Chapter 846: Fastest!
The three Ancient Roads were filled with splendorous light that covered everyone. The only thing visible were the lists of names, some of which were real and some assumed.
Soon, the only thing Meng Hao could see was bright light, and then everything around him changed, even the sky; the altar seemed to become a massive, glowing spell formation. It didn’t last for very long, only the space of a few breaths of time, and then the light vanished.
Everything around him had changed. There was no sky up above, only stars. There was no ground beneath his feet, only a gigantic 3,000-meter long ancient beast!
It was an enormous python, completely pitch-black in color, its body covered with scars and wounds. It was even possible to see its bones in some places, and in other locations, you could see all the way through its entire body.
It appeared to be just on the verge of death, its life force fading, with barely enough energy left to even fly. Although it seemed to be just barely clinging to life, there was still a terrifying aura surrounding it it, the power of which shocked even Meng Hao. Were it to explode out, even a true Immortal would likely be killed by the blast.
Meng Hao was standing on the head of the ancient python, and it appeared to connected to him, as if he could control it.
After staring in shock for a moment, Meng Hao looked down to find that he was wearing a suit of armor. The armor seemed brand new, and it radiated a mild energy. Overall, he seemed to physically be in this place, but at the same time, his body also seemed to be illusory. Furthermore, up ahead of him was a planet!
It was much, much smaller than Planet South Heaven, and in fact, might not even have been large enough to actually call a planet. Perhaps it was nothing more than a large asteroid. It also seemed completely unstable, filled with chaos.
Almost as soon as Meng Hao laid eyes on the black planet, innumerable dots of light appeared that looked like eyes. All of the eyes opened and looked straight at Meng Hao.
An intense sense of crisis filled Meng Hao, and his mind trembled. Suddenly, whistling sounds could be heard, and, astonishingly, one thousand beams of light shot toward Meng Hao from the planet.
Figures could be seen within these beams of light, figures that weren’t cultivators, but rather, puppets!
Meng Hao was not the only one to be seeing this. Each and every one of the cultivators on the Ancient Road of Dao Seeking was in a unique world of their own. What they were seeing and experiencing was exactly the same as Meng Hao.
Meng Hao’s eyes glittered coldly, and he didn’t instantly spring into action. Instead, he took advantage of the time it would take for his opponents to reach him, to further study the ancient python. It appeared to be severely wounded, and on the verge of death, although it clearly had the power to make one final attack.
Such an attack would surely leave the beast completely dead in spirit and body. However, that final attack would surely be shocking, that much Meng Hao could tell.
He frowned and sent his divine sense out, then sighed. All of the puppets flying out from the planet had peak Dao Seeking auras, though not one of them was comparable to a false Immortal.
Just then, however, five auras suddenly exploded out from the planet, five auras that were all of the false Immortal stage. If that were all there were to it, it wouldn’t be a big deal. But in that moment, yet another aura, even stronger than the others, exploded out.
The planet shook, and ripples spread out in all directions. The energy rose up, growing more and more powerful. It was very similar to the asteroid-like planet, completely filled with a will of chaos and madness.
Meng Hao’s face sank, and his eyes widened….
It was a true Immortal!!
“One thousand puppets, five false Immortals, and one true Immortal…so this is the trial by fire?
“According to what Ling Yunzi said, I’m supposed to kill all of these enemies within the time it takes an incense stick to burn. That’s the only way to pass this stage. Ordinary attack methods would never be able to accomplish such a thing.”
Meng Hao muttered to himself as the more than one thousand puppets whistled ever closer to him.
“There’s no way that this trial by fire will eliminate almost all the competitors in only the second stage….” Meng Hao’s eyes flickered as he looked down at the ancient python beneath his feet.
“This ancient beast is powerful…. The last attack it makes before dying will be powerful enough to kill all those thousand peak Dao Seeking puppets. Or, if I wait a bit, I could kill the five false Immortals with it. If I wait until the very end to use it, then I could kill the true Immortal.
“I only have one shot….
“That’s the choice we competitors are being given!” The light of understanding flashed in his eyes.
In the various other worlds in which the cultivators on the Ancient Road of Dao Seeking all faced the same scenario, everyone was hesitating regarding how to stick out from the crowd. There were many Chosen hidden among the competitors, and they were all intelligent people. It only took them a moment to come to the exact same conclusion Meng Hao had about the crux of this stage.
The masked young man looked out with flickering eyes. Without hesitation, he shot out to fight the more than one thousand peak Dao Seeking puppets, intending to use the ancient python’s final attack to kill the true Immortal.
Such a decision was audacious, and required incredible self-confidence.
As for the old man with the age-changing transformation ability, his eyes flickered as he chose the same tactic.
There were, however, quite a few cultivators who chose to use the ancient beast’s powerful attack first, rumbling out and slaughtering the thousand peak Dao Seeking puppets. After the puppets had been completely wiped out, the cultivators would step forward themselves to fight against the five false immortals.
There were multiple cultivators who made each of the various choices. Shortly, the echoing sound of booms and the glow of magical abilities rocked Heaven and Earth within each of the various worlds.
However, the actual scenes playing out within these worlds was hidden to the observers out in the Ninth Mountain and Sea; the only thing they could see was the list of names and the numbers representing the kill count next to each name, which were quickly soaring.
As for the high-level Patriarchs from the Three Great Daoist Societies, Four Great Clans, Five Great Holy Lands, and the Three Churches and Six Sects, they were all sitting cross-legged in an enormous palace in the starry sky, staring at an enormous ancient mirror.
The mirror was split into three sections, within which could be seen clear images of everything that was happening on the three Ancient Roads.
“That masked young man chose the hardest path, but from that, you can see that his heart is as resolute as a boulder. He definitely has potential.”
“That cultivator with the age-transformations is most likely an apprentice of Patriarch Mirage. He might also be a rogue cultivator, but in any case, it’s quite rare to see cultivators of the Dao Seeking stage who practice time transformation magic.”
“There are many potential stars in this trial by fire….”
“From the three choices given them, we can learn about their personalities. Although, it doesn’t matter which choice they make, as long as they pass this stage, they can be considered Chosen!”
The old Patriarchs discussed the matter calmly, occasionally glancing at the Ancient Roads of the Nascent Soul and Spirit Severing to identify people they deemed worthy of notice.
Meng Hao, naturally, also received some attention. And yet, on the outside, there were currently no numbers displayed next to the name Fang Mu.
Meanwhile, the Patriarchs were continuing to discuss the matter….
“Hmm. That young cultivator with the mosquitos is the first one to make an unexpected move.”
“There’s also that kid in the yellow robe. He didn’t make any of the obvious choices either!”
All eyes in the palace were fixed on one of the scenes playing out on the mirror’s surface. The young man with the mosquitos waved his hands, causing his mosquitos to fly toward the python, whereupon they stabbed their mouthparts into it and began to absorb its blood.
Another image depicted a young man who had performed unremarkably in the first stage. His body suddenly went blurry, and he fused down into the python. He quickly took control of it and set it to fighting, hoping to use it to kill both the puppets and the false Immortals.
Not too much time passed before other cultivators also began to use various unorthodox methods that did not conform with the three obvious choices. None of the members of the crowd in the palace seemed to find this unexpected, and in fact, had apparently predicted that such a thing would happen.
“This is excellent. There are far more people doing the unexpected than in the last trial by fire.”
“From ancient times until now, there are always competitors in the Ancient Road’s trial by fire who make breathtaking achievements in their later days. This group of cultivators is not bad at all!”
“How come that Fang Mu hasn’t done anything yet?”
Amidst their chatting and laughing, some people had been paying attention to Meng Hao all along. Instantly, all eyes turned to the image portraying Meng Hao. He stood atop the head of the python, seemingly in a daze as the more than one thousand puppets bore down on him. They were now only about three hundred meters away.
“That Fang Mu most likely doesn’t have any plan at all. It’s not uncommon for cultivators to struggle when it comes to making decisions.”
“That’s too bad. I’d hoped to see if he could perform exceptionally well in the second stage too.”
“For someone to take first place in two stages in a row isn’t unheard of, but isn’t very common either. Unfortunately, I’m afraid he’s not the type that can do it.”
As the puppets whistled toward him, Meng Hao’s eyes glittered, and his lips turned up slightly into a cold smile.
“The three choices seem different, but in fact, they are the same. Perhaps by using some unexpected tactics, it would be possible to introduce some degree of variation in the results. However, even if you were able to wipe all of these things out, that would be overlooking something even more important!
“And that is… that planet!” His eyes shone with a strange light as he looked at the planet.
“In truth, this python has another function other than its one attack… and that is the power of flight!
“Before I proceed, though, I need to test out whether or not this body is real!” Eyes glittering, he suddenly reached his right hand out and then slapped it down hard onto his chest.
A boom rang out, his body trembled, and his eyes began to glow with a brilliant light. He’d felt like something was off as soon as he’d entered this place. Although everything seemed real, after experiencing the illusory world of the ancient Demon Immortal Sect, he had a much deeper understanding of such things.
In all the other worlds, everyone was already in the midst of furious fighting.
In Meng Hao’s world, the puppets were closing in. Meng Hao suddenly sat down cross-legged and then stretched his hands out to rest on the ancient python’s head.
The python’s eyes turned bright red, and it let out a roar. Then its body burst into flames as it used the last scraps of its life force to shoot forward at blinding speed.
The puppets scattered as the python swept through them. Even the five false immortals were incapable of blocking it. It moved with shocking speed as it carried Meng Hao directly toward the planet.
As soon as it reached the planet itself, the python collapsed into bits of ash that vanished. At the same time, the aura of a true Immortal exploded out from within the planet. A figure flew out, wreathed in golden light, moving with astonishing speed toward Meng Hao, who had just stepped foot onto the planet itself.
Its energy soared, and it looked like a windstorm as it bore down on Meng Hao.
However, even as it neared, a vicious expression appeared on Meng Hao’s face, and he unleashed the Star Plucking Magic. A huge hand appeared that grabbed onto the golden figure, after which, Meng Hao closed his eyes. With ruthless decisiveness, he caused his cultivation base…
The power of the self-detonation was channeled directly into the golden figure through the Star Plucking hand. It didn’t matter how incredibly powerful this figure was; its body was filled with roaring and, because its aura was chaotic to begin with, the power of the self-detonation compelled its inner aura to become even more turbulent, such that the figure was also forced…
A massive boom rattled out as both Meng Hao and the figure self-detonated together. The entire planet was then thrown into instability, causing it to shatter into countless pieces. A massive destructive power was unleashed as the fragments then transformed into a black hole which began to suck everything in!
The puppets and false Immortals had no time to fight back; they were instantly swallowed up by the black hole.
In the palace in the starry sky, the members of the crowd looked on in stupefaction.