Elder Cultivator 317

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The largest contribution made to the battle by the rather sudden arrival of an island sized turtle was not when it bit off a couple limbs at a time, but when the kraken chose to fight it. There were still innumerable tentacles in play, and many of them were wrapped around the turtle’s head and neck. The turtle began to pull away, swimming towards the surface even as the kraken’s maw approached. Most of those watching could only barely make out the details and were in fact more concerned about the waves caused by the motion potentially slamming their ships together.

The kraken’s maw was large enough to chomp down on the head of the turtle, but as it got close and opened up, the turtle’s neck suddenly extended and its mouth opened, the island’s worth of natural energy augmenting its mouth as it chompe onto an edge of the opening. It twisted and shook its neck, and the entire kraken with it. The kraken attempted to pull away, disentangling its tentacles, but it was too late. A huge, fatal chunk was taken out of it. As the piece tore away and the turtle swallowed, the kraken began to push away- but the turtle dove after it for another bite.

The whole time, Commodore Visser was shouting orders for the fleet, and they retreated as far as they could from the conflict. Either creature could easily catch up to them or they would have retreated from the kraken, but with them focused on each other they began to move away. But less than a minute later the battle was over, with the kraken little more than a mess of half destroyed limbs and part of a body that no longer resembled either squid or octopus.

The storm continued to rage, but without any beasts attacking- they were all either dead or had retreated at the turtle’s arrival- it was easily tolerable for the fleet. As for the turtle, the fleet continued to move away, except for a small boat manned by several Life Transformation cultivators. Knowing the turtle’s intentions seemed to be important if this route were to ever be traversed again, since a creature that could swallow their whole fleet in a single gulp was even more of a threat than the kraken.

If it intended to eat the Life Transformation cultivators, they would be able to escape across the surface of the water. Flying was a difficult task, but supporting oneself on the surface of water was simple. And though the turtle was faster than their ships, the cultivators would be faster without. The ships were to provide a place to rest, and the weaker cultivators still needed them. 

—–

A day later, the fleet found themselves resting at the paradise of thirteen hills once more. Atop the turtle’s back, specifically. The creature was only drifting with the currents, very slowly considering it was wider than some of the currents and some went crossways with each other. Though it appeared to be in a state of hibernation or at least inactivity, the fleet had approached from the side, so as to avoid getting near the head. From the simple maps they had made on their first landing it seemed they had gone directly over the creature’s mouth, but there had been no reaction. It was theorized the creature wasn’t interested in anything as small as them, but there were some precautions that were necessary.

But the resources and stability it provided to repair their ships was deemed to be worth the risk. The fleet was currently anchored on the creature. It seemed the edge of its shell naturally rested under the surface, where the beaches had previously been. At the current moment the beaches were washed thinner than before, but the vast majority of plantlife had survived the wild battle, and that plantlife held the proper soil onto the creature’s back. 

“Do you think it should be called Paradise still?” Anton asked those around. The regular group, plus family. And Anish too. 

“A turtle called Paradise…” Hoyt shrugged. “I’m not quite sure. It probably depends on whether it’s going to be dangerous.”

“Given the fact that it has a whole ecosystem up here, I’m pretty sure it isn’t active often,” Anton pointed out.

“I can’t believe it had a beach,” Alva commented. They were currently just beyond where the beach had once been, atop denser soil and grass. “How long was it inactive?”

“It still has some sand,” Velvet pointed out. “I imagine something about it naturally attracts such sediment. But… it might drift for years without doing anything. It wasn’t active when we first saw it after all, and it hadn’t been. So it came to this part of the ocean over the couple years we were on Aicenith.”

“I can’t believe we didn’t notice it was a turtle,” Anish was looking at the ground beneath them suspiciously. “It still doesn’t feel like it, though I can sense the shell if I go deep enough. Do I have to sense more than a few meters under the ground wherever I walk all the time now?”

“I have to say, sounds like a good habit,” Anton admitted. “But even I didn’t notice anything. I just thought the shell was some kind of bedrock. The weird thing is its energy. It feels like free natural energy rather than that of a creature.” Anton made a little gesture, controlling it to swirl. “I don’t feel as if it has anything of its own. But its size could be throwing me off.”

—–

There were many people on the expedition who were interested in the creature, but only a few people actually chose to stay for an extended period. Elder Tola, of the Infinite Wisdom Forest, as well as some of her subordinates. Perhaps all of them might have stayed if not for the effect it would have on the sect’s fighting power, and how it might have looked if none came back. 

Many names were thrown around. The Paradise of Thirteen Hills had been generally agreed upon before anyone knew it was a turtle, but afterwards knowing that they weren’t simple hills it fell out of favor. Paradise was still supported, but some were leery of the name due to the massive violence and hunger they had witnessed. It was perfectly normal behavior for a beast to eat another, but it was disturbing to people when they considered possibly being eaten as well. Thirteen fit, but was hardly a name on its own. “Big Thirteen” and “Grandfather Turtle” were both suggested. Ultimately, everyone would have their own names for the Paradise of Thirteen Hills, which was most definitely not the peaceful island people had first thought it was.

—–

Whatever they might have called the creature, it showed no intent to cause anyone harm, or even that it noticed their existence. Its head was deep in the water along with its limbs, and only those who were specifically seeking them out would notice that they were not some sort of stone supporting the island. And even Kseniya had not realized that there was nothing beneath the island- the shell itself was so think she hadn’t even considered diving deeper, and her senses grew fuzzy around the point they presumed the creature’s flesh would begin.

With the kraken dead and being digested, there were no serious threats ahead of them- and they were not far from familiar and relatively friendly waters. The last days of their travel were somewhat subdued in excitement until they finally saw the land of the continent, with a few false starts for outlying islands like Greatleaf.

They were close enough to on target that they even arrived back at the same harbor they had departed from, and then everyone split up to return back to their various sects. Those who knew about what had happened were very interested in their stories, but the news only really spread over the course of the next several months as people realized there had actually been an expedition- and one that could absolutely be counted as successful.

—–

Fuzz was the second thing to leap towards Anton as they returned to the Order. He was truthfully not very far behind in noticing their arrival, but the ant queen was somehow even swifter to notice Anton’s return. It seemed she had been quite sad that he was gone for so long, but bringing her along could have been quite a problem. Even other countries weren’t necessarily ready to accept strong, intelligent ants living among them.

Alva, Hoyt, and Velvet received little enthusiasm from the ant queen, but Fuzz greeted them with the first of many enthusiastic licks to the face. After more than two years they were properly home again.

The first order of business was to meet up with Timothy and Caterina to catch up on everything that had happened. The traveling group relayed the things that had happened, from the weeks of travel to the meat of their time in the area.

“Its too bad I couldn’t be there to see their formations,” Catarina said. “But I’ve had plenty of things to study here. Elder Rana and I have been studying Everheart’s teleportation formations, though they mostly destroyed themselves. We’ve been piecing things together from the rubble and everyone’s recollections.”

“I’m glad everyone came back safely,” Timothy added. “Though I will miss Chikere. Perhaps when travel becomes more available we can visit her at some point.”

“Maybe things will have settled by the time we’re actually ready to build them,” Catarina commented.

“Build what?” Anton asked, tilting his head.

“… The teleportation formations? The things I’ve been studying?”

“You can reproduce those?” He raised an eyebrow.

“Not fully,” Catarina admitted. “But I will be able to. Anything he did can be reproduced. That’s how formations work.”

“Hmm,” Anton frowned. “They’re just so extreme… I kind of always considered his stuff to be more fever dreams than something that actually happened.”

“The big problem is making teleportation formations that work more than once. If we borrow against their future potential they just collapse,” Catarina shook her head. “It’s very expensive. But powering them without is also terribly difficult. It’s not worth it except… perhaps for rare trips between continents. Though we’d want to be quite sure that the Twin Soul Sect is wiped out first, hmm?”

“And the teleportation formations could make it easier for the invaders to reach us here- or to move across,” Anton pointed out.

“Eh, that’s easy enough. Breaking things is simple. If I could get access to Everheart’s information up there…” Catarina looked towards the sky. “Like that formation that trapped you. Picking out people by their cultivation styles and ascension energy. That would be best. I might even be able to make it so that people didn’t come out the other side.” Catarina furrowed her brow. “Hmm, but maybe not. Everheart let people out into a death maze with no exits, right?”

“I can’t be certain if that was by necessity or not,” Anton shrugged.

“Yeah…” Catarina shook her head. “If only I had some proper instructions from him that were at a higher level. I have an old book, but all his best stuff doesn’t have anything I know of. Unless he left behind an actual vault for a successor of some sort.”

“Our best bet would have been the one in Ambati,” Anton pointed out. “Since he led us there. But it didn’t have information on high level formations.”

“Could always be more,” Catarina said. “That guy seemed to have thrown tombs down everywhere. I wouldn’t be surprised if-” she stopped and bit her lip. “You know what I’m not going to bother anyone by saying that.”

“That’s ominous,” Anton said.

“It’s fine,” she replied. “But I’ll look into it just in case. It’s kind of a stupid idea though.”

“Which is why it makes some sense for Everheart to have done it,” Anton replied. “But I think I’d rather not know about it, unless I can affect this theoretical worry somehow.”

“Exactly. And it should be fine,” Catarina repeated. “But other than a lot of studying, nothing much really happened here. Things have been pretty peaceful, you know?”

“I know,” Anton said nodding. “When I came back I almost expected…” his eyes flickered between Timothy and Catarina.

“Expected what?” Catarina asked.

“Don’t worry about it,” Anton said. “It’s not important.” He had plenty of grandchildren of varying degrees, and pressuring people into having more wasn’t good for anyone. 

Alva had a little less tact though. “He thought you’d have babies. Why else would you guys stay behind?”

“I-I just was busy with all this research,” Catarina said shiftily.

Timothy shrugged, “I’ll admit to just wanting to be with Catarina. But as you can see, no kids.”

“I kinda want to see them though,” Alva said. “I bet they’d be cute!”

“I’m sure they will in their own time, or not if they choose,” Anton said as he steered them away from the topic. “Besides, the same could be said of you or Annelie. Think there will be anyone on the way soon?”

“What? We don’t- I don’t even have anyone I-” Somehow, Anton’s words made Alva blush like a young woman instead of a fully grown adult. And she spoke the truth, but Anton knew a little bit more than she thought. But some things weren’t as obvious to those closely involved as a slightly more detached outsider.

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