Elder Cultivator 762

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Most people did not have the power and influence to set off on a several hundred lightyear journey at a whim, but most were not the Great Queen of the void ants. That same power allowed her more leeway to act as she pleased, though she did have to rope others into her plans. Though she was capable of flight within a system, she needed a ship to travel between them, especially at a larger scale. 

Anton also knew that while she had acted quickly, most of her decisions were backed by reason. So while it was inconvenient that she would be showing up on Akrys without consulting him, she had to have a reason. Though any proper discussion would have to wait until after she arrived, since there was little that could be said properly in small snippets mid transit.

Within a couple dozen lightyears there were three planets of note. Akrys with completely unanticipated life and a variety of thinking individuals, So’gill with another story of destruction by the upper realms, and a third planet of technology for which a name had not yet been established. The border planets were of great interest, but most journeys would come after some months or years of planning.

Anton wanted to explore more, but he needed to get back to Akrys. And not just because the Great Queen was on her way. Three Squeaks and the meerkats should be in a somewhat stable position, but his disciple was still ultimately near the beginning of his training. He might have completed the second star by now, and could use further guidance given that Anton couldn’t leave written instructions. He didn’t know if the meerkats could write, but if they did he hadn’t comprehended it as writing and had certainly not learned the language well enough to translate.


Anton found Three Squeaks atop the hill at sunset, and gently settled down next to his meditating disciple. Surveying the changes in the area, Anton saw no signs of larger scale combat. The biggest difference was the members of the Lowcliff Burrow moving in with the Shadysands Burrow. He had been around for the beginning of that process, with Three Squeaks escorting the first group. That had been sufficient for Anton to be confident leaving things behind for a short time.

Three Squeaks eventually finished his meditation, and quickly noticed Anton. “Master Anton! You’re back!”

“Of course. I said I would be,” Anton smiled. “How has your training been?”

“I am almost at the second star!” Three Squeaks declared proudly. “It feels like it’s getting… easier? Should it become easier?”

Anton pondered for a moment. “Sometimes, that is the way it is. Increased proficiency with cultivation is one contributing factor. And another… if you are having success, then your cognition should improve.” Anton wasn’t sure if all of that got across, because he wasn’t confident about every word. But he believed Three Squeaks could discern the important parts of his meaning.

Three Squeaks nodded slowly. “My mind feels strangely clean. And I know why you planned for seasons after the next, now.”

“Surviving until the next season is important,” Anton said. “But it will only get you so far.”

Three Squeaks had a few specific cultivation questions, including about controlling fire. He didn’t know Anton had been watching his somewhat fortunate explosion at the Lowhill Burrow, but Anton already had answers for how he could improve. Not that it would have taken more than a moment regardless. A few centuries of cultivation experience proved enough to answer pretty much anything a cultivator of a few months could possibly ask about. Except, of course, those things that were unknowable even at his current level.


The Great Queen’s arrival came soon after Anton’s return, though not by coincidence on his part. He sensed her ship in the skies above Aipra, almost certainly intended to catch his attention. He revealed his location to her, and she departed the small ship- leaving the pilot in orbit to occupy herself for however long the Great Queen might stay. It must cost a significant amount to hire a pilot for what was likely to be a year or more, but then again such employment was well within the means of the Great Queen. She had no care for money except as it could advance the void ant’s prosperity, which ultimately meant she made certain that there were various income streams available. Though likely much less than a human cultivator of her prominence would achieve, it would be a vast amount from the perspective of any common person, despite how their own relative stature had grown.

“You departed quickly. Afraid I would tell you not to come?” Anton asked.

“I knew you or someone else would say that,” the Great Queen signed as she looked down upon the planet from midair. “This is a nice place. I should set up a colony here.”

“I think this is exactly what people wouldn’t want you to do,” Anton replied.

“Come now,” the Great Queen’s forelimbs gestured seriously. “Is it so different from your own interference? We are not planning to devour the inhabitants of this world. We will teach them the power of cooperation just as much as you wish to.”

“If you can communicate with them, you mean,” Anton pointed out. “While they have developed vocal languages here, many of them won’t be expecting a sign language… from an ant.”

“That’s not that weird,” the Great Queen huffed.

“Isn’t it?” Anton asked. “Did you even have language at all when we first met?”

“Of course. The best and most straightforward kind.”

“You could communicate with your colony, I am sure,” Anton agreed. “But would you be able to have complex discussions? Like about why the workers were supposed to do certain things?”

“Only the leadership needed to know,” the Great Queen protested. “But I do understand that there is value of greater developments in such an area on a larger scale. I think that you should all try to develop better pheromone detection, though.”

Anton shrugged. “For me, it will always be like reading a blurry book. It just won’t be the same. And I can’t replicate the effects upon you because…” Anton brushed her back with some natural energy, watching it soak into her. “See?”

“Someone on Rutera made a machine that badly synthesized the pheromones,” the Great Queen said. “Very badly. I suppose it is preferable to communicate like this,” she wiggled her antennae. “And you with your air vibrations.”

“I can sign too, if you like,” Anton replicated the visuals of an ant’s antennae and forelimbs. Since he was manipulating light, the effect could still reach a void ant. “But it seems kind of… weird.”

“Stick to your words,” the Great Queen agreed. She looked down at the world below. “So, which is your favorite disciple?”

“I didn’t say anything about having disciples,” Anton replied.

The Great Queen looked at him. “I’ve known you for a long time. And I can smell your trail of energy. So if you won’t tell me, I can just find them myself.”

Rather than waiting for Anton’s response, the Great Queen flew off- propelling herself in a manner that most wouldn’t consider. She mainly propelled herself by devouring the energy in an area and letting that propel her, though there was some more advanced manipulation of the surrounding energy required for it to actually be quick, despite her size. She was only a bit larger than a finger, but that was actually quite hefty for an ant. 

Rather than try to argue with her, Anton just watched her fly along his trail, ultimately arcing towards the Shadysands Burrow. She landed on the hill, and pointed directly towards Three Squeaks. “It has to be that one. But I’m surprised you haven’t won over them all. Only a few others have developed any of the Hundred Stars.”

Anton shrugged. “It is fair for them to be cautious of learning cultivation from a strange individual like myself. I’m both large and likely terrifying in terms of energy.” The Great Queen began to wander around the edge of their territory. “Careful,” Anton said. “They eat bugs. And while ants are normally not on that list, something of your size might be of interest. And no, it’s not you I’m worried about.”

“Fear not. I won’t hurt your new friends. Even if they are foolish enough to attack me.”

“You don’t feel like anything,” Anton pointed out. “So they wouldn’t be crazy to assume you’re just an odd bug.”

Ultimately, she was fast enough that it didn’t matter. And she didn’t enter their territory. “It is well marked,” she said. “They even use scent, like proper individuals. The boundaries are clear enough.”

Anton shrugged. “I suppose that’s good to hear. So, what are your real plans?” She might actually want to start a colony, but with the limited information she’d been given when she set out that shouldn’t have been the reason she showed up.

“I will start a colony. Temporary or not, we will require more than just you observing things here. My people can rapidly replicate and provide wide scale information. We will need to see more than just squirrel-cats to find our best allies.”

“… There are some bugs nearby. Sapient ones, I think. If you want to try your luck with them, you might be better for the task.”

“Because I’m also an insect?” the Great Queen asked.

“Because you are much closer to the same scale,” Anton said. “They’re stick bugs. And leaf bugs. I don’t think they are particularly communal normally, but I have seen them moving in groups. Oh, and watch out for eagles.” Anton paused, “There’s been some trouble with a group of them, but I’d rather not wipe them out…”

“We will of course ascertain the threat level and sapience of whatever we come across,” the Great Queen said. “And we need not eat anything that can think. Though with the oddity of this place, an additional option comes to mind.”

“What is it?” Anton asked.

“You recognize many sapient beasts here, yes? What about other things?”

“Well, there aren’t any humans,” Anton said. “I haven’t had time to search the seas, but I could imagine there are some of them as well.”

“What about plants?” the Great Queen asked.

“What like the Grandfather Willow? I think it would be highly unlikely to run into that… then again, Ceretos didn’t naturally have any sapient creatures except Paradise. Or at least, not that survived the invasions. The question is, how would you tell?”

“Simple. One would have cultivation. The other would simply store natural energy in itself.”

“What about… body tempering plants?” Anton frowned. “They could forgo real ‘cultivation’” So far he’d only picked apart herbs and the like that he recognized. But here in such a place, without yet knowing what it was that caused multiple types of animals to gain sapience, it was truly difficult to rule anything out.

“Let us assume we should be able to discern them by making reasonable efforts,” the Great Queen declared. “Besides, you are not known for damaging plants unnecessarily. Fruits and the like are meant to be eaten, after all. And we shall observe things at a smaller detail.”

“… How many offspring do you plan to have here?” Anton asked.

“We shall go unnoticed,” the Great Queen said. Which didn’t really answer Anton’s question. But he at least trusted the Great Queen and by extension any offspring raised by her to not cause ecological devastation. Even the least intelligent of them were capable of recognizing that destroying what they wanted to eat was bad for the colony.

Anton also knew he could use the help. Both in being a constant presence, and being wide scale. Though covering a whole planet- even just a few ants per square kilometer should probably take a long time. Hopefully the plan was to manage that in the longer term, because Anton really didn’t want to know the maximum rate void ants could reproduce. He much preferred them when they had time to develop to greater intelligence, though while he found them concerning in a vague sense, the number of people he might consider innocent that had been slain by void ants was extremely miniscule when compared to humans. And from all accounts they had it coming. They just weren’t well known enemies like the Twin Soul Sect.

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