Nine Paths Of Asura Chapter 1

1 Lineir
The day started out so very ordinary. A clear blue sky gave no hint at the auspicious adventure to come. A small youth walked carefully along the broken steps of an old city. Every winding path in the old city could be a challenge to an unfamiliar explorer. However, to this youth's knowing step it was the same as walking a brand new road. His steps were both sure and steady.

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Like a cat on a high rise, he had no fear of falling into the many holes which could easily break the legs of horses. He was so familiar with the path that he clambered boldly through, though others would be scared of taking even a single wrong turn for fear of possibly meeting a terrible end to a suddenly collapsing building or crumbling stairway! He made his living every day by sneaking into these forgotten ruins and picking out pretty scraps to sell for a living. Sometimes he was lucky and he found enough to sell for a week's worth of food or more. Other times he was forced to rely on his older sister to avoid starving.

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He walked steadily as he reminisced. One time he had gone hungry for so long that he fell ill and couldn't get up again to keep searching for food. That time his sister had found him a hearty oatmeal and medicine though he knew that she had left work with but a few coppers. She couldn't have made enough from the inn she worked at as a waitress to afford costly traditional medicines. He never asked where she got the medicine. He was afraid of hearing things he didn't want to hear. From that day on he vowed to never let himself get so hungry that he couldn't take care of himself.

"Damn I'm hungry" Lineir said as he reminisced about the past.

In order to avoid a similar fate Lineir often reached into the upper class's pockets. His favorite was the crowd which gathered before the execution stand. Nobody, noble or guard, paid attention to their purses when the guillotine came down. The silk-pants were easy pickings for someone who had a mind to help himself to coin rather than an eyeful of blood. Of course, such gains came with risk as well. One mistake and it would be his head on display. Today though would turn out to be a very different affair.

Thing's had been looking up recently, Lineir's sister had been promised another year of work, the inn which she worked at was doing a brisk trade in Brackenrock City and she was guaranteed work until trading caravans were forced away by the winds of fortune again. That meant the boy always had bread on the table and sometimes even meat, though he preferred to stockpile rice whenever there was extra. If he had his way he was never going to be without food again.

Sometimes, he wondered what would happen if he had enough food to last him and his sister a lifetime. But then he dismissed this idea. It was useless to dream. His usually sure feet had almost caught on an upturned cobblestone and he needed his mind on the task at hand. This time he was looking for a new stash to search. He had dug out all his old stashes, they had ceased to yield anything but dust. Now he was doing the dangerous work of scouting out a new place to dig and search for valuables. This was the most important part of the job. Soon he'd be wandering outside of familiar territory and every step would be a potential hazard. If he didn't find a good spot then all his efforts for the next few weeks would be a waste as he dug up trash.

Presently, the landscape changed. Tombstone after tombstone appeared, chipped and smashed, but the majority were still standing, a testament that the living still cared about the dead. He had reached a place he had never dared to venture before. It was at the edge of the old city, the mass burial of millions of citizens. The tombstones cropping up here were but the beginning of a vast expanse of land which now belonged solely to the dead. It was a well known fact that inside lurked hideous undead and worse... constructs of old magic gone horribly wrong. These intertwined combinations of flesh and magic which could not be touched by ordinary steel were the nightmares of every child in Brackenrock City.

Only the strongest experts of the city, the White Horizon Sect's disciples could hope to combat these unholy beings, and even the elders of the White Horizon Sect did not dare venture into the old city anymore for fear of provoking the undead horde's advance. As long as the new city was left alone, the leaders of the White Horizon Sect were content to destroy the occasional wandering undead that made it to the city walls and leave the old city to the dead. Linier however, had no fear of ghost stories.

He had been observing the old city for years, and he knew that the outskirts had no undead for they had long since wandered away or been annihilated by passing experts. During the day, when he could see farther than an undead's rotted eyes, Lineir had absolute confidence that he could make his escape if he saw one and he had not in years. So far out from the city walls, other pickers dared not go. To Lineir, however, this meant one thing and one thing only...profit... and food. And so he took his first step into the Deadland.

Around him were decrepit bones, but never complete skeletons, instead always shattered pieces. Any whole skeletons on the surface above would not have the calming magical runes of tombstones to keep it in check. Such skeletons would long since become hungry undead and wandered away. What was left on the surface was simply the leftover pieces of the many bodies here. A hand there, a thigh bone, some fingers. In the past, city lore had it that a great battle had occurred here. All the major sects in the continent had fought and paid a bloody price. For nothing.

The White Horizon Sect which remained after this great battle was nothing but a branch sect of these great sects. Compared to the great sects it was nothing, and it was only allowed here because the major sects had decided that it was impossible to gain anything of value from the Deadzone. It was considered taboo to talk about the tragedy which befell the major sects, but his sister had told him the story which she overheard one time in her bar.

"Lineir, we are not locals, but since we will be staying here, it would be good for us to know the things anyone around here knows. Do you know why the great sects once fought here, and why the new city was formed far away from the old with high enchanted walls?" Lineir naturally shook his head, at the time, he hadn't been old enough to find his own coin.

"Well don't talk about this casually or the guards will beat you. Once, a huge tear opened in the sky above the old city. From it, heavenly cries filled the air, and a great battle took place with swords of lightning and spears of fire. When it ended, the whole sky was alight with flames and below the old city was rent into pieces, our mortal mortar could not survive the strikes of such powerful beings. Even runed walls were shorn through as easily as a sea storm sweeps away a thatched house. What came down were celestial treasures, things which the gods hold dear. The great sects immediately seized control of the area and spent ten years searching. In this time, they found many world shaking treasures, and their fame became consolidated below the Heavens. To this day, some of their most famed items come from the battleground. But after ten years, they were forced to stop searching. No matter how they tried, they could go no deeper. Even their greatest experts at the peak of cultivation below the Heavens dared not tread another step. Why? Because the unburied bodies of those millions who had been crushed under the heavens began to rise by the thousand as undead. While initially, they were weak and the experts of the great sects could annihilate them at will, soon they began to join together as if something was controlling them. Eventually, they became hordes of undead.

Unable to advance further into this undead sea, and terrified that whatever power was massing these undead would one day send them outside, the great sects formed the new city and created Brackenrock Cities famous light attributed runed walls to hold back any undead which traversed the old city and tried to come out. Few came, and eventually they stopped coming altogether. So now the only sect which still bothers to keep watch is the White Horizon sect which is but a branch of the main sect. So remember, never go into the deadzone! For in there are things which nobody under the Heavens dares to trifle with."

At the time, Lineir had happily agreed with this statement. But soon the time had come for him to make enough to feed his own growing body, and it all led up to this moment. He had just entered the deadzone, gravestones standing silently watching him. It was growing just a bit dark, the sun preparing to give way to moon. In that moment, something moved. Lineir did not even bother freezing as a less experienced person might have. He knew there was only one thing that could live here, and that was something not living. Undead! Without even looking, he turned and desperately sprinted.

"Damn my fortune, to think that an undead would actually still be lingering here! I've just entered the deadzone what are the odds when I haven't seen any from the outside for years!" He shouted at himself in his head, feeling regret mixed with anger that he hadn't obeyed his sister's warning. Dashing straight back, he knew that his chances of surviving weren't bad.

Somebody without experience would have tried to wait and see what creature was stirring from its sleep. This would have allowed the undead time to get close and after that anyone's limbs would freeze in fear and they might panic and try to hide. But this wasn't a good way to deal with the undead. By running straight away, the undead would definitely find Lineir. But most undead were lower level undead, singular corpses brought back to life. As long as it wasn't a higher level undead which usually only appeared deep inside the Deadzone, Lineir could run away and the rotting legs of the undead wouldn't be able to even catch a single piece of his clothes!

Feeling confident in his decision, he accelerated linearly, confident that the best way to avoid whatever was behind him was to outrun it.

"As long as it's really a lower level undead it shouldn't have the ability to attract others!" he thought. Right then, a ghastly dragging moan filled the air, filled with hunger. It ended in a slithering hiss.


"Damn! I must have been a terrible person in my past life to have such terrible luck! to think that it's really an undead of a high enough tier to even have working lungs! I'm done for if it attracts other undead!" Behind him, the one moan became many as answering undead joined the chase.

"This is ridiculous, there should only be a few undead in the outer zone but there has to be a whole horde behind me!" Lineir started going as fast as he could, frantically trying to put distance between him and certain death, when he realized that this would be a terrible mistake. He slowed and began to jog, trying to calm his racing heart.

"If I sprint all out, I'll never last till the gates and the horde will certainly devour me. But if I keep my calm and never look back, I already have quite the lead on them. It should be enough to jog until I reach the gates and then the White Horizon Sect's guards will be able to summon experts to deal with this situation!" Beads of sweat poured down Lineir's forehead, anyone that wasn't a master of cultivation and thus couldn't fly to safety would feel the same. What was behind him was too terrifying. One wrong step, one overturned stone, and a small trip and fall could very well lead him straight to the Hells. Suddenly, Lineir felt pressure as a piece of his clothes was grasped. Somehow that first undead was right behind him, wailing away! The city gates were in sight, he began shouting,

"Guards, guards, summon the Sect! Or we will all die here, undead at the walls! Start shutting the gates!!!" Lineir could feel the undead hand on his back, holding a strip of cloth on his back. He pretended it was his sister's hand guiding him, that it was nothing and sprinted all the faster, determined to outrun it and tear himself free! The gates came up and archers leveled their bows at him. "Please don't shoot until I get free! I'm a citizen of the city, guards wait please!"
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