The meeting between Zazil and Velvet was mainly casual, discussing minor matters pertaining to the Scarlet Alliance. This was not something that required a majority of the council to deal with.
“There is only one more matter,” the Dark Ring cultivator said to Velvet. “There has been no contact with swordmaster Rahayu in some time.”
“How long?” Velvet asked.
“A little more than a year.”
“Well, he’s probably off doing… something. You know how he is.”
“Indeed,” Zazil said. “But this time he was properly persuaded to leave behind the barest message that he would be doing something, instead of simply traipsing off. He had not indicated that he would be gone for long.”
“That is a bit concerning,” Velvet agreed. “But he might have simply failed to report back. On the other hand, his business could take longer.”
“You would know better,” Zazil agreed. “Just thought it should be brought up. At least Chikere lets us know where she is, directly and indirectly.” The latter was mostly a trail of dead enemies, but it was still useful. Though she had lost some motivation as of late, with the sword saint dead.
Then again, from Zazil’s perspective… an Integration cultivator killing just one single Augmentation cultivator and never having an impact again would still have been a great boon for them. The latest generation from the lower realms were quite something to see. Even if this Rahayu was closer to her own age than the rest, he maintained an impressive demeanor after ascension.
It was for the best that Anton had gotten practice with understanding language, because the planet he was surveying had more than just a single branch of language. It wasn’t that odd, with the lack of powerful cultivators limiting globalization.
It did make naming the planet a bit difficult, as they didn’t agree on just one name. Ultimately Anton ended up sticking to the name that became his personal favorite, Poriza. It just had a nice ring to it.
Though perhaps it was incorrect to accept a single name, because the planet was more than just one place. Obviously it was many different countries and cities, but there was no unity as a planet, beyond the simple disparity of naming conventions. Countries and small sects and clans were in constant turmoil. It wasn’t an uncommon amount from what Anton understood, but there was never a time of true peace worldwide.
There was so much he could do for them despite their lack of a true star, yet Anton was unsure if he should do anything. Empowering the wrong people would just make wars worse. He stood by his plans to increase the overall cultivation of people so that individuals were less unstoppable, though ultimately he wasn’t sure how well that had worked. With the alliance at peace, none of their own people felt the need to take out the strongest, the Assimilation cultivators. So it hadn’t really been tested. In a world that barely had cultivators at all, he was uncertain if a slight increase would help those on the lowest rungs, or merely add another tier in the power divide.
It was difficult to admit, but Anton really couldn’t do much for them at the current time. Though he was adamant about providing some useful farming tips where he could. In the worst case scenario, people would be prosperous enough to go to war with each other- which was already happening but some people were starving while they did so. Anything beyond that minimum he had to consider strongly. He wished he could just spend a small generation with these people learning more about them… but he was still limited to being in one place at a time. He had no plans to change that. He’d never be an Everheart that way, but on the other hand… nobody in their right mind wanted to be Everheart. Maybe not even Everheart.
Anton spent two years on Poriza, visiting common folk and providing them bits of practical and easy to implement advice to make their fields more efficient. He wasn’t introducing anything so revolutionary as energy absorbing plants that would reshape the planet, just a simple basis of knowledge that farmers were too busy working to be able to experiment with.
Ultimately he wanted to do more, but he had to consider how much what he did would actually help, and especially how cultivation related advancements might make the world draw the attention of the upper realms. Was putting people at risk of potential danger to make their daily lives better worthwhile? The answer was yes- but there was a balancing point that Anton couldn’t say he was a perfect authority on. For the moment, he was content to bolster the lives of simple folk.
One of the first things Anton was going to do when he got back home was to get a proper translation device. But more than that, he wanted a technique for it. He couldn’t rely on an object to not be destroyed. He was already forming the basis for it, based on some of the principles of Ten Thousand Scrolls. In short, a larger initial learning time for more efficiency when it actually came time to use it. Optimally he would be able to immediately have conversations upon dropping into a new area and surveying a few hundred conversations.
And he was returning. In’istra seemed to be mostly on its own, except for the hidden system of Aipra and the people of Poriza, neither of which could be enemies or allies of In’istra in the near future. So it was finally time for Anton to return home again, taking a different route to cover alongside the corridor he’d already explored on the way to Azun, his neutron star.
Over the course of his training, Tauno had made use of several sets of claws, talons, various bones, stingers, scales, feathers, and of course hides of creatures he slew. Everything he used himself would be enhanced by the Dancing Slayer Sect’s techniques, and the rest stored away for someone else.
Now he had traveled to a colder area on the inner mountaintops on the untamed planet he was training upon. A lingering sense of danger had been following him around, but neither birds of prey nor hidden serpents seemed to be the cause. The creature in front of him, while dangerous, could also not bring the sensation upon him.
As beasts with cultivation went, it was barely oversized. Perhaps half again as tall as other creatures of its size. It was some sort of large goat or yak. Something wooly with significant horns. But the important aspect was its cultivation. Enough to be something Tauno had to take seriously, even if it didn’t seem territorial enough to dominate the region. He could have very easily avoided the thing- it was likely vegetarian and would not hunt him down. But he also couldn’t ignore the challenge of it, nor the benefits he might reap. If this thing’s body was as tough as its compact nature would allow, one of its horns would actually be more valuable than something the size of a skyscraper.
Compared to the bones of a hundred meter long lizard, a horn that was just about the right size to already be a spear was fantastic. Not only could it retain its purity of form- helpful but not required for synergy with the Dancing Slayer Technique- it should be able to match the whole of a larger creature, possessing greater density and durability. Though some of what allowed this creature’s power was simply greater quantities of natural energy that might supplement such things, he still had high expectations.
The first thing he did was throw a fang at it. While it wouldn’t have the same results as a proper injection, the fang still had traces of the serpent’s poison. Likely unused to range attacks even being possible, the hairy quadruped was unprepared and was struck fully in the side, the fang sinking past its fur.
It quickly locked eyes on Tauno and charged at him, moving nimbly over rocks, ice, and snow. It lowered its head, swiping at him with a horn. He parried, but instead of careening past him the creature swiveled with surprising dexterity and swept at him with its other horn. Tauno’s new armor received a clear gash.
Good. This was the kind of thing he needed. He had to fight something with merit. While he would normally expect such a creature to rely on bulk, agility was a good surprise.
Ultimately, however, it only had a few attack patterns available to it. Charging and swiping or stabbing with its horns, or if he tried to move behind it kicking at him with its rear feet. Tauno wasn’t able to maintain a position on its sides for long, but he still managed to wound the creature severely.
Just as he was gearing up for a final blow, made possible by the venom finally taking effect on the creature, he felt something stab into his lower back. His left kidney, in fact. As a cultivator, reacting to unexpected situations with haste was what kept them alive. He swept behind him with a new spear, driving away the attacker. However, the dagger plunged into him remained in position. He felt a twinge, more than just the pain of an injury.
The second fang of the serpent he stabbed into his own gut from the front. He at least knew the negative consequences of that. He couldn’t stop the poison from spreading very long, not without focusing too much of his energy on it. So he made that decision without any real thought. Instinct was the Dancing Slayer Sect’s best feature.
His stab knocked the dagger out of him, the remnants of venom instantly beginning to coagulate his blood. Hopefully, that would prevent most of the applies poison from getting to him. If not, maybe he would just die. He might already be dead.
Tauno turned to grin at a seemingly empty expanse of swirling snow. “Wasn’t expecting to meet any snots today. Sorry, saints.” He thought the taunt was pretty good for the spur of the moment, but the assassin he knew had to be the dagger saint didn’t show up.
He flipped backwards, vaulting over the charging creature he’d been locked in combat with. He had no doubt it could jump up high, but it wasn’t expected the maneuver so continued under him.
The yaklike creature didn’t immediately spin around to face him, likely also sensing the hidden dagger wielder. Nobody was on a team, here. Everyone was enemies with everyone else, which was exactly what Tauno liked.
A tiny shuffle of the creature’s legs alerted Tauno to the location of the second adversary an instant before he picked up on the energy signature. His weapon spun, catching two daggers both stabbing together.
That was instantly followed up by consecutive attacks. Just because this dagger saint was capable of assassination didn’t mean she had to be a poor combatant. Tauno couldn’t help but smile as he swing and stabbed his spear, while at the same time his guts struggled against him from two overlapping poisons.
Seeing two perfectly good targets next to each other, the native creature charged the both of them. Instead of properly dodging away, Tauno leapt towards the creature, grabbing one horn and yanking to redirect it, adding his own energy on top of its own to stab into the dagger saint. Sadly, no physical contact was made and their combined energy barely even drew a drop of blood from the woman.
And of course the yak was mad at Tauno, attempting to trample him. But Tauno was still pleased. He didn’t know how this woman found him. He didn’t care, at the moment. He just had to kill her. He only had one saint under his belt, after all. Might as well make it two. It was just too bad that humans rarely had any body parts worth making into equipment, though.