As it turned out, every part of the arm was rather important for firing a bow. That included the wrist. While it didn’t need to be bent, it did need to hold up against force. Not something that Anton wanted to try with a broken wrist. Supplementing with energy to protect his wrist might work, but the tendons in the fingers attached all the way to the wrist.
He could just go a couple weeks without firing a bow, but he didn’t want to. He also didn’t want to do something stupid and injure himself worse, so he let his arm hang at his side with his wrist properly stabilized. Maybe with his foot?
His leg raised up. He had to admit he was now much more flexible than he had been ever in his life. He could raise his leg up to the same height as his outstretched left hand, but along with lifting a leg completely screwing up his stance nobody could be flexible enough to pull the leg back far enough to grab the string and then draw it. That was simply not how bones worked.
Teeth were immediately rejected along with everything involving the mouth. No flexibility in the teeth, and everything in that area was far too vulnerable and not muscled enough. If he could somehow manage it, the draw wouldn’t be much short. Generally the draw of a bow ended with the hand beside the head, so it would only be centimeters off. Of course, the difference between beside and in front of could be very significant. No point in trying.
He wanted something sensible or he might as well not bother. Sadly, there weren’t really any extra grasping limbs on a person. That was all he had.
If he wasn’t a cultivator, he would have just given up as soon as his wrist was broken, but he still had one more option. He could just use his energy to pull back the string- it was already going to be attached anyway. He’d just have to find the right path for optimal stability. His energy could easily extend that far from his body without losing power, especially with his arm outstretched alongside it.
The first test was a hilarious failure. Everything seemed good. He formed a spirit arrow by reflex now, so adding a bit more energy along the length of the string wasn’t too hard. He pulled it back from the center, let the tension go and… the arrow stuck to the string. Probably would have caused some damage if his energy wasn’t passively covering the whole bow.
He tried again but remembered to not attach the energy on the string to the arrow, except as necessary to pull it back. The result was much better, but Anton still found the technique lacking. It was the same as trying to use the bone bow that far outclassed his abilities. It was simply too much manipulation of energy at once, though having an actual string there instead of merely having to replicate the effect of one made it work somewhat better. Of course it also helped immensely that he could bend the bow.
In the end, he drastically reduced the number of arrows he shot for a while. Not to none, because he found that it was useful practice even if it wasn’t practical at the moment, but he also couldn’t shoot hundreds of arrows per day with the extra expenditures involved. It reminded him how much work his body was still doing underneath all that convenient energy.
It had been more than a year since The Hunt, which allowed some time for the forest and creatures to recover. Disaster had narrowly been avoided due to Catarina’s fortunate discovery of the hole in the barrier which allowed time for Hoyt to get help while Anton, Catarina, and Timothy defended Thuston from an unusual outpouring of creatures. Said help had eventually led to Grand Elder Vandale, who was able to affect the great number of beasts from afar, killing most of those around Thuston and in the outer part of the forest.
The hole in the barrier had been sealed, but nothing unusual about it was found. Even the best formations could fail given enough time, and as an exceptionally large one that was even more possible. The strange part was how quickly the beasts had found it and the way they acted as a group. Though there were some more intelligent magical beasts among them, it had still been unusual.
At the time Anton hadn’t heard much more on the topic. Thuston was safe, the barrier repaired, the forest watched. Those were the important details at the time. However, now that he was much stronger when the opportunity arose to look further, he took it.
Much stronger… yet he was still unqualified to participate in the current initiative to scout the deep forest. The name for the forest varied depending on the location and who was speaking of it. In the area controlled by the order, it was usually just called the Beast Forest. As it travelled to the northwest across the border into Ambati, it was often just the Western Forest. It was undecided whether it was technically the same forest that eventually blended into the jungles in northern Ambati or not, but creatures who handled the different climates well travelled between them.
Having heard about the scouting effort, Anton went to speak to Elder Anand. He was the man who had organized The Hunt previously, and was responsible for much of the work with the forest. Elder Anand had dark skin and was beginning to show his age with wrinkles and greying hair. When Anton came to his office, he greeted him with a smile. “Anton! To what do I owe the pleasure?”
Anton was briefly taken aback. “Ah, I didn’t think you would recognize me.”
“How could I not?” Elder Anand said. “You were one of those responsible for protecting Thuston. That could have turned into a disaster. Anything that ends with Grand Elder Vandale acting…” he shook his head. “I would certainly not forget so easily. Besides, you must know that your rate of advancement is exceptional. There are few new members who match your speed of growth, and many of those who do… are connected to you in some way.”
“I must admit not knowing as many other disciples as I should. Though I have been expanding my circles.” Mostly he was making sure to keep in contact with those interested in archery, like Marcio. “I have been fortunate in finding a good path. I am aware not many people reach Spirit Building within two years of starting cultivation.”
“Not that many per year, either. We get a dozen on average. Sometimes only a couple, sometimes more. Though given our total numbers, that’s actually quite reasonable. But you didn’t come here to talk about that,” Elder Anand gestured, “What was it?”
“Well,” Anton began, “I heard you were continuing efforts to learn what happened in the Beast Forest. I am aware that early Spirit Building cultivation is not sufficient for even some of the middling areas, but I wished to help out if I can.”
“You’re an archer, correct?” He could obviously see Anton’s bow. “You have good eyesight?”
Anton nodded, “And experience tracking.”
“Then… I think we have something that can work for you. It’s not currently so important as to call in Elder Kseniya, and the rest of those with good eyes or tracking experience are occupied.” Elder Anand shrugged, “Which isn’t that strange, with a good third of those beyond Body Tempering out of the country at any particular point.”
“I didn’t encounter many in my travels,” Anton said. “I had no idea it was so high.”
“Well, you went to Ofrurg, right? They’re not so friendly to us there. Probably no more than a few dozen of our members there at any time, so you’d have to just be in the right city on the right day.”
Anton nodded. “Right. About that opportunity?”
“Oh yes. We haven’t completed a thorough sweep of everything. It’s probably thousands of square kilometers to cover, and we’ve also been trying to keep the current wildlife relatively intact. We’d not wish to spark trouble. Normally things were quite calm, and nothing truly worrying came too close to the Order’s territory. Nothing that was encountered last year was concerning in its particular power, but how many Beasts and how they acted was the concern.”
“We identified several magical beasts that were somewhat in control of the attack on Thuston,” Anton mentioned.
“Yes, I am aware. That should normally not have been enough. There is the possibility something deep in the forest drove them away, intentionally or by virtue of its imposing presence. Elder Kseniya did make a sweep of the area, but powerful magical beasts have the instincts and intelligence to hide from strong cultivators. Kseniya is… not the most stealthy sort of person.” Anand smiled, “Anyway, what I have in mind would be a search for oddities. Strange trails, unexpected populations of animals, checking dens, and the like. I myself am planning to head deeper into the forest, but we have areas not covered as thoroughly that an elder could escort you through. Or you and a team, if you prefer to get more combat experience. In that case the elder would merely be on the watch for creatures out of the norm.”
Anton smiled. “I certainly have people in mind for a team. Don’t want people to get too much in the habit of just sitting around peacefully cultivating. Though I suppose if all goes well we should end up in few battles.”
Anand nodded, “Preferably, but there are a few types of extremely territorial creatures that have great ability to find intruders, and not enough sense to think about them being cultivators. So you could certainly find yourselves in combat, even if you leave things relatively undisturbed.”
“And if we manage to avoid fights…” Anton shrugged, “Honestly, quietly slipping through the wilderness is a good training exhibition, though hopefully not one we’d need regularly.”
“Good. When you are able to put together the team let me know. I’ll be looking for an appropriate elder to accompany you, and we’ll provide you with relevant data we’ve already collected about the area and especially changes from our records.”