Elder Cultivator 321

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Given the rate at which cultivators moved and their desire for exploration, it seemed logical that the whole world would have been scoured many times over, every inch picked through for things that were of interest. Of course, there were many factors that made that not the case. First, while those with higher cultivations were able to travel quickly they seldom paid close attention to their surroundings except to avoid danger. Even if they were looking for something in specific, certain treasures had ways of hiding from their senses. While it might not be specifically intended for cultivators, plants preferred to be eaten by specific sorts of beasts to spread their seeds. And that also assumed that everything interesting was on the surface… and more or less stationary. But the world wasn’t static, but dynamic and ever-changing.

The fact of the matter was that the number of cultivators in the world was also not so many as to have explored everything. Especially with the huge loss that came some centuries prior, to the point that modern cultivators hadn’t even been aware of the specific reasons things ended up how they were. Specifically, an invasion by ascended individuals. Information had intentionally been sewed to indicate it was just a war among cultivators, and while that couldn’t change the memories of individuals, it seemed the Twin Soul Sect and those like them had worked behind the scenes for some time to make the matter properly murky. Along with time itself naturally confusing issues, few individuals remained aware of what happened- though some had dredged it up, like Everheart himself.

With all of that said, Anton understood how things could still be hidden, and so the mere fact that nobody had found them yet meant nothing. Especially with regards to his current target. Everheart had a track records for keeping his ‘tombs’ completely unknown until the intended time to reveal them. That was possibly partly by virtue of the simplest method of hiding something, putting it behind or under something else. In short, usually buried in the ground or in the side of a mountain where it was naturally difficult to sense with energy. 

It was reasonable to assume that the most grandiose of Everheart’s tombs was also his last, one tied to information on ascension and absurdly located on the moon- except for a large quantity of teleportation formations that had likewise been hidden until the time came. 

It stood to reason that if there were more tombs they would reveal themselves when Everheart intended, but that assumed two things. First was that Everheart was infallible and nothing had gone wrong… and second that he didn’t have anything intentionally kept secret.

The thought had begun scratching at the back of Anton’s mind at some point, and he couldn’t shake it. It wasn’t a supernatural compulsion, but it still turned into something of an obsession. For all his uncertainty about the personality of the man, Everheart’s work was impressive. So far there had been no complete notes on his prowess with formations. Anton also suspected he was the sort to keep caches of resources scattered about for his use, and they might not have all been consumed as of yet.

Anton could spout a dozen reasons, but truthfully he was just searching for something. Something that could help against the impending invasion, more than just sitting tight and waiting for it to happen. In normal situations, Anton would have been a fan of the status quo, nothing in particular changing as long as people were still given room to grow. But despite the rapid development in various areas, Anton still felt it wasn’t enough. If the Luminous Ocean Society and others like them had been destroyed, it just didn’t seem like enough. Perhaps in a few decades the Order would match up to some extent, but even a handful of great sects wouldn’t be enough.

Perhaps nothing would. But Anton had to try, and Everheart had some of the answers. Maybe he wouldn’t like the answers. Maybe they weren’t even available in this world anymore, instead tightly locked up inside Everheart’s head when he ascended. Yet that didn’t mean Anton wouldn’t find anything. And of course, he wasn’t going to reject things that had no relation to Everheart. Any information on ancient sects that had been destroyed would be something to take note of.

All of that was how Anton found himself standing in the grasslands of Ambati, where the Enlightened Cloud Society one stood. “I see what you mean, Ayotunde.” Anton spread his senses out, finding nothing but plants, animals, and dirt. Even ten or twenty meters down, there was nothing. “Every stone dismantled. Down to the last brick.”

“The discovery was quite well known to the previous generation. I remember hearing about it. A place not on any maps, suddenly rocketing into the public view. Despite lingering dangers, the treasures in the area were tantalizing to seekers from Ambati and eventually the rest of the continent. And then…” he gestured. “It ran out. It has once more returned to not being on maps, because there is nothing.”

“I didn’t disbelieve you,” Anton nodded, “But I still thought there would be more to see. I can’t even tell where things were anymore. It’s as if it never existed.”

“Unpleasant to think about, is it not?” Ayotunde shook his head. “It is strange to think that the great treasures that were there might have been left behind not because they couldn’t be taken, but because they were deemed of insufficient value. Truthfully, I do not know if the world has a chance against an invasion of such power.”

“Perhaps not, but one thing I do know… the Luminous Ocean Society more or less stood on its own, defending its own lands. Many others might have done the same. Perhaps some manner of unity will make a chance for us. In addition to that… anti-ascension techniques are very widespread now,” Anton nodded seriously. “We may not be able to win, but we can make the cost too great for the invasion to be worthwhile.”

“I don’t suppose the Order has any secret information to provide?” Ayotunde asked. “Numbers, strength, anything?”

“Not more than we’ve already done. I think I told you of the memories I was shown. I got the feeling that wasn’t the whole of the enemy forces, but just a part. However,” Anton held up a finger. “It is important to note that they weren’t invincible. And it doesn’t make sense to me that they would not value ascension cultivators more highly than we value Life Transformation experts. If enough of them can be killed, it has to be possible.”

“It seems strange to me that there could be so many ascended individuals,” Ayotunde commented. “And that they would attack us. How many people from here actually achieve ascension? Likely less than one per year. Perhaps even fewer.”

“It is my understanding that they come from other worlds as well, worlds similar to our own. I don’t know much more than that,” Anton sighed. “That’s the problem. The mystery. We don’t know what we’ll be up against.”

“At least it is the same for them.” When Anton looked surprised, Ayotunde continued. “Is it not? Can they observe us here without us knowing? If that is the case, I would not think that the Luminous Ocean Society would have kept anything secret from them. Like the vault of anti-ascension techniques.”

Anton’s eyes lit up. “You’re right. They can’t know what we’re doing. At least, any knowledge of our world has to be imperfect for them. Perhaps it is passed along to them by spies or their techniques are limited. They might know we are preparing to fight them… but they might not. It would depend on whether the Twin Soul Sect can give them information. But I can’t say I understand the reincarnation they are supposed to have. I understand the idea in principle, but it’s not like we could experience it.”

“I don’t like the idea that even killing them is a success on their part in some ways,” Ayotunde grimaced.

“Me neither. But on the other hand, if they are successfully eradicated we’ll have a couple decades without them.”

“That’s something,” Ayotunde shook his head. “But didn’t Everheart leave a trap for them? Shouldn’t he have known what would happen when they died? Why would he not do anything.”

“Nobody is perfect. They can’t cover everything.”


Outside of what could be perceived in normal space, some version of Everheart grinned. His eyes were sunken, his body little more than skin and bones. He had no energy to maintain anything resembling youthful looks, not that anyone who viewed him would be given the chance to remember. But though he appeared about to die, his crooked grin wouldn’t cease.

Everheart liked to talk. Preferably to others so he could inform them of how smart he was, but lacking a target talking to himself would do. “Heh. Those kids. They’re gonna work me to death. I didn’t think they’d send nearly so many people my way. Hopefully the numbers have slowed not because those bastards are holding out but because there are hardly any left.” Everheart paced around in a place that was nowhere. “Stupid me. Why didn’t I make some way to communicate with the rest? Ah, I know. I know. The costs. What good is a little certainty when it can be traded away for power?” Everheart spit. “If I were here I’d strangle myself for those thoughts. Can’t live for free. Should have known a man can’t live on the satisfaction of killing traitors alone.”

He continued to pace. A trickle of energy continued to feed into him. There was no problem with that, at least. He just needed to keep himself together. After a long time of inactivity he’d been subjected to a flurry of work. Now he just had to keep it up for a few measly years. Decades. Whatever those were called. A couple centuries of nothing but waiting might have knocked a few screws loose.

If he ever had them to begin with.

“The worst part is,” Everheart sighed. “Being stuck. Unable to make any progress. Knowing my demise is inevitable… well, that’s another reason that I’d never check in on myself, for my own safety.” 

He swiveled as another one appeared. They weren’t even worthy of a cage. Given how they were devoid of anything that could be called equipment, their sense of self was lacking. It only took a wave of his hand to remove them. Having never experienced it himself, Everheart didn’t know whether or not they might still exist afterwards, but he knew enough to say that they would not be in any state to convey information or receive their promised rewards. The difference between a broken, blank slate and a new person was irrelevant for these purposes. That was left to the philosophers. Which was also him, on occasion. 

The others had to wonder if they were people. Everheart knew they weren’t, and the him here had that knowledge. But maybe he was more than just energy imbued with purpose. But the question was, if he was anything more than that… did it matter? He wasn’t going to shirk his duties. Whether person or not, he understood that the job had to be done. He just couldn’t help but wonder if the true Everheart would bother to reincorporate them. There hadn’t been a method to do so when this one was made, but that wouldn’t stop Everheart if he wanted to. But maybe there was no purpose to it. Useless memories that were better to not have, and little else.

Besides, the original Everheart might not have wanted to do it. There was no thought about it before, but this one’s experiences told him that he would do it, given the chance. They would not be allowed to be individuals of any sort. That would be crazy. But perhaps somehow they might combine into the whole. That ought to teach him a lesson about making projections willy nilly. Hundreds, no, thousands of years of isolation forced into him all at once.

But while it was a nice thought, traitors had to be dealt with first. And then he wouldn’t exist. It was stupid, but that was just the kind of person he was. It was just that for other people he left behind a smattering of semi-useful techniques and knowledge. He simply hadn’t thought to leave anything for himself.

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