Barrett trudged the last bit of the way into the sect… though really it was just a few buildings and Master Hykel. Walking with broken ribs was very unpleasant… but Barrett could do it. It was just physical pain. He could deal with it. That’s what he kept telling himself, and he found that it worked. Master Hykel came to see him as he arrived, then looked him over. “Broken ribs… definitely a good idea to stop. Make sure to take some time to get used to what you can handle. While having more injuries all at once is somewhat more efficient… the more important part is challenging yourself in combat. At least for now.”
Barrett nodded, “I won two fights before that, but then I broke the training axe…”
“Oh?” Master Hykel raised an eyebrow, “Those are pretty sturdy. They should last more than a fight or two.”
“Well… I blocked an attack… and had to use berserk energy to have enough power.”
Master Hykel nodded, “That will break down materials pretty fast. It’s a good lesson to learn. Remember- don’t attack with berserk energy unless you really want to kill someone… at least not until you have very fine control over your power.”
Barrett nodded, “I understand.” He didn’t think he could have killed Brody if he attacked with berserk energy involved… but then again it significantly raised the probability of something unpleasant like a rib puncturing a lung. Most people weren’t trained to deal with such injuries in basic training, and it was dangerous for others to inject energy to take care of it.
Barrett wasn’t idle while recovering from his injury. There were still many things to learn, and he could still train his energy, if he was careful. He avoided his entire right side, because otherwise he could easily aggravate the damage. If he did that, it might not heal properly, and then he would have to take pills which would set him back. He wasn’t sure how much it would be, but it was certainly more than a little bit of extra training was worth.
As he circulated berserk energy through other parts of his body, he could feel it breaking things down. His body had grown tougher and more tolerant of the energy, but it still damaged it slightly. That would continue to be the case as long as he kept up his training. His body would become more durable, but the energy would be stronger. The important thing was to not rush ahead in gathering energy too much, otherwise he might actually cause serious injury to himself. That would only be the case if he neglected to practice with it and strengthen his body, but it could happen.
It was nearly a month before Barrett’s ribs finished healing. After three weeks, they had felt healed, but Master Hykel suggested he only do light exercise for another week. Of course, his definition of light exercise varied greatly from what Barrett previously would have called it. He supposed since he was so much stronger, it really was light, comparatively.
Barrett found his growth in strength very encouraging. It was not just that he could lift more or hit harder, but he had become more capable in combat… or more specifically capable of combat. After all, before training with Master Hykel he had only trained slightly with a practice sword. It was to the point it wouldn’t have even counted as a warmup for the beginning of the training with Master Hykel. Now, he could probably swing such a practice sword all day… but he wouldn’t. It would be boring and a waste of time. Not that training wasn’t sometimes boring still… but there was enough variety that it at least kept Barrett focused.
Barrett looked down at his arm. It was bleeding from a gash- courtesy of a training sword. Some of the skin was scraped off… but Barrett thought it didn’t look too bad. He just took some of the nearby bandages and wrapped them around it. He winced, though only partly from that. He had a number of other bruises and scrapes all over. He had taken to covering all of himself with bandages again. Even his face was covered, as occasional nicks and scrapes couldn’t be avoided. Barrett didn’t want to see all the old scars in reflections anyway, so it suited him just fine.
Of course, people in Verton thought he was strange, but that was probably true. Barrett often sparred with those from the Southern Tiger School, but also with others. Barrett would challenge and accept challenges from anyone who was somewhat near the appropriate strength. It wasn’t exact anyway.
Barrett didn’t mind being injured. Many of those he fought broke bones or the like when they won, but that was the risk that was taken. However, some of those he fought took it too far. Even after he was clearly defeated, they would continue to strike more. Barrett sometimes found himself unable to walk back up the mountain for a few days, and had to stay in the city. Barrett remembered those who were excessive and cruel. Some of them were too strong to do anything about, but he remembered their names and schools for later. For others, he challenged them again, and didn’t worry about causing them too many injuries. That would actually set them back much further in their training than himself, since recovering from injuries was training for him… but Barrett didn’t care. Or rather, he did care, which was why he made sure they would spend months in bed.
Over the next half of a year, Barrett passed his third and fourth destructions. They still hurt, but the experience almost felt good- almost. He could fight halfway through his recovery without issue, because even if he was injured he was healing several times faster than normal.
Barrett spent as much of his time as he could in Verton sparring with people. He didn’t always continue to the point of injury, because that wasn’t the best way for him to become more used to combat. He was used to taking and giving challenges, but usually he had a good idea of how strong his opponents were.
“Hey, you! Bandage guy!” Barrett turned to see a skinny little kid. “I hear you’re tough! Fight me!”
“Well, alright. Do you have any training weapons?”
“Unarmed is my specialty.”
“Well, that’s fine.” Barrett thought it would be easier to avoid hurting the kid without a weapon anyway. It was much easier to control the strength of his own fist. He could use this as an opportunity to help someone else grow stronger. That was what Barrett remembered thinking just before the fight started. Then all he remembered was a blur… and waking up later with a massive headache.