Mei’s small hands were reaching up with alarming speed towards his neck when Lineir’s eyes opened and he found himself gagging on lingering stomach acid as his torn body flailed about. “Owwww…I’m alive. There’s even light in the stomach of the False Water Serpent, what the hell happened!” So saying, he also chuckled, it was a good thing he woke up or he might have died. “I’m probably the only person ever to be glad to wake up inside the stomach of a water serpent.” Painfully, he stood up on the squishy belly tissue.
“This is freaking disgusting!” Lineir complained. He half expected Mei to call him out for complaining, but she was definitely mad at him and his thoughts were the only ones in his head. “Come on, I was only trying to comfort you, it was an instinct! Mei-Mei you should be glad to have such a caring disciple, don’t be angry.” it was useless though, all he got was silence. Shrugging with a wince, his burns were amazingly almost all healed, he made his way to one of the gleaming streams of light. Whatever had happened, it had definitely killed the False Water Serpent, not only was the head ripped clean off, leaving a large gaping hole at the top of the stomach, the whole body had been ripped around. With a shudder, Lineir hopped out of the hole onto a stony floor. The body was too torn up, it could collapse at any moment and he doubted he’d survive that, forbidden techniques or not.
The rocky floors were a soothing cold on his burned feet as they slapped on the hard surface. His clothes had been completely eaten away by acid in some places, it was amazing that he hadn’t been digested. “If my clothes are like this… then how tough is my body to have survived and to have actually healed once the stomach acids had drained out? What happened… I remember a roar… and then getting smacked around. I swore for a moment the red elemental energy was finally fusing. I must have imagined it…” He quickly circulated the energy in his Second Heart and ascertained that indeed, the only energies inside were clearly lightning and darkness. “Where am I?”
In front of him the setting sun was shining, and he realized he was on the precipice of a sheer cliff. The place he had come was a vast cavernous cave in which the headless body of the False Water Serpent lay, the incoming light illuminating terrifying wounds all along its length. Mei still refused to say anything and Lineir panicked for a moment. The sword! Where was the sword which was Mei’s Final Heart. He frantically looked around and finally a familiar irate and tart voice came into his mind, “Oh, finally looking for me? You won’t be able to find me, I already turned back into liquid form and am currently inside your heart again. Until you’ve properly trained yourself you can keep your hands off of me!” She lapsed back into silence and Lineir sighed. “This is definitely not me fault, I told you it was a reaction!”
Stomping his way back to the corpse, he tried to figure out what could have caused all this to happen. The serpent had leapt out of the lake, that much was clear, it was falling after Lineir had entered the belly of the beast, but before it landed, it stopped. Something must have caught it. For something to have caught it however, it must have been massive. Furthermore, it must have been able to fly. Lineir froze, “Those goats…we never found any tracks. Whatever killed them was either really small… or it killed them from the sky!” He whipped his head from the corpse lying in the cave back outside to the bright sky and scanned the horizon furiously. Whatever had done this could be flying out there right now. Suddenly, a loud noise came from behind the corpse of the False Water Serpent.
Lineir almost jumped off the edge of the cliff before he realized that whatever had done this couldn’t possibly fit behind the corpse. The cave was too small. “There’s no way… it’s just the wind. I need to find a way out of here before whatever did this comes back for the night!”
The long dragging hiss came again! Lineir became a statue as he listened intently, trying to figure it out. “Whatever it is can’t be that large… there’s no room” He started taking small steps, quietly making his way around the corpse. Eventually, he found his way around and saw… Nothing! There was nothing behind the corpse. But where the hell was the sound coming from then?
Lineir paled. The sound had come from behind him. Whirling around, his bone scythes came out to find… just the scaly hide of the dead False Water Serpent, riddled with gaping holes. “There’s nothing here, the False Water Serpent is clearly dead. What is making that noise!” Frustrated, he delivered a thunderous kick to the dead serpent’s hide. “This is your fault!” he shouted aloud. “Why’d you have to try and eat me huh? I was just trying to hunt a first tier magical beast and you had to go and eat me alive! That hurt!” He slashed the hide with his scythes, but it was to little effect, even dead the scales were hard as rock.
CLANG! The bone blades bounced off, but they made a loud noise. At the same time, the hissing came again only to cut off abruptly.
SSSSShhhhhssssssss….hhhaaaaah!?? Lineir unable to tell where the noise was coming from backed up from the corpse and crouched next to the wall, ready for anything. Strange popping noises appeared, and the corpse began to shift and wriggle as if something was inside it.
“Mei, please help me out, I could really use a sword right now!” As Lineir entered legitimate danger, black liquid quickly flowed out in small streams and the sword appeared once again in his hands. "I hope whatever it is eats you!" No advice came from Mei, though it was clear from her actions that she wasn't angry enough to let him fight weaponless. Lineir however already had his own plan of action. Inching on tip toe, he made his way with utmost care around the corpse. If he could just get to the entrance of the cave, he might be able to climb out! While it was a steep and sheer cliff, with his bone scythes to stab into the rock, let alone Mei, and his increased endurance, he felt with reasonable confidence that he wouldn't fall to his death. "Even if I fall... it's still better than getting eaten right?"
As he had almost made it past the corpse, he was at the gaping neck which had been torn open, the corpse suddenly rippled violently from a great force.
SQUELCH, SQUELCH, BOOM!
Chapter 27- Talon
Sorry forums is not being forgiving with the formatting and I had to go pick someone up from the airport. Anyways, enjoy.
Lineir terrified made to flee from the noise, but froze as a strange rippling growl echoed throughout the chamber.
popoy16 said:the large text is a bit of an eyesore when reading in my phone. is it possible to reduce the text size? i want to try reading this but the format just puts me off.
the large text is a bit of an eyesore when reading in my phone. is it possible to reduce the text size? i want to try reading this but the format just puts me off.
Mt Alternity said: popoy16 said:the large text is a bit of an eyesore when reading in my phone. is it possible to reduce the text size? i want to try reading this but the format just puts me off.
Sorry I've been worried about people not being able to read it because it was too small (I use a decent sized comp monitor) I've downgraded to font 3 in the forums writer, let me know if that doesn't work for you. I'm moving in this weekend and stuff, but should have some time later tonight to format if there's a problem.
Chapter 29- A Way In
Hatcha! Still alive, managed to write a little on the side... Had to write this on a mac and email it to myself and then c and p it in so yea... formatting is terrible. Sorry for the wait.
Darkness had truly fallen, the twinges of red in the sky had slipped below the event horizon leaving only the night. From this point out, Lineir trekked carefully, though he was actually cultivating. Mei was subconsciously guiding his body, he simply followed as he gleaned ever deeper insights into his inner self. It quickly became apparent that inside of him, compared to how he had been before undergoing a journey through the False Water God’s stomach, his Second Heart had grown. The darkness and lightning aspects were deeper and richer in color, and the spinning tug was growing ever stronger. Lineir had grown far more attuned to himself as well. He could almost feel the base energies permeating the air being drawn to him. His six sense was even sharper than before. Twice, he suddenly felt rather than saw some threat just beyond the trees, and quickly turned the other way. The world left an imprint on his senses which he could feel more intimately and as instinctively as the strongest touch. Even Mei was astounded, “How did you know to avoid the Three Tailed Howling Wolf Pack? Their killing intent was well disguised, and their physical camouflage was without flaw.” Lineir simply chuckled under his breath as he passed by the hidden beasts. “I’m not sure, but I can feel their killing intent as easily as I hear your voice, I was hoping you could explain it to me master.” Mei was speechless, it was unheard of even in her lands for someone so young and weak in cultivation to be so attuned to killing intent. She could only speculate, “I haven’t heard of this before, I think… it may have something to do with the Nine Paths of Asura. I suspect that this may be one of the hidden benefits of this technique. Be happy, if this really is something to do with this, that means that you fit the requirements to gain some benefits. Perhaps my cultivation wasn’t wasted on you after all!” Clearly, Mei was still sore about losing out on her accumulated energy that time, and she really hoped that Lineir could fulfill her expectations. In time, Lineir stealthily managed to follow several minor tributaries to the major rivers. He quickly found himself at the same shores, which he had been plucked from earlier. From here, he gained his bearings. He set out a new course. “It’s time to go to Dracherus. I have some debts to settle.” A few days passed by without incident. During which, Lineir hunted a few weak first tier beasts for their cores and materials, but mostly continued in as straight a line as possible out of the wilderness. By now, his reputation out to have faded, and he shouldn’t have to worry about pursuers from Brackenrock or those bandits. As he neared the city, he more frequently began to encounter other travelers. He gave them a wild berth, with his sharp senses, and Mei’s vigilant watch over him, he could easily choose whether or not to meet another traveler before they actually came into sight. For now, until he knew more, he deemed it prudent to avoid all contact. At the gates, Lineir tensed, ready to be called out, but Dracherus was a far larger city than Brackenrock, and the traffic flow was far too wide for individuals to be casually monitored. He easily entered the city, and even didn’t have to pay a fee. This city had a special system, unlike most, where merchants would have to pay taxes to the treasury based on how much they sold. This was in contrast to most cities which simply charged a flat tariff for entering. While the city missed out on travelers who were only passing through and did not buy anything, it gained more taxes from the merchant’s side as when they sold more, the city gained more. Thus more customers would enter the city since there was no fee, and more sales were potentially made leading to more revenue. Of course, this was just the reasoning of this particular city. Most adhered to a standard entrance fee, and it could be said that this was a bit unusual. For Lineir though, entering the city without anyone getting a good look at his face was quite nice. In ragged half burned clothes, he quickly searched for somewhere to sell his loot. At the moment, he was penniless and could only hope to sell some magical beast materials so he might be able to buy some new cloths. Having entered from the side which bordered the wilderness entrance, markets were the first thing to catch the eye. Merchants and vendors of all sorts lined the streets and shouted out orders or tried to sell survival goods. The first wanted to purchase raw materials that mercenaries and adventurers brought in at cheap prices for export, and the latter was generally hoping to resupply those leaving the city to go and hunt. “Buying the hides and claws of Two Tailed Marsh Foxes, sixty coppers a hide!” “Selling red elixirs of life and black elixirs of death, don’t leave the city without restocking, prices negotiable!” And so on, it was clear that this market was incredibly varied, and was the largest for general goods as it was closest to the wilderness. Lineir walked around and quickly found people who were looking for what he had, which was at this point mostly smaller internal parts of magical beasts, similar to the handy canteen he had made from the goat. Unfortunately, his tumbling affair had destroyed his clothing and most of his loot had been lost. Luckily, the most valuable loot was in the smaller things, for instance some of the larger teeth from the worm he had slain actually managed to gain him a silver a piece! This was equal to many hides that were much larger, and it became apparent that tiered magical beast materials sold for much higher amounts than more mundane goods. Immediately, Lineir used a silver to purchase a new set of clothes to replace his rags, several merchants had been yelling at him to try out their outfits this whole time, and he was glad to finally get a change. Having sold what little he had, he quickly left the market and tried to find a place to stay for the night. “SIX SILVERS!” Lineir’s cry in his mind made Mei laugh, “I told you, cities are places for those with money. For someone like you, they are simply a good way to empty your wallet. You better pay though, this is the sixth inn you’ve tried, and you’re not likely to get any cheaper than this. The food looks like a child prepared it. Tut tut” At that moment, a child ran out from the kitchen, balancing three plates and Mei stopped speaking. This place was so cheap they were employing child labor! The inn owner simply stared at Lineir as if to say, “What?” Letting younger children work in this service industry could be considered a good thing. Lineir himself knew this, as his sister had been working to support him and herself for a long time, but still… the child in front couldn’t have been more than five years old, this was pushing it. Lineir quickly shook his head and handed him the coins, leaving him with precious little to show for his life and death experience in the wilderness. “Sigh, I guess the true value of spending time in the wilderness is the experience and gains in cultivation. I’m certainly not going to become rich like this…” After a bath, Lineir could finally say he felt human again. He went down, and hung out by himself in a corner of the room. His goal was to find out more about this city, and its officials. He still owed a debt to the kind middle aged man who had shielded him with his own body. Lineir was determined to repay his kindness this time around. He needed to find a way to talk to the royal family. After he had spent half the night though, he was frustrated and could only shrug. “All night, I’ve been listening, but I can’t think of a way to meet the royal family! I don’t even have more than ten silvers on me, I couldn’t even bribe my way there." However, at that moment, one of the tables near the door caught his attention. The speakers were two gruff men, with weathered faces beaten by the elements into old age, "Ahhhhh the ale in this place hits the spot. Taste's worse than your wife's cooking! But it's three times as cheap!" A loud smack resounded as the other man landed one in the speaker's gut. "AKKKHHH That hurt mate, you better be saving that for the tournament, I hear the king himself will be attending, he'll make you a knight with that kind of strength."
Chapter 30 No Longer So Soft...
Hey, sorry guys, irregular posts suck I know, but until I get my resume and cover letter sorted out and my classes fixed up, irregular they shall be. But I caught a coupla hours to write today so here's a fat cat for ya.
Lineir’s ears were perked up like a cat’s, finally an opportunity
“Hrmph, you’d better hope you don’t draw me as your opponent, I won’t hold back!” The men both went back upstairs early, leaving half their tankards of ale untouched. Clearly, they actually wanted to have an early night. Lineir sighed. To think, after all night, that was the end of his free information.
“Cities really are money sinks!” He walked up to the counter and addressed the bartender, “So about those two fellows who just left.” The bartender smirked as he glanced over at the table Lineir was indicating and the unfinished ale and scraps. He had a patchy mottled face, and was the owner of the inn who had taken Lineir’s coin earlier. “Leftovers go to my hogs kid. Don’t care if you’re starving, you gotta buy your own food.”
Lineir quickly realized that the man thought he was begging for scraps. Insulted he made his actual purpose known,
“I’m not interested in your pig’s food, look, I want to know more about what they were talking about, a tournament? It sounds like something worth watching.” The innkeeper smiled. He knew an opportunity when he saw one, and this kind of thing happened on a frequent basis. He pursed his lips and tapped on the counter. Lineir, expecting this by now, he had quickly learned that nothing was free in the city, slid over a copper. The innskeeper smiled wider and tapped three more times. “Damnit I gave in too quick, he knows I’m interested.” He slid over three more and said,
“Alright, I’m sure anyone could tell me about this. Tell me what you know already or I’ll ask someone else.” The bartender swept the coppers under the counter into a pocket somewhere and began to speak,
“Yea kid, it’s kind of obvious your new. Anyone on the street could tell you about the royal tournament, its been posted for months now. Word to the wise, best to ask around first before you come to an information dealer, regular people don’t charge for gossip. But hey, more for me.” Lineir signaled to get on with it.
“All right, the king of Dracherus has proclaimed a great tournament which just so happens to begin tomorrow. The winner will receive a nice sack of gold, recognition, and a fourth tier magical beast’s core. In fact, anyone who shows themselves well may be eligible for knighthood from the king himself, or various other nobles attending, and may join the private forces of said sponser. Anyone on the street could tell you this. But kid, since you paid me, and I wouldn’t want you to feel cheated, let me tell you a little something else. Between us information brokers, that fourth tier magical beast core, while certainly an item most of us ordinary people couldn’t touch, isn’t normal. Word is, it actually is a core from a Three Headed Hydra! The Three Headed Hydra is a mythical class beast, and thus the core’s value is actually equal to a low fifth tier core. The value of such an item is priceless here, its rarity is such that only a fool would accept gold for it. But there’s more…which I could tell you for a price.” The bartender rapped on the counter once more. Lineir, questioningly took out a single copper. The bartender smiled and shook his head. He rapped again. Mei quickly told Lineir to pay up,
“This man clearly knows something good, whatever the price is, pay it, it’s only money, information on a mythical class beast core is far more important at your level. This could be a huge opportunity for you!” Sighing endlessly Lineir slid one of his last few silver coins to the man. Instantly it too was under the table and the bartender was clearing his throat.
“Thank you, glad to see someone who appreciates good information. The tournament kiddo, if you were thinking of entering, don’t deny it I can see it in your eyes, is rigged. A little kid like you wouldn’t have been able to get past the prelims initially, but, even if by some miracle, your opponents got diarrhea and all left, you might as well give up now. This tournament is in fact a hand-off! The king of Dracherus has been harassed of late by various powers, don’t ask me why I don’t know what they’d want with this city. In order to deal with this, the king has agreed to align himself with the Nero Sect. As such, the winner of the tournament will receive this core, and in fact, the king will present his daughter for marriage to seal the alliance. This tournament is really a public display so that the inner disciples of the Nero Sect can compete to see who will gain the core and marry into royalty. Each inner disciple has assess to martial arts and cultivation methods which a commoner like you can’t even dream of. Save yourself the time and buy a seat in the stands instead of entering, at least you’ll get to see something good instead of spending the day knocked out by some cultivator’s spiritual pressure.”
Lineir thanked the bartender for the information and walked away.
“If you ever need any more information, just come back here, I’m the best dealer around kid. Your silver is safe with me hehehe.” Lineir simply shrugged, while he
had felt great pain inside, the urge to cough up blood at the loss of his precious silver had passed. The information he had gotten was truly more valuable. Mei was ecstatic,
“Kiddo, this is excellent. You absolutely must enter this tournament, even if you lose you will only have gained valuable experience in fighting cultivators. These inner disciples may seem intimidating to ordinary men like that bartender, but I would estimate that this Nero Sect’s disciples absolutely cannot compare to you who has me to teach you. While you should not underestimate them, they have had a lifetime of training, your methods aren’t ordinary like theirs and you can make up for talent and time with unorthodox techniques. It would be good to shake up this place a little, you’ve spent too much time away from civilization. And if you were to win this mythical beast core, I’ll teach you something good as well. Work hard and try not to embarrass me as your teacher.” Lineir quickly headed out to find the tournament registration. Fortunately, it was quite easy, everyone knew that the tournament was to be held at the city training grounds, and in fact, Lineir saw several posters leading the way. Had he been paying attention, rather than rushing to find lodging and change his clothes, he probably would have noticed them earlier.
“Register here, pay the entrance fee and receive your number and you’re good to go kid, enjoy the tournament!” The pale faced soldier took one look at Lineir and snickered, he was clearly expecting Lineir to get beat up. Lineir, paled terribly, and the soldier taking this as fear, actually burst out laughing, “Relax, killing in this tournament is forbidden, and unless some sect cultivator accidentally doesn’t control his force, you won’t die, though you may not be able to walk for some time hahaha!” Little did he know that Lineir, after his time in the wilderness didn’t fear these spoiled inner sect cultivators at all. Rather,
“God**** an entrance fee? Do I need to sell myself on the streets to some old man just to enter this tournament. At this rate, I’m so hungry I probably wouldn’t even care, the pain in my stomach is all I can think about!” In the end, Lineir handed in his last silver to the soldier as his stomach grumbled and registered. “Now I have to win…that sack of gold is ****** mine!”
After spending the night cultivating, Lineir got up incredibly irritated. He hadn’t had enough money for a meal after all these expenses, and elemental energy might keep him from starving to death, but his stomach didn’t really care. It kept groaning all the same. He quickly headed down, and while the bartender wasn’t looking snagged a plate of leftovers at an empty table on the way out. “He took me for all I had…it’s only reasonable that I can at least get something in return. **** his pigs.” Quickly snarfing down the disgusting half eaten loaf of bread, Lineir made his way to the tournament, as he went though, he was shoved aside to the ground. If he wasn’t so distracted by hunger at the moment, he never would have taken the hit, but as it was, he had been intensely avoiding some mysterious liquid on the bread and had lost track of his surroundings.
“Clear the way peasant! The Nero Sect is coming.” Unbelievably, some random guy on the street had shoved him down into the muddy sewage stained street. He wasn’t even a retainer of the Nero Sect, he clearly was just looking to curry favor! Pasting on a sickly sweet grin, the man turned to the grand carriage passing by, “My lords of the Nero Sect, I've helped clear the way of the regular scum so that you might go unimpeded!” A couple of coppers shot out of the driver’s gloved hands, and the man quickly bowed and ran in front to knock aside more people, forgetting all about Lineir in the dirt. “That **** I just bought these clothes yesterday, they’re my only pair!” The old Lineir, the rat of the deadzone wouldn’t have dared do anything. He was too small, and too weak and malnourished to do so. But this Lineir was a cultivator, and he wasn’t so weak anymore. Also…he wasn’t nice. Up ahead, there was an elderly couple in the road. The carriage showed no signs of stopping, and the man was running up clearly intending to shove them out of the way. Disgusted, Lineir instantly arrived behind the man. To any regular person watching it would appear that a great splash of mud came and Lineir suddenly went from behind thirty feet, to at the man’s back in the blink of an eye. With a finger, he prodded the unsuspecting man in the back. Instantly, he tensed up and froze with a face full of pain as a shocking current ran through his body. Lineir put a hand on his back and whispered,
“Here, you want to be an underling for those Nero Sect disciples, then let me help you get underneath them!” With a swift push, Lineir was already walking away as the elderly couple, dumbfounded, stared at the man who was shoved under the carriage about to run them over. CRACK!
“What the hell was that? I thought we had men to help us clear the road!” The driver stepped down and saw that the wagon’s two front wheels had cracked after rolling on top of the legs of the man in question. He was lying in the mud with a purple face, unable to scream as all his muscles were locked up for some reason. The elderly couple quickly ran away, and Linier, looking over his shoulder, blended into the crowd which had stopped to watch the spectacle. Mei laughed, “Disciple, you’ve grown.” Lineir simply smiled. “If someone shoves me down…I’ll make it so they can’t get up.” Together the laughing master and smiling Lineir went to the tournament, a chill passing through every person they passed by.
Inside the waiting grounds, Lineir, who was sitting with his hood up to disguise himself, quickly found himself surrounded by a number of mercenaries and soldiers hoping to make their fortune. Lineir paid them no mind, the strongest were barely classifiable as cultivators, and most were just weaklings. Most sensible mercenaries knew that the tourney was rigged and that only cultivators of strong sects would have any chance of winning. They would rather sit in the stands and watch than risk injury and their livelihoods. Lineir had his eyes almost slit shut, but Mei was analyzing the situation in his head. “The auras of those cultivators over there aren’t bad. But they won’t win, those purple robed cultivators are at a far higher level. Over there, those yellow robed guys are strange. While their overall power is a bit lower, I wouldn’t put it past them to have some strange methods. They may actually be more threatening than the rest… Oh, the main characters have arrived. Be sure to take a good look at them disciple, as the villain in this pageant it’s your job to steal the princess and the treasure from under them! I expect nothing less from my only disciple!” Lineir was pressed into the wall by bodies as all the gruff and scarred men backed away from the entering black robed Nero Sect members. They were last, and clearly not happy about it, and Lineir secretly smirked at the ground as he observed the results of his work. The administrator began to explain the rules.
“Alright, now that all competitors have arrived, I will explain how matches will be chosen and decided, as well as the rules. First of all, no killing! Anyone who kills their opponent intentionally will have to answer to the king of Dracherus and the royal court will be in attendance to prosecute you immediately!” Lineir chuckled, “What a joke, this whole tournament is just a sham so the king can ally with the Nero Sect, of course he won’t take any action even if the Nero sect ‘accidentally’ does away with anyone. They will be able to fight with killing moves, but everyone else will have to hold back for fear of killing someone with too strong a blow.” Mei quickly replied,
“Of course the rules are favoring the strong and empowered, the weak don’t get to decide such things. Quiet, there’s more.”
The announcer continued, “All matches will be randomly selected by ballot, but the initial preliminaries will be held in block matches so as to expedite the tournament. To ensure that nobody is forced to fight their brother, no two sect members form the same sect can be in the same block in the preliminaries. You were given a number before the tournament began, report to block A if you are from 1-100, B if you are from 101-200, C if you are from 201-300 and so on. Only ten members from each block may progress if they are left standing after 10 minutes. Anyone who leaves the arena circle is disqualified. If there is less than 10 members left standing after ten minutes, then only those left will advance. Find your block!” Lineir quickly hurried to his block. He had the number 231, and thus was reporting to block B. In this block, there was a cultivator from the purple, yellow, and the black robed Nero Sect! In addition, there were other robed figures who could only be cultivators from lesser sects. This block was full of threats. Quietly, Lineir backed away as people formed around and went to the C block, where there was almost exclusively ordinary soldiers. In fact, there was nobody wearing a robe in this sect, to an outsider, since Lineir was wearing muddy street clothes, this block was full of chump change. Mei was yelling in Lineir’s ear,
“What are you doing, are you scared of those inner sect cultivators? Sure you might get your *** kicked but they probably won’t kill you, why did you come to this C block, your number is 231, you’ll get disqualified for being in the wrong block.” Lineir raised a glowing finger and pointed at one of the unsuspecting soldiers with their backs to him. Mei gave a little gasp as she realized his intent.
“Oh… you have matured soft disciple, you’ve truly understood that the strong eat the weak.”
Lineir prodded the soldier in the back and unbeknownst to everyone who was staring at the commentator, quickly snagged the numbered badge from his hand and replaced it with the 231. The man, clearly not a cultivator was knocked unconscious almost instantly and laid on the ground without complaint. “Now I’m 352… he won’t mind, I would have knocked him out of the prelims anyway. I’m saving him the trouble of a trip to the hospital.” The commentator shouted out at that moment,
“BEGIN!” Instantly fighting broke out as soldiers turned on each other and began to brawl for a spot in the top ten.
Lineir didn’t overly exert himself in this block match. There were only some regular soldiers and mercenaries who couldn’t even have been introduced to real cultivation. In fact, if Lineir wanted to, with his ability to sense killing intent, he could probably have closed his eyes and simply swayed and evaded his way into the top ten. But he wanted to speed up the process. As men came towards him, he would slap his palms into their chests after dodging their shots, and as they took the hits while off balance, they would be blasted backwards several meters outside of the arena. In this manner, Lineir made his way to the center of the arena, where the fighting was thickest, without even using a weapon. Once he reached there, he would use the enemies to his advantage, something which Mei had drilled into him in the wilderness.
“Use everything to your advantage, enemy hands and feet can become your hands and feet, as well as their weapons if you pay attention.” Soon, surrounding Lineir was a good two meters of empty space as soldiers realized that anyone who went near was swiftly dispatched and put on the ground. However, with one minute left, something strange happened. Every man fighting around Lineir was swept out of the arena by a ferocious gust of wind and in front of him was a cowled figure of average height. In a moment, that cowled figure was going to rush him, but the commentator shouted out! “Time’s up, top ten or those still standing advance from the prelims!” The robed figure stopped attacking him and backed off with a whisper, “I know what you did, I know who you are, don’t even think that I will let you go!”
Lineir was puzzled, “He saw me take that man’s badge? Not good, I didn’t even notice anyone watching. Whatever, the odds of us meeting each other later on our slim. Somebody else will knock him out and save me the trouble.” However, Mei was also confused, “How odd, I didn’t notice anyone watching you either. Be careful kiddo, he may be trouble.”
Chapter 38- Reaper
Behind him from about thirty meters away in the trees, six black robed cultivators came shooting out on flying swords, one however was running, he had just launched the surprise attack on Lineir.
“Disciple, this is why we should have kept going. You gave up the element of surprise by lingering so long in one place. While I’ll admit, this is a fast way to attract your enemies, it’s a dangerous methodology to get into. If too many come, or someone truly powerful shows up one day, what would you do?” Mei was simply pointing out the shortcomings in Lineir’s choices. However, it could be said that these weak elders of the Nero Sect were definitely being cheated. With their Second Hearts being sucked away their entire lives, how could they possibly compare to someone who’s power was holy his own, with a body filled with forbidden techniques?
Lineir’s first response was to immediately rush towards the six elders. He entered the midst of the five on flying swords before they could react. Once again, it was as if someone was guiding his hand. This wasn’t like Mei who in the past had actually taken complete control over him, this was simply a suggestion, like a sense of déjà vu. It was as if someone with incredible experience and battle sense was showing him the way. A bone scythe to the throat, and Lineir had slain the leading elder. This time, Mei formed the sword in Lineir’s right hand. With the extra reach it afforded, and Lineir’s incredibly strong footwork, combined with the guidance of the unknown entity which accompanied the madness character in his eyes, he simply stepped over and slashed straight through a second elder, who did not even remain in one piece but toppled over in two. The first two elders were close to the ground, but the last three on flying swords had finally realized that something was off. They tried to back off and fly up, but the sky was not a refuge.
Like lightning flies up from the ground to touch the heavens, Lineir leaped from the ground. For the first time, he summoned the hazy power of darkness to wrap around his leg and increase his power. Additionally, a bit of static electricity flickered around and the speed of his leap was increased greatly. By combining the two, speed and power became explosiveness. This explosiveness caused his jump to far outstrip the slow flying speed of the immortal swords.
Just as before, Lineir had dispatched the three immortals, landing while blood and bone rained down from the sky. This time however, the enemies had been far higher up, and they hadn’t even had a chance to react. To an ordinary onlooker it would like Lineir had jumped once and then landed, and the cultivators had just suddenly started spurting blood. However, to the cultivated eyes of the sixth elder who did not have a flying sword, it was like watching a reaper ascend from hell to drag down the souls of sinners. He could just barely make the fact that Lineir had jumped once from the ground, instantly found himself level with the first cultivator and dug out his throat. Then he had kicked off of that same cultivator, ascended to the second, and cut out his throat with another bone scythe. Lastly, he had pushed off this second cultivator, and spinning, delivered a backhanded blow with his sword which ripped the highest cultivator in two bloody pieces framed before the shining moon which seemed to be crying red tears now. To complete the horror, Lineir had kicked apart those two bloody halves to accelerate his descent to the ground. To the cultivator, the body of his comrade disappeared as it passed out of the moon’s light and Lineir appeared directly in front of him.
Indescribably terror! That is what this man felt looking at the crimson stained figure in front of him. What he was looking at could only be called madness! It was just too terrifying, and the elder didn’t even try to run. His heart began to pump incredibly fast and his legs refused to budge an inch, instead freezing in place. A flash and the man was no more, a great hole in his chest where his beating heart had lain. Lineir sighed.
“It seems you were right Mei, this snake of mine is only usable in a real live fight. Furthermore there’s a limit to how much it can consume at a time. For now, it’s quite full digesting the elemental energies contained with two Sacred Hearts.” He walked off further away from Dracherus City. He had had his fill of the Nero Sect. Mei however brought up a question.
“Uh disciple, what about that kind man’s message. You never had a chance to deliver it to the king. What will you do about that?” Lineir thought it over for a moment. In fact, while he had originally went to Dracherus for the express purpose of carrying out the man’s last will, he had forgotten about it after the life changing events which he had experienced of late.
“I’m sorry old man, I tried to help, but your king is simply too untrustworthy, he tried to sell off his own daughter for gain. But rest easy in hell, I’ll find those bandits and take them to hell to apologize to you in person.” He turned around and cut back. He had planned on heading directly away from Dracherus and entering the wilderness. “A short detour to honor a friend won’t hurt. Besides, Mei, didn’t you say you wanted a bunny?”
The journey was swift, Lineir did not dawdle and cultivate on the way, he would rather get out of Nero Sect territory. However, the Second Heart’s which his hydra spirit had devoured continued to be digested, and he felt himself grow stronger with each passing hour. The speed was incredibly fast, he could feel his Second Heart gaining density far faster than it ever had before. At this fast speed, he quickly found himself at the site of the ambush before. No traces of the slaughter remained, the wagon was long gone and even the corpses had been removed. Falling leaves had long since obscured the ground and the rain had long since scoured the mud underneath clean of blood. This would have detoured any average tracker, the time frame was simply too long. However, Lineir was a cultivator, and Mei was incredibly experienced.
“Disciple, while I do not specialize in tracking, it would be a disgrace if I could not at least point you in the right direction. Those corpses were hidden somewhere. They must have been dragged somewhere. Blood spilled less than a thousand years ago cannot be hidden from me!” Lineir waited for her to do something.
“Idiot! Stab me into the ground, what, do you think I can do this sitting in your hands?” Lineir snickered and hurriedly buried the sword in the ground. Then he waited. And waited. “Find them yet?” Mei simply told him to hush,
“Shut up, I need to focus. Without a body this is a pain. Actually, lend me some of your cultivation!” Lineir laid his hands on the blade, and Mei slightly cut his palm to siphon off a bit of blood. Then they waited some more. “Done yet?”
Lineir was exasperated. It had been a good hour with him standing there doing nothing. Finally Mei answered,
“Well disciple… I found something.”
“What is it master, which way did they go?”
“Well to be exact… I didn’t find any traces of blood.”
“What? So your saying you didn’t find anything at all! I’ve been standing around all day for nothing!”
“Ok, I didn’t find anything, but that doesn’t mean we know nothing. There’s only one way they managed to dispose of the corpses without leaving any traces of blood. Something highly unusual must have happened here for that. There must have been a spacial ring involved!”
With a gasp, Lineir exploded, “A special ring? Like one in the legends? The treasure which can store a thousand other treasures in a thousandth the space?”
“Well that depends on the grade, but yes disciple, that very type of ring. How curious, I wouldn’t expect the king of most of the small cities around here to have one, let alone a group of bandits. Something is fishy here. Whoever was backing this ambush was extremely powerful considering the area. As a matter of fact… the only group around here with that kind of clout is the Nero Sect… and the only one with the wealth to afford a special ring is… the patriarch!”
“**** I’m going to have to fight this man aren’t I?” Lineir was irate. Life was just too ridiculous, it was as if fate itself was out to get him. He had sworn revenge, but fighting a patriarch was a little much. He would be surrounded by countless elders, and he had leeched off of all their cultivation bases. One on one, Mei had said Lineir stood a chance, but against the whole sect?
“Wait just a moment disciple, this might not be so impossible as you think.” Mei was quite calm at the moment. She was considering Lineir’s options, and had already decided on a course of action.
“Not impossible? Do you realize how many of those guys there are? I might be able to take small groups, but I heard the Nero Sect has over fifty elders not even including the ten I killed, at least half of which will be guarding the patriarch at any time.”
“Well disciple, I would have agreed with you before. However, you gained this devour ability, and these strange madness. Your combat potential has risen at a rate even I could not have foreseen. At the moment, your Second Heart has already reached the peak of the first stage. Soon you will break through and ascend to the Gathering Storm Stage. When this happens, you will gain the power of the second realm of my cultivation technique and access to power, which is not only far greater quantitatively, but superior qualitatively. At that moment, it won’t matter how many trash elders the patriarch of the Nero Sect surrounds himself with. You will be able to walk in and end him as if it was a one on one. There is just one problem with this however.”
Lineir was excited. The idea of walking through a sea of enemies, uncontested was a dream which most could only hope to have on a good night. Lineir could actually experience this himself. Who wouldn’t want this kind of power especially at such a young age?
“Alright master what is the problem?”
Mei sighed, “The Gathering Storm Stage is the next step in cultivation. However, in order to reach it, you must build up an imbalance. Storms begin to form when the imbalance in the atmosphere reaches a critical point. Inside of you, you already have an excellent spin in your Second Heart. But you lack the raw power needed to ascend. Only by pushing your cultivation past the limit will you break through and cause a great enough imbalance within yourself to ascend the realms. Fortunately, I have thought of a solution for this. Well, there are two. One, train in the wilderness for a few months until you collect enough beast cores to break through. This will take a while, and there’s always the risk of running into that dragon girl who has a grudge against you. Two, and I’m afraid this is the only real option. Those fifty elders of the Nero Sect. Hunt them all down and devour their cores one by one. When you have consumed enough, you will naturally break through. Of course, that’s if you can stomach the slaughter of all these elders. But remember, this can be said to be cutting off the legs of the lion before hunting it tomorrow. You will need to fight most of these elders anyway to reach the patriarch. Taking them out early will only bring you benefits in the future. Decide, will you take an ordinary path of training, or will you enter the path of a reaper.”
Lineir didn’t even hesitate for more than an instant. His enemies were enemies, and if he had a reason to kill them, he would. It was as simple as that. His conscious had almost gotten him killed before. Thus he had long ago chosen to let it die. Words like mercy and lenience were simply synonyms for regret and death in the dictionary of a cultivator. His Third Heart, his way, was to survive and to survive, you must eat!