Upon realizing what had been happening, John knew he had to take advantage of the situation while Deirdre was still confused. If this had been her for a longer period it was a bit of an intrusion of privacy, but if it was a new person in there then they needed to know that. Transmigrators should be people like anyone else, and trusting them incautiously would be a mistake.
“What killed you?” John asked in English. “Car crash? Heart disease?” John wasn’t actually sure what the top causes of death were, but he just wanted to keep this person off guard. “For me it was a car crash.”
“… I think it was a big light explosion?” Deirdre frowned. “But that doesn’t make sense. Is this heaven? How do I know you?”
“It’s not heaven,” John replied. “As for the latter, I believe we’ve technically never met. I’m John,” he extended his hand. “Nice to meet you.”
“Same here,” not-Deirdre said. “I’m… Deirdre?”
“Try the other one,” John said.
“Nice to meet you, Odette.”
“Why is there a bird made of light and a spooky black thing?” she said looking around.
“You died and came to another world that basically has magic,” John explained.
“Fortkran…” Cuah’arn appeared to be getting impatient.
“Sorry,” he replied to her. “It appeared that Deirdre died.” He had to assume that conversation on this side would be understood by Odette despite her disorientation, but that was just how things would have to be.
“I must admit,” Cuah’arn replied, “I am used to those who are dead being less… active.”
“I believe I understand what is going on here,” Ciaritzal replied. “You will need to take a closer look.” He looked to John, who just shrugged. He wasn’t sure if Cuah’arn knew his secret, but it wasn’t a terrible concern if it was revealed.
One of Cuah’arn’s great feathered wings rested lightly atop the head of ‘Deirdre’. The connection between the Golden Tomb Guardians and Cuah’arn was not quite the same as the Tenebach clan and Ciaritzal, though perhaps it was going to be that way now that Cuah’arn was healthy.
After a few moments, Cuah’arn withdrew. “I see.”
“See what?” Odette asked, finally speaking in the local language. “I don’t understand what’s going on.”
“It’s just what I said before,” John explained. “You’re just in someone else’s body now.” Cuah’arn seemed to be taking it as well as expected for someone who had asked John to save a disciple.
“She died…” Odette hugged her legs against her. “… why does everything hurt?”
“Your meridians are not in a great state,” John explained. “I’d suggest slowly cultivating to repair the damage.”
“Cultivating? Like… farming?”
“Just think about it,” John said. “The information should come to you.” John had a significant amount of time alone when he came to, so he’d figured this out on his own. This seemed significantly more stressful, but beating around the bush probably wouldn’t have helped.
Odette closed her eyes, and John could feel her slowly begin to circulate what light element was left inside her. Cuah’arn covered her, providing a steady trickle of energy that she would otherwise be unable to obtain much of in the Stone Conglomerate. After half an hour or so, she stopped.
“Thank you for mentioning that,” she said. “I feel a bit better. This feels like a dream, though.” Her eyes looked up to the large glowing bird looming over her, which was hopefully more comforting for her than it was for John.
“I can assure you that it is real,” John replied. “Though another person that speaks English seemed a little unlikely.” This would really spark some theories in the Club.
“… what should I do now?” she asked, looking between John and Cuah’arn.
“Cultivation is quite fulfilling, if dangerous,” John said. “Though not cultivating in this world might be more dangerous. It’s hard to say. Either way, I’m certain Cuah’arn can aid you…” He was hoping so, at least. Not that he was worried about the spirit beast’s capabilities, but rather her willingness.
“Of course,” Cuah’arn said. “We still desire you to be part of the sect.” That was surprisingly easy- then again, cultivators were generally practical. It made sense that spirit beasts would be the same. Deirdre was dead, why not have someone replace her? Though John was unsure if there had been some deeper connection between the two. With him and Ciaritzal, they’d only met in the formal capacity and Fortkran had been terrible. “I will handle things from here,” Cuah’arn turned to John. “Thank you for your assistance. If she has trouble adjusting, I may ask for your assistance… John, was it?”
“You picked out my name among everything else? I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised.” John inclined his head.
“I didn’t feel any change in you…” Cuah’arn said. “I assume it was before we met?”
Ciaritzal answered that one. “The previous one was quite intolerable. Fortunately, it has been many years since anyone had to deal with him.”
“We shall be off now,” Cuah’arn said. “I hope you do not have problems with heights.”
With that, Deirdre or Odette was lifted up by Cuah’arn’s talons slipping around her shoulders, and they flew off. The woman being carried was momentarily surprised, but seemed not too afraid. Then again, they were hardly close long enough for John to get a good sense.
“This complicates things,” Ciaritzal said.
“It sure does,” John nodded. “But, if we can remain allies… it should be fine.”
Ciaritzal grinned, the silhouettes of his teeth uncomfortably visible from a side angle. “If I need to fight Cuah’arn again, my advancement should make it a good showing.”
With that complication out of the way, John was able to return to dealing with the other complications in his life. He would have to eventually inform the club of Odette’s existence, though whether she remained anonymous or was invited to join them was ultimately going to be up to how she adapted. With another person speaking English, it was almost guaranteed that people were being pulled from Earth, though in what quantity it was hard to say. If there were too many transmigrators it would likely become obvious, but a handful or even a few dozen throughout surrounding countries wouldn’t be totally disruptive.
What was disruptive was children. John loved his children very much, but sometimes they could be disruptive. They were growing up so fast, and while that did mean they were becoming more mature… it also meant puberty. That meant the children being able to get into new varieties of trouble if he and Matayal didn’t properly guide them, but at least it also meant that Ursel wouldn’t be sneaking around as easily. Though she’d already stolen a full set of materials for Diamond Defense, so anything further would just be because she liked the crunch.
Though she didn’t really need to steal anything. The more time passed, the more resources were being set aside for training up the young master and young mistresses. There was only a single matter of concern, which was Ursel herself. The clans were splitting the costs there, but she wasn’t going to become clan head of either. She wasn’t interested in joining the Order of the Amber Heart, either.
Oh, she was glad to train with Renato- at ten years old she and the others were now in the Foundation Phase despite the caution put forward in training them. She could bash a stone club into the floor and cause earthquakes better than pretty much any member of the Order a decade older than her. She was only slightly limited by her still growing body, but spiritual energy made up the bulk of a cultivator’s power.
Yet despite her success in that area, she wasn’t interested in joining the Order. “Dad! I want to train with you!”
If anyone was allowed to be informal, it was the triplets- though the other two usually still kept some amount of formality on account of their future duties. Tirto was just that polite, and Melanthina chose her words carefully to get the effect she wanted.
“Of course you can train with me,” John said. “Though I have to say I’m nowhere near good as Renato is.”
“Not with earth!” Ursel folded her arms. “Darkness! … And without Melanthina, because she’ll make fun of me.”
John frowned, “Why do you want to train darkness?”
“Because uh, um… I want to… diversify my abilities?”
John wanted to make fun of her for using a ‘fancy’ word like diversify, but he had to respond seriously to the rest. “That could be useful, but you have such a great affinity for earth I don’t know if you’ll get much out of it.”
“That’s what mom said about water!”
“And?” John waited for an answer.
“… I learned some.”
“Did you now. Show me.”
“Well, uh… it wasn’t anything impressive, really. Not like Tirto.”
John held out his cupped hand, filling his palm with water. Terribly inefficient compared to just finding some already around, but it was more expedient. “Go ahead.”
“Well… okay.” Ursel stepped forward. A year or two before John would have had to bend down for her to see into his palm, now she was just a bit taller than a comfortable position to hold it. She furrowed her brow in concentration, slowly drawing some water element from the air to power her efforts. She didn’t store any, unlike John- though she didn’t have a totem for it, so it was quite reasonable. Slowly, the water in John’s palm climbed up to form a spike of ice. “See?”
“Pretty good,” John nodded. “It’s difficult to control an element without a totem.”
“Yeah…” Ursel said. “Anyway, teach me darkness!”
“Certainly,” John said. “We can go to the tunnels.”
Ursel grabbed John’s sleeve as he began to turn. “Can we… not?”
“Why not? John said. “Somewhere with the greatest amount of the proper energy will be easiest.”
“Because… Melanthina will be there. And Ciaritzal might tell her if she’s not.”
“I see,” John nodded. “Then, to my personal training room.” It was not the same room from before- that room now belonged to Melanthina, as the young mistress of the Tenebach clan. Besides, a room that only condensed darkness was no longer optimal for John’s needs.
The room needed no adjusting for them- unless specifically tuned to something else, darkness was the natural state for the training room, the energy coming up from the constructed tunnels where Ciaritzal now lived. John slowly began to guide Ursel on controlling darkness, guiding her through absorption and control.
Ursel was attempting to concentrate the darkness into a smaller area, instead of being diffuse and ineffective. Otherwise, anyone could just see through it- or ignore whatever other effects it was controlled to make. John could see the concentrations changing, but at the point it almost became useful even in a small area, Ursel’s control slipped and the energy scattered around the room. “I’m terrible,” Ursel said. “Useless.” She was on the verge of tears for some reason, so John wrapped an arm around her.
“Don’t worry, you’re a great cultivator. Most people haven’t even started at your age. And nobody’s good at everything.”
“… you are,” Ursel said. “You can control every element and I can only do one.”
“First of all,” John said, “You’re already better at earth control than me. I just have a higher cultivation. And my fire control is pathetic, with light being… even worse. There’s more than just the elements, too. I’m not particularly good with weapons, just ask swordmaster Brage.”
“You’re way stronger than him though,” Ursel shook her head.
“Only because I have more power. If we were close in power, he would beat me.”
“But you aren’t. You’re stronger than everyone.”
“Everyone?” John raised an eyebrow. “What about your mother, or Renato?”
“They don’t count.”
“There are many others in the Consolidated Soul Phase,” John said, “And not all of them are our allies. Your natural affinity for earth is high, and Renato said your weapons skills are improving quickly. Not just the stone club, either. What’s wrong with focusing on what you’re good at?”
“… I didn’t get to choose.”
“Most people don’t,” John said. “They’re limited by what techniques they can get, and their country of origin.” He also wanted to mention there were other areas where people didn’t get to choose. Like Tirto and Melanthina didn’t have a choice but to take over the clans. That was for later, though. Comfort for now, practicality later.