(Patreon) Elder Cultivator 666

-–Chapter Index–-

The time it had taken Anton to hear the incoming message and conclusively determine it was Anishka was more than thirty seconds. That time could have been her demise, as anything could happen in battle. Once he knew her location, he immediately extended his senses around the curvature of the planet before pressing through the barrier. It didn’t take long to find her flying up high even with that restriction, and his attacks landed a moment later.

He didn’t believe he could shatter a planet encompassing barrier by himself… but opening up a hole briefly was another matter entirely. Unless it was specially made to focus all its power on a single point, he doubted it could match his density of energy. And there was another factor. Much of Ekict’s defenses seemed strictly tailored to be optimal against ascension energy, logical given their concerns about invaders. That would potentially mean that using Ascension energy to attack was useless, but it actually provided an opening. 

A single more powerful arrow crashed into the barrier, causing it to harden. Anton rushed towards the area from his position in orbit, using Star Steps to gain otherwise impossible acceleration as he approached. In his hands was Everheart’s bow, still by far the strongest he’d seen. Recalling lessons learned from another, he widened his arrows, causing them to cross each other in a large flaming X on the surface of the barrier, right where the Ascension energy had struck. Then from the surrounding energy bows, a concentrated fire of hundreds of smaller arrows.

The energy could not withstand his assault, opening up a small hole. Not enough for Anishka to move through, and it didn’t appear she was in full control of her ship. It was maintaining a course even as it was attacked by pursuing ships. But it was a large enough gap for a single person to slip through. The instant he was inside, the gap closed… reminding Anton that their barriers limited his access to the star. Not enough to completely cut it off, now that he was connected, but feeling as if he had gone some tens of millions of kilometers further. Not an optimal way to fight, but he was still strong enough to strike down the enemy ships.

It took five seconds each, including killing the Life Transformation cultivators inside. These ships were native to Ekict, meant to travel between their local planets and sturdy enough… but missing the combined expertise of several systems. Even if the Sylanis Cluster had not been a willing participant, their contributions made for powerful shields.

It was enough to slow Anton, as he slipped passed the distorted space the ring created and grabbed for a hatch, flames running along his arm and melting it open. Inside, it took him only an instant to reach the cockpit where Anishka was. A dozen bows manifested, surrounding the other four individuals. No wait, there were more. Ten, to be exact. But they shouldn’t be enemies.

“Wait!” Anishka called out as soon as he appeared. “They’re friends! Don’t hurt them!”

The flames around Anton instantly faded away as he felt her sincerity. The fact that they weren’t threatening or fighting told him one thing, and the void ants watching over each of them indicated to him they were under control. “Sorry. I had to be careful.” He glanced around the cockpit. “Everything’s on autopilot, huh? Probably better than trying to handle everything manually.” He looked over the group. “I’m Anton. The four of you are locals, correct?”

They all nodded, looking to Anishka to speak. “Patka is my apprentice,” she pointed. “I ended up joining with Celina, Ilona, and Gilda while trying to hunt some frost apes. They helped us out. That was… about the time you yelled at everyone.”

“So you did hear. Glad that worked. Doesn’t seem to have stopped people from gathering armies though.”

“If I may, might Sect Head,” the woman referred to as Celina began to speak, “The leading sects dictate much, and the others can do little but follow.”

Anton nodded. “Sounds traditional.” His eyes flickered. “So what about you ten? I’d like a report.”

The largest void ant among them saw Anton watching her, and gestured to the smallest. Interesting. Once she saw his gaze clearly on her, the small one began to sign. “I am the leading Sergeant of this squad. I have taken command to complete tasks assigned to me by the Great Queen directly while still allowing these loyal soldiers to complete the tasks assigned by your command structure.”

“Great. I’ll ask for a full report when we’re out of this situation.”

Anton overheard the one called Ilona whispering to Gilda. “Does everyone speak their sign language?”

“I was one of the first test audiences for it, in fact,” Anton answered the whisper. The woman froze up, but Anton just smiled as warmly as possible. Anishka’s friends. Good, she hadn’t had many of those. And an apprentice already? He was proud. “But you’ve drawn more than a bit of attention. Without proper direction this vessel won’t be able to escape atmosphere, so I’ll need to take over and point us somewhere we’ll have help breaking out before anyone catches up.”

Anton was almost certain he could do it himself, from inside the barrier. No, completely certain- with the caveat he might have to rest for a while. There simply wasn’t time for that in the current circumstances. If an Integration cultivator and some others found him in such a state, he wouldn’t like his chances.

Multitasking came easily to high ranking cultivators, so Anton was able to deal with all of the consoles at once- not that he truly needed most of them. He wasn’t an expert on the systems, but he’d grown familiar from various flights with others, watching how they worked. Besides, the systems were intuitive to those who understood technology. Anton couldn’t say he was fully immersed in the stuff, but after a century he ought to have gotten familiar with at least some of it. Quick reflexes to fix anything he messed up should handle the rest.

“If the five of you could move to the weapon emplacements? To provide some support.” The ship would do most of the heavy lifting there.

It only took a minute to reach the proper location, but Anton could feel stronger individuals approaching. They couldn’t afford any delay. He would almost certainly live, but he couldn’t shield Anishka from all danger. Sacrificing himself to save her wouldn’t actually help, since an immediate follow up attempt would wipe her out. 

Since the comms worked, he spoke to the fleet to coordinate a bombardment- though a careful one that wouldn’t vaporize them should the barrier be opened. Anton left the controls behind, the ship hovering in position so he could contribute directly. He still had tendrils of energy able to reach the controls, so it could speed through when things opened.

Creating a space large enough for a smallish ship to squeeze through wasn’t so bad, compared to an entire planet’s surface. A great amount of energy was expended over the next handful of seconds, and the barrier simply couldn’t handle it. It failed only in part, as it cracked from both sides. The ship would have scraped against the barrier were it not for the spatial distortion around it, but they were out. Anton watched, hoping someone would chase them out- without the barrier, he was confident their fleets and he could take on any opponents.

The locals might not have been as confident of the same, but they did ultimately have to let them go. Not before Anton shot through a mast on one ship, however. Hostilities were already open, and hostages were either already exchanged or never going to happen. Likewise, those who had turned themselves over were either already under the protection of void ants, dead, or worse. It was hard to endanger them. 

Further action would depend on what Anishka could tell Anton. He wanted to hear her story, but he supposed the details should be heard by as many as possible. “You said it’s called Transferral?” Anton asked.

“Yes,” Anishka nodded. “You heard that part?”

“Very brave to try to share that information while in peril,” Anton said. “We had surmised something like that, though we didn’t have full confirmation, or a name. I’m going to need you to share what you can with myself and the rest of the council here.”

They docked the smaller ship inside a larger one- not quite an Ascension class battleship. “The four of you will come along with myself, Anishka, and the squad,” Anton said to the others. “Do not depart from us, just to avoid unnecessary trouble.”

 They began to make their way towards a meeting room, where people would be arriving posthaste. Along the way, Anton was stopped by Ingeborg. “We appreciate the practical demonstration of the barrier’s capabilities, but next time give a bit more warning.”

“I’d love to,” Anton said. “How about in fifteen minutes?”

She raised an eyebrow. “That’s a quick meeting. You think it will actually be that fast… and that another assault would be appropriate so quickly?”

“Perhaps neither,” Anton admitted. “Though I will personally have recovered.” Once again outside the barrier, Anton had his whole flow of energy, including the trifles from his more distant stars. He was still working on incorporating Azun into his regular combat style, but he hadn’t quite completed anything when he had left In’istra, Azun’s neighbor.

The questions for Anishka quickly revealed what she knew. Most of the information wasn’t truly new, but they finally had a proper name. Transferral didn’t sound nearly so horrible as the actual thing it did, and while she couldn’t speak on the process there was no way that taking another’s cultivation could be tolerated. 

“Any weaknesses?” someone asked.

“Sorry,” Anishka said. “Sergeant had to sneak into their libraries to find that much. The information wasn’t there. But, I’m certain it’s somewhere at the Northern Glacier Sect.”

“Seems like a good target,” someone else said. “We need to begin retrieving people as well.”

“Retrieving… you know others who survived?” Anishka asked. “I… didn’t see any.”

Anton took over, giving a short explanation of what had happened.

“My mother’s down there?” Anishka tensed up. “We need to-” she stopped herself. “Yes, it does require a proper response.” She didn’t want her mother to sacrifice herself for her- especially since that hadn’t at all been what got her out. Though it seemed that she had known it wouldn’t help. “At least there are brave void ants there.”

“Speaking of which,” Anton said. “It appears the Royal Guard has taken interest in the situation, hasn’t it?” he looked over at several ants that surpassed the centimeter mark in length, quite a bit smaller than the Great Queen but massive as traditional ant sizes went. There were giant ants, of course, but they were without sapience so they were practically grouped with beasts.

“It is time for the Sergeant to provide her perspective,” one of them said. Anton translated, though most of those involved here had taken the time to properly learn the language. After all, the void ants were a force that could not be ignored. Not safely, at least. The Sergeant gave her explanation, until after the escape from the Northern Glacier Sect. “Very good. Then how did you end up with these, and why do you smell like a traitor?”

“How dare you!” Anishka slapped her hand on the table. “She helped me so much!”

The tiny form of the Sergeant made its way forward. “We will resolve this matter internally.”

“But-” Anishka looked to Anton for help, but he shook his head.

For one thing, that was the Sergeant’s choice. And while it seemed Anishka had grown attached to this particular ant, it really was the void ant’s business. Except, things were already weird. As far as he could recall, internal division among the void ants was exceedingly rare. He only heard about it because of his connection to the Great Queen. This shouldn’t be a big deal.

Except, there it was. A disagreement on how to interpret orders, a battle, and even running off with another group’s troops. The tale was woven with no apparent duplicity- though Anton wasn’t even certain if he could tell if a void ant was lying. He’d assumed so, but up until now they’d basically been completely truthful at all times. Then again, that was up to personal interpretation wasn’t it? Even if they didn’t intentionally distort things, they could only act on what they knew and thought they knew.

After the Sergeant completed her part of the story, one of the Royal Guard stepped forward. “According to your own testimony, your mission is now complete, correct?”


“Then you will submit to quarantine until the Great Queen’s judgment can be provided.”


“No!” Anishka called out. “I mean… that’s not fair!”

“It is reasonable,” the Sergeant said. “I did fight with a superior.”

“They were the ones stopping you from following the Great Queen’s orders, though!”

“Yes. And I am confident she will resolve the situation in my favor.”

“Oh.” Anishka frowned. Anton could tell she didn’t believe that so well. Though perhaps he could tip that balance. Before he could suggest something like that, however, Anishka continued. “But I… was hoping you could stay around. I’m not done here.” She gestured to the four from Ekict. “There are good people here I need to help… somehow,” she looked to Anton, who smiled. He’d definitely support her on that.

“Understood,” the Sergeant said, turning towards the Royal Guard. “The princess requires extended protection service. I cannot go with you at this time.”

-–Chapter Index–-