The attack on the One Thousand Palm Sect didn’t come immediately, but on the timescales of cultivators it also wasn’t terribly long before Harmonious Citadel Ships were approaching. It wasn’t possible for them to suddenly descend upon the sect itself, as most of their cultivators couldn’t travel through space on their own. Nor was a force with Augmentation cultivators exactly subtle. And they had not one, but two.
Prasad stood within the central palace of the sect, looking at the oncoming forces, his hands clasped behind his back. He spoke to the group from the Scarlet Alliance. “Only two? Perhaps they underestimate us. Or their assassin may be laying in waiting. Regardless, I sense that one among them is the saint of the morningstar. I wish we could simply ignore her, but I fear that our buildings would be reduced to rubble. You fend her off. I’ll take the light.”
“So he really came?” Hoyt asked.
Prasad shook his head. “That remains to be seen. Regardless, I will deal with it. Focus on your task. We will provide support as we can.”
The group departed quickly. Planetary defenses were already attempting to shoot down the approaching ships. “They’re not really very good, are they?” Alva commented.
“The ships or the defenses?” Hoyt asked.
“We already knew about the ships,” she said. “Old styles that are merely meant to bring troops to ground without them collapsing.” To enunciate her point, she pulled out her bow and fired a few shots into the sky. “They’d rather spend that money on mediocre formations.”
“Don’t forget they’ve gone centuries without any real changes in terms of formations,” Hoyt pointed out.
“Yeah, and they’ve had half of one to get used to it. Uzun set up a whole factory thing and they’ve done nothing!”
Fuzz barked derisively.
“Yeah, that is good for us,” Alva admitted. “Looks like she might be headed for the east end.”
“Most likely,” Hoyt agreed as he watched the sky. “Mind if I disrupt that?”
“If you can, be my guest,” Alva shrugged.
Hoyt nodded. Just a handful of kilometers up, the atmosphere was significantly less dense. That made certain things easier, like Falling Stars. He doubted he would ever be as good as his grandfather. No, he might eventually surpass the technique of the old Prospero- but the reincarnated version of him certainly wouldn’t let Hoyt catch him. Not that it was a competition. Hoyt had once avoided learning the technique to not appear like his grandfather. Now, he was past that. It was a practical ranged ability, and he was quite willing to make use of it when proper. He couldn’t achieve as many fancy results as Prospero could now, but he was more than proficient.
He raised his hand, the motion being more than just ceremonial. His presence expanded into the skies above, growing into a massive figure. His own energy mixed with that within the atmosphere, drawing it together into an enormous fireball. With the reduced density and friction, it was able to speed up greatly. A single ‘falling star’, though it would not land anywhere on the planet.
Hoyt aimed for the group of ships surrounding the ship carrying Luksa, the morningstar saint. If they were better organized he might call them a squad or formation, instead they were simply there. The foremost ships swerved away from his attack, but the morningstar saint seemed unable to resist a challenge of power. She hefted her weapon upon her ship and took a swing at Hoyt’s attack.
Which was exactly what he wanted. His Falling Star exploded, a shockwave of energy traveling through the area and tearing apart many ships- including the one the morningstar saint rode. Because of her counterattack it wasn’t completely destroyed, but she obviously hadn’t expected Hoyt to loosen his control of the attack at the very end, letting the dense energy pull apart on its own.
The core of the One Thousand Palm Sect took up the space of a small country- and more spread beyond. A few dozen kilometers away in the skies of another part of the battlefield, the saint of light and Prasad began to clash with each other.
As the name of the sect implied, Prasad struck out with his palms. Shockwaves from his attacks extended far beyond the mere strike itself, expanding outward to the size of the approaching ships. In return, the saint of light appeared in front of each strike, instantaneously covering the distance. Then with a flash, the shockwaves of the palm strike would disappear.
“You really think you can stand against the power of my sect?” the saint of light said haughtily.
“Of course,” Prasad declared in return. “But you’re a bit wrong there. You see, there are two reasons it is not even your sect. First, the saint of light is just an add on rider within the last few generations using stolen techniques.” Prasad’s arms spread wide, and he slammed his two palms together, crushing a ship that was just about to land. “Second, you’re not even the saint of light. Just some brat with big enough balls to pretend. I know you keep your own sect in the dark, but I’ve met the man. You think I don’t remember?”
Rather than respond verbally, the light cultivator responded with aggression. His figure flickered out of existence before appearing in front of Prasad, leg swinging down in an axe kick. Prasad casually blocked it with an outstretched arm. Though he did have to admit it had some force behind it, he wasn’t willing to show weakness here.
The damage to the morningstar saint’s ship caused her to crash further away from her targets than intended, though there was no fall that could harm an Augmentation cultivator in anything approaching normal gravity. In fact, it was unlikely they could be harmed in anything short of hundreds of times the norm.
But it did slow her approach to her goal, and gave time for Hoyt and Spikes to get into position to block her. Fuzz would have done the same, but he was serving as Alva’s mount. The archer continually fired arrows from his back, and though the saint didn’t seem particularly injured by any individual attack, it would weaken her defensive energy.
Hoyt crashed into her like a Falling Star of his own, flames wreathed around him as his axe met her morningstar. Great pillars of stone smashed into her from either side at the same time, though the stone seemed to get the worse end of the bargain. Hoyt was knocked back, but the coordination of various attacks kept the saint from counterattacking with her full potential. The disciples of the sect were doing their best to keep Harmonious Citadel cultivators away from the battle.
“You’re quite brave to take on a saint,” the woman said.
Hoyt shrugged, “We’ve already killed three of you.”
“Everheart and Tauno, you mean,” she shrugged. “But I know your sect. You are the cowards who hide behind their barriers upon Xankeshan. A few upstarts who attained Integration together.”
The battle didn’t cease as they exchanged words. Arrows continued to rain down as Hoyt and Spikes kept up the pressure. The morningstar saint seemed annoyed to be facing a small number of people, and slammed her weapon down onto the ground. A rift expanded from where she struck, targeting local forces and the buildings behind them. Alva and Fuzz were also in the area, though the wolf easily leapt away.
With a great howl, Spikes charged towards the expanding rift. The expanding crack trembled for a second, then changed trajectory, finding its path hindered.
“You must have grown up within the Citadel,” Hoyt said. “Relying on your station at birth to leech from the cultivators around you. That’s all the Glorious Harmony Technique is.”
His axe and flames could hardly touch her, as she easily deflected his attacks. Spikes returned to aid him, but the saint knocked both away at the same time. Then she charged towards Fuzz.
For a woman who relied so much on simple force, her speed was not lacking in any way. She closed the distance in an instant, despite Fuzz’s four legged stature. The wolf spun around to meet her as her weapon swung down, lunging to grab just behind the head of her weapon. Blood trickled out of the sides of his mouth as his teeth cracked.
An arrow released at point blank from Alva’s bow, aiming for exactly the moment the saint stopped moving. Up until that point, she had not harmed the saint directly… but not all shots were equal. The condensed energy of the arrow drove directly into the elbow of the woman, beyond where her offensive energy was strongest.
“You forgot one death,” Alva said. “Chikere cut the Sword Saint straight in two.”
“That’s an exaggeration,” the saint said as she yanked her weapon away. But instead of retrieving a morningstar, all she had was the lower half of its haft. Which made it quite awkward to block Hoyt as he dropped out of the sky.
Of course, she was still an Augmentation cultivator. She wouldn’t be defeated so easily. Even so, she was fortunate that a moment of carelessness had only resulted in the loss of her weapon and a modest injury.
The remainder of her weapon was destroyed as she blocked Hoyt’s attack- though most likely because she intended to dispose of it anyway. Luksa had a backup weapon that she quickly retrieved from her storage bag. But the very moment she was pulling her hand away, Spikes lunged forward and tore away the container.
Luksa couldn’t instantly reverse her momentum, and if she had tried she wouldn’t be able to block Hoyt with one hand and use her bracers to deflect Fuzz’s claws with the other. Meanwhile, Alva continued to fire her bow like she wasn’t suddenly right next to the enemy, as Fuzz danced around Luksa.
Fuzz was now aflame, having previously not had any use for fire while remaining mobile. But now with Hoyt, they could combine their power together, increasing the pressure on the morningstar saint.
Luksa began to flag. Their own side was not without injuries, of course. Fuzz would likely be unable to use his fangs any further, and Hoyt’s arms were strained from clashing with the Augmentation cultivator. But as the battle stretched on, the confidence of the lower cultivation individuals grew, and the saint grew nervous.
Then she made the mistake of running. Not only did it give a chance for those surrounding her to strike without fear of repercussions, but Alva’s attacks didn’t lose any effectiveness as the woman focused on speed instead of offense or defense.
Luksa leapt through the air, not quite flying. She landed several kilometers away with the intent to spring into the air once more, but instead the earth beneath her wobbled like gelatin. Meanwhile, Spikes solidified the ground beneath her to augment her own speed.
Luksa still managed to reach the ship she was aiming for, a sturdy vessel that would stand up to many attacks. And then she was forced back as a woman appeared in front of her. An elder of the One Thousand Palms, only in the mid Integration Phase. But her focused attack was enough to delay the saint for a brief moment. Long enough for Spikes and Hoyt to reach her. The wolf’s jaws snapped around her ankle, and before she could swing her weapon to force the beast off Hoyt’s axe chopped into her spine. Even if her defensive energy prevented her from getting chopped in half, it was still a serious wound.
Spikes and Hoyt were sent tumbling away with a sweep of the saint’s weapon, but she was unsteady on her feet. The elder of the One Thousand Palms was unable to block her again, and the ship was quickly launched.
Chasing after her… was not something on the agenda for the day. Just forcing her away was sufficient enough. Not that Alva made her journey simple, her shots making several holes in the vessel as it left the atmosphere.
They’d done their part, and it seemed Prasad had more than held his own as well. Another defeat for the Harmonious Citadel… and while their saints would likely survive, their other forces might not be so lucky.