There were other dangers on Bittercold Peak besides the temperature itself- though nothing was as aggressive as the monsters around the Metal Sea. In fact, it had been more than a week before anything attacked Barrett, though he also wasn’t moving around to new areas very often. Eventually a huge white bear- whose legs held its body almost as high off the ground as Barrett was tall- decided that he would be tasty to eat. Barrett really couldn’t blame it- he likely didn’t feel very dangerous. He was tiny- at least in comparison to the bear- and probably didn’t smell very dangerous.
However, the bear didn’t know what it was really getting into. Even though he was somewhat slower from the cold, it wasn’t so bad that Barrett couldn’t fight. That was something the bear found out rather quickly. Though Barrett started by ducking under its claw swipe and punching it in the gut, he found that its thick fur, blubber, and muscle meant he didn’t do much damage. He could probably pummel the bear into submission, but it would be a slow process. Instead, he had to take another approach.
The first thing he did was roll through the meter deep snow out of the way as the bear tried to crush him underneath, then he grabbed onto the thick fur and pulled himself onto its back. The bear thrashed wildly but its own fur would likely give out before Barrett’s grip strength. He pulled himself up one handful of fur at a time until he reached its head, then put one arm around its neck… and used his other arm to complete the circle. One arm could only go slightly more than halfway around. As he gripped his wrist, he pulled in, squeezing the bear’s neck.
Of course, the huge white bear didn’t just let him do as he wished. It flopped over on its back, trying to crush Barrett, but the thick snow provided some padding… and only a small part of the bear’s overall weight pressed down on Barrett, no more than a few tons. As a fourth tier body cultivator, that much distributed over his whole body was almost insignificant. At most it caused his ribs to creak a little bit, but he squeezed even more strongly around the bear’s neck. It was hard to breathe with the bear’s fur in his face, but the bear was much worse off than he was. Eventually, Barrett felt its pulse slow and stop.
As he looked at the body, he thought about how warm it must be inside that fur. However, if he were to wear it that would ruin the whole point of his current exercise. His body wouldn’t grow resistant to the cold if it wasn’t cold. He did skin the animal- a task he wasn’t exceedingly proficient at, but capable enough. He could eat the meat and use the bones for stock, though his skills in cooking weren’t that great. Either way, this one bear would be sufficient to feed him for his entire stay. He had rations to eat, but those weren’t the same as real food. The bear had a strong taste and was stringy and tough… but it was sort of satisfying to eat.
Barrett carried the bear hide with him outside of his magic bag. It wasn’t properly tanned, but it also wouldn’t rot in the cold. He wasn’t wearing it, but instead using it to dissuade anything else from approaching him. He didn’t have any grudge against the animals that were just living in the area, and killing more than he had to wouldn’t really benefit him. The cold was his real enemy here.
His body adjusted quickly to freezing temperatures. Even without any warm clothes, he didn’t feel cold… assuming the temperatures weren’t that far into freezing. However, the days grew colder gradually… and at night the temperature dropped significantly. Barrett changed his schedule to sleeping during the day, because he needed to be aware of his body’s temperature during the coldest points. It was unlikely he would actually freeze to death, but he needed to be cautious.
He also needed to intentionally be training. If he just let things happen naturally, his skin got cold first, sometimes showing traces of frostbite. During the day he would recover, and though Barrett could just leave it at that he needed to do better. The way things were going, the inside of his body wouldn’t become used to the cold, at least not as much as it needed to. Thus, he intentionally let the cold deeper into his body. First he started with breathing in as much freezing air as he could, but his lungs had quickly started to adapt to the air on their own. Then he let the cold move through him from both the outside and inside, reducing his own body’s insulating properties. Training his body to be stronger was all about pushing his limits, and sometimes it was easier to make his limits lower than to reach higher limits.
After two months, Barrett didn’t remember what it felt like to be warm. During the day he felt warm, but it was still far below freezing. The only time he was really a little bit warm was when he was exercising to train his muscles, but even the heat from that only brought him up to slightly above freezing at best.
Barrett relied solely on his body- and some thin clothes for modesty- until the first blizzard came. At that point, the moisture on his eyes and in his lungs was freezing more quickly than his body could warm it back up. Though he might be able to withstand colder temperatures in theory, in practice he couldn’t do anything once his blood froze. He could lower the temperature that he would actually start freezing solid, but for that he needed to be cautious. Thus, he set up a little cave in the snow and ice to protect him against the blizzard while sleeping- inside he kept it a nice, comfortable temperature just barely below freezing. Going ‘outside’ involved digging to the surface, and Barrett couldn’t go far or risk losing his cave. He couldn’t see anything through the constant snow except a vague sense of the sun somewhere beyond the clouds, and sometimes his hand right in front of his face. Barrett found it hard to envision temperatures even colder than what he was experiencing, but he knew they existed. Apparently, there were some places where even the air itself started to freeze. That was the sort of thing that would cause trouble even for grandmasters, though of course that depended on whether one was trying to train in those conditions or just warm up enough to survive. Survival was easy, by comparison, since the body would be allowed to function at peak capacity. Barrett lost track of time, surrounded by white and black and cold, and nothing else. The only indication of time passing was slight changes in how dark it was and his stomach growling when he was hungry, but even that wasn’t necessarily consistent.