Nine Paths Of Asura Chapter 52

52 Death Jungle
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Lineir clambered down the cliff, which was actually far higher than the one he had climbed down before. He sighed, while he had looked high and low, and in every nook and cranny of the cave, the dragon girl was gone. However, the strange brand on his shoulder remained, and he could feel it there, constantly reminding him of her words... she could find him, whenever...wherever. At the moment though, he was free.

Making his way down a rock face so steep that it would be suicide for all but the most expert mortal climbers, however, he easily found paths. His strength was such that if he wanted to, he could simply barehanded reach into the stone and carve out a handhold with his fingers. Such was the advantage of his newfound strength. After his escapades on the pillar, he was many times stronger than before. To be honest, he wasn't even sure how strong he was,

"I wonder... if i simply jumped from here... would it even be dangerous?" He stared down at the dizzying drop before him. The length of which, even a fraction would have easily killed him before.

"I'd better not risk dying just to find out. I'll just climb down the regular way." Laughing at how ridiculous this train of thought was, he went down with renewed vigor. At the bottom, large amounts of greenery greeted him, however... something was off. Lineir paused and looked around.

"Mmmm... this place feels wrong." Mei agreed,

"Kiddo, I'm sensing a slightly higher amount of death Qi than normal in this place. Yet this place would appear to be a wilderness home to magical beasts, there should be no reason for so much death Qi to simply be hanging around. Be cautious, we don't know exactly where that dragonkin dropped you off. While you might be strong, if this is the wrong kind of place, your strength will be insignificant. Remember, you've only just begun to master the art of authority, large magical beasts and constructs will still pose a major threat to you, especially if there is more than one!"

"Understood!" Lineir silently answered mentally, and then began to creep forward. He kept his center of mass extremely low, back hunched and knees bent, scurrying silently through the brush. Darting from tree to tree, he advanced at a rapid speed while still maintaining a high amount of stealth. His goal was not only to cover ground while staying stealthy, but also to make himself a hard target if he was discovered. This was a key point which Mei had stressed in training.

"Disciple, what is more important? Stealth or speed?" She had asked him once.

"Well, speed is more important in open battle, where as stealth is key when you cannot engage the enemy directly correct?" Lineir answered.

"Correct, but when in unfamiliar territory, as cultivators, there is another aspect to consider! That is, spiritual detection!" Mei hammered this point home.

"In enemy territory, while it may be tempting to creep forward at the slowest possible speeds, that is simply hoping the enemy will not find you! This is passive, and not a good option unless you are forced into it. Think about it, while the slow snail may not be noticed, if it is, it is simply a target! It can do nothing but die if it is seen! However, neither is blazing speed a complete option, obviously at high speeds, traps and other pitfalls will become a serious threat, to say nothing of the worst possibility, running into an enemy which is faster than you, then you are definitely dead." Lineir nodded, this all made sense to him.

"So kiddo, remember, most of the time, your default option is to continue with stealth, but maintaining a high speed! This way, if you are detected, you are still difficult to hit! This is preferable to either of the extremes. But remember to lean towards speed. Full stealth is passive, in life, those who make the greatest gains must be aggressive, cautious, but undoubtably aggressive! That way, if you encounter someone who is extremely skilled in detection, at least you still have a chance when found. Only in the case of entering the territory of one who is unquestionably untouchable at your level should you commit to pure stealth. Obviously, at that point you have no choice, if discovered, no amount of running will save you." This logic had served Lineir well on the pillar, and now he applied it to use. Since he did not know what kind of enemies he faced, he moved cautiously, but kept a fast pace.

"STOP!" Mei's voice exploded into Lineir's mind as he immediately braked, legs locking at the knees to dig into the dirt. He sensed something incredibly wrong, and had begun to stop at the same time as Mei's mental shout.

"What is it? I can feel this place is wrong." Crouching down, Lineir was like a cat preparing to pounce or leap away to safety. Every sense was probing the surroundings, he could hear the jungle's noises, trickling water nearby, smell the rotting vegetation in the air, and his eyes unfocused to scan the largest possible area for movement. Relying on his peripherals, he tried to spot movement.

"Kiddo, the death Qi has been steadily getting stronger. I can almost taste it in the air. It's getting stronger even when you're not moving, something's coming, hide!" Mei's voice softened even though it was in Lineir's head, as if she was also next to him. Lineir straightened his legs, instantly leaping up and sideways onto the trunk of a nearby tree, alighted sideways and leaped off the trunk into the branches of another nearby tree. Hidden amongst the rustling leaves, he stared down waiting.

"Any moment now... the death Qi is getting even stronger!" Lineir tensed, and braced for action. If discovered, he was prepared to run at a moments notice.

A rustle came, and soft footsteps sounded on the loamy root covered ground. Lineir was like a coiled spring now, his eyes flicking instantly to the movement in his peripherals while his body stayed stock still.

"What is that doing here?"

Below him, walking over the place Lineir had just been, was an undead. It was clothed in ragged rotting robes which were brown with dirt, and was more or less a skeleton with a few chunks of black flesh sitting in it's center. For the most part, it was a skeleton, standing almost two meters tall. In its hands was a large blunt cudgel like heavy sword. It was not an artistic weapon, more of a meat cleaver than a sword. It hesitated over the small trenches in the ground which Lineir had dug when he had suddenly braked. Bending over, with its rags drifting sightly in the wind, it sniffed the ground like some sort of unholy dog. Then it raised its head and stared directly at Lineir's hiding spot in the trees.

"No way... it can smell me!?!!!"
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