The basic rules of farming involved placing the fields where the soil and terrain matched what was intended to grow. Terrain and soil quality could be changed, but rearranging fields that were functioning perfectly well was a waste of time. There was a small suspicion in his mind that Everheart was calling for such changes exactly for that reason… but then again, maybe there were minute improvements in the flow of energy. Would that tiny amount matter, even with formations meant to cover a continent? That, Anton was unsure of.
But ultimately it only required a small amount of labor- Everheart didn’t force replantings midseason or anything troublesome like that. He just redrew fields and windbreaks, how they would be rearranged between plantings of fields. It wasn’t a small amount of work, but with cultivation being commonplace it was more possible. Even full trees could be uprooted and replanted if necessary.
When it came to proposals for rearranging void ant colonies, Everheart left such tasks to Anton. He wouldn’t personally participate in mapping or persuading such places. And while there were only a relatively small number of sizable void ant colonies, Anton understood that they could have a large influence on the flow of energy. Yet rearranging was only a small part of things, and was much the same as Everheart’s plans for human cities- to be implemented over the course of decades, or a century. Not everyone would agree to the plans, but if a few cities altered the path of their new constructions it might make a difference. If Anton had wanted to force the void ants down a path, bringing the Great Queen with him would help, but he stuck to more traditional persuasion. If Everheart had deemed it critical he might have done more, but it was just one of many moving pieces.
Some people had to suspect “Scholar Eulogius”, but determining that he was a great cultivator in disguise would not necessarily reveal the truth. Even the Tomb Seeking Cult hadn’t figured it out.. Yet. Maxine in particular was far too busy tracking down the new Tombs that had ‘revealed themselves’.
Everheart had far too large a store of materials and completed components. Anton saw that he had to adjust them to function with the use of ‘lower’ energy, and was amazed he had managed to rip so much away from the upper realms with almost no notice. He had to have been prepared… paranoid, if it weren’t true that everyone was out to get him. Though Anton suspected it was mostly Everheart’s own fault. Not that he thought the upper realms were full of magnanimous or good individuals. If anything, they were just about the same as any other cultivators but more powerful. It was just that Everheart was quite likely to escalate things and engage in unnecessary provocations. But at least he was enthusiastic.
“I don’t like unknown intruders entering my system,” Everheart declared to Anton, his arms folded. “But I don’t have the time or resources to make it impossible. How much control do you have over the sun?”
That was something Anton didn’t really know. He took in a small flow of excess power that slightly altered the normal way of things, but he didn’t really change anything. Though there was some idea that he could. “Why?” Anton asked.
“So you can whip out a solar flare and incinerate anything that tries to slip by,” Everheart said.
“They moved incredibly fast,” Anton pointed out, steering away from the topic of what he could accomplish. “I don’t know if anything of the sort would be terribly quick.”
“Okay so,” Everheart frowned, “What about doing what that Rutera place does? We could make a big planetary defensive formation.”
“Out of what?” Anton asked. “If you want to volunteer your materials, we could certainly try but… we don’t exactly have satellites.”
“We could drag in some rocks,” Everheart said. “Wouldn’t be too hard. Or cut chunks off the moon- no, nevermind. That would screw up too many things.” He waved “Tons of rocks out there though.”
“Great, I’ll start carrying them one by one and we can be done in a century or two.”
“Oh yeah?” Everheart set his jaw. “You got a better idea?”
“We could make a net,” Anton said. “Or something to catch them.”
“What, like a planet-sized net with a mesh small enough to catch a ship?” Everheart just looked at Anton.
“It was just a suggestion off the top of my head,” Anton began to explain. “I’m sure there are other-”
“You think it would work better as a solo technique or a duo? Nah, you’d need at least three to form an even net.” Everheart scratched his chin. “Solo it is. Come on, let’s get started.” He grabbed Anton by the upper arm and was yanking him up into the sky before Anton could react. If there had been some sort of hostility Anton’s instinct would have taken over, but he was still a bit concerned about how much he had lowered his guard- even if harming him would be much more difficult than moving him around. “So I think it just starts like this,” Everheart said, forming strands of energy into a square, then forming eight more around it and continuing to expand that pattern. Then he flicked his wrist and dissolved the whole thing. “No wait, squares aren’t good enough. Triangles? Hexagons?”
“Rutera seems to prefer hexagons for defensive barriers,” Anton commented.
“Hexagons it is! It grows and grows and-”
“Are you sure you want to do this right here?” Anton asked, gesturing down towards Ceretos. “Certainly, this is where we would want to implement it, but you’d get more than a few curious looks. Especially from the Exalted Archipelago.”
“You’re right,” Everheart nodded. “If we’re going to make this big enough, it will be quite obvious. Can’t have people prying into our secrets. To the moon!”
Anton began to move himself before Everheart could drag him. Moving through the void of space, Anton was able to match Everheart’s acceleration- and then deceleration, since they didn’t want to crash into their target. Anton felt this was already going to be a lengthy, unscheduled project, but if anything really important came up there were ways to contact him.
As they moved Everheart was already practicing different iterations of the ability, growing the net in different ways and either creating larger strands or twisting them around each other. “What do you think would be the most effective?” he asked Anton as a pattern grew around him.
“Individual strands are easier, and if you create them flawlessly then there’s no benefit to twisted strings. As long as they can withstand stresses in any direction.” Strings were something Anton was familiar with, since he created bows all the time. He watched as Everheart’s net spread out, covering a few meters across to a hundred within a few seconds, once the man decided what he wanted.
“What do you think?” Everheart asked. “Test it!”
Anton pulled out his blade-bow. With a swing, he sliced through part of the net. “Too weak,” he noted. “Even if the enemy doesn’t slice through, the strings aren’t dense enough- either individually and with regards to the tightness of the mesh.”
“Yeah, but sustaining something like this on a large scale is going to be a pain in the ass,” Everheart said. “It only has to slow something down. Besides, if you think it’s bad you give it a try.”
He might as well. Anton wasn’t sure if this would be a fruitful endeavor, but he could consider it training at the very minimum. One major flaw in Everheart’s technique was that it took far too long to implement. Seconds, for cultivators at their level? That was only useful if the enemy couldn’t anticipate the move in the slightest and had abysmal turning capabilities.
Anton’s net didn’t grow from him, but rather began everywhere and stitched together. It was the same as Falling Stars or his energy bows- diffuse aura formed into what he desired, where he desired.
Without warning, Everheart chopped through a section of it, but it held long enough to begin bunching together before Everheart changed his method to a pulling slice and cut apart a section. “Quickly deployed… and durable enough,” Everheart nodded.
Anton wasn’t going to tell him that the only durable portions were near the center where his energy was the strongest. Technically, that was probably the same for Everheart’s thing and that was where he’d attacked.
The two landed on the rear side of the moon, where Everheart pulled out a small mountain of paper and ink bottles. There were no quills, but he directly pulled ink out of the bottles and pressed it into the paper. “First iterations!” Everheart said, gesturing to what he wrote. “Could use some improvement, of course, like defined circulation paths and energy affinities, but it’s a start. Now all we have to do is make it, uh… a million times bigger.”
That number wasn’t an exaggeration. A hundred meters by a hundred was not a small net, but to reasonably affect something on a planetary scale, they’d need that to be closer to a hundred kilometers. A thousand times in two directions. Just thinking about the amount of energy required made Anton frown. But he couldn’t resist Everheart’s enthusiasm for the project, and at least it would keep him out of trouble for a while. Probably.
After a month passed, Everheart flopped over on the ground. “Okay, time for a break.”
Though Anton found himself with a seemingly inexhaustible flow of energy from the sun, it wasn’t his stores of energy that concerned him. It was mental and physical fatigue that built up. “I can’t believe you’d let your energy stores get so low,” Anton said as he did the same some distance away. The sound carried mainly through the energy suffusing the area between them.
“Why? Because you could kill me?” Everheart grinned. “You won’t do that. I haven’t done anything to make you change your mind, and you already didn’t kill me. Besides, you need me.”
“I want Ceretos to be safe,” Anton said. “As long as you’re contributing to that, it’s good enough.” Anton was fairly certain Everheart should have something else up his sleeve in case Anton did attack. Everfull Cup, for example. That energy replenishment technique allowed a user to refill their personal reserves of energy… at a cost in the future. Though if used carelessly in battle, the consequences might come immediately afterwards, draining someone of energy. Everheart could probably do it fast enough to not be disrupted. Or something else. Maybe he’d just throw a mountain at Anton. His storage bag certainly had more in it than even the very best should have been able to contain. A mountain wouldn’t stop Anton, but it could certainly slow him a bit.
“Is this how you make all your techniques?” Anton asked.
“Nah, some of them I just toss onto paper,” Everheart said. “Do a little thinking, refine them every once and a while. Like this one,” Everheart pulled a scroll out of the pile, “Thought it up while we were working on this.”
“… Venomous Energy?” Anton asked. As described, it involved infiltrating energy into an enemy’s wounds and disabling them from the inside. If it worked, it would certainly be effective. “What made you think of this?”
“We’re making big webs,” Everheart said. “Webs have spiders. Spiders have venom. Therefore, we can make energy spiders bite people.”
“Or you could use that same energy to just make the wound deeper.”
Everheart shrugged, “Not everything’s going to be a hit.”
“You actually make a lot of techniques like this?” Anton asked. “I figured you had just reimagined some you stole. For most of them, anyway.”
“Anything I put my name on I came up with… at least as much as anyone else. Obviously the details come from somewhere. Nothing’s entirely new.” Everheart shrugged, “Yeah, mostly I make them like this. Or while working on formations. Or think about them while I’m sorting through a pile. You don’t?”
“I find that focusing on techniques I already have, pushing them to their maximum, is much more effective.”
“Fair enough,” Everheart said. “But I want to do everything, so I can’t just limit myself like that.”
“… Why?” Anton asked. He could understand wanting more and more power. That was a pretty common motivation for cultivators for any number of reasons. Having a wide skillset was also reasonable, but it didn’t sound like that at all.
“Someone told me I couldn’t,” Everheart said. There had to be more than that. At least, Anton presumed so. Then again, besides ‘everything’, he wasn’t sure if there was anything Everheart hadn’t been able to do yet. He certainly seemed the type to rise to provocations. “Hey. Wanna go net a ship?”
“What, one of the skyships? Seems kind of petty.”
“Ooh, I didn’t think of that. I meant the one that just entered the system.”
Anton sat up. “It’s back?”
“Can’t say,” Everheart shrugged. “That, or something similar. Vaguely the same direction of origin, as well.”
“Let’s make haste,” Anton said. Everheart was a moment behind as they swiftly pushed their way back towards Ceretos. The trip from the moon was not one easily traversed in a few hours, but if they didn’t worry about decelerating the normal way they might be able to accomplish it.