(Patreon) Elder Cultivator 512

-–Chapter Index–-

It was quite frustrating to deal with information from the Harmonious Citadel, especially concerning Saints. While still indoctrinated by the Harmonious Citadel Vari had been aware of a number of Saints with actual names, but this particular Spear Saint didn’t have one. Was it erased or…? Vari wished she had access to the whole library back on Rouhiri, or even the easily available portion. That way she could determine if there was some weird tradition about it. 

It was weird to think about how obsessed she’d been while not really knowing some of the important stuff, but Vari supposed that could have been on purpose. She was one of many with no family and no prospects- but sufficient cultivation talent to practice the Holy Harmony Technique. Those with greater talent- or perhaps those who had connections- were instead allowed to practice the Glorious Harmony Technique. The worst part was she could see the reason to have a subordinate technique that empowered some cultivators. It was the deception that was the issue- in fact, even Vari herself might have remained steadfast in the Harmonious Citadel’s clutches had they simply informed her what she was actually giving up, and given her a proper benefit in exchange.

Now, though, she was taking the benefits promised, as well as clawing back her devotion, with interest. If they were going to exploit people’s belief in the system, she would do the same to them. 

Searching through the records was dull. Catarina was very helpful, her mind for sorting through information being more robust than Vari’s own. Even so, both of them could have made use of a technique her grandfather mentioned. There was just the issue of transmitting a technique via their communication methods, as it would be missing imbued insights and the like- unless Catarina managed to put together the thing she’d been working on. Beyond that, it was apparently excessively long, though Anton had mentioned that a good portion of it was likely more for practice than an inherent necessity of the technique. Either way, they didn’t have the Ten Thousand Scrolls even though it had apparently been on Xankeshan at the same time as them. Just locked in Everheart’s clutches.

Every bit of information had been snagged from the outpost- spending weeks or months reading was a good way to get killed by someone coming to check up on the outpost. So they had returned to Xankeshan with their goods and read.

There was a large amount of damning information hidden among what they recovered- if only they could distribute it to disciples of the Harmonious Citadel and be believed. Unfortunately many would be naive like Vari had been, and unwilling to even entertain the words of an outsider- or former sister.

“Found it!” Catarina said finally. 

Vari scooched around her pile of papers. “Are you sure?”

“Definitely. The time frame matches up. They don’t say when the Spear Saint was replaced, but there’s information that can lead to that. A couple hundred years ago, a top disciple just… stopped having records updated. Not marked as deceased or missing, but simply ignored. The current Spear Saint is a man, right?”

“That is correct,” Vari nodded. “A… Damjan Atanasov.”

“Aha! So he changed his family name. Interesting. Too bad we don’t have continuing records after he took over as Saint, but we can presume the old one was replaced then.”

“That’s nice,” Vari said, “But it doesn’t tell us about her.”

“Oh, but it does!” Catarina fanned out a pile of papers. “Because the exact same scenario happens in the older records, with one ‘Silvija’. It has to be her. Same thing, no records of anything happening- they just stop. And around that time, a lot of other disciples got shuffled around. The kind of thing I’d expect to happen with a new leader in charge.”

“Huh,” Vari said. “That… doesn’t answer any of my actual questions.” A name was something, but it didn’t help with the weird feeling in the back of her head.

—–

“This is interesting stuff!” Everheart said as he waved about his copy of the Worldbinding level cultivation methods. “If I had access to this before I ascended, I might have been interested in trying it out. Well, except for the thousands of people who were looking for me to kill me,” Everheart admitted. “Probably best I ascended to avoid that whole thing. But still, these are decent. How would you say they compare?”

Anton frowned, “I can’t quite say. For me personally… they are inferior. For those with the right attributes? They might greatly increase the possibility of advancement. Did these two create these, or did the methods come from someone else?”

“From what I was able to glean, they’re on the second or third generation of Worldbinding cultivators,” Everheart said. “They likely had some basis to work with, and this is their personal version.”

“I see,” Anton said. He felt a momentary surge of power in one of his communication devices- going to the upper realms, specifically. “Hmm.”

Everheart sighed, wistfully staring off into space. “I knew a Salvija…”

Anton made a mental note to be more careful with incoming messages around Everheart, but he had some questions. “Is it a common name?”

“It was not uncommon,” Everheart said. “There are a great number of individuals in the upper realms, so there is no lack of people sharing names.”

“Who was she to you?”

“We had a fling,” Everheart said. “You know how it is. Attractive woman shows up, you hit it off- pretty soon you’re in a war with her sect and everything goes up in flames. Then it ends the usual way.”

“… Which is?” Anton asked.

“Death, of course,” Everheart sighed, “You should know that.”

“I feel like you left out a few details.”

“Nothing I feel like elaborating on.”

“Did this happen often with you?”

“Oh, sure. Every century or two. That’s how long it took for them to get fed up with me or… for something unfortunate to happen.”

“You must have chosen women of remarkable fortitude for them to last a century with you,” Anton said.

“Yeah,” Everheart shrugged. “I’m pretty sure they were all crazy on some level.”

“Did this one happen to be a Spear Saint of the Harmonious Citadel?”

“Oh, you know about her?” Everheart grinned, “They were so mad when I invaded their stupid towers and snatched away her statue. But they were just going to destroy it anyway.”

“Right.” Believing Everheart was truly done with the topic, Anton wondered if the information would help Catarina and Vari. “I’ll be going for now. I have a meeting with some individuals from Weos. If you could leave a copy of as much of everything as possible for me, I’d appreciate it.” No doubt Everheart would scramble off as he pleased, back to Ceretos. Anton wasn’t certain if he was weaker outside of the system or simply more familiar and thus comfortable there. Either one was reason enough for the man to avoid battling outside the area.

—–

Among the contingent from Weos was Oluchi, with Merve being present because of Anton’s promises. Those from Weos were a select few Anton trusted with certain information. In general Anton was quite willing to share information about cultivation, but he preferred not to be reckless. Ascension and Assimilation were both significant steps, and Anton was trying to focus more on nurturing those who were trustworthy. Ceretos was in a decent state, but Weos… he’d prefer if those at the start of the race were allies. On paper the whole system was allied with Ceretos, and that would be true in practice at least for the duration of the war unless some powerful groups chose to be very foolish.

Afterwards, there was no guarantee that Weos would remain friendly just because they didn’t have an infestation of Twin Soul Sect members. Cultivators were still cultivators, and just because Weos was internally stable enough to colonize their whole system didn’t say much- especially with how the Sylanis Cluster ended up.

Regardless, he would be sharing the two Worldbinding methods. They were closely tied to the underlying cultivation techniques, but there was still information to be gleaned, and along with Anton’s own insights he hoped to guide some of those now with him towards Assimilation- or at least having it as an option. If they merely chose to study it and ascended instead, he would still be glad for improvements in individuals he felt positively about.

“It seems to me that they were quite focused on local expansion of their ‘domains’,” Anton said. “I think this might hold true for other Worldbinding cultivators as well. It seems to me to be a limited method.”

“Is it?” Oluchi asked. “Most cultivators would rather secure one area strongly.”

“Even so,” Anton said. “It is possible to cover a wider area.”

“For you, it seems,” Oluchi agreed. “But what about the others from Ceretos? They’re not exactly hopping between systems.”

“That’s… a good point,” Anton admitted. “However, I would still suggest a wider focus. Or at least considering the potential to expand. For example, if you wanted to bind with a large gas giant, you might also consider attuning to each moon in turn as well. Then, perhaps, one could move on to other planets whenever that finished.”

“It’s not crazy but…” Oluchi shook her head. “It seems impractical.”

“So is restricting yourself to a small area,” Anton shrugged. “Even if I am weaker among the outer planets, I am still effective.” The further Anton could expand his draw on each star, the less it would make a difference where he was, except for immediately adjacent to a star. That would always provide significantly more power than anywhere else- and it seemed more than ‘normal’ Assimilation cultivators. There had been the slight issue with him nearly burning to death, but that was the risk taken for bonding with a huge source of power. It was a good thing Anton had only attempted a small channel, instead of dominating the whole thing. He couldn’t imagine when he’d be strong enough to control more than a small portion of a star’s might.

“I have a question,” Merve said. “Would it not be reasonable to draw upon the power of stronger cultivators?”

“In what way?” Anton asked.

“The one cultivator had her followers attend her to provide power. If they were instead other Worldbinding cultivators there would not have needed to be many.”

“That’s… a problem of access to power,” Anton explained. “There is one individual who shares the power of an ecosystem with another. That only works in situations where conflict is nearly impossible. Even if they agreed to it, powerful cultivators might struggle against each other. But, I do agree that if there were no conflicts that an individual or group might be empowered in such a fashion.”

“I see,” Merve nodded her head in understanding. “I had planned to use my techniques to support you in the attack, but the distance between us was too great. I was thinking that such a bond might allow for mutual assistance.”

“It certainly would,” Anton admitted. “But you would need a great deal of trust to make that work.”

“I understand,” Merve said. “I will toss that idea aside. I doubt that a mere decade or two would result in such trust with anyone… in either direction.”

“For your technique, I think working with companions might do well,” Anton said, knowing that she didn’t have much contact with anyone besides him. “And if someone were to do something similar with the others becoming Worldbinders, no doubt it would be formidable. Let us be glad that the Sylanis Cluster had not accomplished this.”

“What about a weapon?” Oluchi asked. “Bonding with such a thing and bringing it with you seems like it would solve the problem of mobility.”

“True… but does your weapon empower you, or the other way around? I imagine it would take a weapon of truly marvelous construction to provide even the minimum requirements for Assimilation.” Anton thought of Chikere- she certainly shared a sort of bond with her weapons, but her current power should come from ascension, and thus the powerful energy of the upper realms. Someone with a collection like hers might have managed Assimilation, though even then they would likely need weapons that could only be produced in the upper realms. Chikere had managed to snag some of those during the invasion.

Oluchi sighed, “You’re right. It would have to be something rather amazing.”

“There is some power to be gained merely by the level of insights necessary,” Anton said. “I would be more powerful than a Life Transformation cultivator anywhere– but not to the same degree. I also believe that bonding to something merely to do so could set one’s path in motion in the wrong direction, weakening the cultivator. Either way, the choice between Ascension and Assimilation is not one that should be made in a short time… nor could it be, unless one cultivated to the peak without thinking a single step ahead.”

-–Chapter Index–-