Directing cultivators wasn’t like directing soldiers- something John had no experience in- nor was it really like directing employees. Maybe it was more like new hires who had experience. In short, he knew everyone was competent but not the full extent of what they could do.
Still, being from the same clan they’d undergone at least a baseline of similar training. John ‘remembered’ that from earlier in his life, though probably not as well as he should have. Even so, their situation didn’t call for anything extremely complicated. They formed the simplest sort of formation, a box with John at the front-middle and Magtel and Crystin on the front corners. Those positions were actually more important than the center, because they would face enemies from a wider angle. The remaining members extended the rows behind them, and the whole formation would be intended to push through a group of enemies. With larger numbers on their side or enemies with a better sense of tactics a wedge might be more appropriate, but a box would do just fine for their purposes.
The enormous lizard the guardians were engaged with generally remained in the same area, but each shift of its mass could move it a great distance. Each of the guardians were from the fifteenth to eighteenth rank of cultivation, more or less in the late Foundation Phase. Their own movements were swift as they dodged around, sometimes leaping up to strike at the creature when they found an opening. Though their attacks could pierce through its energy, they still had to deal with its durable hide and the sheer amount of it they had to get through to attack vital organs. So far none of them were on the creature’s back, instead they circled around it to keep it constantly trying to find a target.
For a moment it was facing the group of younger cultivators, but as it began to turn its side towards them John ordered the attack. The darkness elemental spiritual energy of the group weaved together to form a large concealing area as they sprang into action. Between them and the leg were masses of the ‘weaker’ creatures in the area; gorgon pythons, stone constrictors, smaller versions of the lizard, and even a few varieties of birds pecking at it from the sky. The creatures were mostly focused on the monumental intrusion, but as the group of cultivators approached they were recognized as a threat as well.
The front row consisting of Magtel, John, and Crystin pushed through the creatures. The three of them now had several weeks of fighting these sorts of foes, while most of the individual beasts hadn’t fought even a single cultivator. They were able to quickly dispose of those directly in their path, and those they didn’t instantly slay moved back from the group of cultivators, unable to pick out a single target clearly in the darkness. It didn’t conceal just vision but dulled other senses as well- especially precise targeting of spiritual energy, or it would be useless against other cultivators.
It was not long before the group reached the leg of the great lizard- or rather before the leg reached them. As it turned and stomped, John called upon his earth elemental spiritual energy to soften the ground beneath its foot. He couldn’t move that much earth all at once, but he could make it more willing to move. Some of it compressed under the creature’s massive bulk, and some squished out to the side. The spray of dirt scattered off the defensive energy of those in front, but it was actually a significant hazard.
However, its leg sunk several meters into the ground, throwing it slightly off balance. At the same time the guardians kept its attention, preventing it from moving for a moment. The younger cultivators began to leap onto the creature, grabbing onto the conveniently protruding spikes of rock. Some attempted to climb up using its scales to various levels of success- the gaps between the scales were quite large but in some places its defensive energy was a smooth sheet that covered any crevices. However, its energy defenses weren’t so consistent that they found no openings.
John landed on one of the spikes of stone that so much resembled the majority of the stone forest. As the creature tried to regain its footing it shook widely, but with actual stone beneath him he found it easy to latch on with earth elemental spiritual energy. The stone spikes were unprotected by energy, though that didn’t necessarily make them weak points. John quickly leaped upwards, grabbing onto a higher spike and flipping himself up on top of it. The creature lurched once more as it got its foot free, causing Crystin to be too low in her jump. John reached down to grab her hand, yanking her up next to him. There was no time to say anything as they continued up towards its back.
“We must destroy one of the spikes on its spine!” John said as people made their way solidly onto its back. Its movements were still wild, but they had better footing and could accelerate with the beast- though some had to hold onto the various spike formations. “That should leave a weak point we can attack through!”
No doubt the giant creature took exception to their presence on it, but they had not yet caused it any damage and it clearly wasn’t flexible enough to attack them. Even its tail, the most flexible part of it, was far too unwieldy to be used on anything smaller than the size of a hut. Its own stony protrusions even provided cover for the group.
John channeled his earth energy into a stone protrusion next to him, as close to the base as he could without coming into contact with the creature’s energy. “Everyone attack together! As low as you can! On my mark!” Magtel continued to wield his sword in two hands, while Crystin had a spear she stabbed forward. Both had some sort of technique they were using to increase their power, and the other handful struck simultaneously as well.
There was a crack, and the spike of rock a meter thick at the base tumbled. The great lizard upon which they stood roared, the sound so loud as to nearly knock them off their feet itself. Their eardrums would have shattered if not for the protection of energy. The creature also flailed about, intending to fling them off- but John had chosen a point in the middle of its back where most motion would be slight. Several of the others were sent sliding, but caught themselves before falling. Falling from the height of its back would be several stories, not fatal for Foundation Phase cultivators but it would leave them in the dangerous position beneath its legs.
John noticed something as he looked at the broken off section of stone. He wasn’t quite sure if he was right, but testing his theory wouldn’t be hard. “The three of us will continue our attack here! The rest of you keep yourselves steady!” Magtel and Crystin were the strongest, but John was the only one who had earth elemental spiritual energy. He would be quite useful for piercing through the rock. “Try piercing attacks. I’d like to break a relatively small hole in the base of this instead of shattering the whole thing.” Concentrating their energy into finer points would also make their attacks stronger. Since they were relatively safe as long as they watched their footing, they each took a few moments to gather their energy before attacking together.
Two swords and a spear pierced into stone, stone which gave way almost like sandy soil. Much of that was due to the power of their attacks, but the rest was manipulation by John. They did indeed have small holes, but their weapons couldn’t reach anything internal. If they extended their energy beyond their weapons to their limits it might be enough, but that would reduce the power of their attacks. However, John reached down and pulled with his earth energy. The shattered and broken bits of stone in the middle left a half-meter diameter hole in the creature. And… there was no energy moving to protect it. Whether it didn’t realize the weakness or couldn’t move its energy through the surrounding layer of stone, John didn’t care.
“Who wants to go in?” John asked. He had sort of wanted to do it himself, but he wasn’t the strongest among them. Crystin immediately took the chance, stepping down up to her waist. The placement of the stone spikes was directly above the middle of the lizard’s back- and its spine. Holding her spear point down, she gathered her energy and stabbed. The spine was bigger around than she was, so a single stab wasn’t enough- but John heard the cracking of bone as she tried to make her way to the spinal cord to sever it.
The creature’s energy reacted to that. John was able to confirm that it couldn’t control its energy in such a way as to directly defend that position, but it was doing something even more worrying. The energy around the gap Crystin was standing in started to push inward, trying to break the stone that made up part of its own body. John immediately reinforced it with his own earth energy, holding it firm. While the lizard had a monumental amount of energy, it maintained its limited ability to shape it. Each individual point was merely in the realm of a Foundation Phase cultivator. Being only rank eleven, John was on the weaker end of that spectrum but he managed to hold on long enough for Magtel to back him up. Darkness energy didn’t have the same solidity that earth did, but instead it disrupted the control of the lizard. But though their efforts were holding, the two of them would run out of energy soon enough- and the lizard had a seemingly endless supply to draw upon.