Jump starting a star was not a simple issue. Ignoring for the moment the long path required to get Poriza to accept such a risky sounding proposition, Anton needed to know that he even could do it. In theory, it was quite simple. Once the mass of the star reached a certain threshold, nuclear fusion would naturally occur, morphing the star’s category from that of a brown dwarf to a red dwarf. And while Anton believed in the combined knowledge of the scientists involved, it was simply the truth that nobody had seen the entire process.
It would normally take a very long time as such a star pulled in mass from its surroundings, and it had to be at a rate higher than it ejected its own mass. This wasn’t just a long time at the scale of human lives, but long scale even by the perspective of cultivators. Unless they happened to glimpse a particularly large mass combining with a brown dwarf teetering on the edge, Anton would expect the process to take tens of thousands to millions of years. Though if there was not enough mass to collection, in those same early millions of years they might cool off and shrink.
In short, however, nobody had directly observed the process, and thus it was not clear what might go wrong with the process. The only way to know was to see it, and if it wasn’t happening within an observable distance then the only real option was to make it happen experimentally.
Needless to say, Anton had some reservations about that. Cultivators were already known to destroy planets- not often, but Anton suspected it was also not as infrequent as he might hope. He hadn’t heard about anyone destroying a star, both because they did not have the reason nor the means.
Anton took his bow in hand and observed it carefully. Worldheart formed the body of the weapon, a material taken from the core of a planet when it was destroyed. But not just any planet, one with sufficient density and quantity of natural energy was required for such a thing to take place. And Everheart had given him this bow, presumably stolen from someone else. Not that Anton thought Everheart was above doing such a thing himself, he just got the feeling this particular weapon had been formed by others. The man had been very busy in his handful of centuries in the upper realm. Anton tried not to think about what he might have been up to in the last century and a half that he’d had family and friend there, because it would just worry him.
Surely there must be some equivalent. A solar heart, though not the same as the conduit that Otakar had formed but some vastly rare and presumably valuable material. But Anton had no intention for circumstances to end up with him being able to confirm the existence of such a material. He simply considered that it might happen by accident.
There was nowhere within the area Anton could travel with quite the same situation as Poriza. As it turned out, there weren’t bountiful numbers of brown dwarfs with planets orbiting close up in their habitable zone, let alone ones actually occupied by people. Nor was Anton able to attempt star formation with a nebula, as most of them were far larger than he was able to reasonably affect. They were often wider than a star system from end to end- and those were the smaller ones. That was a vast quantity of space to sweep out, and he could spend the entirety of whatever remind of his lifespan and perhaps never complete such a project.
So he sought out something equivalent. A brown dwarf with enough local mass to add to it, concentrated in a way that Anton could reasonably affect it. Some were simply too small, unlike Poriza which hovered right on the upper end. And while there were hundreds of systems ‘nearby’, Anton still didn’t have many options.
He finally found one that didn’t stand out much. It was a simple binary system, with two brown dwarfs of sufficient mass that combining them should surpass the threshold. So all Anton had to do was go give them a little nudge.
As if it was so easy. Even if he was in a system where he had bound a star taking the energy from its fusion, it wouldn’t be such a simple task. Despite brown dwarfs being ‘small’, they were still around one to eight percent of the mass of Ceretos’ star. He needed to combine masses equivalent to eighty of his home system’s largest gas giants. He was lucky that the smaller of the two in the particular system he found was closer to a quarter of that from his estimations- which were becoming quite accurate, given his insights into stars and gravity.
But even considering he could do something, he didn’t know if he should. It would be a permanent reshaping of the world on a larger scale than he’d ever done before, and with no direct benefit. On the other hand… if he actually managed such a thing, he could improve not just planets but other systems. He just had to do it safely. And consult with others he knew to see if it was completely insane.
“Is that okay?” Matija asked. “I don’t know if that’s okay.”
“This is what I’m asking you for,” Anton said.
She rolled her eyes. “Yes, but I’m not the wise elder between the two of us.”
“You’re certainly not young by traditional standards anymore, even if your cultivation keeps your body that way. And you’ve seen me make enough mistakes to have learned a few things. So…”
“It does sound crazy,” Matija said. “Even compared to what you already spoke about. I kind of assumed that your talk of increasing the mass of Poriza’s star was theoretical. Even if you said it was serious.”
“I don’t want to risk so many lives,” Anton continued. “But I can’t help but think about how much positive benefit there would be to the change.”
“I hope you aren’t planning to only consult me,” Matija said.
“Of course not. I have to talk with everyone in the Trifold Alliance.” And he had already been speaking with Catarina. She didn’t have a strong opinion of nonliving things having inherent value. She could appreciate natural beauty, but she also liked things to be useful. So far, she had been the most supportive of his wild idea. “It is going to take me some years to secure the spare time to meet everyone in person, of course.”
Matija nodded. “From a practical perspective… I am intrigued. But if it was anyone else coming to me with this idea, I would likely immediately assume they were some sort of villain.”
“That is something for me to consider,” Anton said. “Because I don’t want people to think that whatever I do is right. Rather, it should be the other way around. Whatever is right, I should do. This isn’t the sort of thing that can just be brushed off with ‘it was just one time’.”
“Sounds like you are hesitant.”
“The problem is that I’m not, really,” Anton said. “I still think it is acceptable, but I know how minds can loop around themselves to justify anything. I haven’t stopped planning how to do it for a moment.”
“If you do it… we absolutely have to record it,” Matija commented. “It would be a huge loss to the entire intellectual community if it wasn’t, regardless of the results.”
“Hopefully, it will be a beautiful star,” Anton said. His thoughts settled somewhat. Though what he did came with risks, he wasn’t acting with the intention to cause harm but to make things better. And while he might solicit the opinions of others, ultimately as the one with power he had the responsibility to make the choice himself. And it had to be the right one. He’d destroyed plenty of things in his day, but nothing on the scale of the destruction he might cause. And loss of life wasn’t the only negative consequence to people’s actions. He might cause entirely unanticipated problems.
While Aykorkem had naturally taken the role of management of the local One Hundred Stars, Botros was the one who was responsible for the practical duties. With Anton’s guidance Aykorkem engaged in diplomacy, recruited disciples, and aimed the sect’s vision. Botros dealt with stocking the armory and medicine hall, as well as managing the fields for food and herbs. The sect was currently expanding its territory in the plains west of Krosburgh, an area that had little to recommend it for cultivators except decent soil. But that was exactly why Anton had chosen it- less competition, and to show how much his methods could change things.
Nasima did her part as well, leading groups expeditions to hunt beasts in nearby wilds. Just because humans nominally claimed the surface of the planet as their country didn’t mean the cultivators were fully in control of it. Defeating powerful beasts protected people from them while increasing the strength of the cultivators through training, making it an important duty.
Anton was quite satisfied with the development of the sect, and how people reached Essence Collection even in such a harsh environment. But he wasn’t just working in a single place. No, he traveled the world to seek out other like minded individuals. While he might gain greater sway more quickly if he planted more branches of the Order, it could also backfire. He could lose the trust of various groups, not least of which would be his own sect if he didn’t keep them informed.
Instead he just focused on finding the sorts of groups that had developed into allies. Even if they were imperfect to begin with, the Glorious Flame Palace had still stood for certain ideals. Over time, they had actually managed to reach them. Some clans like the Temitope had also caught Anton’s eye in the past. Anton didn’t care if it was sect, clan, or a particular city that barely even had cultivators. He had ways to build them all up, starting with custom-tailored cultivation training.
Anton would never claim that he could perfect every cultivation method under the heavens, because there was only so much he could do when he didn’t practice a path himself. But he had vast quantities of information in his hands, including many ‘complete’ techniques that had actually taken people to ascension. Translating them was within his power, and he had the experience to provide generalized advice as well. And of course, if sects were willing to wait a few decades to see results, he had methods for farming and crafts and all sorts of things to have them develop harmoniously in all areas.
It was difficult to balance supporting righteous sects with the greed of others and the threat they would feel. But that was one of the stronger parts of Anton’s plans, in a way. The greed could draw people away from how they acted to make them accidentally symbiotic with others. That was the basis of Anton’s learning, after all. Things didn’t work as well for those who didn’t go along with them.
Though there were pitfalls to be had- no plan was perfect. Leaving natural energy open to the world meant that selfish sects could draw in whatever natural energy came over to them, stealing from the hard work of others with no effort of their own. And that would benefit them in the short term, which was sometimes sufficient to encourage those with ambition to seek out more power. But that was where alliances and the threats of alliances came in. Because ultimately, Anton knew that his plans would come to fruition in the long term. A handful of decades, a century… it was hard to say how long it might be. But causing hesitation in those who would do harm would always make a difference.
Anton would do his best to not show his hand too much and start taking people out. The stronger he got, the less acceptable it was to purge his enemies solely based on his own discretion since he could handle them without killing them. On the other hand, when people were committing injustices right in front of him… Anton was still going to act. The people of Stauso and Vochaye were well aware of that, and his official influence would no doubt continue expanding.