Truthful Transmigration 133

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It would be easy for John to find a number of people willing to be spies if he went to the Darklands. It would also be easy for him to be killed. Since dying wasn’t exactly on the top of his list, he was going with more indirect methods. That also meant not sending anyone directly connected to the Tenebach clan. It was a pain, but not really any worse than what the Society of Midnight had to do in the Stone Conglomerate.

Though it might be obvious, it would ultimately come down to merchants or someone similar. The Tenebach clan didn’t have enough influence to get more than information from the Darklands, but that would be sufficient since they weren’t interested in going on the offensive. Fighting an unknown number of Consolidated Soul Phase cultivators and possibly other sects in the Darklands? Absolutely not worth the possibility of resolving the issues. The conflict was something they would have to live with for the moment.

Being clan head was uncomfortably restrictive. John was able to personally affect only problems in or near Marble County, sometimes throughout the greater portions of the Stone Conglomerate, but rarely elsewhere. That meant meeting with potential partners for alliances and intimidating those who would be enemies. 

In exchange, the Tenebach clan was able to leverage his grandfather Luctus’ power more freely. Though he similarly spent most of his time near the clan, he was able to lead people further afield. He was still a valuable asset to the clan, but that was precisely why he would go himself. The personal power of a Consolidated Soul Phase cultivator was several times greater than a late Soul Expansion Phase cultivator. The Tenebach clan also had other members growing in strength, even the older generation due to the success of the reverse empowerment ceremony returning the donated portions of their talent back to them.

—–

Luctus surveyed the spirit darkness mine, formerly owned by the Chist Mining Company. It was a bit of good fortune that had fallen into the Tenebach clan’s hands, despite being used as a point of ambush. The mining company had involved themselves deeply enough that they had no excuse for the attack when it was repelled- or actually overturned, with them and the Society of Midnight losing the battle. The Society of Midnight even lost Consolidated Soul Phase cultivators.

Luctus smiled at the memory. His grandson was a significant part of that battle. He hadn’t single handedly defeated a Consolidated Soul Phase cultivator, but that wasn’t as important as that he orchestrated the event. A transmigrator in the clan had heralded big change in the clan’s future, and fortunately it had so far been for the better. If not… well, small differences could have led to the clan’s disaster. They almost had to kill their own heir and wait for another to grow up.

That was where the policy of having only a single child in the main line had failed them. However, not having siblings struggling for power was also key to their success so far. It wouldn’t do much good for the clan to have a schism every three or four generations. External conflict was a powerful enough driving force.

There had been a small hiccup with that regarding the triplets, but their clear affinities resolved it right away. It was unfortunate for Ursel, but she would not be inheriting leadership of either clan. Then again, perhaps she was the lucky one. After all, she would have the support of two clans without the direct responsibilities. But that was all far in the future.

The foreman happened to be outside the mine when Luctus was looking for him, saving him the wait. Entering the mine while it was in operation would only get him in the way. “Hello there,” Luctus greeted the foreman, Janfried. “How go the operations?”

“Patriarch,” the man bowed his head in greeting. “Unfortunately, output has been a bit lower than expected.”

“Any issues in particular?”

“Certain predictions were simply overeager,” the man admitted. “The operations took some time to get going, certain areas weren’t optimally productive… but I can say that it is still quite profitable.”

Luctus spent some time going over the records and talking with the foreman, as well as a few workers. It wasn’t that they didn’t trust them, but occasional inspections were worthwhile to let them know people were watching. And for those outsiders with their eyes on it, his presence was a useful deterrent. Even if he was only there occasionally, reminding people the consequences of crossing the Tenebach clan was worthwhile. 

—–

Over in the Brandle clan, Matayal found herself glad that her grandfather Netanel was good with the children. The easygoing version of him was her favorite, rather than the focused political version of him. He was also able to wrangle the kids when they got in trouble, or preferably before it.

The advice of Kusuma was a great help to Matayal as well. Advice on the kids was one thing, but her experience leading the Mulyani clan was more valuable. Obviously Netanel could help her there, but his experience didn’t quite cover what Matayal had to deal with.

The Brandle clan did their best to maintain good relationships with those in the surrounding area, and especially those from Pualani. Not all of their neighbors were exactly friendly, but everyone still attended the same formal events. It was better to at least make a show of unity for the sake of outsiders. 

Matayal found such events as dull as her husband John said they were, but she was better suited to put up with them. Maintaining polite formalities while keeping her face neutral was her default state. She’d only opened up to express more of her emotions around her husband. Meanwhile, real emotions were unnecessary here. She still had her opinions, of course, but her face was as blank as a calm sea.

She found herself mingling with some of the women, exchanging stories. Many were mothers, so they could at least relate to their children being rascals sometimes… if not to their ability to utilize spiritual energy. The latter part was a secret anyway, though it was doubtful that it was completely unknown. People always talked. 

It wasn’t just womanly chatter, either. There was talk of alliances and falling outs both on and off the island. That was especially interesting as not all of it was knowledge that could be found elsewhere. There was always interesting gossip to be found among women, and if that was what they enjoyed… Matayal figured she would take advantage of it. 

But that didn’t mean she wasn’t listening to the men at the same time. They liked to think they were subtle with their whispers, but they were like fish splashing around on the surface. 

“… seem to be having some trouble. Can’t believe the Brandle clan is run by a woman.”

Matayal’s ears perked up at the mention of herself and the clan. She recognized most of those present, but the one of most interest was Nurul Purunomo. He was an older man and the head of one of the other clans.

“Indeed,” Nurul commented. “It does seem suspicious that the patriarch is never seen in public. And this new clan head? She forced her way into the Consolidated Soul Phase and thinks she’s one of the elite.”

“… had you heard about that one Matayal?” one of the woman was asking.

Matayal held up a finger. “If you’ll excuse me for a moment. I have something to deal with.” She turned and began to walk towards the men.

Nurul Purunomo had some reason to be confident in himself. He was one of the few Consolidated Soul Phase cultivators in the area, after all. But that made things more convenient for Matayal. She walked directly towards him, through several other groups that hurried to step out of her way.

“Excuse me,” Matayal said politely. “I heard you talking, and decided I would give you one opportunity to get on your knees and apologize.”

“What for?” the man raised an eyebrow. “Everything I said was-”

Her palm struck his chest, sending him rocketing into a nearby pond hard enough to strike the bottom. Despite his casual attitude he hadn’t been careless enough to not raise his defenses when an angry woman walked towards him. He’d just been too slow to do anything but absorb the impact. 

A moment later he came rushing out of the pond… or perhaps it was more accurate to say with the pond. “You dare to attack me?” The entire body of water rushed with him as he thrust a spear towards Matayal. 

Instead of drawing her own weapon she kept her hands free, spinning them around the length of the spear and entangling it by her side. The force of the crashing water was redirected to swirl around the two of them as they wrestled for control over it. 

Matayal grit her teeth as she channeled her spiritual energy through her totems. All of them were primarily water element, but each had at least minor traces of other elements. Her first totem, Mist, commingled with darkness quite happily. She knew she was going to marry the heir of the Tenebach clan, after all. Of most use at the current moment were her third totem. The third was a Stormcloud, incorporating elements of air. As air dominated water it was inherently difficult for her to control that portion of it, but dual cultivation had allowed her to experience John’s air element and learn how to react to it. 

Electricity flowed through the spear and the water between the two cultivators. It was only a small amount, but it was enough to disrupt Nurul’s control for a moment. She twisted the spear out of his grasp in the same way she took control of the waters surrounding them. Quick thrusts with the weapon stabbed into the man’s hips and shoulders. None of the attacks were lethal, but she followed up with a stab to his gut just to show she could attack wherever she wanted.

With a sweep she hooked his knee and sent him sprawling onto his rear as she sent the water back towards the pond, releasing her grip around the man. “Tell me now. Who is the one that forced their way into the Consolidated Soul Phase? Is it you, old man?”

He glared back at her. “A single sneak attack doesn’t mean you are stronger than me.” As he leapt to his feet to charge her, she spun the spear. It wasn’t meant to be used as a bludgeoning instrument, but it came down over his head with the exact right amount of force to crack his skull and snap the spear in two at the same time. It wasn’t her weapon after all.

Nurul fell back to the ground, where Matayal stabbed the tip of the half spear between his legs, stopping just short of the permanent damage she was threatening. Then she spun around. “I apologize for the interruption. Everyone can go back to their chatting now,” Matayal smiled. This was what Kusuma had told her. Despite the marginal differences between men and women who were cultivators- differences that practically disappeared by the Foundation Phase- some men had it stuck in their head that women were inferior. Even now Nurul was probably consoling himself that she cheated somehow. But a devastating defeat would let people know she wasn’t to be trifled with. “Oh right, before I go…” she turned back to Nurul. “If the Purunomo clan’s apology gifts are insufficient, I’ll be cutting off your… future generations.”

She strode her way back towards the bundle of women she’d been previously interacting with. There were a few moments of blank stares. 

Then Matayal leaned close. “So who did you say was cheating on their wife? I’d like to hear about it.”

A pause. Then one of the women grinned. “Well, this is just a rumor mind you but…”

The host of this particular gathering was no doubt going to be upset at the battle, regardless of Nurul deserving it. But the Purunomo clan would be paying for it, one way or another. Could things escalate to a war? Theoretically, but it was unlikely many would stand on their side. The most they could do was wave their arms and threaten. And if it came down to it, either Matayal or Netanel could kill their patriarch and clear up a little room on the island.

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