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The elders of various sects gathered in Prophis, discussing their strategy. There were many from both continents, representing a wide variety of interests. Gathering all the forces they could had made them formidable, but their actions weren’t able to be kept fully secret. The Whispering Watchers had an opportunity to gather some allies of their own.
“How shall we go about doing this?” Elder Adelina of the Frostmirror Sect asked.
“Why debate?” Elder Sarka of the Glorious Flame Palace complained. “We should just go in and crush them.”
“A straightforward attack suits us as well,” Elder Vasu of Million Sword Vault confirmed.
“I am not fond of the idea of having to deal with their formations,” Kseniya grimaced. “I think we should start by sending them a message.”
“Good point,” Sarka agreed. “Have to let them know why they’re getting destroyed.”
“And who would we send?” Adelina asked, “Who, that would not end up a sacrifice?”
“I have a solution that should please you both well enough. I’ll be the messenger,” Kseniya said, one hand tapping her bow.
“You’ll kill one of them, then?” a younger man from one of the local sects asked. “We intend to stand and fight, but we only intend to take out the traitors. And their elders are all holed up…”
“They’re all traitors,” Kseniya declared. “And I can prove it easily enough. They sent an elder to kill my disciple first, so there shouldn’t be any complaints if I start killing their disciples.”
“For a righteous sect, that position is a bit extreme,” a much older man commented.
“There’s no point in letting an open sore like this grow and fester,” Kseniya said. “And you can all observe my technique. I’ve been working on it. I find it’s much too slow to verify someone’s status as a Twin Soul and then shoot them.”
“What does that mean?” Elder Sarka asked.
The Whispering Watchers had some idea about Kseniya’s existence. She had not been inactive since coming to the continent, after all. But even so, they weren’t fully aware of her capabilities. If they had been, they wouldn’t have let anyone step a single foot outside of the bounds of the defensive formations surrounding their core.
The time from the spirit arrow being shot to when it pierced through the chest of the targeted disciple was insignificant, at least for those who were not at late Essence Collection at the minimum and able to sense it from far off. Thus, by the time the first arrow had arrived several more were on their way.
“Well, looks like someone got lucky,” Kseniya commented.
The first disciple to be pierced through the chest looked down, knowing he just had a surge of energy go through him. But he looked to see no wound. Yet nearly simultaneous arrows struck his companions, half of which perished. Even Kseniya couldn’t track the expressions on the faces of people at that distance, but it should be fear and confusion.
The other elders remained next to Kseniya. “I see,” Sarka commented. “That’s a good one. Only damaging people from the Twin Soul Sect? You should have shared that earlier.”
“I know enough about myself that most wouldn’t understand my methods… and there are some drawbacks.”
“The attacks are weak, right?” Adelina commented. “But it reveals them at the same time. It’s quite hard to deny. Not that we had doubts anyway.”
“I don’t see the point in sparing the others,” Vasu said. “They are of the same sect, after all.”
Kseniya shook her head, “Some might not know any better. But there won’t be any mercy for those who join them in the coming battle. It is impossible for them to not at least have heard rumors about the truth of the Twin Soul Sect.”
Even as she spoke, her hands moved- targeting any of those associated with the Whispering Watchers and the allies they had along with them. One Essence Collection cultivator from the Infinite Gate Society managed to block the attack, suffering a wound to his arm as he turned to flee. But the physical damage was not as important as the other, his true cultivation being revealed underneath.
Though the strongest elders could pick up what was happening, Kseniya summarized for some of the others. “Looks like the Infinite Gate Society has more Twin Soul members among them. Beyond Swordmaster Vianne, of course.”
It was to be expected by anyone willing to stand by the side of the Whispering Watchers in the current time. Since they had been discovered, they had to band together to survive. At least, that seemed to be the most sensible reasoning.
Soon enough there were no more targets for Kseniya- her targets either lay dead, or were uninjured and given a second chance. Even the dullest of cultivators could recognize a pattern so simply laid out before them- though it was likely that excuses would be made to any allies who were not completely in bed with them. If there were any.
“Strange,” Kseniya commented. “I would have thought that nobody would step out, but here come a few.” She flexed her fingers, grip tightening on her bow. “But given their makeup, I think we can reasonably assume this is some sort of negotiation delegation. I bet I could still kill one though.” Kseniya coughed, “When they inevitably make the wrong decision.”
“That will just solidify any who are on the fence,” Adelina pointed out. “We can quickly discuss when they are on the way back.”
Even though the delegation seemed to be made primarily of Life Transformation cultivators, it still took them a significant time to approach. Of course, they were most likely interested in conserving their energy in case there was an attack- in which case they could make the thirty minute journey in a fraction of the time, only having to deal with Kseniya’s attacks.
“Infinite Gate Society, Hungry Rat Cult… and some others,” Elder Vasu commented. “Basically what our scouts told us. But it seems the Whispering Watchers are afraid to speak for themselves.”
The delegation stopped when they were over a kilometer away. It was still rather close by some standards, and they were able to project their voices with ease.
“What is the meaning of this attack?” the man representing the Infinite Gate Society questioned.
“Why have you all joined up with foreign sects to cause war?” a relatively younger man with beady eyes asked.
In theory, a proper negotiator should have been arranged for on both sides. In practice, it was first come first serve. That meant Elder Vasu began with some cutting words. “Let me ask you this, how do you all feel about being stabbed in the back? Because that’s what you’re asking for. Unless you’re all traitors. You could come a few steps closer and we can figure it out.”
“We have no trust for your ‘revealing techniques’,” the representative of the Infinite Gate Society intoned.
“Ah, shaddup,” Vasu waved his arm, cutting apart a nearby tree with his bare hand. “Your whole damn sect is corrupted, starting with Vianne. I was talking to these other fellows. Hey, rat boy. Bite off his head yourself and you’ll see his true nature, with not a single scrap of energy from us.”
The eyes of the one he referred to as ‘rat boy’ twitched. “I am properly addressed as Elder Farrukh.”
“Sure, whatever.” Vasu narrowed his eyes at the other man. “So, Lackey, have anything to say for yourself?”
“It’s Malachy. And it’s not even pronounced like that.” He snorted, “Well, it is clear you have no intention to do any proper negotiations.”
“It is simply that we are in agreement with his sentiments,” an elder from Marvelous Rabbit Mountain- Elder Paula- made herself known. “Our sect has already purged itself of traitors. There does not appear to be any hope for the Whispering Watchers, but the rest of you might have some chance. Except perhaps Infinite Gate Society, it seems.”
Though more words were exchanged, little of substance was communicated- except that they were to spread the word that anyone who fought on the side of the Whispering Watchers would be considered complicit- and the others ignored. Whether they would actually spread the words to the ears of their hesitant disciples would be another matter.
A discussion on whether or not to try to take any of them out happened while they were on the way back. It was decided to not be worth it. Not everyone was in total agreement on that, but some were still hoping that the battle lines were not set.
“I’m taking the shot,” Kseniya said. Of course, that was only after her hands had already gone through the motions and the arrow was on its way.
Adelina sighed, but watched closely as her arrow pierced through the back of Farrukh. The elder turned and frowned, though he was already so far that they could not see his expression. “Wait a moment,” Adelina frowned. “Did you… can you just ignore defensive energy as you please? Even if your arrow doesn’t react to him his defenses.”
“If only things were so simple,” Kseniya grinned widely. “No, this technique requires a certain honesty to it. It doesn’t work like that.”
Adelina mentally noted that she didn’t say that it couldn’t be done, however. A simple misunderstanding, perhaps. Or perhaps Kseniya would be a fearsome opponent in the future. Not that Adelina expected to have any conflict with the Order of Ninety-Nine Stars. Glorious Flame Palace, maybe, but not the Order.
“Uuuugh I’m tired of waiting,” Alva complained and rolled around on the ground. She wished she could be flopping around on Fuzz’ back, but he was still on another continent- a choice she was never going to make again.
“This is how it is before every big battle,” Anish commented.
“Precisely,” Annelie affirmed.
“And I get tired every time!” Alva threw up her hands. “Just because you can turn off boredom or whatever doesn’t mean the rest of us can.”
“A lack of emotion is actually very much like boredom,” Annelie commented.
“… I’m glad I didn’t get stuck with the Frostmirror Sect,” Alva shook her head.
“It suits me quite well, I think,” Annelie said impassively.
“Yeah,” Anish nodded. “Uh, everyone has to find the technique most suited for them.”
“Do you think we’ll have to do a siege?” Alva wondered. “I feel like they might make us.”
“Elder Vasu claimed to be a master at dismantling formations,” the other cousin pointed out.
“I’m pretty sure that just means he would chop it into pieces?” Alva frowned. “He doesn’t feel anything like Catarina or the others.”
“Oh. Right.” Annelie actually blushed slightly, for the brief moment before she regained control. “It’s likely quite effective.”
Anish mulled something over in his head. “You were right, Alva. About Swordmaster Vianne’s Sect.”
“Obviously. How can you have a famous member of your sect who’s a spy and not figure it out?”
“It happens more often than you might think,” Anish shrugged. “Even some of the Glorious Flame Palace elders had to be removed.”
Further conversation was cut off by a wave of energy from up ahead. The defensive formation of the sect wobbled and shrunk in size, the massive change in energy obvious to all but the weakest present- despite the distance. As for what it was doing, it became clear soon enough that there were components of it that could be moved, allowing a slightly weaker but mobile bubble of power to protect the advancing enemy ranks. It was powered not only by the core that normally maintained it, but elders from the various sects aligned with the Whispering Watchers. Its defensive power prevented any attacks at a long distance, and while Grand Elder Kseniya was the only one who could attack them at the beginning, she could cause enough damage on her own.
Various sects and groups within them began to maneuver with relation to the bubble. It would be optimal to surround it, but if any group got too close alone they might be attacked by the whole of the enemy forces at once. That was a deterrent to most, except for the disciples of the Million Sword Vault, along with Chikere. Glorious Flame Palace was more cautious than them, until they saw the approach- then they rushed to catch up. Other sects moved to at least form a semicircle that would be of some advantage to them. The only problem was the barrier. In theory, it could prevent attacks coming in but not going out- which meant they would soon be in range of many of the Whispering Watchers causing great damage.