Truthful Transmigration 188

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Controlling the basic actions of carnivorous plants full of spiritual energy was manageable, but the way they were brimming with spiritual energy and imbued with intent if not consciousness made it more than just a casual process. He had to wrestle against them, but that was the whole point. It was a great way to improve his understanding and control of plant life, even if they were more exotic than most things he would encounter. By the time he had spent a month training with the Emerging Bamboo Sect, John found himself more than basically proficient with the control of plants.

He could make projections of them, too. That was the first demonstration of the sect’s abilities he had seen, and temporary constructs were usually all that he needed. He wasn’t quite certain if he was skilled enough to use them for the bursts of mobility or attacks that the sect did, but he could at least consider incorporating it. In a way, it was little different than the defensive spheres of water or shields of earth he conjured, rather costly but more durable and useful than simply using spiritual energy. At his current cultivation level, the expenditure for similar things was not overly burdensome- though of course proficiency with the technique always helped.

Ursel was already skilled enough to use them with higher efficiency, but it still tired her quickly at only the Foundation Phase. Both her storage and recovery of earth energy were limited simply by her time spent cultivating and her rank, but in the next years she should swiftly overcome that limitation. 

Time flowed swiftly, and soon enough it was time for John to say goodbye. “How is it, Ursel? Been having fun?”

“Yeah! Lots,” she nodded. “So many new things to learn, I want to know it all!”

“Everything, huh? That might take a while,” John smiled. “Make sure you train hard, Renato will tell me if you don’t!”

“I always train hard!” Ursel assured her father. “So you’re… really going.”

“You know I have things I must do. I can’t be in multiple places at once.”

“Why not?” Ursel asked.

“That’s just how things work,” John shrugged.

“Hmph. Aren’t you really strong? Just make it happen anyway! You told me that anything is possible with cultivation.”

“Maybe it is,” John admitted, “But everyone has limits. I might seem like I can do anything, but there are always limits.”

“Then just get stronger.”

“Well… I’ll certainly work on it,” John smiled. He didn’t intend to give his daughter’s words that much thought- they were spoken without understanding, after all- but he couldn’t help but at least consider what would be required to be in two places at once. A second body? He certainly didn’t have the expertise to form a functioning human body, let alone more troublesome things like a dantian or meridians. He could make a lump of energy that looked like him, but that wouldn’t really mean much. Nor did he imagine it could go far. No, it was a foolish idea… but it certainly would solve a lot of problems, being in more than a single place at once. That was a technique everyone could dream of, and if they’d actually accomplished anything like it they would surely be famous worldwide.

—–

Eventually John had to leave, taking the time of some of the disciples from the Order of the Amber Heart and the Emerging Bamboo Sect as they escorted him back to the port. It was still strange, to monopolize so much time for his safety. Even so, he recognized how important he was. He wasn’t just a politician with many friends and great wealth, but his personal power meant something. Being escorted by people weaker than him was rather entertaining in that light, but there were limits to how much one could do alone.

The lush plants of the Viridia Wildlands faded into the distance as John set off towards his next destination- it wouldn’t be for long, but he would be stopping by the Brandle clan. He wanted to at least see his wife for a few days, since he was passing by. That was a luxury of time he could afford.

—–

John was fortunate to find that Matayal had just returned from one of her training excursions, having brought along Tirto. The married couple took some time to themselves in the gardens, something they rarely had time to do since taking over greater responsibilities.

Even those moments of relaxation eventually turned to practical matters, such as establishing better communication between the clans. “Carrier beasts are reasonably swift, but can always be intercepted…” John shook his head. “When it matters, it becomes both expensive and insecure.”

Setting up a communication network like the Sunfields was impossible- not in any technical manner, but rather it required too much trust. It was basically an open signal anyone could look on in, passed from person to person repeatedly. The Stone Conglomerate was implementing something similar, but it was only to be used for dangers relevant to the area as a whole, intrusions of large groups of cultivators or beasts. Not that the Sunfields was much better in that regard, since even a powerful sect like the Golden Tomb Guardians had basically only been able to pass along basic information about John’s arrival, and maintaining any secrecy meant knowing a general message was to be expected. On the other hand…

“Perhaps ciphers of some sort,” Matayal stole the thought right from John’s head. “We already use some.”

“Certainly, as long as no one gains access to the decoding methods, or figures it out on their own. It’s not important now, but if we were at war and our codes had already been broken…”

“For the moment,” Matayal said, “Continuing to expand our network of reliable messengers should be sufficient.” There was a short time of silence before Matayal asked. “What else is on your mind?”

“Mostly stupid things,” John admitted. “Thinking about a technique to be in two places at once.”

“That sounds…”

“Impossible?”

“Like it would take many decades of study and practice to even gain a basic foothold,” Matayal concluded.

“That’s unexpectedly optimistic about the possibility,” John said.

“It would depend what you wanted, of course,” Matayal said. “But splitting up your power into separate portions might be possible.”

“Unfortunately,” John sighed, “If it took even close to that minimum time and dedication, I could barely even begin before what I would most use it for comes to pass. It still seems impossible.”

“That is because you are thinking like a Foundation Phase or Soul Expansion Phase cultivator,” Matayal said. “Neither we or our clans have significant experience with the Consolidated Soul Phase and beyond. This period of explosive growth is leading to many political complications that limit the time we would otherwise have to spend in training. Our grandfathers had years to spend contemplating training and techniques, but we’ve still barely started.”

“And yet… we’re more than halfway to the peak.”

“Only in terms of phases and ranks,” Matayal pointed out. “Time… now that’s a different matter. How many years before we reach the late Consolidated Soul Phase? How many more for the peak, and then to advance to the Ascending Soul Phase?”

“You sound quite confident that we can reach the next Phase,” John pointed out.

“Confidence is important… besides, we are still quite young. I know we can… unless there is something that stops us. It is not a matter of talent… but perhaps access to knowledge, resources, or something else. But if we do not encounter some such limiting factor or get taken down by jealous rivals… I do believe we can.”

“What about the Exalted Soul Phase?” John asked.

“You might as well ask any unknowable question. I have confidence, but even I can’t say anything to that regard. If either one of us were to reach that, we’d shatter more than just our region’s understanding, but that of the world as a whole.”

John nodded, “Well, I’m having enough difficulty with fire to begin with. I have no idea how I’ll manage light.”

“Of course not,” Matayal smiled. “At the point you truly understand the complete cycle of elements, anyone will look foolish for even imagining you couldn’t fulfill your ambitions.” She squeezed his hand, “I will support you every step of the way.”

He squeezed back, “I don’t intend to leave you behind.”

Later, they retired to their shared quarters, and John was glad they didn’t have to worry about having more children by accident. John wasn’t sure what he would do if his heart was tugging him into more directions at once.

—–

Though he desired every possible second with his wife, John didn’t forget to spend time with his son. Just because Tirto preferred his mother didn’t mean he didn’t need fatherly affection as well. The Brandle clan had water everywhere- in pools as well as the ocean not far away- and Tirto was always happy to spend more time in it. Apparently, he’d even done so much as to visit the depths, where John and Matayal had found themselves dragged.

“Did you see the sea god?” John asked.

Tirto shook his head. “Not quite. I visited your cave and went a bit deeper, but I’m not strong enough yet.”

“Good enough to support yourself there, though. That’s quite amazing for your age.”

“I know,” Tirto said, while managing to sound only a little bit arrogant. “Father… what about my sisters?”

“What about them?” John asked. 

“Are they doing well? We’ve been separated for training…”

“Well… Melanthina is… very stubborn. But her training with the Golden Tomb Guardians was going well.”

“I don’t understand why she would be so adamant…” Tirto shook his head. “I have trained with the Mulyani clan, and fighting against a dominating element is not pleasant. But beyond gaining proficiency, I found no reason to push myself further. I can’t imagine the opposite elements are more pleasant to experience.”

“They are not,” John confirmed. “It’s much worse than just fighting a dominating element, because both your enemy’s energy and your own fight against you. At least you can trust your energy to support you against air. Darkness against light… is less pleasant to handle.”

“I don’t know why Melanthina is so obsessed. It was just one loss. She was too arrogant to think that someone unknown couldn’t defeat her.”

John agreed but… “I wouldn’t let her hear you say that.”

“Of course not, father. I value my life, and the sanctity of my possessions while I am away from them.”

“Either way, Melanthina’s doing alright. Ursel… she actually seems happy, now that she has something new to learn. New experiences, and new paths of cultivation she hadn’t considered.”

“Happy?” Tirto nodded. “Good. She was… not her usual self recently.”

“I don’t know if she’ll fully be over things,” John admitted. “But at least it’s a step in the right direction.” He reached out to tussle Tirto’s hair- soaked by saltwater, of course. “Thanks for looking out for your sisters. You’ll see them again soon enough.”

—–

The next problem with communications, beyond figuring out how to do it, was getting permission for going through various territories. Whether they were hostile or not, planning any route that didn’t take the main roads turned into a hassle. Not that John handled all of those logistics on his own- but he did have to get involved in negotiations.

That was one of the various things waiting for him upon the return to the Tenebach clan, dealing with envoys from groups that always wanted more. Of particular annoyance were the growing Heavy Gold Mountain and the same Quartz clan from the tournament. They weren’t hostile, but they were expanding their influence in their own regions much like the Tenebach clan and Amber Heart were doing in Marble County and now beyond. For the moment it was not a concern… but eventually they would butt heads.

John preferred to do that with minimal bloodshed, but he also had to avoid appearing weak. With mere envoys, that was simple enough- displaying his cultivation was good enough to edge negotiations in his favor, unless they wanted to send a Consolidated Soul Phase leader to negotiate with John- in which case that was a sufficient show of face that he wouldn’t care too much.

Then there was the matter of the empowerment ceremony. John didn’t want to perform it for the next generation too early or too late. He would have to consult with Ciaritzal on that, when he returned… and that would also require planning around the downsides. It would be nice to go back to managing a burger restaurant instead of a clan, just for a few days. At least there nobody died if he did something wrong.

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