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Though the formation encapsulating the battle with Vandale blocked off some of the sense of it, a battle with seven Life Transformation cultivators was something any cultivator would feel from more than a handful of kilometers away regardless. Once that battle began, more cultivators revealed themselves. Grand Elders Kseniya, Fodor, and Zajoc were among those present, as well as a significant portion of the ‘absent’ Essence Collection members.
All of that could be felt from far away, even where Hoyt fought to maintain some semblance of control over the enemies trying to break past him. He couldn’t help but have lingering thoughts about the battle above, but his focus remained mostly intact. With a sweep of his axe he sent flying several approaching enemies. While he would have liked to slice them in two, he wasn’t quite capable of that in this sort of pitched combat.
A barrier of fire protected the open doors, but it didn’t completely stop the Twin Soul Sect. Some were strong enough to force their way through unharmed, and some simply ignored the consequences. Inside, they were met with those that had at least equal determination- if not always equal cultivation. But the defensive position allowed the Order to fight many-on-one as well as to cycle out those who had exhausted themselves for fresh combatants.
Hoyt wished they had a replacement for him, but the number of Essence Collection cultivators they had around was insufficient for him to take a break. Somewhere in the back of his mind he tracked the fight at the top of the mountain increasing in intensity, to the point he could hardly believe the energy was dulled by a formation.
Then the end came. He was very aware that his grandfather was going to die soon, regardless of what happened here. Hoyt himself hadn’t been in on the details of the plan- avoiding riding on his grandfather’s reputation meant he had to give up most of the benefits there- but he was aware something had been happening.
It was not strange that he chose such a death. Many cultivators would prefer to go down fighting, though not all of them considered the interests of those around them. While the recent movement of people had obviously provoked this attack, it was likely it would have happened eventually anyway. Controlling it in some fashion was the best that could be done.
As he felt the last vestiges of his grandfather’s energy fade- through what he suspected were extremely weakened defenses- Hoyt put on another surge of effort. While he might not have wanted to gain his position through his grandfather, that didn’t mean he wanted the man to die. While it seemed he was so old that it could happen at any time for the entirety of Hoyt’s life, it had also felt like he might simply live forever. Hoyt knew that wasn’t the case, but it was still something he wasn’t ready for when it actually happened.
The fight was difficult where they were, but other Grand Elders were fighting with the other Life Transformation experts. The exact details of the battle were unknown, but Hoyt had the utmost confidence they would win. Then they could overwhelm the remaining enemies. They just had to hold on until then.
Waiting was the most difficult part of a battle. The anticipation of the start was painful… but once the battle started, it was even worse to not participate. Yet that was where Timothy found himself, sealed underground. Waiting. The same as he had been for weeks, ever since he’d been selected for the task.
Elder Rana was controlling a formation that kept them concealed, near the heart of the Order. Had it been an hour since the news of the attack? Or it could have been just a few minutes, or days. Everything was blurred together.
The only thing Timothy could feel outside of their underground location, a place he had grown far too familiar with, was a dim sense of energy. Several powerful groups. Then there was another, the strongest concentration all at once.
“This is it,” Elder Rana said. “Everyone knows where you’re assigned. Get going!”
Timothy was glad he wasn’t assigned to the group that would be fighting against the Life Transformation experts. It wasn’t that he was afraid, just practical. Early Essence Collection was no match for them, and while he was proud of his defensive prowess it would only take a slightly more than casual attack for one of them to break through, killing him or those he protected. He wasn’t much good as part of a group attack either.
Where he would do best was supporting friends and allies he was familiar with. He wanted to already be with some of them, but since he had been chosen to remain hidden, he didn’t really have a choice. If people were just allowed to excuse themselves from the operation, it wouldn’t have remained a secret for long, no matter their intentions.
Timothy was assigned to go protect the rewards hall and the rest of the complex there. If he pushed himself, he would arrive in less than a minute. And then he would die, because he wouldn’t have any allies who could reach him. Staying within the ranks it was only two or three minutes for the trip, as everyone moved at a quick jog. That was by cultivator standards. The slowest among them moved quicker than a galloping horse, even down the slope of the mountain. The paths were as smooth and even as they could be, but they still provided some difficulty. Given the situation, the path wasn’t always the quickest way either.
As they approached Timothy felt the formation and thought of Catarina. While he’d associated her with them since the beginning of their training, this time he actually felt her influence. It wasn’t necessarily something those unfamiliar with her would pick up on, but the way she proliferated her energy was quite comforting to Timothy.
Spending time with her in the same group it had not been possible to stay ignorant about formations, and he could feel gaps forming and being sealed at a rapid rate. People were breaking through… but they wouldn’t have to wait much longer.
Once they were close, Timothy was one of the leaders of the charge aimed at the rear of the sieging group. His initial attack wasn’t even quite sufficient to take out one of the Spirit Building cultivators, but that wasn’t where his focus had been. When a dozen people turned to counterattack, he was prepared to deflect their energy. He didn’t care where it went- back towards them or any of their allies- as long as it didn’t go past him to the others charging behind.
Fuzz had sniffed out the secret underground den on the second day they had been constructing it. How would he not know about a place people were coming and going so frequently? However, he had been respectful of the larger pack’s privacy. Though Fuzz didn’t understand it himself, some places were off limits to some members of the pack. So he had stayed away.
It was only in the last day that he had smelled both Devon and Timothy, having wandered close. Those two were missed by the others, and they were supposed to be off on a mission. That prompted Fuzz to stick his nose inside, where he had promptly been captured after a little bit of play wrestling. He was careful with the members of the pack who weren’t familiar with him, since they would injure easily.
It was not long before those he was seeking came, and it was explained that he would have to stay for a time. He didn’t quite understand why, but he hoped it was not too long. And though a day and night passed, his hopes were quickly realized. Now they were out! Free to go deal with a group of enemies trespassing on the pack’s territory!
Fuzz didn’t understand exactly why they hadn’t just been waiting outside, but it didn’t matter now. Devon was much heavier than Alva, but Fuzz was constantly growing stronger. His actual size hadn’t increased much in the last year, but the power of cultivation flowed through him. Fuzz knew he would never understand energy as much as humans did, but he made his best use of it. And he could use it to make his body stronger as well, a little bit at a time.
With Devon on his back, Fuzz darted down the mountain. The calls of the others indicated that perhaps he should slow down, but Devon himself encouraged Fuzz to keep going. Fuzz augmented his nose to smell for who he wanted to find. Timothy was going towards Catarina- and Velvet too though she was harder to sniff out. Hoyt, Alva, and Anton were all to the south. So that was where they were going. Family came before loyal pack members.
As they got closer Fuzz narrowed down the location to the food-place where he often received large chunks of meat. Even though he hunted his own food in the forest, he liked to eat with the other pack members. He knew they often gave him the parts that were hard for humans to chew, the disfavored pieces, but he enjoyed them all the same. And sometimes they gave him the parts they liked the best. They were good too, if a little soft.
Fuzz had time to think about all of that before they arrived. Then it was time to fight. The fire on one side of the building was Hoyt. He seemed fine for the moment, but atop the roof Fuzz saw trouble. Attackers were climbing and jumping through broken not-walls of the kind Catarina made. Formations, maybe, though Fuzz wasn’t much for fancy words.
Alva and Anton were engaged in melee. Anton seemed to be functioning rather well with his twin axes- and somehow he was still shooting arrows- but Alva was weaker and less comfortable in her position. Anton was clearly making his way towards her, but there were many enemies in the way.
Fuzz picked up even more speed, aiming for one of the openings so he wouldn’t hit his head on the air. He could feel Devon’s energy atop him, ready to fight. Then he leapt the last thirty meters, landing directly on one of the attackers. Fuzz thought the impact might have killed him, but his teeth bit down on his head to make sure. A satisfying crunch.
A dozen chains lashed out at people around them, pulling people away from Alva. Devon hopped off of Fuzz, leaving him free to roam as he pleased. That meant he could go help Alva, who was facing away from him and fighting an enemy with clearly superior axe skills.
She had grown closer to the size of a full woman since he knew her, but she was still much smaller than him. Small enough he could stand over her with his chin over her head. He snarled at the wrinkly old woman she was fighting. The woman backed off, and Alva spun around to get a mouthful of fur.
Fuzz took that and the hug to be words of happiness that he had arrived, and then Alva grabbed a handful of fur and vaulted herself up and around onto his back.
“Let’s go Fuzz!” Alva called out as she unslung her bow. “We’re a bit too close here.”
Fuzz immediately leapt off of the roof. While his personal preference for battle was up close, he could always make use of his teeth and claws when they became necessary. The flying claws of archers were much more suited for dealing with opponents of the type available today.
Fuzz ran around the battlefield, circling around the area while Alva rained shots down on their attackers. Alva had great senses and accuracy, so he didn’t concern himself with keeping a steady pace. They were well used to battle with each other.
Fuzz brought them towards a group of three away from the others, both of which were archers. One just used very big arrows and no bow, but the fact that their attacks went beyond their armlength made them an archer. Seeing them approach, attacks began to fly at them. Fuzz dodged and weaved, minimizing the amount that Alva had to duck down close to him.
She shot back, taking out the two archers before they arrived. But strangely enough she didn’t shoot the third enemy, even as they stood there obvious. Perhaps she was just aiming, but as Fuzz charged forward she turned to shoot at people in a different direction.
“Fuzz, head back towards the battle!”
Fuzz took her command into advisement, and he absolutely would after he dealt with this last one. She could still hit the enemies from where they were, and since she hadn’t deigned to fight this one it was all his.
The final opponent stood still as they approached, suddenly moving as they got near. A flying leap, as if they were trying to get atop Fuzz’ back. It was a little bit hard to track them since he couldn’t see or hear them, but his nose knew better. He reared up, mouth opening then closing.
For his efforts, he got a blade stabbed into his gum and another into his jaw. In return, he got both of his opponent’s arms. Then the person was suddenly visible to his eyes, and they for some reason looked surprised when he batted them to the ground and then stepped on their chest. As if leaping towards a wolf had an option that didn’t involve them getting bitten. How strange.