Cai dropped back through the barrier to land gently upon his sculpted legs, a pleased smirk on his face. “Next time, I’ll be certain to knock that woman upside her head. But I guess breaking their fancy cannon is worthwhile too.”
Though that was certainly a large setback, it wasn’t going to stop the enemy forces. The barrier around the Supreme Silver Sect was powerful, but not undefeatable. It was simply there to make an assault more taxing to the offensive forces. If a formation could completely prevent assaults, things would be quite different.
Sovann led the charge, gathering the ammunition for the cannon to her as she made her way forward. The Supreme Silver Sect made use of their defensive emplacements as the enemy drew closer, but the three Anchoring cultivators shielded the army.
Sovann herself was surrounded by a cloud of gems and crystals, sparkling in the sunlight. On one side of her was Anki of the Creeping Fire Sect, her powers manifesting as heat waves surrounding her allies. Then there was Rui of the Wavecallers, of special interest to Devon as they would be matched against each other. The man’s powers certainly didn’t seem to require natural water, creating great waves that crashed against the barrier and then seemed to climb upon it, leaving a great weight upon it.
Aerona had already retreated further back. She was close enough to support Devon with her abilities, but very few could get involved in the clashes between Assimilation or Anchoring cultivators.
The crystals that should have been used to power the cannon were instead battered against the barrier directly by Sovann, creating less efficient but still quite powerful explosions. The barrier trembled under the assault of her and the others. It would only last a few moments longer under the current assault.
Before it cracked, Devon formed a mesh of chains beneath where the Rui’s waves stood. He intended to deflect them, or at least weaken their force- sparing the surrounding structures and protecting the weaker cultivators at the same time.
Taalay stood tall and regal, and even though he was still technically his normal size he felt like the gigantic projections that had been there upon their first arrival. Silvery light flickered over him as he focused on his target.
Cai hadn’t stopped bouncing on his toes since he returned, and he licked his lips as the barrier began to fall apart. As soon as it fell, he launched himself forward, trying to take advantage of an opening in Sovann’s energy flow resulting from her final attack. His speed brought him instantly above her in a single leap, his heel dropping towards her skull. She blocked his kick with a single one of the myriad gems floating around her, negating his momentum. Effective… but Devon knew there was a limit to how often she could do that. It was only a question of whether she could outlast Cai with her resources and energy.
Devon felt the weight of an ocean upon him, but he forced his chains to curve back over the enemy. He wrestled his power against Rui until the latter gave out- letting his assault dissolve rather than risking it sweeping over their own forces.
Taalay’s silver aura clashed against the hidden flames of Anki, creating cracks in the wall where their conflicting powers clashed. The sect leader maintained his conservative positioning, clearly intent on letting the enemy press forward.
Then there was another. Atalanta had previously given her intention to fight against the armies of the lower ranking cultivators, but Devon hadn’t quite understood what she meant. A black orb appeared above and behind the enemy army… and began dragging people towards it. Not a true black hole by any means, but a reasonable semblance of one. Life Transformation cultivators and a small number of others were able to resist the pull, but that meant a significant portion of the army was pulled away. The Anchoring cultivators were too focused on individual conflicts to counteract her, especially for something so unexpected.
With so much of the enemy’s army controlled at least momentarily, that left the Supreme Silver Sect’s forces at an advantage, with their members split between clashing against the remains of the army and the stronger individuals joining the assault against the Anchoring cultivators who had already started to fatigue from breaking through the barrier.
Rui was clearly annoyed to be facing off against Devon, as he doubtless was a wide area combatant. But he wasn’t able to pick his opponent- Devon had done so, and the others were not in any position to come to his aid. Devon directed his chains with one arm, chasing them after Rui who was forced to surround himself with a hemisphere of water. No doubt he had some plan- otherwise he would have simply retreated further- but for the moment Devon’s chains wrapped around the sphere of water to contain it, should Rui try anything. Though that wasn’t the only thing Devon did, his remaining arm didn’t make indication of anything else.
Sovann was constantly on the backfoot, being pushed by Cai’s continuous assault. He was basically a whirlwind of legs, never stopping. He would exhaust himself quickly, and it didn’t seem as if Sovann’s defenses were going to run out anytime soon. No doubt she was waiting for a good opening and would counter… but Cai should know his own limits. Surely there was some strategy involved.
The stone of some of the surrounding buildings began to melt as Taalay faced off against Anki. Burst of more powerful flame seemed able to appear anywhere and everywhere around them, nearly unnoticed until the peak of their danger. But Taalay himself wasn’t so easy to take down, his power deflecting the explosions while at the same time he made liberal use of the damaged buildings as projectiles, grabbing and tossing them towards the enemy cultivator.
Atalanta was flying above the battlefield to keep a direct line to her source of gravity, drawing in the enemy forces… until she suddenly reversed the pull. Many were flung down into the ground below, while others were tossed higher into the air. Either way, they battered against each other, showing just how terrifying an Assimilation cultivator could be when facing those beneath them in cultivation.
It was clear the enemy could see they wouldn’t win today- though breaking through the barrier and damaging the walls and sect buildings beyond was still an accomplishment. “Retreat!” Sovann called, taking a few steps further back into the Life Transformation cultivators. “We’ve caused enough damage for today!”
“Like hell I’m going to let you!” Cai shouted. He stopped for a single moment, his legs crouching. Then he sprang forward, one foot behind him and the other kicking directly forward. His foot shattered through some of her defensive gems before striking her in the jaw- with sufficiently reduced force that she kept her head. It didn’t prevent her from being launched backwards, however. She was knocked back hundreds of meters in a single moment. “And don’t come back! Wait… dammit.” Cai looked like he was about to spring after her, but he seemed to assess the situation and hesitated.
Whatever ploy Rui had planned didn’t come to fruition. It was unfortunate for the local man, but he was simply too young and weak to face off against Devon. Just because they were in equivalent stages didn’t mean they were all that close in cultivation- the wave cultivator was in the early stage, with Devon not far from the next. So when Rui turned to retreat, it was already too late. Devon’s chains burst up from the ground, where the protective bubble of water was less well defined. A bit of dirt and solid rock wasn’t a sufficient barrier for cultivators at their level.
Once Devon had two chains wrapped around the man’s legs, it was too late. Devon didn’t have to worry about other cultivators assaulting him, not with their current advantage. And Rui was too slow or indecisive to escape the most expedient way- cutting off his own legs. Instead, he attempted to break the chains- which only resulted in them being frozen around him. Devon’s energy still channeled through the links, suppressing the man’s natural energy as more chains began to surround him.
Capturing an Anchoring cultivator wasn’t a trivial matter, but Devon’s essence was perfect for the task. Chains, to him, represented his own freedom. Chains could not hold him, but they could hold his enemies. Then there was the matter of having been in multiple planetary wars… experiences he didn’t think his opponent could match.
Rather than chase after Anki, Taalay began to suppress the fires within the sect. A reasonable result, given his position.
Atalanta seemed to have worn herself out quickly- though Devon didn’t see any shame in that, considering she’d taken out a significant portion of an army. Even if they weren’t all dead, many of them could only stagger away… sometimes carrying companions with them to their own detriment. While the Supreme Silver Sect didn’t have any snipers of Anton’s caliber- even adjusting for relative cultivations- they still had plenty of methods to harass the enemy as they retreated.
Chasing after the enemy to try to fully annihilate them might seem like a good idea… but there was no way of knowing if the enemy alliance had more people waiting in the mountains. Just because they hadn’t been sensed didn’t mean they weren’t there, and though the battle had been relatively short it was intense for the highest tier cultivators on both sides. If there were another one or two Anchoring cultivators that were fresh…? The battle would completely turn about if they walked into an ambush.
Of course, Devon also had to finish wrapping up their prisoner. His chains could be a temporary seal, but they really needed something more secure for the long term. “You picked the wrong side,” he said to Rui as he dragged the man closer.
The man shook his head. “A single victory here is nothing. Their full power is greater than you can even imagine.”
Devon knew that with just the forces they had present, he was right. But they couldn’t leave a dozen or two Assimilation cultivators near Vrelt for an unknown length of time- even occupying six for a single year was a significant investment. Perhaps they should have had more, but that would risk being found out even if they were quite distant. And they had hoped that things might not turn into a direct war… certainly not without some more coordination first.
Regardless, they were stuck with their current situation. Reports began to come in about victories- and losses- elsewhere. Twisting Tree Forest was not doing well, and would likely have been completely annihilated without the backup ship from the alliance. There had been a few Anchoring cultivators lost on both sides of the initial clashes, a devastating loss for the planet… and things were far from over. If taken completely by surprise, able to appear inside defensive formations, perhaps the Trigold Cluster would have won the war in a single day… but fortunately their movements had been predicted. Though it seemed it would be quite difficult to move against them in turn, given their particular corruptions of the planetary barrier. In short, it covered most of their allied territory against not only attacks from the sky but movement along the ground, and everything in between obviously. Most likely underground in the mines as well.
Enemy forces were now scattered between allied forces, and while that might have been advantageous if the Trigold’s forces were less numerous, that was generally not the case.
The division of the planet wasn’t neat and tidy, of course. If the Trigold cluster had nearly possessed half- or sixty percent, actually- of the planet, it would have been quite obvious to the others over the course of time. And a few sects had been betrayed from within, either through infiltration or the old fashioned way- someone offered enough to betray their sect. Just because Devon knew they would never receive anything worthwhile for it didn’t mean they would believe the same, and when the price was large enough temptation could take over.
They would need to rest up, and try to push away enemy forces. They couldn’t afford to simply wait for reinforcements, as there was no way to tell what would happen in the coming days if they didn’t act with intent. Taking a defensive stance wasn’t necessarily a bad thing- but it had to be a choice. As one of the sects that performed the best, however, it was almost a requirement for the Supreme Silver Sect to go to the aid of others if they were to gain the upper hand.
And with them would be the forces of the alliance, not just in the Twisting Tree Sect but elsewhere. It wouldn’t do to only support Taalay, after all. He just happened to be the most influential one of the right temperament, so they had gone to him first.