It was not terribly long before Weos, specifically the main planet, had calmed down. The various factions were at least loosely unified, enough to at least accept that some of them had to be restrained while they verified the results. In the end, even those who didn’t necessarily believe the individuals were going to betray the whole planet were convinced by investigations revealing the siphoning of funds. Many of them were more clever than to do anything obvious, but it was difficult for those who had in mind to aid invaders and be rewards in a new life to not want to get something immediately.
For the last month, Everheart and Anton had mostly been traveling around between various cities verifying that there were no members of the Twin Soul Sect left. If there were any, there were now enough individuals able to detect them that they would be quickly rooted out, as the justified paranoia about their presence likely would keep people on edge for many years.
If Everheart were not present, Anton might have been concerned that some had managed to conceal themselves… but Everheart had plenty of experience with them, and adapting to their countermeasures. Or anyone’s, really.
Of the seven planets in the system, four were now purged of the Twin Soul Sect… awaiting verification, of course. Even though they were smaller- or in the case of the larger gas giants, the actual inhabited areas took up less space- it was still taking time to confirm. Nobody wanted to rush too much, so everywhere was being double and triple checked. One more was still in conflict… while two were completely out of communication. That included the cultivators from Ceretos. The planets in question- the one third from the sun, slightly outside of Weos itself, and the one on the far outer end- were both presumed to have been taken over by the Twin Soul Sect, or at least allied forces. The actual numbers hadn’t seemed to be high enough for that, since they weren’t strong enough to fight against a hundred or more foes, so there had to be some working with them. And that made things difficult. Dealing with those planets was actually required, but those who didn’t actually practice the Twin Soul Sect’s techniques could claim innocence and it would be a great amount of work to prove otherwise.
Everheart went towards the one in the most conflict, while Anton was one of those who went towards the third planet. Aiding the ongoing conflict was important, but leaving an enemy foothold in their midst was also not something they could allow. The limiting factor was ships, so only the strongest were being transported. Life Transformation, late Life Transformation if at all possible, though there were some exceptions for those who were known to be more powerful.
Kuchion was covered in scraggly trees and only sparse vegetation, but for a planet that appeared to have no water whatsoever it was quite lively. That was just how the surface appeared- underground was where the actual action took place. Anton was informed about various relevant features like the extensive caverns and tunnels that went through the planet- some natural and some constructed.
Tunnels were a bit of an obstacle for Anton… but not as much as it might appear at first. If anything, they were a wash. He could still wind his senses through the tunnels to a similar distance he could over a straight distance, and that was the bigger limiting factor than his ability to maneuver his shots. It would limit the directions he could attack from, but he wasn’t alone so it wasn’t as big of an issue.
The bigger factor was determining who could be attacked. He wasn’t able to sense who was part of the Twin Soul Sect from the same distance as just generally determining someone’s position, but he could do it from a significant distance. The question was, was a group split between those who were and weren’t members of the Twin Soul Sect entirely filled with traitors, or did some simply not know?
Along with Anton there were many others, but one of the most notable was Oluchi. She was a scout, advanced in years. She carried a spear at her side, gesturing with it as she spoke. “We must first find battlefields. Signs of who has done what… and starting with the location where the announcement was to be made.”
“I agree,” Anton said. If he had any problems he would certainly voice his complaints, despite being a foreigner to this system. If nothing else, he would be respected for his strength. Still, letting someone else take the lead if they were competent didn’t bother him. “Should we anticipate trouble as we approach?”
“Of course,” Oluchi said, her eyes finding a thick window out of their vessel- one of the local ring-style ships. “We should expect defensive formations as well. But unless they anticipate our precise movements, I doubt it will be easy for them to match our forces. Dozens of peak Life Transformation cultivators and…” she didn’t linger long as she looked at Anton, but it was clear she meant him. “The most important thing is to keep our ships safe.” Anton nodded. Even if he didn’t need one, it was still faster… and of course it would be expensive to replace. Soon enough they were approaching their destination over the planet. “To defensive positions!” Oluchi declared.
Anton moved to his own spot, stepping through a door crossed by a formation that acted as an airlock. It wouldn’t allow air past, but it would allow him- and what was in his lungs. The door itself was for both structural integrity and in case of the formation failing. Anton found himself standing on the outer ring, looking ‘up’ towards Kuchion. Even with the rotation of the ring he found his position felt relatively stable, courtesy of good construction and additional formations.
There was a small platform Anton was able to adjust so that his stance would be as he wished. He could fire directly up, but his muscles were used to shooting his bow within a certain arc in front of him. If necessary Anton could completely leave behind his attachment to the ship, but for the moment it was best to stay within the safety of its distorting features.
The attack came while they were still a great distance off. Anton was unable to anticipate the attack, given the thousands of square kilometers of ground his senses needed to scout, but once it was launched it was simple to locate. He intended to deal with it himself, but even as he began to gather energy he also felt Oluchi readying herself. Since it wouldn’t hurt for him to wait for a moment, he let her take the initiative.
It was a strange feeling, the way she threw her spear. The space around her bent, much like that around the ship itself. Her spear left their little pocket of protection going at an angle that would never even approach the incoming attack or the emplacement that fired it, but somehow… it didn’t matter. Anton watched carefully as, without feeling her alter its trajectory it pierced through the incoming attack. It wasn’t just compensating for gravity, either- that would mostly pull it in the direction it should be going to begin with. Instead, it was another spatial technique… and the strange angle might have also been required for exiting their defensive pocket.
After piercing through what Anton was fairly certain was an oversized ballista bolt, the spear impacted something. That something turned out to be a defensive formation around the planet, still intact. Anton no longer held back, adding his own projectiles to the mix. They didn’t go anywhere near where he wanted, indicating he needed more experience fighting around Weos’ ships, but he was able to get them back on track to impact the barrier next to the spear, which was still pushing against it.
The barrier cracked for only a moment, but the spear found its way inside, suddenly back at the maximum velocity it had achieved earlier. Then, with a bright flash, it reached the ground. What had once been a weapon emplacement with dozens of cultivators became a crater, out of which flew a spear that somehow turned one-hundred and eighty degrees without ever being in any of the intermediate directions. At least it lost some momentum. No technique was perfect.
The spear was back in Oluchi’s hands a matter of seconds after she threw it. Anton still thought it was a weakness to just have one, but it clearly wasn’t that big of a deal if she could accomplish that consistently. It appeared she had no patience for anyone that attacked them, nor concerns about collateral damage. When the next attacks came, Anton responded in a similar manner… except his attacks remained more precise. Weapons and people were disabled- the people mainly staying alive not because Anton was afraid to kill, but because they might be useful sources of information. Oluchi took out another group before the planetary formation nearly repaired the hole. If her spear had been trapped inside, Anton wasn’t sure if it would remain properly in her control.
Thus, Anton focused his energy on keeping the barrier filled with holes. It was made to withstand attacks by Life Transformation cultivators, maybe a group of them. With enough people they could sustain reasonably powerful attacks… but each of Anton’s arrows were enough to slay a Life Transformation cultivator. Holes punctured through the barrier, destabilizing it and allowing for more to be formed. Perhaps if the formation could draw upon all of its energy at once it could resist him, but whatever powered it in the local area was limited in output. And with enemy cultivators falling, there were fewer distractions for Oluchi and the others. It wasn’t just their ship, either, but a handful of others.
Soon enough they had dealt with all of the attackers in the area and were preparing to land, the formations held open by various people. The ships did something and Anton felt as if they skipped most of the descent, before they jerked to a stop at the end.
“Not bad,” Oluchi said to Anton. “I saw a little bit of that back on Weos, but you’re quite capable. How long can you keep that up? We might be swarmed here soon.”
“Indefinitely,” Anton said. “At least against difficulties of that level. If they have some exceptional cultivators or unknown formation abilities, I might have some issues… but we’ll be able to deal with them from a great distance. Speaking of which, some people are approaching. Do you want me to deal with them or the planetary formations first?”
“I wasn’t aware that you were a formation master, Senior Anton.” Oluchi said, “But we need you here, so you’ll have to deal with them later.”
“I’m not a formation master… but I’m experienced enough to be able to disable formations like this. Especially from the inside. And I don’t have to go anywhere.” Even as he was talking, Anton began to fire off into the distance. Despite having attacked at a similar distance herself, Oluchi seemed impressed. Anton had to agree there was a big difference when one considered the amount of atmosphere in the way.
Anton wasn’t carefully dismantling the formations… but even if things went very wrong, all of the damage would be local. He basically just battered his way through some of the local barriers protecting power sources and then shattered them. There were a lot of crystals- cultivators liked crystals, and natural energy generally stored within them efficiently- as well as jars that held swirling power. Some of the power was drawn in by secondary formations, but without anywhere to store it the local area couldn’t sustain much of anything. So after he made sure they could safely retreat, Anton prepared to take on the approaching cultivators.
“It will only take a few minutes for the enemy cultivators to get here,” Anton said. “Not all directly from the Twin Soul Sect. What should we do?”
“Just do your best to deter them while we search the area,” Oluchi said. She was already working on that very thing, taking in the fine details of the ground and remaining traces of battle around them.
With his question not quite fully answered, Anton just began with the Twin Soul Sect members. He could attack with impunity since they weren’t within range to counter yet, and arrows rained down on a few at a time. Any time groups joined together to defend, Anton changed his targets to someone else. One by one enemies fell, but they’d soon have to make a decision about staying in pitched battle or leaving.