The roar of a single strike of lightning never seemed to end, the tremendous sound echoing off the waves and through the ship continued until the next strike took over. The respect John had for the storms of the Shimmering Islands was ever increasing with the intensity of the storm.
He went nearly sideways as the ship rocked, sliding into the corner of the floor and the door, then back towards the side with the small porthole. It was an interesting exercise in reorienting himself as everything shifted around him. If he was the version of himself on earth, he probably would have instantly fallen and hit his head in a violent accident.
Thoughts of watching the storm from up on deck briefly passed through his mind, but they never even got to the point of true consideration. Every sensible part of him instantly rejected the idea. There was no way he could avoid being flung into the sea, and even if he wasn’t the power of the lightning was too much. He felt it once more, closer.
John took a deep breath. Was he afraid? Should he be? He heard occasional cries from up above, but they were loud merely because of the roaring wind they had to combat and not panic. If the sailors weren’t worried, he shouldn’t be either. He couldn’t remain completely calm, but perhaps that would have been too much anyway. He needed to be on alert for what happened with the ship as it tossed and turned.
There was a moment when he couldn’t see or hear. His brain only realized later that it was flooded with light and sound as the ship was struck directly. He almost expected the ship to fall apart right then, as he felt the unfathomable amounts of air elemental spiritual energy. But of course, the ship wasn’t so weak as to be torn asunder by a single strike. The previously subtle defenses on the ship were awakened to full power, channeling the lightning around and through the ship.
As sight and hearing came back to John, there was only one response he could have. He waited for a lull in the swaying and tumbling of the ship before he stepped out into the hallway, firmly closing the door behind him. A few moments later, he was next to the contained portion of the lightning rod in the middle mast which pierced through the ship. Though it still had walls with defenses to prevent energy from moving through between him and it, this was the closest he could reasonably get to the lightning.
Another strike, away from the ship. The Wavecutter swayed side to side, and John thought it might have done a full rotation once. He ran around the surface of the hallway to keep himself oriented and used his energy to soften the impacts when he bashed into the sides. He knew he could strap himself in his room and be fine, but he wasn’t going to give up his chance.
A second strike, further. A third, closer once more. Then another bolt of lightning impacted the ship. John’s hair stood on end and his whole body tingled as the power channeled through the lightning rod next to him, the reinforcements and energy defenses between them merely dampening the power. John reached out with a tendril of earth, letting the escaped energy flow along the outside of himself back into the ship below. Earth was a conquering element to air, but he still needed to be cautious. He wouldn’t be taking such power into his body and especially not his meridians, not without much more experience. In the confines of the hallway, the echo of the lightning was muted but would have still ruptured his eardrums if they were undefended. He couldn’t see the lightning, as there were no windows.
He stood for a moment, letting the relatively small amount of air energy that got into the corridor settle down before catching it. It was no longer lightning or electricity at all, just free but wild energy. He carefully controlled it, containing it with his earth energy. It tingled inside him, but was only the smallest fraction of a fraction of the bolt that had struck the ship. Some fresh air entered the little elemental ecosystem he had in his dantian, and he practiced controlling it. It was easier than the fire by a long shot, though he was certain he couldn’t control much yet. He would need more practice to even have the smallest effect, but he wouldn’t have any significant capacity to use and store air energy until he had an aligned totem. Like the small fire inside him, he could only use it as a slight boost to cultivation and to acclimate himself to it.
He continued to feel the lightning as it flowed through the area nearby and occasionally struck the ship. He guided the portions that came into the hall around himself, trying different patterns and guiding it along longer paths. He knew electricity liked to travel along the path of least resistance, but actually creating that path wasn’t trivial. He could guide it outside of himself as long as it ultimately went downward towards the deck of the ship and the water below, or occasionally to the side.
It didn’t just flow along a single path, either. Lightning liked to fork, and the remnants shared that property. The current of electricity around him split down available paths. He could possibly force it into one by making that one the most attractive, but that meant potentially not covering his whole body in energy. He’d rather take things one step at a time and not end up in an early grave. Or any grave, really. Dying wasn’t a pleasant idea. He wasn’t sure if cultivators at the peak actually gained immortality, but it was certainly a tempting concept.
The exceptionally large storm eventually died down to a minor one and then nothing. John had expected to see some kind of damage from the storm, but everything looked basically pristine once he felt it was safe to go up on deck.
Captain Sohan grinned as he saw John. “Did you enjoy the Wavecutter’s specialty? Normally captains have to go around such storms, which can take days. That one, we probably saved two or three. It’s why the Tenebach clan chose this ship in particular.”
John nodded. He’d heard some of that before. “Are there any that you do have to avoid?”
“Oh, aye,” Captain Sohan folded his sturdy arms in front of him, “Nothing is invincible. Storm like that takes a lot out of this ship, besides. It can recharge with time, but for much more it needs expensive power sources. And a century storm will take out any ship not in a protected harbor. Even then, if the harbor isn’t properly ready the great storms will wipe out a good portion of them. Usually only happens when control of the port changes hands to someone new and a few decades pass without incident.”
“I’d almost like to see one of those storms,” John said, “Maybe when I’m stronger.”
“Hah! Ambitious one, aren’t ya. I’d say good luck to you then, though I’ll preferably be somewhere else.”
There were a few more minor storms and several days of full sun before they next reached port in Hanahi. Nothing came even close to matching the intensity of the big one. The port wasn’t a large one, but it was a good place to stock up on further supplies. The Wavecutter did its best to maintain a small supply of fresh food along with the more typical fare.
While the port itself was nothing remarkable, the island of Hanahi itself was a tropical paradise. John wasn’t sure if he’d ever been to a better beach in his life. The sand was soft and the water crystal clear with sea life of all kinds just off shore. The only complaint he had was that the sand on his bare feet was a little bit hot from the sun- a trivial complaint considering he had been to the Green Sands. Even the slightest intent to protect himself with his energy dealt with it.
The palms that lined the beach had no coconuts- either they weren’t in season or they were some other sort of palm tree. John didn’t care much either way, except for the possibility of one falling on his head. Apparently that was no joke, with what was basically a heavy rock falling from several stories up. He felt like they might grow even bigger here, but it might be offset by his own energy.
“What are you looking at?” Keahi asked.
“Just thinking about coconuts falling on my head,” John said. He didn’t actually know the word in the language of the current world for coconut, but he managed an approximation. Keahi gave him a local word once he described them. Interestingly enough, though naming conventions might differ significantly in each area, language was somewhat more standardized than on Earth. It wasn’t just one language, but the frequent travel of cultivators between areas spread a common language that a majority of people could speak, if not exclusively. “So… ready for that spar?”
“Right here?” Keahi asked.
“Seems good enough. We have earth and water. Unless you know of any pockets of darkness that like to develop along the beaches here, this is as good of a place as any. More interesting than flat terrain, too.”
“I agree,” Keahi answered. “Let’s get started then. I also want to spar with Crystin. I mostly just get to fight water element cultivators. Some change will be nice.”