The perception of time Barrett currently had was vague at best. What tiny part of him was conscious was continuously active keeping his blood flowing. He had a vague awareness of his body around his heart and that was it. He didn’t notice his body trying to regrow itself or his berserk energy making that very small scale regrowth impossible. If he had been in a good state, it wouldn’t have been an issue but with his energy overdrafted and his body exhausted his body wasn’t functioning properly. He also wasn’t conscious enough to do anything about it.
Gradually, he felt himself getting weaker. He couldn’t do anything about it, and he couldn’t even really think. However, the feeling was still there. With no sense of time he wasn’t sure how long he would last.
Then he felt the pain. It was a different type of pain… not physical or emotional… it was damage to his soul. However, this pain was very different from the curse he’d previously dealt with. It wasn’t so sharp… and instead more like a dull throbbing that spread out throughout his body one bit at a time. The pain gradually faded where it first started but it spread more quickly than that. Then it reached his heart… or at least somewhere metaphysically adjacent to where his heart used to be. Suddenly his control over his blood faltered and he struggled to get it back.
After he finally did, he felt weaker… but the dull throbbing was fading… and he could just barely sense his heart recovering. Not that he had a heart, but the arteries and veins in the area were recovering… slowly, but perceptibly. Barrett didn’t have the capacity to consider that he should have felt more tired… but conversely he felt less tired- or at least his state had stopped getting worse.
His work actually got harder as his heart started to reform. Instead of channeling his blood through nothing… he had to move it through the proper places… but they weren’t fully formed and thus just slowed him down. However, his heart was growing back quickly. He couldn’t say how fast it was- probably days at the quickest, but eventually it was semi-functional even without him. He held on as long as he could, unsure if half functional would be enough… and not really able to consider it either way. Then he faded into nothingness.
When he woke, Barrett felt different. He started with touching his face. That was the same. Arms and legs were still there. He had internal organs and even a heart. He supposed that was different. He vaguely remembered ripping that out. He sat up… apparently too quickly. He was quite dizzy and had to balance himself. Instead of reaching out an arm, he naturally fell to using stamina to shift his weight away from his upper body. It was… too easy. Not that he was going to complain, but he still didn’t feel right. Then he realized it.
There was just the slightest hint of dull aching in his soul… and beyond that there was nothing inside him. Specifically, there was none of the berserk energy he was so used to throughout his body. It was… strange. If he ignored the dull ache that was still fading, this was the first time he had been entirely without pain in half of his lifetime. Of course, most of the time it had been very slight and manageable… but it was still there.
Barrett reached out for berserk energy, but found nothing. Well, from what he remembered he had been significantly overdrafted. He very carefully tried to create some new berserk energy… but even though he expected sharp pain of some sort… he got nothing. About this time, the door to his room opened.
“Oh, you’re awake.” Shanta walked over to him. “Right?”
Barrett took a moment to acknowledge her presence, then turned and nodded. “Yes.” The word came out in a croak, and only then did he realize his throat was dry. “I’m thirsty… and hungry.”
“That makes sense… you haven’t had much but nutritional pellets and what water we could give you in months.” Shanta held out a waterskin, “I was just bringing you water anyway.”
Barrett reached out to grab the waterskin and found his arm barely responded to his movements. It was shaky and weak… but that was just from his overall fatigue. He managed to drink some water without spilling more than half of it on himself. He coughed, “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. I’ll just go get some food… and tell people you’re awake.” After she left the room, Master Hykel showed up shortly.
“Hey kid. Glad to see you awake.”
“… Pretty sure I’m not a kid anymore.”
“Pfft, you’re like a third of my age. That’s nothing.” Master Hykel just stood nearby, not wanting to push Barrett to talk more… and Barrett was already feeling strained just from sitting up. He leaned back into his bed. He stayed awake until he was brought soup which he devoured as quickly as he could with shaky hands… then he let himself fall asleep.
Many people came to visit him over the next few days. Reina and Katja and others from the Sect. Then Einar came.
“Ugh… you don’t have another prophecy, do you? I don’t know if I could handle it.”
Einar grinned, “Don’t worry. I just came to see you alive. It’s hard to believe, even though I know the efficacy of my predictions.” His eyes focused on Barrett… but at least there were only two of them, and his face remained normal, “If you don’t mind me asking, how do you feel?”
Barrett shrugged, “Fine. I could probably get up now if I wanted to.”
“I was not particularly concerned about your body. I am more interested in what made you do what you did. How do you feel about your sacrifice?”
By this point, Barrett could feel that he had no energy… and probably would never. Maybe it was something he could recover, but it wasn’t even really part of his body… so it would take something truly miraculous. “That depends. How is Nilima?”
“You could ask her yourself. She has been standing outside your room for quite some time.” Barrett heard the sound of feet running outside the room, and Einar shrugged, “Though it seems she had gone away for the moment.”
“She’s still running around?” Barrett shrugged, “I feel fine then. I honestly expected to die.”
Einar’s mouth twisted, “I do find that hard to understand.”
“You’re the one who told me to act quickly.”
“That does not mean I understand. I just knew those were the words that I needed to say.”
“I couldn’t just let her die,” Barrett shrugged. “What’s the point of becoming strong if I can’t protect people I care about?” He couldn’t help but grimace as he thought about his family. Not that he could have done anything about that at his age then… but he hadn’t even considered protecting his family, instead relying on them for everything. That had been fine as a child, but it wasn’t good enough to stay that way.
Einar shrugged, “Some people might say that no one is more important than themselves. However, your attitude embodies the heart of any righteous faction. It’s still rare to actually care about anyone else more than yourself.”
Barrett nodded as Einar turned to leave, but he couldn’t say for sure he had been entirely unselfish in his actions. After all, sacrificing some of himself to save Nilima was overall better for him than just letting her die. He just hadn’t expected to lose his energy cultivation. He wondered if he could still be part of the Immortal Berserker Sect… well, at least he could still stay, even if he wouldn’t be a core member without being able to practice the Immortal Berserker Technique.