Not terribly far from Poriza was the planet Aipra, though from certain perspectives they were separated by insurmountable distance. No matter how far one traveled, if one could not bridge the gap from space to subspace or do the same in return, it was impossible to get from one to the other.
Both planets were similar in certain ways, with some key differences. Both were low in natural energy, but Poriza simply lived with it. The light and heat from their pseudo-star were sufficient to sustain them, if little more. Meanwhile, Aipra had no star at all. Any light they had was produced by their own selves, and all the more precious for it. What heat they had was mainly a result of the life they had. It was unclear how they had arrived at their situation, but they must have been formed of cultivators with some significant knowledge. Otherwise they wouldn’t have had time to change their style of cultivation to survive.
If Anton were to compare individuals from the two planets, even though Aipra should have been weaker they actually survived and even thrived- given their circumstances. They had post-Life Transformation cultivators, and a worldwide system of cultivation that effectively used devotion to improve everyone. But as with all such things, the power was focused on those at the top. Yet in their circumstances, Anton couldn’t reject the practice. They needed the most powerful cultivators they could get.
Of the two, Aipra had probably changed the least after Anton’s arrival, at least in how they functioned overall. Even with the help of the greatest minds of several worlds, it was only possible to provide slight increases to the efficiency of the planet, minimally increasing their food output and their efficiency in providing heat and other necessary components for life. The biggest difference was the rise of simple industrial machines, functioning without the use of natural energy and instead relying on physical materials they had available.
Meanwhile, Anton had established a full branch of the Order on Poriza. He had influenced their development starting from one country, and changed not only the quantity and quality of cultivators but the whole political landscape. Ideas of both cultivation and how it interfaced with developing technology like Rutera’s were rapidly influencing the populace.
Yet Anton was more proud of the work done for Aipra, mostly by others. Their entire existence had been hanging by a thread, and now it seemed as if they could actually withstand a disaster of some sort. Though Anton didn’t want to ever find out.
Other powerful cultivators on Aipra besides Nalini had enough trust for Anton to speak to him now, but he saw no reason he should trouble anyone else. He’d rather visit a friend than receive a report from strangers.
Anton explained his thoughts, then asked for hers. “What do you think about the changes? Hopefully they are all good.”
“It doesn’t take so long to recover after a battle,” she said. “And others are growing to the limits of cultivation. Some have taken an interest in ascension.”
“I see,” Anton said. It was a somewhat touchy subject, given that people leaving behind Aipra, especially powerful cultivators, might spell their doom.
“I think… that it is a good thing. That it can be considered at all, I mean. We were the ones who chose to introduce the idea ourselves. And we may eventually be able to offer an escape for those of lesser fortitude. A way to shift out of this space into the other. Though personally, I would never choose that result.”
“Of course not,” Anton said. “If you were inclined to do so, you could have already done it. You have sufficient power.” Anton understood the concept of home, even one as desolate as this place. And he was quite pleased that they were able to reach a place where they could do more than simply survive.
Attacks by distortion beasts continued and likely would until the end of existence, but they were able to handle them. And Anton didn’t think that making things a little bit easier on the future generations would be a bad thing. The right amount of pressure helped people develop, but too much and they would crack. Aipra had always been just on that edge, and it could have slipped past it at any moment.
“You mentioned some sort of wild plan…?” Nalini prompted.
Anton was pleased to answer, as she seldom took interest in outside affairs. Understandable, since there was little that could be done to influence each other in either case. Even the small number of ships that had come to visit this place did so at a high cost.
“The formation of a star,” Anton said. “Specifically, the point where it begins to properly sustain fusion into heavier elements. Before that… well, it’s difficult to say it is not a real star. Just not one with excess power of any sort.”
“I’d like to see a star at some point,” Nalini mused.
“I’m a great distance away from being able to bring one here,” Anton said, “And I don’t think you would be able to relax on a vacation. But I can still show you what they look like.” Anton drew on his connection to a distant star. His first star was close to the far end of his bound stars, though Rutera and then the Sylanis Cluster were further west still. But after a few hundred lightyears, the distances blurred together.
Drawing upon the power it channeled into him, Anton didn’t just use it to make fire… but tried his best to form a proper replica. A miniature version of the star that fit in his hand, complete with fusion. It would be rather unhealthy for those of lower cultivation to be directly in front of such a thing due to the radiation, but Nalini would be fine.
“… It’s bright,” she said. “They’re all that bright?”
“It’s barely a replica,” Anton said. “They’re so many times brighter that it is impossible to see around many of them. Though some are much less.” Anton displayed a facsimile of Joy, the first star he had fused. It was just a red dwarf, and he showed a comparison between his hands.
The old woman watched with fascination as Anton went through various stars that he had bound. While he couldn’t be certain he was making a perfect visual replica, he knew it at least captured their spirit.
“And then my favorite. Don’t tell my home system, okay?” Anton grinned. “This is Azun.”
“It’s… very small,” Nalini admitted.
“A normal person could walk across one side in a day- if they could walk. But while it is small, it is heavier than the majority of the others I have shown you. It is a nearly impossible density. And…” Nearby metallic objects began to tremble. “It has powerful magnetic fields. It spins rapidly, spewing beams of radiation. All this after what would be considered the death of another star. But instead it refused to give up, and in my opinion became something more.”
“Impressive. But also a bit frightening. It could destroy this planet, could it not?”
“It could mostly likely absorb anything I’ve ever interacted with,” Anton admitted. “Absorbing another star or two would hardly affect its mass.”
“I think I will remain here without stars,” Nalini said. “Or at least, where we only have to interact with them like that,” she gestured to the sky generally, where stars could only be barely made out even by Anton, as if covered by a thick veil.
“Well, that is why you harness the cold power of the void,” Anton said. “I wouldn’t expect you to wish to change.”
“I do vaguely get why you like them, though,” Nalini said. “Perhaps if I grew used to them, they might not seem so harsh.”
After spending some more time in idle conversation and a longer time exchanging cultivation pointers, Anton made certain there was nothing he could immediately provide that they needed- like a little bit of help fending off a distortion beast, perhaps. And while he was quite happy to return to his world of stars, he didn’t mind the strange view from the other side once in a while.
Somehow, Anton’s proposal had gotten the approval of Poriza. Obviously it was a massive undertaking, and before they could even begin they had to engage in greater contact with the outside world. Anton himself wasn’t a true formation master, and the local formation masters were both insufficient in number and lacking in certain knowledge that might be required to accomplish such a massive task.
The purpose of the formations was not for the formation of the star specifically, but rather for the protection of the planet during the process. And while Anton might be able to push apart the planet and their star, might wasn’t good enough for the lives of people. Anton wouldn’t bet a single life on a half a chance, or even a ninety percent chance. Not unless he had no other option. He certainly wouldn’t do the same with a planet.
While he didn’t intend to drop two similarly sized masses into each other and thus was less likely to get the rather dangerous wobble of Joy’s formation, the wrong amount of material impacting at the wrong angle could still spew a beam of radiation that could effectively destroy the planet, or at least kill most of those on it. Furthermore, it needed to move to a position further from the star to maintain a proper orbit, changing velocity as well. But Anton couldn’t move it before they began. If Poriza was any further from their star, the already tenuous amounts of light and heat would drop to dangerously low levels.
There was a great amount of coordination necessary worldwide for other reasons. He planned to perform the jumpstart of mass and fusion between growing seasons- since each hemisphere had a different one- but no matter what happened it would be a major disruption. Thus, they needed to organize to store up food and seeds, both kept safe. But not immediately, or everything would spoil for no reason. The idea was only being entertained at all because food production had increased so much recently that the world could take the shock.
But the danger should be worth the rewards. The populace had a desire to improve. Overall, Anton judged it to be among the more positive ways that could come about. There was the desire to improve for one’s own self, or to support a particular group. That was much preferred to a jealous desire to overcome another- in most cases such people didn’t care if their foes grew weaker or they grew stronger as long as they were able to surpass them. And while Poriza was overall at peace, that didn’t mean nobody had people they didn’t like. Whether true enemies, competition, or simple rivals there would always be different reasons to have the ambition to grow.
It was ultimately better that the entire process was slow. Poriza would be putting in as much of the work as they could sustain themselves for reasons of practical logistics, because Anton had limited resources and not an infinite amount of favors to call upon, and so that the final result would be more meaningful for them. Because while Anton might be doing the heavy lifting, moving tens of times the mass of their planet into the brown dwarf they orbited around, they would still have to take care of the formations.
These formations would require active worldwide participation by cultivators injecting their energy. In shifts, of course, as there was no telling exactly how long such a thing would take. Only as they tired would reserve energy be called upon. Hopefully they didn’t have to use any stored energy, but Anton knew they couldn’t count on things to go perfectly. As for the formations, they were actually developed with some of the insights from Aipra. Instead of the flow of energy moving between people, it would go to move their planet according to a very careful set of calculations that had been done and were being verified over and over.
Anton was quite happy. The people of Poriza could have been content to simply live, but just like Aipra they wanted more and simply couldn’t attain it on their own. But he wanted to give them the opportunity to thrive. The fact that it might personally benefit him wasn’t lost to his thoughts, but that didn’t undermine his motives. He just had to make sure he always kept on top of his reasons for doing things to make sure they weren’t tainted. Personally, he quite liked his current trajectory.