Somehow, training with the axe used an entirely different set of muscles to everything Barrett had used previously. He’d thought the training from before had already covered everything, but he found out he was wrong. Well, it wasn’t entirely different muscles, but it sure felt like it.
Of course, beyond the muscles involved was the technique. After all, just swinging an axe was only good for chopping wood- and even that required some technique to do well. It actually took less effort to do things the right way… though more training to get to the right way.
For the next month Barrett trained with the axe during the morning and evening, with various studies in the afternoon or sometimes replacing one training session for the axe. That was already hard to handle, but he also had to train his berserk energy, which was unimaginably exhausting.
Barrett thought he was going to give out. It wasn’t unpleasant the same way working for his cousin had been, but it was still tiring and sometimes painful. The few rest days weren’t quite enough… or so he thought, but he managed to push through and keep going. In fact, the first thing to give out was his axe.
One day, the axehead came off during a training session. He’d been infusing energy into it for training… but this time it just gave out in the middle of a swing. The axehead flew off… straight toward Master Hykel. Barrett shouted out in warning, but he didn’t move… even when the edge directly impacted his arm. It was only a few moments later that he turned to look at it, picking it up between two fingers. “Hmm, it seems your energy training has been going well. These don’t fall apart so easily… It looks like you’re ready for the second destruction.
While his gathering and mastery of berserk energy might have been up to the standard of the second destruction, Barrett wasn’t sure his mind was. He had succeeded before… but what if it had just been luck? What if he regressed this time… and then died the next time.
Barrett slapped himself hard enough to see stars. There was no point in thinking about that. He had succeeded before, and he would succeed again. There was the issue of the pain… but that wouldn’t come into play until after he had already succeeded or failed. At that point, he could deal with it. After he succeeded. There wasn’t another option. Not if he wanted to be strong.
There was nothing to be afraid of. He didn’t even have a chance of dying this time- unless he did something incredibly stupid. So he wouldn’t. He slapped himself once again just to clear his mind.
Then, he concentrated. The energy inside of him seemed like it wanted to destroy… everything. That included him, but he wouldn’t let it. Except for now, when he wanted it to very specifically destroy things. This time, he more smoothly brought it to the right locations. He couldn’t move two strands at once, at least not as accurately as he would like… but each strand was stronger than before. Finally, he brought one third of his energy to every part… then destroyed.
Master Hykel had said, when asked if it would hurt less, “Yes and no.” Barrett would have said strictly “no”. It definitely hurt worse. Was this what failure was like? He still didn’t want to think about that… but he was in no state to slap himself. Though it hurt worse… he was still conscious. That was something. He supposed, in a way, it hurt less… compared to what he could tolerate. It wasn’t that comforting when he thought it would probably hurt more every time, no matter how much he could tolerate it.
It quickly became obvious he had not failed at the second destruction. In almost exactly four months, he was fully healed. This helped verify the theory that he had somehow started at a ‘2’. While disappointing that he wasn’t going to proceed twice as fast as he should forever, he took solace in the fact that he had already saved eight months. Granted, that didn’t put him exactly eight months ahead, as that time would have been filled with other types of training, but it still cut out a significant amount of time that could only be spent recovering. Barrett stared down at his hands and wondered why he had recovered faster… and the answer quickly became obvious.
The bandages on his hand told the whole tale. They had become part of him ever since he got them, and so he didn’t really think about them, but they were magical. He supposed they had been making him heal faster before, but he had just thought it was that he was taking better care of himself. He really wanted to thank that beggar more… but he probably would never get the chance.
Barrett thought about his next assignment. He had learned how to fight… and now he needed more practice. Master Hykel was a great master, but he wasn’t really the right level for a sparring partner. He also did his own training, so he couldn’t devote all his time to Barrett. Thus, Barrett’s next step was to go down the mountain to the city below… and lose fights.
That wasn’t actually the case, but Master Hykel pointed out that if he didn’t get injured, he wasn’t fighting hard enough opponents. Then he would recover… and then fight again. He would repeat that until… forever, maybe. Master Hykel certainly seemed to think that was the right way.
Beyond combat training, getting injured had a point too. It would toughen up his body. That wasn’t the natural way of things. It was part of the Immortal Berserker Technique. Of course, Master Hykel pointed out not to get injured too badly, or he wouldn’t recover properly. At the same time, he handed over some bottles of medicine- Barrett opened them to see little spherical pills. “These are for when that happens. If you get any scars that won’t recover right, or a bone that just won’t heal… these will take care of it. Don’t just take them for everything, though. Only if you really need it. There are side effects. No matter what, your body will regress in toughness just a bit if you take them, and if you take too many… well, it’s best that you don’t.”
Barrett nodded. He liked the idea of healing scars… he couldn’t stand to look at his face in reflections… but he covered up with bandages anyway. It was probably vain to worry about scars on his face anyway. At some point, he would get something that didn’t heal quite right, and then he would take the pills anyway… so there was no reason to rush.
As for coming to recover when he was injured, Barrett would have probably never made it if he had to climb the cliff… but he didn’t. The day after he arrived, he had seen the path down- by the sign boards. It was just a nice sloping path, down the mountain toward the city. It was just off out of sight where he had climbed up, going up the side of the plateau where the school rested. Barrett wondered what would have happened if he noticed it then… Not that it mattered now. He was better for having accomplished that climb… and now he could do it easily. Not that he was particularly eager to do it, because falling was still a terrifying thought… but he also knew that if he let himself fail when he was stronger, there had been no point to the training.
Now, all he had to do was go down the mountain, fight… and lose. Or at least not win gracefully. Barrett wondered if his body would ever stop aching in the future.