Barrett couldn’t fight back against the pulling teeth. He could barely keep a grip on his axe. A few moments later he was conveyed to an even tighter but less teeth filled section of the worm’s insides. The squeezing was merely unpleasant, though he supposed it could have been bone crushing if he were less durable.
Then he found himself in a slightly wider chamber full of gooey and corrosive liquid. It was much stronger than the air near the Metal Sea. Given the opportunity to swing his axe, Barrett did the best he could. Even though the chamber was wider, it still mostly hugged onto Barrett. Thus, he couldn’t build up much momentum. However, his axe was still sharp and with the addition of berserk energy it manage to cut through something. Barrett couldn’t be sure what, because he couldn’t see. There wasn’t exactly much light inside a great worm. However, he felt hot blood pouring onto him. It washed away some of the corrosive liquid… but not much.
Barrett continued to swing his axe back and forth until the handle broke. He wasn’t surprised that happened, since it was being corroded by both stomach acids and berserk energy. Barrett’s skin wasn’t faring any better. In fact, he wasn’t sure if he still had any. Everything hurt.
He couldn’t afford to hold back, and was using every bit of berserk energy he had. He hadn’t quite recovered from the overdrafting a few days earlier, but there was nothing to be done at this point. Now, he needed even more energy. He didn’t really care where it went, as long as it was out of him and into the worm. He fumbled around in his magic bag to pull out the vials of poison… which soon became a pointless gesture because the magic bag broke, spilling out its contents. Barrett knew that because of the sudden lack of space around him and the feeling of metal pressing against him- his armor.
Barrett didn’t have any air to waste howling in exertion, so he got by with screaming internally. Spikes of berserk energy stabbed out in every direction, and he felt more and more hot blood over him. Then, suddenly, the muscles relaxed for a moment. Then they suddenly reversed direction, violently. He found himself thrown out into… darkness.
Cold, pervasive, liquidy, thick and heavy darkness. He was floating in it. It seeped into him through his skin- or lack thereof- and weighed down on him like a mountain. Mercury. He was in the Metal Sea, and not particularly near the surface. How long had he been in the worm? It must have been a few minutes… except its sudden increase in speed perhaps meant it could have been thirty or forty seconds. He didn’t have time to think about that. He was floating upwards, but the mercury was thick and heavy. He wasn’t sure how far down he was, so he did his best to swim upwards as quickly as possible… while still conserving energy.
His lungs wanted to explode. Not just from not having taken a breath for some time, but from the pressure crushing in on his ribs and stomach. The wound from the tail was especially weak. Barrett had just enough presence of mind to fortify it with durability from elsewhere. He did the same for his eyes, which were only barely protected by what was left of his eyelids. His eardrums had already burst, but he did his best to prevent further intrusion of mercury into his ears and nose, squeezing down muscles and flesh that wasn’t meant to move.
He couldn’t build up much momentum since he had to move heavy mercury out of the way, but he was much more buoyant than it. He suddenly found himself covered in a different sensation. The weight on him had also lowered as he swam upward, still heavy but less oppressively so. However, it was also getting hotter. At least whatever he was swimming through was much less toxic than the mercury.
Swimming suddenly became harder, and everything was much hotter. He didn’t have any berserk energy left, but he had just a bit of mana. He used that to provide a bit more buoyant force. Metal was related to earth enough for that. It was all a matter of practice, really. It became much hotter… and suddenly Barrett’s hand reached up into superheated steam and water. His momentum carried him up and through into the top layer of the sea, and light, and then air… or at least something resembling air. Barrett breathed in the hot steam, scalding his lungs but at least providing a small amount of oxygen. He was just barely able to keep his head above water. In normal seawater, he might not even be buoyant.
Barrett picked a direction he felt was correct and started swimming. He could see light… but nothing more. He needed to keep his head above water. How could he do that… well, he could be more buoyant. It was unpleasant, but he used Pure Body Tempering to expand his lungs beyond their normal limit. He had to squish down some of his other organs and stretch some muscles, but it worked well enough. He could breathe. At least his lungs were used to the corrosion and resistant to the scalding steam. However, he couldn’t last long.
He had no idea how long he was swimming, but his muscles ached. They ached from the pain of being exposed to near-boiling saltwater, and before that enveloped in mercury, and from exertion and from everything.
Then his knees ran into sand. Barrett started to crawl forward, out of the sea. It really was land. The air was better… as far as such things went. He returned his lungs to normal, crawling up onto the sand, not caring how the tiny flecks of metal got into his open wounds. He could barely feel it anyway.
He crawled until he was certain he was above the tideline… at least, certain enough. Then he rolled onto his back and collapsed.
He wasn’t sure if he fell unconscious, but what felt like a moment later he felt something sharp. He instinctively tried to smash down on it, but his arm didn’t want to move. He made it move anyway. Then he felt around. His sense of touch barely worked, but he thought maybe it was a crab. He tore it apart and ate what he could… then he fell unconscious for some time.