A whole year passed. Barrett felt improvements to his body and technique, but hadn’t yet broken through to fourth tier as a Pure Body Temperer. In addition to his training, he spent time researching destroyed energy cultivation and if it could be recovered. There were a few accounts of it happening in the past, but at least one of the incidents involved energy cultivation that wasn’t completely destroyed. It wasn’t clear with some of the others, but there was at least one case where energy cultivation had been restored. Or at least… the capacity to do it.
By coincidence, it was another berserker. Lena Havener had been a grandmaster cultivator of berserk energy a handful of centuries before Barrett was born. She had been captured by her enemies who destroyed her energy cultivation, but let her live to wallow in her weakness. Not that a berserker would be entirely useless without energy, but she was effectively several tiers weaker- and with some other permanent injuries if the records were correct.
The records didn’t include all of her efforts, but eventually after three decades of searching she found and killed an ancient dragon, devouring its heart and regaining the ability to cultivate energy… though she had to start at first tier of energy cultivation again. Her progress was swift but she only barely reached her former power again before she started hunting down her enemies. Eventually, she died along with the very final one.
Barrett didn’t have much hope of killing an ancient dragon. Master Hykel… might be able to do it but it could also require a grandmaster. It also wouldn’t be the case that just any ancient dragon would do. It required one with the right type of energy cultivation… otherwise his body wouldn’t be able to handle it- and even then it was possible he needed to previously possess a grandmaster level of cultivation for the process to work. Fighting a dragon that cultivated berserk energy certainly wasn’t a safe proposition. However, even if someone would do it for Barrett’s sake… it would take a significant amount of time to find such a dragon. Years, if he was lucky, or a century if he wasn’t. Barrett might be able to live for another century, but he would be old and frail by then.
Barrett wasn’t just going to wait around for that. He didn’t even bring up the idea to Master Hykel. Even if there was no risk, there was no point in waiting that long. Barrett had just four years to break through to become fourth tier again or he would disappoint Nilima, being unable to enter the tournament with her. While it might be considered her fault that he was no longer able to cultivate energy, Barrett didn’t blame her actions. They made sense… and as far as it went the process had been successful. He had survived, anyway, which was the point.
Doctor Stieber mentioned that perhaps Barrett’s own heart could have been transferred back into him- that would have certainly worked for Barrett, but Nilima might not have been able to survive Barrett’s heart being removed. Barrett had told his heart to make itself part of her, and it had done so… and more. Her surrounding organs and flesh had also started transforming, exemplified by the berserk energy Nilima had been producing. Even without the heart any replacement would have had to be able to survive berserk energy… and by the time Nilima had control over the berserk energy it was far too late to go back. After all, there was no point in causing her risk when Barrett’s whole plan had been to save her.
Eventually, Barrett’s body plateaued… it was hard to grow stronger in muscle power or toughness without breaking through to another tier. At the same time, he was also thinking about increasing his healing rate. Not that he was going to complain about one thousand times normal healing… but it wasn’t that useful in combat. Even ten thousand times- what would be called a tier 1 immortal body- was barely functional in combat. Did he need to be able to heal in combat? No. Would it be nice? Absolutely. Besides, it would always help his Pure Body Tempering training if he spent less time recovering.
The only question was if he could increase his recovery speed. Alnherr didn’t know of any way that had been successful, but Immortal Berserkers did it. However, the used energy to destroy certain points of the body in just the right way and Barrett couldn’t do that. After all, he didn’t have energy. But… did he need it?
Barrett strongly considered. Immortal Berserkers used Berserk energy because that was what they cultivated. Nothing said they couldn’t get the same effect through physical destruction, except that causing injuries immediately before losing your ability to recover was a terrible idea. However, it wasn’t like Barrett had to stab himself. He could damage any part of his body he pleased. Why couldn’t he do the same for complete destruction? He brought that up to Masters Alnherr and Hykel.
“Well,” Master Hykel shook his head, “There are basically three ways that could go. First, you destroy your ability to heal… and just die.” Master Hykel drew a finger across his throat, “Or you mess it up and die, but I’d group those up under the same thing. Second, you successfully do it… and effectively start over from the beginning, gaining healing rate or maybe failing and losing some. Or… it could just build on what you’ve already done with the Immortal Berserker Technique, and if it followed those same rules… assuming you don’t mess up, you’ll be fine.” Master Hykel frowned, “I’d give you… about a one in four chance of just dying, combining the likelihood of the first two.”
Master Alnherr smiled slightly, “You’re a crazy one, that’s for sure. Let’s say you succeed… I’d like to ask you to teach me, but honestly I’m not willing to risk a chance of death… even if it’s five percent or so like when Master Hykel first started. Anyway, I can’t say it wouldn’t work. In fact, if I said you absolutely couldn’t do something with Pure Body Tempering, I’d never even have made it this far.”
Barrett thought for a few moments, then turned to Master Hykel, “So what you’re saying is… I have a twenty five percent chance of death which is… less than the normal chance of death during the first destruction.”
Master Hykel laughed, “Well I guess you could say it like that, yeah. It’s just normally nobody needs to take that risk twice.”
“Well,” Barrett shrugged, “I suppose I technically never took that risk to begin with, not that we knew it. I’m not going to give up this chance.”
Master Hykel clapped Barrett on the shoulder, “Before you decide, remember that’s just my guess. I don’t know anything for sure. So, ask yourself… do you believe it can work?”
Barrett felt inside his body. Without energy, that was the only thing he could feel the inner workings of… and that was okay. What his own senses told him… “I think it will work. I’m going to do it.”
“I thought so,” Master Hykel grinned broadly. “I can get a place set up with minimal distractions. I can also prepare some incense but…”
Barrett shook his head, “I couldn’t afford to have my senses dulled. Certainly, not the first time using a new technique… or a different method of it, maybe. I’ll take a day or two to prepare so I can be sure… I can’t exactly practice, but I can go over the technique in my mind. Maybe that will help.”
Alnherr nodded, “Also, you shouldn’t need drugs to turn off your sense of pain. WIth your sense of your body you should be able to tell if something is going wrong… so maybe practice that. It’s a terrible idea in battle since pain is the quickest way to sense something wrong without focusing on your own internals, but for this situation it should be quite useful.”
“Right. Thanks,” Barrett nodded. Now all he had to do was go get ready… and hope he was right. It would be a shame to die before really getting to experience being fourth tier… and he had some things he still wanted to do beyond fighting Nilima again.