After he killed the mountain bear, most creatures living on Bittercold Peak had left him alone, or were easily scared off after a brief conflict. While fighting in adverse conditions could be good training, that wasn’t Barrett’s primary goal… and as it became colder and colder he had less desire to do so. However, just because he wanted something didn’t mean it would necessarily happen.
It was now what Barrett hoped was the coldest part of the year. Even though his body was adapting to the cold, it still wasn’t the best environment to function in. Breathing was one of the worst parts as his lungs tried to freeze over with every breath. Every time he opened his eyes, he was worried they would freeze solid and break apart. Even his ear drums were more than half frozen most of the time, making hearing difficult. That was all bad enough, then the ice wraiths appeared.
Ice wraiths could be considered elementals- they were formed from energy and mana- but instead of creating a physical or semi-physical body out of their element they merely controlled their surroundings to attack. In short, they had no real body to speak of… the first thing that tipped Barrett off to their presence was a trace of killing intent and then a dagger of ice forming out of the surrounding ice and snow, flying towards him.
The ice dagger was not particularly dangerous- with his tough body, Barrett wasn’t much worse off than a normal person getting pricked by a needle. However, it also wasn’t something he could ignore… especially since he vaguely felt more concentrations of ice mana around him, as opposed to its normal diffuse state.
Finding a target was difficult- actually doing anything to it was much harder. Barrett didn’t have any weapons out, but he was worried even a magical axe would shatter from the current cold if it struck anything solid. Not that he was fighting something solid… his fists and feet merely moved through the area where the ice wraiths were with no resistance except the normal ice and snow in the air.
More ice wraiths converged on Barrett, launching more ice knives and drawing up ice spikes from the ice beneath his feet. Barrett dodged what he could but there were many attacks, and a few more connected, causing small cuts. The blood froze over so he wasn’t at risk of bleeding to death… but the bigger issue was the cold getting inside his body. Barrett considered moving into his cave where it was somewhat warmer… but he would also have less room to maneuver there- and the ice wraiths could easily move through the walls and floors. It was likely better to fight them out in the open.
Immediately upon sensing danger, Barrett had ceased his training mode. He no longer was letting cold enter his core, but it was still cold and only starting to warm up as he moved. Conversely, cold was seeping in from the tiny cuts he was getting. Barrett uselessly swung his fist at another ice wraith. It would be so easy to kill them with energy… Pure Body Tempering must have a way to beat such things, but nothing was coming to mind immediately.
Barrett pulled out the pits of the ancient stone fruit tree. He used them to attack by launching them with earth magic… and they did cause slight fluctuations in the magic and energy around the ice wraiths. However, that was the limit. The attack was still entirely based on physical movement. As for trying to directly disrupt the ice mana, Barrett wasn’t skilled enough in magic to do that at all. It was already good that he could sense it without trying too hard. His axe was magical… but he found that its sharpness and durability enhancements did little good against incorporeal enemies.
What could Barrett do? He could run. He wasn’t sure if the ice wraiths could follow him, but they would likely be able to move fairly quickly in their home territory. Running through the ice and snow would also slow him down significantly… but if necessary, he could do it. However, this was a good opportunity to try to learn something. What could he do? Barrett recalled that he could use Pure Body Tempering to affect his own soul. The body was always connected to the soul… but what if there was no body? Ice wraiths weren’t the sort of creature that had a core floating around that he could just break. They did have an insubstantial presence, long and wispy… but Barrett’s movements didn’t even disturb their form in the slightest.
Barrett frowned. He was a master now, or at least he was supposed to be. Ice wraiths weren’t even that dangerous- at most first or second tier creatures depending on the particular one. He could tell these were no different… so he had to be able to defeat them somehow. Pure Body Tempering could do anything… or rather, they made the impossible possible. However, there was always some sense about it… and it only worked on the users own body- or soul, to some extent.
Numerous tiny cuts appeared and froze over, and the cold was trying to work its way into his body through those points. Fortunately it didn’t get far- frozen blood didn’t conduct much more cold further in. However, each little bit added up. He couldn’t afford to do nothing. What could he do… his fist struck out towards another ice wraith. They didn’t even bother to dodge or respond in any way except to ready another attack.
Barrett breathed out slowly, the moisture in his breath freezing into ice crystals that floated through the air as he did so. He’d almost felt something. He kicked out towards another one, merely because that was the best way to reach out and dodge most of the incoming attacks. Once again, he felt the slightest thing. As his body passed through the ice wraith, he was feeling inside his soul… and he felt just the tiniest bit of overlap with something. It could have been wishful thinking, but Barrett had to trust his senses. He felt it one more time… it certainly was there. Now all it came down to was figuring out how to actually do something with it.