Han Sen thought the island would be something of an unspoiled paradise, like the Garden of Eden. He envisioned it to be a place of pure splendor and untouched beauty, but that image was quickly scorched away when his eyes finally caught sight of their destination.
The trees were little more than naked sticks, zig-zagging from the ground without their leaves, which lay scattered on the ground, black and dead. The landscape itself looked as if it had been wholly composed of mud, where grass was afraid of growing.
It was like a vulgar swampland, laden with itchy ditches and bogs that were strewn with rotten corpses.
Han Sen’s mind found it difficult to comprehend how a holy fruit could grow in such a place, especially one which had such sensitive and pure requirements for successful collection.
Lotus Empress led Han Sen to that wretched abode as if nothing was amiss.
Before long, they came across a tree that was standing short at a height of around three feet. The tree was growing out of that wet muddy ground, yet strangely, its roots were sparkling clean.
In the midst of that ugly, wet dump, the tree was emitting a fragrance that was actually quite pleasant. It was a strange and garish contrast to the landscape that now encompassed them, but the smell was so sweet that, if you closed your eyes, you could almost forget you were knee-deep in mud.
“This is the No Dirt Fruit,” Lotus Empress said, with a soft gesture towards the tree.
Before approaching it, Han Sen looked at a neighboring tree and squinted. Then, he quickly pulled her back and away from it.
“Does the sanctuary’s number one jester need to play assassin to get the drop on his enemies?” Han Sen said loudly, for someone unseen to hear.
Lotus Empress was startled by his words, and she turned to where Han Sen looked. There, as if out of nowhere, No God Emperor was standing.
No God Emperor knew she would go there to collect the fruit, and that was why he had come. He had been waiting for their arrival. It was a risky place to have a confrontation. They were near the Endless Sea, and leaping about could have them twisting and turning through indecisive gravitational pulls.
Furthermore, there was no guarantee they could beat No God Emperor, even if they fought him on a place with proper footing.
Han Sen could not summon a demi-god there, either. The conditions of their encounter now were poor, and there wasn’t much leeway to navigate away from having one last decisive brawl with the spirit that seemed to enjoy hounding them.
No God Emperor’s voice boomed when he spoke. “How it comes about means nothing. Death is death, its deliverance uncaring.”
“You think you can kill us?” Han Sen smirked.
“I know I can. I know I will. Night Empress is no longer around to help you this time, boy.” No God Emperor walked forward with his black sword raised, ready to strike.
He didn’t walk fast, just slow and steady. He was incredibly intimidating, and he knew it. He lowered the sword and pointed it towards Han Sen, the person he most despised.
That was his target, there was no doubt about it. He didn’t even care to grace Lotus Empress with a glance.
“I didn’t need to summon her to kill you; I just thought it’d be nice to see the old lady.” As Han Sen entertained No God, he passed Bao’er over to Lotus Empress. Then, he started to glow and mask his lifeforce.
“Let’s kill him together.” Lotus Empress held the Night Gem in her hand.
“That’s okay. Look after Bao’er and the professor; I got this,” Han Sen said.
No God Emperor did not wait any longer. He swung his sword in a sudden dash towards Han Sen, with a frightening amount of power.
Han Sen dodged it with simple grace. The sword went by him, shattering a decayed skeleton that had been pinned to a tree behind him.
The evasion was perfectly executed, and it made No God stutter for a moment. He had expected to kill Han Sen then and there, and he wasn’t sure if his human nemesis had escaped his wrathful strike through actual talent or dumb luck.
The next second, he slashed towards him again.
Han Sen dodged the attack, only to be greeted by another sudden swing. Successfully, Han Sen dodged that and the next few that came in quick succession. The attacks could hardly even brush his clothes.
Lotus Empress was surprised, for dodging No God Emperor’s attacks was unheard of. She knew for a fact she’d have been cut down with the first strike.
Han Sen was actually quite merry now. After he had opened his tenth gene lock, he stood a chance in his battle with the likes of No God Emperor.
Of course, No God Emperor did not think highly of his opponent. He brushed Han Sen’s newfound power off as weak, and simple fuel for cowardice, in that it allowed Han Sen to run away and little more.
There were others who could see through No God Emperor’s attacks, but his focus was never on the power they held.
No God Emperor raised up his sword and began to brew a storm of power, like the rumbling of a volcano nearing eruption. As this was occurring, Han Sen noticed a shadow rise up behind No God Emperor like a demon.
Lotus Empress had taken Fish King, Bao’er, and Bai Yishan off the island. Now, she stood solemnly, clutching her Night Gem.
“Is he strong?” Bai Yishan asked.
Lotus Empress responded by saying, “He is the Son of God that ranked first in Divinity’s Bout.”
Bai Yishan was flabbergasted, exclaiming, “Whoa! That means he’s the strongest spirit in the entirety of the Third God’s Sanctuary! Will Han Sen be alright competing against him?”
“I’m not sure if he’s the strongest,” Lotus Empress said, before going on to explain, “And Han Sen has only just opened his tenth gene lock. Honestly? I don’t know.”
Bai Yishan looked nervous, but that was when Bao’er interrupted to say something a bit more comforting. She said, “Dad will win.”
They thought Bao’er was just like a naive child, unable to understand the stakes and powers at play.
Han Sen, back on the battlefield, clutched Taia and the Phoenix Sword. He was really looking forward to stress-testing his engines and seeing what he could do with his Jadeskin that had ten gene locks open.
The spirit and the human, each clutching their favorite weapons, ran into each other.
They did not do so with blistering speed, but there was a gravitas to their battle that was rarely felt. This was a duel of tremendous significance, and it felt like the sky was about to collapse.
Behind No God Emperor, there was a demon-like shadow. It bore talons that swung towards Han Sen.