Prior experience with coasts had been limited for John. He didn’t live near the coast, but he had visited a few times. Seen some beaches, got sunburned, the standard. Fortkran’s only knowledge of the ocean was more limited- he hadn’t had a reason to travel for weeks towards the Shimmering Islands, which was also the closest sea. Thus, there were only drawings and paintings of ships that he’d gone by, and not too many.
He probably shouldn’t have been surprised by Dolomite Harbor, but he hadn’t really seen any depictions of it. The city itself wasn’t enough to give John pause. He’d seen much bigger cities on Earth, and equally impressive cities after his transmigration. The styles were fairly typical for the Stone Conglomerate, large stone buildings that seemed to compete with each other for height. Nothing skyscraper sized, but the Stone Conglomerate didn’t have many people beyond the Soul Expansion Phase and materials to match. While there might be better materials than on Earth, the engineering practices were less sophisticated. There were probably some extremely ostentatious towers at various clans and sects, but Dolomite Harbor was just a practical city. People spent most of their time passing through.
The impressive part of the city was the actual harbor, where it met the water. John had expected docks built out into the water, and he wasn’t technically incorrect about that. It was just everything else that was exceptional. Instead of gentle slopes down to the shore, Dolomite Harbor had nearly sheer cliffs leading down to a large cove. Massive ramps and stairways were carved into the cliffs, and the removed stone had seemingly been used to create the sprawling docks.
There were hundreds of ships- actual ships, not the little fishing and pleasure boats that made up most of what he’d seen before. There were smaller boats too, dotting the harbor. John had expected ships akin to galleons and while there were indeed some close to that type, many of them looked quite a bit more modern. The difference was the materials. He expected wooden ships, but a large number of them were clearly metal- some painted, some not. He saw a few he was pretty sure were made of some kind of stone, but those were rare. The metal ships still had sails and he could see places for oars, but they were a strange sight to behold. It didn’t appear to be just plating along the outside, either.
John had a lot of questions. He probably should have had more of the answers, but he couldn’t change the past. So instead he just asked. “Do you know why most of the ships are metal hulled? Isn’t that too heavy for the ships to move quickly?”
His grandfather Luctus was quite willing to answer his inquiries. “It is necessary to resist the danger of the seas,” he answered. “And they are able to provide sufficient force to move them at a reasonable pace.”
John nodded. “What about that? Those rods sticking out of the tops of most of the masts?” He couldn’t see much use for them. They were too skinny to do anything structural.
“Those are to attract lightning from the sky and channel it safely,” Luctus explained.
“Oh! Lightning rods,” John nodded. “I should have thought of that.” He’d already known about the storms in the Shimmering Islands, he just hadn’t thought it would affect the design of ships so much. However, in an area high in water and air elemental spiritual energies, frequent violent storms were expected. There were no signs of any storms on the horizon, but they were merely on the boundary.
Their group proceeded directly down to the docks. They had arranged for passage on one of the ships, and it should already be in port. As their group was a large portion of its passengers, they had been able to arrange for them to change schedule slightly. They hadn’t known if they would be a few days off in their travel time or not.
As expected, the Wavecutter was waiting for them. It wasn’t one of the largest ships in the harbor, but John sensed there was more to this particular ship than immediately met the eye. It wasn’t just the materials. There was something more hidden beneath the sleek exterior.
Luctus called up to the deck. There were many proprieties to be observed when boarding a ship, and even though they could have just hopped up that was highly inappropriate. Besides, it was much easier to board when they lowered a ramp. It almost invisibly folded out of the railing in the midsection of the ship.
The captain himself came to meet them in short order, showing them to their rooms. Captain Sohan was a man with a powerful build, but not quite what was expected of some earth cultivators. It seemed he cultivated both earth and water, with an imbalance towards earth. John supposed that made sense, because the man was somewhere around the nineteenth or twentieth rank, early in the Soul Expansion Phase. With three totems and two elements, it would be difficult to have perfect proportions of each type of spiritual energy. Though upon further inspection, rather than being imbalanced it felt quite purposeful, as if the man were an island surrounded by swirling tides.
Their cabins were small, but that was to be expected. This wasn’t a luxury cruise, but a journey through potentially dangerous environments. The fact that he had his own cabin, despite it basically just being a bed with a chest at the foot he had to step over to reach it, was already more than most people could have expected. He placed his things in the chest. Spare clothes and spare weapons, for the most part. Some of his own notes on the techniques he was developing, in waterproof cases.
They would be remaining in port for several days yet. They weren’t the only ones who would be traveling on the Wavecutter, but not terribly many other rooms were left after their whole entourage. John planned to explore the city some the next day, but he had something else he wanted to do first.
He’d been to lakes before. Large bodies of water existed elsewhere, but the difference in the quantity and quality of water elemental spiritual energy was different in a lake and a sea. Some special lakes were extremely abundant in such energy, but none of those were in the borders of the Stone Conglomerate. While they were just on the border, John could feel the already significant amounts of water element around him. The cabin was close to water level, so it wasn’t even far. Just through the hull of the ship. He could get closer if he went outside and jumped in the water, but that was a bit inappropriate for the young master of a clan. Perhaps some other time.
He started with just sensing it. He had certainly experienced water elemental spiritual energy before, but the majority of it was carried by cultivators- Matayal among them. Earth was everywhere, even in the Tenebach clan- and even in the Green Sands. He still felt a large amount of earth from the great cove surrounding the harbor, but the immediate area around him was more significantly populated by water.
It was cold. Not nearly so much as ice, but water tended strongly towards cold. High heat capacity, he supposed. It wasn’t as if water couldn’t be hot, but on average it wasn’t. The same with earth. For an element he had no real experience with, it was comforting. Most of that feeling was because he compared it to fire, the weakness of his earth element and an opposed element of darkness. It was the final allied element he had no experience with.
Just feeling it didn’t give him any particular insights. It was water, and there wasn’t much to it if it just sat there. He tried to reach his energy through the hull of the ship to swirl the water around a little bit, but found himself blocked once he wasn’t just sensing. Rather than cause trouble, he walked up on deck. The sailors weren’t too busy at the moment, but he made sure to stand in an out of the way section of railing.
Once there, he reached down into the water. Swirling it slightly was fun, but not useful. He didn’t have the capacity to significantly change the flow of water, with random waves brushing against the ship bearing more total momentum. Now that he was on deck, he realized that his sensing had been limited by the hull as well. It wasn’t just metal being in his way, but whatever other protections the ship had. Even from on deck, he could feel deeper into the water. There, he sensed currents moving about in what felt like a random fashion. Eventually he would need to come to understand it, but he wasn’t in any hurry. It wasn’t something that bore a particular threat to him, and he would have plenty of time on the journey. That was what it was for. As for controlling water himself, he’d not be able to do much with it until he had an appropriate totem. It was easier than controlling fire, or at least not as unpleasant, but unless he wanted to splash water on someone he wouldn’t find much use for it in the immediate future. He could probably pick up a bucketful of water and block a fire attack with it, but if there was so much water around he could just go in the water for less effort.
He thought back to his spars with Matayal. He hadn’t been strong enough to make her really exert herself, so he didn’t find any deep insights from her moves. He did think back to how he first used something like Spiritual Energy Absorption. Directly using the water elemental spiritual energy to protect himself would doubtless be better than trying to control the water around him, if he found need of it.
John looked to the small ball of fire playing at being a ‘sun’ inside his dantian. He would need to continue his studies to determine how to add water into the system in larger amounts, and how much. Unlike the actual sun which was extremely far away, the little ball of fire warming his totems was quite susceptible to influence. He could easily put it out on accident, and it would be a pain to rebuild it. Even though he felt its presence only had minimal benefit at the moment, his regular care of it was useful for his training. Fire was enough of a problem for him that he didn’t want to let his experience dealing with it fade into memory.