(Patreon) Truthful Transmigration 75

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The return trip back to the Stone Conglomerate placed John on a sort of boat he’d never been on before. Not that it was all that terribly different from the Wavecutter, though certainly it was a larger class of boat. The important difference to John was how they handled storms. While the more ‘minor’ storms were still ignored- it would be quite difficult to avoid every storm in the Shimmering Islands- they actually went around the larger storms instead of through them. That meant John didn’t have much chance to train his air element by absorbing lightning, but he’d had enough of that for a while anyway. 

The trip was certainly longer by avoiding the storms, but preferring safety was extremely reasonable. A few days lost to not go into huge storms was something most people would be happy trading. The Wavecutter also charged higher prices, since they were able to carry fewer passengers. Not that the difference in price was a factor for cultivators from powerful clans.

Dolomite Harbor came into view once more, and John was given more of a chance to appreciate it as they approached. The Wavecutter was fast, but the second time he’d returned with Kusuma… and that had made the speed of the Wavecutter seem almost leisurely. In the latter case, the boat itself wasn’t what allowed the speed, but instead it had been the person controlling it. 

Along the way John considered acting like a tour guide- but Matayal had already travelled through the area. He didn’t know much that she didn’t, at least until they started getting close to home. Though a good portion of his time was spent away, the Tenebach clan was always a safe place for him to come back to. While he hadn’t been concerned about anyone attacking him in his previous life, he had still appreciated a place to rest.

—–

While John’s involvement in the planning of the ceremony at the Brandle clan had been minimal, he did get involved with the administrative side of what was happening for the Tenebach clan. He left the actual details up to others, but sending the young master of a clan out to negotiate prices could result in better deals- people liked feeling important. It wasn’t strictly necessary, but just because the Tenebach clan had money didn’t mean that saving when they could wasn’t a good idea. Especially not on the scale of ceremony they were planning. 

—–

The ceremony itself was quite different, though like all weddings it would share certain themes. The coming together of the bride and groom was a key feature. In this case, instead of meeting out on the water they were to make their way to the highest peak in the region, approaching from different sides. For most people, they were content with the highest hill in town, or something just outside. But there was a particularly tall mountain not terribly far from the Tenebach clan. Holding the ceremony there was a sign of power- and also changed what sort of guests would attend. Not everyone would be willing to climb up a mountain, though there were proper paths for the guests, and escorts from the Tenebach clan.

John was currently making his way up a nearly sheer cliff face, along with Aydan and several other guards. Fortunately it was appropriate to show up covered in dirt. If it hadn’t been, a different route would have been chosen.

John stuck his hand into the rock face, pulling out a chunk. He had no intent to make the climb harder for himself than it had to be, and his earth element spiritual energy was quite capable of carving apart the cliff face for him. That left easy handholds and footholds for him, and those after him. Not that it was easy to tear apart the stone. He might be able to crush a normal rock in his hands, but there were many particularly sturdy materials in the Stone Conglomerate, and Old Grumpy was one of them. It had long ago been an active volcano- but it had been dormant for centuries. Now it was just a particularly tough mountain.

As the air thinned out, John used a small portion of his air energy to help fill his lungs, pulling in more air than he otherwise could. Having energy for every situation was quite helpful, though of course he really only had significant amounts of half of the elements. Still, most things he thought of he could do, if sometimes inefficiently. 

They reached a wide enough ledge to support all of them, and that gave them a moment to take a break and plan the last part of their climb. Of course, they had plans all the way up, but it was only when they got closer to certain points that they saw finer details. Like the nests of certain territorial birds. It was best to avoid them, even if the route ended up somewhat longer. Just because he had guards didn’t mean John wanted to get into a fight. He wanted to at least look somewhat presentable for the ceremony. 

—–

When John reached the top he of course found the guests waiting. They took the easy route up instead of a cliff face. But John was able to appreciate coming up the way he did. It made being at the top feel so much more real. He made his way towards the center of the peak where he would meet with Matayal. He didn’t have to wait long before she arrived as well. Neither of them were quite as clean as they might like, but they wanted to do things as properly as possible. They were supposed to be sweating and dirty and flushed from exertion. Even though they hadn’t been apart for long, John and Matayal smiled at each other happily. Everyone else might be here for different things, but they were present for each other.

The ceremony proceeded as expected, ending with the official declaration- though they were already quite officially married. There was a kiss and then they took each other’s hands, where they were supposed to walk down the mountain together. However, as they approached the route back down there was something of an interruption.

A panting figure with blue hair plastered to his forehead with sweat rushed around a bend below them. “Sorry I’m late!” he came running closer. “Looks like I missed it, huh? Unfortunately I ran into a lot of trouble on the way.” Lucanus- also known as Steve- waved to John. “Listen, I would have just let you pass without interrupting like this, but there’s a thing. It’s why I ran all the way here, after I found out where you were.” He looked to Matayal.

“It’s fine,” John said. “She can hear anything. She is my wife after all.”

“Oh yeah. Right! Congratulations,” Lucanus inclined his head. “I’m Lucanus.” He swirled his fire energy around the three of them, forming a bubble to block out eavesdropping. “Anyway, don’t know who’s listening. But I should get right to it. I was down south, near the Darklands. I overheard some stuff,” he pulled out a piece of paper, “Then I intercepted some letters. You know how hard it is for me to capture letters?” John raised his eyebrows. “Sorry, right. Some sort of group of darkness or something was talking about attacking the Tenebach clan during your wedding.” Lucanus tossed John the letters. “The letters aren’t quite so explicit… probably for the sake of deniability. But you guys should probably get moving real quick.”

Having met Lucanus all of twice- the second time determining he was likewise transmigrated and originally named Steve- John still had a reasonable amount of trust for him. He had no reason to disbelieve his words, and even if he was mistaken hurrying back to the clan would at most be embarrassing. As he said, the letters were more vague- talking about the ‘plans’ in the Marble County region- but if he said he overheard more with his own ears, John was inclined to trust him. He turned around- a good portion of the Tenebach clan’s strongest members stood there, quite reasonably defensive of the strange Soul Expansion Phase cultivator that had run up. That group of course included his grandfather Luctus. He waved to them as the hearing restrictions were lifted. “We need to hurry back. We can explain on the way.”

Steve was huffing and puffing, and his eyes widened. “I didn’t even think about the run back. Gotta cool myself down.” He turned his head to the side, huffing out a gout of flame. “Alright I’m ready.”

—–

Along the way Steve managed to give them a bit more information. The Darklands were south of the Stone Conglomerate, a largely darkness based region where the Tenebach clan had originated from many generations previous. He was actually able to come up with the name of the group, with Luctus’ help.

“Twilight Team?” Steve postulated.

“The Twilight Threshold?” Luctus asked.

“No that’s not quite right. Night Stabbers?”

“I’m going to be honest, the number of sects with ‘night’ in their name originating from the Darklands…” Luctus shook his head.

“Yeah. I think it was a Society? Society of… something.”

“Society of Midnight?” Luctus confirmed.

“That’s it! Midnight. Though they seemed quite happy to be walking around in broad daylight discussing their plans.”

“That seems unlikely,” Luctus said as he ran alongside him. “Perhaps it was some sort of trap.”

“Maybe. Though I think they probably passed over me because I was still inside a snake at the time. They were really surprised when it attacked them and then I popped out of its stomach!” Steve shook his head, “Then I noticed other groups of them moving through the area. Got in a bit of a mess, had to light a whole canyon on fire to get away.”

Luctus looked at John, who shrugged. From what Steve had said before he often got into trouble, and what he described wasn’t entirely unreasonable for someone in the Soul Expansion Phase. He was still just at the nineteenth rank, but that matched John and most of the others of significant talent. Each rank was much slower after reaching the Soul Expansion Phase.

Others ran ahead of the group, watching for ambushes. Even if all of Steve’s information was legitimate, it was possible that the Society of Midnight had set up people watching for their return. They weren’t supposed to get back until late evening at the earliest, but they could have left early. Knowing they were approaching would be important. And on the chance that information had been intentionally fed to Steve- somewhat unlikely considering the number of people he seemed to have killed- they might only be looking for an ambush along the way and not doing anything at the Tenebach clan.

Steve continued to explain what he knew. “They said something about some sort of stolen beast? And a guardian?”

John looked to Luctus, who nodded. “Many of those from the Darklands might have considered our departure something along those lines. At least if I remember the records correctly. Of course, we deemed it more of a rescue. We’re not holding the guardian beast captive.”

John nodded. “Ciaritzal seems quite content in his current position.”

“Oh, a guardian beast, yeah that’s what they said,” Steve nodded. “I hear those are a big deal. Really helps out a clan and all that. Anyway, I ran by your manor earlier, but I don’t know if they listened to my warning.”

“What did you say?” Luctus asked.

“I just warned them there might be an attack. Everything seemed fine then,” he shook his head, “But that was hours ago.” Steve puffed out another gout of flame while wiping his forehead.

“They should have at least taken a modicum of caution,” Luctus said. “If not, I’ll have to speak to security about it. But first… we have to get back. It’s not far now.” He squinted his eyes. “No smoke on the horizon, but that doesn’t necessarily say much. Especially not if they’re after the guardian beast.”

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