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The Order was quite fortunate to have one of the teleportation locations in central Graotan. Since all of their members would be as safe as possible well within the borders, Grand Elder Kseniya was able to leave them behind and return to meet with the other Grand Elders before twenty-four hours had passed. That did result in the meeting being called at odd hours, but emergency meetings functioned quite that was, and Kseniya was quite certain that some information would be time sensitive.
“I’ll just give a quick summary,” Grand Elder Kseniya said as she addressed the other eight. The ranks had changed significantly in recent years, including Kseniya’s own position. “Everheart did something that resulted in around a hundred high cultivation members of the Twin Soul Sect, maybe more, dying in some sort of deathtrap. Plus some others he rooted out for whatever reason.” Kseniya shrugged, “Also Anton for a bit but apparently that was a mistake.” Some people might have had questions about that, but Grand Elder Kseniya didn’t stop for a moment. “Emma Strand was one of them.”
Kseniya tossed a bag onto the table, inside of which it was easy enough to sense the woman’s equipment and whatever had previously been in the storage bag.
“There’s nothing incriminating in there, but from the fact that she didn’t come out…” Grand Elder Kseniya shook her head. “Plus, Anton was nearly killed by her.”
“I know you said we will get to that point,” one of the new Grand Elders, Laszlo Fodor, interrupted. “But it seems like Anton’s entanglement with that should be treated very seriously.” Grand Elder Fodor was young, as far as Life Transformation cultivators went. He should have been close to Anton’s age, in fact, somewhat over a century. Of course, Laszlo had been cultivating for the majority of that time instead of starting six years prior.
“About that,” Kseniya said. “We’ve had some of you practicing techniques for detecting Twin Soul Sect members. Grand Elder Vandale…”
Vandale nodded, “I do believe I have had sufficient time.”
“Myself as well,” a man nearly as old as Vandale- but with a significant gap in cultivation- brought attention to himself. Einars Zajoc had not been particularly inclined to seek out the position of Grand Elder, but with so many positions becoming available at once someone had to fill them.
“Wonderful,” Kseniya said. “Then first we should have you inspect each other, then myself and the rest of us.”
Grand Elder Fodor sighed, “I would hope that none of us were traitors, but as one of those who was recently promoted in position I agree it is quite reasonable to have us all checked. Emma Strand was not close to a position of Grand Elder, but from what I recall she was a solid member. Or at least appeared to be.”
“Performing regular missions, but not standing out in any way,” Kseniya nodded. “We’ll have to check everyone. I imagine it won’t be terribly quick.”
“It should be possible in a few weeks,” Vandale said, “The problem being those who aren’t present at the moment. If Everheart was accurate in whatever he was doing we shouldn’t need to concern ourselves with the group who went to the tomb, which is a relief.”
“It was on the moon, by the way,” Kseniya noted.
Everyone looked at Vandale, who smiled. “It’s still there.” There was a collective sigh of relief. Nobody could say for sure what would happen with Everheart involved.
All of the Grand Elders gathered around as they were checked one and then two at a time. Just for the sake of surety, they had both Vandale and Zajoc check everyone. Only then could they really relax. But the Grand Elders were just nine people out of thousands of members of the Order- and while it was good news that none of their Grand Elders had been compromised, they still had to check the rest of the Life Transformation cultivators. If even one of them was compromised it would be a great loss. Late Essence Collection cultivators like Emma Strand weren’t much more populous, with only a few dozen of them in the entire sect. Losing one wasn’t a huge blow, but too many more- before whatever upcoming troubles there would be- could weaken the Order enough for problems to occur.
When the returning members of the Order came through the gates, Anton spotted Grand Elders Vandale and Zajoc nearby. Before they said anything, Anton gave a bow to Vandale. Though they were certainly friends, being properly formal in public was still appropriate. “Grand Elder Vandale. I assume Grand Elder Kseniya has already spoken to you, but I would like to request a meeting in private.”
A powerful energy fell around them, but its power was comforting. Vandale’s energy made Anton feel safe, though if it had ever been directed at him in anger he would have of course felt otherwise. “Speak freely,” Vandale gestured towards him. Anton took note that Zajoc was included, but that didn’t bother him.
“We need to get everyone checked to make sure they aren’t part of the Twin Soul Sect. As soon as possible.”
Vandale grinned at him, “See?”
“Fine, fine. I won’t doubt your expertise,” Zajoc inclined his head back to Anton and explained. “Elder Kseniya said much the same thing when she arrive ahead. That’s what we’re here for.”
“Oh, my apologies. Where should I line up?”
“Right there is fine,” Vandale said. The barrier of energy around them dropped, and Vandale smoothly transitioned into addressing the incoming group. “Thought I doubt any of you were worried, yes, Elder Kseniya returned safely. There are some things which had not yet been publicly announced to the sect- things intimately related to oddities you encountered in Everheart’s tomb. The full details will be explained, but the short explanation is we need to check all of you to make sure you aren’t hiding membership in the Twin Soul Sect. Just line up behind Anton there. This may take some time, and nobody will be allowed to leave the sect grounds until we are complete.”
Nobody objected, and they began to start checking the return group. It was unlikely that Everheart would have failed to root them out, but they had to check. While nobody liked being a suspect, the fact that after they were checked they immediately were given tasks that required a level of trust made everyone feel proud. While not everyone wanted to guard the perimeter of the sect, this was a time where everyone had to take part. And to make sure nobody would be leaving, they needed everyone to participate.
Vandale and Zajoc were worried that perhaps their training in the new technique was flawed, since it had only recently been developed. Perhaps if they knew they were being checked- and it was quite impossible to hide it- the members of the Twin Soul Sect could hide it. However, they finally found two more traitors. Both were in Spirit Building, one found by each of them Vandale and Zajoc.
It was concerning that several of their members had actually been spies- and not just for rivals, but part of a group that seemed quite set on sacrificing everyone else in the world for their own gain. Yet the Order was actually better at vetting their members in other ways- members of the Twin Soul Sect obviously had little regard for morality, so if they weren’t careful in their actions the Order would deal with them regardless of whether or not they were found for that reason.
Other sects also began to conduct their own investigations, even if they weren’t quite ready. The Frostmirror Sect ended up rooting out more than a handful of high-ranking members, which wasn’t all that odd considering they had no emphasis on morality. But just because the Frostmirror Sect didn’t think that anything was always wrong it didn’t mean they would abide by traitors.
The Frostmirror Sect operated from a logical standpoint. They didn’t commit crimes not because they felt there were objective moral standards they thought they should follow, but simply because going by agreed upon rules kept them safe. Even if the rules weren’t formalized, they would prefer not to anger anyone of great strength. Likewise, keeping within certain boundaries made it easier for them to gain and retain allies. On the other side, minor infractions that could be explained away let some things slip through the cracks.
Information about what happened on the moon spread quickly. Sects were suddenly performing internal investigations- spurred on by the sudden fact that the Twin Soul Sect would realize they were not as secret as they wanted to think. From the perspective of the Sects performing the investigation, things were bad. From the perspective of the Twin Souls, things couldn’t be any worse.
Many of their high ranking members died suddenly in the tomb, and though there had been some indication that people were catching onto their schemes suddenly losing contact was a problem. Even those who hadn’t been present were rooted out from sects they were hiding in. Majken knew that they had their own safehouses and groups that were not part of any sect, but things were looking bad. The only thing she was optimistic about was the fact that secrets died with the high ranking members in the tomb, and that she had kept her identity concealed.
She had been so close to sweating as Grand Elder Vandale checked over her. She was only early Essence Collection, nothing compared to Emma Strand- who she hadn’t even known was also a member of the Twin Souls. Still, Vandale could crush her with one hand. A pinky maybe. But it seemed the technique for rooting them out wasn’t perfect.
After the inspection was over and people were finally allowed to leave the sect, the first thing she wanted to do was flee. Promises of abundant cultivation resources in the next life were all well and good, but if she died without accomplishments- and at the same time as a whole bundle of other people- she doubted it would mean anything.
But leaving immediately would be a dead giveaway. There weren’t any good missions to go out on. On the other hand, Majken needed to get in contact with someone. She hoped her contacts weren’t among the myriad of those who died. There were some related sources who should be able to get her hooked up with the Sect, but Majken had the feeling some of them would be keeping their heads down. Or turning traitor, since the whole plan was blowing up.
What a mess. She’d have to figure out some way to get something out of all of this. It would just take caution and care.
As soon as he sorted through his storage bag, Anton was extremely aware that every piece of fruit and every vegetable he had collected had been consumed. It had been enough resources to let him cultivate like a king for a year- or more likely a sect leader, since kings were an extreme rarity in the cultivation world. The only consolation he got was that all of the seeds were still intact, just with all of the valuable energy-infused flesh eaten off. He didn’t see anything that could be the cause, but it didn’t seem to have happened to others.
So while his cultivation wouldn’t directly benefit, he could still work with Elder Howland to reproduce some of them. It might take years for some of the plants to grow into a usable state, and some of them might fail… but Anton wasn’t doing all of that for just himself.
He just wanted to improve the state of things overall. Even with more details about what would be happening in the future, Anton stuck to that idea. While the thought of people scouring the world for resources and benefiting from his work make him unhappy, it really wouldn’t be possible to try to stop the invaders without raising the quantity and quality of cultivators throughout the world. Even if it was just Graotan, anything that could be a thorn in their side and cause more of them to die would be a benefit in a way. And if they simply consumed all of the cultivation resources before the invaders arrived, they wouldn’t get much out of it.
Of course, not everything would suddenly go away. Equipment would be needed for the battle… hopefully a century away, but at least a few decades. It wasn’t possible to prevent them from getting that, nor from tearing apart any structures or fields that were still being used. But it certainly wouldn’t do to hoard resources for later generations. There would only be a few generations at most, depending how they were counted.
By Anton’s standards it would be two or three, since he came from a background of a mundane person where a person growing to adulthood and having a child defined the length of a generation. By the standards of cultivators it would likely be Anton’s generation that was involved in the fighting- even people starting cultivation a few decades after him would be part of his generation. After all, the variance in time it took people to get to higher ranks of cultivation- late Essence Collection and Life Transformation- could be from a handful of years apart on the small end to a hundred or more between those with the most and least talent.
Anton’s previous thoughts of just making sure that the weakest people had some cultivation and were able to stand up to the rest now seemed inadequate. In a way, ascenders returning to invade them for resources was a more extreme example of exactly what he wanted to stop. And he was sure as hell going to do it. He might also die, but he was going to do it no matter what.