(Patreon) Elder Cultivator 501

-–Chapter Index–-

In the upper realms, much of the group occupying Xankeshan had gathered together for a mission. With the exception of Catarina and Timothy, the rest of the group was off-world, along with some of their allies. In the place of the married pair, their smaller group had a frankly unsettling amount of swords, and one person to wield them. Hoyt, Alva, Velvet, and Fuzz were quite familiar with Chikere, but she was relatively new to Vari and Spikes. Not that being familiar with her was important- at the very least she wouldn’t get in their way, and her combat capabilities were highly rated by the others.

Velvet had made her way to them along with Kseniya some time before- and the older archer was quite happy to take up a defensive position on their little planet, at least for a time. So far they had mostly been managing relations with other factions, but the current mission involved a nearly inevitable conflict.

The Harmonious Citadel continued to expand, taking over planets and systems as the years slipped by. In the upper realms, vast distances could be traveled easily, so the inevitable progress of the burgeoning faction was not particularly strange. Many planets were only occupied by small populations, and only planet-spanning sects or clans had any chance to resist the Harmonious Citadel’s advance. Even then, only controlling a single planet or system was insufficient to face against them- but it seemed like they judged hostile takeovers of such places to be not worth their time, at least for the moment.

Seven individuals, even at the Integration stage, were not a match for such a faction. Even if they counted the dozens of members of the Dark Ring they were bringing along, they couldn’t sustain a frontal confrontation with the Harmonious Citadel. Even so, they had information about some potential targets- small, less guarded, and out of the way- that nonetheless should have valuable information.

The Harmonious Citadel was already hostile to Xankeshan- having launched several assaults for their known and suspected losses. Only the recently revitalized barriers and formations held them off, despite the distance and thus relatively weaker presence of the Harmonious Citadel. It was enough for the Harmonious Citadel to turn away from them for the moment… but with the aid of the Dark Ring they were planning to make it more difficult for further attempts to be made. 

Oter was a gas giant with dozens of moons orbiting it, located in the large zone between Xankeshan and the core of the Harmonious Citadel’s power. Just one of those moons was their target, and old training facility of some sort that was important enough for them to keep occupied.

—–

Despite Velvet’s best efforts, concealing a full ship was not her area of expertise. If they were lucky, she had done well enough to conceal their landing on the far side of the small moon. Otherwise, they would likely have a more difficult time, dealing with enemies prepared to face them. Regardless, there was no room for hesitation.

If Catarina had been with them, a mobile formation might have hidden their group’s energy somewhat longer. Instead, Vari took a position out front, hoping to throw off the enemy with her familiar cultivation. Anyone who thought about it for a moment would realize that a member of the Harmonious Citadel shouldn’t be consorting with so many uninitiated individuals, but perhaps that second would matter.

“Yeeeeeeessss~!” Chikere grinned as they drew closer to their target. “Swords! I’m taking the top floors.”

The enemy facility was a small tower, at least by cultivator standards. It was made to resemble one of those upon Rouhiri itself, but even Vari who’s fanaticism had flipped on its head found this replica unimpressive. It could only support a few hundred individuals at best. 

As they approached, archers fired from the midsection of the tower, through arrow slits that no doubt were also backed up with formations that would empower their own attacks while blocking those coming at them.

The tower had defensive formations at the base, of course- but the Dark Ring had lent some formation specialists to the mission. They couldn’t immediately dismantle the formations, but they could guide the others on where to strike to maximize their effectiveness. Hoyt and Chikere were some of the first to act, striking the barriers around the tower and provoking the responses, bursts of energy they avoided or broke through. Alva worked with more precision, targeting precise points to punch through and disrupt the formation, while Fuzz supported her. Velvet found herself in the same boat as Vari, their daggers and bare fists respectively not being suited for battering things with pure force.

The most interesting result among their companions was Spikes, who charged forward, slamming her paws into the ground next to the tower and… doing nothing. Or at least, it appeared like nothing at first. Yet as the trembling formations broke, the tower sunk below its doorway… and then with a further howl from Spikes, it was buried nearly to its peak. Fortifications tended to protect the area around them to prevent such a result, but Spike’s advancement had left her with powerful control over the ground, and if she could not touch the earth a hundred meters below the tower, she would instead dig out an area two hundred beneath it, and let the natural results follow through. The formations had held it into place even as caverns opened beneath it, but the actual attacks worked with the strain on the structure that provided.

There was the slight issue that the tower wasn’t meant to be entered from the top- though it did have an entrance, it was nearly as fortified as the lower formations they had just spent their effort on. It seemed like sinking the tower had been a mistake… until Chikere’s enthusiasm found her way to what she sought. A few meters of stone and barriers were all that separated her from dozens of sword cultivators and their weapons, and they only held for three slashes, the final of which gouged open a meter wide gap in the walls that Chikere was instantly through.

The others poured in after her, some of them widening the gap with the intent to increase their flow and provide needed backup… but as many swords as Chikere faced at once, she had more than the same number of her own to counter with. The sheer difference in power between a single cultivator’s power and that of many should have made up the difference, but her skill and madness allowed her to ignore or disregard most of the attacks- the latter meaning she allowed cuts and stabs through areas she considered non-vital.

Soon enough, with the main attention of the sword cultivators occupied by Chikere, the rest of the group broke through to where archers waited, having been bombarding the group for the short time it took things to reach the current state. Cultivators from lower floors had rushed up to support them, but the sheer surprise of their tower sinking into the ground meant that many of the backline archers were immediately vulnerable. Along with the attacks from the Dark Ring, the daggers of Velvet found many vulnerable necks, and the wolves took advantage of the close quarters to tear apart archers.

Hoyt and Vari were among those who went for the supporting cultivators coming from below. They fought for a position at the top of the stairs, the layout of which should have been supporting the defenders but instead worked against them. 

Vari caught spears under each armpit, twisting and yanking them away from Harmonious Citadel cultivators. Those who practiced the Holy Harmony Technique were weak- intentionally so, to some extent. She was easily able to overcome them, even if their cultivation had matched hers. On the other hand, those ‘elite’ individuals who practiced the dominant Glorious Harmony technique should have had an advantage over her… but her cultivation no longer worked the same way. Instead of giving her devotion to the saints and practitioners of the Glorious Harmony technique, she drew from them. She used the promises that people believed in to twist their own power back on them… and took their weapons so they were easy to defeat without. 

Hoyt’s flames filled the stairs, comfortably wide enough for several individuals to walk or even fight, but not enough for the dozens of individuals below to break through the bottleneck. By the time the defenders who had been intended to face the enemy first arrived, the archers were wiped out and so were most of the spearmen. Meanwhile, the sword cultivators who were intended to come in as backup or leap from the peak to flank the enemy were mostly defeated, Chikere and a handful of others having taken them out while the others passed. 

“I can’t believe you guys don’t even have anything ranking higher than seventy-two! No wonder you’re on this tiny moon!” Apparently complaining about people’s swords, even as she stole them, was common for the woman.

In less than a quarter of an hour, the tower was cleared of Harmonious Citadel cultivators, most of which had been below the Integration stage- though the dozen who had been stronger would be sorely missed. Even with the massive numbers the Harmonious Citadel had, consistently losing cultivators on that level would eat away at them.

But that wasn’t the purpose of their assault, nor the vault of valuables or the equipment the cultivators were wielding. Instead, they came for the knowledge- a moderately sized library, with techniques and more mundane records.

There was also something else that made the place special, though only Vari could feel it. It wasn’t something she could quite explain with words, but it seemed to be a beacon of some sort. It called to her cultivation, though she didn’t actually want anything to do with it.

Impressively, the tower still maintained its rigid structure despite being sunken. That included the basement where some of the treasury was stored. In that corner was a statue of an oddly familiar woman… not quite the same level of depth as the one on Xankeshan, but once again Vari put her eyes on a Spear Saint… who was not the current Spear Saint. She wondered who the woman was, perhaps one of many- the ranks of the Saints might be more mutable than she imagined, with only the public appearances being kept up. Yet Vari felt there was something more to her interest. She just couldn’t quite place her finger on what.

—–

Twin telescopes flanked Anton, each pointed at ever so slightly divergent viewpoints. He had some reservations about what he was going to attempt. Not because he was concerned for the claim others had on the twin stars in his vision. No, Anton would feel little guilt if he only knew half as much of the actions of this group. They were at war, whether the Sylanis Cluster comprehended Anton’s existence or not. He was simply concerned there might be some way to reverse the process without his presence… or that he might inspire enemies.

Yet the benefits in his mind outweighed the risks. He was not afraid of retaliation- provoking someone to seek him out would mean them fighting on his territory. Simply because he was not limited to one space shouldn’t be too much of a problem, though Anton had felt the difference with Lev. The thing he was more concerned about was simply the time, additional centuries that these Worldbuilding cultivators might have. So he didn’t intend to enter their domains… unless, perhaps, it was also his own- if the binary stars provided anything close to the promise he thought they held.

Anton had readied himself to the best of his ability, familiarizing himself with both the stars he sought as well as those he was bound to. His ability to draw upon the power of other stars had improved, and so too should he be able to connect to these distant-yet-near twins. The question was if he could manage both at once… and there was only one way to find out. For the purposes of avoiding problems around him, Anton was close to Rutera’s sun- he couldn’t imagine that even if he killed himself there would be any direct effect on it- so that he could draw as much power as he needed to strengthen the connection to other stars. His small setup of floating telescopes was just barely able to withstand his current distance and remain whole, and he set both eyes on two points of light, flickering balls of light that promised power.

-–Chapter Index–-