Chapter 1706: The Difficult Climb

It was quite clear that she'd also identified her situation, which was why she appeared to be so enraged.

Even though the three of them hadn't agreed on this in advance, it was quite clear that whoever reached the palace first would be able to get to the treasures in there first.

As such, it was very likely that Shi Kun and Han Li would've taken all of the treasures in the palace by the time she arrived.

However, Liu Shui'er wasn't completely powerless in a situation like this.

After a brief pause for contemplation, she flipped a hand over to produce several talismans of different colors.

One was yellow, another was silver, and the final one was crimson.

Three spluttering sounds rang out in quick succession as she plastered these talismans to herself. Three balls of light of different colors then erupted from the talismans before vanishing into her body in a flash.

Immediately thereafter, yellow, silver, and red spiritual light emerged around her body, releasing astonishing spiritual pressure in the process.

It appeared that these three talismans were all capable of enhancing one's physical body, and after applying them to herself, Liu Shui'er continued to scale the steps without any further delay.

Han Li witnessed this from above, but displayed no reaction in response.

Assistance talismans were very interesting, but they were next to completely useless to high-grade cultivators like them.

Cultivators who focused on cultivating their magic power naturally wouldn't be interested in talismans that could enhance their physical bodies, and they wouldn't use such talismans in battle, either.

As for beings who specialized in cultivating their bodies, these talismans were also largely superfluous.

After all, body refinement cultivators had already tapped into much of the latent potential of their physical bodies, so talismans of that nature wouldn't provide significant enhancements.

For body refinement cultivators, even the rarest high-grade assistance talismans would only be able to enhance their bodies by 10% to 20% at the very most.

As such, regardless of how many assistance talismans a normal cultivator were to use, their bodies would still be far inferior in power compared to body refinement cultivators.

Han Li was quite adept in the art of talismans himself, so he was naturally well aware of this. As such, he didn't think much of what Liu Shui'er was doing and merely continued to scale the steps in an unhurried manner.

Thus, the three of them continued onward, gradually opening up distance between one another as they approached the mountain summit.

Initially, as the restrictive power from the stone steps became more and more pronounced, Liu Shu'er and Shi Kun simply forced themselves to continue onward, despite knowing that they'd be able to expend a lot less effort if they were to pause momentarily on each step. 

However, Han Li's condition was vastly different compared to that of his two companions.

Shi Kun was still leading the way, striding up the stone steps at a steady pace, but he was clearly breathing more heavily and sweat was beginning appear on his forehead.

Han Li was situated in the middle, and his skin was beginning to take on a faint golden hue, but his expression remained completely unchanged, displaying no signs of strain whatsoever.

As for Liu Shui'er, the layer of white light over her face made it impossible for anyone to glean her expression, but she was slowing down at a noticeable rate. After scaling up around a third of the staircase, her body would shudder with each successive step that she took, and the three-colored spiritual light around her also fluctuated erratically in brightness, looking as if they could be snuffed out at any moment.

It was quite clear that even with the enhancements of her talismans, she wasn't going to be able to keep this up for much longer. Liu Shui'er was clearly well aware of this herself, and a resigned look had already surfaced in her eyes. After scaling an additional 200 to 300 steps, she heaved a faint sigh and finally drew to a halt.

Han Li didn't turn back to look at her, but he could detect this through the use of his spiritual sense. His expression changed slightly in response, but he showed no sign of stopping at all. After that, Shi Kun and Han Li continued to scale up over 1,000 steps, upon which they finally arrived at the halfway mark of the entire mountain path.

Sweat was already pouring down Shi Kun's face, and with each successive step he took, the ground beneath him tremored slightly while the yellow light around his body flashed erratically, clearly indicating that this was becoming quite difficult for him.

Throughout this process, he'd also been using his spiritual sense to inspect Han Li.

At this moment, aside from the fact that the golden light around his body was glowing more brightly than before, his expression and pace remained completely identical to when he'd first set foot on this path, as if he weren't being affected by the restriction underfoot at all.

Shi Kun was quite stunned to see this, and it began to occur to him that Han Li was most likely also a high-grade body refinement cultivator, and that his body could be even more powerful than his own!

After resting for a while, Liu Shui'er took some pills to replenish her energy before also continuing onward.

Shi Kun was desperate to maintain his advantage, but he could feel his legs growing heavier and heavier. Even the joints within his body were creaking and groaning, clearly indicating that he was under immense physical strain.

Thus, Shi Kun began to slow down significantly while Han Li maintained an even pace. After about 10 minutes, Han Li was finally able to catch up.

He turned to Shi Kun, who was sweating profusely, and gave him a faint smile before passing him by without slowing down even in the slightest. After a few more steps, Han Li was able to easily open up a gap between himself and Shi Kun.

Shi Kun gritted his teeth upon seeing this, and he finally stopped as he looked up at Han Li's profile with an indecisive look on his face.

Thus, Han Li scaled up over 100 more steps without suffering any decrease in speed, and Shi Kun's expression had darkened significantly at this point.

He looked up at the purple palace on the mountain, then used his spiritual sense to inspect Liu Shui'er, who was slowly catching up, and his eyelids twitched as he abruptly flipped a hand over to produce a small crimson vial.

The entire vial was of a vibrant translucent red color, and there were several inch-long miniature talismans plastered to its surface, giving it a rather mysterious appearance.

Shi Kun exhaled toward the vial in his hand, expelling a burst of yellow light that removed the talismans plastered to the vial.

A dull thump immediately rang out as these talismans vanished into thin air as balls of flames of different colors.

As soon as the talismans were removed, the lid of the vial immediately flew off on its own. A streak of crimson light then shot forth from within, and a crimson pill could be seen within the streak of light.

Shi Kun was prepared for this in advance, and he immediately inhaled with all his might, creating a burst of suction force that drew the pill into his mouth, then down his throat and into his stomach.

The pill dissolved almost instantaneously, forming a burst of scorching heat that traveled directly into his dantian and meridians.

Even though Han Li was quickly progressing onward up ahead, he had naturally noticed what Shi Kun was doing, and his heart stirred slightly in response.

After taking the pill, an unnatural flush appeared on Shi Kun's face, following which the rest of his grey skin also became as red as blood. At the same time, his entire body began to emanate scorching heat like a furnace, and the yellow spiritual light around him had also been tinged with hints of red. Immediately thereafter, he let loose a low cry, and thick veins suddenly began to bulge on his forehead while his neck thickened by more than twofold. His body then swelled drastically to around 40 to 50 feet tall.

Following his dramatic increase in size, Shi Kun stepped forward without any hesitation, scaling two steps with a single stride.

As such, Shi Kun was traveling slightly faster than even when he'd first begun scaling the mountain path, and he was slowly closing the gap between himself and Han Li. Han Li's expression changed slightly upon seeing this.

Shi Kun had clearly used some kind of secret technique that was harming his body in exchange for a temporary sharp boost in power. Otherwise, he wouldn't have waited for so long before employing this method.

With that in mind, Han Li immediately took a deep breath before making a hand seal with one hand. The golden light around his body instantly brightened significantly, and golden scales surfaced over his skin.

After that, Han Li laid a hand on the back of his own head, following which a burst of golden light erupted from behind him to form a golden projection with three heads and six arms.

As soon as the golden projection emerged, it descended toward Han Li, vanishing into his body amid a flash of golden light.

All of a sudden, a slightly blurry suit of armor that was constructed from golden light appeared around Han Li's body.

As a result, Han Li was able to accelerate even further, thereby maintaining the advantage he had over Shi Kun.

Shi Kun and Liu Shui'er were both naturally stunned to see this. Both of them had pulled out all the stops, and they could only barely maintain their current speed.

However, after that golden suit of armor had appeared over Han Li's body, he was able to scale the steps at an incredible speed. He wasn't literally running up the steps, but he seemed to be drifting lightly from step to step without being affected by the restriction at all.

Shi Kun was struck by a pressing sense of urgency upon seeing this, but he could only look on as Han Li continued to widen the gap between them.

After a while, Han Li had stretched his lead over Shi Kun to close to 500 steps, by which point Shi Kun was no longer able to maintain his current speed and was forced to slow down again.

However, on this occasion, not only was he sweating profusely, bursts of white mist were rising up from his body as if he'd truly transformed into a living furnace, creating quite an astonishing sight to behold.

At the same time, Han Li was also finally beginning to slow down slightly, indicating that he was also struggling in the face of the immense suction force erupting from the stone steps.

At this moment, Han Li was only around 200 to 300 steps away from the summit, but he was quite frustrated to discover that the incremental increase in suction force with each successive step taken was far more than what it had been in the past.

Even though he possessed a fearsome body that was even more powerful than that of the average holy race being, he was also beginning to struggle.

After scaling up over 100 more steps, he had already slowed down to a figurative crawl, and he had to steady himself at every step before making the next one.

At this point, Shi Kun and Liu Shui'er had already stopped, and they could only look on as Han Li approached the mountain summit.

Finally, after reaching the final dozen or so steps, the enormous suction force had become unbearable even to Han Li, and the golden suit of armor around his body was trembling uncontrollably, looking as if it could shatter at any moment.

As such, Han Li was forced to stop for the first time with the summit virtually within reach.

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