Elder Cultivator 322

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Within a year Anton had exhausted the readily available options for remnants of ancient sects. Unlike the secret realm of the Luminous Ocean Society, most had not remained intact- and they certainly didn’t have functioning training areas. Most were preserved better than the Enlightened Cloud Sect, though sometimes that was because the value of the materials in question was not worth the effort of dismantling. Others were saved by sects or clans interested in preserving history, though such cases were unfortunately rare.

As for finding more of Everheart’s tombs, while there were always rumors about them cropping up in some place or another none were legitimate. Anton still went to check out a few regardless, but he knew that any real one would manage to have a further reaching announcement. 

That could have been where he gave up. The time and effort he was willing to devote to such an endeavor wasn’t unlimited, and tracking down ever more obscure rumors was bound to be a waste of his time. However, more options had opened up in recent years. Specifically, outside of the continent. 

In the half a decade since the initial expeditions to reconnect with the rest of the world, travel had become easier. With a set route in place, attacks were minimized along the route. Beasts were either killed or learned not to attack the cultivators, though there were always exceptions. Even so, some manner of trade had been developed. Luxury goods for the most part, since each continent was quite self-sustained and the costs to ship low value goods were far too high. 

Along with luxury goods there were of course cultivators. They were able to deal with risk and had reasons to travel long distances, seeking their individual goals. And while teleportation was planned, it took more than a handful of years for people to become comfortable with the idea of foreign sects just being able to show up nearby. Location was important- though whether people wanted the teleportation formations to be closer or further away was also something that had to be managed. It could provide significant benefits of detriments to a region depending on how things were set up. And while cultivators were able to move swiftly in some instances, in others they tended to drag on, like all human bureaucracy.

So Anton took a boat. It was a boring trip with no krakens or giant turtles involved- though it seemed there were some groups interested in tracking the general migration of Paradise he wasn’t part of the standard routes.

Anton took one of the faster ships, built for speed rather than durability. That meant he was able to arrive in around one week rather than three or four. Sitting around doing nothing productive for two extra weeks was just a waste. He could always discuss cultivation with those on board, but he had no guarantee anyone would be interested or that either side would benefit. So he chose the faster option.

Then he had a whole continent to pick over. For the moment, he set his target on two different groups. The closer of the two was the Tomb Seeking Cult. He’d had little interaction with them outside of guiding one of their disciples for part of his time in Erygan, when he’d been trying to find the Twin Soul’s smith. But if anyone would know about more of Everheart’s tombs, it would be them. The second option was the Million Sword Vault, but they were closer to the far side of the continent.

The Tomb Seeking Cult took their obsession very seriously, and that reflected in their main headquarters… or lack thereof. They did have a central location in the middle-western portion of Aicenith, but it was basically just a section of roughly tracked wilderness with temporary structures set up. Lots of tents and log cabins, and no defensive formations. Anton wasn’t even sure if they technically owned the area, but nobody seemed keen on removing them either. 

Given that cultivators were prone to travel, finding his one acquaintance there was a stroke of luck. He could have easily been off on some mission… or dead. It was an unpleasant thought, but with the Tomb Seeking Cult being particularly zealous in their hunt of Twin Soul Sect members they had taken recent losses. But Agus was present and alive, so Anton quickly found his wave over to the man.

“Master Anton!” Agus greeted him enthusiastically as he approached. “I had wondered if we would ever meet again.”

“It’s something you can never know until you do,” Anton shrugged. There wasn’t much deeper meaning to that thought. It was just that eventually people would meet for the last time. “Well, take a look at yourself. You’ve advanced quite nicely into early Essence Collection.”

“It is thanks to your advice,” Agus inclined his head. “For what reason have you come to seek us here?”

“It’s quite simply a matter related to your specialty,” Anton explained. “I was wondering if you or the others had received word of any more of Everheart’s Tombs since… the one fifteen years ago.” It surprised Anton to say that last part, but time had been flowing rapidly. If he thought back he could see how all he had done filled the years, but if he did not focus they seemed to slip through his grasp.

“Not a single one, I’m afraid,” Agus shook his head. “It is a matter of some disappointment among us, though there have been longer periods. I’d like to tell you something useful, but if we haven’t heard then no one has. And if any of us had heard of one, we all would have. Asking the others won’t change the answer.”

Anton nodded. With the common thread between them being that specific thing, any tomb of Everheart wasn’t something that could be kept secret- even by those higher up. In fact, it became even more important for them to share the information. “I suspected as much. In that case, I am interested in historical records of previous tombs. And perhaps visiting them myself.”

“Oh! Well, Maxine will be very excited. She’s the current keeper of lore,” Agus explained. “Would you like to go see her now?” Anton nodded. “Then come with me.”

He headed immediately for some of the more permanent structures in the area. The area around them was the most trafficked and thus had the least random undergrowth impeding them, not that it was a huge issue for cultivators- which was how the various paths managed to be rather straight between points of interest instead of winding.

The great libraries of sects were usually well guarded, but beyond the various disciples wandering nearby there weren’t any standing watch. Then again, various nearby structures housed many of the higher ranking cultivators among them. The structure they were heading towards seemed to have been expanded upon as necessary, various horizontal and vertical extensions not matching any of the others in age or even necessarily style. 

Inside was only a single person at the moment, presumably the lorekeeper Maxine. The typical image of such a person was old and decrepit, but Maxine was nearly the opposite. She wasn’t exactly young, but she showed only minimal signs of age. She looked up as they entered. “Hello. I don’t recognize you,” her gaze focused on Anton in particular.

“I’m not a member of the Tomb Seeking Cult,” Anton pointed out. “So that is to be expected.”

“Really?” She raised an eyebrow. “I’d have thought you were. I sense the influence of some of Everheart’s techniques on you.”

“With how many he’s made, I’d be more surprised if anyone didn’t have something tied to his techniques in some way,” Anton pointed out.

“Sure,” Maxine shrugged. “But these are more specific. Not terribly often practiced. I sense some old scars from Candle Wax, and I believe you practice Fleeting Youth?”

“I’m surprised,” Anton admitted. “Especially at recognizing the latter. I thought it was rather less known.” In fact, before he obtained it he presumed no one had it. “Has it so quickly spread to this continent to the point you instantly recognize it?”

“Oh, you’re from Brogora?” Maxine’s eyes lit up. “I have so many questions! But first, yours. It’s been here for a while. It’s honestly practiced very little, except among us- a few elders who have desired a boost in power. Most wouldn’t recognize it, but I have studied everything I can in detail. That one… I can’t use myself. Not for a few decades at minimum. And I’m not really ready to give up on… certain things.” She coughed. “But um. Brogora. Tell me everything you know about Everheart’s Tombs there! It’s so hard to get reliable information! I was thinking of going on a trip myself but-”

“Alright,” Anton cut her off. “But I’d like to exchange some information. I’m interested in things local to Aicenith, for example.”

“Absolutely! I believe that information should be freely shared. A lot of people hate Everheart’s forbidden techniques, but they were just forbidden because it was dangerous for them! Or the practitioners, but I don’t see why people complain when they’re clearly marked.” Maxine sighed, “People know what they’re getting into. Why not let them?”

“Most people don’t enjoy the prospect of themselves or others getting hurt. And encouraging forbidden techniques also encourages those being used against them to some extent. If everyone makes use of self-destructive methods to battle, it could result in both sides perishing and no victors.”

“Same as regular wounds,” Maxine shrugged. “People accept certain hits to land their own attack. I don’t think it’s much different.”

Anton disagreed on a philosophical level, but she was entitled to her opinion. “I wanted to see a list of what tombs had appeared. And where.”

“Ah, easy.” Maxine waved her hand and a thin notebook flew off the shelves. “Here it is.”

“That’s it?” Anton raised an eyebrow. It was hardly more than a few pages, listing dates and locations.

“What?” Maxine shrugged. “They appear maybe every handful of years on average, which means no more than twenty a century. Less than a hundred total, including what we know of Brogora.”

“That’s… a fair point,” Anton admitted.

“Also the description of what was inside each all are separate,” Maxine pointed out. “Some of us have made extensive documents on traps and formations and other features. I’m so frustrated I didn’t get to visit the last one! How was I supposed to know it was on the moon, and had its own ecosystem?” She waved her arms about. “He just said it was about ascension! Why would anyone but Life Transformation cultivators need to go there? Obviously I would have anyway, but not everyone could go…” she shook her head. “But, yeah. That’s it. The whole list.”

“I can add a few more on here, from Brogora,” Anton noted. It probably wouldn’t make much difference either way since they were basically all rubble now, but in the interest of completion he added the first one he’d visited, then the unannounced one in Ambati. 

“Ooh! One that wasn’t publicized? Fascinating!” Maxine reacted as he explained it. “A shame it was so broken down though.”

“It was a strange one for that,” Anton admitted. “Many others had their structural integrity compounded against their future… however that works. I don’t know why one would be in such ill repair.”

“Maybe he made a mistake,” Maxine shrugged. Then she looked around. “Some members view him as the pinnacle of perfection, but I’m more cautious than that. Though he was amazingly impactful, even after his death.”

“Or ascension,” Anton offered the alternative.

“Right? Nobody knows!”

“He did say he’s probably dead now though. Or rather, one of his projections,” Anton nodded. “Something about too many enemies. It seemed some of them might have been ascended as well. Or perhaps he was implying making new enemies?”

“You spoke to his projections? Tell me everything!” Maxine was quite excited, sweeping a pile of potentially important papers and books off of her desk and placing down blank parchment and preparing to write.

So Anton explained what he had heard, as well as he could remember. His mind had been tempered which helped with recall, but there were still possibilities to forget details. Taking the time to properly reflect on a certain time period helped. After he finished, he was interested in trying to see if any of the tombs on Aicenith had been less destroyed than the norm. If anyone would know, it should be Maxine and the records of the Tomb Seeking Cult.

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