Liang Chen and his group ran as fast as they could, constantly taking out new Spirit Stones which they could use to restore their draining energy. As they ran, the sky started to slowly darken, a whirlpool of clouds, rain, and lightning forming in the distance, right above their destination. Seeing the sky change like this, Tang Chao's expression distorted slightly as he couldn't help but comment in annoyance.
"The disturbance is getting greater, seems that getting there before too many people learn of it is going to be almost impossible."
With even the sky itself changing because of the birth of the lotus, it was clear that hiding it was utterly impossible. The information would spread like a wildfire, drawing in the greed of everyone who was even remotely close to the area. Slightly nervous about the upcoming battle, Sun Xia could not help but turn to Lei Qiang.
"How should we proceed once we get there? Not counting the people that will have heard about it, there should also be a strong guardian beast."
Lei Qiang had the most experience when it came to organizing groups and making plans, so during the time they had traveled together as a group, he had become the one who made most plans. Lei Qiang rubbed his chin as he ran, his mind racing as he quickly settled on a plan that put the group's security as the most important objective.
"We wait and see. We let the stronger people move in first and deal with the guardian beast. We should only make a move once the others are exhausted or when we are absolutely forced to."
They simply had too little information, so making an actual plan was far too difficult just yet. Lei Qiang was also keenly aware that they were highly unlikely to be the strongest group in the area, so they could forget about using overwhelming force to grab the Elemental Lotus. The others quickly nodded their heads in agreement to the temporary plan, returning their focus to keeping an eye on their surroundings.
But while running, Liang Chen was only using half of his concentration to keep an eye on his surroundings, his other half was spent on something else, testing out two ideas he had come up with recently. One he came up with after seeing the effect of his poison on the group of bandits in the city, and the other he had come up with after seeing the Lightning Quartz. Both ideas were only in their infant stages, but he felt that he come up with something that would be quite useful to him.
After spending a little over three hours running, the pressure around them had increased quite a bit, the Qi within the air around them getting thicker and more chaotic, causing the expressions of the group to become more solemn, Lei Qiang giving the group a reminder.
"The energy is getting thicker, we are getting very close."
Liang Chen had just recently heard about Elemental Lotuses, and he had never seen one before, but just seeing the spectacle that it wrought as it was born was enough to let him realize how special it was. Not only did the sky change, but even the strong pressure of this hidden realm was strengthened even further. It was just in the area around the lotus itself that the pressure increased, but that alone was already very impressive.
After another two hours of running, the group arrived close to the spot where the whirlpool was making contact with the earth. The area was rather well-hidden, located at the center of a circle of mountains that were a few thousand meters in height.
It was only after reaching the peak of one of the mountains that the group was able to see the place where the lotus had been born, a large open area that was dotted with droplet-shaped gray boulders of various sizes. The group slowly made their way down the side of the mountain, hiding behind one of the larger boulders placed at the very edge of the open area. After hiding, Sun Xia pointed at a seven-meter tall boulder located at the very center of the area.
"There, atop that drop-shaped boulder. It must have been slowly forming within the stone, bursting through the top once it managed to form itself. Let me see if I can check what element it is."
Just like she said, the top of the boulder had exploded outwards, the stone melting and then solidifying into a twisted shape that formed a shell filled with holes. Thanks to the faint cyan light and the dense Qi that seeped out from the holes, it was clear that the lotus was located within that shell. The Qi within the boulder was so dense that not even the rain that was pouring from the sky was able to get close to it.
Sun Xia closed her eyes, carefully and stealthily sending out her perception to scan the energy around the boulder, checking which type of Qi was densest there. After a short while, her eyes opened wide, a bright light shining in them, her voice trembling from uncontrollable excitement.
"By the gods, it really is a Two-Petaled Elemental Lotus! The second petal has just barely managed to take form, but it is undoubtedly there! The elements seem to be lightning and wind, not the most useful to us, but we can sell it for a fortune, enough to live like kings for centuries!"
Tang Chao and Lei Qiang also started to tremble with excitement after hearing her judgment. Liang Chen's eyes were glued to the faint light that came from the boulder, his heart hammering in his chest. Even before Sun Xia had said anything, he knew what element the Elemental Lotus had. His body hungered and screamed, far more than it ever had when he saw the sleeping Sun Xia or the corpses of Demonic beasts that had his element. It felt like he was a starving man that finally saw some food after hundreds of days without eating. Lei Qiang quickly took several deep breaths, calming himself and commenting.
"Don't let the excitement get to your head, we first have to get our hands on it. And looking at the sheer amount of people that have already gathered, that is going to be very hard. Chen, close your mouth, you are drooling."
Liang Chen quickly shook his head and took several deep breaths, closing his mouth and wiping the corners. His body had been so enticed by the lotus that he had not even noticed that he was drooling. Sun Xia and Tang Chao also quickly took several breaths, their eyes meeting for a short second as they calmed themselves down. Sun Xia quickly swept the surrounding area with narrowed eyes, speaking out in a slightly hushed down.
"Right, right, can't get ahead of myself. Everyone try to see if you can sense how many people and Demonic beasts have arrived, as well as what their strength is."
The group was actually highly specialized when it came to scanning the surroundings around them in this area. Lei Qiang could check for other beings by sensing where they stepped on the earth, Sun Xia could scan for other beings by sensing where they were in contact with the various stones, and Tang Chao could scan for other beings by sensing the rain that landed on their bodies. Thanks to the large amount of lightning around them, Liang Chen was at a disadvantage when it came to scanning for living beings using his lightning, but he was still passable at it. After everyone spent a bit of time scouring the surroundings, Lei Qiang opened his eyes, a bitter smile on his face.
"I detected almost 200, with several of them having a very hazy cultivation. What about you guys?"
If their cultivation looked hazy to him, that could only mean one thing, they had already transcended the Ascended Tower realm, making them far stronger than anyone in their group. Tang Chao and the others also opened their eyes, Tang Chao's expression darkening as he reported his findings, pointing to the eastern area.
"I found about 300, with more and more coming from the distance."
With the number of people that were swarming over, there would soon be close to a thousand people gathered in the area, everyone greedily staring at the Elemental Lotus. Lei Qiang followed Tang Chao's finger, his bitter smile growing slightly as he shook his head and sighed.
"It seems that we are quite unlucky, several people must have quickly spread the news."
For this many people to have arrived this quickly, it was likely that someone had detected the birth of the Elemental Lotus even before them, sending out a message to their friends and allies as quickly as they could.
Since they had discovered the other people in the surroundings, they had certainly also been discovered. But despite everyone knowing that they had been discovered, no one made a move to grab the lotus, everyone cautiously waiting and keeping an eye on the others. After waiting for five tense hours, there was finally someone who could no longer bear it, a large group of people stepping forward and speaking out with a booming voice.
"Everyone, please listen! I am Tian Shentu from the Fiendgod Sect, and my sect has been keeping an eye on this Elemental Lotus for quite a while, even grooming it by throwing lightning element treasures at it. Because of that, I hope you will all leave peacefully, saving us the trouble of having to deal with you."
The one who shouted out was the man standing at the very front of the group, a man who was a little over two meters tall and had a body so burly it resembled a bear's. He had short and spiky black hair, brown eyes that had a sharp light, and a large scar that separated his face into two halves right down the middle. Despite the man stepping forward and using both the name of the Tian clan and the superpower that was the Fiendgod sect, none of the surrounding people pulled back. Rather than pull back, there was a large group that stepped forward and scoffed at Tian Shentu's words.
"Blow it out your ass, Shentu! Your Fiendgod sect wasn't the one who groomed this lotus, it was my Ghost Soul Sect! Everyone, I am Zhao Daiyun, one of the members of the Ghost Soul Sect that has been appointed with the task of raising this lotus. We have spent quite a bit of resource on raising it, so I hope you understand that we will not allow you to take it, so please leave peacefully."
Zhao Daiyun was the polar opposite of Tian Shentu, she was a delicate and thin woman who had slightly pale skin, gray hair that hung down to her waist, as well as strangely white eyes. But there was one thing she shared with Tian Shentu, and that was the fact that her cultivation appeared hazy, clearly having transcended the Ascended Tower realm.
Two groups led by people from not only two of the large sects, but also two of the superpowers, had stepped forward and spoken out, but no one left. Facing something like a Two-Petaled Elemental Lotus, they would be fools if they simply believed the words of others and left. Seeing that no one was willing to give face to either of the superpowers, Zhao Daiyun let out a snort and spoke up again.
"Very well, since none of you seem willing to leave, we can only take matters into our own hands and plant the lotus in a different location."
After Zhao Daiyun spoke out, her group immediately charged forward, dashing directly towards the lotus. Her actions immediately broke the tense stalemate that had existed earlier, the other groups instantly revealing themselves and charging at the lotus, letting out loud shouts as they gave orders to their companions.
Not only humans charged forward, but also various Demonic beasts, in both human and beast shape, as well as people from the demon race charged forward, weapons at the ready as they launched attacks. With everyone charging forward, it seemed that the beast that was guarding the Elemental Lotus could no longer hide, the ground trembling fiercely as a massive boulder rose up from the ground.
The Demonic beast that guarded this Elemental Lotus resembled a crab that was almost 30 meters tall, its shell made out of thick magnetic stone that spiraled upwards, four thick pincers growing out in front of the beast, six legs that had a razor sharp edge stretching out beneath it. The beast released a heavy pressure that was even more terrifying than the pressure Tian Shentu and Zhao Daiyun released, causing even Liang Chen's bestial instincts to tremble in fear, completely overshadowing the hunger it felt when faced with the Elemental Lotus.
Lei Qiang quickly took a deep breath, giving himself a heavy slap to forcefully calm himself down. His gave the others a heavy pat on the back, his face growing determined and solemn as he spoke out.
"It was about time someone lost their patience. It seems like our old plan of waiting isn't going to work with this many people, so we are going to have to do our best to sneak up now, while everyone is fighting. Follow me."
There were over a thousand people here, it was not realistic to wait for all of them to tire themselves out. In that case, they could only take a risk and try to blend in with the other groups, sneakily charging forward and hoping they had a lucky roll of the dice.
The group quickly dashed out from their hiding spot and charged into what could only be described as hell. Before even getting close to the lotus, the various groups had already started to fight amongst each other, blood flowing like a river, organs, body parts, and corpses littering the ground all around. Not only was there fighting between the groups, but even members of the same group were fighting against each other, using people they had called comrades as meat shields or killing them to take their Spirit Stones so that they could refill their own dwindling energy.
Liang Chen found it an appalling sight to see so many people kill and betray each other without hesitation, all for a chance to get a single step closer to the lotus. Men and women, young and old, people who had no killing intent, people who were begging for mercy, people who had been forced to come along because they were slaves, all killed without mercy. That singular lotus. Was its existence really so great that it warranted all these people killing and betraying each other without regard? Was it worth all this bloodshed and the resulting grief?