(Patreon) Elder Cultivator 513

-–Chapter Index–-

Up to the most recent battle, there was nobody that the Sylanis cluster would have bothered trying to ransom back. Of course, there still hadn’t been any official communications between them and the trifold alliance, but that might change. Along with two Worldbinding cultivators, they had communications devices. According to Everheart, “Those things can only be used by the one individual they’re tied to. Or rather, I’m going to let them keep believing that for as long as possible.”

So the question was, would they attempt some sort of negotiation? The two women were cognizant enough of their own mortality to surrender, so they would certainly be willing to attempt such negotiations. The questions began with whether they could be trusted to do so without slipping in codes of some sort, and whether an exchange could actually happen peacefully.

Then there was another matter. Anton had a significant interest in the matter given his position- and the information about him that the two women now knew. They could give a reasonable judgment of his strength, and had to be well aware of his connection to Rutera’s star. Anything else was only speculation, but that was valuable tactical information. The only reason Anton was actually willing to consider an exchange was because having any sort of successful diplomacy with the Sylanis Cluster would be a place they could work from. In addition to that, the two were currently weakened- his final attacks hadn’t been enough to completely cripple them, but they would take either years or significant expenses to recover. And given what Anton had determined from their techniques, they wouldn’t be able to instantly recover their power after that- they would have to spend proper time binding to new subordinates and/or ships, the losses of which had been a significant blow. 

If any of Anton’s stars were somehow destroyed he had no doubt it would be something difficult or perhaps impossible to recover from… but if someone was able to go around destroying stars he had bigger issues to worry about. The same would be true if they could somehow just target ‘his’ part of the stars and destroy that, because it was such an ethereal thing he seriously doubted it was much easier than wiping out a whole star.

In short, they could potentially have a successful deal and exchange two weakened individuals for a significant sum of resources, at the price of valuable intel. Since the most important parts there related to Anton in particular, he was given the ultimate choice. It was that… or they would be executed. Previous prisoners had been kept with the intention to gain some sort of information from them, but with Everheart’s crazy methods to draw information from their minds they had little to offer there… and there was no way two of the top one hundred(ish) individuals in the Sylanis Cluster weren’t responsible for their own involvement, unlike the rest of the soldiers. 

It wasn’t something easy for Anton to decide, so he planned to put it off for the moment. In the meantime, they monitored the captured communications devices for any incoming messages. 

—–

Combining representatives of notable forces throughout the trifold alliance led to large crowds. For their part, Rutera had a smaller contingent- they had organized themselves into a cohesive group, so they mostly fielded the president, some aides, and top military officers. Weos had the most factions represented, while Ceretos had around a handful of individuals representing the interests of each continent and a similar amount for the Exalted Archipelago. The latter was still a point of contention given their ties to the upper realms, but the most problematic factions among them had been exterminated.

Given the difficulties they had with communicating with the upper realms, the Exalted Archipelago also couldn’t consult them- and thus dealing with the Sylanis Cluster became their problem as well. Anton trusted a few individuals among them enough to know they hadn’t received any secret communications or the like from their enemies. Thus, if attacks were going to continue on Ceretos they had to get involved.

Rikuto Ranik was currently leading the discussion for Weos. “Weos is of the opinion that we should take the opportunity to push for additional attacks, to let them know we won’t wait passively for them.”

President Park of Rutera responded, “We likewise would not prefer to wait around… but our efforts are limited by construction speed. Even just bringing our defenses back to optimal condition could take years. We’re not quite… prosperous enough to provide a proper military response.” That was true- though they did have large piles of fancy scrap to work with, both their own and from the invaders.

Anton indicated his desire to speak next. “I have considered lending myself to another assault.” At this point, Anton had more than just the weight of a single faction from Ceretos behind him. His personal power made him a significant player even if he hadn’t been mobile. “However, they will undoubtedly be prepared for me in Okloi… and I unfortunately can’t simply choose to assault one of the other systems.” He needed more time. If the war dragged out for a few more years, perhaps a full handful, he might reach the next rank and thus have the option… but Anton couldn’t do it yet. There were murmurs of assent- having seen cultivators of his level fall, and with the significant power of the Sylanis Cluster better understood, there were murmurs of assent. “However… that is only if I venture out alone. I could lend my aid to a raid on Okloi, with the understanding that my actions couldn’t be nearly as widespread as my first attempts.”

“Uhm…” Eyes landed on Nthanda, who was sitting uncomfortably in her position. Her recent advancement was something Anton still had to speak to her about- given her presence she had obviously not attained ascension, but it also didn’t feel quite like Assimilation. They hadn’t had the chance to speak on it yet, but her position was earned- if unwanted. And in front of her… “The Great Queen of the void ants wishes to add her words to the discussion.”

On the fancy table in front of Nthanda stood the Great Queen, one of the more unexpected individuals to be present. Though, she was more active in diplomacy than Nthanda, who had simply been chosen to represent Ambati for her strength. Anton could understand the Great Queen’s signs, of course, but Nthanda had to interpret for most anyone else. She could have had her a separate interpreter, but had insisted that Nthanda do it- which gave the woman the chance to not have to speak for her own region as much and still show participation.

“I am of the same opinion about waiting. Though we grow more prosperous every day, our enemy has shown themselves slow to react. I propose another assault upon,” Nthanda paused as the Great Queen spelled out the next word, “Oluchi. One that involves everyone, the three allied systems… and of course Anton and myself.”

Anton could tell more than half of the room was still weirded out by a ‘talking’ ant, but everyone was in control enough to not say anything. As for Anton himself, he’d long grown used to it. “Including you, is it…” Anton nodded. “And our target would be…?”

“The Ultimate Phoenix Sect, of course,” Nthanda continued her interpretation- which was then interpreted once more by machines for the Ruterans. “We will show these fools that their Worldbinding cultivators provide no protection for them. We shall level their sect… and destroy all who oppose us.”

“They are weakened…” Anton agreed. “No more Worldbinding cultivators, but there are more upon that world.”

“And if they come to us, we shall destroy them,” Nthanda tried to imbue as much passion as the Great Queen had, but actually found herself holding back slightly. “Even just the two of us would be a serious threat for them. The rest shall be present as a show of force and to properly collect the spoils of war.”

If he wasn’t good friends with this Great Queen, he might be disturbed by her words. So far, the void ants hadn’t displayed any warlike tendencies. Was this part of her advancement? No, that wasn’t right. It was difficult to pick out in non-human body language, but her passion was the same as his own- a desire to protect what they had. The void ants were practical, living in harmony with those on Ceretos- and responding appropriately to those who would threaten their home.

Anton nodded. “Such an attack would be appropriate, and focusing on one place would minimize the necessary forces, so enough remain to defend our systems.” 

General Nicodemo looked between Anton and the Great Queen. “I am… unfamiliar with your power. Are you certain it would be tactically sound to send you?”

The Great Queen stepped forward and began to devour the natural energy in the room, creating a vortex of power. “I have devoured the heart of a Worldbinding cultivator. I fear not any amount of natural energy, nor human weapons. But of course… I respect human cunning, and I would not be unprotected in any capacity. I would trust my life to both Anton and my royal guard.”

—–

“I feel like I made her mad,” Nicodemo said to Anton. “Did I make her mad?”

Anton grinned, “I’m fairly certain she was more mad at the Sylanis Cluster’s actions. You phrased yourself well enough.”

“I really don’t…” Nicodemo shook his head. “She’s so small! I could probably crush her in my palm!”

“You could not. Even if she allowed you to catch her.”

“Alright, fine, but… natural energy can still affect void ants, right?”

“For practical purposes, consider the Great Queen herself completely immune at this point.”

“That’s… terrifying?” he scrunched his face. “But even so, someone with a sword could chop her in half.”

“A very limited selection of individuals,” Anton said. “But you are correct, if they could hit her.”

“We have supersonic sniper rifles,” Nicodemo said. “No energy involved.”

“That… is something that the Sylanis cluster does not have,” Anton finally concluded. “And perhaps Rutera would be the best equipped to fight against void ants, if it was ever required. But I have seen the Great Queen in battle. Her strength, speed, and durability put together with a very small form are sufficient to make her a formidable foe. She could easily kill you, for instance.”

“Well I… have no plans to test your words,” Nicodemo shrugged. “It’s just… I can comprehend cultivators and what you do. Void ants are more difficult. Can we… is it possible to make stuff from their chitin? Or replicate it?”

“Yes, and I’m unsure. I will say, however, that very few things have been made from void ant chitin. And anything of significance almost assuredly would not happen. It would take quite a number of deaths to achieve, and they would not appreciate it.”

“I wasn’t suggesting we kill them. I understand at least enough of them are sapient. But they must die naturally, right?”

“So far, that has mostly been the weaker ones, which would hardly serve the desired purposes. The Great Queen herself is older than you.”

Nicodemo swore. “I mean, of course she is. Why not?” he shook his head. “But still…”

“The void ants also take care of their own dead. They don’t leave them in human hands.”

“That’s… extremely appropriate,” Nicodemo sighed. “But maybe we could study them?”

“You can ask,” Anton said.

“… I was really hoping you would do it.”

Anton shook his head. “I don’t think I will. But if Rutera really wishes to try this, you do have ways to contact them. I can bet it won’t be cheap though.”

“What does that even mean?” Nicodemo squinted. “Do they use money? I guess they’d have to, interacting with cultivators.”

“The colonies at least collectively keep money, yes. But I imagine they would want political favors.”

“I see,” Nicodemo frowned. “I’ll have to talk to some scientists and figure out how much that would be worth, and how possible replicating something might be before we even enter into any talks. Also, how strong was that guy that she ‘ate’?”

Anton shrugged, “Stronger than me by a good margin, from what I hear. Though also completely unaware of her existence until it was too late.”

-–Chapter Index–-