Barrett’s arms were still free, even if the snake was coiled around him everywhere below his chest. Unfortunately they wouldn’t stay free long, as the snake had more to go and seemed to be planning to completely envelop him. From his position he couldn’t get a good angle for a punch and his legs couldn’t even move. In fact, they were barely even holding together.
Barrett took a quick but deep breath to help steady his mind, though it was difficult with the snake pressing on his ribs and abdomen. It had been too long since he had been in a life-or-death fight, especially one where he was actually at real risk. He had barely even begun to explore what he could do at third tier. Not that it was much different than second tier. He wouldn’t suddenly gain new abilities he didn’t have before, but rather they would be gradually developed… like his tough body that was keeping him from being paste.
There was only really one way Barrett could attack. His elbows had almost a perfect arc to strike the top coil of the snake. The only issue was he couldn’t move to put his whole body weight behind the strike. But, of course, Barrett did it anyway. What was the point of Pure Body Tempering if he didn’t use it in a situation that seemed made for it?
He gathered the maximum amount of berserk energy he could control at once and struck down, moving his weight into his right arm and especially the elbow. At that moment, the snake stopped squeezing, as if it sensed the danger. Perhaps it intended to pull away, but it was already too late. Barrett’s elbow came down, piercing through its scales into its spine, with both the sounds of bone cracking and metal wrenching. Then the snake went limp- at least most of it.
The head and top section of the neck of the snake were still flopping around trying to attack, but it couldn’t maneuver properly. Barrett wrapped his arms around the neck just behind the head. One arm was just barely big enough, but two made it more secure. With him in that position, he could avoid any chance of being bitten. He wasn’t sure if this sort of snake actually had venomous fangs on top of being a constrictor, but he knew some existed and he didn’t want to deal with venom. Eventually the snake tired itself out- it took a lot more energy for it to thrash about than for Barrett to hold on, and it was bleeding heavily from the wound on its back. Barrett waited another minute to make sure it was dead before completely disentangling himself from the snake.
Barrett looked over the snake. Some parts of it had to be valuable, but he couldn’t discern exactly what. Its scales were certainly strong, but he didn’t have the time nor the storage space nor the training to skin it. If he were near a city, he could try to drag it with him, but he had a few more days of travel and a giant corpse might draw more attention from scavengers. Then again, perhaps it would scare off lesser creatures. Barrett quickly tested how heavy the body was, and found it was several tons at least. While he could drag that a short way, it wasn’t something he could keep a good pace up for several days with… especially not in his current state.
Barrett looked over his own injuries. Just a few cracked or broken ribs for the most part, although his elbow that had dealt the final blow was not in a great state. All of the berserk energy and force behind it had done a number on it… but it would heal up in a day. That is, it would have taken several months to heal properly for most people. While warriors might heal several times as fast as normal people, Barrett didn’t know of any that matched Immortal Berserkers, at least not as a group. Individuals might undergo special sorts of training or have immortal bodies, but the Immortal Berserker Sect was unique in their methods, at least in the regions Barrett had heard about.
Barrett settled on taking the head of the snake. Though it might not actually be valuable, he had enough storage space to take it and it would be a nice trophy. It still took some effort to chop its head off with his axe, partly because he could only use one arm and partly because it was just that tough. Unlike people wearing armor, the snake had the toughness of metal underneath its scales as well.
The areas around the metal seas had developed many more names for metals, and especially the looks of metals. While Barrett might describe most metals as “silvery”, they would have words for every tiny bit of variation. Barrett supposed that also meant they could actually tell them apart, because he knew he couldn’t. At least, not small details.
Fortunately, he didn’t need to know that. He was looking for an inn, “The Silver Tree”. It had another name for locals, but that didn’t matter. It wasn’t too hard to find. The signboard not only had the name but a picture of a silver tree- and it was right next to an actual silver tree. Barrett hadn’t seen any plants in the area grow even close to as large as that. As far as he could tell, however, it was as alive as any of the other plants. He wasn’t planning to break it open to check. They probably wouldn’t appreciate that.
Barrett had actually been surprised at the first denizens he’d seen around the Southern Metal Sea. Although they had silvery skin and hair, they had looked more human than he had expected. Not that he had expected them to look un-human, but rather that they had only slightly silvered or sometimes gold skin and hair, instead of actually looking fully metallic. They still had some flesh tones underneath, and their eyes looked mostly normal.
Barrett went up to the innkeeper. “Hello. I’m looking for the representative of the Leipeka clan?”
“Yeah? I’ll go get her.”
Barrett was surprised to see the representative when she arrived. “Are you following me?”
Kaylani rolled her eyes. “I’m the one who lives here.” Barrett could see a real difference between her and the rest of the natives, which is what had thrown him off. Even her eyes were metallic, and her hair moved stiffly. “I take it you’ve reached third tier now?”
“Wanna test?” Barrett grinned.
“No thank you. I might need to fight in the near future.” Kaylani shook her head, “Well, I hadn’t expected a large response but two is better than nothing I suppose. You’re the second, so we can leave. Let’s have you meet your other teammate for this mission.”
“Are you following me?” Nilima asked.
“Darn, I was too slow.” Barrett shook his head, “I was going to ask that.”
“Yes, yes, you both got the mission in the same place and came here. Now let’s go.” Kaylani gestured, “I’d rather not leave my clan with meagre defenses for too long.”