There was no response from the floor above him. Barrett hadn’t exactly expected the floor to respond, but he had expected some sort of response from the wind mage. Barrett waited a few moments and knocked again, “If you don’t answer I’m going to have to break this…”
When he was positive he wasn’t going to receive a response, he set out to do just that. It was a bit tricky to break a solid floor directly above him. He didn’t have anything to stand on, and any significant force would push him down away from the floor before breaking it- and then he would have to catch himself in the tunnel or climb back up.
Fortunately Barrett wasn’t limited to just normal solutions. He carved out a small section of rock with his limited magic, leaving the area around it untouched and as solid as it could be. One hand just fit inside, and Barrett shifted most of his weight to that point. Then he pressed his other hand against the floor above, filling it with berserk energy. Instead of trying to control it, he just let it wreak havoc, weakening the floor above him. It was already crumbling when he threw himself upward through it using the leverage of his hand buried in the rock wall.
Barrett settled himself down on a stable part of the floor and looked around. There was actually light coming in, though only very faintly, from the doorway leading to the exit. Nobody else was around, though that made sense because everyone should have already passed through in the time it had taken him to climb back up.
The exit out was just a tunnel gradually sloping upward, but Barrett could see some light from outside, though only just barely. It took a few minutes of casual walking to reach the surface, which was just a hole in the ground that seemed as if it had previously been covered, based on the piles of dirt around. Everything else was still flat, which meant they were in the Tornado Plains still. Except there was no tornado. Instead of the strong breeze that was always present on the Plains, the air was heavy and stagnant.
Barrett didn’t notice anything was wrong for over a second, after which he chose a random direction to run to find fresh air. The moment he did so, he felt something latch onto him. It wasn’t anything physical, but magic that sank into him, grabbing onto his life force. However, instead of trying to pull it away, it was strangling it.
Finding fresh air, Barrett expelled the poison from his lungs. At the same time, he steadied his life force and listened for any movement. He didn’t see, hear, or feel anything, not even a trace of magic. That meant his target wasn’t close and was also excellent at concealing themself.
Barrett tried to disperse the curse he felt on him with his berserk energy, but it merely scattered and reformed elsewhere. All he managed was causing some damage to his own body. The curse pressed down on his life force like a heavy weight, though there was no physical substance to either. He didn’t just sit there and take it- he fought back, his life force wrestling against the curse itself. It twisted and turned, slipping out of his metaphysical grasp. He didn’t manage to gain an advantage, but neither did it. Any time he gathered enough force to crush it, it slipped away and hid.
Outside of himself, Barrett kept listening for another attack. He slowly dispersed the poison in his body, but it seemed to have only been a distraction… or perhaps he had been underestimated in that department. He did cough up some blood, but in a few hours his lungs would be fine. Whoever attacked him showed no trace of themselves… but Barrett had a guess. Victoria or one of the other Silver Blades was most likely, except he didn’t know of them using any sorts of curses. Then again, perhaps it was a well kept secret or one individual’s accomplishments. If it was Victoria, it likely took some time to set up such an attack or he would have suffered it near the Southern Metal Sea.
As he ran a circuitous route back towards Stredo and the Immortal Berserker Sect, Barrett almost wished he could go back to simpler times where a body was just a body. He’d understood how they worked, and there weren’t strange metaphysical things messing with him. However, he’d also been weak then, near the beginning of Master Hykel’s training, so he still just barely preferred his current situation. At least he could fight it. It just took a lot out of him. Barrett was glad he had plenty of food around to replenish his reserves of stamina. Life force didn’t exactly get along well with berserk energy, so Pure Body Tempering was his best option for resisting the curse on him.
He breathed a sigh of relief once the Immortal Berserker Sect was in sight. Nobody else had been waiting for him along the way- or he’d managed to avoid them. Just inside the gates Alnherr pulled him aside. “There you are! You weren’t waiting outside so we thought you’d gone on ahead… but then you never arrived here.” Alnherr pulled Barrett close and looked into his eyes, “What’s happening in there, hmm?”
“A curse… though I’m not sure from who, specifically. They were probably invisible.”
“Is that so?” Alnherr frowned, “Are you alright, then? Can you handle it?”
“I’m not in… immediate danger.”
“I’ll go get the healers then. Meet up with us in your room.”
Barrett nodded, “That sounds… good.” Constantly fighting the curse was tiring. That said, he was starting to get the hang of it. It seemed inexhaustible, but that couldn’t be the case. It was getting refreshed from somewhere. Perhaps the mana in the air… but possibly it fed on his own life force. If he could limit how much it could do that, it would weaken. Either way, he didn’t need to put his full force into fighting it at all times. He just needed to remain vigilant as he waited for the healers to show up.