(Patreon) Elder Cultivator 708

-–Chapter Index–-

Aside from the deepest depths, at least a modicum of light filtered down to the bottom of the sea where many creatures made their home. Specialized eyes picked up as much as they could, depending on how each denizen tended to live. In this case, the creature lived directly upon the bottom. The only room for eyes was on top, so two of them ended up there. These picked out various dangers, though at some point they had become almost superfluous compared to other senses.

As far as dangers were concerned, there was a better way. A strange sort of energy that everything strong had. That included not just other creatures of the sea, but humans as well. Today, it found a human, just like the others that had been causing trouble lately. Swimming just above the sands, even brushing along them, the creature crept forward… then ambushed. Its large maw opened wide as it sucked in water, pulling in the unsuspecting human in front.


The sudden suction pulled Anton back, and he barely caught himself on the rim of a giant mouth. It was instinct, though he wouldn’t have been damaged by the snapping teeth anyway. In fact, it would have caused the creature more trouble had it actually succeeded. Anton spun around, pulling back as he focused on the creature. He had been far too focused on looking for humans that he had forgotten about certain denizens of the sea- and even then, this one had to blend in for him to miss it.

Upon seeing the massive flounder, Anton grinned. “Derpy! It’s you again,” he waved. “Sorry about last time.” He pat the thing on the side of its mouth. Or the top? He wasn’t really sure what was appropriate to call it. 

He fully expected the thing to attempt to continue eating him. The next option was for it to run away. Instead, its eyes shifted as it looked at him with… understanding?

Anton was not a beastmaster. Thus, he didn’t fully understand how some beast grew powerful in cultivation but retained animal intelligence, while others didn’t. It wasn’t just based on the type of creature, but it also had something to do with some luck during development. Greater intelligence vastly increased their survival rates in the long run. 

“Hey, you wouldn’t happen to have seen other humans around here?” Anton asked. Though doing so was a waste. In the chance that Derpy was intelligent, he likely didn’t understand speech. That had to be learned. How should Anton get the point across?

He started with forming a replica of himself out of light. It wasn’t exact, but that was better anyway since it was supposed to represent someone else. He mimed following after it in a few different ways, eventually ‘grabbing’ it and causing it to disappear. Then he watched the big flounder. 

It remained in place… then slowly shuffled back and began to turn around. Well, he could see why it had been scared off. But as it scuttled along the bottom, it turned so he could see its eyes once more. Did it really understand and want him to follow? He could at least try.

He walked along the sea floor after it, though it took unnaturally quick steps to keep up with something of that size made for the water. The flounder didn’t seem to be attempting to pull away, so Anton simply kept up with it for a while. Until it began going in circles.

Anton stopped, thinking it might just be very bad at throwing people off. But Derpy turned about, fins flapping up sand. Anton considered the situation, then looked towards the middle of the circle. Because it was just one, and rather precise too.

He saw nothing. Nor did his senses pick up anything. Which, in itself, was a red flag. He began to make ever more complex patterns with his sensory energy, determining where it flowed the wrong way or seemed to fade into nothing. The formation was pretty well set up, they must have a proper formation master among them. 

“Good job, Derpy,” Anton pat the giant flounder on its closest edge. “You hungry? I can-” Before he could even seek an answer to the question, the flounder slurped up a three meter wide crab scuttling nearby, crunching it down in a few bites. “Well, it seems like you’ve got that handled. Let me know if I can repay you somehow. And sorry about yanking you so far up back then.” He didn’t expect it to understand, but the more the fish grew used to human speech patterns the faster it could learn to truly understand, if it had the intelligence and the drive. 

Though his first instincts were to blast apart the underwater base, or melt them with focused light magnified through the water, Anton had a problem. He didn’t know if this would be the only base of its sort in In’istra. If they were in contact with others, letting them be aware of his presence- if they hadn’t already noticed him- would be a mistake. It would be best to get more locals on board, especially to pick apart their formations in ways Anton couldn’t. 


“Hmmmmmmn,” Catarina said as she slowly circled Chidi. “Very interesting. But isn’t it a little exploitable?”

“Why don’t we find out?” Chidi replied to his mother. “I am confident that if you cannot exploit the flaws, then it cannot be done. I don’t intend to make it easy for you though.”

Timothy just watched from the sidelines. Indeed, these two were very much cultivators. Instead of saying anything about not seeing each other for so many years, they directly got into it. Cultivators were fond of training and competition. In this case, it was a bit of both- though strongly unbalanced towards one party.

But Catarina clearly wasn’t trying to win. The two of them crossed swords, dancing around the area. Chidi managed to maintain his position on offense, and Timothy was surprised to find it was mainly legitimate. Specifically, Catarina wasn’t holding back just to let him show off. She also wasn’t attempting to defeat him quickly, though. 

Her defenses were impeccable, but rather than slipping past her guard Chidi seemed to be going for something else. Timothy could both see significant flaws in the way his son swung his sword… and no flaws at all. That is to say, everything seemed intentional if inefficient. He seemed to be trying to do something, but…

“Nice try,” Catarina said, halting her own attack just shy of Chidi, “But I like being able to use my energy.”

Chidi clicked his tongue. They exchanged a few more moves and then… the young man suddenly froze in place.

Catarina walked around him, shaking her head. “You’re going to have to do better than that,” she said. “But I think as long as you don’t do anything crazy like fighting Formation Masters you should be fine.” She tapped his shoulder with her sword, and Chidi was able to move again. “I wouldn’t bet on that trick you were trying working against any other Integration cultivators, either. Was that was got Rakiya?”

Chidi nodded, “Basically, but I tried to make it last longer. The setup was… worse.”

“Far too slow,” Catarina agreed. “Anything that takes more than a move or two is a danger against stronger opponents.”

“Don’t I know it,” Chidi sighed.

“Well,” Timothy drew their attention. “I can see how much you’ve learned from Chikere. So I doubt I can teach you anything about swords directly…” Timothy shrugged, “But I can give you the opportunity to see if you can slip something past a cultivator who doesn’t specialize in formations.” Timothy hefted his shield. It would be a bit inconvenient if his energy was negated even for an instant, but he was confident in his ability to defend himself regardless. He also had some ideas for countering Chidi, with the most straightforward method involving simply wasting his energy all over the place. It would be a waste to see their son get to this point and grow overconfident to the point he tried to take on more Integration cultivators. Even the one attempt was far too crazy in Timothy’s estimation.


Major Sibylla thought she was very fortunate. She’d been handed a perfect opportunity, and hadn’t even had to sustain too many risks herself. It might have been a problem if the sword saint hadn’t been taken out so quickly upon arrival, but everything worked out there.

Now she barely had to do anything. Leading her army to capture cities was more of a token gesture than an actual challenge, as half of the Harmonious Citadel forces on planet were without leadership, and the other half were fleeing as quickly as they could. Soon the place would be abandoned by the Harmonious Citadel. Unless they were willing to commit more saints to the battle, but in that case they would have to redo all of their work here. It seemed unlikely, and more importantly the Scarlet Alliance fleets were beginning to properly take control of the area.

But even with most everything going her way, she was still nervous when approached by a man and woman from Ceretos. “Councilors,” she inclined her head. “What is it you need?”

“We heard you took care of our son for a while,” began the woman. Catarina, if Sibylla recalled correctly. 

“I would hardly say that,” Sibylla said. “The swordmaster has been a much greater influence besides.”

The woman continued on bluntly. “Where are you from?”

“Roistea,” Sibylla said clearly. “That information should be easily available.”

“It is. I just wondered if you would admit it. So why are you here?”

Sibylla shrugged, “It seemed like an easy way to endear myself to the Alliance, going somewhere like this.”

“Not that,” the woman shook her head. “Why are you here?”

“Same reason as you, I suppose.” Then she frowned, “Though I suppose you were from before Assimilation was common. Either way, I wasn’t going to stay around Roistea.”

“Come on dear,” said the man, placing his hand on her shoulder. “Think about what your grandfather would say.”

“I am,” the woman folded her arms. “He’s also the one who reminded me to be cautious because of the war with Ekict.” Catarina just stared at her for a bit.

“Well?” Sibylla tilted her head. “Should I say more? My opinion of the Sylanis cluster isn’t necessarily any higher than yours.”

That got a more positive reaction from her. “A fair point. Mostly, I was wondering how you would react. You could have been hoping nobody remembered where Roistea was, so if questioned you could say you technically didn’t hide anything.”

“But we weren’t here to make you uncomfortable,” Timothy reminded Catarina. “We came to offer help dealing with formations.”

“Right, that,” Catarina nodded. “Since not all formation masters are interested in moving about, it could be useful.”

“I will gladly accept any help,” Sibylla said. “And don’t worry, I intend to make my place among you- or I wouldn’t have joined the Alliance at all.”


Everheart grinned. The first visitors had come to his system. Sadly, they weren’t from the Harmonious Citadel. It would require more pressure to get them to come, given there was a war on. Or maybe they were planning a more concerted attack. He couldn’t imagine they would simply let the insults stand.

There was a slight issue that might come up if they sent all their saints together. He was confident, but not crazy. Five or more ascension cultivators would be far too much, even in a place he had prepared. If they did decide to do that… well, he could figure things out then. They probably wouldn’t, as that would basically involved giving up their home systems to the Scarlet Alliance and surrounding enemies. 

As for the people in his system now… well, he was doing his best to let some of them survive. It was no good to get people to show up and not report back how deadly and potentially treasure laden the area was. It would be bad for business if nobody showed up.

-–Chapter Index–-