Despite the grievous injury Chikere had already inflicted on Malachy, Anton wasn’t willing to leave her alone. It was already something of a miracle that she had matched a Life Transformation cultivator while merely in the late Essence Collection Phase. Of course, much of it hinged on a single blow that could just have easily ended up with her perishing. But Chikere had the apparently justified confidence that the sword would be in her hands instead of his. Anton had vaguely heard of weapons on such a level that they bound themselves to a wielder, but information had been sparse.
Anton had only spotted the battle at the critical moment, but now he was participating more actively to keep the pressure off of Chikere. Fighting an opponent with one arm might have seemed easy, but if battle was decided purely by effective number limbs Chikere would have won long before. Elder Malachy could move several times faster than her, and most of the time she was just barely holding her own. Attacks that she clearly intended to just miss her sliced into her flesh, leaving trails of blood dripping down her body.
In order to draw as much attention as he could, Anton amplified his attacks. Some were using ascension energy, and some made use of his new bow that made arrows function like wide blades. Now that he was aware of what was going to happen, he was able to lean into it and take some advantage of the otherwise awkward transformation. His arrows mainly attacked from behind Malachy, circling around so the man would have to choose between dealing with Chikere and Anton’s attacks. There were also some enemy troops angling towards the duel, and Anton discouraged them from approaching by scything through several of them.
Chikere’s attacks had only gotten sharper and more vicious since she sliced off Malachy’s arm at the elbow, but he was also taking her more seriously. If he had taken the moment he disarmed her of her primary weapon to attack instead of trying to use it against her, the battle might have been much more in his favor. That sword had belonged to Swordmaster Vianne, but it was hard to say that it wasn’t Chikere’s weapon now.
The rest of the battle was more or less being won by their side, but it came with the caveat every battle did- there were casualties on both sides. That didn’t make the battle pointless though. If it was a question of waiting until the invasion when the Twin Soul Sect had recovered and could fight alongside unknown powerful enemies or taking care of them ahead of time while they could, it was an obvious choice. Even if it was disadvantageous for the cultivators from Brogora, who were fighting on a continent that wasn’t even theirs. Yet it was still the right thing to do, and even the practical thing- there was no guarantee the invasion wouldn’t spill over between continents. In fact, it seemed quite likely. Either way, it improved the odds of someone being able to withstand the coming future, and that was enough. Not that anyone wanted to accept more casualties than they had to.
Hoyt pushed his way through the enemy ranks, leaving behind a trail of fire as he moved. He was treating himself like a meteor, his danger coming from momentum and heat. It was far removed from his grandfather’s style, yet also incredibly reminiscent of it. That couldn’t be helped. They used the same cultivation technique, and beyond that he didn’t hate his grandfather. He just hadn’t wanted to hang himself on the man’s status.
He took a sharp left turn as he saw a two meter high pile of rats. As far as he could tell they were on his side, but that was all the more reason to avoid barreling through them. A ball of deathly energy from one of the Whispering Watchers flew into the mass, but the rats consumed the bodies of their fallen comrades in an instant and surged towards more enemies. Yes, it was best to avoid any of that if he could.
It was difficult to find a good target in the surge of people. Optimally Velvet wanted to take out the strongest she could kill quickly, as it was best for her fighting style. That meant no Life Transformation experts, obviously, but she now found herself entangled with a late Essence Collection fellow who refused to die. He wasn’t even pretending to not be part of the Twin Soul Sect now and was fully displaying a power that made her somehow even more uneasy than the honest deathly energy the Whispering Watchers practiced. There was a gross feeling of something lurking deep inside them that she found hard to describe.
The cut she’d made on his neck didn’t seem to be bleeding anymore, and not because it had healed. Velvet was pretty sure the man should be out of blood. Of course, she was also pretty sure he should be dead. At the moment, she was dodging around trying to avoid daggers he was throwing. He shouldn’t be able to fight forever with such an injury, but he also shouldn’t be able to so accurately sense her. Then again, no technique was perfect, and he appeared quite capable of keeping track of her once she had exposed herself.
Without knowing if any of her attacks would actually stop him, she wasn’t willing to go in for a finishing blow. Perhaps it would be better to draw him towards a member of the Hungry Rat Cult. They seemed quite fond of biting hunks off of people, and even if the man somehow survived that he would be much less effective. Besides, the rat guys deserved it for almost being on the wrong side of the war.
Fire and ice together simultaneously froze and burned entire groups of people. Alva was watching that from afar, wishing she could contribute more than a few arrows. If Fuzz was around she could be closer up and more proactive, but she had to predict her opponents from a distance. Though it wasn’t as if she was needed at the moment anyway. Anish and Annelie had really gotten good at working together, and instead of disrupting each other they simply made it impossible for anyone to defend in any concentrated way. They could defend against heat or cold, but not both at the same time. Except in the general sense that all defensive energy would, but very few defenses worked completely passively.
Alva settled for spinning around to attack some of those that were getting towards their rear group. Melee combatants had fallen back to assist them, but there were many varied members of the Twin Soul Sect that had shown up. In a way that was good, because they would have been hard to pick out if they’d simply stayed in hiding. She shot just as her grandpa had trained her, carefully and precisely. She was a little more haphazard with some shots when on Fuzz, but what was she supposed to do when she was barreling towards an open jaw? Shooting into it was always the right answer.
On that note, one of the enemies was riding on a giant wolf, but it was not cute at all. It was missing patches of fur and foaming at the mount, and it has spikes of bone jutting out of it at seemingly random angles. Even it didn’t seem happy to be a rabid monstrosity, so she was trying to take it out. Its rider did nothing to defend it, so she shot him in the ankle, where his foot connected to some weird stirrups. Alva was pretty sure the wolf twisted so he’d take the hit when it could have avoided it.
One final arrow made its way towards the creature’s eye. It went right into the thing’s eye, and its head exploded. That… was an unexpected result. Technically the release of energy from the arrow could do that, but only if there was no defensive energy at all. Alva decided to get closer to the limping foe. She had to figure out what sort of crappy beast-taming sect he was from and teach them a lesson.
Soon enough the outcome of the battle was obvious to everyone, and the forces allied with the Whispering Watchers and the Twin Soul Sect began a disorganized retreat. They began to flee in all directions, including towards the sect grounds. Those might protect them for a time, but the defenses wouldn’t last- especially with parts of them used for the mobile defensive formation that had carried the beginning of the battle.
They scattered in so many directions it was impossible to chase them all, and unwise. Splitting up to track all of them down would leave people vulnerable. The biggest problem was the remaining Life Transformation cultivators. They were the hardest to kill, but the focus became primarily on them as well. Kseniya was now harrying one of them in particular, since there was no tactical advantage to splitting her focus now.
That said, while the Life Transformation experts might be a threat it would also be hardest for them to blend themselves back into society. The names and general descriptions of nearly everyone of their strength were publicly known and carefully tracked, so those who remained would be able to identify them. But rather than hunting them down later, if they could kill a few before they left it would be optimal.
The remains of a battlefield was an awful place. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of dead bodies and pieces of such littered the area. Broken and lost weapons littered the area, and scavenger birds were beginning to pick through the remains.
In a pile of swords lay a young woman. Young for a cultivator of her strength, at least. Her actual age was more than forty years, though she wouldn’t look any older for decades at minimum.
As Anton surveyed his unconscious friend, he wondered if her wounds were a step up from the last time. Having her head half-severed at the neck was pretty bad, but being a fraction of a second away from having her skull completely split in two was terrifying as well. Though it hadn’t happened, which is why it could be considered better.
If Anton recalled correctly, she’d begun the battle with twenty swords around her, more or less. At some point during the fight with Elder Malachy she’d had fifteen or so. Now she had… a good hundred or more piled on top of her. One of them was definitely Malachy’s, tucked in the fold of her elbow. The one that stood out the most not for quality but strangeness looked almost like a leaf, which meant the spawn of the sword-tree in Everheart’s realm still ranked itself among those worthy of being pulled out. And the others… well, they would likely be sorted through once Chikere woke again.
Those Anton knew well had survived, but he couldn’t help but wonder if he could have saved some of the others. Shouldn’t he care about every member of the Orders, or every life? Then again, there was no way he could care about them as much as those close to him, or he would be torn apart after battles. Possibly literally, as cultivators were often more extreme in their emotional states. Except those who intentionally avoided it like the Frostmirror Sect.
Speaking of which, there was an interesting conflict happening. Sarka and Adelina hadn’t gotten along for the entire trip, and now was no exception. With no actual enemies, they had gone back to glaring at each other. It was just that it seemed difficult, with Anish and Annelie happily chatting in between them. At least the future of the sects wasn’t so crazy, though perhaps that was partly because of his own interference in the aspect of cutting off emotions. Annelie still had hers, but they were in control instead of completely gone.
Perhaps if she could express things emotionally, Adelina might not just have to constantly be dissatisfied by the presence of the Glorious Flame Palace. But while the two elders squabbled, it had at least never erupted into a real battle. As long as it lasted until they could get them back home, it would be fine. Then they could go their separate ways and never deal with each other again… until something important happened that required the input of their sects.
They could obviously pick different representatives, but both were chosen for strength and relative youth. Having an old monster at the peak of Life Transformation was good for a sect, but having those who would grow to fill in the gaps later was even more important. Especially with just a few decades until a big invasion.