In Fortran Tenebach’s private training room, John slowly and deliberately swung his sword back and forth in front of himself. He’d thought Gravity Blade would have a better pulling ability when mixing in earth elemental spiritual energy, but that didn’t seem to be the case. The problem was… his memories of science on Earth and his understanding of concepts in the world where he was now didn’t entirely mesh.
It wasn’t that gravity had nothing to do with earth… but Gravity Blade wasn’t really gravity. Even if it was, adding a tiny amount of mass wouldn’t have helped. He already knew it wasn’t actually gravity, but he had hoped he might gain something. He might still be able to find a way to increase the pulling power it had. However, he also supposed he should expand out to have more sorts of techniques.
The Tenebach clan library had a large number of techniques, especially focused around the clan’s specialization of darkness, and of course many earth techniques were available since they were in the Stone Conglomerate. John found the formalized version of the technique Brage had unknowingly taught him, ‘Rebounding Earth’. A formal technique would help smooth out some of the flaws and make it more efficient. In theory he could develop his own version to the same point, but why waste years or decades of work to try to do it on his own? It wasn’t as if he was going to stop trying to make it better, but starting with something that clearly worked was smarter.
One thing that earth had was strong defensive techniques. They were not without their drawbacks- usually limiting mobility- but if there was something he couldn’t dodge… a proper defensive earth technique might be the only thing to keep him in one piece. Not the best thing to rely on- but learning more techniques was only going to open up more options for him. Learning at least the basics so he would know if they would actually have value didn’t take long, and each one he studied expanded his ability to learn more in the future. He found the description of one called Diamond Defense appealing… but cultivating that properly involved ingesting actual diamonds. Not just regular diamonds either, but ones with a large amount of inherent earth attribute. A truly extravagant defensive technique. He was in good favor for the moment, but spending such excessive amounts for his cultivation wouldn’t make him stay in the best graces of his family.
Unbreakable Boulder didn’t require such extravagant material usage, and instead merely proper comprehension and practice. It came with two stances for ‘movement’. One was simply called ‘Rolling Down the Hill’, and the other was ‘Steady in the Valley’. In short, the first one he would absorb the momentum of a blow and move with it… while the second he would withstand an attack and drive the force into the ground to keep his position. He would prefer a good dodge to either of those options in most cases, but studying defensive techniques also let him develop his usage of energy for defense in general. At the minimum, he could call upon his earth energy to defend himself at a lesser level without reducing his mobility.
Unfortunately, he couldn’t spend all his time cultivating. There were occasionally jobs he was called upon to do for the family… and social situations that needed attending to. John was fortunate that he already had a fiancee, because that meant he didn’t have to deal with young women looking for suitors. Not for himself, at least.
He didn’t often attend parties. John had never really interacted much with ‘high society’ and the previous Fortkran had been… perhaps a bit too eager at certain points in the past. But whether or not he attended, they always occurred. People with money liked to show it, and it was better to not have every single interaction between cultivators be fighting over resources. Though that didn’t mean parties weren’t without conflicts of other sorts. It was just that usually fewer weapons were involved.
John spotted his target across the ballroom. It wasn’t so hard to spot green hair, especially not such a vibrant shade of it. Cultivators were fond of dying their hairs exotic colors, and there were certain methods to make the change more or less permanent… but it was likely that this woman’s hair was ‘natural’, as such things went. Alina was her name, and the clan she was from had such hair for several generations. The environment where they lived contributed to them having their exotic hair, as well as a very slight greenish tinge to their light brown skin. The Milanovic clan was from the Green Sands, a desert northeast of the Stone Conglomerate. It was a fire attributed area, with a lonely volcano standing at the center. It was unlikely anyone would take such an area as a natural formation, but how it came to be that way was unknown.
Alina was a young woman at the Foundation Phase, a cultivator with reasonable prospects. That was why it was worrying that she had given so much attention to Tempkeit, who had a first rank totem and was merely at the sixth level of the Spiritual Collection Phase. Perhaps it was nothing… so far, she had merely chosen to dance with him for a majority of a few balls. John didn’t want to diminish his cousin who had been one of his few available sparring partners, but he certainly wasn’t the best dancer.
To avoid making himself too obvious, John first took the opportunity to dance with Cosima Valdez. He had quite an enjoyable battle with her back when they fought in the tournament. The way she danced… John almost felt like she was preparing to knock him off his feet at any moment. But perhaps that was just a habit of her movements.
“You are quite different,” she said as they moved. “Not just your advancement to Foundation Phase… do I sense earth energy?”
Fortkran wasn’t really trying to hide it. If he was lucky, people would underestimate him and think that having two different element totems would make him weaker. “That’s right. It just seemed like the right choice at the time.”
She smiled. “Earth is always the right choice. Watch your step.”
The ground trembled beneath them as they moved. Nobody would actually dare to attack someone else at a formal event, but showing off was another matter entirely. Spiritual energy allowed people to display abilities far above normal humans, though the way it was done varied significantly. Perhaps Cosima was empowered by the fact that she had the young master of the Tenebach clan with her, but she had no trouble flinging them around the area… shaking several others on the dance floor off their feet. John might have been a bit worried about the same happening to himself if he hadn’t advanced to the Foundation Phase along with her. However, everything felt good natured to him… just a young woman having fun at a dance. Eventually, their rounds came to an end. “It was pleasant to see you again,” John inclined his head. “I would be willing to engage in an actual spar with you if you find the time.”
She smiled tauntingly, “I won’t go easy on you, Fortkran Tenebach.”
After excusing himself, he found his way over to Alina… who was somewhat predictably dancing with Tempkeit as the next song started up. Fire swirled around the two of them, mostly green flames from Alina but a small amount of smoky black and red came from Tempkeit. They both seemed to be enjoying themselves well enough. Alina’s hair swirled about them as Tempkeit just did his best to keep up with the movements given his lower cultivation.
When the next song ended, John stepped forward and offered his hand, “May I have this dance?”
Alina looked from him to Tempkeit and back. “Very well,” she smiled at Tempkeit even as she took John’s hand, and the next song started up. Someone had been watching for the moment, and the next song was even more energetic than the last.
Though it merely swirled around him with no intent to harm him, John found that the green flames were quite a bit more than uncomfortably hot. More relevantly, when he subconsciously tried to absorb some of the energy it singed his meridians. It wasn’t that it was too powerful for him, not with such a tiny amount… but he merely wasn’t ready to absorb it. In the cycle of elements he was pursuing, fire would be one of the last. Anything more than the insignificant amounts he produced seemed to be too much. Though he recalled having the ability to absorb at least a little bit more from others.
“What brings you to these balls so often?” John asked. Attempting a conversation while dancing so vigorously was a bold move, but John and Alina twirled between other couples even so. It was no different than dodging attacks from multiple foes… and much less lethal if he made a mistake.
“I like to dance,” Alina smiled. “And I personally find the prospects in the Green Sands somewhat lacking.” She spun around quickly, raising her leg up to merely brush over the top of John’s head. It was never meant to hit him… but it took his whole effort not to pull back regardless. “I thought to look here and found something I liked. But what about you… don’t you have a fiancee?”
“Indeed I do,” John admitted. “And when she returns, I will need to be a capable enough dancer. So I must take any opportunity to practice.”
Alina looked at him carefully. “Is that so…”
Perhaps she recalled some rumors about what Fortkran lived his life like previously. Either way, she had her guard raised and he wouldn’t get much information. Perhaps he would do better to speak to Tempkeit.