The Stairway of Heavens
A hundred blinks of an eye had since passed since the white golem knights had spawned and descended into their midst. This was not actually a long while but if time could be measured, that would be less than two minutes time.
Yi Ping was slashing furiously at the white golem knights as golden lights flashed to and fro brilliantly around him. He had taken down two of the white golem knights but he was still being surrounded tightly by many of the white golem knights. There were simply too many of them!
He was not worried for himself but for the rest of his delegates who were with him!
But despite his best efforts to rein in the unstoppable wave of the white golem knights, he had failed to prevent them from overcoming his line of defense!
In just a quick instant, the entire vicinity was filled with brilliant lights and thunderous explosions, as everyone was attacking furiously with all their best martial skills and weapons!
Even though Yi Ping was anxious and panicky for his group but at the same time he was surprising serene within him. How could he have such an extraordinary feeling?
The real question was; how could he feel anxious and serene at the same time? This was such a weird feeling that had surfaced to his mind!
With just a look, he was able to analyze the entire battle field coolly. Even though these white golem knights were extremely formidable but he was still able to see and predict their moves. That was why he was able to get two of them down. Even though he was still being outnumbered but it would be a matter of time if he could get all of them, provided of course that his morale and spirit would not be dealt a blow by the demise of his companions. Every grief, every emotion and every distraction would sap his strength, lengthened the battle and contributed to his injury, his loss of strength and his focus and would cause him to lose the fight, even causing his own demise.
This type of emotionless analysis was not Yi Ping’s true nature of course. But after the three in one merging, he had also awakened the consciousness of the White Sage, the Dark Chaos Lord and the Great God Pangu that were within him.
This cold and hard analysis were the analysis of his three other consciousness!
While he was fighting, he had also taken note of the current state of battle that was raging all around him.
One, the White Divine Tiger and the Golden Kirin Beast were not making a move against the White Golem Knights; it was as though the White Golem Knights were invisible to them!
Two, while the White Golem Knights were extremely formidable and appeared to be highly aggressive, it was weird that Han Lin and Aiel were still holding up against them, even though they were not exactly faring very good, with multiple injuries.
But his observations had hinted to him that while these White Golem Knights were not giving away leeway, their very moves were subtly, even calculated to give a small enough opening for the defenders to prolong the battle until they were no longer be able to put up any resistance!
The question was why!
All of a sudden Yi Ping noticed an opening between the White Golem Knights and this small opening would perhaps allowed him to speed past them and ascend to the top of the stairs where the Divine Armor of the Great God Pangu was!
Xian’Er and Lingfeng had whispered to Yi Ping at almost the same time, “Yi Ping, Ping’Er, there is something amiss here.”
Xian’Er fenced off several of the attacks of the surrounding White Golem Knights, taking quick steps back and countering with her Heavenly Tear, before she whispered to Yi Ping. “Lingfeng is right. I feel that something seems amiss here but I can’t place a finger to it! Ping’Er, if you can see an opening, quickly dash up the stairs. That may be our only way out of this.”
Yi Ping could no longer see Lingfeng as she had disappeared under a mushroom burst of explosive force but he could hear her whispering haltingly to him, “That is…exactly my sentiments…too…alas!…”
Alice interrupted them, “Lingfeng, watch out! Don’t fight and talk at the same time. I will watch your back for you!”
Lie Qing was overheard whispering, “These creatures are simply too bothersome.”
Lingfeng was heard, “Thanks my Goddess Alice! Yi Ping, ascend up the stairs if you are able to. These White Golem Knights, something is wrong with them but I cannot place my fingers yet. But it seems that every some time, they were reformed their formation to attack us aggressively. But at the same time, they will be an opening in-between them that can allow someone with a quick swiftness movement to bypass them and to climb up the stairs.”
Yi Ping whispered, “Actually I can see that too.”
Lingfeng whispered with a soft laugh, “Then what are you waiting for? Hurry and save us all or else, experts like Sister Xingyue and Sister Ye Yin will surely fly up to the very top in a hurry.”
Nuwa laughed, “Don’t forget about me too. Hurry up and try to exploit the opening when it appears once again and be our savior. Or else, I am going to be the next savior!”
Yi Ping heaved a soft sigh as he whispered, “If the lot of you has noticed this thing, then it won’t escape the notice of the other Heavenly Kings too.”
Lie Qing whispered solemnly, “Ping’Er, you must exercise caution. Something is not right here. I have a weird feeling about this. It is like we are walking into some kind of a trap here.”
Xian’Er said, “I am afraid that this trap is so obvious that we are all blind to it. But what it is then?”
All of a sudden Lele whispered solemnly, “Yi Ping. No matter what you do, don’t move up the stairs. Wait and observe a little longer. Wait for me to give you the signal.”
Her tone was extremely solemn and was worded forcefully!
Everyone was slightly startled for they had never seen Lele this serious before and used such a solemn expression before, not even when they were in the direst situation!
Lie Qing smiled weakly as she whispered, “My goodness, the Joyful Goddess is so serious all of a sudden. I am a little unused to it! Is this the Lele that I know?”
Lingfeng heaved a soft sigh as she thought, “I may think that I am the most intelligent in the group. But in terms of intelligent, Lele is not beneath me. In term of cold calculations, she is also not beneath Yunzi. In terms of cunning, she is also not beneath Lie Qing. Until today, I still can’t fathom her. We have underestimated her…”
It was because she was now observing how Lele fought under the cover of the thick debris as she brought two of the White Golem Knights down. Lele had swung her long scythe, her Divine Echo ambidextrously and her movements were like ghost as she evaded the White Golem Knights!
Lingfeng had suddenly remembered that Lele had spent most of her time sleeping in the coffin while they were in the mortal realm and that her movements improved quicker and her attacks were even more precise after every fight.
She was the only one that could catch up with Yi Ping in terms of such startling improvements…
All of a sudden, Lingfeng had a sudden thought. “Don’t tell me that she is actually a super genius…”
Yi Ping had heard Lele’s warning via their Dual Secret Whisperer but before he could reply Lele, all of a sudden the formation of the White Golem Knights had shifted subtly again and his quick eyes had spotted the opening again!
But instead of exploiting the opening, he shifted his swordplay backward in time to give Yunzi and Han Lin an extra hand as he shouted, “Yunzi, Han Lin, back immediately!”
They were spirited when they had heard his shouts and escaped with light wounds!
At the same time, Yi Ping had displayed the Thousand Memories Swordplay as he sent six flying swords across the entire hall to aid the rest, as his brilliant hovering swords whirled resounding with tremendous impact!
Nuwa was a little upset, “Yi Ping, why didn’t you go up the stairs when you have the chance? Don’t you want to be the savior?!”
It was not that Yi Ping did not want to be the savior or he did not want to save the group. He was totally rooted to where he was for two main reasons!
One, the only person that could stop these White Golem Knights from overwhelming his group was him. If he were to leave where he was then he could not imagine the consequences that would happen. What if these opening had only appeared because he was here as the tank?
Two, his sixth sense was warning him that something was amiss and a heavy heart seemed to be rooting him to the ground.
But he had to make a decision when the opportunity arose and he had decided to aid the others!
Once he did that, his heart became light and his reflexes were even quicker and he had hacked two more White Golem Knights to pieces with the Celestial Alice and the Fantian Sovereign!
Xian’Er could have taken the initiative to speed up to the stairs if she wanted to. Her swiftness movement was actually even swifter than Yi Ping. But she did not want to. Yi Ping was the one that she was following and she had trusted him. There were too many times when she had thought that her decisions were the right one but she was wrong. Yi Ping seemingly had the knack to pick the correct decision despite the overwhelming odds. And this time, she was placing all her trust in his hands!
Nuwa had the opportunity to speed up to the stairs when Yi Ping was on rampage with his flying swords. Despite what she had just said that she would speed up to the stairs, she did not. It was because she was just trying to goal Yi Ping up the stairs. But when he did not, she just sighed softly and continued her own fight against the White Golem Knights. She thought, “My heart is with you. I will follow you whenever you go and if you want to oppose the heavens, I will follow you as well!”
Lingfeng had the opportunity as well while Alice and Lie Qing were tanking for her. But she did not want to. The hero of her heart was Yi Ping so naturally she was going to let him be the hero!
As for Alice, she was highly skilled enough to fight and executed her swiftness skill at the same time. But she did not seize the opportunity too. It was because for the very first time she had a purpose, to protect her friends and companions. Aiel, Han Lin, the Goddess of Mercy Xiang, Asura, the Goddess Isa and even the Jade Emperor, some of them were her ex-opponents but they were now united as one, fighting on the same side. Her eyes beamed brightly as she thought, “This is real friendship? I have never experienced such emotions…”
As for the rest of the maidens, like the Goddess Asura, the Goddess Isa, the Goddess of Mercy Xiang, the Goddess Aiel, Han Lin, Yunzi, Lie Qing, Yu’Er, Mei’Er, Youxue, Ye Yin the Ascension Goddess and Xingyue the Fiery Phoenix did not even consider it. They were all living for Yi Ping and fighting for each other now!
Some of them were temporary allies and some of them had only met in the Stellar Sanctuary but in their eyes, nothing was nobler than fighting alongside each other. After all, they had been through much together and without each other, they really would not made it through this far!
Unfortunately, not everyone see it this way.
The Great Khan Heavenly King had spotted the opening and he had speed for it under the cover of the cloud of debris and thunderous confusion!
He thought, “This is my chance! This Yi Ping may be strong but he is just a fool! The first one to reach the very top will inherit the mantle of the Great God Pangu. I will be a Supreme God that rules the Three Known Realms! I will make slaves out of them all and erase my humiliation!”
The Martial Sage suffered exceedingly at the hands of these White Golem Knights but he still had enough strength to speed past the White Golem Knights to ascend up the stairs as he thought, “Didn’t the Jade Emperor says that I have the potential? That is why he has brought me here. Xian’Er, when I have become the Great God Pangu then you will see the good in me…”
The Formosa Heavenly King, the Nirvana Heavenly Queen, the Heavenly Pagoda King saw the same opening as well and they were thinking, “This is a good opportunity to help everyone. This is a trial and therefore, the first one to reach the top should rightfully be the next Great God Pangu. This is all part of destiny and is not a god given thing!”
The Immortal Saint of Swords was also moved as he thought, “I have been pursuing the highest form of sword art for untold years. Even though I am going to be an immortal soon but that is just the beginning. Right in front of me is the shortcut to the highest attainment. If I can reach it, I can also help the group…”
The Skylord Jun was also thinking, “If I don’t do something fast enough then we would all perish! I need to do something for my brothers!”
Among the Immortals, only the Jade Emperor, the Ancient Heavenly Sage King, the Sacred Embodied Heavenly Goddess, the Avant-garde Heavenly King and the Western Paradise Heavenly King were not tempted. They had already seen the opening but they were more interested in fighting their own battles!
The Jade Emperor was fighting to protect Yi Si, the Celestial Liege and Ye Ling. He had no mood to pursue power or else why would he have given up his seat of authority to Lele?
The Celestial Liege was Yi Ping’s rival. Even though he may not be his match now but he still had his pride and would only fight Yi Ping on his terms. Moreover, they were now friendly rivals since Yi Ping was also his brother-in-law now!
Was the Universal Old Man tempted at all?
The answer was not at all or rather he did not have any chance to do so. When the battle had erupted, he was momentarily distracted by the beautiful forms of the Goddess Celestial Alice and the Goddess Aiel. In his carelessness, he was knocked unconscious in the very first instant. He was lucky that he had his golden body to protect him against the brutal swords of the White Golem Knights or he would have been killed instantly!
The Lord Supreme, Yu’Er and Mei’Er had formed a protective circle around him as they fought back against the White Golem Knights.
The Lord Supreme was cursing, “Given his poor attainment and concentration, how did he even reach the 100th floor of the Stellar Sanctuary in the first place? Brother, my foot!”
The Lord Supreme, like many others, did not notice that there was an opening as they were fighting for their own lives. These White Golem Knights were after all formidable Eighth Immortal Rank fighters!
All of a sudden there were bursts of light that were centered on the White Golem Knights that caused every single of them to disintegrate!
The group was startled!
Barely had the fight started, it had ended!
Yi Ping looked at his group with a startled expression as the thick debris from the fighting slowly died down. He muttered, “Is everyone alright?”
His keen sense had quickly found the Universal Old Man on the ground but there were a few that were missing!
The Great Khan Heavenly King, the Nirvana Heavenly Queen, the Heavenly Pagoda King, the Formosa Heavenly King, Skylord Jun, the Martial Sage and the Immortal Saint of Swords, seven of them were missing!
Xian’Er swept a glance at her surroundings, “What is going on?”
Lele pointed up to the stellar blue light on top, “They are there but they are not there.”
Suddenly the voice of the Great God Pangu roared thunderously, “You must be wondering where some of you have gone to. You can’t see them now. They have climbed the stairs and I have turned them to star dust. Look no further!”
Everyone was stunned!
The Avant-garde Heavenly King was trembling, “My brother, the Formosa Heavenly King…you are gone just like this…”
Yunzi had weeping as she grieved for the Immortal Saint of Swords, “Protégé master…”
Han Lin stuttered with shock, “I didn’t see any of them going to the stairs at all…”
Aiel covered her mouth, “It is impossible. It is all a lie…they must be alive…”
Ye Yin the Ascension Goddess said, “They did. I can sense them. But for some reasons, we are not able to see them approaching the stairs. But as soon as they ascended up the stairs, they are all gone at vary height of the stairs. The Great Khan Heavenly King perishes at the bottom while Skylord Jun perishes in the middle.”
Yi Ping clenched his fists as he shouted angrily, “Why do you have to do that?!”
The blue stellar light thundered and filled the entire hallway with vibrations, “Because this is a trial of courage and will. Anyone that tries to climb the stairs while the trial is on-going will perish and that includes you.”
Nuwa said coldly, “Does that include me as well, Great God Pangu?”
She pointed at Xian’Er, “And the Great Goddess Fantian as well?”
The blue stellar light glowed before thundering, “Even the Great Goddess Nuwa and the Great Goddess Fantian are no exception. Once the trial has started, the impure will be eradicated. The good news is, you have passed the trial and will be able to approach my presence now. I am waiting now for my true successor.”
Yi Ping was trembling lightly as he clenched his swords, “They are all dead now…”
And two of them were his sworn brothers…
The voice thundered, “So what are you waiting for now? I am waiting.”
Everyone was looking now at the long flight of stairs fearfully and with cause!
They had all realized how treacherous this place was!
Lingfeng whispered fearfully, “The Great God Pangu says the first one to reach the top will take his mantle but only if we can reach the very top…”
Lie Qing whispered melancholy, “That is if we can reach the very top and he is challenging us to go up to the very top again…”
Youxue turned to ask Yunzi, “I wonder how many steps are there to the top? Sister Yunzi, can you make a guess?”
Yunzi shook her head, “There are thousands of steps for sure. Maybe it is infinity. I really do not know.”
Lele said quietly, “There are nine thousands, nine hundred and ninety-nine steps before the top. The final step is the tenth thousands step.”
Everyone was astonished!
Yi Ping turned to look at her, “Lele, you can really count the steps?”
Lele nodded slowly, “Indeed!”
The blue stellar light glowed even brighter, “Indeed! There actually exists someone who can count the Stairway of Heavens?!”
Lele looked at the reflection of her Divine Echo as she hummed softly, “What is so difficult about that at all? Everyone can do it.”
Yi Ping smiled weakly as he looked at Lele, thinking. “Only you are able to do that…”
Lele looked up to the blue stellar light as she hummed softly, “So beautiful…”
She narrowed her eyes as she suddenly turned hostile, “I am the Great Joyful Empress Goddess of the Three Known Realms, the Alma of the Great God Pangu. I know that you are not the manifestation of the Great God Pangu. So what are you? Why are you making a game out of us? Who and what exactly are you?”
She pointed at Yi Ping to say, “The real Great God Pangu is already here. So what are you?”
Everyone was startled.
The Goddess Isa was perplexed as she looked at Aiel, Alice, Asura and the rest, “Surely that is the Great God Pangu?”
Xian’Er and Nuwa both said at the same time, “That is not the Great God Pangu.”
Nuwa added, “Because the real Great God Pangu will not hurt the Great Goddess Fantian or me. I should have guessed earlier!”
The blue stellar light blinked brilliantly. A melody voice resonated, “Isn’t it a little too late now?”