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502 Stairway to Heaven

    Daniel's action left nothing but a dumbfounded expression on the face of the arrogant woman, which lasted for as long as he kept pointing his finger down the steps that led off stage. From her reaction, as well as that of her guards, who angrily crowded the area around the stage, Daniel could imagine what this woman's upbringing was like .. and yet, he couldn't care less.

    Her actions had annoyed him, and while there was a good chance that he would have minded his own business in the past, the years spent as a father had opened his mind to thoughts on the line of, "What if that was my daughter?" which made him aware that, to some extent, he had gone soft.

    With her guards unable to walk into the stage due to the barrier placed on it, the young woman spent a few seconds observing Daniel's appearance.

    While she came from a large family that stood above most others, she was more than aware that her existence was far from being an untouchable one .. especially where she was at the moment. That was why she had used this opportunity to show off her brutality against someone with whom she had a past grudge, and whose background she already knew she could handle.

    Daniel's appearance was an odd one in her eyes. Not only was he dressed in an attire that could be seen being worn by any low level entity, but he also lacked any kind insignia that could confirm his identity. From what she could see, he was a mortal with the power of someone at the peak of the godhood stage.

    Unsure of what to do, the young woman turned to look at the people that had crowded around the stage, and in their eyes, she saw the looks that a hunter would have, after spotting a defenceless prey. The purpose of her display of brutality was to show herself as an entity that should have been avoided, but Daniel's interference had ruined that plan. Had she left now, she would be remembered as the girl that abused the injured, but shrieked in fear at the first sign of confrontation.

    For her, this was the worst possible scenario.

    Unwilling to be seen defeated, the young woman decided to bet on the fact that the power that had raised the strange man that stood in front of her, was not stronger than her own, so instead of following Daniel's instructions, she tightened the grip around her weapon, and with newfound ferocity, she took a step forward.

    Daniel had learned a lot of this universe just from this short event.

    Before, he had simply guessed that this assembly had something to do with the massive flight of pearly-white steps that he had seen from the distance, but now, he had guessed that these young cultivators were not only there to take a test, but to enter a long-term competition. No other option would have explained why relatives and guards would escort their young masters and mistresses, or why it was so important for these young prodigies to show off their power to their soon-to-be competitors.

    By understanding this, Daniel realized what he needed to do to blend in.

    While muttering a few words filled with indignation, the woman walked towards Daniel with her whip in hand. Coming from her body, he could feel a murderous emotional aura, which made her intentions clear. Then, as she came to only a few steps from Daniel, she raised her arm and flicked her whip towards him with enough power to easily destroy a planet. *SLAP*

    "..."

    "Do not worry. I won't make it seem like you had a chance of winning." Said Daniel to the ear of the woman, whom he had just slapped right after teleporting next to her.

    The woman instinctively held her reddened left cheek. The pain she was feeling could not overcome the realization that, had these slaps been slightly stronger, her neck would have snapped, and her head would have rotated a thousand times over before stopping.

    Knowing exactly how close to death she had been, made her completely oblivious of what Daniel had just said, or even the fact that he wasn't talking a language that she could understand.

    Nevertheless, when Daniel raised his hand once again, she understood that it wasn't over. But, alas, it was too late. Both her, her guards, and the dignified man that stood behind her escorts could do nothing but observe as Daniel slapped the woman's face a hundred times more, all in the short span of a second.

    By the time he had slapped her for the hundredth time, the girl fell on the ground. She had lost consciousness way before the number of slaps could get to three digits, but that hadn't stopped Daniel from rounding up the hits to a hundred.

    From the lack of death essence in the surroundings, Daniel had guessed that killing was not allowed in this competition, so, instead of finishing the woman, he kicked her off stage similarly to how he did with the other one, and walked on the other side of the stage, waiting for another challenger.

    For a few moments Daniel looked around, waiting for a challenger to step up, but aside for the few guards of the woman he had just humiliated, just like he had expected, it did not seem that anyone was up for the challenge .. After all, while Daniel possessed a cultivation identical to that of the strongest prodigies around, he had easily defeated someone at his own level. A feat that not many would be able to boast.

    With no one left to challenge him, Daniel decided to leave the ring, but before he could jump off stage, a young man that appeared to be in his late teens, but that in reality was in his late thirties, jumped on stage, and bowed politely towards him, accepting his challenge.

    Daniel immediately noticed the complete lack of arrogance in the behaviour of this young man, as well as the positive karma that hovered above his head. Pleased with his opponent, Daniel reciprocated the bow, and picked a sword similar to the one the young man was carrying from within his spatial ring. The two then sparred for a few minutes, time in which Daniel restrained his power so that their spar could appear somewhat even.

    After roughly a hundred exchanges, the young man sheathed his sword, bowed towards Daniel in disappointment, clearly aware that Daniel was restraining himself, and left the stage.

    Unwilling to fight any longer, Daniel stepped down from the stage, walked through the group of enraged guards, whom he had already guessed would not attack him despite the hostility they were emanating, the middle aged man that was now tending to the injured woman he had humiliated, and merged back into the crowd, which had never stopped advancing towards the large flight of stairs.

    For a few minutes Daniel kept moving along with the crowd towards the pearly-white flight of stairs, and the closer he got, the louder the noise of chattering became. Even though he was unable to understand what was being said, it was clear from the feelings of disappointment, and schadenfreude emanated by the spirits of the observers, that the test of the flight of stairs was a much bigger event than he had imagined.

    Small details kept adding themselves to the whole picture like pieces of a puzzle within Daniel's mind, but the language barrier kept hiding a few essential parts. In order to understand exactly in what kind situation he had fallen into, he needed to finish learning the language as soon as possible.

    Before he could go back to delving into the minds of the weak cultivators that inhabited the city, however, Daniel felt a gent hand grab his wrist.

    When he turned around, Daniel noticed the woman that was being tortured on the ring. The woman whom he had rescued by kicking her off stage. She was wearing a new dress of fair quality, and on her body there were no traces of injuries. On her face she wore expressions of gratitude and relief.

    After finally managing to catch up to Daniel and attracting his attention, the woman began to speak in her own language.

    There was no need for Daniel to know the language to understand what the woman was saying, nor was he surprised to see her in that healthy condition. After all, when he had kicked her off stage, he had injected into her body large amounts of healing essence.

    The reason why he had kicked her was so that his interference would not make things worse for this woman in the future. He only wanted to appear like a talented young man eager to make a name for himself on stage .. even at the cost of interrupting the spar between her and the arrogant woman, or offending their families.

    At the same time, he didn't want the arrogant woman, her family, or any of the observers to think that he had any connection with her.

    For the following two minutes the woman kept speaking, and trying to talk over the buzz of chatter, but in the end, Daniel's comprehension of the language was still too basic for him to understand. So he moved his hand away, and dismissed the woman with a casual nod of his head, with which he hinted that what she had been thanking him for until now, was not a big deal for him.

    He then pulled his hand out of the woman's gentle hold, and disappeared from her sight by morphing the space around him, and sliding through the thousands of people that were still marching towards the flight of stairs.

    Like an eel in between corals, in just a few minutes, Daniel made his way to the front of the crowd, where he was able to see better. There, the disorganized group of young cultivators was forming a single line, taking turns in taking part in the test.

    Next to this flight of stairs stood a scrawny-looking middle aged man. His attire was that of a normal cultivator, and yet, the power emanated from his body was more terrifying than that of any other entity Daniel had felt since arriving to this universe. In this man, the strangely familiar feeling Daniel had felt in the most powerful entities he had seen in this universe, was even stronger.

    Originally Daniel had no intention of participating in this event, as he had no idea of what the risks, benefits, or obligations of either failing or succeeding would be. However, that choice was taken away from him when, eager to be the next one in line, a small group of cultivators pushed Daniel out of the disorganized group, and into the line.

    The moment he stumbled into the line, just as he decided to apologize to the middle aged man for the misunderstanding and leave, the only person that stood in front of him, fell out of the pearly-white flight of stairs, failing the test.

    At this point, Daniel did not need his system's reminder to realize that these events were enforced upon him by his luck, which meant that the chance to take part in this test, was something that he should have felt lucky about.

    The middle aged man noticed Daniel's uncertain behavior but decided to remain quiet. He had seen many young masters give up their attempt because of a lack of self belief, but Daniel was different. There was no trace of lack of confidence in his uncertain behavior. Instead, he appeared to be evaluating his options.

    While the guard waited patiently, the cultivators that were waiting for their turn weren't as kind, and started to express their discontent towards Daniel who, bothered by their impatience, was left with no choice but to move ahead, and onto the lowest step of this flight of stairs.

    The moment his foot landed on the first step, Daniel felt a powerful pressure land onto his shoulders, which immediately made him realize what this test was about.

    This pressure was comparable to that of someone at his cultivation level, but that emitted a pure and unstoppable killing intent. One devoid of fear, uncertainty, and remorse .. a kind of pressure that Daniel had rarely felt before despite his many battles.

    Completely unaffected by this pressure, and yet intrigued, Daniel took another step forward, reaching the second step, and causing the pressure to increase to a level beyond the perfect godhood stage.

    The middle aged man looked at Daniel with interest. Usually a cultivator would be heavily alarmed by a killing intent that matched their own power, but even though Daniel had reached the second step, he didn't seem to be affected in the least. This had ignited the guard's curiosity, but that curiosity was short-lived. After all, this test was meant to see the cultivator's ability to withstand pressure, and was meant for them to fail.

    In his mind, Daniel was only slightly more impressive than the others, but he would ultimately fail. That was what the middle aged man was thinking .. or at least, until Daniel's lips turned into a smirk, and with the help of his mental fortitude, he started to climb one step after the other without stopping.
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