Just because a task could be laid out in simple terms did not mean it would be easy. For example ‘climb to the top of an erupting volcano’ was easy to state but hard in practice. Likewise, ‘stand on this rock’ was quite simple in theory, but hard in practice. Especially when that rock was ‘Cyclone Island’.
Within the first hours of arrival winds picked up to a point sufficient to buffett the three ‘residents’ of the island. Of course, Kusuma showed no signs of the high winds affecting her in the slightest. Her hair and clothes didn’t even flutter in the breeze except, it seemed, when she wanted them to. It clearly didn’t just happen on its own, though. John was able to feel her making use of air elemental spiritual energy to create the effect, though figuring out how was more difficult.
It was even more difficult when powerful winds were threatening to push him off of the slick rock. John had to brace himself, latching himself to the rock with earth elemental spiritual energy. He knew that wasn’t ultimately going to be the proper solution, but he had to be able to observe to learn anything from Kusuma.
It was unfortunate for his uncle Aydan that he was not an earth element cultivator. He had ways to stabilize himself still, but they would not be as effective as the conquering element for air. There wasn’t even an intent to train him on this journey, but he didn’t really have a choice. Not that a sensible cultivator would refuse a training opportunity, but it wasn’t targeted to be optimal for his training in particular.
If John simply had to stand on a windy rock for a few days or a month, it would have been fairly simple training. However, it had only been a few hours- and there had been no storm yet. This was just a preview of what he would be experiencing.
Kusuma took a deep breath of the salty sea air. “Time for a short break. We need to grab some food before the storm comes in.”
John saw no signs of a storm on the horizon- but he trusted her judgment better than his own eyes. “Of course.” He knew they had some provisions with them in the boat, but before he could make a move towards it Kusuma pointed.
“That one should be good. I haven’t had shark in a while.” Kusuma stepped forward, “Watch carefully. I don’t expect you to be able to replicate this immediately, but you should learn it.” She stretched out her hand, grabbing the winds and twisting them. Though the effects were invisible to his eyes, he could sense how the energy moved. Then visible effects came as it touched down on the water, creating a vortex that sunk into the waves and pulled water up as well. A moment later the target shark was flung into the air, landing on the rock next to them. Kusuma waved her hand and cut off a chunk, biting into it. “Hmm. A bit too old of a specimen. Oh well, it’s still fine.”
“… We’re not going to cook it?” John asked.
“Go ahead and try. I won’t stop you.”
Of course. Well, he would try anyway. He pulled some of the small fire inside of him between his fingers… and it immediately blew out. His second attempt he did his best to shield from the wind, but it only lasted a second at most. It was clear he at least needed better control over air before making the attempt- and perhaps stronger fire as well. He ate a slice of shark and found it… kind of gross. But it shouldn’t have any unhealthy bacterial or parasites, so he could eat it. He wasn’t sure if he’d try to eat raw shark on Earth, but as a cultivator he could sense problematic things in his food. Aydan ate without complaint.
Then the storm came. Almost all at once the skies darkened and waves which had already been crashing over the rock called ‘Cyclone Island’ upon which they stood grew even higher. There was scarcely a moment when water wasn’t splashing in John’s face.
The windspeed increased gradually, with occasionally stronger gusts. Lightning started falling in the distance, and John could see waterspouts on the horizon. It seemed up to the current moment they’d just been relaxedly standing about.
Each gust of wind was like being struck by a massive hammer. If John lost his control for a second he was certain he would be catapulted off of the islands. Presumably Aydan or Kusuma would help him in that case, but he wouldn’t want to bet on it. John lowered his stance to reduce his profile against the wind.
As the storm continued to grow in power, John became gradually more aware of Kusuma’s effects on the wind around her. She split the wind around her, actually reducing the effects on John and Aydan. The stronger the wind the more obvious it became as she somewhat limited their exposure to the storm. When the first bolt of lightning struck the island, Kusuma split it into three. The largest portion channeled into the stone beneath her, while the other two were directed towards John and Aydan.
The portion that came to John was something he could handle quite well, but it still required him to split his attention on how his earth energy operated. Some directed the lightning around himself and the rest held his grip on the island. Even a momentary split was too much and he found himself sliding. He found himself one meter from the edge before he managed to stop himself, and he had to carefully lift one foot at a time, solidifying his steps before he made the next one. Several strides later, and he was back in the middle… a slightly more comfortable three meters from any edge.
John found himself gradually getting used to the storm, but of course it had more to it. Wind didn’t come from just one direction, and whenever he found himself leaning in one direction to press against the winds it inevitably shifted and threw off his balance. He had to focus more on how he was attached and keeping his body steady. Eventually this ended with him sitting cross-legged on the center of the ‘island’, keeping himself as low as possible. He occasionally tried a little bit of fancy work to make the wind blow around him, but he just didn’t have the control or adequate reserves of air elemental spiritual energy to make much difference.
He gradually grew used to the lightning, wind, water whipping into his face, and occasional waves that threatened to shove him off of the rock. His uncle Aydan, while higher in cultivation, seemed to be only just barely holding on. When he thought he might successfully weather the storm, a waterspout covered the island. It was an entire wall of water, and surprisingly most of it pushed down from above, crushing him to the ground then dragging him off the island into the sea. Underneath the water wasn’t any calmer, but John did his best to avoid panicking. He could hold his breath for several minutes at least, and he could navigate with the use of spiritual energy.
John was even able to sense when he was about to be dashed against the island and softened the blow with his energy. He tried to latch onto the island, but his efforts were futile. The power of the water was just too strong. He felt himself being pulled away once more… then a sudden twist of water and wind pulled him up and slammed him into the center of the island, next to Aydan who had similarly been retrieved from the sea. It wasn’t possible to communicate verbally with the storm, but John still shouted “Thank you” regardless.
As the storm raged on John felt himself tiring. Not that he hadn’t been exerting himself before, but when he was overwhelmed by the waterspout it had only torn him off the rock and severed most of that energy from his control. He only lost the amount he could use in an instant instead of the continual drain of more sustained use.
He didn’t fail to notice how Kusuma’s sheltering of him increased as he grew weaker. Then the storm finally ended. The skies remained dark- but stars came out from behind them, indicating that the remainder of the day had passed. John didn’t find the rock particularly comfortable, nor was he a fan of sleeping in wet clothes- but his eyes closed for a moment and he woke up in the morning, itchy from crystallized salt all over him. Plus, slightly warm from the morning sun. It wasn’t so unpleasant on its own though following it up with a meal of riceless sushi- just raw fish if he was honest- didn’t particularly raise his spirits.
Kusuma stood over him, smiling brightly. “Not too bad. Though I suppose I should expect some success since you train a conquering element. I’ve observed how you use that to resist the wind, and I have some pointers for you. I’m sure you’ll find it more difficult to properly use air elemental spiritual energy for the same purposes before you have a totem, but I can help.”
John had almost thought his only training was going to be fighting storms. Kusuma seemed like the type, but she was actually good at properly teaching as well. Aydan also followed along, though the portions that related to earth energy weren’t much use for him.
Cold water surrounded John, but he calmly swam closer to his target. Certain kinds of fish were better than others. Though he honestly didn’t know what a proper tuna looked like, at least based on personal taste he thought it was of a high quality. Then again, he only got to eat fish and occasional seaweed, and everything he ate was soaking wet.
More than the standard amount of air filled his lungs, allowing John to sustain himself underwater for longer periods of time. Compressing air was a fairly standard use of air elemental spiritual energy, though doing so in a way that wasn’t harmful to the lungs took more practice. Kusuma made certain he had the proper control before telling him to try it. It wouldn’t do to pop a lung during training.
John sidled up close to his target. His darkness element was well suited for diving, cloaking him from sight and other senses while at the same time the family guardian’s blessing and his training in darkness allowed him to see without light. John wasn’t sure of the physics of that, but he wasn’t going to question exactly how it worked. Perhaps it was just spiritual energy interpreted as sight, or maybe there were other particles in this world he was interacting with.
His arms reached out, nearly wrapping around his target as he gathered some of his limited reserves of air energy. His arms closed around the body of the fish while the energy pushed into its gills, puffing the creature with air. This would not only serve to weaken it but also make it more buoyant, and while the fish thrashed against his grip he held on as he kicked towards the surface of the water. Once he reached it, he was able to briefly stand atop the water before jumping up onto Cyclone Island.
Cyclone Island had now been his home for several months, though he hardly felt of it as a home. More like a prison, though one he had chosen to be taken to. He wasn’t able to go anywhere else, and labored hard day and night.
The benefits were real, though. Both himself and Adyan had advanced to the next rank- fifteenth and seventeenth respectively. Honestly, John was sorry for his uncle. The man worked hard, but the gap between them was shrinking. It wasn’t that John was smarter, but it seemed whatever the intangible ‘talent’ for cultivation was might have favored John. He didn’t like that thought at all. It not only trivialized Aydan’s efforts, but also shone negative light on his own. Aydan didn’t complain, though. Not about that, at least. Both John and Aydan took the time to properly complain about crazy training.
As John landed on the island, he took some food to eat while sharing with the others. After everyone had their fill, he began his experiments. All forms of using energy were potentially beneficial to training, and since that was the case he wanted to get something out of the experience. The electricity he formed was far short of lightning, but that was both due to inability and intentional restraint. He didn’t want to create a lightning strike. Instead, he injected it into the fish. Fire was hopeless, but if he could cook the fish from the inside he would be quite pleased with the variety. The results were better than usual- the fish didn’t explode, at least. Parts of the inside were still very burnt, but other bits were edible. They were kind of dry, but dry was a nice change. He could live with that. He needed some change, because he didn’t see Kusuma letting him off the island anytime soon, despite his current progress.