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After the end of the short altercation with the Gleaming Sun Sect, Lucanus walked out of the oasis dripping wet. He had a wide smile on his face. “How ya doin’ guys? Married life been treating you well?”
John and Matayal nodded together. “We’ve been doing quite well,” John replied. “How about you? It’s a shame we keep running into each other when there’s trouble.”
“There’s not really another time we could meet though,” Lucanus mentioned.
“What do you mean?” John raised an eyebrow.
“You’re the young master of a clan. You’ve got that look about you whether or not guards are following around. People notice that and respect it. But for me, I’m just some guy. So what if I have a bit of cultivation?” Lucanus shrugged, “People think they can do whatever they want. So it’s pretty constant. Seems like there’s an endless supply of people waiting to get their asses kicked.”
“Seems dangerous,” John commented.
“It can be, but you also have to recognize when to keep your head down.” Lucanus shrugged, “So I’ve heard. Mostly, I stay alert and don’t go near unfamiliar cultivators stronger than myself by a significant margin. Nobody wants to get into a real fight with someone who can burn off half their face even if they win.”
“How many people has that happened with? The face burning thing.”
“Just twice. If you look like the young master of a clan, I look like someone who’ll burn your face off.”
John took a close look at him. He didn’t see it, but he also knew it was only when provoked. Even if Lucanus was particularly easily provoked, those who made that mistake probably deserved what was coming to them. Sometimes that was just being chased off in embarrassment. “I should help my wife,” John gestured to the oasis. The sand had been stirred up by the Gleaming Sun Sect cultivators running through- as well as Lucanus flinging himself into the waters.
Matayal was currently settling it but that job was best accomplished by the two of them together. He lent his earth elemental spiritual energy to the job, and they settled one edge of the area quickly enough. That meant they could let their animals drink, and fill themselves as well.
After that was done, John returned to his chat with Lucanus. “So, what brings you out to the Green Sands?” It wasn’t strange for him to be there, of course. Every cultivator could efficiently grow in power in an area that matched their element.
“That’s easy. It’s time for old Zolvolj to start up again. Haven’t given it a go since we first saw each other. Bet I can make it to the top this time. What about you? What are you here for?”
“A wedding,” John explained.
“Another? Boy, you’re sure going to be busy.” Lucanus grinned widely, “Don’t think anyone here will last long around your first wife though.” A large ball of water dropped on his head and he turned towards Matayal, “See? You’ll find the body out in the desert, lungs full of water.” Another ball of water hung menacingly over Lucanus’ head, but he ignored it.
“The one getting married is Tempkeit, over there,” John gestured. Given the current circumstances, he also had his own set of guards specifically watching him, though the Tenebach clan would never intentionally let any of their members be harmed regardless of current status. “I can introduce you.”
“Might as well,” Lucanus said. “I barely got to meet anyone last time, since I showed up late to your wedding. Who’s he coming all the way out here to marry?”
“Alina Milanovic,” John said.
“They’re the clan with green hair? Live on Zolvolj?” Lucanus tilted his head and John nodded. “A fine clan. Never had trouble with them. Not outside of normal friction, anyway.”
“I’m sure they’ll appreciate hearing that.”
“When’s the wedding anyway? If it’s soon, Zolvolj might be erupting while it happens. Ah,” Lucanus smiled, “I bet they’d want that. It’s said to be a good sign. Of course, since they can predict when Zolvolj will be erupting there’s probably a handful of others getting married too, if they can secure a spot nearby.” Lucanus shrugged. “So let’s meet the guy.”
The journey continued with Lucanus accompanying them, since they were going to more or less the same destination. John wondered if the other transmigrator really did attract as much trouble as it seemed, because even the factors he mentioned couldn’t result in being attacked everywhere he went. If that happened, the world would be a lawless madhouse. It was… slightly less wild than that. Otherwise there would be few old cultivators, or maybe none at all with constant fighting and potentially killing each other.
Along the way John was glad to find that he wasn’t the only one who would overheat. He’d seen it before while they were hurrying back from the location of the wedding to the Tenebach sect, but Lucanus occasionally shot out gouts of fire. That was even the case where he wasn’t physically exerting himself but just being carried through the desert. He was courteous enough to stick his head out of the carriage and aim up into the sky.
“I hope you don’t mind me asking,” John said. “Why do you do it like that?”
“Just in case I’m ever about to get into a fight. Lots of fire cultivators in areas with high density of spiritual energy just constantly let off a stream of heat, something you wouldn’t really notice. But if I let it build up pressure it helps me cultivate, and if I get into a battle when I’m at my best I can start off the battle with an extra burst. It throws people off their game- or just makes them choose to retreat.”
“Interesting. I haven’t heard of other spiritual energy building up like that.”
“It happens with ice,” Matayal commented. “In freezing lands, water cultivators overfill with spiritual energy as well and they have to release it. Most of the other elements aren’t as intrusive. Though air has lightning, which produces much the same effect. Earth is too stable for that.”
“I wonder if light turns into natural lasers,” John speculated.
“Good question man,” Lucanus said. “Is a laser just high pressure light?”
“Not… really?” John shook his head, “Though I admit my studies didn’t really cover that.”
“Alright. But can you make dark lasers?”
“I don’t think so,” John pondered, “Darkness isn’t prone to high intensity bursts like light. It tends to suffuse through the area.”
“So does light though,” Lucanus said.
Matayal interjected herself, “What’s a laser?”
“It’s a high intensity light beam,” John replied. “I don’t think either of us can explain the details more than that. If focused enough, it can burn things.”
“Light and fire working as one,” she nodded, “Like the sun.”
“I guess,” John said. “But even if the source of light isn’t fire, it decays into heat eventually.” There wasn’t a lot of light that didn’t come from fire though, in this world. The only examples he could think of were things like phosphorescent moss, a few forms of crystals, and things like the deep sea anglerfish and other life that emitted light.
“What an interesting conversation,” she commented. “Laser. Such an interesting word.”
“Well it stands for something else,” Lucanus said. “It just doesn’t translate very well.” He looked to John, speaking in English. “She knows about the club, right?”
“Of course. You think I wouldn’t tell my wife?” John raised an eyebrow.
“People hide all sorts of things from their wives,” Lucanus commented. “Not always good things. So she knows about me too then?”
“Sorry,” John shrugged, “Our first real talk kind of threw that all into open air, so I’m not the only one that knows.”
“That’s fine. It’s not a big deal.”
Lucanus truly seemed unconcerned, but then again that seemed to be his style. He would handle whatever consequences popped up when they came, good or bad.
“Sorry about that,” Lucanus returned to the local language, “Just checking on something with him. Back to lasers. They’re pretty awesome.”
Lucanus left their company before they arrived at the Milanovic clan, citing his desire to not intrude on ‘clan business’. John had thought he might benefit from the introduction to a powerful clan in an area he would be frequenting, but it was his choice.
The arrival for the wedding was not as far ahead as for his own in the Shimmering Islands. It was a smaller affair, and it was easier to guarantee arriving within a certain time frame crossing the desert compared to navigating the ocean.
Though this particular marriage wasn’t anything significant, the Milanovic clan was still treating it seriously. Alina’s status in the clan given her cultivation talent was still reasonably high, and even though Tempkeit was unimportant in the Tenebach clan they also wanted to give a proper amount of face to another clan. The biggest difference was that those outside of the two clans were invited in much smaller numbers.
John had been a bit skeptical about a wedding in a desert. Even though the MIlanovic clan’s grounds were tolerable, it had still been unpleasantly warm on his previous visit. But given that it was a formal occasion instead of just an unplanned visit, they had adjusted the amount of incoming heat to be at a minimum in the areas visitors would be staying in. It might still get hot, but it would be summer heat instead of oven heat.
The Milanovic clan’s courtyards always looked nice, but the addition of statues formed from fused sand was a nice touch. They were a beautiful green, though because of their nature they lacked the natural swirls and bands that made some forms of stone interesting.
For obvious reasons, John was a thousand times less invested in Tempkeit’s wedding than his own. He was fond of his cousin, but beyond some happy feelings at his unity with Alina he wasn’t struck with much emotion. For the most part it was just another social event, with the exception of the guest each taking time to speak with the bride and groom. Though they seemed like they would be more interested in having the event over with.
But though the reactions of most were rather subdued, Zolvolj was more enthusiastic. At the height of the ceremony the ground rumbled and fire shot into the sky. Several large rocks rained down on the Milanovic clan, but they were deflected by a barrier. If they couldn’t handle something like that, they wouldn’t have been able to live at the base of an extremely active volcano for so long.
The eruption more or less signalled the start of the next event. The happy couple left to be on their own, while most of the other cultivators were more eager to give climbing the volcano a try. That included John and Matayal, of course.
Though Zolvolj was a bit more lively this time around, John was quite confident in his ability to go further than before given his considerable increase in cultivation rank. He also had a wider variety of elements to call upon- twice as many, if he counted Matayal. Which he did. The two of them whisked the heat away from themselves as they started walking up the mountain, terrain that formerly caused John pause being almost ignorable.
Cultivators from all around were climbing up the mountain to improve their own strength. Fire cultivators wanted to grow from the immense power in the area, while others were there precisely because the conditions would be harsh and push them to their limits.
As expected, John made it to the same height he had before without too much concern. A few handholds carved out of the rock here and there to make their path easier, a couple small hops over flows of lava, and they had quite a view down the mountain behind them. But the amount ahead of the pair was likewise quite lengthy. They still had much trouble to face, an increasing number of rolling boulders, more intense heat, and rough terrain.
Last time John had pushed himself for the sake of growing stronger, but with Matayal present things were different. It wasn’t easy, but he found that he was having fun as well as improving himself at the same time. Much more fun than being dragged down into the depths of the sea, and with a much easier path out. Down was easier than up, and the amount of damage they would suffer was mitigated by the maximum speed they would tumble. But it was much preferred if they didn’t have to do that as they set their eyes on the peak.