Oppressive heat waves during the day, chilling air during the night, and gigantic sandstorms in-between. This quickly became the group's quotidian, a routine no one could save them from.
The first day, though the brutal heat and sudden temperature change were hard to bear under twenty times the gravity, they could still manage it. After all, thanks to the first floor, they'd gotten accustomed to the gravity's pressure.
On the second day, it got more challenging, and many could start feeling their legs tremble.
On the third, the difficulty reached an absurd level, and although Transcendent level experts and above could live without food or water, all rediscovered the meaning of thirst.
With the end still nowhere in sight, the sweating Konrad frowned.
He could feel that more than one had reached their breaking point. Only the unwillingness to disappoint him kept driving them onward. Worse, they'd yet to meet this floor's guard which could attack at any time.
But while Konrad analyzed the situation, startled yelps came from his back.
Iliana and Jasmine yelled in tandem, quicksand forming beneath their feet and trapping them within.
With their bodies marching on will alone, they didn't have the strength to resist. Without delay, Konrad stretched out his hands, causing a massive wave of telekinetic powers to erupt and pull the two out of the quicksand.
He reminded, and they nodded in approval, before resuming the road back to the unknown.
On the fourth day, the contours of a towering pyramid appeared in the distance, and all believed the exit should lie inside. Galvanized by the thought, they tapped into hidden strength reserves to accelerate the pace toward the pyramid.
But as they reached the entrance, the sandy soil shivered. Hundreds of quicksand formed without warning, and from them, one-thousand steel guards emerged.
This time, however, Konrad faced no suppression and was free to use his entire arsenal.
"Sixth Circle Spell: Searing Sky!"
Flame red clouds filled the sky, and from them, a deluge of fire descended onto the steel guards, obliterating them all in a single move. Undisturbed, the group carried onward, diving into the pyramid where the guardian awaited.
This time, its cultivation was of the early Rising Saint Rank.
With a single palm strike, Konrad blew it into metallic dust.
The group's eyes then fell on a vast array of coffins above which encryptions rested.
"First, regain your strengths, then decrypt the wills and harvest the inheritances."
Konrad ordered, and to save time, he participated in the contest.
Three hours afterward, all wills were decrypted, and in tandem, the coffins opened, releasing beams of maroon light.
With his Origin Sight, Konrad could see the coffins' helpfulness in Dao Sublimation and Pure Self Creation. Each chose one and buried themselves inside.
Once the coffins' lid closed, Konrad shut his eyes, and his mind drifted to another one. A world where nothingness reigned. Emotions and desires slowly subsided, freeing Konrad's mind of fetters, and allowing him to focus on understanding his self and the road he pursued.
For an unknown quantity of time, Konrad's immobile body drifted in the darkness, while his thoughts targeted a succession of questions.
"Who am I?
What do I want?
What road do I pursue?
Supremacy is the answer that first comes to mind. But how to build such a road?
Invincibility? Absolute Authority? Both? Yes, but why do I feel that there still is a missing ingredient? Something I do not possess…"
And as Konrad's thoughts swirled, his body sunk deeper in the darkness, the fall carrying on until it completely vanished from sight, devoured by nothingness. At that time, a voice echoed within his mind.
"In the world of the three, who dares claim supremacy?
The road you seek is not traveled, forbidden within the three realms. To build it goes against the natural order and the will of the three. Others sought it before, but aware of the threats and difficulties they would face, chose to retreat.
If you are willing to challenge the natural order and cross this untraveled road, step into my domain and I shall give you…a chance at enlightenment."
A mild voice echoed in Konrad's mind, and alongside it, a pure white star appeared within the world of darkness to brighten Konrad's sight.
As if driven by instinct, he flew toward it, vanishing into the star to reappear in a peaceful clearing.
There, a wrinkled old man with a Guan Yu like beard sat crossed-legged on top of a human-sized lotus. Though dressed in a simple white robe without any form of ornaments, his transcendental bearing prevented any from looking down on him.
Better, his mere sight produced reverence that seemed to burst straight from the heart, and as Konrad stepped toward him, he could feel that around this man, all paths stood in harmony. As if the very essence of the Dao lied in this place.
Konrad couldn't help but blurt out, his lips unable to suppress the words.
"In the beginning, there was one. One produced two, two produced three, and three produced all things.
In immemorial times, I possessed an identity. Today, however, I merely exist within the Dao. Names no longer define me. But if you must have one, you can think of me as the essence of the first cultivation step."
The old man replied in the same mild, soothing tone.
The first cultivation step was to become a Saint. The second, to become a Sage. The third, to become a God. As for the fourth, no one knew the end.
"Welcome, aspiring Supreme Being. In the trillions of years since the start of the three, many have craved this road. But few truly dared step onto it, and none survived it.
You must know that while the benefits are unparalleled, the cons outweigh the pros. True, should you build your Dao Foundation on this road, your strength will sharply rise, and even within the higher realms, you'll rarely find a match at the same level.
But your Sublimation speed will drastically decrease. At the same time, the tribulations you'll face in the future will be a hundred times harsher than your peers'. You may not fear man, but you shall dread heavens' retribution."
The old man calmly said, but his warnings failed to deter Konrad's ambitions.
"Supremacy is my highest aspiration. If my will doesn't hold the three realms in submission, all is inconsequential.
I must become supreme, or I might as well not exist."
Konrad straightforwardly replied.
"Since you're determined, allow me to guide you onto the road.
Invincible Might, Absolute Authority, Unshakable Heart. Those are the three requirements to become a Supreme Being. For you, the first two are not difficult. But with your current trend, the last will elude you for a lifetime."
The old man began with his eyes remaining shut throughout the exchange. His words caused Konrad's face to contort into a frown.
"True, in your previous life, you were chased and led to the brink of destruction before fortunately getting saved by a higher existence and reincarnated into the Ancient Crystal World.
There, you stepped on the road of cultivation, and indeed, in the early days, you faced near-death twice. Alas, from the moment you obtained a pure demonic blood, you never suffered genuine defeat.
Stronger people, you have played. Equals, you routinely crush. And as your cultivation deepens, so does the horrendous gap between you and your peers. In fact, you do not have peers in the proper sense.
Because of that God's gift and your own lineage, at least within that Mortal World, unless you desperately court death, your life will rarely be at stake. Therefore, you do not fear.
Even if the enemy's strength surpasses yours by a large margin, you do not dread. Today, you can call it confidence, but in the future, it can quickly turn into complacency.
The few threats you've faced pale before your overwhelming successes and achievements. Even for an average cultivator, there are many hidden dangers.
But for you who pursue the Supreme Being road, that is intolerable. After all, how can a feeble, complacent heart claim supremacy?
To perfect your Dao, you must perfect your heart. Turn it into an immovable mountain that fears neither storms nor hurricanes and can shoulder…all tribulations.
Never forget that the Dao exists within the heart. It is the foundation of the self. And for those born outside The Wills, it is also the limit."
As the old man's preached, Konrad closed his eyes, letting the words sink in his soul. They thundered within his mind, causing the world around him to spin, and his soul to reach a higher state of enlightenment.
Konrad sat crossed-legged.
In his right hand appeared a peerless sword. In his left, a crown, and around him, a bronze armor with minor cracks formed.
The peerless sword represented invincibility, the crown authority, and the fractured armor a flawed Dao heart.
But as Konrad pondered how to mend the fissures and perfect himself, the old man's voice echoed.
"On the seventh floor lies a tribulation valley. There, if your will is strong enough, you can refine your Dao Heart and turn it into an unshakable mountain.
In the meantime, let the Overlord open the road to your First Sublimation!"
The Dao World collapsed, and Konrad reappeared in a wasteland of fire and brimstone.
In the sky, the shadow of an indiscernible visage appeared. And while he could still not see through its true form, Konrad effortlessly recognized that figure as…the Overlord!
"Boy, we meet again."