Truthful Transmigration 120

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When John had first arrived in the world and begun cultivating from scratch, each rank had come quickly. Not only was he drawing upon memories of previous experience, but he had access to abundant spiritual energy. Each rank was also less impactful, but he rose quickly. It had only been a matter of months before he ‘returned’ to the boundary between Spiritual Collection Phase and Foundation Phase, a boundary he’d broken through quickly out of necessity in the Crystal Caverns.

During the duration of Matayal’s pregnancy- nearly eight months now- he had so far only advanced two ranks. More like one and a half, and he was currently at rank twenty-six. That was still quite rapid in the grand scheme of things, but it indicated he couldn’t expect to advance more than a couple ranks in the next year. That was ignoring the barrier between Soul Expansion Phase and Consolidated Soul Phase, and he absolutely had to consider that. Most cultivators in Marble County would never make it past that point, after all. That was why Johannes Dalen’s breakthrough had been a big deal, and why his own grandfather’s advancement was so important to the clan. 

The breakthrough was partly made possible by the first shard of Ciaritzal, the guardian beast, that John had happened to stumble across. Now that he’d gotten a second, future generations were liable to be more secure in their strength. It would be a decade at least before there was another empowerment ceremony, but even just being able to train in the cave was of great benefit to those who had the privilege.

John was one of them, of course. His personal affinity for the guardian beast made him quite comfortable, and his status in the clan allowed him access whenever he wished. Or at least, whenever he had free time- which was not the same. The Tenebach clan wasn’t a monolithic entity that required constant work to keep running, but there were decisions that had to be made. John’s father Gerben was taking care of much of the administrative side, but he still needed to know how it worked himself, and get some practical experience in the area.

For the moment, though, he had some free time to cultivate. Rather than increasing his rank, he was focusing on his totems. To fully implement his cultivation plan, he needed them to increase to the fourth level before he reached Consolidated Soul Phase. Though he could potentially attune to a higher tier totem for his fourth, keeping them all balanced had worked well for him so far and he didn’t want to break that cycle.

The darkness around him fed into the Tree of Darkness. It was now well beyond being a seed or a mere sapling. Its power synchronized with the other totems which he humbly called ‘Compost’ and ‘Atmosphere’. While they didn’t have the world-shattering impact of a mountain and a storm, as their power grew their meek origins didn’t reflect their true power. They were the basis for all forms of control over earth and air, and their power was in the synergy with his other totems. With the addition of the water element from Matayal, he had a full cycle of allied elements- darkness, earth, and water. Air also fit into that cycle, but it became somewhat lopsided. Though it could augment water as it fed into darkness and earth, it wasn’t the same as completing a full cycle of the core elements which also had to filter through fire.

Inside of John’s dantian there were no seasons, but there was a regular process of growth and decay, the trees leaves dropping to the ground to become soil, while its facsimile of photosynthesis in a world without a proper sun also augmented air. It functioned all on its own without John’s input, but when he was manually affecting things he could tweak the balance to be most optimal, as well as speeding the process. He was doing that now, pushing all of his totems towards the next tier. They already had much of the power they would have upon reaching that tier, but John knew the growth would be significantly more than just the few percent difference in growth between third and fourth tier. Even if it only made him a handful of percent stronger all at once, every edge mattered in battle. The chances of John not needing to fight more in the near future were zero- the Society of Midnight wasn’t just going to disappear, and while they were the Tenebach Clan’s most open enemy, any clan would have rivals.

If Matayal was around, John knew he could push his totems over the edge more quickly. But he was aware that relying on her water element would ultimately cause him trouble. Even if neither of them had any intention to be apart, and there was nothing wrong with relying on others… circumstances could force their hand. So while the idea of attuning to a fire element totem still floated around in John’s mind, he knew it wasn’t quite practical. He was sort of hoping for a good excuse to do it still, but his logical mind knew that the shortcut could have disastrous results if it didn’t work out. Being patient for nearly seven years had worked so far, and it was best to stick with it.


Healthy communication was important for relationships to last, and that went beyond just the personal level. Though ultimately, it was individuals who had to pass along the information, and more importantly request it.

“So just to be clear,” John asked. “The Brandle clan doesn’t have any sort of guardian beast or water element artifacts that are giving them a huge leg up in the Shimmering Islands, right?”

“Correct,” Matayal nodded seriously. “We’re a newer clan, after all. Our influence mainly comes from my grandfather.”

“And he’s stuck at the peak of Soul Expansion Phase…” John pondered. “That’s a bit of a problem. While the marriage alliance and our leadership should be strong enough to keep things together, I would rather we not end up with an imbalance of power that causes people to be resentful. Both of us have previously spoken with Netanel about it, but do you have any ideas that might help? Besides the freedom that would come from you taking over as clan head, of course.”

“I’ve had some ideas,” Matayal replied, “But nothing concrete yet. It does concern me as well. There’s potential for an alliance with the Mulyani clan, but with her having reached Consolidated Soul Phase as well that makes it all the more important for him to advance. That would do enough to solidify our position for a few generations, I think.”

“Given your grandfather’s nature, I expect that once we relieve the pressure of politics and give him some time to relax, he will likely advance without issue. Your own advancement would also do just as well to solidify your clan’s status.”

“But people would say it was because I married into the Tenebach clan for resources that I needed. And if we continue to travel back and forth, even irregularly, it would be better to have a beacon of strength at the clan at all times. But everything that involves my own action… kind of has to wait.” Matayal gestured to her belly. “It won’t be long now. I would prefer not to go galavanting off and leave our children behind, but the two of us will be more effective together, and some of the potential plans might require us in particular.”

John nodded. “Just keep me informed. Everyone will feel better when he’s gotten the opportunity to break through. Everyone we care about, anyway. Our various opponents will be significantly less thrilled, I’m sure.”

“How unfortunate to be our enemies in the coming days,” Matayal grinned.



“You’re a hard person to contact,” John commented to Steve. “Frankly, I’m surprised you got my message at all.”

“Yustina decided that she should show up back home at the Milanovics, and one of your messages reached me that way,” Steve nodded seriously. “So what’s this about a fancy headband?”

John held it up, dangling it from one finger. “Helps with overheating,” he commented. “And this can all be yours for the low, low price of bodyguard duty.”

“You do know me, right?” Steve asked. “That’s basically asking for something to go wrong.” He did look at the headband with interest though.

“All I ask is that you don’t burn down anything important,” John commented.

“Hey, I have better control than that…” Steve grimaced. “Unless things escalate significantly. But around here? Things look pretty solid.”

“They are, but you still need to be cautious. I’d be quite upset if you burned down a building on top of Matayal.”

“Ah, is she who I’m guarding?”

“This is where she’s staying,” John nodded. “We need you to guard for a few more weeks. Until she’s given birth, you understand.”

“I usually don’t stay anywhere that long these days,” Steve shrugged, “But for you? I think I can. But what about you?”

“Unfortunately,” John said. “I’ll be out of town for a while. I might not be back soon.” John pulled out an envelope. “If you need to contact me, you can open this.”

“Is this the kind of message that self-destructs after you read it?” Steve asked, “Because it feels like a secret message.”

“It kind of is, yeah. But it won’t destroy itself. Nobody else should be able to read it. For certain reasons I can’t leave information about my travels with the clan as a whole. My grandfather will be aware, but also not present.”

“Oof. That’s a lot of pressure on me,” Steve said.

“I believe you can do it,” John said. “You have all the right qualities, and I can trust you.”

“I’ll do it,” Steve nodded. John immediately tossed him the headband. “Ooh. Cold. That’s… unexpected?”

“I had the same reaction,” John nodded.

Steve tied it around his head. “Ah, I get it. Heat dissipation. That’s actually really useful.” He smiled, “Don’t worry, you can count on me here. Even without the headband but…”

“It’s best not to take advantage of friends,” John grinned back. “I think I might still owe you after this, but that should at least bring us closer to balanced.”


Being a guard was boring. At least Steve didn’t have to stand still in front of a door. He did that sometimes, but most of his time was patrolling the halls, or the outside of the living quarters. Only a few people were staying in the rooms other than Matayal, so it felt rather empty. Without John and his grandfather around, it was mostly John’s parents and a few elders. But Steve wasn’t responsible for any of them, but just the suite that John and Matayal shared.

Clan affairs were difficult. Steve had been lucky to stay out of them, but leaving a pregnant woman alone in her room during the last days of her pregnancy seemed wrong. What sort of important business could John be up to?

It didn’t help that Matayal wanted to be left alone, all locked up in her room. But it was just kind of pitiful. Even her spiritual energy felt weaker, from the snippets Steve could sense. He’d have to talk with John about this later. Sure, he wasn’t the one who was married… but he would have thought his transmigrated friend would have certain standards.

Steve didn’t know what he was watching for. Enemies of the clan, obviously, but who could get so far inside the clan? The answer to that came one night when Steve nearly ran into a woman sneaking through the corridors. She blended in with the shadows and carefully slipped out of his way, but Steve wasn’t the sort to do his guard duties half-baked. He had a cloak of heat around him, and when it was disrupted he knew someone was there. He hesitated for a second, as a darkness element cultivator might belong, but decided there was an easy solution. 

The corridor was filled with flames and light, piercing through the veil of darkness and revealing a woman. “What are you doing here?” Steve asked, blue flames licking up the walls around him. The woman was in late Soul Expansion Phase, similar to himself- and the fact that he didn’t recognize her made her position pretty clear.

Perhaps realizing an explanation wouldn’t help, the woman just sprinted past him, heading for the door to Matayal’s chambers. Not that it would open so easily for someone not authorized to enter, but left unchecked someone of that power could break through.

Blue flames followed her down the corridor in a calculated flow, rushing to cut her off at the door. A moment later, Steve had hemmed in the woman so that her easiest option was to face him directly. She cloaked herself in a swirl of darkness thicker but more obvious- he couldn’t tell her exact position, but that hardly even mattered. He just filled the area with flame and charged forward. A dagger thrust at him from the darkness but extending her arm away from her side left it vulnerable to the hungry flames.

Steve reveled in his new headband, as he might have already started overheating without it, with the surrounding walls reflecting the heat back to him. He and his opponent moved back and forth, testing each other. Steve knew he was stronger, and he also wasn’t concerned about drawing attention. Backup would be here in a few moments. He could afford to take his time… until another figure dashed towards the door.

That caused Steve to do something a bit excessive. He’d been holding back so that he didn’t burn down the structure- even reinforced it wasn’t made to withstand peak Soul Expansion Phase battles, and fire was catching all of the wooden parts of the structure, licking flames between the stones. For a moment he stopped considering not burning those things, and the force of his flames forced the woman back into her compatriot… and both of them were flung- on fire- into the suite where Matayal was staying. But at least it was a step better than it collapsing on top of her while on fire. That could still happen, but Steve was more worried about the two flaming darkness cultivators sprinting towards the back room. He chased after them without regard for the surroundings growing ever more on fire around him.

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