The unicorn wasn’t doing itself any good by thrashing around wildly trying to throw Barrett off. It didn’t know any better, but regardless it accelerated its own blood loss by trying to stop the pain Barrett was causing. Despite its efforts, the unicorn was unable to remove Barrett from its back- and even when it rolled over on him it only slowed him down briefly.
Barrett removed the final arrow in its side and used the antiseptic salve to counteract the bleeding- both that caused by the arrow itself and the toxin on it. He was glad that he carried large amounts of various random salves, because if he carried a normal amount he would have already run out. By the time he finished applying the last bit, the unicorn had exhausted itself into unconsciousness. However, it shouldn’t have any more bleeding, so without further trouble it would recover.
Standing next to the unconscious form of the unicorn, Barrett readied his axe. As long as he didn’t damage the root, the horn would grow back without too much trouble. Unicorns were both rare and relatively peaceful, so he preferred not to cause it too much harm. As he raised his axe, ready to chop down, a wave of cold washed over him, and he found it difficult to move even the slightest bit.
A voice echoed throughout the forest around him, “I appreciate your care, young man… but that unicorn belongs to me. I shall be taking it back.” An old man in dark robes came into Barrett’s vision, though the oppressive cold feeling intensified and Barrett couldn’t even move his eyes. The old man strode up to the unicorn, touching its head with his hand. With that, the unicorn awoke, rising unsteadily to its feet, walking off next to the man.
Barrett supposed he might be able to move if he put all of his effort into it… but perhaps he couldn’t. As the old figure moved further away, Barrett found the effect weakening until his body started to relax on its own, and then the feeling disappeared as the pair moved further than Barrett could see.
Barrett sighed and started moving around to the bodies of the archers. They might have some valuable goods, and whatever group they were from had attacked him first. They weren’t going to be any more angry at him compared to finding out he’d killed some of them, though it was better if they didn’t find out at all. He certainly wasn’t going to sell anything of theirs in Ogloni.
After Barrett finished looting, he sat down to rest. He couldn’t feel the curse inside him trying to act up, so perhaps it hadn’t recovered from their last encounter. Alternatively, perhaps the charm provided by Crenthor also worked to suppress already active curses as well as prevent new ones. That attested to his skill- or perhaps the skill of his master- but Barrett wasn’t sure how he was going to get his curse removed without the unicorn horn.
A few minutes later, Master Hykel came bounding through the forest. He looked around at the bodies and then at Barrett, “Good to see you fared well in battle, what of the unicorn?”
Barrett shook his head and explained the whole situation. “… it seems likely that the old man was at least sixth tier. It wouldn’t have been quite so overwhelming otherwise. It’s probably best not to mess with him.”
Master Hykel scratched his chin, “It’s indeed better to avoid unnecessary conflict with powerful characters… but you do need that unicorn horn.”
“He probably lives near Ogloni. If we look him up, we can ask to buy a horn. He seemed reasonable enough that we could probably ask.”
“Very well. Let us return to Ogloni. We can look up this old man, or perhaps Crenthor will have caught word of another unicorn horn that we can purchase, if we’re lucky.”
Barrett explained the situation to Crenthor back in town, “So, we were wondering if you’d heard word of another one somewhere we could hunt down or purchase…”
Crenthor shook his head, “Oh, that’s unfortunate. No, I haven’t heard of another one.”
Barrett sighed, “Is there no way to curse this curse without a unicorn horn?”
“Hmm?” Crenthor tilted his head, “Oh, I can cure it just fine without.”
“… Didn’t you say you needed a unicorn horn?”
“I do.” Crenthor paused, then waved his hands, causing his large sleeves to waved back and forth, “Ah, there’s been a misunderstanding. I need a unicorn horn. I was going to have you use that as your payment for removing the curse. As an apology for the misunderstanding and your wasted effort, I can give you a discount on that, on top of the one for me being the apprentice instead.” He held his hand up just below his mouth and spoke in a mock conspiratorial tone, “My master charges a lot more than necessary, just like everyone else.”
Master Hykel nodded, “Is that so? Well, then perhaps we can come to an agreeable price.”
Barrett knew he was lucky to have been picked up by Master Hykel, who was willing to expend large amounts of resources for him. He owed Master Hykel and the Immortal Berserker Sect quite a bit, even if he counted his part in helping provoke the Silver Blades into causing their own downfall. After all, that was also a personal conflict and even though they were enemies, the Immortal Berserker Sect also hadn’t needed to get them shut down… though it was a welcome result.
Regardless, Barrett planned to become strong enough to pay back Master Hykel and the Sect. Master Hykel didn’t really care about the money- and in fact was quite satisfied just by Barrett growing strong, but Barrett hadn’t yet achieved anything extremely special except a few times out of luck. Once he became fourth tier, the level of basic mastery, perhaps he could start really contributing.
With all that said, Master Hykel paid for Crenthor to treat Barrett’s curse. There wasn’t a particularly impressive setup for the whole thing- the two of them once more sat on large cushions on the floor, though Crenthor brought out a few more charms that he placed on Barrett.
Crenthor placed a hand on Barrett’s forehead, “Now, once more let me in. Then follow my lead as we root out this curse.”
Though the curse was suppressed by the charms, it still took some rooting around to find where it was hiding. Even then, removing it was difficult. It couldn’t do much to fight back, but it was still covered in spikes. Barrett had to do the majority of extracting it himself- Crenthor just kept it slightly more docile and prevented it from running. While it might have looked like Barrett had the hard job, he could sense Crenthor’s significant expenditures of mana and energy, and sweat dripped down both of their faces even as they stood perfectly still.
Finally, Barrett pushed the cursed out of his inner self, out of his body, and Crenthor pulled his hand away. A bubble of energy formed around a squirming black mass, a bubble that then condensed and grew brighter, crushing and burning the curse inside before it fizzled away.
Barrett took a deep breath. He hadn’t even noticed the drain the curse was causing on him even when it wasn’t attacking until it was gone. Now he found himself nearly empty… but was also able to recover. “I’m gonna take a nap,” Barrett said as he flopped over backwards. His nap lasted a full day, and still didn’t make up for the lack of real sleep he’d had for the past half year.