Either there were no remaining guards in the section they had entered through or they chose to stay well out of the way of Anton and Elder Varela. Either way, Anton strode confidently out of the arena, keeping his back as straight as possible. He briefly noticed some sort of commotion in another part of the arena, but had no way to affect whatever was happening from his location. By the time he would arrive, everything would be over. Seeing to Devon’s safety was the most important thing at the moment.
Outside was Kohar, along with a woman who had to be Elder Rocha. Her actual age was hard to judge, but she was dressed in fine robes and had the aura of late Spirit Building. Along with the two of them were several dozen cultivators dressed in uniform ranging from mid Body Tempering to early Spirit Building. Elder Rocha spoke in a very concise manner. “We have now confirmed the situation with my own eyes. This young man was unjustly harmed under the instruction of Tonina Potenza.” That declaration was for those watching from afar. Anyone in the nearby area who was a cultivator would have felt the conflict, and where there was conflict there were curious onlookers. At a safe distance, of course. “Now then, we shall escort this injured man to safety.” With that, she turned and everyone followed.
A quite serious procession began, walking at a quick pace only suited for cultivators but not one so fast as to worsen Devon’s injuries as he was carried by Elder Varela. Elder Rocha stood at the front, with Kohar, Anton, and Elder Varela behind her. Around them on either side and behind were the other cultivators in city official uniform.
They only managed several blocks before another group moved to intercept them, Tonina at the head. Her guardian Masozi was next to her, attempting to support her without it being obvious- but it was clear she couldn’t stay on her feet by herself, let alone walk. “There!” she pointed, coughing as she raised her voice. “Catch those criminals!”
“Tonina Potenza.” Elder Rocha said the name like a mother chastising a child, though without any sense of affection that might otherwise be present. “What do you think you’re doing?”
“What are you-” she coughed, “-You doing? They attacked my arena!”
“You have made interesting choices as of late, Tonina Potenza.” Elder Rocha’s voice was perfectly steady and calm. She gestured towards Elder Varela, who pulled out a paper. “Do you remember this document?”
“I… can’t see it from there. Hand it-” she coughed and a small amount of blood trickled from her mouth. “Hand it to me!” Elder Rocha flung the piece of paper to Tonina… who instantly tore it up it when it reached her hands- though she had to make use of her energy to do so. “Hmph. I don’t see anything.” Her guardian placed his head in his free hand as she did so, sighing.
“That’s three counts of ignoring official legal orders, and two counts of destruction of official documentation.” Kohar spoke with great confidence, despite her low cultivation compared to the rest of those involved. “Plus unlawful imprisonment, attempted murder and…” she looked at Devon, “Torture.”
“You can’t-” Tonina winced and held her hand over her chest, “You can’t prove anything.”
“I have witnessed several of these accusations with my own eyes,” Elder Rocha said. Her face remained impassive, but her energy in late Spirit Building stretched over the area. “Even if you had merely destroyed an order in front of my face you would be facing arrest. Surrender peacefully or face the consequences.”
As Tonina was about to speak, Masozi clamped his hand over her mouth. “Of course,” he said. “We will comply willingly.” He looked to the city guards Tonina had gathered, who were standing around awkwardly. “Feel free to return to your other duties. Your continued presence is redundant.” Tonina tried to struggle against his hand, but she quickly passed out. “Now then, I believe we have two people who could use greater medical attention.” He scooped Tonina up in his arms. “Shall we proceed?”
“One moment,” Elder Rocha said. “Why bring these,” she gestured to the dispersing guards, “Then so easily surrender?”
“I do not have a death wish,” the man replied. “Earlier, I assumed that this man,” he nodded to Anton, “Was simply fabricating a false legal claim for the sake of his grandson. Thus, calling upon the assistance of the city guards was a reasonable action.” He began to turn, walking slowly along the street, “For the record, I was not aware of any prior documents.”
At the current moment, Anton was busy regulating his emotions. It was unnecessary and foolish to think of launching another attack on Tonina, but he really wanted to. His anger was righteous and justified, but if it could be resolved without bloodshed at the current moment it was probably best. Either way, the attempt would not help his cause in the slightest. He really hoped she would die on the way, but the amount of blood she was losing at the moment seemed insufficient.
As they reached the core of Khonard and the government district, several powerful cultivators that were likely a match for Elder Rocha seemed about to stop them, but Masozi always shook his head. “We need to make our way to the infirmary without delay.” With that, there were only harsh looks but nothing more.
Only when they arrived in the infirmary, and had actual healers looking at the two injured people did Anton relax. The guards Elder Rocha brought separated Devon and Tonina’s sections as well as watching the outside.
“Do you need-”
“I’m not injured,” Anton said as a third healer walked up to him. “I appreciate the concern, but I am just… fatigued.” He wasn’t quite sure if he’d pushed the forbidden technique too hard or not far enough. Logically speaking he understood that not killing Tonina would be safer for him, but if he could have done it… actually, he was unsure if it would have made him feel better at all. It would be nothing compared to the relief he felt when Devon was declared to be stable, his breathing steady if a bit weak.
Waking up was unexpected but welcome, except for the pain. Devon had made the unconscious mistake of trying to open both of his eyes, and his right eye protested the effort greatly. He thought he managed to avoid damaging it further, but he had to just grit his teeth for a while to help the pain dull. Speaking of dull pain, it was sort of all over his body. Why had he survived?
Recalling memories was much less painful than trying to move, despite the unpleasant nature of the memories. When compared to the current pain he felt the memories were worse, but they were also less real. He’d been in a match with Moreno. One where he was going to die. Yet just as he was defeated… Moreno fell. Anton! His grandfather had come back! He never really doubted him- but in the three days he’d been waiting for his scheduled death he hadn’t even considered that his grandfather might arrive. But he arrived just in time. That had to be a cultivator thing. Would have been nice if he was an hour earlier though.
He heard footsteps- and felt the auras of cultivators. Two strong ones. Anton and… one of his companions. He’d sensed it before, but they hadn’t had the chance to actually meet.
“Don’t try to sit up, Devon.” Anton’s voice came through the door, “Doctor’s orders.”
“Tch.” How did he even know he was trying? It just felt so awful to meet his grandfather flat on his back.
“I heard that,” Anton said as he opened the door. “Which is good. It doesn’t hurt to talk?” It was wonderful to see the face of his grandfather again, and to feel safe. If he could stand up he would be hugging the man- and if he wasn’t injured, he knew his grandfather would have his arms around him, nearly crushing him. Instead, Anton gripped his hand gently.
“No.” That was one part of him that really didn’t hurt, which was good. His one functional eye went to the familiar form of his grandfather… and a strangely familiar form of a young woman he’d never seen before. “Who is this?”
“This is Catarina,” Anton answered. “It would have been nice if I could have introduced you in happier circumstances, but that did not work out as hoped. But now that you are free- legally, if that makes you feel better- we have the opportunity. She is Ashlyn’s granddaughter.”
“Really? Amazing!” Ashlyn had left the farm while he was still young, but he remembered her somewhat. “That explains why she looks familiar.”
“It’s nice to actually meet you… uncle Devon?”
He smiled, “That’s probably the easiest thing to call me.” New family. He really wasn’t sure what to think about that, but he’d have plenty of time in the future.
“There are others waiting to see you later,” Anton said. “We’ve had great success with freeing those from Dungannon, but did not wish to overwhelm you while you’re injured.” Others were now free? More than before? Devon was almost crying now, but it hurt to even think about it. Besides, he’d spend so long just staying alive nothing felt quite real yet.
“I appreciate keeping things small.” Thank you for saving me, by the way. I don’t know if I said that.”
“I promised to return.” He said it as if it were so simple. Perhaps he didn’t even know there was exhaustion in his voice.
Devon’s eye turned to Catarina. For some reason, she was standing excessively close, her face now a hand’s length from his own, though she was looking over all of her head and torso. “Hmm…”
“What?” he asked. “Something wrong with my injuries?”
Catarina pulled back and blushed slightly. “Ack. Umm… sorry. It’s, uh…”
“It’s fine. I’m aware I’ll be badly scarred. I might not be able to move, but my energy is just fine. I can feel it all.”
“That’s not quite it… see Fuzz was really injured too…” she shook her head. “Nevermind. It’s probably a bad idea.”
“Well now I’m curious.” Devon really wished he could sit up or even turn his head without the dull pain greatly sharpening. Even turning his eyes hurt his right, as there were injuries on its surface.
Anton looked at Catarina for a few moments, then rolled his eyes. “She was probably thinking about turning you into a walking formation.”
“Like… a building?” Devon asked in confusion. “I know formations are the protective things on the cells.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Catarina said. “You’re not like Fuzz, so it would probably hurt to try. And I can’t guarantee I wouldn’t mess it up.”
“You know about formations, though?” Devon was quite curious. “I’m missing most information about cultivation, honestly.”
“I’m sure we can help with that,” Anton said. “While I can’t say I have much more experience than you, I had a much better learning environment.”
“Yeah.” Devon frowned, “Is that bitch dead?”
Anton shook his head. “No. I tried.”
“Good. I’ll kill her myself. Maybe. I’m stuck below the peak of Body Tempering.”
His grandfather’s face turned into a very wide smile at that. “I’d love to hear about it, and help you through. In fact, I could teach you a much better cultivation method.”
“I’m not sure,” Devon said. “I’ve come so far. I’d like to continue this path, if I can.”
Anton nodded. “A reasonable choice. And I should be able to help ease the journey somewhat. You don’t have to follow the prescribed methods exactly as written… though do be cautious.”
“That’s something I learned quickly.” The only problem was Devon wasn’t sure how well his body would recover. Some of the wounds were deep into the muscle. But even if he couldn’t continue cultivating, just being alive and somewhere relatively safe was wonderful.
Pack dynamics were getting more and more complicated since they met up in the big city. There were so very many new people! However, Fuzz preferred not to think about that. He was one of the members of the pack, friendly with the pack leaders, and treated very well. Not only that, he was now also a mighty steed to carry one of great import, a pup in the line of two of the pack leaders! Another from the line of Anton and Catarina. Surprisingly, not even the youngest, though she was even smaller than Fuzz himself.
The child known as Alva had started riding him around when he recovered from his injuries, as her leg had still been broken. However, the situation had been amenable to the both of them so they didn’t stop when she recovered the ability to walk on her own. Alva was very willing to hug him and scratch his fur, both of which were very pleasant. Her weight on his back was comforting and not too burdensome, though he certainly wouldn’t be able to fight with her riding him.
The pack seemed to be both very busy yet they also seemed to do nothing at all. He hadn’t remained in a big city so long before. Usually they continued to travel, or at the great and small homes of the pack he was able to run free in the wilds. Now, he had to have one of the pack leaders with him as he traveled about. Truly strange.