Elder Cultivator 301

Previous Chapter-–Chapter Index–- Next Chapter

Anton walked into Idalia’s shop and pulled a stack of books out of his storage bag. She looked at him curiously and asked, “What’s all that?”

“This is a selection of herbalist manuals covering the most common herbs useful for people in Body Tempering,” Anton explained. “I have more for Spirit Building, but those are rather valuable.”

“Knowing cultivators, I doubt I could afford the others anyway. Business is up, but not that much.”

Anton set them down on the counter in front of her, “I’m not planning to sell them to you. I’m just giving them to you. I’ll do the same with the others, but they’re a bit too much of a temptation for others to steal with your current cultivation.” Anton flipped one of them open, “In exchange, I need your experience in the field. I’m still missing some key experience to understand some parts of these.”

“You’ve already read them? Then you might know more than me.”

“For a short time, perhaps I might know more about these things in particular. And I’ll admit to having studied some of them before,” Anton shrugged, “But it’s a matter of access to knowledge for you. And when you reach Spirit Building, you can look forward to some significant increases in mental processing.”

“I don’t even know why you’d want to learn from me, when cultivators seems to already know everything,” Idalia frowned.

“That’s simple,” Anton explained. “Cultivators don’t always think about what they’re doing. They don’t make medicines for headaches and common fevers. And they are likely to miss plants that are not imbued with natural energy even if they have valuable properties. Like those not used for fighting or recovering from a fight.”

“Yet you seem to be trying to make everyone a cultivator,” Idalia countered.

“Everyone needs to enjoy the benefits of using natural energy, and enhanced bodies and minds. Personally I also think everyone should know at least the basics of combat so they can band together to deal with problems. Beyond that, however, I find that non-cultivators tend to do a better job making a sustainable living. Or rather, I work with the people who do.” Anton nodded to himself, “Most people fail to see the benefits of everyone cultivating, only thinking what it might cost them in the short term. Even if that short term is a mere decade, which shouldn’t matter to serious cultivators.”

Idalia nodded seriously, “And how long have you been cultivating?”

“Fifteen years,” Anton grinned widely.

“Yeah, sure. Me too.”

Anton didn’t bother with correcting her thoughts at the moment. It was well known that cultivators took a long time to reach significant power- and that only the young were suited to start cultivating. Though Anton had already recruited some of the less young throughout Arbington. “Need help with that door?” Anton asked.

“Don’t worry about it. Already called in someone to replace the doorframe and the rest.” Idalia frowned, “Now I’m worried about how easy it is for cultivators to break in, though.”

“I’d suggest a secret basement,” Anton gestured downward. “If it’s deep enough nobody will notice anything important in it. Put it below a regular basement so that nobody bothers to get close or wonder why you head downstairs. Or protect it with formations, but you need the strength to back that up. Same with storage bags that you carry on you at all times,” Anton patted the bag at his waist. 

“Seems problematic.”

“That’s the issue with having valuables,” Anton shrugged. “And nobody properly enforcing the laws.”

“Don’t remind me.”

“Too late,” Anton grinned. “But this place is well on its way. Just needs a few years.”

“And then what, we mob Birita?”

“Never underestimate a mob with pitchforks. Or proper spears.”


Arbington wasn’t the only town under Birita’s shadow that Anton was spending time in, but it was the most promising. Other places had fewer people willing to put in the effort to cultivate, even though it would ultimately yield them more productivity than the time they lost. Some people had little leeway to make ends meet- though Anton was willing to help with that- while others simply didn’t accept Anton’s words that it was worthwhile.

He still kept coming back though. At the entrance to one of them, Timberville, he saw a pair of cultivators waiting. They were just newbies in Body Tempering, but he knew they worked for Birita. They weren’t stopping anyone passing through, though. Just watching them.

He could have gone around them easily enough, but he also had no worries about approaching them. If they couldn’t discern who to cause trouble with or not, it would be a favor to Birita to take them out. Though he’d rather not implicate the town, if he could help it.

“Hey, you…’re senior Anton, correct?” The tone of the woman leaning against the gate switched between an accustomed rudeness and very unpracticed politeness.

“I might be. Who’s asking?”

“Birita wants to… has requested to see you. In person.”

“Did she say that?” Anton asked, “Or did she say ‘go grab that old bastard and bring him to me’?”

“I don’t… recall her exact words,” the way the woman was sweating indicated he’d gotten surprisingly close. Though Anton could keep a general sense of where the strongest sources of energy were in a wide area, his senses weren’t so amazing that he could track every conversation, even of the important people. So he’d approximated from how Birita usually talked.

“I see. But you didn’t answer my first question. Who are you?”

The woman tried to step back. “T-Trix, senior.” The man across the way stomped up to Anton, his lips tightly pursed. Anton had the feeling he’d been told not to say anything, but was finding it difficult.

“You’d be Sasho then?” he said to the man. “Well, I won’t cause the two of you any further trouble. You can bring me to her.”

“Uh…” Trix looked around nervously. “Right now…?”

“That’s your job isn’t it? Seems like you should do it.”

“Right. Sure. Obviously. I just thought… cultivators like you were busy.”

“I am,” Anton half-lied. “But that’s why I’m going now. If she wants to talk, we’ll talk. And I’m sure she’ll appreciate the two of you bringing me over.”

“Y-yeah. Right. It’s um… this way.” Trix kept nervously looking over her shoulder at Anton, which seemed completely unnecessary since he knew it wasn’t what he looked like that was intimidating. Her natural energy kept trying to feel him out, then recoiling when it got close. And Anton wasn’t even doing anything to cause that. “Is it true… that you’re an Essence Collection cultivator?”

“That’s right,” Anton confirmed.

“So you’re… pretty strong, right?”

“That’s right.”

“Mm. Uh, Birita is strong too. Just so you know.”

“I know,” Anton said clearly. “And if you’re nervous about Birita having eyes and ears everywhere, it’s likely much more limited than you think.” They were heading out of town into the forest, walking at a fairly brisk pace. “For example, I know neither she nor anyone else is close enough to hear anything if you were going to say that this was a trap of some kind. Or that she’s been especially testy lately. But you also don’t need to say those things.”

His words didn’t actually make Trix relax any, but Sasho seemed relieved. “Oh good,” he nodded happily. “Now neither of us have to say it.” Trix sighed, but she knew the damage was already done.

As they walked along, Anton took stock of the little settlement up ahead. It was mostly a number of log cabins of various size and quality. The largest one of course contained Birita. The place was far enough from the nearby towns that she wouldn’t be easily discovered, but Anton had known for some time. He hadn’t gotten this close before though.

The palisade wall around the place was… nearly pointless. Though that was only if one considered Birita and not the others, who were much lower in cultivation on average. With mostly Body Tempering people and a small handful of Spirit Building cultivators, the walls could at least be of some use against opponents relevant to them.

There were guards on towers flanking the gate, a pair of archers matched with spear-wielding counterparts below. “Halt! Who goes there?”

“It’s us! Trix and Sasho. We brought the one Birita asked to meet. Anton. This is him.”

Anton looked up at the two guards, who were not only far too close for what he would have considered their optimal range but almost close enough he could leap to them to engage in melee before they could get a shot off. 

“Uh, right. We heard about that. You can pass, but we’ll be watching you.”

They would certainly try, but the poor arrangement of buildings meant they wouldn’t have a shot at Anton. Maybe it was intentional to not have a straight path to their leader’s home, but the defenses didn’t seem quite that intentionally arranged. As they drew close, Anton could sense Birita’s chaotic energy. It was normally chaotic, but today it was especially so.

A few more people challenged them, and in the end Anton walked up to Birita’s cabin with a number of followers trailing along to see what would happen. Trix cautiously knocked on the door.

“What?” A voice shouted from the other side. “I toldja not ta bother me!”

“At your request,” Trix carefully left her name out, “We’ve brought the cultivator, Anton.”

A string of unintelligible profanity poured out of the cabin, before some useful words. “Fine. Send ‘im in!” Anton stepped inside, scoping out the place. Even if he hadn’t learned from Catarina, the formations in the area would have been obvious. Inside was a woman with several scars on her face and arms, sitting in a wide stance on a wooden bench. Two jugs were laid out in front of her. She took a swig from one, grimaced, then a drink from the other. “You. Ant. I hear you’ve b’n causin’ trouble round here. Teachin’ people things they don’t need to know.” She waved her arms broadly as she did so. “Pretty stupid.”

“What do you mean?” Anton asked. He wasn’t trying that hard to actually fool her, but drunk as she was he didn’t know if it would even matter. Drunk Essence Collection cultivators might still be dangerous and perceptive, but it certainly lowered their capabilities.

“They’re cultivatin’,” she frowned and sloshed one of the jugs towards him with her gesture. “Can’t have that.”

“Why?” Anton asked. “Are you afraid?” he let his voice carry, loud enough that those outside might overhear.

“‘Course not,” she spat. “Just don’t like trouble. And you’re trouble.”

“I don’t like trouble either.”

“Good. Hey… waitaminnit. Didja just imply that I’m trouble? Huh?”

“What do you think?” Anton asked.

“I think… you’re askin’ for it!” She stood up angrily and stomped her foot. The gesture wasn’t just one of annoyance, but seemed to activate the formations. “Men, get him!”

Anton stood still for a couple seconds. Then he smiled, “Barrier formations also keep people out,” he explained.

“Fine. I’ll take care of you myself!” she reached for a large sword on her back. Before she had it drawn, Anton kicked the jug of alcohol towards her. He immediately followed up with three arrows, simply shot from his energy bows instead of drawing his actual weapon. One of the arrows was made of flame, shooting through the extremely alcoholic beverage, splashing it over her and lighting it on fire at the same time. The other two struck two different points in the formation. Anton wasn’t a formation master by any means… but whoever set this one up was several steps further away.

“There you go. Now they can get in.” Anton walked calmly towards the door as several people burst through. He simply slipped past them as they attempted to swing their weapons, smashing up some of the adjacent furniture. “Pardon me. I’m quite busy, so I’ll be on my way.”

His movement replicated Vincents from when he had first watched the man, striding along uneven ground like he was floating along a river. A swift one. Anton had almost surpassed the man in cultivation now, but his example had been a guiding light for a time. 

Though he seemed unhurried, Anton was not particularly interested in staying in the gang settlement to be attacked from all sides. He was just one man after all, and his purposes were better suited by not fighting… much. If he were simply interested in killing Birita, attacking while she was drunk might be best- but Anton had the feeling that was something of a constant these days. The burning alcohol wouldn’t have really damaged her, but it would make her look back in front of her subordinates. That was more valuable than anything else. 

At the entrance of the camp, completely ignoring the two archers shooting down at him, Anton turned. “Oh yes, but I almost forgot.” He drew his actual bow, gathering ascension energy to make his shot have the most possible impact. He could have fired over the buildings to hit his target, but he thought it would make a better point if there were shattered walls in between. “Don’t assume there’s nobody stronger than you.” A meter wide hole opened up in a straight line in between Anton and Birita. It was a complete waste of energy, damaging the buildings like that instead of having a tiny hole, but it was more theatrical. The woman was just managing to realize that the fire didn’t matter when his arrow struck her hand, sending her sword flying out of her grasp. “Remember that. And the rest of you, think long and hard about if this is what you want to do.” Anton glared up at the archers, who had launched a handful of arrows into the ground near him- accuracy wasn’t a problem, but their inability to break through his defensive energy meant they flopped uselessly to the ground. The archers grinned sheepishly and dropped their bows.

Then Anton walked away, before the impact wore off and anyone realized that Birita was basically uninjured- including her. He might win that fight with Birita drunk, but the extra people could eventually become a problem. If he was going to kill all of her followers, he could have just done it from several kilometers away, one at a time. Instead, he’d hopefully cause some damage to morale… and he’d also gained some useful intel regarding the second, non-alcoholic jug she was chugging.

Previous Chapter-–Chapter Index–- Next Chapter

Leave a Reply