Chapter 34: Research
Consciousness research was a bit different from other kinds of research.
It was not physical, so the only way to research it was through nonphysical methods.
And its abstract nature made it impossible for Su Chen to use his microscopic eye, so this time Su Chen would genuinely be searching for an answer on his own.
When he used Fata Morgana on Shang Li, Shang Li fell into a strange dream realm. Su Chen followed closely behind him into the dreamrealm, but as a bystander instead.
He didn’t enter Shang Li’s sea of knowledge. Instead, he entered the dream realm itself.
This was because the sea of knowledge was a vital location hidden behind multiple barriers, and this dream realm was one such outer layer.
Shang Li’s will was instinctively rejecting any outsiders, so all Su Chen could do was enter the dream realm first.
Shang Li’s dream realm looked like a fragmented world made of bubbles. These bubbles were everywhere, and each of them contained a multicolored world, unveiling a different time, location, and situation.
Su Chen knew that most peoples’ consciousness realms were like this. At every moment in time, strange new memories were being created, and these memories were stored in the form of these bubbles, which could be popped at any point in time. The owner of these memories would unconsciously travel this world of bubbles, merging them to form strange dream realms.
These dreams also served as a labyrinth to guard Shang Li’s sea of knowledge. If Su Chen was unable to navigate through the labyrinth, he wouldn’t be able to sneak in.
But just as he was about to make his move, one of the bubbles suddenly morphed as a fierce, demonic figure emerged from it, biting down viciously at Su Chen.
As it opened its maw, the demonic figure transformed into a sea of blood and rushed towards Su Chen.
Su Chen chuckled coldly when he saw this. “Astral, huh?”
He seemed completely carefree. Just as the sea of blood was about to swallow him whole, a brilliant light suddenly began to shine forth from Su Chen’s body. The effect was just like the rising sun driving away the darkness of the night. The demonic figure howled as the sea of blood began to boil.
“Bastard!” the Astral’s will roared as it attempted to reform its body. This time, it took the shape of a hundred-thousand-foot tall giant. The giant swung its arm through the air, destroying countless of Shang Li’s memory bubbles. At the same time, however, a large bubble enveloped it and Su Chen. In other words, they had fully entered Shang Li’s dream labyrinth and had become the main characters in his dream.
“Die! This is my territory!” the projection of the Astral’s will howled. A powerful, sinister, and chilly aura began to envelop Su Chen, penetrating deep into his body.
“I don’t think so,” Su Chen shot back.
Now that he had opened his Divine Palace, he was capable of using consciousness-type Origin Skills as he pleased, and his mastery of consciousness Arcana Techniques was also at the Tenth Ring level.
Su Chen’s consciousness was many times more powerful than those of his contemporaries because of his secret skills and his vast supply of medicines. He had no fear about fighting back against an Astral.
As such, he didn’t hesitate to begin grappling with that Astral’s will.
A powerful, self-confident will began to appear in Shang Li’s dream realm, countering the sinister, ancient aura being emitted by the Astral will. The two wills collided violently in this dream realm, exploding and unleashing an incredible amount of energy. Thankfully, this explosion was merely on the consciousness level, but even so, the silent shockwaves of energy burst countless of bubbles that Shang Li had nearby.
Because these dream bubbles came from Shang Li’s heart, however, new bubbles rapidly appeared to replace the older ones. As long as Shang Li’s heart was intact, he would remain uninjured.
Under the control of the Astral will, these bubbles began to merge and formed thick walls that arranged themselves in the form of a maze. Su Chen immediately found himself at a dead end.
“Hahahaha, if you can’t defeat my Rainbow Labyrinth Seal, you will never discover our secret!” the will laughed.
“How interesting. But this is also quite trivial,” Su Chen replied. “If I can’t destroy it, then I can’t destroy it. After all, I will research whatever I can, starting with this Rainbow Labyrinth Seal of yours. Whenever I comprehend it, I will naturally be able to destroy it.”
Su Chen wasn’t in a hurry. He floated in front of the walls of the Rainbow Labyrinth Seal, lost in thought.
The wall impeding his progress was formed from countless dream fragments that had come under the control of the will attempting to sabotage his efforts. However, in Su Chen’s eyes, this wall was not actually a barrier. Instead, it was a research target worthy of analysis in and of itself.
“This…… you…… how could you?” The Astral will clearly had not expected Su Chen to respond in this way and was immediately dumbfounded.
Even so, this was Su Chen.
This was the basic quality that any researcher needed to have.
So you tried to create a barrier to stop me from advancing?
Sorry, but any difficulties I encounter actually just become more research targets for me.
If you have any other stumbling blocks to put in my way, you’d better bring them out now.
Su Chen stood calmly in the labyrinth, inspecting the composition of the dream fragments.
He didn’t try to determine the labyrinth’s layout. After all, that would merely be a guessing game. What he wanted to do was determine the link between this dream realm and the Astral’s will in order to figure out how the Astral was controlling Shang Li.
Su Chen always preferred to understand the principles behind something’s operation. Once he understood those principles, it would be a piece of cake to nullify the technique. There was no need for Su Chen to try and find his way through the maze in the first place.
The Astral’s will realized this and said angrily, “Are you not going to try and save Shang Li? I have imprisoned his will in the depths of his sea of knowledge. Only by breaking through will you be able to save him.”
“That’s exactly what I’m trying to do. Only by understanding how you Astrals are controlling people will I be able to set him free from your control and save him,” Su Chen replied.
“But you won’t be able to save him just by doing research! You need to do it by force!”
“Won’t I just be falling in your trap if that’s the case?” Su Chen chuckled. “Who do you think I am? Do you think that I need to save every life just because I am a sage? Don’t forget that I have taken many peoples’ lives myself. I kill as few people as I possibly can for the sake of the greater good. I do want to save Shang Li, but I won’t fall into your trap on his behalf. In order to break the Astrals’ control over humans once and for all, I am willing to make the necessary sacrifices. So I’m more than happy to take things slowly. You don’t need to try and use virtue to trick me into acting hastily, because I won’t fall for that.”
As he spoke, he returned his attention to the walls of the labyrinth, dissecting how the wall was formed. His own will was constantly shifting as he attempted to imitate his opponent’s power.
The Astral will was infuriated when it saw this. It gathered its strength yet again, and the nearby bubbles began to burst. Countless demons poured out of the shattered bubbles and charged at Su Chen like a wave.
These strange creatures had come into being through Shang Li’s strange dreams, but the Astral was able to hijack them for its own purposes.
When Su Chen saw this, he shook his head gently. “It’s no use.”
He gently exhaled, forming a cyclone out of thin air that began to expand in all directions. The dream creatures were immediately sent flying.
The creatures were illusory existences. They had no real strength to speak of, so Su Chen’s consciousness wind was more than enough to rip them to shreds.
At that moment, however, a strange beast made from black fog leapt through the cyclone completely unperturbed.
“Hm?” Su Chen was also taken aback. His eyes flickered with lightning. A moment later, a bolt of lightning appeared in this consciousness realm and slammed into the strange creature, sending it to the ground. Even so, the creature did not dissipate. Instead, it roared and continued to attack Su Chen. Its roar was even capable of making Su Chen feel quite dizzy.
“Confusion Fog and Chaotic Soul Weeping? You’ve got quite a few tricks up your sleeve,” Su Chen said with a cold smile.
The Astral was obviously using consciousness Origin Skills against him.
The consciousness world was insubstantial, but consciousness Origin Skills could take on tangible forms in this environment, resulting in actual physical attacks.
However, the current Su Chen wasn’t so easy to deal with either, and he had a whole host of consciousness Origin Skills and Arcana Techniques at his disposal.
Su Chen wouldn’t have minded if the Astral had merely tried to stop him with the labyrinth, but he was more than happy to take the Astral head-on if it wanted to fight.
His eyes glowed as another lightning bolt descended from the sky, slamming into the black fog beast. The beast howled in pain and began to dissipate, turning into rows of soldiers clothed in black. At the same time, the nearby dream bubbles began to burst yet again, and countless Vicious Beasts sprang into the dream realm.
Su Chen waved his hand in front of him. “Soldiers, advance.”
Rows of golden-armored soldiers appeared out of thin air, already in formation, and began to charge. Shang Li’s consciousness had suddenly turned into a battleground.
The Astral will bellowed, and countless flying dragons appeared in the sky.
Su Chen gestured as well, causing hordes of Beasts to spring to life and join in on the battlefield.
A moment later, a wave of flames roared through the battlefield, turning Su Chen’s soldiers into ashes.
Su Chen unleashed a raging flood of water that immediately washed the Astral’s forces into disarray.
The opponent began to unleash thunder and lightning himself, while Su Chen responded by causing the very ground to tremble violently.
Both of them continued to unleash consciousness techniques, which took on many different manifestations. The battle appeared to be both real and not real at the same time.
Plumes of smoke rose into the sky above the battlefield as fires began to rage, spreading in all directions.
Boom, boom, boom!
Lightning cascaded violently to the ground, flames roared, waters roiled, and the ground quaked and trembled.
The consciousness world could regenerate itself even upon being destroyed.
As a result, Su Chen’s battle with the Astral destroyed Shang Li’s consciousness world many times, but each time it regenerated itself.
One had a host advantage, while the other had an extraordinarily powerful consciousness. In the end, however, neither of them was able to inflict any lasting harm on the other.
Eventually, the Astral will was the first one to run out of steam, and it stopped attacking on its own.
The violent wind began to subside, and the dream bubbles began to reappear, forming the labyrinth once again.
The Astral will said, “Your consciousness is more powerful than I expected, Su Chen. I am truly amazed.”
“Your amazement will only increase,” Su Chen chuckled.
“Hmph,” the Astral harrumphed. “But you still will not be able to break through the dream labyrinth so easily, and you will have an even harder time finding me. I am hiding nearby, just like a poisonous snake hiding in tall grass. At the right moment, I will strike, dealing you a fatal blow.”
“I already told you that I have more surprises up my sleeve. Why are you in such a hurry to retreat?” Su Chen chuckled.
As he spoke, he tapped a dream bubble next to him.
The dream bubble was destroyed, but strangely no new dream bubble resurfaced to take its place.
Amazingly, Su Chen was able to completely bypass these walls made of bubbles, allowing him to walk straight in one direction. If any dream bubbles were obstructing his advance, he would simply destroy them with a simple jab of his finger, allowing him to easily navigate through the labyrinth.
“How…… How is this possible?” the Astral will cried out in shock.
“There’s no need to be surprised. To you, fighting a battle might be just that and nothing more, but to me, fighting a battle is just a component of my research. Now that the battle is over, my research is also starting to bear fruit,” Su Chen replied with a slight smile.
“There’s no way you could have done it that quickly.”
“I have always done things quickly…… You will need to learn to get used to my speed.” As Su Chen spoke, he tapped his finger on the last wall of bubbles.
The bubbles popped, revealing the sea of knowledge lurking behind.
Su Chen stepped through the wall.