Nothing was as easy as it should be. The Iron Ring Slavers tried every trick in the book and even wrote some new ones to hide their crimes. Kohar was determined not only to win, but to do so resoundingly. She couldn’t do it all on her own, but she didn’t have to. Having four Spirit Building cultivators around just providing their presence was beneficial by providing a greater sense of legitimacy to her case- and the fact that they were from the Order of Ninety-Nine Stars meant they couldn’t be completely ignored. It also meant that if Kohar was to mysteriously ‘disappear’ things couldn’t just be brushed under the rug, though she had taken steps to prevent that regardless. When by the end of the first month the four Spirit Building cultivators became five, Kohar found herself somewhat jealous. Was stepping into Spirit Building so easy? Perhaps she might ask for advice, but she had business to finish first.
The Iron Ring Slavers did their best to drag their feet, trying to stall or entirely prevent having to produce the required documents. They attempted to claim that some of the people hadn’t ever been sold to them. Kohar was certain they bribed some people to push back against the lawsuit. She received a threatening letter which intended to consume itself after she read it, possibly explosively. Catarina spotted that and disabled it by slicing just a single line in the paper, which left them with a useful piece of evidence- though tracing it to the Iron Ring Slavers in a sense of legal proof might be difficult.
Everything that needed to be done was far too much work for one person, but Kohar didn’t have to work alone. Anton Krantz had been part of the village of Dungannon and was willing to throw large amounts of money her way. Kohar took her proper payment for her time, but even that part of it mostly went to the same place as the rest- hiring additional hands. When they finally received documents, there were far too many for even a peak Body Tempering cultivator to read over in a reasonable amount of time. Most of them were unrelated to the case or clearly falsified documents. It was frustrating that it took what was basically bribes to get proper sanctions against them and require them to produce the original documents, but at least the money was available.
There wasn’t just work to do in Veron, because she needed to notify every person who had bought one of them. They were basically threats disguised as legal missives, informing them that any further harm to befall any of the former villagers of Dungannon would be prosecuted to the fullest extent. It wasn’t possible to punish them for previous actions as slave owners could do almost whatever they wished with a slave and they could, possibly legitimately, claim that they bought the slaves in good faith that everything was proper and legal. Preventing any further harm even before the end of the legal action was critical.
As time passed it became more clear to Kohar that they would be successful, at least at the surface level. Those who still lived would be freed. The Iron Ring Slavers would be forced to refund the sale price for all of them. The slave owners might complain about that, but Kohar had already prepared to deal with them claiming increases in value. Honestly she was ambivalent about whatever resulted from individual events of that sort, because whether the Iron Ring Slavers or the slave owners had the money it still supported the cause of slavery. What she was really pushing for was further penalties to the Iron Ring Slavers in the form of fines and restrictions, plus recompense for those who had been unlawfully enslaved. The latter of those was unfortunately not always required, but since it was basically intended to assuage cultivators if something happened to someone they knew there was actually a good chance to get some amount of payment- though ironically not nearly as much as the sale price of a slave.
The four younger cultivators displayed clear potential and the promise of later difficulty if things didn’t go their way, but Kohar personally found herself more concerned about Anton. Well, not actually concerned- none of his ire was directed towards her. Instead, it came out in his every movement as he stood in the courtroom. His face was calm, his back straight, and his heart murderous. Yet he was in complete control of his emotions, never reacting to provocations in anger.
Nobody was allowed to use their cultivation to suppress others in the courtroom. That was the law, but what it practically meant was that nobody was allowed to attack people or put physical pressure on them. Once Anton had seen what others got away with he consulted Kohar, and then he began openly impressing those strong emotions upon people. It was occasionally enough to make the lawyers from the Iron Ring Slavers choke on their words or stumble and admit to certain sorts of wrongdoing. Every little bit helped the cause.
Dozens of papers sat on a table in front of Anton. It disturbed him that the lives of people were reduced to just ink and paper, but that was the current state of Ofrurg.
One pile were those who had not survived. Illness, accident, or foul tempered masters were the main causes. One had been killed by wild beasts while working on a farm that generally took decent care of its slaves. Another pile was those who were missing. Several were said to have escaped. Others were bought by roaming cultivators who were unable to be contacted. Some seemingly hadn’t ever been registered at the Iron Ring Slavers.
Anton didn’t intend to take every declaration at face value- owners might have decided that the slave was worth more to them than a refund for whatever reason. He doubted many would do that- they could receive payment as if the slave was new and in good condition- but some people were very attached to certain slaves or just stubborn and unwilling to give up something that was theirs.
He would be taking advantage of his friends and allies to move throughout the country and help retrieve those who had been freed. Some would not be in any condition to travel, nor would they necessarily have the resources. In the worst case, as lone foreigners they might find themselves right back in slavery with fewer tracks to follow.
So many friends and family reduced to pieces of paper, though Anton had to admit the majority were merely acquaintances. He might have fond memories of them, but his closest friends had been older. Even the ones decades younger than himself weren’t slave material. As for family… none of his children were alive. None of them were young. Even some of his grandchildren and their spouses had been older than people liked as slaves. Half had died in the attack on Dungannon, and he now only had six who survived and had known locations. Every individual who had not was another reason to kill Maximillian Van Hassel and possibly everyone connected to him… if he was able. After everyone was as safe as they could be.
Anton’s great-grandchildren started with Annelie, at least if he were counting those from Dungannon. He might have others elsewhere in Graotan, but he was confident they would have at least decent lives there. In the decade since Annelie had been born, he had ten more great grandchildren. All of them had been sold to various training facilities, and while they were alive… two years of that at such a young age would certainly have been disastrous for their mental development.
The furniture in the room was trembling. Anton’s control of energy was better than to accidentally destroy things, but he realized he wasn’t fully controlled. He breathed out slowly, feeling the way his energy flowed out of him and affected the room. He wasn’t naturally talented in that area. Sensing energy in the form of armor or an attack or in large concentrations was simple enough, but the flow of things was more obtuse to his senses. He was now taking the opportunity to train that sense. For the fourteenth star, he was training Spiritual Connection with the guidance of Catarina. Her natural talent had let her assist others who had similar leanings, like Pete, but only when she properly trained that sense in Spirit Building was she able to help others.
His energy circulated through his meridians, through his body, and a small part through the room. He brushed against the edges of the room and the formation Catarina had set up. While the inn they were staying at should be secure, being more certain of that wouldn’t hurt. She couldn’t carve into the walls and just shuffling furniture around wasn’t sufficient, but she had purchased some formation flags and wardstone. They allowed quickly setting up formations and even keeping them more stable, though they weren’t as good as anything permanent. With Catarina’s talent, she would get more out of modifying the surrounding terrain in a specific area, but that could take hours to have a better effect. The reason she didn’t purchase them before was that each set cost more than a thousand contribution points, and a larger formation could require all of them. The price wasn’t actually excessive- both formation flags and wardstones needed to be made out of special materials that could withstand the flow of large amounts of energy. Those who constructed them were rare, even among cultivators.
The papers were left where they were, to be properly distributed in the morning. Looking at them longer wouldn’t help, and Anton wanted to cultivate. Carefully, because he first needed to determine if his current mental state would poison his cultivation or allow him to push forward. He didn’t want to settle for short term gains when he needed to reach the very peak… or at least whatever he could manage. While Body Tempering and the early part of Spirit Building had progressed far more smoothly than they should have at his age, it was inevitable that he would come across some sort of roadblock sooner or later. Whether he could surpass it or not was a different question.