Being able to target multiple spots at once was an ability Anton was glad he had developed. Firing arrows sequentially could produce similar effects, but rapidly firing from multiple bows at once simply couldn’t be matched. Anton was still limited in how much energy he could draw upon and later control at once, and thus his lethality was limited to below his maximum number of shots… but he didn’t always need to be lethal.
Simply forcing people to make a choice was good enough, and if he set things up correctly both choices were good for him. For example, he had dozens of arrows flying towards restraints keeping cultivators bound. There were many members of the Twin Soul Sect around that could easily step in the way and take the hit. They likely wouldn’t get hurt, and deflecting the attack achieved the same results- restricting their movements to a particular location.
Most of them didn’t even consider the option, and instead chose to look out for their own safety. That was logical to some extent… but also flawed in its own manner. For when the cultivators were set free, they were no longer helpless.
That was the curse brought upon by their very intent to sacrifice the cultivators to obtain their power- they couldn’t be drained of their energy. Instead, they simply had restraints that kept them from being able to draw upon their energy. Those restraints were simple to break, at least for someone of Anton’s power. Making those same restraints able to take something equivalent to a Life Transformation cultivator’s serious attack would require significantly more resources for every set, and though Anton could sense a few finer quality restraints, most were simply intended to do exactly what was required of them… assuming things were going well.
But now they weren’t because even cultivators without weapons and armor were a serious threat when they suddenly appeared among distracted individuals while there was already a frontal assault happening. Anton knew that many of those he ‘saved’ would die fighting, but simply having the option to do so instead of dying helpless was the most he could give them.
Oluchi and the others were more focused on attacking the Twin Soul Sect, and the others who were working with them. A wide variety of attacks filled the corridors and chambers beneath Kuchion, threatening to collapse everything… but things were durable enough that only small portions collapsed unless there was specific intention to do otherwise.
Among his myriad of other arrows, Anton slipped a few more powerful ones, displaying on the surface nothing different than any other. These he reserved for attacking what seemed to be key opponents, or for breaking the better restraints. Anton couldn’t do a thorough analysis of those involved, but he figured that if the Twin Soul Sect went to extra expense to restrain someone, then it was worth setting them free.
Anton pushed himself to his limits as soon as the battle began, because he could sense they were already late. There was no luxury of time to wonder where they could have or should have been faster, instead he simply had to deal with the swirling energy being pulled towards several individuals at the center of the formations. From what Anton had heard, there was significantly less blood here than at Black Soul Valley- but of course there was no Flying Blood Cult here so being especially bloody was unnecessary.
It wasn’t long before Anton had freed enough individuals that they could go about helping others, and the main waves of their own forces were clashing with the enemy. There was still some manner of numerical advantage among the Twin Soul Sect and their allies, but the forces from Weos were all in Life Transformation, while the locals had about half their forces from lower stages.
The main concern was still the three leaders. They were behind a barrier that Anton found was sturdier than the one protecting the outside. That likely had to do with selfishness and the excess energy in the area. The trio were a slight woman, a sturdier man, and a second man both older and larger than either of the other two. All were at the threshold of Ascension, and pushing through that barrier.
Anton had to prioritize. The oldest of the three seemed to be the biggest threat, since he wasn’t forcing himself as much as the others. A shot of spectral energy barely snuck through the barrier, but it provided a moment of distraction as he moved to deflect Anton’s shot. A moment later, what Anton had perceived as a massive staff was bent and strung with energy, forming into a bow at least three meters tall.
The man’s senses focused on Anton. There was a moment where two archers squared up… but as much as Anton loved fair duels, he wasn’t willing to let an enemy advance to such a point when they had already made it quite clear they weren’t interested in any such thing. Even as the man was drawing back his bow, powerful muscles and spiking energy working together in symphony, Anton already had more than a handful of his own shots on the way. And one of them was very special.
There were some significant advantages to having allies with excessive wealth. Anton used an arrow that Everheart said would break through any formation and therefore absolutely wouldn’t break through anything Everheart intended to use against Anton. But Anton trusted that the strange arrow covered in layers and layers of formation markings would make it through something so simple as what anyone in the lower realms could create. Anton’s arrows struck the barrier, while that final arrow didn’t even slow for the barrier. Instead, threads of the barrier were pulled along with it, perhaps even enhancing its power as it was torn apart.
The moment after the man’s arrow left his bow, Anton’s shot pierced through his left wrist on its way to his heart. To his credit, the man didn’t die immediately. His arrow wound its way through the twisting tunnels of the battlefield towards Anton, who gave it exactly the same sort of respect he would give to one of Kseniya’s arrows… that is to say, stepping just enough to the side for it to barely miss him at the last moment. There was nobody behind Anton for him to concern himself with, and his follow up attacks were already going for the archer’s head. Once his brain was destroyed, his control over natural energy was nonexistent.
With no time to waste, Anton moved on towards the slight woman. There was something dangerous about her, and Anton didn’t want to have to find out what. It was unfortunate for her that she was restricted to a small area of movement, because while she managed to claw a good dozen of Anton’s arrows out of the sky with her fist weapons, she was still just one Life Transformation cultivators with the full attention of an Assimilation cultivator upon her.
In killing her, Anton had made a choice subconsciously. The third of them, the less remarkable man, was the only one of them remaining in the formation. And because of that, he had huge masses of now uncontrolled energy and lifeforce to draw upon. Even as Anton’s Spirit Arrows were on their way to kill him, some part of the world tore apart and he stepped through to ascension.
Common sense told Anton he was gone, unreachable. But that was little good for cultivators. Instead, Anton’s thoughts drifted to something else. Nothing was impossible with cultivation. At least, nobody had achieved a point where they could conclusively prove such.
Instincts guided Anton to do the most sensible thing. If this man was to go to the upper realms and join with ascension energy, then it must be able to reach him. It was a thin thread of logic, but Anton took the shot regardless. The man was already fading from his perception into the world beyond when Anton’s arrow struck, the ascension energy stabbing into the man’s spine and spreading… but unfortunately, it did not wholly annihilate him.
The thrill of advancement was offset by the pain of injury tearing at the man from the inside. Even so, he knew he would recover- and upon reaching the upper realms, he would be rewarded both for his advancement and the information he brought. He felt himself propelled forward at great speed, time and space slipping away. It was a wonderful feeling.
Then it stopped as he impacted a great barrier. It was thin. Diffuse. Not meant to stop a living soul… yet it grasped at him regardless. He struggled against it, but he found his body and energy were not up to the task. Breaking through to Ascension was fulfilling… but exhausting.
The elation of his senses suddenly turned to terror as he felt the small distance between himself and what he desired most, yet was unable to reach it. More than that, he felt power burrowing into him… and he knew it would do more than just kill him. The Twin Soul Sect’s main draw was immortality of a sort, promises of life after death along with other rewards… but it was to be taken away from him. The one thing he feared most he brought upon himself with his own actions.
Even as they finished up with one lair, enemy reinforcements were coming outside. Yet Anton wouldn’t let them approach so easily. With the planetary barrier torn apart at the seams, disconnected, it did little to stop him from choosing his targets as he pleased. He called upon ascension energy to make certain his task was accomplished swiftly, shooting enemies out of the sky.
As the last fell, he breathed out heavily. He would need to take a short break, before moving on to the next location. If this location was able to have someone ascend today, the others might as well. He did not intend to allow any to slip away.
“I did ask, you know,” Scholar Eulogius said. “I thought you understood the implications of not needing the city. Besides, it was completely overrun with scum. If you want their crap, you can dig it out of the depths of Bavore after we finish off the rest of them.”
Honestly, people were too picky. It’s not like he’d destroyed a city with allies in it or anything like that. And he’d opened up an avenue for them to put together more counteroffensives like they planned. Now they could coordinate with the stronger factions living on the gas giant while the enemy was down significant numbers.
Was it because he made it look too easy? Were they jealous? Everheart supposed that might be it. If that was the case, he really didn’t care. And if they were hurt about the stuff that city had, they were just money grubbing cowards. Everheart didn’t get to take any of that junk either, and he’d paid a significant price to bring the place down. It was hard to condense so much energy that was readily absorbed into one place. Expensive, too. Sure, it was a tool he could make more of given time, but they should appreciate his contributions.
Allies were such a pain. Everyone said good things about Anton, because he did things like ‘teamwork’ and ‘supporting his allies’ and ‘not being an arrogant asshole’. Everheart just wasn’t cut out for that stuff. Well, whatever. At least they were accomplishing what they needed to. He didn’t need people to thank him. He just wanted to eradicate the Twin Soul Sect. Backstabbing people was fine, when it was on a personal level. Living your whole life with the intent to betray friends and family was something else entirely. Sure, Everheart didn’t ever have many friends, but he’d had family and family-like things at some points.
Also the worst part was that the whole thing was because some pricks in the upper realms thought they were better than anyone else. Everheart had already proven many times that wasn’t true, but he hadn’t finished that vendetta yet. He was going to use his backwater lower realm ass to kick their haughty upper realms asses. When he recovered from his various setbacks, of course.