Reborn as a Demonic Tree

Chapter 159: The Crowds Roar
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To kill the Skyrend family and blame it on Dante Voidmind was the focal point of the grand plan. Everything being done today was to set the stage for that moment.

Yet after Diana's great news regarding the agreement of the Redclaws and Silverspires to the insane plan that might start a great civil war within the Blood Lotus Sect, she remained excited as if she still had something even more ridiculous to tell them.

"Spit it out, Diana," Stella said, "I can tell you have more news by that look on your face."

Diana chuckled as if the news was too funny to share. Eventually, she gathered herself and explained, "When I went over this morning to tell the Redclaws the plan, I happened to bump into someone rather unexpected."

"Who?" Stella asked.

"Kassandra Skyrend," Diana said thoughtfully, "My heart froze as, for a moment, I thought she had figured something out, and my mind was racing with so many questions, but she just casually walked past me without any interest as if I were a bug. It took a good minute for me to regain my composure."

Stella's eyes were wide with shock, and Ashlock was also baffled. What was Kassandra doing at the White Stone Palace before the sun had even risen?

"So? What was she doing there?" Stella insisted.

"Calm down. I was getting to that," Diana spoke quickly, "We don't have much time until today's tournament starts, so I will be brief. Kassandra felt like the tournament only focusing on making a single pill wasn't enough, so she had come to the Redclaws to request a restructure of the tournament."

Stella narrowed her eyes, "She wouldn't suggest anything that wouldn't give her an advantage. To think she would go this far just to try and get an edge over me."

"You see, that's where she messed up," Diana smirked, "Her grand idea was that after everyone had made a Body Strengthening Pill, the best ten participants would have a chance to compete against one another by making another pill."

"But that wouldn't work..." Stella furrowed her brows, "The whole reason this tournament was cut down to making one pill was that the Redclaws struggled to get their hands on enough ingredients for other recipes."

Diana nodded, "Exactly, so when the Redclaw Grand Elder explained that to her, she suggested that part of alchemy was the ability to source ingredients, and therefore in the final round, the participants should create the best pill they can with their own ingredients."

Ashlock couldn't believe Kassandra's arrogance. It was likely their fault that the Redclaws could not source anything more than the bare minimum needed for a single round that involved creating pills.

"Actually... to be fair, that is sort of the Redclaw's fault for being considered a lesser family that's easy to bully," Ashlock mused, "So, in a twisted way, Kassandra isn't wrong, but to stroll into the White Stone Palace and say that to the Grand Elder's face is crazy."

Stella crossed her arms and frowned, "Other than the new Mind Fortress pill, we don't have the ingredients for anything else... why are you smiling like that."

Diana's spatial ring flashed, and she brought out a beautiful pink flower and two glass bottles. One filled with a green dew and the other with sparkling water.

"These are the ingredients required to make the Heavenly Purification Pill." Diana explained, "This pill detoxifies the body of spiritual toxins or foreign energies that may have infiltrated a cultivator's body, purifying their Qi and ensuring smoother cultivation. It's a tier two pill, apparently."

Stella took the petal, and two bottles from Diana, "And these ingredients are?"

"That is a Celestial Peony Petal," Diana said, pointing at the pink petal, "And then the green liquid is Heavenly Bamboo Essence, while the water is a diluted Nine-Tailed Fox's Tear."

Stella looked at the items in her hand and frowned, "I don't get it. How did you get these ingredients, and what should I do with them?"

"Well, the Grand Elder was going to deny Kassandra's request of adding another round where we use our own ingredients, but then Elder Margret stepped in and told him to accept it only if they provided the ingredients of the pill they planned to create in the new final round," Diana gestured to Ashlock, "I later found out this was due to Elder Margret's belief that Ashlock would be able to grow perfect version of the ingredients letting you get an easy win over Kassandra."

Stella turned to Ashlock and asked through telepathy, "Can you grow these?"

"The Celestial Peony Petal is from a flower, so yes, I can grow that, and I believe bamboo is considered a flower, so that should be fine. But the tears are out of my capabilities." Ashlock answered truthfully.

"Okay, Tree says he can make the flower and the bamboo, but not the fox tears," Stella said, "Did they say how many pills this bottle of tears was good for?"

Diana shrugged as she summoned a parchment from her spatial ring, "Elder Margret gave this to me. Apparently, it's the recipe for the pill."

Stella scanned the parchment and then whistled, "Quite the complex pill. Say, Diana, will a break exist between the round where we create the body-strengthening pill and the final round where I must make this pill so I can practice?"

Diana shook her head, "Not that I know of."

"Mhm, the recipe says this volume of tears should be good for ten pills." Stella looked up from the parchment at Diana, "How long until the tournament starts?"

"Around an hour? But we should be going there now to set up."

"That should be long enough," Stella didn't waste a moment as she created a portal and vanished into the cavern below.

Ashlock's brought up his {Blooming Root Flower Production} menu and was glad to see both the Celestial Peony Petal and Heavenly Bamboo added to his growing list of potential flowers to grow.

His vision blurred as he followed Stella down into the cavern. She was busy frantically trying to learn the new pill, so Ashlock left her be and got to work designating two farming plots just above her head on the higher level to grow the two new flowers.

With a wave of power and Qi flowing from his almost overflowing Star Core, the Qi Flowing Grass wilted away and was replaced with shoots of bone-white bamboo in one plot and peony flowers in the other.

As with everything he made, they were perfect. Devoid of any impurities and ready to be harvested as ingredients.


Stella's eyes widened as she reached down and picked up the pill she had just created. It was the tier two Heavenly Purification Pill in all its golden glory. The thing looked like an almost translucent nugget of gold and had a soft hue despite the cavern's darkness.

"I did it!" Stella gasped. This was her ninth try and was the first successful attempt. Even with the pill recipe provided by Elder Margret, it had been Stella's first time trying to make a tier-two pill.

Other than the three ingredients provided by the Skyrends, the recipe also needed Qi Flowing Grass and Dragon Marrow, which Stella had plenty of due to Tree's past efforts.

With exhaustion, Stella placed the Heavenly Purification Pill next to the glass bottle containing a single droplet of the fox tears.

"This is going to be tough," Stella muttered, "Only a single droplet of nine-tailed fox tears left, and I have only managed to make one of the pills so far. I might actually mess up and lose to Kassandra at this rate."

The plan already had so many moving parts that Stella had struggled to keep track, and now she had the stress of needing to beat Kassandra Skyrend in the final round with a pill she had only produced a single time out of nine tries mere moments before the tournament began.

"Focus up, Stella, this is for Tree and the others," Stella tried to hype herself up but was startled by a hand tapping her shoulder.

"You didn't even notice me sneaking up on you," Diana said, "You're too distracted."

Stella sighed as she touched her beating heart, "Phew, you scared me."

Diana tutted, "You need to calm down and try to relax your mind. Maybe take another one of those Mind Fortress pills."

"I already took three, just give me a moment to rest, and I'll be fine." Stella waved Diana off.

"Stella, the tournament technically started a minute ago," Diana said impatiently, "We need to leave right now."

I just created nine pills in a row while learning a new recipe that was sprung upon me last moment, and now I don't even get a second to catch my breath! These people all think too highly of me! Curse you, Elder Margret, and your faith in me!

"Okay, okay," Stella fumbled as she tried to collect all the needed ingredients. Besides the fox tears, she had manically harvested from the farms over the last hour as she didn't have time to purify the ingredients while learning to combine five different things into the intended pill, so she had a nice pile of Celestial Peony Petals, Qi Flowing Grass and full bottles of Dragon Marrow and Heavenly Bamboo Essence.

"Patriarch, can we get a portal to the venue? We won't make it in time if we walk." Diana yelled at the ceiling.

Stella felt a wave of spatial Qi as a portal manifested, followed by some reassuring words from Ash.

"You will do fine. All those ingredients besides the fox tears are near perfect, so relax and focus on passing the first round."

"Thank you, Tree," Stella said aloud before walking through the portal alongside Diana, who was reaching up to fasten a white wooden mask to her face.

There was a pop in Stella's ears as she stepped through.

"I'm going to meet up with the others," Diana said the moment the floral scent of the cavern vanished and was replaced with the stench of the city, "Good luck. I'll be rooting for you."

Stella nodded with a smile behind her cloth mask and watched Diana vanish into a cloud of mist.

"Oh shit, I'm running late, aren't I?" Stella glanced around at the grand square and saw the line of people trying to enter was far smaller than yesterday, and the crowds around the market stalls were small. Everyone was likely inside already.

Although using techniques within a city was considered against the rules, Stella snapped open a portal that took her right to the front of the queue. She ignored the hollers of the mortals behind her and strode in.

"Roselyn," The same short Redclaw woman from yesterday called out to her, "The first round of today's main event is about to start. Quickly follow me!"

Stella wasted no time, and the two speedily walked through a long straight corridor lit by glowing stones built into the walls. The sound of their shoes echoing on the tiles was soon drowned out by a deafening roar of excitement from up ahead.

You can do this, Stella... no, you are Roselyn right now. An arrogant cultivator hired by the Redclaw and Silverspire family with the sole purpose of humiliating Kassandra and carrying out the plan.

The Redclaw woman paused at the end of the tunnel and turned to smile at her. The sunlight cascading down the tunnel and reaching Stella's feet illuminated the woman's face, and she could see the vast sandy pit with people standing beside tables beyond the corridor's end.

"This is as far as I can go," The woman gave a slight bow, "You can pick whichever table is still free."

Stella nodded in appreciation and strode past her. The moment she emerged from the tunnel and out into the open, the crowd's roar was far louder than she had expected, and the sheer energy of the place was bewildering.

"How am I supposed to perform alchemy in these conditions?"Stella grumbled as she glanced around, trying to find an empty table. To her surprise, it was harder to find one than she thought. The place was packed with alchemists.

She walked past dozens of tables, all occupied by people of various ages and cultivation levels.

Are there really none free? Stella wondered as she started feeling awkward, having to walk around trying to find a vacant workstation.

"Roselyn, over here!" A voice called out to her. It was hard to tell who it was over the crowd's excitement, but her eyes narrowed as she walked toward it and saw an empty table... right next to Roderick Terraforge and Kassandra Skyrend.

Roderick was the one who had called out to her, and he seemed eager to point out the empty table beside him.

Stella spread out her spiritual sight but still failed to locate a spare table, so she reluctantly strode up to the table with all the fake confidence she could muster and stood beside it with her back straight.

"Sleep in?" Roderick snorted, "Or were you too busy sucking up to the Silverspire family to remember to show up on time?"

Stella was about to retort but held her tongue. She didn't remember Roderick being this talkative before, and his comments were such nonsense that they made her think less of him.

What's his goal here? Is he hoping to throw me off my concentration with snide remarks?

Stella glared at him and then returned her sights to the workbench before her. It was a simple wooden desk with a small black metal cauldron perched on topβ€”besides it was bundles of Qi Flowing Grass, Starlight Lotus, and a pot of Dragon Marrow. All the ingredients needed for the Body Strengthening Pill.

Wait, what are these markings?

Looking closer, Stella saw random words etched into the table's wood and other drawings. At first, she thought it might be a secret message, but she couldn't understand it.

"Tree, do you know what these scribbles and words are?" Stella asked mentally. "They aren't runes... are they a secret message? I won't be accused of cheating because of them, right?"

"Stella, these tables were taken from the Academy's classrooms. They are just the result of bored students leaving their mark on the tables. There's no hidden meaning behind them."

"Huh? Really?" Stella tilted her head in confusion, "Why would they be bored? Can't they just leave and do something more interesting?"

"That's not how school works." Ashlock chuckled, "They have to sit in a classroom and listen to a teacher talk about a subject for hours. They aren't allowed to leave no matter how boring it is."

"That's just torture? Why would anyone do that?" Stella didn't even care that Roderick was trying to taunt her or the crowd's roar. This information was so unsettling it helped her regain her focus.

Just breathe. Everything will be fine.

Stella tilted her head and looked at Kassandra.

Seeing the living, breathing woman that was the embodiment of pride and arrogance look back at her with such sinister confidence made Stella wonder one thing...

Does she know this is her last day alive? Can she feel it in the winds of change that her death draws near? I almost can't wait to finally see that smug grin buried in the sand.

"Everyone! Welcome to the first alchemy tournament of Darklight City!"

Stella was broken from her dark thoughts as she glanced up at a hastily constructed wooden platform on one side of the Colosseum.

Backdropped by many levels of cheering people that seemed to stretch all the way to the clear blue sky was Elder Brent. He stood with his hands clasped behind his back as he used his Qi to empower his speech to reach everyone in this massive venue.

The moment he spoke, the crowd began waving their arms and drumming their feet. If that wasn't distracting enough, the shouts were deafening. Stella couldn't even understand what they were all shouting, but she didn't care. Her focus was on Elder Brent's words. π™‘π’Šπ’ƒπ“»π’†π’‚π“­.π™˜π“Έπ“Ά

Elder Brent took in the atmosphere as he sagely looked around. It was hard to remember since Stella was basically his superior. But Elder Brent was a powerful cultivator and Elder of one of the noble families, so he was like a living god to the rogue alchemists and mortals in the crowd.

"Ahem, I am honored by everyone's excitement." Elder Brent grinned, and Stella could see the waves of his Qi-empowered voice spreading out in all directions, "Now before I explain the tournament rules, I believe it's only right I introduce everyone to the people behind today's event."

Elder Brent gestured to a large section of the Colosseum stands that had been sectioned off opposite him. Stella followed his gaze and couldn't help but smile as she saw a large demonic tree proudly rooted into the stone seats of the Colosseum, shrouding the sectioned-off area in the shade of its canopy.

A fog began to swirl around the demonic tree, and under the thunderous cheers of the crowd, silhouettes of people lurking in the fog appeared.

"It is with great pleasure that I can introduce you to the Grand Elder of our Redclaw family alongside the event's main sponsor, Ryker Silverspire!" Elder Brent announced with gusto, hyping the crowd into a standing applause.

Stella held back a laugh as she saw the Grand Elder emerge from the fog and stand proudly beside a very confused-looking child. After a moment of the Grand Elder waving to the people in the crowd, a few more people emerged from the fog and stood at his flanks.

They didn't get a formal introduction, but Stella recognized them as members of the Ashfallen Sect.

Douglas, Diana, and even Elaine stood there with masks obscuring their faces.

"Who are those people?" Kassandra muttered under her breath as she squinted at the masked people.

Stella grinned.

You will be finding out sooner than you might think.

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