Barrett had grown used to fighting the curse. It showed up and ripped into his life force, and his life force wrestled with it until it was weakened enough to retreat. He couldn’t follow it- either it went somewhere he couldn’t reach, or just didn’t know how to.
Unlike his physical body, his life force didn’t grow in toughness from taking damage. At best, his will to resist the curse grew stronger slightly and he became accustomed to the new kind of pain.
Inevitably, the curse would return just about the time he recovered his life force to its peak. Sometimes it was earlier, and half recovered itself, and sometimes he got the best of it and it disappeared for more than a day.
Barrett slowly grew stronger, but the curse remained about the same. Perhaps he would outgrow it and find a way to defeat it sooner or later. Perhaps Victoria’s death would help. There were a number of executions coming up, including hers. There were hundreds, in fact. Not every member of the Silver Blades was being convicted, but most of their higher tier members were. Every master- fourth tier or higher- was sufficiently responsible for all the Silver Blade’s killings to be executed. Below that, some people managed to worm out by saying they didn’t participate in any murders or know about them. Perhaps for a few of them it was even true that they didn’t know.
The curse was acting up again, its claw like appendages slashing into his life force and tearing pieces of it away to be consumed. Unlike his actual body, moving his life force to fight was more than just dodging and attacking, and it was much more vulnerable. He grabbed the curse and started tearing into it as well.
Suddenly, spikes grew out of the curse, stabbing into Barrett. Instead of taking advantage of the situation, it pulled away from him- and he was perfectly willing to let it go. It retreated out of his perception.
Taking stock, the spikes hadn’t much injured his lifeforce, but they were a surprising change. Something must have happened to cause the change, but Barrett couldn’t tell what.
The same night, it returned at full force looking much more intimidating- not that Barrett could actually see anything. However, he felt it was covered in metaphysical spikes. Every piece of it was covered, and Barrett couldn’t do anything to it without contacting spikes. He wasn’t afraid of a bit of pain, however, so he attacked it just the same as before. A solid strike to its midsection sent it reeling back, and Barrett checked his state. Only minimal damage himself had occurred, and the fight proceeded as normal.
Eventually the curse withdrew. Barrett sustained slightly more damage than normal, but nothing he couldn’t handle. Then he returned his thoughts to his real body and noticed the damage.
Though in his mind he had been punching and kicking and wrestling with a spiked thing, his body was damaged from the inside out. His internal organs were full of tiny holes, and internal bleeding was rampant.
Barrett first slowed his blood flow and concentrated on his heart. Each time it beat, more blood squeezed out- but only a little bit. With a mental effort and some stamina, he pulled blood back into his bloodstream and accelerated the healing on his heart, one tiny hole at a time. At his maximum speed, he took one minute to heal each wound, and his heart took about half an hour in total. After that, he was already starting to feel exhausted. If the bleeding hadn’t been so slight for each wound, he would have already died.
He stood up and rushed to the nearest mess hall. He needed to eat to restore his stamina and continue. He couldn’t keep his blood flow slow all the time, because that was necessary for functioning… including healing. If the curse came back at full power before he finished recovering completely, he would be helpless.
Eventually he managed to recover, but it took the rest of the day. He had used the maximum amount of stamina possible for the day- even if he ate more food it could only recover at a normal rate for a while, unless he was willing to risk consequences.
Barrett went to see Master Hykel about the new development, “… in short, it got much worse. Nobody we trust in Stredo can handle it, so…”
Master Hykel nodded, “Indeed. You can’t just sit around doing nothing. Though there is no one here, we have looked into other places. Overall, Ogloni will be your best bet.”
Barrett held his forehead, trying to remember. “That’s… the city where all sorts of necromancy and other practices are legal, correct? It’s pretty dangerous.”
“It is,” Master Hykel nodded, “But they do still have laws. In the city, at least, they enforce the laws quite strictly. While turning someone into a zombie of some sort is entirely legal, killing them is not. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be a city but a disorganized pile of rubble full of zombies and ghosts. While not the best place… people there will be happy to work for money, and if they don’t have a grudge against us they have no reason to cause you harm. There is still the matter of the Silver Blades hating you, and the Immortal Berserker Sect in general. With some powerful members in hiding, it’s not exactly safe to go… but Ogloni is large enough that they can’t watch the whole city, even if they expect you to go.”
“Great. So… when do we leave?”
“What makes you think I’ll go with you?”
Barrett frowned, “Why would you not? It’s dangerous, I’m your personal disciple, and you just broke through to sixth tier. It’s about time to go on a journey… Unless you have a particular place to go yourself you haven’t mentioned…”
Master Hykel grinned, “No, you’re right. It’s best I go with you. I’ve got to make sure you keep up with your training on the road!”