The mass dumped into Poriza’s star seemed to have sparked something more than simply the fusion within it. Or perhaps it had something to do with Anton binding the star at the same time. But he didn’t have time to think about that now.
The star was awakened, and it was hungry. That was the feeling Anton got from it. Power surged from it, and Anton felt a great pull from it. He immediately counterbalanced the force upon himself while he took stock of the situation. He could feel the effects of the new star on a handful of rocky planets even closer than Poriza. The change in mass shouldn’t have affected gravity enough to significantly affect them, but they were suddenly being drawn closer. To a lesser extent, that was also true of Poriza.
The first thing Anton did was fly between the star and the planet. He then set about altering the magnetic flow of the star which had slightly changed in direction, counterbalancing it against the formations set around the planet. But his power wasn’t enough all on its own, and his control of the new star wasn’t at full capacity the instant he bound it. The process up to the current point had been draining, and now Anton pulled the maximum amount he could from his conduits. In addition to that, he drew upon the ascension energy he had access to, creating a burst of change.
Anton called upon the power of Azun and his familiarity with its power, stupendous magnetic fields. It wasn’t possible for this star to sustain the same, or even achieve similar levels for an instant. Yet he still needed to amplify them higher than anything else he’d encountered. Magnetic poles pushed against each other, any sweat Anton might have had evaporating instantly from the heat pouring out of him. Poriza slowly inched away from the star, though that was a blessing since it was hotter and brighter than anticipated.
The rocky inner planets were devoured by the star, but those were of little consequence. A swirl of energy expanded through the system, but Anton suppressed it slightly. Not through force, but gentle guidance. He was not powerful enough to wrestle with even the smallest of stars and win. It responded to his attempt, the power that was pulling on the surroundings easing up. Anton could tell that over the next few years every bit of surrounding space dust would be drawn into the star… but things began to settle down. The rest of the planets seemed to be safe, at least.
Anton’s exhausted form was suddenly bolstered with the new warmth inside of him as he relaxed. He was uncertain what had caused the phenomenon. His instinctual description was close to it wanting something, but now that disaster wasn’t looming so directly he couldn’t feel the same intentionality he’d ascribed to it. Perhaps it was simply an unknown physical phenomenon. Specific circumstances often resulted in wildly different results than expected, and that was just Anton thinking of growing two seeds from the same plant in neighboring rows, one growing into a towering behemoth and the other barely breaking out of the ground. They were usually more consistent, but even small factors such as a bit of shade or water changed things.
And when considering the scale of a star, perhaps it was the exact size and type of mass he dropped into it. Or something to do with him binding it, disrupting the flow of its energy. Anton waited ten minutes, an hour, half a day to make certain there would be no further unanticipated roadblocks. The loss of the inner planets was not expected, but also not entirely unaccounted for. It had long been known that something might happen to them.
He slowly drifted towards the planet, feeling the intensity of the star, light and heat and natural energy. It was even more than expected, especially for being on the small end of being a red dwarf. It was still more than a step short of the power of Ceretos’ star, though the proximity of the planet made up for some of that. It was a success. Better than he’d hoped.
And the new power welling inside of Anton reminded him that the results were greater in more than just a single way. He felt something growing, first from Poriza’s stars and then those in the surroundings. Then those even further, along the route to the Alliance and finally the area around his home system. The conduits were growing, and the distance he felt suddenly didn’t seem quite as far.
“And here he is!” Nyarai said as Anton returned. “From down here, it looks like a great success,” she squinted. “Is it always going to be so bright, though?”
Anton grinned. “You’ll get used to it. A small price to pay for the bounty it will provide. And indeed, it was even more glorious than anticipated. You should all be proud of your work.” Anton had a feeling he could extend his voice further than before. He repeated the last sentence, reaching the furthest corners of the planet. “Your tireless work maintaining the formations over the last days was the only thing that made this possible. I would say everyone should take a rest, but I’m fairly certain there is one more thing you must do.” Anton looked at Nyarai, who was confused. “I believe this calls for a celebration. A festival of unity!”
Also, someone had to do something with all that food they’d stored up. With things as they were, they only needed enough for one season compared to the worst projections of several years. Though Anton would need to make sure that people were factoring in the greater sunlight with their tending of the fields. It was an anticipated factor, but humans were creatures of habit.
As for Anton himself, he planned to do the same as everyone else, facilitating the festivals and then taking a well deserved break. And while he felt the utility of all the devotion pouring into him, he didn’t want things to focus on him too much. Then again, unless it was paired with a harmful cultivation method like the Holy Harmony Technique it didn’t hurt anyone’s cultivation, as it was merely another form of energy they wouldn’t have been using.
After everything inside of him stabilized, Anton took a good look at his cultivation. He understood why it was called Augmentation for a similar level of power in the upper realms, and perhaps he would have been quite happy stealing that name. On the other hand, having properly experienced it he had the feeling that there were more appropriate names. Creation was… too ostentatious. And it might not be the case that all Assimilation cultivators needed the same sort of event to advance.
Accretion? Perhaps an appropriate name for those who dealt with stars in particular, but not as a general name. And it was unnecessary to have more stage names beginning with the same letter. Finally, he settled on a name. Enrichment. A similar meaning to Augmentation, but he felt it came with more positive connotations.
As for the practical matters, Anton was just beginning to place them. Within a system, he could draw upon a larger quantity of a star’s power. But it wasn’t just that. He almost felt like he was within the influence of every star he had bound to all at once. Perhaps just on the very edge- he wasn’t suddenly thirty times as powerful. However, he had previously been able to display strength above Life Transformation outside of systems he was bound to but not quite able to compare it to the strength of Assimilation. Now, he could say for certain that outside of his systems he was able to display at least as much power as when he’d first reached Assimilation in Ceretos. Probably more, as it was difficult to measure.
He wasn’t sure if that would be true at any distance, but so far he had not found himself anywhere more ‘distant’ feeling than any other. The minimum threshold of power he received had greatly improved. It was all quite gratifying, but Anton found that the new improvements to his power were best displayed in one particular field.
His travel speed. It had improved significantly, as he could always maintain a high level of power output between systems with no need for breaks to replenish himself. He hadn’t quite tested it yet, but still found he was capable of traveling between Poriza and In’istra in a single day. If he could keep that up, he would be able to travel all four hundred lightyears back to Ceretos in less than a month. Which was gratifying not just for matters of convenience, but also if he had to deal with any future disasters.
Thinking of how much more he could do, Anton almost completely forgot to test his combat power. But he did remember, and performed a small demonstration for himself. He was quite pleased, finding that if he focused on individual arrows they could pass from one system to the next, though not in such a short time that he could react to something and prevent it. It required intense focus to maintain the speed and form, and it was entirely impractical at the moment. But even still, his range was improving.
He just needed to make sure he didn’t look for excuses to have to use it, as it would only be useful for targets with predictable paths like planets. And he really didn’t need to personally cause the destruction of any more of those. Certainly not without good reason.
Varghese shuddered when Anton displayed his new power to him. “Just when I thought I might be catching up…” he shook his head.
“Oh, don’t worry about it too much,” Anton grinned. “You’ll be in Assimilation before you know it. Or Integration, but I don’t see you preparing anyone to take over.”
“No, I didn’t have any ambitions to ascend even before you arrived. I think the best thing I can do is stand up to the upper realms if they dare to come back,” Varghese held himself high.
Anton nodded, “Good. Though we could certainly use more Integration cultivators in the upper realms as well. On an only vaguely related topic, how do you feel about meeting with the cultivators from Poriza?”
“Nervous,” Varghese admitted. “I mean, you started preparing me for this sort of thing not long after we met. But actually being introduced into a wider galactic community is still…” he shook his head.
Anton nodded, “Oh, I felt that way when I saw Matija and her ship as well. Though it was more of us running into each other, I suppose. They weren’t even certain about other planets being inhabited, unlike us who knew there were many cultivators throughout the lower realms. And many more to come, I think,” Anton said. “It is a vast place, but while we know over a dozen populated realms I feel like there should be many more.” And hopefully, they would find them still populated instead of ravaged by the Trigold Cluster.
Unlike the initial contact with Ekict which Anton admitted had been rather hasty, Anton was very familiar with In’istra and now Poriza. Only the two systems were close enough to physically interact and In’istra was only just beginning to develop ships that could move around their system, let alone between systems. While that process would be accelerated with the help of others, it would be a long time before anyone but the two would physically interact on a regular basis. Except for the occasional ship stopping by on the way to study Azun.
Anton looked wistfully into the sky, thinking of the thin line that was his route between his most familiar clusters. He would like to expand their knowledge of that corridor and the surrounding area, finding people and if they were open to it establishing proper communication. Though he also enjoyed leaving written notes that might only be exchanged over the course of years and decades like the desert planet Xicil. Hopefully they would still recognize him next time he went by, as he didn’t want them to panic about someone who seemed dangerous.