Yumao descended as Liang Chen spoke, Lan Yun hopping down from his back while carrying the small lotus as if it was an infant. She held it up towards Liang Chen's face, who took it with a slight smile and placed it back on his shoulder, ruffling Lan Yun's hair to appease her desire for praise.
"Alright, stick close to me, I'll protect you."
Liang Chen raised his arm as he spoke, his spear already gone from his hands. His Anima Essence surged out from his hand and scattered throughout the area, sucking up the deathly aura that pervaded this land. He rarely used the law of death, but it was still one of the laws he had merged into his soul, it would also be good nourishment for Yumao, who had gained the law of death after eating the mutated Nethersky Wyrm Emperor corpse that Qian Liao had dragged around.
The law of death quickly gathered above his raised hand, quickly growing so dense that a dark black mist filled with ashen dots appeared above him. The mist grew larger and larger as he drew in more of the law, draining the land of death of its signature energy. First, he had removed all the lightning from the land where he plucked the lotus and now he was draining another land of all its death, he took everything and left nothing behind, a true scourge.
"Come up now, let's get a good look at you."
While drawing in the surrounding law of death, Liang Chen was also tugging at the core, the source of all this lingering death. He could feel it rising up from within the earth, burrowing towards him as he used his Anima Essence to form chains that forced it to come to him. And as he gathered up the last bits of deathly energy from the land, the item in question burst from the ground and revealed itself, hovering in front of him.
The item, the source of all this corroding death, was a simple skull. Bleached bones that formed a triangular head that was a few tens of metres long, seven curved and jagged horns running along each side of the skull. Each of the beast's fangs was longer than Liang Chen's body, he could almost fit in the space between the teeth.
Whatever beast had produced this skull was already long dead, but its almost revolting aura of death remained even to this day, corrupting the land around it. But from this aura of death, Liang Chen could feel a sliver of similarity to Yumao's own aura, as if they both shared the same core.
"Hmm, did you maybe absorb a bit of the aura from this skull while you were still an egg? It feels a bit stronger than the aura of the emperor so it may be one of the reasons it was so easy for you to evolve your law of darkness into the law of death using that mutated corpse."
Liang Chen was musing softly as he looked at the skull. Yumao had been different from other Nethersky Wyrms from the moment he hatched, normal Nethersky Wyrms didn't have feathers or wings after all. Back then he had just assumed that it was because Yumao was nurtured by his blood, but feeling the similarity between the two auras he couldn't leave out the possibility that he had absorbed something from this skull.
"Ah, yes, the egg knows what it absorbed as it was being made."
Yumao only snickered somewhat teasingly in response to Liang Chen's question, how would he know what he absorbed as an egg? Liang Chen rolled his eyes somewhat exasperatedly at Yumao's response, the poor little fellow had really been ruined by Yan Ling.
"Yeah yeah, whatever, just take it, it'll be good for you."
He tossed the bleached skull to Yumao, who increased his size somewhat so that he could crush the skull into smaller pieces before swallowing them one by one. Liang Chen turned his own attention onto the mist above him, this concentrated deathly energy wasn't as good as the skull but it would still be good for his soul cultivation. But as he turned his attention to the mist, the lotus resting on his shoulder started to flutter, its rainbow-coloured leaves reaching for the mist above them.
"You want it? I can get desiring to become more than a One-Petaled Elemental Lotus, but are you sure that you want to settle on a second element so quickly?"
The lotus had enough sentience to somewhat communicate with Liang Chen, he could at least understand the simple thoughts it wanted to convey. The leaves shivered slightly as he questioned, the answer leaving him slightly dumbfounded, leading to him eventually shaking his head.
"Ah, fine fine. I really am too sentimental, Ling'er would definitely make fun of me if she saw me. Yumao, Little Lan, you're both forbidden from telling her about this, understood?"
He gave the two others a playful warning after he shook his head, returning his attention to the mist above him. The lotus desired this law of death not because it wanted to grow quickly, it simply wanted to become a little bit closer to the man who had nurtured it with his lightning, the man who had left behind the blood from which it had sprouted.
He drew down the mist while Yumao and Lan Yun nodded their heads vigorously, but it was unknown whether or not they would actually follow through on this vow of silence. He couldn't just pour all the mist into the lotus, it would just die and wither since it wouldn't be able to handle the intense influx of energy.
So he took it slow, pouring in tiny bits of the deathly energy and giving the lotus the time to get accustomed to it. Luckily, it was an Elemental Lotus so it was already excellently suited to taking in and adapting to new energies, that was how they grew more leaves after all. He poured in a little of his own Anima Essence while feeding it the deathly energy, it had grown from his blood so it could rely on that faint connection to take in the Anima Essence, smoothening out the process for it since his Anima Essence was tinged with the law of death.
A few tiny buds slowly started to appear above the first row of rainbow-coloured leaves, the entire lotus extending a little to accommodate the new buds. And as more and more of the mist sank into the lotus, the buds slowly bloomed, a row of pitch-black leaves covered in ashen spots appearing on the lotus as its aura started to rise.
A small portion of the mist was left after the second row of petals bloomed, but Liang Chen didn't bother taking it for himself and just poured it all into the lotus, deepening the colours of the new petals. The lotus now had one row of multicoloured leaves orbiting clockwise and a second row of black leaves orbiting counter-clockwise, it was a strange but eye-catching sight.
"There you go, now take your time getting used to it, last thing we need is you losing control of your newfound energy."
Liang Chen stroked the petals of the lotus as he spoke, the entire flower dancing joyfully and caressing Liang Chen's cheek with its leaves. Raising it to a Two-Petaled Elemental Lotus was quite easy, he figured he could probably also get it to three or four petals quite easily, assuming he had vast enough energy source. But everything after that would get exponentially harder, otherwise, the higher-numbered Elemental Lotuses wouldn't be that rare.
Of course, this Elemental Lotus was far from normal, it had sprouted from his blood and its first row of leaves contained his fused lightning while its second row of leaves contained a bit of his law of death. It had left the realm of a normal Elemental Lotus so he couldn't help but be slightly curious, would it gain true sentience and become a Demonic beast first, or would he manage to give it a third row of petals first?
"Well, a question for the future I guess. What do you say, how about we really head to the core to take this thing down now?"
Liang Chen shook his head at the question, it wasn't something he could answer right now, so he moved on to the next thing he had in mind as he turned to Yumao. He had only come here to reminisce about what he had gained here and to see if there might be something about Yumao's parents here, just to sate a spell of curiosity.
And he had found both, the appearance of the bleached skull was distinct enough that Liang Chen could easily memorize it so that he could look for information about similar beasts in the future. He wasn't sure what he would find, but Yumao was part of his closest family so he wanted to learn everything he could.
Yumao knew exactly what Liang Chen was talking about, his head turning towards the sky-reaching tower that could be seen from every single part of the hidden realm. That was the core of this entire place, it was where the Sealing God Empyrean did all the true trials of this hidden realm, where he chose who would become his disciple. It was also Liang Chen's true target after he figured out exactly where this was. A slightly malevolent grin formed on Yumao's face, Liang Chen resting his hand on Lan Yun's head.
"Alright, the place Paparan and Big Brother are heading to may not be safe, so Little Lan will have to be a good girl and wait in a safe place. Don't worry, all the nice people that Paparan brought out earlier are in there, you can play with them while waiting. Paparan promises that he'll be quick."
Lan Yun puffed out her cheeks in protest when Liang Chen broke the news, but this was something he wouldn't budge on. And her Mamaran had told her several times how stubborn Paparan could be, so the best she could do was mutter quiet complaints and vicious punishments as Liang Chen drew her into his interspatial ring.
"Alright. Let's go."
Liang Chen hopped onto Yumao's back as he spoke, the feathered serpent flapping his wings and disappearing into the distance as he accelerated to full speed. Yumao's top speed was not something to be underestimated, he could keep pace with Liang Chen even as he used his own top speed, Liang Chen would only beat him if he rode on his lightning. But that wasn't something he could do over extended distances yet, and Yumao could fly so he could easily go over every obstruction so he was still the best option.
They tore through the hidden realm as a black blur as they approached the distant tower, only needing two measly days before they reached what was previously known as the unexplored area. The vast meadow housing only a single winding road lined with a few sparse signs stretched out in front of them, the tower resting at the end of the road.
"Break through it."
Liang Chen gave the order calmly and coldly, Yumao's energy starting to seethe violently. When they last came here, stepping onto this meadow had brought them to the three different trials before they could actually enter the lowest floor of the tower. But Liang Chen had no plans of going through the trials this time, he was going to break directly into the tower and tear it down.
Darkness was born around Yumao, the space around them trembling and creaking from the denseness of the darkness. The law of death seeping out from the darkness ate away at the land beneath them, the forest resting in front of the meadow withering away as Yumao passed over it.
He entered the meadow and smashed into the hidden spatial array that was meant to take them away, the creaking of the surrounding space mixing with the creaking of the array as the weight of Yumao's energy bore down on it. In the end, this was just a training ground meant to occasionally pick out a disciple, the Sealing God Empyrean hadn't put his all into making it. As such, the array shattered under Yumao's charge, the scenery in front of them breaking to reveal that the tower was far closer than it looked, the seemingly endless meadow had only been an illusion created alongside the spatial array.
The true appearance of the tower was revealed, a nine-floored azure pagoda rising up in front of Liang Chen and Yumao. This was the core of this hidden realm, the King Sealing Pagoda where the Sealing God Empyrean forced everyone in this hidden realm to take part in his trials, even if they were basically just normal mortals.
The doors of the pagoda started to slowly open as the spatial array around it was broken, a suction force seeping out from within. But Liang Chen had already expected something similar, his spear appearing in his grasp as he stepped forward, turning into a blur that shot towards the door.
He held almost nothing back and tapped into his law of the void, space not even creaking and instead simply fading away as his spear passed through it. His weapon slammed into the opening doors, tearing them from existence and ruining the array at the base of the tower, bringing an abrupt end to the suctioning force.
Had it been allowed to go on then almost every living being in this hidden realm would have been sucked in and forced to participate in the trials to become an honorary disciple. Enough innocents had died back when Liang Chen first took part in the trials, that scene did not need to repeat itself. With Yumao hot on his tail, they entered the now wide open entrance and stepped into the lowest floor of the King Sealing Pagoda.