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If anyone were to sort various cultivation techniques by whether or not each it would likely be connected to a righteous sect, anything involving light would come out on top, well in the direction of belonging to a righteous sect. That was the perception it had, and truthfully perception influenced cultivation in great ways.
But some people didn’t care about how they were perceived, and would even take advantage of incorrect assumptions. Though there were no assumptions to make about people in this situation. Bright light filtered down through the watery depths around the Luminous Ocean Society, and the invaders shone like golden bells the way the pearly white teeth of a vicious animal might glint in the light.
Nobody from a righteous sect would implement a plan to rob others of lower cultivation just because they could, and the invaders displayed every aspect of villainy. The disciple of the Luminous Ocean Society took up a defensive stance with the others, despite knowing that resisting was futile. While they might have techniques to counter the ascension energy of their opponents, it didn’t suddenly stop them from having higher cultivations.
The disciple’s eyes shifted as he picked out a target. Early Essence Collection. That was the limit. How those beyond ascension could have such cultivation was a question for the academics, if anyone survived to ask them. How they even managed to be present at all was a more important question, one that couldn’t be answered.
A streak of light curved through the water as the Luminous Ocean Society disciple moved to flank their target. Spear crossed with staff and light scattered in all directions as the two cultivators fought. It might have been a beautiful sight, if the purpose of both sides was anything but killing. One side to defend their homes, and the other because people dared to stand up to them.
With each thrust, the Luminous Ocean Society disciple impacted defensive energy. It wasn’t so easy to break through the blinding light protecting their opponent, but that wasn’t the actual goal. Each stab also carved off a bit of ascension energy, sending it spiraling into nothingness. Each strike was one piece that could never be used again. Even if the disciple fell here, nobody else would have to face the energy that didn’t belong in the world. Though it didn’t seem that the Luminous Ocean Society had any chance of surviving this conflict, perhaps their sacrifice could open up the path for others.
A Life Transformation elder stood confidently against an opponent with cultivation beyond what could be achieved. A true ascender, come down to bully those weaker than themself. It was disgusting. And what could be done? Very little. With the amount of ascension energy they had built up, it was enough to slaughter two or three Life Transformation experts wholesale. The complete annihilation of their energy, one after the other.
It was a shame it was harder to disrupt those at higher cultivation, or a well timed strike might disperse everything they had built up. But the elder kept their calm and confident position. As if they wouldn’t die. But obviously that was untrue. An attack with more power than their entire arsenal washed over them, leaving behind nothing but a crater in the sandy floor of the ocean. Not even a strand of hair, a drop of blood, or a fingernail.
While the attack was certainly quite powerful and able to wipe out a Life Transformation expert all at once, it wasn’t the sort that disintegrated a body. The elder smiled as they stood behind the attacker. A little bit of bent light and so much power was used up. This was already a victory.
The invader’s hand thrust out towards the elder standing behind them, a beam of light twice as tall and wide creating an inescapable attack, the speed of light undodgeable and the power irresistible. Nothing was left. Because, of course, once more there had never been anyone there.
It was difficult, creating an illusion realistic enough to fool a powerful cultivator so easily. Light was key, but incorporating other elements was important. The cultivators of the Luminous Ocean Society manipulated the mind indirectly, manipulating light and sound and energy instead of the brain. Realism was difficult to achieve, and the fatigued elder floating above the invader made that clear.
But the elder had already won. Two blasts of energy. And there would be a third. The invader raised their arm, gathering irresistible power once more. It was arrogant. Excessive. A well focused beam would still kill the elder at a fraction of the cost, but the ascender seemed to not care. When their arm flicked downwards towards the bare sandy floor, the elder of the Luminous Ocean Society didn’t even blink.
As their body was well and truly torn apart layer by layer under the final attack, only a smile was on their face. Three full, excessively overpowered attacks. Now the ascender was nothing but a peak Life Transformation expert. If only there was someone remaining to fight them, they could be slain like anyone else.
Though Anton had been one of the last to go comatose, he was not one of the first to wake. As he came to his senses, he felt others around him. Most were in meditation, processing the memories that had been shoved into their head. Anton had no way to know if they saw exactly the same ones, but he knew the subject, at least, should have been the same. The downfall of the Luminous Ocean Society, as well as some glimpses of the invaders.
There was no visual connection to the Twin Soul Sect, but there was the implication that there was more than just a single group of those who would descend into the world to scour it of resources. A coordinated effort, without an easy target to strike. The only way to handle such a thing would be for the whole world to be as prepared as possible.
Anton looked at the clock. Its motions were still nigh-imperceptible. Decades, but how many? That was the question on his mind. Whatever time they had, it would need to be enough. Anton had the feeling that, now that Everheart had thrust upon every major sect the tools to fight ascenders, they would either win… or the world would be annihilated. Though the second was always possible even if they didn’t fight back.
Despite Everheart’s words, Anton truly couldn’t tell if this was an effort to defend the world he was born in or something meant to screw over those in a world that had hated him. Maybe it was a bit of both, though Anton firmly believed Everheart wanted people to survive. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have devoted a number of his tombs to improving the cultivation of newer cultivators.
When the opportunity came up, Anton found his way over to Grand Elder Kseniya to consult her about Emma Strand. While it seemed that the majority of important sects had at least one member of the Twin Soul Sect slip in, it was still not something they wanted aired publicly.
Grand Elder Kseniya listened to his account, staving off those who might listen in with her energy, then nodded as Anton finished. “If Everheart is to be believed, she should have perished now.” Kseniya looked over at the pile of equipment. “As for everything else that implies, we will deal with it later.” Though it was full of valuable equipment and extremely tempting, the surrounding cultivators had avoided jumping on it like hungry animals. At the current moment several sects were sorting through everything, and keeping an eye on each other while they did so. While nobody might trust any of the individual sects involved with such a task, the fact that they also didn’t trust each other meant it should overall end up without trouble.
The things that were easily identifiable as belonging to specific sects went in one pile. Nobody would dispute those, and after everything that happened nobody wanted to start a sect war over one person’s equipment, even if there had been some powerful Essence Collection cultivators and perhaps even a Life Transformation expert or two. The next were those of somewhat debatable origins, while the last were those clearly belonging to independent cultivators, before they perished.
While the third pile appeared quite large, if it were to be split among the various sects and extremely rare independent cultivators who held sway on that scale, they wouldn’t net much in the way of wealth.
Anton looked over at the scene as things began to be distributed. He felt a strange feeling that he couldn’t quite place. “Grand Elder Kseniya,” he cautiously began. She didn’t care if he used her title, but they were in public so he was being formal. “Would you say that the trials of this tomb are finished?”
“I do believe so,” Elder Kseniya said. “The final people just woke up moments before.”
“Then… we need to go.” Anton felt a slight tremor. “Everyone!” he called out. “I don’t know how familiar you are with Everheart’s tombs, but it appears to be completed now. I suggest we run.”
Anton didn’t wait to see if anyone was going except for other members of the Order. He was glad quickly run into Catarina, Devon, and all of the others.
“Where did you-” Catarina began.
“No time!” Anton ran with the doe not far behind him. “I’ll explain later.”
“Why would- oh.” Devon was the quickest to pick up on what he was saying, but nobody hesitated more than a second. They all hurried towards the fortunately quite visible exit, bringing them back out to the surface of the moon.
Anton looked down at the planet below. It was a beautiful sight, one he wished he had time to dwell on. But they were running towards the teleporters. Even those who hadn’t heard Anton’s initial proclamations were picking up on what was happening, as the ground began to tremble more.
As Anton arrived at the teleporter… nothing happened. “Dammit Everheart, don’t tell me you put us through all that just for us to die.”
A laugh rang out near his ear. “Of course not. I mean, not here. You’ll definitely all die, though. Everyone does.”
That didn’t comfort Anton, but simply getting acknowledgement was good enough for him. “I presume all these teleporters will activate at the last moment?”
“Oh yes. I had to make sure people would have time to get to them.”
“And the fact that there was no warning…?” Anton said.
“You warned them,” Everheart pointed out from his position nowhere.
“I hate you,” Anton said flatly.
As everyone began to gather in the teleporters- some in different ones, Anton was fairly certain- Anton realized it would likely be quite troublesome to activate them early to begin with. It had to take an unfathomable amount of power to transport someone to the moon and back.
Despite the number of Twin Soul Sect members and others who perished in the deathtrap, the teleportation pads were still packed. As the last straggler stepped onto one, there was a powerful burst of energy. And then, it was night. Proper night, not the strange sensation of being on the moon.
Then there was a loud cracking sound. Anton looked up, and then began to sprint out of the teleportation platform. Of course those were also supported against their future selves, however that crap worked. A few moments later, everything was rubble, and Anton looked up at the moon. He kept staring at it for several minutes, then breathed a sigh of relief. Thank goodness. There was some chance- a small one, but a very real one- that the whole moon would have collapsed. Instead, there were no visible differences. Actually… Anton thought he saw one little dimple look different. But that could have been his imagination. And if not, well, what was a little bit of change in the surface of the moon when the whole thing could have split in half?
The time passed for a poetic disaster, and the moon remained whole. Or at least, close enough. Anton pat the doe who had actually managed to come with him on the back. “Welcome to your new home.”
Inside his bag, something else stirred that was also in its new home.