Elder Cultivator 251

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Back at the Grasping Willows, they didn’t know about the attack that had happened. However, they believed that the others would stay on schedule. That meant within a few days they would be starting. 

A group of Essence Collection cultivators heading to the Frostmirror Sect was a big deal, especially escorting a lawyer that many groups weren’t fond of. It was just the sort of thing that was perfect to draw attention away from everywhere else. Not that Kohar wasn’t going to be taking part in the upcoming work, but for something of the scale they intended she couldn’t possibly work alone.

Even if things went quickly- and legal things hardly ever did- she wouldn’t be able to be in multiple places at once. Even if a single person could handle the complexities of every portion of so many things at once, which was doubtful, it just wasn’t efficient.

While Kohar was somewhat unique in her drive to focus on the law and using it to achieve relevant goals for the world, it wasn’t as if she was the only person who practiced law. She was just the only one who cultivated to increase her capacity in that area. There were many cultivators and many who practiced law, but few found time for both. In her case, the fact that she cultivated made her tasks more efficient and improved her memory, both important when it actually came time to go to court. 

Having responses prepared or quickly coming up with them kept opponents scrabbling and more liable to make mistakes. It was the same as combat, though usually with less blood and death.

The Grasping Willows resided near Khonard, which had been a target of much investigation in recent years whether they knew it or not. The fact that slavers were being targeted wasn’t exactly a secret, so they should have had some suspicion. Many of the arenas, the main draw of the city, were deeply connected to the slave trade. 

Some people might choose to fight for a living, but fighting to the death wasn’t exactly a stable career. Such battles were more popular, but people who participated either had to be desperate or without any options at all. If fights were between two slaves, every match would have at least one person die- potentially both sides, and that was only individual matches.

That resulted in a bustling trade for new slaves, as even in combats that weren’t intended to be lethal people could die. Only a few businesses shared similarly strong ties to the various slaver guilds in Ofrurg, like large farming plantations.

Khonard would be one of the centers of the plan. The Grasping Willows were mostly present to use their cultivation and influence to keep people safe while they worked- people Kohar knew, or that had been introduced to the cause by various means.

Nobody was just going to roll over and accept their fate. While Kohar had managed some financial damage in prior years, slaving was still a very lucrative business. Many sects in Ofrurg had financial foundations in the slave business. As a nation, Ofrurg could be considered more in support of slavery than against it, at least in terms of the power dynamics.

Even working with the Frostmirror Sect and nearby allies it was a risky course of action. But support extended beyond Ofrurg. Beyond the Order of Ninety-Nine Stars in Graotan as well. The attacks and abductions in Facraona had been partially resolved in the battle at Black Soul Valley, but there were obvious parallels to be drawn related to slaving experience. Estary had many sects on board as well, having lost some people to slaving excursions from Ofrurg. Droca and Floelor weren’t without their troubles related to slavers either, and some of their sects would join up as well.

If things came down to battle, which it very well might, a portion of Ofrurg would find itself facing the rest of the country as well as everyone surrounding them- much of the continent. For a time their actions had been tolerated. Legal enslavement inside of Ofrurg wasn’t something the other countries could directly combat, but various groups had gotten too comfortable with their illegal activities.

The last straw had been the Twin Soul Sect, traitors in the midsts of many different sects. Now that many had been found and exterminated, eyes were turning towards those who willingly associated with that group.

The legal action was just a catalyst, though it was also fully intended to be used as a method to change the laws of Ofrurg as well. Seeing the way slaving laws had been abused, policies could be changed. It might not lead to the complete eradication of slavery in Ofrurg, though that would be attempted, but they would at least add additional restrictions. Though if they bankrupted everyone involved in the slave trade, that would lead to a collapse as easily as modifying laws.

Lev and Elder Varela stood in front of the Potenza arena. While the most high profile crime had been easy for them to pin entirely on their daughter- and indeed, her insistence on not freeing Devon probably hadn’t involved consulting anyone else- there were other shady dealings that happened under their purview. They were just usually more subtle and practiced. 

Lev steeled himself. He knew he should be strong enough to take on most of the guards in front of them if they refused to comply, and that included the increased security that had been implemented as well as the potential for personal bodyguards of the master and mistress of the Potenza family. He knew he had the power, but a few years before he had not. It was only through the fortune of his life being saved and finding inspiration that he had managed to grow to where he was. 

“Do you think they’ll cooperate?” Lev asked Elder Varela.

“If they know what’s good for them, yes. But I imagine our call to the city has tipped them off, and they will be planning something.”

“Elder Rocha said she would be handling that,” Lev said. “As well as some of the others.”

“That’s right,” Elder Varela nodded, “Which is why all we have to do is watch and wait. We had the time to go through proper legal channels now, so we just have to prevent anyone from sneaking away and pretending they were never here.”

Lev nodded. He clutched his right arm with his left. It was still useless, the core nerves having been torn out with the parasitic moss. It simply reminded him of what could go wrong… even as it also reminded him of how his abilities had grown. Controlling his own arm with his cultivation was not the way he would want things to go, but it certainly led to an interesting fighting style.

He smiled as people tried to slip out the back. Nobody was standing there and watching, but that was on purpose. He’d walked by there earlier, leaving behind a number of ‘spores’. He had learned to burrow his energy through that of others, and he could achieve all sorts of wonderful effects with it. That included things like simply making someone pass out, if they were so careless as to let him burrow into their spine.

He wasn’t sure who he’d caught, but when the city guard came by- hopefully with trustworthy people at the head- they would be able to point it out, especially the fact that they hadn’t moved anyone even a millimeter. It simply wouldn’t look good on their record to be slipping out. Little things like that could build up, until you had a monstrosity growing inside you.


Sarto had overestimated himself, and people he trusted to be at least accurate in their assessment of mission difficulty had underestimated the situation he had gotten himself into. Now he’d gone and gotten himself captured and he had to make a deal just to survive. Now he’d spend the last few days running at the quickest pace he could keep, to stay ahead of information that might be traveling.

The crazy part was that the information hadn’t really been wrong. Six Essence Collection cultivators, two Spirit Building, and a wolf. Their numbers far surpassed that as they waited in ambush. Moving into formation to surrounded them was going to take less than a minute, and Sarto shouldn’t have even needed to fight them. He was going to take out a section of bridge and leave things to everyone else.

Unfortunately, beyond the cultivations of the group they were attacking they were missing one key piece of information. They were going after geniuses. That threw everything off.

Sarto was well aware that geniuses died all the time. The ability to grow rapidly didn’t necessarily make someone stronger at a given cultivation level, especially not when comparing to experience. But it wasn’t always strength that won the day. Sometimes it was pure, unrelenting audacity. 

That was the thing about geniuses. They were, by and large, psychopaths. Growing in cultivation at a rapid pace wasn’t just about having the talent, but also being willing to accept the consequences for failure. And people failed- but not all of them. The less they failed, the more confident they became. That could grow into overconfidence, but it also led to making decisions quickly.

Hiding a large group of cultivators was never going to be perfect. They might have been discovered five, ten seconds early but that shouldn’t have mattered. Not if they hadn’t charged forward immediately, assessing that the front group was strong enough for them to overcome in moments. 

That was another thing about them. They didn’t hold back. Sarto had felt the old archer with the group throw most of his cultivation into battering him with arrows in that short fight, massive amounts of energy that seemed impossible to draw upon so quickly. If it hadn’t worked he would have been drained dry, but Sarto couldn’t say it was wrong because it had worked. And with an elder like that around, it was no wonder that the younger ones were just as crazy. 

One of them had even waited in ambush for their second layer of ambush, taking out the assassin who had been waiting under the bridge. One of them, and the other had never shown their face. Not that Sarto blamed them. Psychos like the Flying Blood Cult and Twin Soul Sect might not care if they died, but sane people like himself absolutely didn’t want their life cut short.

Which was why he was now leading a group of expressionless cultivators to go ‘meet’ his contact. He imagined they wouldn’t treat Jan nicely, but honestly they were going to have to stand in line behind Sarto. Throwing him into such a slapdash mission was basically using him as a sacrificial pawn. They probably expected most of them to die before completing the mission.

Sarto cracked his knuckles. Maybe he could get paid for the mission too. He didn’t fully believe he’d get his hammer back from the Order, or that the Frostmirror Sect would let him live… but if he took Jan’s money and left while they were distracted finding information, they probably wouldn’t bother tracking him down. 

On the other hand… maybe they would. Perhaps he’d be better off seeing things through to the end. He had the feeling big moves were happening, and he might have been blessed with a second chance to get on the right side. Or somewhere in the middle where people dropped equipment from their dead bodies. He’d be fine with either. 

Sarto slowed as they approached the small city where he’d been hired. “Alright, I’ve given you a description of Jan already. Tall, brown hair, crooked nose. But the best way to find him will be his cultivation. He practices the Enlightened Fire Style, I think. I’d say it feels… spicy. Should be easy enough to recognize among everyone else. As for the guild itself…” Sarto shook his head. “I’m not going to try to go through their records, but you deal with that however you want. I imagine this is all kept secret, but money has to change hands somehow so…” Sarto shrugged.

“Do not worry,” said one of the women traveling with him. He heard the others call her Elder Adelina, though she didn’t look particularly old. Then again, that just meant she had a pretty high cultivation. He couldn’t quite make it out, but it was well ahead of his. She might have been pretty, if she didn’t look like a dispassionate statue. “We will achieve our goals one way or another.”

Sarto just really hoped those goals included keeping their deal with him. He hadn’t heard anything about the Frostmirror Sect breaking deals, and the Order of Ninety-Nine Stars was supposed to be fairly upright- but he wasn’t happy about betting on forgiveness. Once they approached and he felt the woman’s power unravel, however, he was glad he’d decided to bet on not being able to do anything else. He couldn’t believe she was a Life Transformation expert. They were serious about this thing.

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