Cultivation improved the body and mind of a cultivator, allowing them to physically do more as well as their mental ability to process more input. Even if they had a body that could react in an instant to an attack, without their mind being able to give that signal in time nothing would happen.
The same was true outside of combat. Cultivators were able to do other mental tasks more quickly, including calculations and memorization. Each person still had their own strengths, but all were enhanced as their cultivation grew.
Each time Kohar managed to step up another rank in her cultivation technique, she was able to think more quickly and handle more at once. Yet it seemed like the things requiring her attention increased faster than she could improve herself. She wasn’t trying to do everything herself, but those she was training up as assistants and lawyers simply weren’t experienced enough yet.
The Secret Realm previously inhabited by the Luminous Ocean Society had been beneficial to her cultivation, and she was quite glad for the opportunity to go- but she had been hoping that more trouble wouldn’t arise there. Perhaps that was a vain hope, because she knew that Anton and the others attracted trouble wherever they went. Or perhaps they simply found trouble that already existed and were willing to deal with it where others weren’t. Either way, it resulted in more work for Kohar.
The one thing she appreciated was that the amount of trouble they caused opened up people for making errors, making it easier to find evidence. Tonina Potenza showing her face in public was the easiest thread to pull on, but it was cut off somewhere in connection to her family and their association with the Flying Blood Cult. The group was hard to track, so she could only go after the Potenza family’s other connections. The association between Van Hassel and Zvonko was big. The Order already basically knew they were still working together in some capacity, but having them in captivity for the trial allowed them to learn more. They were quite willing to give up information on the other.
Then there were the executions, and the attacks tantamounting to an invasion that followed. It wasn’t just the Heavenly Lion Sect that got involved. Working simultaneously was the Flying Blood Cult- though they seemed to not be associated. On the other hand, from what she heard about them the fact that the woman who roamed the battlefield as a tornado of blood ultimately ended up killing Enid Galli of the Heavenly Lion Sect didn’t mean they weren’t acting as allies before that point. Some of her words were important, referring to Tonina as ‘her target’. Clearly not for assassination, since there was little point in doing so to someone being executed, and she got her hands on her. So it was rescue, or abduction. Once again, the fact that the Flying Blood Cult was working with her previously didn’t necessarily result in the conclusion that they were rescuing her.
Then there were the other parties. Allies, or at least those who could be considered helpful associates in Ofrurg, helped gather some information on mercenaries hired to cause trouble in Graotan. Hundreds of those not from the Heavenly Lion Sect, Flying Blood Cult, and the mercenaries directly with them crossed the border in a rush, ignoring proper protocols. That bothered several groups of people. Some were just sticklers for the rules in general. The Frostmirror Sect was more on that end, though even they overlooked minor offenses. But they, among others, caught people being delivered to the Iron Ring Slavers, as well as other slaving companies. Of course, they denied knowledge of the individuals involved in the illegal activity.
The worrying thing was that they might be telling the truth. Kohar had no doubt they were still up to more crimes- even if she ignored the parts of slavery that were legal in Ofrurg- but recent events had caused them to be more cautious. The work was so widely distributed and seemingly random, with the destruction being unnecessary and expensive compared to the actual results. The Order had anticipated an outlash from the invaders, thus bringing as many as they could out of the way, but that had just been on the assumption that they would take out their anger as they passed by. Intentional things like overturning fields and capturing some of the few who remained behind were strange- especially people who had no value as slaves.
There were only a few dozen cases of people remaining behind and becoming enslaved that they knew about, a small percentage of the entire population in the area- and most of those were caught- but it was still strange. Those who did it only knew they were getting paid quite well, and those giving the payment weren’t much more helpful- even with the Frostmirror Sect’s willingness to interrogate people quite harshly. Either people were unwilling or unable to answer, both of which were concerning.
But Kohar couldn’t deal with all of that. She had legal retaliations to deal with. The Iron Ring Slavers and others, while denying responsibility, had still been caught red-handed- and even if Kohar believed their claims, they still deserved the punishments. A corrupt organization answering for individual members’ corruptions was perfectly just, and there was no way she was going to let them weasel out of it. The Potenza family either. Direct violation of legal orders followed by further offenses- though less easily provable given the circumstances- was something she could prosecute all day. And she would. As long as someone of sufficient strength came with her. Because there was no way she was stepping a foot into Ofrurg without bodyguards unless and until she reached Essence Collection- and that wouldn’t be anytime soon.
Things of interest in the libraries of a large sect were first and foremost their cultivation and combat techniques, as well as various compendiums on blacksmithing, alchemy or other crafting pursuits. Histories were prized by some, and notes about other sects and their strengths and weaknesses didn’t go ignored. Of minimal interest were simple records- ledgers for transfers of funds and how many herbs of what type were stored when it only mattered if you couldn’t just take all of it. While the Luminous Ocean Society’s Secret Realm didn’t have vast treasuries for the taking- and many of what had once been the stores were cleared out by ‘E’- even things they considered of little value could be quite meaningful to some modern sects. Any enchanted equipment that lasted through the ages was extremely valuable, and simply studying the active formations was a windfall for many.
But not everyone cared about the same things. Vilma Antonov was actually quite interested in exactly how many of each thing the Luminous Ocean Society had in the Secret Realm. The numbers were quite staggering. They would expect several thousand Spirit Building disciples to pass through the realm every year, and that number didn’t always include those returning for additional chances at rewards. Comparing to the Order of the Ninety-Nine Stars, which had only about thirteen hundred Spirit Building disciples total, it was a stark difference. The records indicated that the Luminous Ocean Society was of significant note during their time, which was at least somewhat relieving.
The problem came in the small details of the records. Some of the language was so old it was hard to interpret, but some of the names seemed pertinent. The divine pressure training tower had some implications in its name, but the four elements resistance pill was given significant importance as well. One was to be provided for each disciple ‘to help resist overflowing elemental energy’. From where, it did not say. But there were other references to worry things such as the ‘convergence’ and the ‘harvest’, perhaps two names for the same thing. The records indicated that was what the disciples were being prepared for, and that those who could not reach Life Transformation within thirty years would be put aside for those with ‘proper talent’.
Vilma herself was at the thirtieth star in slightly more than thirty years of cultivation, and was considered to have reasonable talent. She knew she wasn’t a genius or anything, but the fact that she was an entire realm besides what they considered proper talent was somewhat depressing. Though she thought with the resources of the Luminous Ocean Society she might have made more progress- but she wondered why they needed so many people in the highest cultivation realm.
The obvious answer was conflict with other sects, but nearly every sect was marked ‘allied’ or ‘neutral’ in their records, and it seemed conflicts had been ‘minimal’. But the records available were minimal, since the Secret Realm wasn’t the Luminous Ocean Society’s main base of operations. The actual location was unclear, but it seemed difficult for something so grand to have been lost to time. Vilma knew about dozens of sects that had perished centuries prior and still had prominently remembered locations. But perhaps something would give more clues to where it might be, so they could at least search through what were presumably ruins of historical note.
Several years ago, when he had first begun cultivating, Timothy had done so with the intent to keep up with Catarina. His childhood friend meant a lot to him, and even if their relationship developed into something other than friendship he wanted to keep her safe. Simple motivations that had been able to allow him to deal with the trials of cultivation, to a point.
Having seen more of the world, he wanted more now. The world had many problems, big and small, but all of them had some connection to cultivators. Whether solved by them or caused by them- as everything, humans did both- it was important that stronger cultivators could do more. The way people affected things could be quite different. Timothy saw how Anton focused on those who weren’t cultivators- or ‘weren’t yet cultivators’ by Anton’s words. At his current level he was aware that basically no one without cultivation ability could harm him in any way. If an entire city rose up against them, he might not be able to kill all of them, but he could cut swathes through them as he fled the city, uninjured. He wouldn’t, but there were people who would.
Kohar dealt with things from a different angle. She had little direct involvement with the people she helped, but instead attacked the sources of their problem- organizations and sects, especially as they were involved with slavery. It seemed a difficult battle to fight, but when done right it could be enforced by those with powerful cultivations who weren’t even strictly the allies of the Order. While some cultivators might think themselves above the law, if it came to affect other cultivators that attitude would quickly result in their destruction.
Timothy didn’t have a head for law, nor the right temperament for detailed teaching like Anton. He didn’t mind training with people, but he couldn’t bring himself to pick out little problems and correct them all day. But he wanted to help people, keep them safe, and more than just Catarina and his friends. To do that, he needed to be strong. Not just a little bit strong. Recent battles had shown him how strong people could get. Even watching from a distance as he helped defend the refugees, the battle involving Grand Elder Vandale and others at the execution fort had been astounding. And while Timothy knew there were plenty of people with the strength to protect those who couldn’t protect themselves, there weren’t enough people willing to devote themselves to it. Timothy wasn’t sure if he could commit to that forever- he was just a young man, and sticking with something for a decade would already be an accomplishment, let alone a century or maybe a few if his cultivation continued smoothly. But it was his current inspiration for cultivation, and as long as he didn’t focus too much on growing stronger and actually did something along the way, he could be satisfied. The current Graotan wasn’t a battleground, despite the events months earlier, but he could make sure he was ready if anything happened. And, though it was difficult, he would also devote himself to study of larger level strategy, though he had no say on those decisions at his current level. Perhaps if he found some ability there, he could save more lives than he could with a sword and shield.