(Patreon) Truthful Transmigration 189

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The Tenebach clan had a number of income streams- hunting beasts, mining spirit stones, and businesses and trade throughout Marble County and beyond. As long as they were conservative with the mining, all of those were sustainable. Now that the clan had Consolidated Soul Phase members- and the overall cultivation and power had improved- they were pulling in greater quantities of resources. In turn, those resources were used to feed into that growth. It was a self-sustaining cycle, but there were limits to what the Tenebach clan could accomplish without taking risks.

Whether it involved moving on contested territory or striking out into dangerous but freely available domains, anything that could propel the clan to even greater heights would carry some danger beyond what was normal for the cultivation world. For the moment, John was content for the clan to settle into its new position instead of pushing too hard. Stability was more important than further bursts of growth, and though it could eventually lead to dangerous stagnation, that was more on the order of years and decades without growth. And it wasn’t as if the Tenebach clan wouldn’t be growing, just not as swiftly.

There was another matter he still had to consider, and with Melanthina returning from the Golden Tomb Guardians- along with Ciaritzal- he was able to at least consider preparations. After reuniting with his daughter, of course.

“Did the rest of your training go well?” He asked. There was confidence in how she stood, though that wasn’t exactly new.

“It went swimmingly father,” Melanthina’s eyes almost sparkled, even though as a darkness cultivator she would be the last to have something like that actually happen. “I am now ready to combat even the fiercest of light element foes! None shall stand before me!”

“That’s great,” John nodded, patting her on the head.

She gave a little snort of annoyance, but clearly wasn’t actually averse to the affection. “I am now ready to defeat… the one who was victorious over me in the tournament.”

“You don’t even remember his name?” John grinned.

“Of course I remember his name! And his stupid, smug face.” She crossed her arms, “I just didn’t want to sully my tongue with his stupid name.”

John was quite certain she remembered, given how many times she’d said it until now- intentionally or not. “I’m glad to hear you’re stronger.” It wasn’t just that her rank had improved- though she was now just short of reaching the late Foundation Phase- there was definitely more to it than that. And being so confident in going against a light element cultivator was encouraging.

“So, I’m ready,” Melanthina said.

“For what, exactly?” John probed.

“For… my next training excursion. Obviously I have to travel to the Prism Underfields, defeat Nik, and reclaim my honor!” Her face and tone were quite serious, but it was funny to see on someone who couldn’t even quite be called a young woman yet. 

“And what makes you think you’re going?” John asked.

“Well I… that’s what the training was for, right?”

“The training was to overcome your weaknesses,” John said. “If you get the opportunity to defeat a prior opponent, it’s worth taking… but do you really think I’d just send you off to the Prism Underfields?”

“… Why wouldn’t you?”

“There are a number of reasons. First, it would involve going through the Darklands and we’re still not on good terms with the factions there.” That wasn’t entirely true- and the Tenebach clan was actively planning to improve relations with more factions from the Darklands, now that they didn’t have to concern themselves with the Society of Midnight’s influence. “Then you’re just going to waltz through the Annihilation Strip and the Deadlands to end up in another light element country… one in which we have no allies?”

“Well I… I’m certain we could manage something.”

“And then you plan to humiliate a sect’s disciple while you’re there,” John finished.

“I doubt he’s important enough for anyone to care…” Melanthina grumbled. “He’s just a brat without any status!”

“Without any family, you mean. Because I imagine that a young teenage disciple who is in the Foundation Phase is worthy of status in pretty much any sect. Especially since he wouldn’t have had the same advantages you got.”

“Yeah but-”

“And though I’m sure you could beat him, no doubt he has been training as well. Things might not be as different as you think. Better to wait for the blessing ceremony and pull further ahead so you can make a good showing of it.”

Melanthina’s brow furrowed. “He’s just one…” she began to murmur below her breath- though that didn’t exactly make it secret. Then she shook her head. “I will consider your words. If you will excuse me, I must rest from the journey.”

John smiled. “Of course. Sleep well.” As she stepped out of sight, John made sure that someone would be watching to make sure she didn’t do anything stupid like slipping away to go on her own. 

Now, John would go seek out Ciaritzal, no doubt in his new ‘home’. The properly constructed tunnels were still filled with a pleasing darkness, without the discomforting unevenness and uncertainty of caves. While some measure of uncertainty might be useful for darkness cultivators, having it be intentional was the best.

Ciaritzal was found sprawled out in a vague pile of spirit mush. John wasn’t sure if he could even make out which parts would be which, if they even existed at the moment. The guardian beast had a powerful aura, but it felt… subdued, at the moment. “How was the trip?” John asked.

“Exhausting,” Ciaritzal said with a sigh. “Living in such a light tainted land, even with nightly reprieves from its fury, is more than I can bear.” Silence reigned for a few moments before he continued. “Traveling back with your daughter was also less than optimal. Our affinity is reasonable, but as she has not undergone the blessing ceremony it is not… optimal. The carriage was not any better.”

“Sorry to hear that,” John said. “Still, did you find your spars with Cuah’arn worthwhile?”

“Certainly,” Ciaritzal’s smile was evident in his voice, if not his insubstantial face. “Though I suggest that next time, the Golden Tomb Guardians come to us. It will be more appropriate, as we don’t even have relentless darkness beating down on people above ground.”

“Fair enough,” John nodded. “Speaking of that ceremony… I have been thinking about it. I figured we should make use of it within the next few years, though it would be nice to be able to plan for what happens. I’m not quite certain how much the cultivations of myself and the others will drop…”

“Ah, I understand,” Ciaritzal shifted and reformed into a standing state. “You forget that I have been restored to my undamaged form. In addition to your control and greater personal power… any setbacks will be minimal for you and the others.”

“That’s… good news, actually.” He had been concerned that perhaps he might drop from mid Consolidated Soul Phase to early… or perhaps even back into the Soul Expansion Phase. “You mentioned… myself and others. What about you?”

“I will give up part of myself… but it is not damaging. I will be more powerful when it is returned with interest.” Ciaritzal paced around the room, bare except for a few piles of pillows that the guardian beast requested. “I can offer more of myself this time in exchange for your assistance recovering myself… and when the younger generation returns my gift in a decade or two, they will still be more powerful than they would have been otherwise.”

“That seems like a significant time to be weakened…” John frowned.

“Try missing parts of yourself for over a century,” Ciaritzal said. “You will find that a few decades becomes insignificant. And… I shall still be able to grow during that time.”

“But you won’t be comparable to the Ascending Soul Phase, I imagine.”

“I will not,” Ciaritzal confirmed. “So I would suggest not making enemies that attack the heart of your clan. Though perhaps that should be the case at all times.”

“I would prefer nobody try to wipe us out, yes. So about the timing… when would be optimal?”

“For who?” Ciaritzal questioned. “For the clan as a whole… or for your daughter?”

“Is there a difference?” John asked.

“Some. There are many of your clan who could make optimal use of the blessing now… but splitting it up over different time frames will dilute the effect. Perhaps at some point we could establish a regular schedule or five or ten years… but these longer stretches of time are also good. But your daughter is not quite ready, I think. Perhaps a year, maybe two or three.”

“I don’t suppose you could wait for just her? I remember you did it with just me…”

“You were an exception,” Ciaritzal stated. “And there are others in your younger generation of similar age to Melanthina. All waiting will restrict some, but advantage others. It would not look well upon the clan if you were too… particular.”

“Fair enough,” John agreed. “Then we shall wait. If you can keep me informed of your estimations, I would appreciate it.”

“Of course. Oh, and I would begin preparing some darkness infused catalysts. If you are concerned about the older generations’ cultivation, best to expend some material resources to ensure optimal results. Your skills at channeling the energy might indeed suffice, but a little caution would not be untoward.”

—–

Most spirit beasts were quite unlike Ciaritzal and Cuah’arn. The majority were simply animals with some level of cultivation, and while that cultivation might bring increased intelligence it didn’t bring them the level of sapience the two guardian beasts had. Perhaps even classifying both groups as spirit beasts had gone too far, because some were without a traditional physical form.

Regardless, no matter what type, powerful spirit beasts were valuable. Those with physical form were excellent materials, hides and claws tempered to match the finest manufactured materials. Insubstantial creatures were used as sources of power- either willingly or unwillingly, with Ciaritzal having experienced both.

The power and value of any particular spirit beast was closely tied to its age- it was possible for them to grow old and decrepit even with cultivation, but up until that point their value only increased. It was one such beast that drew the attention of the Tenebach clan, a Shadowhawk with feathers as dark as the night- they would be valuable for any number of purposes.

The estimated power of the creature was equivalent to the Ascending Soul Phase- more or less equivalent to Ciaritzal. That was why the information on it had come to the Tenebach clan instead of the creature being hunted by someone else. A mixture of Consolidated Soul Phase cultivators and Soul Expansion Phase backup could certainly defeat such a creature, but without vast numbers and sacrifices a Consolidated Soul Phase cultivator would be required. 

Aydan would be coming along as well, and a dozen individuals in the late or peak Soul Expansion Phase. Bringing any more could potentially slow their travel, and it would certainly make them even more obvious. As it turned out, this particular creature was in the Darklands- at least according to many maps. It was on the eastern edge where it bordered the Stone Conglomerate, the Green Sands, and the Wuthering Steppes.

Such border regions contained less concentrated elements and thus were mainly unclaimed territory. At most they could expect patrols of vaguely nearby sects or clans, but it was unlikely they could or would stop their group from passing through the area. Nobody wanted to risk their lives fighting against strong opponents that weren’t even threatening any locals. The time that John had led an army into the Darklands was obviously different, with people staying out of his way more because they couldn’t do anything than not wanting to.

Avoiding the patrols would still be valuable, not necessarily because of danger but because they might realize the target- and others in the Darklands might be looking for the Shadowhawk as well. The same information might have also been sold to them- the only requirement was that the information on such things be accurate. As long as the creature was in the stipulated area and alive and well to the informant’s knowledge, nobody would have a right to complain if the same information was sold to others. The Tenebach clan hadn’t been given the option for exclusivity, so no doubt others did have such information. 

Which was why they were moving swiftly but with as much stealth as they could maintain. The information was still fresh, and they would want to be the first ones to find the prize… instead of arriving too late.

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