At the time Chief Grandmaster Mura Dyn had seized control of the Green Wildness Sect, the sect had very much been on the back foot. Wracked by internal divisions and successive civil wars, the sect had become a juicy target for the other powers that surrounded it — including the Kharis branch of the Red Reaver Sect. And while the Green Wildness Sect had a Void Transcending patron as well, the Ancient Bellringer seldom chose to extend any favors to the sect he nominally protected. In his eyes, they were simply reaping the consequences of their choices, and he did not see fit to interfere with their internal politics — even if the result was complete destruction of the sect. The Ancient Bellringer had seen many sects come and go, in his many, many years.
Fortunately for the Green Wildness Sect, Mura Dyn had no intention of relying on their absent patron in the first place. The Dolgo clan had been arrogant and complacent; the Tynba, greedy and violent; but Mura Dyn, and by extension the Mura clan itself, was calculating and resolute. If Mura Dyn decided that something was worth protecting, whether it was territory, resources, or influence, he would throw everything into the effort; if it was not, he would let it go — after extracting exactly as much collateral as he could. Continue reading
The Red Reaver Sect.
The common citizen on the streets of North Pine City might have never heard the name before. But outside the sheltered, forgotten forests on this corner of the continent, the Red Reaver Sect was a name to strike fear in one and all.
For one thing, they were much larger than usual for a single sect — because in many ways, they were not a single sect. Although they presented to the world a united facade, the Red Reaver Sect was actually made up of several smaller branches, each of which controlling influence and territory equivalent to an independant sect. A small number of hereditary families controlled these branches, and they competed with each other for power, territory, and numbers.
Two things united the branches of the Red Reaver Sect: first, a common heritage made up of a shared culture and values, and a martial tradition that descended from a single founder known as the Red Sage; secondly, and much more importantly, that very Red Sage had declared that there would be no open feuding between the various branches, when he had created the Red Reaver Sect one thousand years in the past. Continue reading
Take two men, both accomplished martial artists. Presume that they have the same amount of training, have worked equally hard, had similar experiences and an equal motivation. If those two men were to have a battle, which man would hold an advantage over the other?
Naturally, it would be the man with the larger body.
The larger man would have longer reach, and heavier strikes. His punches would be more difficult to parry, his kicks would land with more violence. He would be harder to move, and harder to throw.
Now, if the difference in size was only slight, the smaller man would only have to be slightly more skillful to redress the balance and make the contest even; but the bigger the difference in size, the harder it became to make up the pure, physical gap. Entire styles of martial arts, especially those designed for women, were dedicated to fighting opponents who were larger and stronger; but even when perfected, these arts all had their limits. Continue reading
Fate is never even-handed. A long time ago, in his youth, Sun Din had a fateful encounter, a significant change of fortune.
Human cultivation is the manipulation of Qi: the energy of life within the three realms, made manifest in a variety of forms and phenomena. This was why the very beginning of cultivation, the first ten steps, were known as Qi Gathering: the new practitioner must gather Qi from the environment into his own dantian, and convert it into his own energy through meditation, contemplation, or the practice of martial arts.
That is why the techniques available to the average Qi Gatherer tended to be simple enhancements: strengthening the arms and legs, increasing perception, and accelerating the healing of wounds. Techniques of that sort were widely available, even to those of the lowest classes, and while they varied in strength and efficiency, they all provided aspiring cultivators with the tools they need to improve. This was why Qi Gathering was sometimes referred to poetically as the “One Road with Multitudinous Paths.” Continue reading
A stately carriage with the sigil of the Sun Clan on the side proceeded slowly through the streets of North Pine City. It was flanked by ten grim-looking men, and it was driven by an older, ugly man who glared straight ahead without blinking. Both sides of the street were lined with observers; but those spectating had two different reactions to the carriage’s passage. Those who had been allies or supporters of the Sun, or those who lived without choosing a side, were quiet and subdued. They watched the small procession with worried eyes, and many sighed quietly in sadness
On the other hand, there were many groups of people laughing and jeering at the passing carriage. These were supporters of the Fan clan, or at least those who had something to gain from the fall of the Sun. They mocked the stone-faced men who guarded the carriage, occasionally throwing eggs or rotten fruit, which were struck out of the air by the guards without comment. Normally, no one would have risked the wrath of these men, who were the strongest remaining servants of the Sun clan, not one of which was below the seventh level of Qi Gathering. Not to mention the man sitting in the driver’s seat, who was not only a practitioner at the very peak of Qi Gathering, but the man who once ruled a powerful clan: Sun Ba himself!
But times had changed. Continue reading
A pale sun was rising over the city of North Pine. A quiet tension seemed to hang over the city; even the early morning traders and merchants were quiet and subdued. The common citizens of the city went about their business as quickly as possible, and avoided the open streets. An entire district had been razed to the ground just a few days ago, after all, and no one wanted to provoke the uncertain tempers of the Fan clan.
The only exceptions were in the areas surrounding the Fan clan estate, where their closest allies and servants began the day in a celebratory mood. Traditional red and gold decorations were displayed on every corner of the big street leading to the main gate of the Fan mansion, and the gate itself was festooned with banners and flags indicating the importance of the event to be held within.
And yet, even here, there was a paranoid edge to all the smiles and a desperate glint in the eyes. For the same reason that citizens in the outer districts did not wish to be seen, people who were close to the Fan did not dare not to be seen. Fan Gen’s temper had been growing less predictable, and no one wanted to be the one accused of snubbing his son’s wedding. Continue reading
The journey to the Weaver’s dwelling had been a nightmare of cramped, claustrophobic tunnels, intersped with large, cavernous halls and chambers, seemingly without rhyme or reason; all the while, accompanied by a veritable sea of eerie metal spiders. And then, they arrived before a strange edifice covered in layers of sheets of cobwebs, making it impossible to make out the actual structure beneath. But hidden by those sheets was an ordinary wooden door, and behind that door lay an ordinary room, with a dirt floor and humble furnishings. The lack of windows almost allowed for the illusion that it was a simple peasant cottage, exactly like those on the surface far above.
Bi’er, Sun Mia, and Kahen Sera sat together at a low table that wouldn’t look out of place in any modest dwelling, drinking a bitter tea provided by the black-eyed woman.
Kahen Sera had been reluctant to drink something provided by an unknown person, but the Weaver had scolded her harshly when she attempted to refuse. “You are the one who needs it most, foolish woman!” she had said emphatically. “This is Dreamwort tea; it will help brace your will and spirit against deterioration here in the Underworks. You, especially, need to restore yourself, woman of the Kahen. Your line has always been too much in the spirit, not rooted enough in the body.” Continue reading
I had been walking through darkened tunnels of the Underworks, trying to figure out where I was and to find a way out, when without warning everything changed. I suddenly stood amongst a forest of beautiful crystal trees, shimmering with iridescence. Overhead, three bright suns floated across a blue sky, and beneath my feet the earth had an unusual feel, soft like a bed of leaves.
But even more than the sudden change from darkness to light, I felt the change in Breath. Ever since I had realized the true nature of the Anubai concept of Breath, I could feel the Breath of the world around me. I could feel the movement within the air, the water, even within solid rock — I could hear it, like a song, a haunting, familiar melody. For the first time, I felt connected to the world around me. It was a wonderful feeling.
It was also extremely confusing. I could hear, feel, too much. Perhaps, if I had been back in the Crystal Palace beneath the Cerulean Abyss, or even by myself in some secluded part of the forests surrounding North Pine City, I might have had an easier time adjusting to my new sense of motion. But the tunnels I had found myself in, after my encounter with the Oracle, were damaged in ways that even now I find difficult to describe. There was something very wrong about the Breath in the Underworks, and I did not have nearly enough experience to unravel the ways that time and space had been twisted in that place. Continue reading
The sun shone peacefully on Fan Bin’s courtyard. The young heir of the Fan clan himself sat in his usual chair, sipping tea and enjoying his garden. His usual attendants, the mysterious Black Robe and White Robe, were nowhere to be seen; instead, two nervous young men could be seen standing behind him. Both fidgeted with uncertain expressions, and both shot the other occasional glares at the other, behind Fan Bin’s back.
Fan Bin appeared to have not noticed the two men approach, but they did not dare believe that he was unaware of their presence; neither did either man dare to speak before Fan Bin chose to acknowledge them. Although each of the two were as different from the other as possible, they both knew their lives were in the palm of Fan Bin’s hand, and they dared not offend him.
The fat young man on the right was Fan Mitzu, who had targeted Sun Mia two days before, and had been targeted by the deadly Li Stahn in turn. He had successfully escaped from both the Infinite Sky Devil assassin and the vicious purge of the market district by Fan clan soldiers, and had been discovered cowering in an alley some distance away. He had been dragged back to the clan, and made to stand before Fan Gen himself. The Clan Head had censured Fan Mitzu for ‘cowardice,’ and was set to make an example of the terrified young man; but the surprise of all, and the utter shock of Fan Mitzu, the First Young Master Fan Bin had intervened on his behalf! Continue reading
Both creatures hissed in unison, continuing to retreat from Kahen Sera’s suddenly revealed martial aura. The woman from the Green Wildness Sect stretched minutely, and the tension in her body seemed to melt away. Incongruously, even though her aura had increased exponentially, to Bi’er’s eyes, she seemed to be getting… harder to grasp; as though, even standing there with her full power on display, a single breath of wind might disperse her presence and form.
“Will you still call me mere ‘food,’ beasts?” demanded Kahen Sera. Even her voice had an eerie, wispy quality to it.
“Tsssk, the human is calling us beasts, brother,” hissed the monster on the left. Continue reading