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Flames the same blue color as Lucanus’ hair wreathed around him in twisting tendrils. Some people made use of weapons to augment the effects of their energy, but it just didn’t quite work with his style. Was he going to make flames sharp? Bludgeon people with them? How pointless. Flames were meant to do one thing.
He fought next to the allied earth cultivators. He watched as both sides directly impacted each other, the stronger coming out on top. Skill was still a factor, as everyone had weak points to exploit even with layers of stone covering them from head to toe- but nothing finished in a single clash.
Lucanus ducked under an axe with a blade as wide as his torso. It hardly mattered how sharp it was with all of the momentum behind it, if he let it hit him he would be in a terrible state. It didn’t matter that fire overcame earth- it didn’t protect him in that way. It did, however, make his movement lighter and more able to avoid the attacks. In response to nearly being chopped in half, he kicked the burly man in front of him directly in the sternum. He didn’t actually have a problem with the straightforward sort of combat that earth users employed. He just thought it was inefficient.
The man he kicked only staggered back a few steps despite the significant force he put behind the blow, but that wasn’t the important component of the attack. The important part was the fire. Lucanus knew nothing about cultivation before he transmigrated from Earth, obviously. How would he? But he did know one thing. Rocks didn’t burn. So it hardly made sense to him how fire could overcome earth in that form.
He was partly right. Even at the Consolidated Soul Phase he couldn’t actually set rocks on fire… but there was more to what he did than that. After all, the man in front of him was clearly burning.
Rocks didn’t burn, but various gasses did and most importantly fire elemental spiritual energy burned. It didn’t do much else, really. And thus, it was about how he used fire that mattered. A gout of flame lasting for a second or so, no matter how hot, would not significantly damage an earth cultivator whether they used solely their energy or more solidified rocky defenses. They were most capable of blocking attacks directly. But the manner that they blocked attacks was also their weakness.
Most of the energy from his attack wasn’t in the kick to the man’s chest, but simply coming along for the ride. Then it latched onto the man and would continue to burn until it was spent. In short, it was easy to guarantee the entirety of his attack affected someone. And it turned out that even if they could resist immediate damage, people didn’t fight well when on fire. People also had to breathe, and he certainly burned up all of the usable air around them.
He still had to avoid the axe swinging at him, but he could back away and not just be wasting his time and energy. The opponent in front of him could eject his layers of defenses to try to push the fire away, but that would cost him more than Lucanus used. And he had a trick for that if he tried it. He dodged far to the side, avoiding the swing of the axe and using his elbow to strike another person who was also set on fire.
He led both attackers towards the nearby formation. Another man of similar age, part of the up-and-coming generation, led the formation. He had something resembling a stalagmite- or perhaps a stalactite? It wasn’t attached to anything, but it was a big spike of rock. It wasn’t being used as a spike though, but simply being held from that end and wielded like a club. The simplest form of weapon- but Lucanus had to admit it was quite effective.
With a loud crack the club swung into the ribcage of one opponent and sent him flying into the man with the axe Lucanus had drawn over. The impact between the two of them also had a resounding noise, and the two of them crumpled in an on-fire heap. Lucanus supposed that just striking with enough force to break through straightforward defenses also worked.
He continued to add fire wherever he thought would be most useful, washing away darkness from some of those members of the Society of Midnight. Lucanus couldn’t see in the dark himself, but setting them or someone else on fire provided enough light even if the darkness energy tried to suppress it.
In another part of the battlefield he sensed even greater concentrations of darkness- with the Society of Midnight fighting the Tenebach clan, both sides were content to have darkness reign supreme. They were just wrestling for control over certain portions of it. One of those things had to be the guardian beast he’d seen briefly. While he was distracted with battle he’d thought it died or escaped, but he realized its presence was diminished for another reason- being located inside a person. Specifically, Fortkran.
Or John, if he were to use his original name. Steve could be jealous of the other transmigrator for being born into a wealthy clan, but it seemed that came with troubles of its own. That also seemed to include weird dangers like having some sort of spirit animal decided that jumping inside of you was fine. On the other hand, he seemed to be putting up with the overflow of energy quite handily. Steve knew what that felt like with fire- even though he hadn’t reached the peak of Zolvolj walking over some lava flows had shown him how he could have too much of his matching energy. Darkness likely wouldn’t result in external and internal burns, but it would have its own side effects.
But the tides of battle appeared to be shifting. Or rather, when they had first arrived it seemed that the interlopers might defeat the guardian beast and obtain their goal- now that the beast was unavailable and fresh enemies arrived, they were hard pressed to fight back. At the current point they were trying to maneuver towards the mouth of the cavern, evidently wanting to retreat.
There were warnings about fighting cornered animals on Earth and probably in every world. Desperation bred power, and that was equally true for cultivators. Thus, when the Society of Midnight started pushing towards the exit, John was happy to let them go. Not for free, of course. If the group wanted to move past him he wouldn’t stand in their way, but he was certainly going to take swings at them as they went. He did his best to guide them along the outer edge of the formation he was heading, meaning they had to deal with at least several hits as they went. But they were going to prefer that than just standing their ground to die. Ultimately, nobody wanted to die. Nobody sane, anyway.
John did the same with one of the highest ranking members of the Society of Midnight. When the man built up a mass of energy to carve through him, he gladly got out of the way. It seemed that Ciaritzal had different ideas, however. John went from struggling to contain the excess amounts of energy inside of him to suddenly having it all withdrawn, leaving him momentarily weakened as a vaguely formed figure leapt out of him at the man passing by.
“You come for me and think you just get to leave?!” the figure of Ciaritzal turned into just the mouth of a wolf- a mouth large enough to swallow a man whole, and teeth to match. The jaws snapped down on a trailing arm, severing it. The arm and the energy inside it were devoured by Ciaritzal in an instant, and he continued to hound the man. “You want to feed on my power once more? No chance!” The devouring maw lessened in size to become just a ‘normal’ oversized vaguely canine creature, slashing at the man’s back with his claws and leaving behind criss-crossing slashes that covered most of the man’s back. Then Ciaritzal tackled the man to the ground and chomped into his shoulder. The mouth once again grew larger as he tore the man apart, swallowing huge chunks. “I’ll devour all of you instead!”
Though fleeing cultivators slashed out with powerful attacks, they had previously been fighting Ciaritzal many-on-one. He shrugged off individual attacks as he opened his maw to devour the very darkness energy trying to kill him- and the originators of the attacks a moment later. John knew he couldn’t do the same, but he had sparks of inspiration with regards to how he might better use Spiritual Energy Absorption. He doubted he would be able to use it with the same amount of efficiency as the guardian beast, whose power grew with each attack he made as he devoured darkness cultivators one by one, but he could certainly do better.
He barely remembered to continue to fight instead of just watching the beast, but the battle concluded shortly regardless. The majority of the enemy had managed to retreat, but in addition to those that Ciaritzal had slain before they arrived and what the Tenebach clan and their allies managed after, it was only barely a majority. Perhaps two thirds escaped- with the other third dead. That ultimately made it a devastating loss for the attacks, because while they’d managed to kill some as well, they had ultimately failed at their goal.
“What did they want?” John asked. “Just to kill you?”
Ciariztal shook his head, visible mostly by the way the shape of his indistinct profile changed. “Generations ago, the Society of Midnight bound me and used my power- much the same way as your clan makes use of him.” Ciaritzal pranced in a little circle around John, “Though here, my participation is entirely voluntary. I am not forced into anything, but instead we mutually empower each other.” Darkness elemental spiritual energy swirled around John and Matayal next to him, preventing others from hearing the conversation. “I’m glad my little gamble worked, young master. Most would fall apart under the strain, and I have grown quite fond of you. You should thank your mate for keeping you… stable.”
“Of course,” John acknowledged. He smiled at Matayal. “Thank you. And I’ll say it again later… when I can.”
Matayal reached out to put an arm around him before he even began to slump. “It is what I am here for. And when I need it, I know you will support me in turn.”
“Not the best way to end a wedding ceremony,” John muttered. “I much preferred what we did last time.”
Matayal grinned, “Of course you would. But though I’m taking you to bed, that part will have to wait just a bit.”
On Earth, John had dealt with muscle aches, bruises, a very few broken bones, and various illness related pains such as stomach cramps and fevers. Even having experienced many injuries from battles now, he found that the most painful thing was cultivation itself- and cultivation related damage to the meridians and dantian. It wasn’t quite so bad as when he’d first arrived. He wasn’t completely destroyed and having to start anew, though in fact his current state wasn’t as bad as he had been. He could sense Matayal’s peaceful presence at his side, carefully circulating her own energy along with his through his meridians. At some points her water energy turned as cold as ice, but the numbing it brought along was quite pleasant after a moment of discomfort.
Taking a look inside his dantian, John found that his little ecosystem was wrecked. Though it thrived on darkness, the tree growing inside of him was missing leaves and had snapped branches. The earth had been stripped away from its roots, leaving them to the open… nothingness. Most of the air had been squeezed out, along with the water. The fiery ‘sun’ was entirely gone.
But as things went, it wasn’t all bad. The tree inside his dantian still stood, slowly absorbing the minimal elements around it and repairing itself. He could rebuild, though he would need donations of water and fire energy. He had no intention to touch light at the moment, not that he’d met a single cultivator with that affinity.
“Good morning,” Matayal said as he finished his internal inspection. “How are you feeling?”
“I’ve definitely felt better. But I’ve also felt worse. I think I should recover fully.”
Matayal nodded, “I agree. It doesn’t look like it did before, but it seems like your dantian has expanded somewhat.”
“Disaster breeds growth. Or something like that,” he shook his head. “How long has it been?”
“Just a day. There is currently a counterattack being planned- on the clans from here in Marble County- but it was presumed that we would remain behind.”
“Quite reasonable.” John looked over his wife. She’d been his fiancee for quite some time in memories both his own and before that point, but she was his wife only recently. “How are you?” he asked.
“I’m fine,” she said.
He reached out to take her hand, gently sending a small tendril of his own energy into her. If she wanted to she could easily stop him, but she let him in. What he was was little better than his own dantian. What had once been a large sea with clouds above was simply a little pond with a few wisps of fog. It didn’t seem as if there was any damage, but she was completely drained. “We’ll both need some time to rest before we can return to cultivating,” he nodded.
“I’m sure we can find something else interesting to do,” she grinned at him. “Though maybe not right now.”
The way his body ached internally when he sat up, he had to agree. But he was looking forward to feeling better for multiple reasons.