[Beep-beep-beep. Beep-beep-beep. Unable to assess power index. Power fluctuations distorted and masked. Incapable of gathering information. Your current level is insufficient. Power assessment systems must be upgraded.]
Yang Qi knew that this would be a desperate battle.
Empress Joyflower was so strong that he couldn’t get a read on her, which meant he had no idea of the true limits of her power. It was the first time someone had energy arts capable of blocking his power assessment systems. Not even Profound Valor had been able to do such a thing.
“Yang Qi,” Empress Joyflower said, “considering that you’re a Fateless One, and you oppose Proud Heaven, why not join me? Be my consort and practice dual cultivation with me. Your daoist techniques and energy arts will advance to a higher level, and besides, no one knows Proud Heaven’s weak spots like I do. What do you say?”
“Practice dual cultivation with you? Be your consort?” Yang Qi burst out laughing. “How about instead, you be my slave girl? Incidentally, what makes you think I need information from you about Proud Heaven’s weaknesses? You think that when I attack him I'm going to focus on his weaknesses? That’s a joke if I ever heard one. No, I'm going to crush him with overwhelming force.”
Although Yang Qi was casually bantering, he was simultaneously keeping a close eye on Empress Joyflower’s every move. Both of them knew that, despite their seemingly nonchalant conversation, they were each ready to start fighting at a moment's notice.
“Ignoramus,” Empress Joyflower said, shaking her head. “Given the level of your cultivation base, Yang Qi, it’s madness for you to even think about fighting Proud Heaven. If he comes to our world looking for you, your best option is to simply vanish, don’t you know that?”
“Empress,” Leaf Dao-Denier shrieked, “what's the point of even talking with him? Hurry and kill him! Or better yet, capture him and hand him over to me! He plotted against me and even infected me with that devil embryo! I won’t rest at ease until I personally put him to death and—”
In the middle of his little speech, Leaf Dao-Denier suddenly shrieked and toppled head over heels, having been smacked right across the side of the face. Not by Yang Qi, but by Empress Joyflower!
Slamming onto the ground, he placed his hand onto his cheek and looked over at the empress, confusion in his eyes. “This... Empress, what are you doing? Why did you just hit me?”
“Because you’re scum, Leaf Dao-Denier,” she replied in a voice that was both cold, and at the same time, seemingly amused. “I only favored you because you have the constitutions of an Eternal One and a Fortuned One. Did you really think I was unaware of your hidden agenda? And you’re still trying to manipulate me even now? I dominated the Ancient Road to the Gods for hundreds of millions of years, and you think I would be fooled by someone like you? I pampered you because I was sick of all the other consorts, and you were different. You were ambitious, and even dared to plot against me. Although it was refreshing at first, I've already moved on. I’ve found a more interesting person to be my consort. Yang Qi. And that means, Leaf Dao-Denier, that you’re out. Expelled.”
Empress Joyflower hardly seemed to think of Leaf Dao-Denier as being a person, treating him like a toy instead. Now that Yang Qi had piqued her interest, Leaf Dao-Denier had lost any value to her.
“You’re not worth anything to me anymore, except perhaps for your flesh and blood.” Empress Joyflower’s hand suddenly shot out from within the blood-red sleeve of her garment. Her fingernails were seven inches long and covered with flowing magical symbols, making her hand seem like the claw of a ghost.
Red and green blood began spurting out of Leaf Dao-Denier. Red represented the part of him that was an Eternal One, whereas the green, which represented nature, came from the part that was a Fortuned One. 
Meanwhile, Yang Qi flicked his finger, and an energy stream filled with pure grief shot out. Unexpectedly, he was drawing on the godhood in the Engine of the One God, the energy that came from the liquid god-king’s tear. Using that energy to power the Endless Mourning Finger Technique, plus the innate qualities of the Engine of the One God, led to spectacular results. 
In the blink of an eye, the finger technique closed in on Empress Joyflower’s forehead, locking on to her soul and making it impossible for her nascent divinity to evade the blow.
“Hmm?” Empress Joyflower was visibly stunned. Never would she have guessed that Yang Qi was this strong. Furthermore, not even she, in her entire lifetime of cultivation, had succeeded at assimilating the energy of the Passionless God-King, yet here it was right in front of her.
A sigil appeared on her palm, bearing the shape of the petal of a peach flower. It floated up, seemingly transient and illusory, and shot to meet the finger attack. They collided, and the flower petal began dissolving into rain.
“Strength God Ability!”
Yang Qi unleashed a palm attack. This time, it was something from the Secret-Ensconcing All-World Anything-Everything Fundamental-Law Magic.
A hundred drops of liquid within the Engine of the One God evaporated, transforming into a massive burst of power that backed the move. The palm thrummed with dhāraṇī incantations and countless golden vajras, like the eternal sands of the universe. Clearly, this palm contained power that was equivalent to someone with an index of three thousand or higher.
It caused Empress Joyflower’s garments to violently ripple, revealing more of her facial features. She was pure but seductive, capable but apathetic, elegant but fashionable, and almost like a mixture of both past and future. In fact, upon catching sight of her face, Yang Qi was nearly struck senseless, never having imagined that a woman as beautiful as this could exist.
Thankfully, he had a very strong mind. After all, he had subjugated nearly a billion knowledge-devils and sustained repeated assaults by the will of the Vajra Māyādevī.
Drawing even more deeply on his energy arts, he pressed the attack with full ferocity.
In response, Empress Joyflower was forced to extend her own palm in an attack filled with innumerable soft and gentle transformations.
“Myriad Flowers Tribulation!”
The two palms met, and the force of Yang Qi’s attack was vanquished. An ordinary expert with a power index of three thousand who was struck by Empress Joyflower’s palm like this would have been defeated. Thankfully, Yang Qi had the Engine of the One God, filled with tens of thousands of drops of liquid from the god-king’s tear. By burning a hundred of those drops to power his palm, he could withstand the force of two or three hundred palm strikes like the one he had just received.
If he were able to burn two hundred drops of liquid into his palm, he would have been strong enough to fight back and instantly crush Empress Joyflower to a pulp. Unfortunately, neither his meridians nor his fleshly body were strong enough to sustain that level of power.
Not even an ordinary god could do that.
“Die!” he shouted, drawing on all of the power of his fleshly body to unleash an attack. At the same time, he used the Engine of the One God to burn three separate batches of a hundred drops of liquid. In other words, he was preparing three palm stances. He started with the Secret-Ensconcing All-World Anything-Everything Fundamental-Law Magic in his left palm and the Strength of the Hell-Crushing Godmammoth in his right. It was a combination of hard and soft that led to majestic, devastating godpower.
He unleashed a dozen or so blows all in a row, causing Empress Joyflower to grow more and more shocked. It really was completely unexpected to her that Yang Qi would be this powerful. Not only could he stand up to her, but he was also capable of fighting evenly with her.
After the succession of roughly ten palm strikes, Yang Qi let out a shout, switching from the Secret-Ensconcing All-World Anything-Everything Fundamental-Law Magic to the Seventy-Two Monarchs Energy Art, which he combined with the Strength of the Hell-Crushing Godmammoth. This had been his plan all along. He had hoped to get his opponent used to one technique, then switch to something even more powerful, a mix of techniques that could end the heavens and crush the earth.
In that moment, Empress Joyflower was suddenly forced backward a pace, and had no choice but to rein her energy in.
Breathing a sigh of relief, Yang Qi’s hand formed a claw and launched another art from the seventy-two monarchs, King Hell-Freezer’s deadly Hell-Freezing God Claw. Reaching out, he grabbed Leaf Dao-Denier and suddenly shot backward like a spinning top.
Unexpectedly, he was actually rescuing Leaf Dao-Denier from Empress Joyflower.
The more than ten sect leaders all unleashed their magical treasures and secret techniques to power the spell formation they had set up to trap Empress Joyflower.
Of course, they were blown away by the fighting prowess Yang Qi displayed in his clash with her. He had even managed to single-handedly snatch Leaf Dao-Denier. However, despite having exchanged a few dozen blows and managing to remain unscathed, they could tell that Yang Qi was like a hare evading a hawk. He was a luminary of the martial path, but at the same time, was in extreme danger.
As of this moment, Yang Qi was in retreat. Truth be told, he was completely taken aback by how things were playing out. The truth was that he had not been fighting to his full potential. If he wanted, he could unleash the Hand of the One God three hundred and fifty times at this level of power. Up to this point, he had only unleashed about thirty palm strikes. After all, if the power of the god-king’s tear that he had collected ran out, he definitely wouldn’t be a match for Empress Joyflower.
Yet she hardly seemed to be spending any effort at all to block the blows backed by the Engine of the One God, which was spine-tinglingly terrifying to Yang Qi. Perhaps if he had a lot more godhood, he could press the fight, but right now he was limited to only a few hundred blows. And that wouldn't be enough to win.
In fact, he stood a good chance of ending up dead.
Yang Qi had lost confidence in the trap he had set, and was convinced that he and his allies couldn't kill Empress Joyflower. At least not this time.
“Not a bad palm technique,” Empress Joyflower said. “You have the Seventy-Two Monarchs Energy Art. You know, I have many god items from the seventy-two monarchs, and if you become my consort I’ll give them to you as a reward.”