Sun Mia panted as she ran, pulled along by the ordinary-looking woman who had been selling vegetables to her less than half an hour ago. The woman wasn’t running at random and seemed to have a destination in mind, but Sun Mia wasn’t sure where she was being taken. She had tried to get the woman’s attention a couple of times, but the woman was ignoring her words, and dragging her along with an unusually strong grip on her wrist.
Sun Mia had been initially grateful that the woman had pulled her away from that frightening situation, but now she was getting worried. She wasn’t too familiar with this particular market, and she had no idea where the woman was taking her. Perhaps she was still in danger…
The merchant woman paid no attention to Sun Mia’s worries, however, and quickly arrived at her destination. To Sun Mia’s surprise, this location was an ordinary meat stand, run by a tough-looking old man behind the grill. Had Gan Zhu been here, he would have recognized the old man as the one who had sold him a delicious meat skewer early: Old Mehek! Continue reading
The marketplace was moderately large, and in the distance could be heard the sounds of merchants crying out their wares, and customers arguing with each other over the price of various commodities. But in one particular square in that busy market, silence reigned supreme.
It goes without saying that every onlooker was shocked almost to death! One of the Fan clan’s own guards had been killed in a single blow, and not only that, the killer hadn’t even once glanced at the man. To say that Gan Zhu had not put the Fan clan in his sight, would simply be the unvarnished, literal truth!
And now all eyes were upon that young man, but he didn’t pay any of those gazes the slightest bit of regard. His own eyes were firmly fixed on the man he had named Li Stahn, apparently waiting for a response to his challenge. Li Stahn’s glare had become even more terrifying, to the point where Fan Mitsu and his allies, who were still surrounding him, involuntarily took a couple steps back. Yet, Gan Zhu didn’t seem even slightly intimidated. Continue reading
“My, my, what have we here?”
Sun Mia heard a voice behind her. It was a slightly nasally and unattractive voice, but it was filled to the brim with arrogance and self-confidence.
Startled, she turned around to find a fat young man in a green robe staring straight at her. Her eyes involuntarily widened when she saw the emblem stitched onto the front of his robe: this was a member of the Fan clan! Sun Mia felt her heart sink, and a frisson of fear went down her spine. Continue reading
The next day.
The mood on the streets of North Pine City was tense. For as long as any normal citizen could remember, two clans had ruled over North Pine: the bloodthirsty Fan clan, and the cold-hearted Sun clan. These two forces had forever been at each others’ throat, providing both danger and opportunity for those who lived in their city. In fact, a great many individuals were able to maintain a precious neutrality, not swearing loyalty to either great power, and refusing to engage in the eternal contest between the clans.
But those days had finally come to an end. The Sun clan had fallen, and the Fan clan stood unrivalled. The situation of the followers of the Sun clan went without saying; if there were any left in the city, they kept a low, low profile. On the other hand, those who had been close to the Fan clan now found their status elevated to an extreme degree! They now had the backing to do whatever they please, suppress whoever they wished — and the natural target of this new sense of authority, was obviously those who had not sworn loyalty to the clans in the past, and had remained neutral. Continue reading
The sun shone down on an airy pavilion, set in one corner of the grounds of the extensive estate belonging to the Fan clan. The courtyard around it had once belonged to the mother of Fan Bin, a concubine named Jai Yana, and Fan Bin had appropriated it for himself after his mother had been killed. Of course, he had been the one to kill her.
It wasn’t that Fan Bin had ever been mistreated by his mother. Jai Yana had been one of Fan Gen’s many, many concubines; in fact, she had been the lowest ranking among them. She was simply a commoner who had been forcibly kidnapped off the streets of North Pine City due to Fan Gen’s sudden whim, and made to suffer his questionable affections. Whether her parents had protested her abduction, she never knew; in her heart, she had hoped that they had remained silent, for if they had so much said a word against Fan Gen, they would definitely have been killed.
Jai Yana was not the first woman who had been treated in this fashion by Fan Gen, but she had been the only one to survive longer than a single year. Continue reading
The Balkiri Continent was truly a prodigiously large area of land. Within its long shorelines, it held uncountable numbers of forests, plains, mountains, swamps, rivers, and every other sort of natural environment. Beneath the surface, leylines of spiritual energy twisted everywhere like the veins of an enormous dragon, crossing and flaring up seemingly at random. And wherever the spiritual energy became particularly strong, humans would gather like bees to honey.
It wasn’t that humans could directly interact with spiritual energy — only a few esoteric monstrous beasts could manage such a feat — but high concentrations could greatly affect the efficiency of a human’s cultivation, literally bringing twice the results for half the effort. And so over the course of time humans would seek out the leyline nexi, and build their homes and palaces, towns and cities, where the benefits to them would be the strongest.
Of course, not every area with great spiritual energy would be fit for human habitation. For every mighty forest citadel raised by human hands, there was a deep black jungle that would devour any mortal foolish enough to step within; for every grand mountain aerie where ancient experts meditated in peace, there would be a frozen highland of ice and death; for every verdant plain nurturing ten or even a hundred villages, there would be a vast, endless swamp filled with monstrous beasts and poison. Continue reading
Tai Mei was a young girl, living in a small village that was only notable due to it’s unfortunate proximity to the Cerulean Abyss. She was neither especially beautiful nor especially clever, and therefore did not differ from any of a thousand other young girls spread around the Balkiri Continent. Girls in peasant villages were seldom allowed to learn cultivation, and only boys were habitually taught to find their dantian by their fathers and elders. Tai Mei was no exception, and she did not have the slightest thread of Qi throughout her whole body. She was, in other words, a perfectly normal young village girl.
If one was to force themselves to find an aspect to compliment her on, it might be said that she had a strong filial respect for her parents, and always gave all her efforts to support her family. That this strength of hers was never directly acknowledged was an unfortunate, but understandable truth: Tai Mei was the third of five children, and since she was neither excellent nor difficult, she tended to be treated as part of the background by one and all. Continue reading
I stood on a rolling, hilly plain, covered with high, crystalline grass. I had never seen this scenery before, I was certain of that; but it had a peaceful, nostalgic feeling to it. The sky above me was a pale blue, and a bright white sun blazed down from its noon-time height. It was a beautiful, calming scene–
“Ah, there you are, young pup!”
A loud, exuberant voice sounded out behind me, and I flinched, startled. Before I could turn, an arm wrapped itself around my neck, and a hand began ruffling my hair. In surprise, I turned my head, only to see a black-furred jackal head grinning at me with open amusement.
It was the demon woman, Marah. Continue reading
Gan Zhu looked around. He realized that he had awakened in a moderately large cavern, formed entirely of familiar crystals. They glittered in the dim light, forming beautiful patterns in the air; but Gan Zhu had no patience to admire them now. He was caught up in his memories — memories of his own death!
That abominable swordsman, Li Stahn, had cut off his arm, saying that he had a better use for it than a mere cripple. Since that moment Gan Zhu, whose survival had already been extremely precarious, was completely pushed to the edge! Where he had held his own against the various dangers of the Abyss until that time, from then on he could do nothing but retreat, and retreat further, until he was finally caught out on that precipice and could retreat no further.
He had been cornered at last by three Wolf-headed Bears, the strongest type of monstrous beast in the upper levels of the Abyss. The slavering creatures had detected the scent of his blood and proceeded to chase him down to the dangerous third level, before trapping him on that ill-fated cliffside. He had managed to slightly wound two of them, before his sword had finally snapped, and then they had been upon him… He could remember nothing after that. Continue reading
Two lines of characters hung in the dark. He thought at first that he had never seen anything like them before, but then he began to feel that he was wrong — a strange, nostalgic feeling like a half-remembered dream. And so he looked at the strange characters, until they began to seem familiar. Eventually, he started to believe — no, he was certain, that the line was a very simple message:
Good morning, hero. It’s time to wake up.
And so, he woke up. Continue reading