(Patreon) Truthful Transmigration 172

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Three children, not quite teens, huddled together. They could feel the vicious power of the approaching enemies, especially the strongest among them. Consolidated Soul Phase, far beyond any of them. 

“Where’s mother? And father?” Tirto was crumpled into a ball next to Ursel, who was clutching onto her stone club. 

Melanthina did her best to try to act like a mature older sister, as if that mattered where minutes and seconds were the difference between her and her brother. “They’ll come,” she said. But she didn’t believe it. She couldn’t sense either of them. They were down in the depths, beyond where energy senses could reach. 

Then the spire shook beneath them- for the second time. Melanthina believed Crystin had the best intentions when she told them to take shelter in the cave, but a concealment was another tier more effective when the target was somewhere else entirely. So she’d had them climb to the top of the spire. That had bought a few moments, at least. If she was lucky, the madman below wouldn’t see through her own concealments.

It was unclear whether he did, or simply continued up the spire regardless of knowing they were there. Either way, they could all sense him coming. Melanthina was trying to figure out what the next step was, what trick she could pull… but real danger was new to her.

Ursel stood up, her feet heavy as she dragged her weapon. “I’ll stop him. When he gets here, you need to jump down.”

“What?” Melanthina shook her head. “We can’t do that!”

Ursel looked over her shoulder at her two siblings. “You are both heirs to your clans. Nobody needs me. So I have to do this.”

There was no time to object to her words- the approaching swirl of water and air was immediately upon them. And at that point, it was really too late for them to run. Crackles of lightning formed and were blasted at them across the top of the spire. Yet Melanthina found herself and Tirto unharmed.

“Hmph,” a voice said through the swirling dust. “How pointless.”

Wind blasted, revealing Ursel, her stone club with its head pressed to the ground. Her clothes were shredded, her skin cracked- not just that, it began to fall off like pieces of shell, revealing muscle underneath. Writhing lines squirmed along her arms and down her body where lightning had coursed through her. The only thing that held her form together was the entirety of her earth elemental spiritual energy… and Diamond Defense, though it barely allowed her to sustain a single strike. Her bravery bought them a moment- but she could do no more. 

Evren was already preparing his next attack. It would only take a slight flick of his wrist to take out Ursel, injured and without defenses as she was. To kill all three would require some effort, but they were two whole phases weaker than himself. Blocking a single attack, even if it wasn’t serious, was the limit of what could be expected.

A storm gathered in his hand, crackling sparks of lightning mixing with swirling clouds. His arm stretched forward, concentrated power barely held back. Then it was released, a thunderous boom and a flash of light blanketing the peak of the spire. There was no time for eyes or ears to recover before a second surge of power followed. Then another, and another.

Any sort of follow-up should have been completely unnecessary, but the energy was not directed towards the triplets- at least not all of it. Instead, it was an exchange of energy, lightning, water, and wind clashing against each other. Every attack directed towards the triplets was redirected, impacting the ground or reflecting back towards Evren. 

“I struggle to see how you thought this action would benefit you in any way,” Kusuma said. “As if digging a deeper hole was going to magically make your mistakes better.” She didn’t wait for a response, swirling winds pushing behind her, the triplets toppling down from the spire. They would have to deal with a little fall, but she couldn’t fight properly if Evren could easily target them. “If you wished to cause pain to those who made you suffer, remember that you are the one at fault for everything.”

Lightning crackled around Evren’s fist, and he charged forward. “At least I can impart some of that suffering on the clans that spited mine.” His trajectory took him almost directly towards Kusuma, but at the last moment he stepped to the side, his arm outstretched to keep her away while he ran past. Instead of keeping her away, she grabbed the outstretched arm by the wrist with both her hands. Lightning crackled in both directions, trying to worm its way into the limbs of both combatants.

Kusuma’s hands began to blacken as lightning burned them from the inside out, but she only tightened her grip. “Your mixed cultivation certainly provides you an advantage against the water cultivators of the Shimmering Islands, but against those of pure air… it is a weakness.” With a sudden jolt, Evren fell to the ground. His external wounds didn’t appear to be much, but in that moment where he was stunned Kusuma flipped him onto his back, stomping onto his stomach, right over his dantian. Mixed air and water energy burst out, but without any control it merely caused a slight increase in pressure. “Another mistake you made was assuming you had nothing left to lose.”

“My life means nothing anymore,” Evren grunted. “Even losing my cultivation didn’t matter. Just kill me.”

“See, that’s the problem. Because you could have built up your clan again, if you put in some real effort. Obviously not through Bora’s line, but he was a pretty garbage son anyway. But now you’re going to have to watch as we dismantle your clan the rest of the way and invite all of your rivals to take whatever you had left after last time.”

Evren didn’t have any response except to slump further to the ground, unable to mobilize his body or make use of any spiritual energy.

—–

John almost cut off Evren’s head when he reached the surface and saw Ursel’s injuries. Matayal stopped him though, placing a hand on his arm even as his energy was gathering. “Was it a mistake…?” John asked. “Were we too lenient, somehow?” It had already seemed quite extreme to attack the Kartal clan directly after a couple incidents. Fully annihilating the Society of Midnight had been the only way to resolve a generations long conflict, and while the Kartal clan had worked with them it seemed like some amount of mercy was warranted.

“Perhaps the only mistake we made was not immediately hunting down Evren himself,” Matayal said. “I could have waited for him to return to the clan… or we could have tracked him down in the intervening time. Our actions were within reasonable standards, though.” John understood the implicit ‘for cultivators’ behind those words. As well as by the norms of the world. Actually destroying a clan or sect to the last person was only for extreme situations. There were a few ruthless groups that practiced it as the norm, but generally they didn’t last long- they would be eventually hunted down by a coalition of other cultivators fearing they might be next.

“So what should we do with him?” John asked.

“I’ll handle that,” Kusuma said. Her hands were bandaged, but even if she had the energy to attempt to conceal the true damage John would have known something was wrong by the very act. Kusuma was not in a good state- but it seemed like more than just one battle’s injuries. Perhaps he should have noticed sooner.

“I should be there,” John said. No doubt it would involve more killing, which outside of battle was always unpleasant, but he knew it was important. Especially after this happened. He was most upset by the triplets being attacked, though he knew that there had been some people who died. Their deaths would be honored, of course, but they didn’t have the same personal sting.

—–

Needless to say the excursion was no longer as appealing at the moment. While it was unlikely there would be any further attacks- the Kartal clan didn’t have any additional forces to speak of- there were too many injured, and sending them back alone or with minimal protection was inappropriate. John wasn’t in the mood to cultivate anyway, even if it was an effective location. He knew Matayal was just as angry as himself, though she seemed to be better at concealing it.

As they were making their way back to the ships, John was surprised that Tirto asked to speak with him in private. It was understandable that the triplets would want to talk, but Tirto generally preferred his mother. The subject wasn’t what John had thought it would be, however.

“That was pretty scary, huh?” he said. Tirto nodded. “I’m sorry I was late.”

Tirto shook his head. “It’s alright. Matriarch Kusuma came to save us. And aunt Crystin and the others helped too.” Tirto was clearly still emotional about the incident, clutching John from the side as they sat in the boat taking them away from the Kelp Spire Forest. “But I think Ursel hurts more.”

John was concealing their conversation- it was private after all- but he could see Ursel bundled up by herself. “She’s tough,” John said. “But it must be difficult to get hurt like that.”

“That’s not what I mean,” Tirto said. “She’s sad.”

“Because I wasn’t there?”

“She said… nobody needs her.”

That hurt more than the time John’s actual heart had been stabbed. “Did she really say that…?” Tirto’s slight nod was more than enough. John knew she’d been feeling out of place, but not this much. He’d assumed her willingness to sacrifice herself for her siblings had been bravery and love- and while those were still there, knowing that she felt less important put a whole new twist on things. He needed to talk with Matayal about this… but first he needed to talk to his daughter. “Thanks for saying something,” John ruffled Tirto’s hair. “Why don’t you go find your mother?” John knew he would need to speak to Melanthina as well, but he could only be in one place at a time.

Hopping from boat to boat was rather simple, and soon enough John was crouched down across from Ursel. “Hey there.” He received a noncommittal grunt from his bandaged and bundled daughter. The fact that she was conscious really spoke of how tough she was, but physical toughness wasn’t the only important one. “That was very brave, protecting your siblings like that. But you need to take care of yourself too.”

“Why?”

That single word twisted the knife in his guts. “Because we care about you. Me, your mother, Tirto and Melanthina, and many more of us.”

“But I’m not important.”

“Why would you say that?”

“I’m not an heir to either clan. I’m just an extra.”

The worst part of her words was that they were sort of true. Had John and Matayal had one child at a time, they would have stopped at two, precisely to avoid situations like this. There were other issues with only having a single potential heir, but theoretically with two either could have gone with either clan. But instead they had triplets with extreme elemental affinities that made it impossible to place them in any other positions. “You’re still my daughter. That makes you important. And being the heir to a clan comes with all sorts of problems. People watch you all the time for even a tiny mistake.”

“… I’m not even important enough for anyone to care about my failures,” Ursel sulked.

“What failures?” John asked. He was genuinely curious, because his daughter was quite talented.

“I can’t cultivate anything but earth. I tried darkness and water and air and fire and I can’t do any of them!” Ursel exclaimed.

“So?” John said. “You’re way stronger than I was at your age.” In either world, really. The Original Fortkran should have been studying the basics of cultivation, but he was instead wasting the options available to him. He didn’t even pick good leisure options.

“… But I’ll never be as strong as you now. I can’t do a cycle of elements in either direction. I can only cultivate earth.”

“Your mother is a pure water cultivator, and she’s just as strong as me,” John pointed out. “The same with Renato and Lucanus and many others. You don’t have to follow some weird path I thought might make me stronger.” In truth, the cycle of elements had been working out very well for John. He was almost certainly stronger than he would have been otherwise… and if he could manage to reach the Ascending Soul Phase, having not only the allied cycle of darkness but all four core elements would be a great boost in power. The fact that so many in the same generation could keep up with him was actually pretty impressive. Though most of those he was thinking of were reincarnated or transmigrated. Matayal just happened to have found the right path the first time. “Work with what you’re good at, and do it the best you can, and you’ll be someone amazing.” John grinned, “And if you want to run a clan you just have to found one. I could help you look for someone to marry if you want.”

Ursel snorted. “Uh… no thank you. I’m fine.” And she did seem better- though John doubted a single conversation would solve everything. “I’m tired,” Ursel said, closing her eyes. A moment later, she was asleep. John later carried her to her room on the actual ship, and if he was not a cultivator he wasn’t sure he could have. She wasn’t even a teenager yet, but her muscles and bones were dense- and the club Renato gave her didn’t make things any easier.

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