had wholly depleted their yuan qi, and if they were to replenish it back, this person's Yuan Qi would be far more vital than before. Their foundation would become much stabler; even their internal organs, muscles, and bones would be hardier and more robust.
As this process continues back and forth, the body shall be strengthened and trained. Hence, the physical body becomes a crucible of transformation.
After Li Chengfeng had made a breakthrough from his critical point, his steps felt much lighter. His body quickly moved forward up the path as he breezed through four thousand more steps, only stopping when he felt his stomach grumble from hunger to eat and drink.
At this moment, Chengfeng had a body temperature high enough to shock the masses. His face was as red as amber, and the crown of his head felt like it was boiling! His sweat had thoroughly soaked his shirt too. He had already climbed over ten thousand stone steps at this point, but yet, at such a height, he still couldn't feel even one gush of wind from his surroundings!
Chengfeng thought that it was odd, but he did not dwell much on it. He carefully chewed his dried meat slices and drank a gulp of water. After a quick rest, he continued with his journey.
This time, he had climbed until the sky turned dark; only then he stopped in his tracks. Yet the moment he stood still, both of his legs immediately turned to jelly. Li Chengfeng almost fell on the side of the road, but he quickly stabilised his body from falling. He turned his back to see what was behind him, and he saw a road so steep it looked as if it was descending to darkness.
Could it be that when a person had cultivated to a particular stage and was to fail, they would drop to their lowest as well?
Li Chengfeng gagged a few times and wiped away the white foam from the corner of his mouth as he turned back and glanced at the darkness one more time. His heart trembled in fear. He dare not imagine what would have happened to him if he had fallen from the steep road.
Even if he didn't fall to his death, he then had to reclimb that many steps- he would've lost his mind right then and there!
Just as he thought of this, Li Chengfeng suddenly shuddered. Wasn't cultivation the same? If one had reached the peak of a mountain and were to fall unexpectedly, that would be the cultivator's end. Almost no one would have the courage to start cultivation training from zero once more!
Li Chengfeng tried to catch his breath as he rested for a while. He gritted his teeth and continued with his climb. And so came another day, it was already evening at this point. Li Chengfeng started to feel exhausted as he curled into a ball and slept on the ground.
But this time when he woke up, the sky was already bright. When Chengfeng first awoke, he was still groggy from sleep, but he soon jolted awake in a cold sweat. Li Chengfeng might have been a heavy sleeper but now, there was a chance someone might stab him with a knife, and his dear little life would end there and then. So he must stay as alert as possible.
Li Chengfeng lifted his head to look at the peak of the mountain. He did not know how many stone steps were left in his journey, and naturally, he dared not waste his time idling. He quickly ate his dried meat slices and gulped a few mouthfuls of water. Once again, he started his seemingly endless climb to the top of the stone stairs.
His journey up these stone stairs had lasted a total of seven days and seven nights. Just as Li Chengfeng trembled to climb on his ninety-nine thousandth step, he finally could see the end of the steps!
Li Chengfeng's robes had now turned white. This was from the evaporation and accumulation of sweat that had turned into salt crystals formed on his robes. His clothing had turned stiff, and the soles of his shoes had been worn through!
This young man who had a body well trained in martial arts since childhood had pretty much depleted all of its physical energy and Yuan Qi. In these short seven days, he had lost a lot of weight. His cheeks were sunken, his stubble grew, and his face looked pale and weak. Only within his hollow eye sockets showed his eyes that burned with unyielding flames of determination.
Chengfeng was a somewhat reckless and unruly person, but inside him was also a stubborn and unyielding man. Once someone had crossed his limit, his bull-like temper would immediately flare up. The stubbornness and persevering side of him would firmly stand its ground.
Throughout the entire journey, Li Chengfeng only had one goal in his mind — 'He wants to win, he MUST win! He must win everyone else! Because only then could he finally enter the Cangjin Court! Only then would he have the chance to become one of the strongest cultivators. No one would dare bully the Li Family from the Cleansing Moon Sect again! Only then could he protect the ones he loved.'
Li Chengfeng gritted his teeth. It seemed that he had lost all of his energy to stand. He desperately used his hands and feet to crawl up the stairs. Each stone step that Li Chengfeng crawled from, he left a wet footprint from his feet, as well as a bloody handprint from his palms.
It was a painfully challenging road to climb, but Li Chengfeng could see the last few steps becoming nearer and nearer!
Finally, just as he reached the last step, his eyes suddenly opened wide. In front of him was a vast grass meadow, scattered at the end of the lush green horizon was a sea of clouds. At this moment, in front of Li Chengfeng's eyes, there was no one present!
He had unknowingly completed his own journey. He had successfully climbed a total of ninety-nine thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine steps from the stairs!
Li Chengfeng did not know that Sun Boyi had been lying to them. Finishing this flight of heavenly stairs was pretty much an impossible mission. It did not only require someone with tremendous physical energy, but someone with excellent will power as well!
It was almost an impossible mission because the Spiritual Mountain Sect never imagined that anyone would clear all three challenges. This was because only clans chose their cultivators. There was never such a situation where the disciple chose their own clan!
If there really was an extremely gifted genius that had completed all three challenges and if they were to choose either one of the courts, it would be a colossal disgrace and disrespect to the other three courts!
Not to mention, if this person suddenly refused to train their cultivation in the Spiritual Moon Sect, then what? It would sully the name of the Spiritual Moon Sect as well as make them lose face! With the Spiritual Moon Sect being as powerful as it was, how would they live down this humiliation?
Therefore, absolutely no one could complete all three tests!
Since the creation of the Spiritual Moon Sect a thousand years ago, there have only been forty-three people who managed to climb Heaven’s Stairs to its completion!
And throughout the past hundreds and thousands of years there had only been three individuals who passed all three tests!
All three became earth-shattering great cultivators in the cultivation world, and without exception, they all eventually became the heads of the Spiritual Mountain Sect!