“You’re crazy,” Nilima gave her professional opinion on Barrett’s planned course of action, “But if you’re going, I am too. I can’t just sit around doing nothing forever.”
Barrett tried to think up a good reason to keep her from coming, but he couldn’t. At the moment, she was certainly stronger than him… and while he might be particularly suited for what he was attempting, the fact that he hadn’t quite recovered his fifth tier cultivation meant she would still be just as effective. Then there was the other thing. Why would he not want her to come? She was useful. Sure, her life might be at risk… but not any more than if she was still wandering around challenging people to fights. Barrett knew she must have made some enemies during her time travelling. If he wanted her to stay around to be his ally later, he needed her around now as well. “That’s fine. I don’t think it will be very beneficial to you, though.”
She shrugged, “There’s training in any difficult situation, right? I feel like not being crushed to death by mercury probably has some training potential.”
“More for me,” Barrett shrugged. “But that’s not the point of the trip.”
The point was to find living metal. And where was the most likely place to find it? At the bottom of the Metal Sea. It might have been fairly obvious, but it would also be rather obvious why it might still be there. Arriving at the bottom of the Metal Sea was… difficult. Alive or not. Of course, if there were significant quantities of living metal, grandmaster metal cultivators would have already found them in all the known metal seas. Though there weren’t any known grandmasters around the Southern Metal Sea, some of the others were rather more powerful. That didn’t mean there wouldn’t be any living metal, just that it wouldn’t come in large deposits. At a certain point, grandmasters had better things to do than scouring the bottom of a sea… and certainly more pleasant ways to spend their time.
Barrett had been in the metal sea once, when he was third tier… but saying he’d gone to the bottom would have been a lie. He’d barely been inside the mercury layer, which while it was the lowest layer was also the largest. Above that was a relatively small layer of gallium, with caesium and rubidium up above, then a small steam layer below the ‘normal’ seawater.
Even where he’d been he’d felt crushing pressure… and while he felt fairly confident in his ability to swim to the bottom of a normal sea, mercury was much denser… and thus at every depth it would be more than ten times as much pressure. Thus, being at the bottom of a deep sea trench might be about ten kilometers… which was roughly equivalent to being 1 km under mercury. At least, in terms of pressure. That wasn’t the only problem… but while the deepest points of the Southern Metal Sea weren’t quite known, at certain points it went deeper than a kilometer. That was old knowledge- nobody in the most recent generations had tested it after their conflicts and loss of power. It probably wouldn’t change much, but the point was it was only vague information to begin with.
If they hadn’t been cultivator clans, the Kaylani clan and Anakoni clan would have been too far apart to work together. As it was, they’d started expanding into the northwest part of the metal sea between them.
When Barrett and Nilima arrived at the Anakoni clan’s main house, Kail introduced Maleko to them. His son was still very young, but very mobile for his age of one and a half years. “I can’t wait to see what cultivation method or methods he chooses… but that’s still a long way away. Well, I should go get ready so the four of us can head out.”
“Four of us?” Barrett raised his eyebrow and looked down at the tiny Maleko.
“What, you think Kaylani is going to let me out of her sight again?” Kail raised an eyebrow. “Besides, she’ll certainly be more useful than me in this excursion.”
There wasn’t much way to argue that. Kail would likely do fine in the metal sea, but Kaylani’s abilities with metal extended beyond herself for a significant distance. Barrett at most had some experience with earth magic he could use to find his way around somewhat under the sea… because he certainly wouldn’t be using his normal senses. Even if opening his eyes wouldn’t be a terrible idea, there wouldn’t be any light. That was true even after a short depth in water- it would be even more applicable in liquid metals.
Kaylani and Kail said their goodbyes to Maleko- he had many people who would be watching after him, including his great-uncle Makana and realistically the entire clan. He was used to them traveling, so he only complained a small bit about not being able to see them for a while.
Barrett took a deep breath. “Ahh. I’d almost forgotten this smell. Deep, acrid, corrosive.” He nodded his head, “It’s many times more than that river you have up north.”
“It’s terrible,” Nilima commented, “You were breathing this at second tier, Kail?”
He shrugged, “And first, technically. I am a metal cultivator, and the Anakoni clan’s techniques actually do very well in this environment. That doesn’t make it exactly pleasant though.”
Nilima sighed, “I can’t imagine actually breathing this without filtering it. This will be an awful trek. So, where do we start?”
Kail shook his head, “Honestly, anywhere. There’s unlikely to be anything of interest before the mercury layer, but most people just avoid the sea itself entirely. Or they dive down for a few scoops of mercury…”
Barrett had helped the Kaylani clan secure a metal spring of mercury… and while there were basically unlimited amounts in the sea itself, that was still a significant thing to have. After all, their clan only had a few masters- though they’d been training more. Anyone below the level of a master would be significantly damaged from the attempt, and it wasn’t easy to transport anything. The Metal Sea wasn’t kind to anything that entered, including magic bags- even fortified ones.
Barrett dipped his toes into the sea. “Yep, still hot. Well, let’s get started.”
Kail nodded, “It’s best if we spend several days getting used to reaching the mercury layer, and then getting used to the increasing pressures. While we can walk down now, we probably also want to practice diving- and ascending. We’ll need to practice knowing how much effort it takes to return to the surface.”