(Patreon) Elder Cultivator 696

-–Chapter Index–-

Bright sunlight and a cool breeze on Anton’s face were quite a pleasant combination as he stood on deck. It was only very slightly compromised by the chill of manacles around his wrists, but his inner warmth quickly solved that problem. 

“Stop looking so happy,” Jamilah said from next to him. “I don’t like being manipulated.”

“Everyone is always manipulating everyone,” Anton said. “Some of them are just more honest about it. What’s your problem with me?”

“You didn’t warn me about Bachtiar.”

“Didn’t I?” Anton asked. 

“Not properly. If you had just told me I could have…”

“Could have what, shown up with an army in the headquarters of your allies? Without warning any of them? This way, you took him in peacefully.”

“It could have gone badly, though,” she admonished.

“So he attacks someone. I stop him, and take the blame. And then you properly look into him and we end up here eventually anyway.”

“You were too hasty.”

“Better than giving him a chance to cover his trail.”

“And what trail do you think he had?”

“Embezzlement, accepting bribes, all sorts of corruption,” Anton answered.

Jamilah narrowed her eyes. “You knew?”

Anton shook his head. “I know the type. If you’re already a traitor, what’s a little corruption on the side? Nobody would even look into the harbormaster’s finances, I imagine.”

“Probably not,” Jamilah admitted.

There was silence for a time, then Anton began the next step of their conversation. “You cultivate based on your understanding of the Reef of Serenity. The ebb and flow of the tides, the deadly shoals, and the storms about the area.” Anton wasn’t asking, instead stating. “But you haven’t been here before.”

“… So?”

“What stopped you?” Anton asked.

“There is much work to be done and…”

“The Harbormaster limited ‘unnecessary’ trips? Especially to the more dangerous locations.”

“It was quite reasonable,” Jamilah said.

“That’s how it always begins,” Anton agreed. His eyes focused on the area ahead of them. “Unfortunate. It seems we will not be able to reach our goal at this moment. The tides are quite wild here.”

“I can move forward alone,” Jamilah said.

Captain Wangi, who had been remaining silent, interjected. “And get yourself killed all alone? Don’t think so. You’ll bring along myself… and him, if you’re smart.”

“Given who you are up against,” Anton added, “It is likely that even if all of your men arrive with you, you will either be surrounded in ambush or they will flee.”

“We have other ships watching the outside,” Jamilah explained.

“Then they are either already gone, or prepared to fight like a cornered tiger.”

“You just want me to unshackle you.”

“I am much more effective that way,” Anton grinned.

“Well too bad. We didn’t bring your bow.”

“I am aware. It had better be there when I get back. It’s irreplaceable.”

“What is it made out of?” Jamilah asked. “Nobody could figure it out.”

“That’s exactly why,” Anton said.

“Can you actually fight without your bow?” Jamilah asked.

“I can create a bow out of energy, just like my arrows,” Anton said. “Though it is markedly less effective, I should still be of some use.”

Jamilah narrowed her eyes. She was at least somewhat aware of Anton’s true cultivation going beyond LIfe Transformation. “Let us hope it will be enough.” She pulled out a key. “I’m going to need a promise not to cause trouble.”

“I give you my word I will not harm anyone not from the upper realms or a disciple of the same.”

“Good enough,” Jamilah said, channeling her energy into the key and removing the shackles one at a time. “I just hope they’re still there.”

“They are,” Anton confirmed.

“I thought you were speculating about them having run?” Captain Wangi asked.

“That was before I could properly sense them,” Anton gestured to the shackles. “Now then, I do believe proceeding any further with this ship will sink us. But I will follow your lead, Jamilah.”

“No, you’re right,” she said. “The flow here is too unpredictable. Better to rely on our own bodies, though we will be without the strength and speed of the ship. We have to at least confirm the enemy’s presence. Come on then, it’s time for some wave walking!” The last order was conveyed to the crew as a whole. 

Swimming was a valuable skill for sailors of any sort. The excuse that going overboard would kill a man on the open sea only went so far. That worked for captains who didn’t care about their crews surviving more than they cared about them wanting to keep the ship afloat, but it didn’t work so well when one considered cultivators. Any cultivators of merit had a strong survival instinct and would take any chance to increase their survival.

But for cultivators like those around the Reef of Serenity, there was an even more valuable skill, walking atop the water. It was a significant expenditure of energy, as each individual was essentially holding themself up on a non-rigid surface, but it provided more flexibility in combat than swimming. Attacking through the water was quite difficult.

And so, the crew began to one by one leap onto the sea. Some floated much lower in the water than others, up to their knees or even waist. Others like Captain Wangi and Jamilah stood fully atop the water, though ultimately it was still much worse than solid ground due to constantly moving footing. 

As Anton could fly, it was much easier to do something like standing atop water. He let his feet dip under the surface, not because he couldn’t easily manage better because it was easier to reduce his up and down bobbing by not focusing on the surface of the water so much. His movements wouldn’t throw off his archery, but that wasn’t a good reason to get careless.

Jamilah seemed to carry no weapons at all, but Anton knew that was simply her combat style. Even without seeing her in action, he was able to pick up on how she would fight. Wangi quite obviously carried numerous javelins on her back, which would be used either to attack something approaching her ship or used as a small spear if they actually got aboard.

The rough shallows tossed people about as they approached their goal, not yet visible on the horizon. However, moving about was only dangerous when they approached rocks or whirlpools that might drag people down- both sensed easily enough from the surface. Jamilah picked out a good path that the others followed, with Anton staying close behind the two leaders. 

“There it is,” Anton said the moment something was visible on the horizon. The others didn’t quite believe him until they got closer.

“That’s a lot more than a temporary encampment,” Jamilah commented.

Wangi shook her head, “Couldn’t be made just from local materials, either. Someone had to be trading with them.”

“I doubt they’ll keep records of it,” Jamilah said. “But we could get lucky. Though I imagine most of it flowed through Bachtiar.” She looked over at Anton. “Now that we’ve confirmed their presence there really aren’t any grounds for suspicion upon you.” That wasn’t quite true, but she seemed to be keeping the secret about him not being from their world, for the moment. Perhaps it was a test, but Anton never even considered abandoning them.

When they could, the group walked along any solid surfaces, leaping between boulders and reefs and the like to conserve their energy. Soon enough they were nearly to the enemy fortress- a solid structure of stone.

“I’ve got that,” Anton said.

“Got what?” Jamilah asked.

Anton gestured over his shoulder to where a signal flare was being shot up into the air, a lingering bolt of energy. “That,” he said as a golden bow formed in his hand. He drew back his bow slowly, taking shots one-by-one. Of course, he could have done much more… but he wanted to conceal his power from both friend and foe. “It is only a few squads attempting to snatch your vessel while we are away,” he said, firing another arrow. “Basically just Essence Collection or Spirit Building.” Sure, there had been one Life Transformation cultivator, but they seemed to have barely stepped into the stage to begin with.

“How did they-” Jamilah shook her head. “Scrying, of course.”

“I’d assume so,” Anton agreed.

“Shouldn’t they be able to predict the loss?” Wangi asked. She held up a hand to cut Anton off. “No prediction can be perfect, I get it.”

“Exactly,” Anton said. “It seems they forgot to account for range.”

“How many kilometers is that?” Wangi asked.

“Just five or so,” Anton replied. He’d been able to shoot that far for all of Essence Collection, so it wasn’t that big of a deal. Except to a planet like In’istra who had recently undergone repeated catastrophes.

“Alright. What next?” Wangi asked. “We’ve confirmed their position so…”

“We bring it down,” Jamilah said.


The waters began to swirl unnaturally beneath Jamilah’s feet. “Unauthorized structures within the jurisdiction of the Reef, especially those housing pirates and invaders, will be destroyed.”

Anton grinned. It seemed someone wanted to show off a bit. He was glad to watch.

The waves lapping up against the shores of the fort suddenly receded, then crashed forward towards the walls. The process repeated several times, before ballistae upon the walls began to shoot down at them. The large bolts crashed into the waters around them.

Wangi narrowed her eyes, looking at Anton. He looked back without guilt. She could likely tell there was a reason the bolts missed, and that it was him… but if she was going to complain about that, Anton would offer to let her ship sink next time. Not that she appeared particularly upset at the current circumstances. 

The walls of the fortress had at least rudimentary barrier formations, but that didn’t stop Jamilah. As she continued to walk forward without fear, the crashing waves grew stronger- but instead of just battering the walls, she focused on the reefs below. The Void Scrying Sect was wise enough to not build things on simple sandbars, having made solid foundations below, but Jamilah dug deep under the water until she managed to find something she could pull apart towards the ‘front’ of the fort, where the docks had a few vessels lined up. 

Some people tried to stop the docks from falling apart, but a few shots from Anton made it difficult for anyone to stop Jamilah. The walls crumbled along with part of the docks, and the true assault began.

With part of the wall crumbled, the barrier formation was greatly weakened. Wangi was now within range for her javelins as well, just a few hundred meters away. The first thing she did was take out the crews of various ballistae. Their group contained members of both Jamila’s sect and Wangi’s crew who boldly approached the fortress.

Anton was fairly certain they had things in hand. The Void Scrying Sect was successful not for their straightforward battle prowess but their predictive abilities, avoiding that which they couldn’t win. So the fact that they were here meant they thought they would come out on top- at least compared to facing the ships outside their ‘harbor’. But even if their prediction had been correct as far as they could manage, it didn’t account for Anton very well. In fact, he would be surprised if they had been able to predict the fleets outside their little den. They would have been expecting Bachtiar to warn them the old fashioned way, most likely. 

Either way, arrow by arrow, Anton dealt with the most dangerous individuals. He didn’t necessarily kill them, but if an arrow took out a shoulder, elbow, or knee the ability to fight was dropped drastically. Those who noticed that it seemingly took little more effort to cripple a Life Transformation cultivator than one in Essence Collection besides a several fold difference in actual power were more likely to judge their senses as being incorrect- or to not care, because they were busy staying alive. Anton hoped that what would be most remembered was Jamilah bringing down the walls. And if anyone was overly concerned with his sniping abilities, he would just teach a dozen people Horizon Shot before he left and show them. Maybe Wangi could do the same with a javelin.

-–Chapter Index–-