Elder Cultivator 270

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While he’d been distracted by swarming many-legged reptiles, Anton had lost some of his focus on the battlefield as a whole. He was still aware of all the battles happening, but he’d not really comprehended whatever happened with Fuzz. The wolf was looking exceptionally proud of himself, and also exceptionally burnt and bloodied. Anton hoped he could get himself away from the island in the middle of the lava with his remaining energy, but for the moment he had to help deal with the other overlord- one had been slain, and most of the offspring had been killed.

Not that their own side was without losses. There were dead and wounded members among the disciples of the two groups, those unfortunate in their positioning or unable to handle the swarming enemies and oppressive heat. If they’d been given the option they would have retreated to the surface- but now that things had come to this point it was better to finish off their remaining foe. 

It was a good thing all of the Essence Collection cultivators were able to focus their attentions on the creature, because it was enraged at the death of its mate. It was spinning wildly, clawing at anything that came close with its myriad of limbs. Just because it was a couple short on one side didn’t suddenly make it safe to deal with. The tail was also a problem, slamming into people as it passed or forcing them to leap over it. Teeth drove people away.

Anton focused on the weak points created by its lost limbs, with the intention to either cause it great damage or force it to defend against his attacks and ignore others. The elders of the Black Earth Clan were rapidly molding the rock to slow the creature, and others were converging on the creature’s location.

There wasn’t a particular moment that spelled victory for them, at least not past the defeat of the first creature and the gradual advance of their own forces. Armored members of the Iron Fist continued to pummel the creature until its scales cracked and the combined forces wore down the stamina of the great lizard. 

Soon enough they had reached a point of certain victory, but the creature pulled off one more twist. In this case it was literal, its body spinning around and tail forcing people to dodge out of the way, with a few brave souls risking a swipe at the flailing appendage.

Previously that move would have led into some sort of focused attack on an individual, but instead it resulted in the creature facing the pool of magma, where it began to charge. However, despite the fatigue everyone had built up they wouldn’t allow it to retreat. Perhaps it might not find another overlord as a mate, but it could still cause tunnels to collapse and might seek to harm humans in the future. 

Without any prompting, Caeus and Printza grabbed onto the tail as the creature started its mad dash towards the magma pool. Devon grabbed a few legs from its right side, right behind the ones that had been severed. Elder Magro leapt in front of the creature, punching upwards into its jaw to try to concuss it. Reaching masses of rock from the Black Earth Clan tried to stop it.

Every effort was valiant, but the creature was unwilling to be restrained. Its tail detached, along with any legs that were restrained. One side of the creature was closer to being a snake than a lizard, and the other pushed unevenly as it bowled over the people in front of it, ignoring the damage to itself.

It was clear it wouldn’t be stopped so easily, but those with longer reach continued to attack it, and of course Alva and Anton peppered it with arrows.

As it was about to dive under the surface of the magma where it would be difficult to follow- at least with any speed- Anton gathered his least used type of energy. The pieces from beyond reincarnation that were ephemeral. It wasn’t as oppressively strong as ascension energy, but it was quite useful. His arrow flew forward, breaking its way through the thin layer of defensive energy the creature had left. Its scales would normally deflect an attack of the magnitude Anton was making, but the special energy let his arrow pierce through, interacting more directly with what he chose rather than what was in its path.

It had its weaknesses, but it was extremely functional at piercing through armor- and with the stores of energy of the creature depleted those defenses were unable to block it. It skipped past the outer layer of the creature’s back and struck its spine, where Anton forced it to do as much damage as possible. A shot through the heart would take a long time to kill it, if a narrow hole would even be sufficient. Even the brain showed signs of taking too long to really kill it.

But the spine… it almost immediately went limp. It wasn’t a shot that would have been possible if it was still focused on fighting or slightly healthier, but recognizing what one was capable of doing was important for taking advantage of such situations.

Depressingly enough, the creature still took some time to kill even though its back half couldn’t move. Part of that was because people were being more cautious, staying where it was safe and jabbing their weapons into its sides to slowly bleed it to death. Some of that was because people were exhausted, and some of it was simply the thing being so tough.

Then came the clean up. They began with taking the bodies of the humans out of the area, both those unconscious and dead. Those lying injured would not be able to stabilize with the near rock-melting heat permeating the area. Those who were dead might still have their body preserved for a proper funeral, instead of an unintentional cremation.

Everything else was left for later, though Anton noticed Fuzz left with a leg dragging behind him, one claw clutched in his mouth.


Upon later exploration of the tunnels, the structural stability of the region was worse than had been thought. While the quakes had been felt quite locally for the most part, in a short time the collapses might have escalated to a greater extent. The Black Earth Clan set about the long task of stabilizing the area. Part of their work involved fusing the rubble in various tunnels into solid states, though they also had to dig out some areas to reach the deeper parts. 

A few tunnels were useful for their own efforts and were repurposed, and others could be left as they were, as long as nobody wandered into them they would be safe. 

They also had to unplug the blockages on the magma chamber, letting the magma flow through the ground on whatever path it had been before. As they did so, they found there were more eggs of the creatures still present. All of them were destroyed, though that didn’t mean they just left the pieces behind. The shells were a good material, though not quite so useful as the creatures themselves.

The two overlords were determined to have been anomalies. There were certainly varieties of beasts that could live in extreme temperatures, but most of them would not have such troublesome tunnel-digging behaviors or excessive size. As far as could be determined, the collapses had been an intended part of preparing their lair to whatever standards they found acceptable. Much of the rubble was used to block up the flow of magma through the area to create the large pool. 

As for why they didn’t just take chunks from the area around them, perhaps they understood that it would make their own lair unstable. While the adults were able to quickly burrow through solid rock and didn’t much care about tons of material collapsing atop them, their young were not quite so durable. But whatever their specific reasons, it could only be speculated upon.

Anton wondered if there was a way the creatures could have lived. While the cultivators had certainly intruded upon their lair, they hadn’t been determined to fight until they were herded into the area and left with little choice. Even things that seemed like monstrosities to humans likely deserved to live… but they also couldn’t be allowed to harm humans. And if they had been left much longer, they might have started collapsing large sections of city.

In the end, he and the others were paid what had been arranged, plus an additional amount for the unexpected level of dangers. Except for the disciples who died, the Black Earth Clan and Iron Fist Sect actually profited from the venture, in the form of the valuable corpses of the beasts. The Iron Fist Sect was especially interested in the scales, and how they could be enchanted to make even more durable armor than what they normally wore. 

Of course, they didn’t get all of the bodies of the creatures. Fuzz made away with pieces several times, including some consumed during the battle. Then he spent the next several days unconscious, recovering from his injuries and adjusting to the new, more powerful state he had reached.

While beasts who cultivated didn’t have exactly the same stages as humans, and didn’t have proper cultivation techniques, they still found ways to advance. Among other things, they consumed the same sorts of energy-infused herbs and plants that humans did, as well as absorbing natural energy from the environment. Finally, they had a method that was nearly unique to them- consuming other beasts.

Humans could gain some benefits from consuming the flesh of a powerful beast, but for the most part it amounted to little more than exceptional nutrition. Some techniques made better use of those resources, but beasts were the best at making use of it.

Anton was glad that Fuzz had managed to advance, for his own sake as well as that of Alva. However, he was concerned about the fact that a rune seemed to have formed spontaneously on him. That was something Catarina or those who focused on formations would have to be asked about- though Catarina would likely be the best for this particular case. She was the one who had started shaving runes into Fuzz’ fur to help him recover after they rescued him.


If Catarina didn’t know better, she might have thought she put that rune on Fuzz’ back herself. It fit right in, completing part of the picture. But she did know better, and was slightly concerned at its appearance.

Alva explained it just appeared during battle, so at least it shouldn’t have been sabotage by some sort of enemy… but it was still disconcerting.

Natural formations existed, but they had nothing to do with something like this. They were simply arrangements of sticks, leaves, stones, and anything else in an area that just so happened to take on the form of runes and total together to a formation that affected the energy of the world. They weren’t shaped by something.

At least, that was supposed to be the case. At the current point in time they were so far removed from those who first studied formations that it would have been like asking what a specific person had a hundred years ago for breakfast. If they were alive they might guess, but they wouldn’t know.

Natural formations were supposed to stabilize in their positions due to various factors… not pop into place. But nothing she’d read directly refuted the possibility of that happening either. Of course, the idea was so ridiculous that it shouldn’t have had to be mentioned. 

When something like that came up, though, it forced Catarina to wonder. Was there something deeper to this? A will of nature? Perhaps it was simply Fuzz’ own will. It could have even been something he subconsciously picked up from watching her. He hadn’t shown any particular talent with putting together formations, but he might subconsciously understand those inlaid upon himself. 

Catarina smiled. She hadn’t found a new puzzle to work on in a while. Dealing with all of the crazy formations Everheart left behind gave her a headache even when she understood them, but this was something she might be one of the first to learn about. Or at least she could assure herself that Fuzz would be fine. It wouldn’t do to have their very oversized companion be hurt by something they could prevent.

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