The growth of trade within the Scarlet Alliance took off quickly once there was no longer the shadow of war hanging over them. The conflict with the Harmonious Citadel had been a timeless one for many of the members, with the Dark Ring specifically infiltrating the Harmonious Citadel’s systems. Victory would very much change how they operated, though they might keep some of the asteroid bases.
As for Xankeshan itself, it was more than just a planet that was difficult to assault. It had become a hub for the alliance, and none of the alliance members wanted to withdraw from it. The Order of One Hundred Stars did not mind, as despite their growth from new ascensions and recruitment in the upper realms they wouldn’t be large enough to maintain a whole planet for some centuries still. Nor did they have all of the necessary industries to train up powerful cultivators on planet.
They would need the services of others to maintain the Ruteran Technology that Engineer Uzun and others had developed and assembled. As times of war had come, it was simply better for them to focus on shipbuilding and weaponry as quickly as possible. Now, they could begin work, spreading out to cover all the other areas of life. Machines for medicine, farming, production, and everything imaginable. Most of them were based on mechanical uses of upper energy, with only a small number of devices being purely technological.
There was no reason to ignore the vast power source surrounding them, except for matters where they wished to confound their enemies with being unable to use captured devices. Or the occasional tool that needed to work on its own without interference from cultivators who might not be fully trained in its use.
The council continued to meet together when necessary, though less frequently since there were rarely emergencies. The Scarlet Alliance understood that remaining as a single whole would benefit them all in the long run. While there weren’t any sects that were an immediate threat in their surroundings, there were always the looming giants far to the east and west. They were the very reason that few groups had grown to a point they could rival the Harmonious Citadel.
The concern that either the Exalted Quadrant or the Trigold Cluster might turn their gaze to the Scarlet Midfields once more was always present. There was little they could do but prepare, and hope that they were more busy managing their internal affairs- or perhaps unknown rivals on the far side of them. Such news, if it existed, would not pass through their entire territory easily.
There was little hope in winning a direct conflict, but they did have one potential advantage. Coordinating with the lower realms, and not simply in a manner that took from them like the Trigold Cluster. Nor in an unequal relationship, like the Exalted Quadrant’s forces on Ceretos. With the war over, those ideas could actually be advanced… and if people were willing, they might actually improve the contact between various places in the lower realms.
Anton was uncertain whether it was slow or quick to receive permission to attempt fusing binary brown dwarfs after just a few decades. Perhaps it was just the right amount of time. It had to be carefully considered, both in methodology as well as other factors. Among those was how public the information would be. It was not the sort of thing that anyone- including Anton who had first come up with it- wanted to encourage to happen thoughtlessly. On the other hand, keeping information from people had to be carefully considered.
There were things that shouldn’t be shared, of course. Though Everheart didn’t believe in the legitimacy of any sort of forbidden technique, he was a chaotic individual that followed no rules, except sometimes the ones he made up for himself. Anton understood perfectly well the reasons to restrict access to techniques that could harm the individual using it, or which required inflicting harm upon others to develop. The latter category was rather difficult to judge fairly with a clear line, but on one side of it were techniques that stole life force from others, and on the other were pure combat techniques that obviously were required to harm people in their execution. Some techniques were so foul that after counters were developed the initial version was destroyed, but ultimately everything that remained had some means to access it.
Hiding the fact that Anton attempted to fuse and possibly destroyed two pseudo-stars just sounded like he was ashamed of it. And if that was the case, he had better not do it at all.
Ultimately, they decided to make it known. A once in centuries experiment to promote the development of science and cultivation knowledge. Anton would be officially involved as a necessary factor rather than the instigator. If anyone had complaints, they would have to be Assimilation cultivators. Perhaps they might take it up directly with Anton, except that the project had already required their approval. Everyone wanted to test the limits of what was feasible and realistic, and ultimately no matter how it sounded… they were just two especially large balls of matter Anton was going to hit together. They weren’t even interesting for special phenomenon. And though there were a vast amount of stars in the galaxy, it was still awkward to destroy something that could be seen by people in many different systems.
Not that the intent was to destroy them. But realistically Anton knew that things could easily go wrong. And that ultimately whatever happened, they would be a different thing when he was done. It wasn’t the same as forging metal into a weapon, but a grand scale transformation.
The logistics of the matter took years longer still, ultimately involving dozens of manned ships staying at safe distances, along with many more unmanned scanners that would be relaying the information they picked up at distances that were certainly unsafe. The stars were somewhere around five Ruteran habitable units apart, which was to say about five times the distance from Rutera’s star to their home planet. Some scanning devices were in between the pseudo-stars, while others were orbiting around them individually or as a pair.
The entire process could last a significant amount of time. Weeks, potentially- and that was already quite fast for acting on such a scale. But Anton had reached the one hundred and twenty-fourth star, and was growing ever more certain of his assumption that at least for him he would have a significant advancement at one hundred and twenty-nine. He wasn’t quite certain what the next prime advancement would entail for him, but cultivation paths all grew more unique with each stage starting in Essence Collection.
Matija pulled her team away from studying the neutron star Azun, a project that they seemed to be learning so much from that they would spend at least half a century on it. In the scale of the region, this system was nearby. Only a dozen or so lightyears, instead of four hundred like the trip back to the alliance’s territory.
She was the one Anton knew the best among those present, and the only one who felt comfortable talking to him. That was another reason Anton liked Poriza, where most people weren’t as intimidated.
“So it’s really happening, huh?” she asked.
“We are here, and I have no intention to change my mind. The precautions are in place?”
“Of course,” Matija said. “We are ready to jump away if necessary, and we have scans out for distortion beasts.”
Those were one issue Anton had not considered, but a massive gravitational event like fusing two pseudo-stars might draw their attention. Not that much was known about them, even to this day. Aipra was plagued by them somewhat regularly, but they hadn’t had the free resources to study them. Just chop them up and use what they got or at least somewhat safely dispose of it if they couldn’t. Though Anton understood that there was an extremely gradual change happening there as they made use of various techniques to secure enough time for more growth, ultimately.
“It will soon be time to begin,” Anton said. “Just a few hours. I will be meditating to reach my peak state.”
Of course, if he was meditating he wanted to be at the best possible place, which meant between the ‘stars’. Despite their relative proximity considering their size as starlike objects, Anton was bathed with much less power than simply perching just outside Ceretos’ atmosphere. That was before considering that he couldn’t make much use of it since he was not bound to them. Anton imagined he could force the matter, but he was certain to gain little benefit from it even if he wasn’t intending to fuse them together which could cause serious issues. Better to observe instead of risking his cultivation.
The main power he drew upon were other nearby stars he had bound. He couldn’t access what he considered his ‘full’ power from another system, but he still had a constant replenishment of his natural energy.
When he felt he was at his best possible state, he confirmed readiness with the watchers surrounding, and then began the process. Anton used the maximum amount of power he could sustain- a little bit more, actually- and began to form a link between the two celestial bodies.
Just that step was difficult, given the distances involved. And despite them being extremely low power on the scale of a star, his own natural energy control burned away as he reached for them. He wasn’t sure how many hours of attempts it took, but eventually he had a small channel connecting them. He then worked on expanding it, while applying the effects he wanted. Attracting magnetic poles, gravity, and as much of a direct tug with his energy that Anton could manage.
After a few days he reached an equilibrium point where his connection was fading as quickly as he repaired it. If he were to casually determine the distance between the two brown dwarfs, he could easily say it was exactly the same. But a careful inspection told him he’d done a little bit more than nothing. He had pulled them ever so slightly closer while minimally slowing the orbital speed of the smaller of the two. He doubted it was enough to truly destabilize their orbit, especially considering it was on the order of decades to begin with. For the most part the two bodies moved through space together with little relative change from the standard perspectives.
Anton continued his efforts, actively drawing natural energy into himself from his bound stars. He wasn’t willing to go far enough to injure himself for this, but he could drain himself far beyond comfortable levels. His tie between the two slipped slightly as he split his focus, but Anton got his second wind a few days later. From there he increased his output, rebuilding the tie between the two and multiplying his efforts.
His understanding of true stars allowed him to augment their features to draw them closer to each other, even as he constantly pulled on them himself. He was uncertain which was more effective, and resolved to continue with both.
Several more days passed, and Anton was nearing exhaustion… but he felt a real change in the distance. No doubt the various scientists around were going mad with excitement over tiny changes. And he couldn’t blame them, because he was as well.
Then Anton stopped. Not because he could no longer go on, but because his bond between the brown dwarfs was self-sustaining. He just watched, monitoring the connection. Half a day passed, and it stayed strong.
As they drew ever so slowly closer together, Anton realized their estimation might be off. Not that it was going to take longer, but rather it would be faster. Perhaps his initial efforts had been more effective than anticipated, or it could be any number of other factors. But now he was watching them pull towards each other- at an ever accelerating rate, because their gravitational impacts on each other increased the closer they got. Just a slight difference built and built, and now it was cascading.
Over the course of the next several days, they careened towards each other. Though not directly, as they still had some orbital momentum. They drew ever closer, and the larger of the pair began to rip stands of matter from the smaller. And then, they connected. It was almost frighteningly swift for their size- even as small ‘stars’, they were astoundingly massive and large.
Two masses combined into one, the distortions of gravity combining into one. Briefly, at least. Their great momentum brought them through each other, sending matter flying in all directions. Much of it was captured in their gravitational pull, but Anton knew quite well that any nearby planets could have been obliterated. The massed undulated back and forth before finally resolving into a single ball.
And then it happened, like a wave washing over Anton. A moment of elation, as nuclear fusion ramped up and began to sustain itself with heavier elements. Anton watched, enraptured, as the luminosity of the star multiplied tenfold.
And then it was done. Or at least, from a certain perspective. It would likely be unstable for a while, meriting continuous observation. But for Anton, the key point had already passed. He saw it, though only in retrospect. The moment of fusion igniting would also be the perfect point to bond with the star.
He would still do so, in a few months or years when it was properly deemed to be stable. The connection within his heart would make it more effective than just bonding to any old star. Just like Ceretos, his home, was always going to be better for Anton. But he missed a special opportunity. He wondered if he could do it again.
And he wondered what he had to do so that the admittedly smaller changes Poriza’s star would have to go through wouldn’t result in such destructive collisions. Perhaps he should settle for a slower gathering of free matter… but he felt that a sudden application of higher amounts of mass would be more effective. And anything he moved would only be a handful of percent of the mass of those brown dwarfs, so it might settle itself. Not that he would count on that. He would do his due diligence. Assuming they would even want to undergo such changes, of course.