Having long since erupted in open hostilities, there was no courtesy at all in their exchange.
Xiahou Zong hated Jiang Chen’s contemptuous tone and demeanor the most. Only he was allowed to throw that kind of attitude around!
Who had ever dared publicly disrespect him and his treasures and abilities before?
Moreover, he considered the Infernal Sunflower one of his trump cards. In his usual matches against young geniuses of his generation, he typically refrained from using it.
He’d brought it out in order to utterly crush his opponent through its intimidation and bloodlust, but nothing had gone according to plan at all. Instead, he had been ridiculed by the young man that he bitterly hated.
Xiahou Zong was truly frustrated now.
“You’re a master at smack talking, kid. But do you think you’ll escape the reach of the Infernal Sunflower with just talk?”
He couldn’t hold his anger back for much longer. Deep down, he was also mildly shocked. He hadn’t been able to identify the plant his opponent controlled, yet his own had been named instantaneously.
It wasn’t a feeling that he enjoyed. Xiahou Zong had the vague feeling that he was on the back foot. He was too proud to take the issue particularly seriously though.
A loud whistle and a hand seal accompanied a roar. “Floral bloom summoned from hell, consume the base and crude souls in this world!”
Like demonic soldiers receiving their orders from the king of hell, the Infernal Sunflower’s tendrils flew like hungry ghouls in their prey’s direction.
A strange smile appeared on Jiang Chen’s face.
His body vanished into thin air with a sudden shift. The Bewitching Lotus’ vines transformed into dozens and hundreds of copies of him, the remaining blossoms gathering together with great unity.
Countless fire lotuses formed up into lines, spewing frenzied flame at their enemy. The ice lotuses formed ring upon ring of frigid blue walls that generated and regenerated in midair without cease. The splendid sight was nearly perfect in both attack and defense.
Xiahou Zong was taken aback at the production of so many of his opponent’s images. But then he smiled impassively. “A petty trick. You think you’re far cleverer than you actually are!”
He knew the copies were all fake. He only had one actual enemy.
The Infernal Sunflower’s attacks ignored the distinction between illusion and reality. Its onslaught was as singular as it was destructive. Whether its target was existent or not hardly mattered.
For a time, the scene of battle was positively awe-inspiring. The Infernal Sunflower was unfettered in its frenzied movements, each flower weaving through the air on a hot chase for food.
A sea of bloody crimson stretched as far as the eye can see. Much like the chains of hell’s guardsmen, they seemed willing to hunt down their mark regardless of distance.
Suddenly, Xiahou Zong’s expression changed. He discovered that his Sunflower had been slowing down; in the next moment, it ground to a halt.
What he noticed with a sweep of his consciousness startled him. The vines from his opponent’s lotuses were constricting the movements of his Infernal Sunflower!
The ice and fire lotuses appeared almost sacred in their purity. The sunflower was unable to devour them; instead, the plants’ tendrils were now locked in a melee.
Xiahou Zong was furious. “Do you think your endless delay will protect you from the Infernal Sunflower, kid? Your naïvette knows no bounds! Infernal Sunflower, scatter!” he incanted with a hand seal.
The petals of the sunflower dispersed into the wind, becoming strange curls of diffusing mist.
In the next moment, the scent of the sunflower permeated the entire arena.
“You’ve nowhere to hide, kid. Enjoy this fragrance in your last moments, because it’ll take you to hell!” Xiahou Zong cackled. “I said that you were a bit better than the other geniuses, but ants will be ants before me, the great Xiahou Zong. What does a slight increase in the size of an insect matter?”
Now that the sunflower’s poison was deployed, he considered the battle essentially over. It was time to clean up.
However, his satisfaction had barely left him when an ominous voice snaked forth from midair.
“You always get ahead of yourself, Xiahou Zong. You like to boast, but you don’t deliver results.”
Xiahou Zong was shaken to the core. Before he could react, a golden light suddenly appeared overhead. A set of swords hovered over Jiang Chen.
“Seven sevens is forty-nine. Let the heavenly chalices pronounce judgment!”
The Heavenly Chalice Sword Formation was currently one of Jiang Chen’s finest combat-related ones. This was especially true after he’d reached empyrean realm. He was at the skill level of forty-nine swords and great perfection, which meant only one or two steps from the fabled eighty-one swords of the legendary realm.
Countless lights stormed down recklessly from the cosmos like a shower of meteors.
Cut, cut, cut!
The sword lights cut mercilessly into the Infernal Sunflower. As a naturally powerful spirit herb, it was plenty resilient on its own. It was largely immune to most actual weapons to boot.
Alas, the Heavenly Chalice Sword Formation excelled in its unrivaled offense. The rain of swords overcame their target in a blind, mob-like assault.
The tendrils of the sunflower couldn’t survive frenetic slicing. The majority was left in pieces after the sword formation’s dicing session. The dismemberment of the majority of its living matter caused the Infernal Sunflower to lose its vigor almost entirely.
Jiang Chen saw this as the perfect time to follow up with a second strike.
“Entangle, Bewitching Lotus!” he called out with a hand seal.
The Lotus changed forms once more, flying toward Xiahou Zong in a mass of thick ropes.
The Bewitching Lotus was significantly more resilient than the Infernal Sunflower. Though the latter could heal itself, it regenerated very slowly over time. The Lotus, on the other hand, regrew any damage in a matter of seconds.
More importantly, Xiahou Zong’s Infernal Sunflower had sustained irreparable damage to its root structure. It was nearly impossible for it to recover from so devastating a blow.
Jiang Chen’s memories from his previous life had told him where the Sunflower was most vulnerable. Thus, his attack had been targeted at the plant’s weakness. There was barely a tenth left of the Sunflower after the pruning.
Xiahou Zong was livid when he saw the extent of the destruction. At the same time, he felt ncredulous – but before he had time to think any further, the Lotus’ attack was already at his door.
“Bloody hell!” His bristling hair nearly stood up on its own. “Blaze, Scorching Sun Shield!” he roared.
An array of flaming shields appeared all around him, protecting him within a defensive barricade – one that the Lotus failed to pierce through.
Jiang Chen chuckled. “Looks like your Infernal Sunflower wasn’t as amazing as you bragged about after all!”
It was clear to just about everyone that he had taken the upper hand in the battle of mystical plants.
Xiahou Zong tasted iron on his tongue; he barely managed to keep himself from coughing out blood. The Infernal Sunflower had been one of his most prized offensive treasures. How… how could it have been destroyed at this bastard’s hands?
“Damn it… damn you!” His heart was bleeding. He couldn’t understand where the Sunflower’s typical dominance had gone.
None of the traits that made the plant incredibly potent had been displayed today. The poisonous mist of scattered flower powder should’ve taken down Shao Yuan immediately.
As long as a sliver of the Sunflower’s scent made its way in, his enemy should’ve been toast. Its poison was capable of disintegrating a cultivator’s consciousness within seconds, taking with it his ability to fight or stand.
Unfortunately, what he’d seen transpire provided no evidence that that was the case. His opponent’s spirit herb looked like it was just a simple dual attribute plant. Ice and fire. How could it have won out over his Sunflower?
Xiahou Zong simply couldn’t understand. Why had things turned out this way?
There was abject silence all around the arena as well.
Many members of the audience were slack-jawed by this inconceivable turnabout. They hadn’t come back to their senses yet, and sat staring at the battle before them in paralyzed shock.
Xiahou Zong is a little panicked. No one had seen that emotion in him before.
Shao Yuan had scored a crushing victory in controlling plants over Xiahou Zong. Furthermore, he had done so over a treasure that was known to be powerful – the Infernal Sunflower. How could this be?
What they’d witnessed seemed almost hallucinatory.
Even those allied with the Eternal Sacred Land were flabbergasted by what they were watching. It was exactly the opposite of what they’d expected.