Oden choosing to hold his ceremony on the exact day that the Six Elements Crossroads was planning their official announcement was a direct slap in the face to John. Perhaps if someone had come and groveled at his feet saying they had no choice, he might have been willing to let it go. But probably not, because he couldn’t afford to let the sect appear weak upon its official founding.
He had a plan, or at least something resembling a plan. In truth, it was half baked, but it was time to show the Platinum Tower Society that they weren’t as big of a deal as they thought.
John’s sect was only a couple years old, so the majority of his disciples were in the early Foundation Phase- or still in the Spiritual Collection Phase. Comparing to the Platinum Tower Society, it appeared like they were at a disadvantage. After all, he as the sect head was only in the early Soul Expansion Phase, and Oden had stepped into the Consolidated Soul Phase. And if John were acting fully on his own, he might indeed have been more hesitant. But he had Crystin at his side, and he could call upon others for aid.
Just so that he was certain nothing was going to happen to the sect grounds and weaker disciples there, he asked for a delegation from the Golden Tomb Guardians. They happily obliged, though none of John’s friends from the sect were able to attend- they had unfortunately timed conflicts that required their personal presence elsewhere.
But he had many more friends and allies. Ursel and Melanthina had both come- Tirto was newly married so John had told him not to attend. Even so, there were a number of Brandle Clan members sent to attend the ceremony. Even if it was just the founding of a small sect in a currently irrelevant country, because John was involved it wasn’t a small deal.
John addressed his gathered guests as they set out. “I know the invitations said that the ceremony would be taking place at the arena, but unfortunately it seems the venue was double booked.” His tone of voice made it very clear that was not what happened. “So we will be going to another prominent location, the Platinum Tower. That unfortunately means you won’t have anywhere to sit, so I’ll be certain to make the ceremony short.”
“So we’re going to stomp into this place, then?” Ursel asked straightforwardly.
“No.” John’s answer was direct and concise. “We are not. You’re a guest. You’re here to attend the ceremony, so I would not ask anything of you except to stand outside and watch.”
“What if someone starts trouble with us?” Ursel asked.
“Act as you deem appropriate,” John smiled.
They set out towards the Platinum Tower- the main headquarters of the Platinum Tower Society, though they occupied more than the single structure. John intended to arrive just about the time the other ceremony was starting, and indeed they passed by some of the crowds on the streets.
“Halt!” called one of the guards outside the building as they approached. “What is the meaning of this crowd?”
John stepped forward, shadowed by Crystin. “Oh, it’s quite simple. The Platinum Tower Society took my preferred event venue for themselves, so I’m just going to borrow that balcony up there for a few minutes.”
“You’re not to step a foot closer!” the man shouted, his air element swirling around him, small sparks of electricity making his hair rise.
“And you’re going to stop me?” John raised an eyebrow. “I have to say, I’m impressed. Soul Expansion Phase isn’t bad for the Platinum Tower Society. But unfortunately, it seems you aren’t important enough to attend Alchemist Oden’s ascension.”
“Guarding the tower is an important duty…” the man said.
“You tell yourself that,” John said. “So let me say this very clearly, to you and everyone else listening. Step out of my way or suffer the consequences.”
“Not on my life,” the man said.
“It’s your choice, of course,” John shrugged. Then he stepped forward into the man’s striking range. The man chopped towards John with his axe, forming a bolt of lightning.
John caught it just beneath the head. He likely could have grabbed the blade directly, but on the small chance he made a mistake it was an unnecessary risk. The sudden stop of his momentum caused the man to stagger while an electrical surge ran down the outside of John’s body into the ground.
Earth dominated air. And augmented fire. The cycle of elements flowed within John, missing only a single component to achieve perfection. He had no way to know how much that single step meant, but as it was he stood far above this man of ‘equivalent’ cultivation due to the cycle of elements and his totems being multiple tiers higher.
John’s sword slashed across the man’s chest, earth cutting apart his defensive energy before igniting. The man barely had time to scream before John followed up with a reverse cut, slicing off his head. Perhaps the man’s steadfastness and bravery could be commended, but his inability to read the situation meant he wasn’t worth much. Even if he had been able to defeat John, the crowd behind him was rather obvious.
The other three guards- two in the Foundation Phase and one still in the Spiritual Collection Phase- had barely begun to move before the battle was over. John looked at them. They looked back. “Are you going to be in my way?”
The two Foundation Phase cultivators looked at each other, then hastily stepped to the side. And further. The Spiritual Collection Phase cultivator stood there trembling, his weapon drawn. John… wasn’t certain if the man could hear him. He waved his hand, but the man’s eyes didn’t follow. So he stepped closer, at which point the man passed out. That was a bit of an extreme reaction, but perhaps his light element reacted poorly to the situation.
Johns stepped forward to the doors and found them locked. A quick search of the older cultivator found nothing. Before being more thorough, John just slapped the door with an open palm. “Hey! You’re under attack!”
This was the part where they should have made use of those balconies up above, but John had the feeling those were only accessible through the rooms of important people, and that they weren’t exactly functional. So instead of doing the right thing which was probably nothing, the guards inside opened the door and began to charge out.
John grabbed the first one through by the throat and used him as a shield while he repeated his warning. The already subdued guard nodded and dropped his weapon, and most of the rest of the people made the right decision. A few minutes later, John was done winding his way through the opulent tower towards the upper floors, and he only had a single door left in his way.
It was protected by a light element barrier. Personally, John thought that was one of the worst choices they could have made. Then again, it direct counter should make directly assaulting it dangerous for the user. But only if they were unfamiliar with the interaction. John took a few steps back with Crystin, then tossed a dagger charged with darkness around the corner. It took more than a casual effort to make the element mutually annihilate, but he was plenty experienced with light, having trained with both the Combining Luster Sect, and the Golden Tomb Guardians. Though most of the time they tried to avoid such reactions.
John walked past the debris of the door with splinters impaled into the stone of the tower, directly along the blast marks out onto the balcony that once had an expensive set of glass doors. “Ladies and gentlemen!” John projected his voice with his spiritual energy, so that not only his guests but the residents of Lunson could hear him. “Today is the official opening of the Six Crossroads Sect. I know many of you are wondering why we are here in particular, instead of at the arena as was announced years in advance. It’s simple, the Platinum Tower Society decided to screw with me, so I’m going to return the favor in kind. When they come to demand an explanation for my actions, I will do so in return. I’m certain a few moments from now-”
At that moment, he saw a pillar of blue flame in the arena, stretching dozens of meters into the sky. Ah. Of course he didn’t get the message. John did some internal calculations on whether Steve could successfully retreat if he began to get overwhelmed. In addition to Oden, there would be other notable members of the society.
Oden at early Consolidated Soul. Aghi in mid Soul Expansion. The two of them were fire element, so not an issue. Ekaterina was early Soul Expansion and earth element, so she wasn’t even a relevant calculation. But there should be the majority of the Platinum Tower Society’s people there, and they might eventually wear Steve down. And maybe if others from Lunson got involved things could get dicey, but ultimately John would bet on Steve’s survival ten times out of ten.
But that didn’t mean that he was just going to leave his friend. “Sorry to do this, ladies and gentlemen, but it appears we will be heading to the arena after all.” He wanted to do something more clever than directly assaulting the event, but apparently that wasn’t how things were meant to turn out. He leapt down from the balcony, followed by Crystin. The stone streets bent under their weight, with a little manipulation to help absorb the impact. “Ursel, could I trouble you to clear the way of the crowds? You’re so much better at these things than I am.”
Ursel grinned. “Sure thing dad. Just straight down that road?”
Ursel began stomping forward. “Everyone out of the way! Important people coming through!”
The crowds of people weren’t something that was easy to split apart… but they would do so for a charging Soul Expansion Phase cultivator. There were plenty of side alleys for people to rush into, and beyond not being able to get into the event to begin with it wasn’t worth risking their lives to see. The crowd that followed behind was a good deterrent to keep to the sides of the road as well.
There were guards at the entrance of the arena who had been doing a pretty good job of keeping people out, with one exception until Ursel showed up. “I thought you all were attacking the tower…?” one of them who seemed to be the leader muttered.
Ursel looked at him, and pointed to the side. John was fairly certain that would have worked well enough if she were alone, but with all of the others beside her… the guard just stepped to the side.
John patted the forlorn guard on his shoulder. “With that attitude, you might actually make it in this city.”
“I’m going to be unemployed…” the man muttered.
“Way better than dead,” John said.
There was a group of people gathering around the arena gates- though whether they were intending to interfere with what was happening inside or preparing to charge out and assault the tower John couldn’t quite tell. Perhaps it was something halfway in between.
A voice came from inside the arena. “Oh! There he is!” It was Steve, of course. “John! You’re late to your own ceremony and there’s some jerks here!”
John smiled and nodded. “I know!” he called back. One of those in the gathering group blocking the way was Aghi of the Platinum Tower Society. John had a plan, but now he was shifting to this plan. Which meant he didn’t have good lines prepared, but he could improvise. “We didn’t invite you to our event. Get out.”
“The Platinum Tower Society-”
“Reneged on our deal that was multiple years in the making at the last moment on purpose,” John said. “Now move or be prepared to turn into a mediocre ice sculpture.”