Gathering guests for a formal marriage alliance could take several months, and that was already quite quick. In that time frame, relevant parties could at least send a representative, though they might be busy with other affairs. Though certain individuals could travel at remarkable speeds, nothing was as quick as an airplane, travelling around the world in a day. As far as John was aware, not even the highest tier cultivators were that quick- though he had to admit that information about anyone at or above Consolidated Soul was quite rare in the regions he’d been to.
The Brandle clan sent invites to various allies and generally important groups throughout the Shimmering Islands and elsewhere, while the Tenebach clan was of course more focused on the Stone Conglomerate. Since there would be two ceremonies, few people would attend both outside of the two families- going to one or the other would be sufficient. John wouldn’t blame them, either. He’d been to a few weddings in his time. He had nothing against them in particular, but taking time to travel to them disrupted the flow of life. In his current world, they were another formal event that he had to be involved with.
Of course, this was his own wedding. He couldn’t help but be nervous as it approached. It was a big event, after all. It was a good sort of nervousness though, a nervous excitement. A wedding should be a positive thing, and he was actually looking forward to it. Just because it had been arranged for him before he was actually here didn’t mean he couldn’t like it. There were many circumstances in a person’s life that they had little control over, and it was up to them to make the best of everything.
John found that he had grown quite fond of Matayal, though she wasn’t particularly expressive. But he enjoyed her smiles, rare as they were. He wanted good things for her, for her to be happy- and he would try to make that happen. In a way, they had a better starting point for their marriage than just a temporary infatuation or fleeting lust. Though as cultivators, they didn’t have to worry about some of the issues that might arise- they would age more slowly, and remain youthful for quite some time. Looks or physical fitness shouldn’t be the most important factor in a long term relationship, but it was hard to admit that it wouldn’t be some sort of factor.
Of course, being cultivators came with drawbacks as well. They had to consider their cultivations, whether they matched in level and talent and other ways. Problems in that area could not only harm relationships but also cause actual physical damage. But there were no problems between himself and Matayal there. They had been testing their energy compatibility- it wasn’t just some sort of vague thing, but a practical test to see if there would be problems for dual cultivation. More than that, it wasn’t just something they would pass or fail. If they weren’t compatible, they could change to be more so. It was important to be prepared before they actually began intermingling spiritual energy. Once again, there was too much guidance from Netanel… and when Kusuma arrived she added her own unsolicited advice on both dual cultivation and sex. John was just glad that his own grandfather and parents were more moderate in that regard.
Once again John found himself face-to-face with Cyclone Island, the rock in the middle of the ocean that somehow hadn’t worn away.. He’d been ‘kidnapped’ by Kusuma once again, though this time Matayal was taken as well. Aydan’s feeling mirrored his own as they returned, a sort of dread washing over them even if they knew it was ultimately good for them. Aydan had managed to reach the eighteenth rank- or rather, return to it. While that meant he would better be able to resist the whims of the storms, it also meant that Kusuma would be protecting him less.
Kusuma smiled as she looked at the horizon where dark storm clouds gathered. “I’m quite looking forward to seeing how you do now that you have a proper air element totem,” Kusuma said. “And this is a good chance for the two of you to practice external spiritual energy mingling.”
Combining spiritual energy externally followed the same principles as combat formations where one person directed the energy of a group. The one difference was it was generally limited to fewer people, and nobody was solely in control. Every participant had to work along with the others without either necessarily taking control. One participant could be a leader, but the others still guided their own energy. It was more difficult to pull off than a formation, because multiple people had to have a specific technique in mind and perform it together, instead of simply donating their spiritual energy- but it could result in powerful combinations that a single person couldn’t pull off at a certain cultivation level.
John found that defensive techniques were rather difficult. While he could anchor himself to the ground and guide wind and lightning around himself, if he attempted to do the same with Matayal he ended up disrupting her movements. He also risked accidentally overpowering her own defenses with his air energy. Conversely, Matyatal found it somewhat easier to support him with a bubble of water energy. Perhaps that was due to the elemental cycles, or perhaps she was just naturally better at it. But John didn’t let initial failures dissuade him.
Wind and rain beat against John and Matayal, standing side by side, their hands nearly touching. Actually holding hands limited their individual mobility. Lightning crashed down on the sea in the distance, but soon it would reach them as well. The first storm had fortunately been rather mild, but now they were in for serious weather, even by the standards of the Shimmering Islands.
Energies of different elements mixed together. Matayal’s water formed a protective bubble around John, helping to divert the rain from striking him and also clearing the slipperiness of the rock beneath his feet. In return his earth energy provided solidity and weight to Matayal where she needed it. Just standing there together was easy enough, but the real test was the approaching lightning.
The two of them had no cover from Kusuma as the bolts began to strike around them. Before a bolt struck, the air changed. There was a moment of buildup with a rapid shift in the balance of elements, and then the bolt struck. Feelers came down from above, and as the first found a path to the ground, the return stroke followed the same path with great power. There was very little time to react to the former- dealing with the latter required having proper defenses set up already. That could include creating a path for the lightning to follow.
John’s air and Matayal’s water spiritual energies combined to create an easy path for the lightning to follow, with a small portion being absorbed by John. His air energy also coaxed the lightning to avoid Matayal- it was often prone to spreading throughout water in all directions, which was quite dangerous for a water element cultivator. Matayal’s third totem was a stormcloud- primarily water but able to mingle with air to some extent- so it allowed her some confidence in keeping herself safe. But working together the pair were becoming more effective. There was a large difference between statically defending against an unintelligent storm and actually participating in combat, but their experience would help them later.
One month later, they returned from Cyclone Island. That was the good thing about the wedding being up-and-coming. Kusuma couldn’t keep them forever. One month was much better than nine, though without any sort of shelter John still found it quite difficult. It was even harder on Matayal, but together they were able to withstand the pressure. Fortunately there was plentiful spiritual energy of the water element in the area for Matayal to replenish herself, and John was able to draw upon the wind and lightning even in the storms, but they began to get worn down. Kusuma might have kept them longer if they didn’t have to recover from small wounds that would have been noticed during the wedding. Lightning damage could be difficult to recover from, but they’d minimzed the damage- and Kusuma had access to medicine for just that purpose. The Brandle clan as well, but hers was better.
Aydan had to face more of the storms himself, but was still somewhat protected by Kusuma. The circumstances still pushed him to the limit, but he was close to being able to step into the nineteenth rank and Soul Expansion Phase. John thought he would likely be able to break through once back in the Tenebach clan with proper access to large amounts of darkness element. It was possible for him to do it elsewhere, but that would bring the smoothest results. The Brandle clan’s energy gathering formations did their best, but they weren’t specifically set up for gathering darkness.
Given the number of guests arriving, it seemed like even the spacious grounds of the Brandle clan would be insufficient to hold everyone. As the guest rooms began to fill and less important visitors found accommodations elsewhere, mostly on the outer islands, it became even more obvious. That didn’t include all of those from Pualani that would be attending as well. Most of Pualani was privately owned land with few large open areas, and while all of the guests could physically fit on the premises they wouldn’t all be able to see the ceremony.
But those involved with organizing everything knew what they were doing. When John heard about how things would be done, he realized that it was a very sensible option- and something that extended well to cultivators. He had memories of the traditions in the Stone Conglomerate, but of course Fortkran was fuzzy on those from neighboring areas.
The Shimmering Islands and Pualani in particular loved water, so of course the wedding would be there. Not on the beach, but actually in the water. Pualani was especially suited for that particular setup, with the outer petals and whatever formations protected from storms providing something akin to a harbor in between the central island and the outside ones.
Guests would be seated on boats surrounding the ceremony, allowing people to watch from all sides. Cultivators could also stand on the shore- they had the capacity to still observe from large distances, if they preferred being on the beach. And some might have to, since ultimately there were a limited number of boats available. Even if each could hold a dozen people, there were hundreds attending.
John had never been the type to want a large wedding. If his wife wanted one, he would have gladly done so if they could afford it, but it wasn’t something he dreamed of. In this case, money wasn’t an issue, but neither was it something Matayal wanted. It was just the way things were done with large clans.
Many of the guests from the adjoining Stone Conglomerate preferred to have their feet on land, including members of the Tenebach clan. But of course, important family members had little choice but to be close to where things were happening. All of the grandparents and parents, including Kusuma who was technically not involved, were given prominent positions. Others went to various allies or important locals. The rings of boats continued outward, becoming less tied to status as things went. The ceremony would be relatively close to shore to accommodate the crowds there and avoid having them feel like outsiders.
The clothing for the ceremony was quite unlike the suit-and-tie affairs on Earth, and there was no white wedding dress. It was still formal, of course, but simply had different types of expensive clothing. Flowing robes were quite common, and most focused more on floral patterns or the colors of the sea and sky. John himself was primarily dressed in black, in the style of the Tenebach clan. But his sleeves and leggings transitioned into a blue pattern indicative of waves at the edge. He didn’t want to think about how much it cost for something that would only be worn once or twice. Probably too much. But it was appropriate to go all out.
Then the ceremony began. Both bride and groom were kept around the island away from the gathering of people, opposite of each other in their boats, before they were rowed in toward each other. John didn’t put much credence into being stunned by someone’s beauty until the moment he caught sight of Matayal around the bend of the island. It wasn’t just her physical look- though the styling of her hair with flowers in it as well as her dress were indeed particularly attractive- but also the confidence of spiritual energy she projected. John hoped he looked somewhat close to that in her eyes, and while he doubted that could be possible he at least caught a sparkle in her eye as they approached each other in the middle.