(Patreon) Elder Cultivator 503

-–Chapter Index–-

A warning came to Ceretos of a possible intrusion. Not to the population as a whole, but simply those who needed to be made aware… those who were important or powerful enough to do something. Since that time, Erin watched the sky. There was little she could do about her position. While she was fortunate among Assimilation cultivators to have a mobile source, she didn’t exactly control it. She could, if it were necessary- but Paradise’s normal patrol through the oceans was sufficient for most circumstances. They never really needed to be somewhere specific.

If Erin had actual knowledge of some actual attack, a time, location, or anything of the sort she might have some control. As it was, she just had to wait. It was insufferable. Then, something unusual happened with Paradise. He usually just drifted with the currents, only minimally controlling his movement- but occasionally he propelled himself forward. This was one of those times, which meant he sensed something. The question was, what? Something tasty like a kraken… or some dangerous enemy?

It only took an hour for her to find out which, as Paradise suddenly ceased his movement, dipping his head into the water- but not diving. Instead, the turtle only lowered his head to surround it in water, raising up great waves as he pulled his head up- and keeping the water with him. The energy flow around Paradise told Erin what he planned- the same energy flowed through her, with Paradise’s permission. They did not share personal energy, only the flow from the ecosystem around the turtle, but that was sufficient to determine a target.

Not that Erin could make it out, but she had at least a direction- high into the sky, where there appeared to be nothing. Instead of waiting around for Paradise’s attack, she began to move, flying outside of the arc of the building attack. It wouldn’t do to get in the way. 

As was the norm, Paradise shot a single giant orb of water, barely held together by energy, but full of might. Except for the strange balding man who had challenged the creature, such an attack never targeted an individual- it had previously only been aimed at armies, and created some sizable salt lakes. One of those lakes flew towards its target in the sky, the pull of gravity fighting it and losing. Though the water did not go nearly so far as to actually escape Ceretos’ pull. Not before it hit something.

The impact allowed Erin to sense whatever had been hidden. It was only a few small points of power within the great sphere of Paradise’s might, but she felt them. She was already on her way, and was able to intercept… what was left of them, at least. 

Nothing whole remained, but as Erin watched the falling debris she could pick out at least what it had once been. Ships- several of them, and of vaguely familiar design. Though she had only seen one in person, as an example. Azoth- or the Sylanis Cluster. Or, since they didn’t seem to communicate at all, ‘those bastards’ was a reasonable name as well. Regardless, Erin gathered what she could- valuable pieces, anything that might contain information. The people… while protected by the hull of the ship, it was insufficient. They were dead, and perhaps they deserved it. 

Erin briefly wondered how Paradise knew. There had been others, both from Weos and Rutera, passing by without incident. She could understand attacking anyone that radiated ascension energy- they clearly did not belong. There was no way for Paradise to have known… except, of course, the same way as herself. Just because the great turtle didn’t communicate didn’t mean he couldn’t understand. Or perhaps he simply sensed hostility- it wouldn’t be so odd for such an ancient creature to have those abilities. Either way, as Erin continued collecting she was sending out messages as swiftly as possible. Whether this was part of an assault or merely a few scouts, people needed to know.

—–

Word reached Lev shortly before he felt disturbances in the upper atmosphere- and interactions with the continental barrier. The attack was a little more central- the Grasping Willows were a bit north and east of the core of Brogora- but it wasn’t so distant that he couldn’t sense and even respond. Upon Anton’s advice he had worked to expand his effective radius, and while his power still rapidly dropped off compared to remaining with the Grandfather Willow itself, he could range a few hundred kilometers and still retain power greater than Life Transformation. 

His movement was half flight and half leaping from place to place. Actual flight was not energy efficient, especially for those whose cultivation styles didn’t allow for it. His bounding leaps carried him quickly towards his destination, undoubtedly alarming anyone he passed over- though the closer he got to the disturbance, the more likely they were already concerned.

Standing below the continued assault, he looked up. It wouldn’t be quite as powerful as he’d like, but spectral vines rose from him, reaching towards the sky, stretching into thin, almost invisible tendrils- at least from his perspective on the ground. They wrapped around the ships, squeezing, crushing… but as soon as he thought he might break the defensive formations on the ships, a more solid barrier snapped into place. It resisted him, and not merely by accident. He’d heard of the adaptive barriers, he just hadn’t expected it to work within that few seconds. Unfortunately this meant he’d missed his window of opportunity to slip spores through the barriers, though he considered trying.

Then again, just because he couldn’t crush the ships didn’t mean they could move. He still had a grip on them, and the harder barriers actually helped with that, as his energy tendrils wrapped around the vessels that strained and pulled to get away, at best lifting him off the ground a short way.

Alright then. Lev could work with that. Instead of crushing them directly, he twisted them, their four directional sails sticking out beyond his grip. The barrier protected them too, but as the sails crashed against the continental defense formation, it was clear which was superior. Normally a wider scale formation would lose out at individual points, but then again- the ships had no hope to break through it to begin with. No doubt they would have finished their probing assault soon enough and reported back. 

As sails snapped and cracked, the shifting edges of the barriers clashed with the continental formation, warping and stretching and finally snapping. Actually, Lev imagined he could have done that on his own- though the barrier hardened, resisting his energy… it still had to withstand his force. He’d merely let the continental formation provide a different force as he pulled and bashed the ships against it.

—–

All around Ceretos, similar assaults had happened. Even the Exalted Archipelago reported some intrusions- which they had dealt with to similar results. An attack hadn’t been exactly expected, but it had been theorized. The assumption had been that it would have come after Rutera was conquered or managed to drive off the enemy- and only if they were aware of Ceretos’ location. Obviously they did, though whether they had just discovered it or had simply been waiting was unclear… for the moment. 

—–

Word of the assault on Ceretos would take time to reach Rutera and Weos, so when the significantly more powerful attack came to Rutera, they had little warning. Little… but not none. Matija’s devices were scattered throughout the system, sensing approaching ships from both the direction of the sun and elsewhere. They did not, however, pick up anything coming perpendicular to the system’s primary orbital axis. 

Orbital stations were hit, suffering severe damage before they even realized an attack was happening- but improvements during the war allowed them to hold together and provide an armed response. 

Ships were scrambled, along with cultivators from Ceretos- Rutera’s cultivators were better as part of the fighters, even the standout Ty. Anton was of course among those cultivators, quickly bringing himself beyond the atmosphere to widen his possible array of targets. Each kilometer of atmosphere was much more significant than beyond it.

Though he was aware of the other responses, Anton focused primarily on his own efforts. Arrows pierced into ships, changing targets as enemy ships adapted not just between shots but while attacks were en route. It seemed they expected him in particular, instead of letting their barriers adapt after he struck them. But their system had a weakness. If they adapted to Anton in particular, they were less fit to deal with anyone else. He had no trouble redirecting his arrows the instant before they struck something that would resist him, targeting any who were foolish enough to not see him as a primary threat.

There was no winning scenario for them. Anton’s increasing combat prowess and cultivation were such that he couldn’t possibly be ignored, even as a single individual. Anton was participating in no fewer than three separate battles centered around some of Rutera’s primary orbital defense stations, so they couldn’t exactly just leave. If they did, he’d be at another battlefield within the minute, and that was if they could even get away cleanly. A weakness that had been discovered with the Sylanis Cluster’s ships was that they had to balance stealth, speed, and defensive power. It was logical- there was only so much energy to be split among what they needed- but the speeds that were appropriate in pitched combat and the speeds required for proper interstellar travel were significantly different, and the latter were nearly impossible close to a planet due to the interference of gravity wells.

Rutera had no other Assimilation or Worldbuilding cultivators to provide the same effect as Anton, but their own forces and the Life Transformation cultivators fought tooth and nail, buying time for those not on active duty to join the battle. It was hours before the skies cleared, during which Anton burned through nearly his entire reserve of energy despite his mighty recovery. That meant he was using even more energy than his wild rush around the belt of Kuchion breaking apart the defensive barrier.

But the battle wasn’t over once the skies were clear. Enemy forces had landed- given the orbital defense platforms and Rutera’s own barriers, they hadn’t broken into any population centers… but for the first time in the war a significant number of civilian casualties occurred. Not that they could have been avoided… but it was a blow to the local morale. Even as they reported record numbers of enemy ships downed, people couldn’t celebrate.

Ceretos’ cultivators were a significant factor in clearing the landed enemy forces. Mobilizing Rutera’s forces took time, and while their fighters could and did arrive to gun down the landed ships, they couldn’t do much to individual cultivators on the ground, not without risking significant collateral damage.

Anton flew over a battlefield where he sensed Elder Intan, and no surviving enemies. Up ahead he sensed more enemies, but arrows were already on the way, targeting Essence Collection and Life Transformation cultivators. The faster they died, the fewer innocents would suffer.

—–

The fact that Weos was not attacked was encouraging. At the very least, it indicated a limit to the Sylanis Cluster’s forces, and likely a lack of information. While Weos had previously driven them off in another war, the recent civil war with significant casualties among the elite was a perfect opportunity to capitalize. 

For a brief moment, Anton wished they had been attacked as well- but only so that they would be drawn more strongly into the war. His selfish desires proved unnecessary, as Weos didn’t hesitate to begin discussions of how they could aid an allied counterassault- clearly their enemies weren’t going to pull any punches, and Weos wasn’t so foolish as to think that they wouldn’t be next on the list if the enemy expanded and grew stronger.

It seemed that Anton would have to make that trip sooner than he thought… if only to test the feasibility of being a scout.

-–Chapter Index–-