Creeping across many of the rocks were thick, hardy vines.
"Are these vines geno plants, by any chance?" Han Sen asked Ling Mei'er, pointing at the vine. The vines looked familiar to him.
The vines were not strong like the Aqua Vine, and more than anything, they almost looked like the ordinary, garden variety.
"This is the Underworld's Holy Vine. They support the entire world; we down here are its protectors. When we finally acquire a gemstone geno core, we are allowed to return to Dark Spirit Shelter. That is the place that houses the primary vine," Ling Mei'er explained.
"Can the Holy Vines produce fruit, and if so, are they beneficial?" Han Sen asked with much curiosity.
Ling Mei'er smiled and said, "It can produce fruit, yes. But the elder says it has only ever produced one. As for when it next might mature, none can tell. The elder never leaves the shelter due to the terms of the Hundred Tribe Deal, but he also remains there to safeguard the vine."
"If your elder wants to protect it that much, it must be something quite powerful," Han Sen said.
Ling Mei'er receded into thought for a moment, before saying, "There is one fruit currently on the vine, but it has yet to mature. He hasn't told me what it does, but I recall when I was small, he let me sit next to it and touch it. I don't remember it being anything particularly special."
Ling Mei'er described the fruit's shape and size and then said, "But I'm not sure how all the vines can only produce one small fruit like that."
Han Sen was shocked to hear Ling Mei'er describe it, because he realized she was talking about a gourd. And learning this, it was like a lightning bolt struck his brain. He knew now why the vine looked so familiar to him.
The vines that gave birth to Bao'er looked exactly like this. The only difference was that the vines he had seen long ago were rotten, and that's why his mind didn't immediately make the connection.
After hearing what she had to say, he realized now that the Holy Vine was what those vines would have looked like if they weren't all dried out.
Han Sen drew the shape of a gourd on the ground and asked, "Did the fruit look like this?"
"Yes; have you seen it before?" Ling Mei'er patted her own head then, and went on to say, "Wait, you've only just been born. There's no way you've seen it before."
Han Sen was shocked. The gourd he drew was exactly the same one that Bao'er came out of. Did that mean Bao'er would have a connection to the Holy Vine?
Han Sen had mulled this over a lot in the past, and he was always interested in learning more about where Bao'er came from. Only humans or creatures with human blood could travel between the sanctuaries and the Alliance.
Bao'er was from the gourd, so it was unlikely she had human genes. But then again, if that was so, how was she able to travel between the two?
If Han Sen was able to find out more about the Holy Vine, there was a chance he could discover more about Bao'er's origins.
But Ling Mei'er's knowledge of the vine was lacking, and it was highly likely only the elder knew much about it.
Han Sen really wanted to examine the Holy Fruit now, to see whether or not it was Bao'er's gourd. But Ling Mei'er required a gemstone geno core before she would be allowed to return to the shelter.
Ling Mei'er was not weak, but she was young and had not yet grown up. Without Snake King, she might have already been killed. It was difficult to tell when she'd earn a gemstone geno core.
"After taking this shelter, I will bring Bao'er and let her take a look at the vine." Han Sen decided to help Ling Mei'er take over a gold shelter.
Shelters of the Underworld were hewn from the stone of the realm itself. They came before a stone gate, which Han Sen inspected keenly.
There was a lock on it that had not yet been opened. It was unclaimed.
The black and white Snake King had found this shelter before, but he was prohibited from helping Ling Mei'er take it down.
Observing the large construct, Han Sen noticed the presence of many creepy mask symbols adorning the stonework. Usually, the symbols that adorned the gate of a shelter were in some way connected to the shelter's power. What this indicated, however, Han Sen could not quite tell.
Judging from the size of the gate, Han Sen did not believe the shelter would be particularly big. It was either a silver or gold shelter.
"This is it." Han Sen broke the lock and opened her up.
Han Sen and Ling Mei'er entered the lobby of that place, while the Snake King stayed behind.
"Can we really take this place for ourselves?" Ling Mei'er looked uneasy and unsure.
The lobby was host to a stone table and a number of stone chairs. On the furthest wall from them, there was a large depiction of a gold mask. The mask was the same as what he had seen on the gate to the shelter, but this work was far prettier than the cruder exhibits outside.
Before they approached it, however, the gold mask suddenly came to life and raced towards them.
They weren't given much of a chance to retrieve their geno cores to respond to the threat, and what was coming to them looked like a gold geno core. Swiftly, Han Sen responded by firing a coin at it.
The coin planted itself firmly on the gold mask's forehead, but it did not stop the mask as it came right for Han Sen.
Han Sen frowned. The single coin could have been too weak, so he then fired a barrage of coins at it.
Han Sen and Ling Mei'er were on their way to a gold shelter. The Underworld was a sprawling labyrinth that featured all sorts of places.