Elder Cultivator 466

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Continuing to move towards the mountain sized palace-and-statue fight was rather uncomfortable, but at this point there was little way for those on the Tomb to retreat. They could perhaps attempt to flee, navigating the void of space without a ship but that would involve giving up on this opportunity. Hopefully, it would be sufficient to drive off Fajra.

Before they quite made it to where the Great Hall had once stood, something happened. Something that made the fluctuations of energy between the statue and Fajra feel small, except though the power was significant it was spread throughout everywhere they could feel. Likely the entire planet. A sort of swirling of energy, then in an instant it was gone. The most visible result was the statue disappearing.

Fortunately, either Fajra was stunned by the sudden disappearance or simply incautious. Before she expanded her senses to include the Great Hall again, the group of cultivators mostly from the Order of One Hundred Stars was there.

With the statue gone, very little time was required to fully connect with the third piece of the formation below. “I’ve attuned the formations to all of us,” Catarina confirmed. The sudden change drew the attention of Fajra, but as her aura bore down on them it was suddenly stifled by a barrier. The ground trembled slightly, as the base of the Great Hall cracked apart. “I need your help activating all of the formations,” Catarina said. “Just channel energy to me.”

In general, formations were designed to power themselves, drawing from the energy in the atmosphere or from sources specifically dedicated to them. This was also the case with these formations, yet Catarina knew she didn’t have sufficient power to simply activate them on her own. There were so many, most of which seemed as if they were meant to function continuously. She wasn’t sure what all of them did, but if they were functioning properly they should not cause harm to those attuned to it. And they didn’t really have time to think about much else. While they might be safe in their little bubble for the moment, if they didn’t establish proper control over all of the Tomb now, perhaps Fajra could carve out a weak point to take further action from. 

Barriers were the most directly obvious, forcing people out from inside them. Catarina couldn’t comprehend so many different people at once, though the formations provided some feedback that would have let her be more selective if she could. First was the Great Hall. Then the Labyrinth, and finally the Library. But that was only the start of things, the staging points from which everything else grew. The Statue Hall, Gardens, all of the trapped corridors and external areas between them. The Smithy, the might of the volcano being repurposed back to its former use as a power source. Hundreds of little hidden alcoves that may have never been discovered. Then everywhere in between as the gaps filled in. 

The formations pushed those inside them away, and upwards. It would be up to them to negotiate with any ships for passage off world, which was always the case. They weren’t even fully separated from the atmosphere, so they should be fine. And if they weren’t, it would take even the weaker cultivators willing to brave Everheart’s Tomb at least a day to be in serious trouble. Maybe they’d look for them and make some sort of bargain.

Catarina breathed out heavily. “One more thing. We haven’t quite removed Fajra from over there. Alva, if you could pick the best spot to target? I’ll channel this attack via your control.”

“Got it,” Alva nodded. As Catarina nudged her towards the structure, the ground opening up to reveal something akin to a tower, Alva could feel the way it could direct power towards a target. It was quite significant, but even with her own understanding of formations she could tell it wasn’t fully functional. If it was, it might have been able to wipe out Fajra’s palace. Instead, she had to aim for what would hurt most. Which part most contributed to structural stability?

After a few moments, she found the best target. Fajra was inside the palace, having taken advantage of its defensive properties against Everheart’s statue. They likely couldn’t kill her here, but to drive her off…

A continuous beam of power drilled into the palace from below, aiming for one specific area. When the power pierced the defenses, water spilled out. And as Alva hoped, Fajra quickly directed the palace away. Well, Alva was hoping it would be less mobile. If Fajra put it back wherever it came from she would be vulnerable, but no such luck. Even so, as she fled the planet Catarina smoothed out the remainder of the barrier which now surrounded the entire thing.

“What was that?” Hoyt asked. “Some sort of healing spring? A secret font of power?”

Alva shook her head. “More important. I attacked directly into… the bathing area.”

“Baths? But…”

“It’s definitely the most important to someone like her,” Alva said. “Power is only obtained for the purposes of control and luxury. Besides, all the really important stuff had better defenses, and we couldn’t let her know she might be able to resist this thing.” She looked to Catarina, “It’s kind of broken, by the way.”

“I’ll look at it later,” Catarina said, curling up into a ball on the floor. “Need to… rest…”

—–

When Prospero Vandale was finally able to answer Anton’s inquiries, there was quite a lot more to hear. So they finished taking control of the planet upon which Everheart’s Tomb had rested… though it seemed Everheart had pulled away many of his resources in the moments leading up to that. That was what they had pieced together, anyway- though whether it was some automatic system or signs he really was still alive they weren’t sure. Except, of course, that it was always appropriate to assume he was still alive.

As for the actual intention of Anton’s messages, it had been to ask his old friend as politely as possible what he remembered about death. In that regard, the response was that he remembered basically nothing between his death and rebirth- perhaps there was little to experience, or he might simply not have those memories at the moment. Apparently he did remember the end, however.

Ultimately Vandale described things with one word. Peaceful. Despite dying a violent death, he had accepted that was how he would die, and even that it would be at that specific moment. He had been satisfied.

That was what Anton wanted, though he knew many people didn’t achieve it. He thought he could, but he constantly felt there was more he had to do. The next invasion, for example. He thought if he could get to that, he would be content. But if he actually did, perhaps he would find something else he absolutely needed to do. Anton would have to think on that.

It wasn’t strange for a few months to go by with nothing monumental happening, and that was the case once more. Anton was aware that work on ships to travel between the stars was progressing, and they were even planning simple tests soon- simply out into their own system to be certain the basic features of the vessels worked. After all, they had to adapt Ruteran technology and Catarina’s explanations of how the ships using ascension energy functioned.

As he was thinking about that, Anton felt something in the sky. Though the tides of the world shouldn’t allow for it at this time, it felt an awful lot like someone coming from the upper realms. They were moving too fast for him to intercept, but he began to move quickly towards where he traced their trajectory to.

—–

Lately, Erin hadn’t slept much. Powerful cultivators didn’t really need to, and she’d somehow found herself in that category. Not just Life Transformation, but a step beyond- though it wasn’t entirely something she could call her own. That power came from Paradise… and it seemed that he influenced her as well. Paradise was the sort who slept yearly, perhaps for a month at a time. Erin’s stints with sleep were shorter and somewhat more frequent.

She was content with her current arrangement, as if she really wanted to she could still sleep. But having more hours in the day- or in this case night- meant more cultivation, tempering her own power and what she shared with Paradise. 

Through the same connection with Paradise, she occasionally sensed what he did. His thoughts were not entirely compatible with her own, but she could sense hunger or fatigue or his usual pleasant companionship. It was good to know that those who lived on his back weren’t just tolerated. 

With those being the most common feelings, looking up at the stars and sensing a sharp anger concerned her. There had only been one time prior that she could assume Paradise had been angry- when the Ponderous Turtle Clan attempted to control him. Whatever he sensed up there had to be bad.

And it was rapidly approaching. Erin gathered some of her energy, intending to mimic Paradise and fire a powerful shot from the waves around them, but suddenly found her flow of energy cut off. Not violently, but like a comforting hand on her shoulder. “Are you sure you don’t want my help?” Paradise didn’t really speak, but she got a feeling of independence from him at the moment. “Then… I’ll keep the rest of us safe.” If Paradise was going to fight that, the surrounding area might not be safe.

A great power slammed into the sea, raising waves and clouds of steam as it vaporized a section of the ocean. A few moments later, the figure rose from the waves. “There you are!” a voice boomed out. “My pet turtle! Good to see you’re still around.”

Paradise’s response was to fire a torrent of water that Erin had personally witnessed turning a battlefield into an inland sea… with those who had been fighting on the wrong side annihilated. She was quite surprised when the figure blocked it with one hand. If the figure had only torn a path through it that would be one thing- the power contained in only a small part of it was less significant- but the entire section of ocean broke into a spray of mist.

“Come on now, little buddy. Don’t you recognize me?”

The way Paradise snorted angrily and her connection to him told Erin that he did indeed recognize… this strange figure. She thought she knew all of the Assimilation cultivators on Ceretos, but apparently she was wrong. No, perhaps not. An invader? But even the Augmentation cultivators hadn’t been able to stand against Paradise directly.

Paradise usually didn’t move quickly, but when he was motivated he could cut apart the sea like a knife. Now he did so, his mouth open wide. The figure floating over the sea stood calmly with his hands behind his back as Paradise approached. “Well then, it seems you need some time to cool off. I’ll be back later.”

—–

Doing his best impression of someone striding away unconcerned, Everheart flew away from his turtle. He hadn’t expected it to get so strong after just a few centuries. And bitter! What, was it bored or something? He hadn’t done anything to it. Taking it away from where it was born was a favor, that Slow Turtle Gang or whatever was only interested in controlling it. Sure, that was the same with Everheart but it was supposed to be grateful!

There went his first plan. The moon would have been that, but as expected his whole thing there was already over and done with. And the world here honestly looked to be in a good state, so he supposed it worked. Everheart might have had conflicts with every major faction on Ceretos, but it was still his home.

At least nobody should remember him directly. Not that it would matter if they did. Life Transformation cultivators meant nothing to him. He had some sort of itch scratching in the flood of memories those stupid projections forced into his head, but it probably wasn’t that important. If it was, he still needed a safe place to digest it. And deal with these damned reopened wounds. 

Maybe he’d just pick a random island. Nobody would notice him there for a couple decades. Yes, that would be for the best. He could sense one right nearby. When he set foot on the island, something stabbed into the sand in front of his feet. It was only there for an instant- an arrow, if his eyes hadn’t deceived him. His eyes followed its path to an old man standing nearby, who waved casually. Well, he supposed he would just have to take care of this guy first.

As Everheart prepared to launch a counterattack, he hesitated. Wait, what stage of cultivation was this guy even in? And why did it suddenly feel like he was standing next to the sun? At full power he shouldn’t be a problem for Everheart, but that wasn’t the case right now.

Then the old man spoke. “I don’t think we’ve met… but then again, I feel like we have. Perhaps my memory is faulty. I don’t suppose you could enlighten me?”

Everheart’s mind raced. Who was this guy? More importantly, what would he have looked like when he was younger? He could have sworn he finished off all the potential threats who would have a serious grudge against him. But try as he might, Everheart couldn’t place this man. Perhaps it was his head being shoved full of tons of repetitive days of nothing, but he had the feeling they really might never have met. He relaxed his stance slightly. Might as well answer the guy.

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