The first thing Liang Chen saw when he left the city within the orb was dark clouds that were occasionally lit up by bright azure bolts of lightning. Yumao had increased his size a bit in preparation so Liang Chen could stand on his head with plenty of space to spare, picking up his interspatial ring and sliding it on again. He could hear the sound of a torrential downpour mixed with the roar of lightning and the howling wind, but Yumao had already surrounded himself with a layer of dark Qi that sucked in the incoming rain and spat it out somewhere else before it could hit him.
"Already arrived, huh. Guess that was to be expected, you haven't caused any trouble while I was gone, right?"
Liang Chen sat down as he spoke, rapping Yumao's head a few times while also lowering his gaze. The dark clouds continued on beneath them so he guessed that Yumao had stopped at quite a high altitude, he could send out his senses if he wanted to, but there was no need to rush it so he figured he could first listen to Yumao.
"It's not causing trouble, it's mongrels not knowing their place at the bottom of the food chain. You can't blame me if they were born so suicidal that they'd throw themselves headfirst into a pile of shit."
Yumao snorted somewhat indignantly at what he could only consider Liang Chen's unjust questioning, but just the fact that he reacted like this told Liang Chen that he hadn't done anything. Liang Chen was slowly getting used to the crass language that Yan Ling had poured into Yumao's mind so he was mostly able to ignore it as he pointed downwards.
"So, any reason we're this high up? Has a new guardian beast appeared there and given you trouble?"
The guardian beast that had been present in this location in the past really was pathetically weak to the current Liang Chen. But considering the fact that this hidden realm had moved to a place with stronger cultivators, he couldn't rule out the possibility that a stronger beast had been born here. But Yumao quickly shot down that possibility, spitting disdainfully while complaining.
"Trouble? The things down there? Peh, as if, they'd be lucky if they were able to dislodge the remnants stuck between my teeth. I'm up here because I couldn't bear to look at their idiotic acts, but I can't get rid of them because you'd scold me the moment you find out. I'm screwed no matter what so I may as well hide up here so that I can pretend they don't exist."
Yumao was a beast, if it was up to him he would just swoop down and eat up every single being down there to clear the path. But he knew that Liang Chen had stricter morals when it came to killing so he'd be in for a long lecture if he acted as he wanted to, he also didn't want to have Liang Chen look at him with disappointed eyes so the only thing he could do was hold himself back.
"Hoh, so there are actually people down there. Has something interesting started to grow there again?"
Liang Chen still remembered the last time he was here, he had really made a mess of things and ruined the very thing everyone fought over. He had almost killed himself doing so, but it was also the event that allowed him to meet Yan Ling and Yan Ying so he had to admit that he was a bit thankful that it all happened. Since people were gathering in this desolate land again it was clear that something new had started growing, but the answer he got from Yumao surprised him slightly.
"It's budding again, but this time it seems to only have a single row of petals."
Yumao hadn't been here when Liang Chen first came here, he hadn't even been born when Liang Chen drew down the wrath of lightning upon this land. But he had been told all about it so he was more than familiar with the event, as well as the item that had sparked it.
"...Huh, didn't expect that, seems like life can have some pretty funny coincidences at times."
Liang Chen hadn't expected a new lotus to grow so quickly after he used up the last one, but perhaps that was only to be expected in a place filled with so much lightning energy. He originally had Yumao head here because he was interested in all the lightning here, but hearing that a new one had sprouted, his thoughts slowly headed in a different direction.
"Well, how about we go down for now? It'd be nice if things didn't go the same direction as last time."
Yumao flapped his wings the moment Liang Chen's voice sounded out, descending through the clouds like a falling star. He broke through the lowest layer in only an instant, the stone forest beneath them revealing itself, lightning crackling across every part of it. And right beneath them was a familiar stretch of land, a basin surrounded by a circle of mountains.
Most of the land within this basin had been flattened, but Liang Chen saw a few familiar droplet-shaped boulders so it seemed like the constant downpour and lightning had started to form new ones after his last visit. He could sense a particularly dense amount of lightning energy emanating from a small crater at the centre of the basin, and just as Yumao had implied, there were currently several groups of people present in the area.
The various groups seemed like they were temporarily working together to take down a handful of crab-like beasts that had surrounded the small crater, their metal-like shells crackling with azure lightning. The strongest person present was only at the Soaring Immortal realm, but Liang Chen didn't know if this was due to there not being anyone stronger in the area or due to the lack of any commotion when the lotus bloomed.
"Yeah, some things don't change, do they?"
Liang Chen couldn't help but sigh softly as he gazed down at the people beneath him. It was just like it had been back then when his group came here for the Two-Petaled Elemental Lotus, people were willing to stab each other in the back even while they were working together to break through the guardians.
Liang Chen still remembered the betrayal he and Lei Qiang suffered at the hands of their two other teammates, they may both have died there if Liang Chen hadn't been prepared. It had been a while since Liang Chen reminisced about the path, and when his thoughts hit Lei Qiang his chest couldn't help but sting a bit.
The two had gone their separate ways in life after leaving this area, but he still considered Lei Qiang a friend, they even met up a few times and just talked while drinking. And in the end, Liang Chen's existence led to the death of Lei Qiang, his wife, and their daughter. Lei Qiang and his daughter had died instantly, despite Lei Qiang doing his best to shield them. As for his wife Xue Wen, Liang Chen had personally killed her to end the suffering her fatal wounds caused her.
Liang Chen closed his eyes and drew in several deep breaths, he could feel the fire in his chest flaring up as he remembered the past. He quickly got his emotions under control, his gaze icy cold for a second as he opened his eyes again. The Sealing God Empyrean had caused far too much death on Liang Chen's home planet, even the entire Storm Wolf sect met its end due to him. That was a pain Liang Chen could not forget, a vengeance he could not leave unfulfilled.
"Let's stop them. I want that one."
Liang Chen chased away the cold emotions that had seeped into his gaze, Yumao spreading his wings wide in response to his words. The moment he spread out his wings, the bright light from the bolts of lightning vanished and darkness overtook the land beneath them, it was as if Yumao's mere presence blotted out all light.
And with that darkness came the pressure of a supreme beast, a monster that had already entered an unknown level of existence thanks to Liang Chen's blood. The weaker cultivators fell to the ground from just the pressure alone, their legs giving out beneath them out of pure terror. A few managed to remain standing, but their faces were as pale as paper, thick beads of sweat rolling down their cheeks.
Everyone's gazes were focused on Yumao as he descended, not a single living being present even daring to entertain the thought that they could fight. And then, to their horror, they saw that this abhorrent monstrosity had a human standing on its head. It was the most terrifying beast they had ever seen, yet it was no more than a mount, it was a realization that could shatter hearts.
But if the cultivators thought they had it bad then they should be glad that they weren't the crab-like Demonic beasts. As beasts, they were much more attuned to sensing bloodlines and the like, and the thing they felt from Liang Chen and Yumao were enough to make them despair from the depths of their blood. Their survival instincts completely shut down, to the point that they wouldn't be able to move even if Yumao placed them in his jaw.
Yumao flapped his wings strongly once before he descended, blowing away the crab-like beasts and the closest cultivators to make more space. He then curled his body around the small crater, folding his wings while sweeping the surroundings with a sharp gaze, baring his fangs as if he was going to eat them at a moment's notice.
"My Father desires this lotus so you troglodytes best scram if you know what's best for you. Taking even a single step forward will be seen as you donating your life to give me a snack."
He was just speaking, but the difference in strength made it so that even his words felt like a hammer against the chests of the surrounding people. But his words weren't really necessary, just his presence alone was enough to scare the groups to the point where they didn't dare to move, whether it be to get closer or to get away.
Liang Chen didn't really pay attention to the crowd, his gaze was directed towards the small crater. He was actually quite familiar with this crater, it was where he had collapsed the last time he was here. He had been struck by a single bolt of violet lightning, the Two-Petaled Elemental Lotus he had used to call it down instantly turning to ash.
But now, at the centre of the crater he had caused, a new lotus was blooming. It was a bit smaller than the Two-Petaled Lotus from back then, and it was a fair bit smaller than the Three-Petaled Lotus he picked up on Final Curse Island. But it was definitely an Elemental Lotus, a single row of gleaming azure petals with a faint tinge of crimson revolving around its core.
It only had a single row of petals so it was the lowest form of Elemental Lotus, but it had grown by using a bit of the blood that Liang Chen had spilt here, as well as some of the heavenly lightning he had called down back then. Perhaps, if given enough time, it would become quite a spectacular thing. But as long as it remained here, it would never get the chance to become that, it was doomed to get plucked and used, if not now then later.
"So you sprouted from the blood I left behind, huh? A beautiful thing blooming from bloody carnage, I feel like that's a thing Ling'er would say if she was given the chance, she always did have a thing for saying things more eloquently when she felt like it. It'd be neat to pluck you, but it was thanks to your predecessor that I could have a very nice encounter, so it feels like it would be a bit of a waste."
Liang Chen's voice couldn't help but soften slightly as he hopped down from Yumao and crouched down in front of the lotus. He never would have met Yan Ling if Yan Ying hadn't been drawn to this place by the commotion Liang Chen caused when he used the lotus. Had he not dared to use the lotus so recklessly, what would have become of him then?
Would he have walked the same path, or would he have chosen a different one? Would he have been twisted by life or would he have found someone else that could serve as a form of anchor? He didn't know, and he probably never would. And in truth, it didn't really matter, all that mattered was that he ended up in this timeline, on this path, with this one brightly smiling girl at his side, and that alone was enough for him.
He scooped up the lotus with a careful touch, crimson lightning crackling around his hands to take care of the roots. He could use his actual fused lightning, but he was a bit worried that it would be too much for the lotus to bear so he played it safe. Once the lotus was safely secured in his hands, he closed his eyes and started to stretch out his senses, connecting with the ever-present lightning in the land around him.
What followed was a scene that the onlookers didn't think that they would ever be able to forget, it had burned itself into their minds and refused to leave. Thousands of gleaming bolts of azure lightning rained down from the sky, all of them landing on Liang Chen and the lotus. But that was only the start, the lightning that had already sunken into the earth, the lightning that had been absorbed by the stone forest and the various crystals scattered throughout it, all came rushing towards this one area.
More and more lightning was drawn in, practically forming an ocean as it rushed in from all sides. And as more and more of it gathered, it slowly grew denser and stronger, turning from gleaming azure to a stark crimson, shades of brilliant violet dancing within the sea of lightning that now covered the entire sky.
Liang Chen's body was almost fully altered into one of his three unique laws, his Void Storm, and one of the main components of said law was lightning. He could absorb it to strengthen and heal himself, something he frequently did. As such, it was obvious that he could easily attract large amounts of lightning, especially in a land as saturated with it as this one.
Here, he was the sole ruler, all the lightning bowed to him and obeyed him. He had called for it, and it came to respond, to worship. His original intention was to absorb all this lightning for himself, but now he channelled it into the lotus. A gift because of its predecessor, a moment of softness since it reminded him of the past and the girl at his side, or perhaps a mix of both. The reason didn't matter, only the fact that he did it.
He slowly added more and more of his own lightning, first the weaker green lightning, then normal crimson, then the fused brown, then the normal purple, and finally the dull violet that he was using now. All of it mixed with the ocean of lightning, a twister of lightning forming around him as it sank into the lotus, that greedily accepted the gift.
And then, after a few minutes, the stone forest around him experienced something it had never before. For the first time since it was made, there was no storm pelting it with lightning, nor was there any lightning coursing around within it. For once, it was at peace, it was quiet.
As for the Elemental Lotus, its previous azure gleam had turned into a mixture of colours, each leaf resembling a rainbow as it danced with the various colours of lightning. The aura it radiated was many magnitudes greater than before, it was to the point that even the crab-like beasts felt their bodies sting from being in its presence.
This change was to be expected with how much energy had been gently guided into it, but what was strange was that each leaf was fluttering about slightly. Different from their earlier constant revolving, they were now practically dancing about, stretching towards Liang Chen as if they wanted to embrace him. He couldn't tell if it was due to him mixing his own lightning into it or if the petal had gained a sliver of sentience due to its increase in strength, but he felt like he could understand what it was trying to convey.
"You want to tag along with me? I don't mind, but I can't carry you on me at all times so I'll be planting you in an appropriate area. If you ever get bored or want to find a better place, just let me know, I don't think I can bring myself to absorb you."
The pace at which the petals danced picked up a bit after Liang Chen spoke, they acted like children that had been given permission by their parents. Yumao had turned his gaze away from the terrified crowd around them, snorting in a superior manner while he looked at the lotus.
"Humph, I'm still the eldest so you'd best know your place."
The corners of Liang Chen's lips couldn't help but quiver somewhat as he looked at Yumao's almost defensive attitude. He almost looked like he was about to start a fight so Liang Chen stretched out one hand and placed it on Yumao's head, ruffling the feathers that grew out at the back of his head.
"Come on now, don't compete with a flower. I've finished what I've come for, so let's go, we can take a look at the place where I got you."
He placed the lotus on his shoulder as he spoke, a layer of lightning covering his shoulder so that the flower had a place to spread its roots. Later he would have to plant it inside the city in his interspatial ring, it would create an area with dense lightning energy so it would become a good place to cultivate.
Yumao flapped his wings and shot into the sky after Liang Chen hopped onto his head, the people beneath them finally getting a chance to breathe again. Some of them followed the departing figures with their gazes, some demoralized by the sheer difference in power, others motivated by the height that could be reached by human hands.
Liang Chen did not think or care about the impact he had on the minds of those that had seen him, his mind had already sunk into the orb in his interspatial ring to look for a place where he could plant the lotus. Just planting it inside the interspatial ring itself was also an option, but he had no reason to give up this chance to create a good place to cultivate.
But as his mind was going through the orb, the Bloodwind Code that had merged with his chest vibrated slightly to draw his attention. And once it drew his attention, the voice of Ye Zhong, the disciple in charge of this batch of Bloodwind Codes, rang in Liang Chen's ear.
"Heyo, Liang Chen, right? I've contacted you to deliver a message from my Master. He wants you to fill the Bloodwind Code with a good deal of energy so that it can release a bit of a beacon, he said that someone's looking for you since they have to hand someone over to you."