Everybody rushed to Lily when they heard her scream. Hao Ren immediately thought of the underground tentacles that the husky and bat encountered the previous night during their tunnel investigation. His heart pounded: his speculation was right. The karst cave beneath the Blood Lake was connected to the roots of the Gnarled Grove!
With this in mind, he took the shield and ran to the front, ready for a tough fight and cover for the others to retreat. According to Vivian and Lily, those tentacles attacked foreign enemies!
However, after he got to Lily, there were no enemies attacking them.
"Thisis..."Big Beardy was standing behind Hao Ren. As an ascetic, his heart still pounded when he saw the spectacular scene. Then, he said, "Is this the legendary underground part of the Gnarled Grove? And this cave is actually connected to them?"
There was a huge cavern at the end of the cave. Its size was slightly smaller than the one with the pool in it but, it was still surprisingly wide. The most shocking thing in the cave was the countless, impressive huge roots that grew from the rock formations above them!
Even the smallest roots were one metre in diameter. They emerged from the rocks above them and grew uncontrollably, criss-crossing and forming a structure like a big net. This "big net" obscured almost three quarters of the top of the cave. It was so dense that they could only see the rock formations from the gaps between the roots. Most of the roots grew irregularly. A small portion of it hung down to the ground and even penetrated deeply into the ground. A large number of roots were also attached to the walls of the caves, gradually spreading and merging into the hard rock.
The top half of the entire cavern was covered by the giant roots. Hao Ren looked up and felt an indescribable magnificence from those black roots. It was definitely psychologically frigtening for him as well.
"...This is the Gnarled Grove's actual body..." Hao Ren muttered to himself. Despite all his previous speculations, he did not expect the underground part of the ancient plant to be so thrilling."This should just be asmall partof it... Maybe this whole underground cave system is being used to hold these roots!"
Big Beardy's face quivered. He could only put his hands on his chest and whispered, "Goddess, have mercy"
The young ascetic next to him was more optimistic. "Never mind, it's all made by the goddess. According to the Sacred Scripture, all are creations of the goddess. We are brothers and sisters. And, the Gnarled Grove is the oldest sacred creature. Our faith is devout and we'll be safe here."
Becky was almost in tears. "Goddess... You made the brother a little too ugly," she said.
So, fourof the ascetics immediatelyglaredatthemercenary.
"Seems like they can't move," Lily said after she finally calmed down. The experience of being hunted by tentacles the night before really scared her. As soon as she calmed down, she adjusted her posture and pretended to be an expert. "Well, it seems like the tentacles are also divided into different kinds. The tentacles buried deep won't move."
Vivianglancedather and said, "Stop pretending, your fur's still standing on end. Smooth them down first."
Lily wagged her tail. Instead of exploring her theory about the "advantages" of having a big tail, she ran into the cavern and observed the roots closely.
"Why aren't therootsheremoving?" Hao Ren was seriously thinking about this problem. He looked at Vivian and asked, "Are you sure this is the same thing you encountered last night? Is it possible that what you encountered last night was not a root?"
"It was one of these things." Vivian was very sure of it. She took out the fragment samples she collected and said, "You can compare them."
After their comparison, the result was unequivocal. These huge roots were the tentacles that fought with Battie and the husky for 300 rounds the previous night. However, the roots inside the cave clearly had a different function. They were not moving.
"The life forms of the Gnarled Grove have transcended the general sense of the plant." They strolled gingerly through the cavern covered in roots.Vivian walked and thoughtfully analysed everything at the same time. She said, "The roots are probably divided into many kinds. Some are used for exploration, some for absorbing nutrients, and some for fighting. The one I encountered with Doggie last night was probably in charge of exploration."
"You've already encountered these roots?" Big Beardy asked. He just realised what Vivian meant.
Hao Ren then told them about the information they had discovered the night before. At that moment, they had only told Ophra about it. However, compared to Ophra, the four ascetics were almost like one of them so of course, they had to tell them.
"A cult!?"The four ascetics had a stronger reaction when they heard the word "cult". The older nun even gritted her teeth and asked, "They denigrated the teachings of the goddess, and even created a false god!?"
"And a fool can easily see that it's a demon." Hao Ren said as he spread his hands, "We can't let those dangerous people go on. The giant brain they summoned is extremely dangerous, and the whole ritual is insane. I'll take care of it."
Elson glanced at Hao Ren and thought that his last sentence was a little exaggerated. How could the chief of an ordinary mercenary group say that he wanted to be in charge of heretics in front of the four masters? Nonetheless, the four ascetics did not think so. They knew Hao Ren's real identity so, they just nodded lightly, and Big Beardy said, "That's good. We're glad that you want to help us. But, it's better to let us solve it. This is our problem here."
He deliberately emphasized the words "our" and "here" in his tone. Even if he had been forced to leave The Plane of Dreams just like Becky, deep down in his heart, this world was still his home.
"Of course. We have reported this to Marshal Ophra and soon, the bishop will know of it as well. Then, there should be a massive manhunt because of this cult. The rituals of the cult are brutal. They need a lot of flesh and blood, and they also summon monsters. As long as the search team hunts for them carefully, they will not be difficult to find."
Big Beardy nodded. Suddenly, he began to look worried and said, "I just didn't expect there to be corrupt men among the Royal Knights of the Kingdom and within the Church... The degeneration is shocking. I wonder how long they have been secretly developing it. I'm afraid Bishop Gelton has to take great responsibility for this."
As Hao Ren was not familiar with Gelton, he had no comments and just kept walking.
At the same time, he asked the MDT telepathically, "Where are we now?"
The Data Terminal immediately sent a picture to Hao Ren's mind and said, "We just left the Blood Lake's range. We have not entered the Gnarled Grove's area. The roots we encountered are only a small part that spread out from the Gnarled Grove. I just increased my power and scanned our surroundings. I've found that more roots are directly spreading to the depths of the lake."
The real huge part of the Gnarled Grove was below the ground. Its body had already gone deep into the Blood Lake. Hao Ren could also completely affirm that there had to be a similar "root cavern" under Dragonspine Ridge.
If the opportunity arises, maybe, he could explore Dragonspine Ridge through this channel...
Hao Ren was deep in thought so, he allowed the Data Terminal to record the spatial coordinates of the cavern.
The old werewolf had maintained a high degree of vigilance after he entered the giant cavern. Whether as a former mercenary or as a soldier, he had the most malicious opinions of any strange place. "It's said that a group of dwarf miners dug too deep into the mountains and accidentally dug up a root of the Gnarled Grove. They all ended up going crazy. According to the speculation of this lady from the Blood Clan, these roots have a wide variety of functions. We must be careful of roots that can release neurotoxins or roots that are able to mentally attack their enemies."
The female members of the team are being cautious of the tentacles , Hao Ren thought. But, he wondered if these tough girls were really attacked, because the tentacles were the ones who should be afraid... Even the little mermaid, who was sleeping in the Dimensional Pocket was not necessarily afraid of these roots. Lil Pea would definitely take this place for a tasty and delicious fairytale fortress, similar to a candy house...
Hao Ren's mind wandered as he walked on. A strange sensation suddenly struck as he was about to leave the cave occupied by giant roots. It made him shiver all over.
It felt like an invisible spy coming from all directions, with countless eyes staring at him; fleeting but, extremely clear.
Hao Ren was horrified and looked around. He still remembered how he felt when he first walked into the Gnarled Grove.
Was it the same feeling? Were the roots capable of thought?