Elder Cultivator 481

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At his current cultivation level, Anton had presumed he was done learning movement techniques. He could move swiftly on land, through the water, or even fly if he wished to- and his range was exceptional enough he rarely needed such speed to begin with. He realized now how foolish that idea was. He hadn’t given up on advancing his cultivation, but he’d narrowed his scope too much. The ships of Azoth made him realize he needed to advance his offensive ability- though some of his trouble had been an incomplete Assimilation with the local star- and how that he was moving around the system he realized he was rather slow compared to any decent interstellar ship.

The first thing he started with were the Soaring Air Sect’s flying techniques. He didn’t have the right cultivation base to perform them exactly as described, but he could certainly adapt them. Even if he could use them exactly as they were, they wouldn’t work outside of the atmosphere. Shoving himself around with energy was doing well enough, but even if he got better at it the more he flew around, it wasn’t graceful.

At some point, Everheart noticed what he was doing… and graciously offered to provide assistance. “Your technique is awful. You’ll never survive a decent battle like that.” Alright, nothing about Everheart was actually gracious at any point. But he was helpful. “See this?” Everheart moved around, making quick changes to his momentum- which was another thing Anton had to deal with, because a lack of friction really affected how movement in space worked. Anton paid close attention. He could certainly figure out why Everheart made the shapes he did with enough observation. “Moving like this forces the energy together behind you so it doesn’t just scatter randomly. It builds on itself and is more efficient.” Oh right. Everheart knew how to teach, unlike Kseniya.

“What about in atmosphere? Won’t that cause problems?”

“Of course,” Everheart shrugged. “Especially in a lower realm like this. You could break the world in half. Well, not literally. But nobody would have any nice glassware.”

“… Can that stopping technique of yours work in reverse?” Anton asked. “Can I like… pull on the world to propel myself forward?”

“Sure,” Everheart said. “All you have to do is learn how to manipulate space directly.”

“Okay,” Anton nodded. 

There was silence for about a minute. 

“Wait you’re serious?” Everheart’s eyes widened. “That crap takes like, centuries.”

“Really?” Anton frowned. “I’m pretty sure Kunibert knew how to do it.”

“Was he like the founder of your Order or something?” Everheart asked.

“He was one of the Grand Elders when I joined,” Anton said.

“Great. Maybe ask him, then.”

“He’s dead,” Anton said.

“How?” Everheart asked.

“Holding someone ascending in place so that he might be killed.”

“Did it work?”

“… indirectly,” Anton admitted.

“Stupid,” Everheart said. “Should never have to think about sacrificing yourself if you have someone else who can do it.” Everheart scratched his chin, “You sure he understood spatial manipulation? In Life Transformation?”

“I was unable to witness his final battle,” Anton said, “But his abilities were known throughout the Order.”

“Then just use his notes,” Everheart said.

“Why? You think I can’t understand your technique?”

“I stole these secrets fair and square!” Everheart said. “I don’t have to share with anyone!” Then he shrugged, “Also you seem like the kind of pansy who doesn’t want to drop void beasts on your planet so it’s better not to learn my stuff. Anyway if you knew someone from your Order who had those abilities, why don’t you know how to do it already?”

“I wasn’t sure if it would be useful. It seemed as if it was strongly tied to his personal techniques, so I didn’t try to learn it.”

“You didn’t… even try?” Everheart’s face paled and he looked like he was going to throw up. “Don’t tell me you haven’t learned every technique everyone in the Order has ever created? You’re the Sect Head!”

“I only have a finite amount of time,” Anton pointed out. “It’s not as if I have been slacking off. Even you can’t add more hours into the day.”

Everheart looked Anton dead in the eyes. “You’d never make it in the upper realms with that attitude.”

“I don’t know what that means,” Anton said. “But I am physically incapable of existing in the upper realms.”

“Here’s what you’re going to do,” Everheart said, pulling out a scroll almost as big as himself. “You’re going to read this, and then you’re going to go learn every single technique anyone in your sect has ever put to paper. And then you’re going to force them to write everything else they know down so you can also learn it.”

“I suppose I can do that,” Anton nodded.

“You’re going to do it right now young man!” Everheart tossed the scroll at Anton’s head. Anton caught the massive scroll in both hands. It was… heavy.

“I’m almost two hundred and twenty.”

“Wow.” Everheart said. “You’re like a baby. Now start reading! Unless the little baby hasn’t learned how to read yet?”

—–

‘Ten Thousand Scrolls’. Anton was honestly unsure if that was the name of a technique, or if it was just a descriptor of what he was holding. He was fairly certain he would have trouble holding it without making use of his natural energy to augment his muscles. It went on and on and on… seemingly forever. But of course it couldn’t actually be forever. Perhaps if it looped back in on itself and simply randomized or repeated text, but… would that even count?

Anton shook his head. It was easy to get distracted. Reading this thing was… mind numbing. It just went on and on and on, and he didn’t quite get what he was supposed to learn from it. It was a strange blend of different techniques. None of them seemed quite complete, though perhaps that was simply that they were not yet complete. They seemed to come in chunks, so they might complete later in this extremely oversized scroll. 

It had been a long time since Anton felt so much mental strain simply from reading over a technique and imagining practicing it. He was slightly reluctant to actually follow through on anything since he didn’t fully understand any of the techniques, and some involved manipulating his brain with energy. That seemed like a recipe for disaster. If Everheart wasn’t so… weirdly obsessed with making sure he learned he might have thought it was a trap. Sure, that obsession made it feel like a trap, but Anton felt that he’d touched on some weird core of Everheart.

So he read and read and read, for a month. Then two months. Three. Six. One year. He didn’t stop when he had to interact with others, simply focusing on it less. A proper cultivator could split their thought processes up between different things, and social interactions didn’t take all that much of his brain power… even if he might have ended up seeming a bit distracted. He performed the duties required of him, but had no time to do things like worry about what was happening with Weos. 

As he progressed further through the scroll, Anton’s reading became faster… and yet it only seemed longer and longer. Yet he became ever more certain there was something of value contained within it, insights he couldn’t quite grasp yet.

He didn’t do it on purpose, but he subconsciously began circulating his energy as various techniques described, despite none being quite complete. It wasn’t just mental techniques, though there were certainly plenty of them. There were a lot of other things that just seemed like unnecessary fluff, but Anton couldn’t just ignore them. They might be part of something else, he just had to piece it together.

Then, one day, he reached the end of the scroll. The instant after that, it was snatched out of his hand. Anton turned to see Everheart stuffing it into his bag. “You could have asked for it back,” Anton said.

“You might have given it to someone else.”

“What’s wrong with that?” Anton raised an eyebrow. “You share techniques all the time.”

“No,” Everheart said. “I let people learn techniques. I don’t share anything.”

“You realized I could just recreate that, right?”

“Not yet you can’t,” Everheart shook his head. “You’re only just beginning. But if you can, it’s not my issue. You’ll be the one responsible for it not winding up in the wrong hands.”

“So what do I do now?”

“You follow through with the rest of the plan!” Everheart said. “Get reading!”

“… You’re surprisingly insistent about this.”

“You’re surprisingly… stupid!” Everheart wasn’t necessarily a man known for his eloquence. “I can’t believe you’d leave anything unlearned for so long!”

“I had other priorities to focus on, and it’s not like I can use every technique all at once.”

“Then you should get more of you!”

“Gonna teach me that?” Anton asked.

“… no.” Everheart said. “I am not.”

“Then I’ll have to manage things my way.” Now that he was no longer buried in that scroll, Anton’s mind went to the matter of Everheart… and where he’d been over the last year. Strangely enough, Anton had managed to keep track of most of it. Everheart had dozens of projects to deal with on Ceretos, and those were all being overseen by various people. In fact, ‘Scholar Eulogious’ was more of a consultant than anything else on most projects, rather than directly overseeing them. Though he did have his ways of getting people to listen to him. “You aren’t planning to get up to anything sinister while I’m occupied, are you?”

“Not any different than usual,” Everheart said.

Anton believed him. But that didn’t make him feel better. A year of his life, for what? Sure, he continued to passively cultivate and manage everything he needed to, but Anton could have focused on other tasks. He still wasn’t sure what benefit Ten Thousand Scrolls had.

When he began reading through other things, starting with Kunibert’s notes, he had the feeling he was reading faster… but was that all? He was still sorting together the pieces of the mental techniques, but they seemed safe enough. As he slowly circulated his energy, he found things falling in place, not just pieces from the Ten Thousand Scrolls, but also what he was currently focusing on.

It was immediately clear that Kunibert’s method of spatial manipulation would not work for just anyone. He had a special genius for it and was unable to describe certain things… yet there was still a solid core for learning more about spatial manipulation, in a practical manner a cultivator could use. The most important part was sensing where space was distorted. That was something Anton could sense at the borders of a secret realm or within a storage bag, but he felt something more. Ceretos itself was distorting space to some extent, something Anton rapidly became more cognizant of.

But his mind quickly found itself diving inward, into the core of his cultivation… and through it. Passing by the ‘stars’ of his cultivation which were simply condensed structures of energy and to the actual stars he had a connection to via Assimilation. The mass of such things distorted space on a greater scale… though not in any way that Anton could make practical use of. Even if he could create a semblance of mass with natural energy, it wouldn’t be enough to rival even a small planet, and not for long.

Even so, he gained some insights that set him down a path towards understanding spatial manipulation, and how he might manage it without himself being a planet or star. He could likely have been at the same point close to a year prior if Everheart had just tried to teach him… but the man had decided that Anton should learn everything instead. Or at least, everything he could get his hands on. Anton wasn’t even sure if he would want to learn actually everything, and he likely couldn’t given the number of people developing techniques at any moment.

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