Barrett spent much of his time in front of the stone tree trying to figure out whether living stone actually existed or not, and whether the tree or pits were made of it. The tree was most definitely alive- but that didn’t mean it was something with the properties of Living Metal, specifically being able to be used with Pure Body Tempering. So far, Barrett had gotten no reaction.
Though many people passed through the gardens, nobody disturbed Barrett. He wasn’t in the way, and of course he had good reason to be in the particular section with the stone trees- if one could count the additional saplings that barely had started growing nearby as trees. Mistress Abels would speak to Barrett as she came by, and the same was true of Clara and Jack whenever they happened to pass. Barrett wasn’t always there during sensible hours, so that was perhaps once a week.
When they had first met, Clara had been a young girl- perhaps eight years old. Barrett had been a bit older than eighteen. Now Barrett was older than thirty- a strange thought, since once he had considered that somewhat older… but as a cultivator, that was still very young. Even Master Hykel was considered just barely middle age at seventy years old. If Barrett had a little sister, he imagined it would have felt the same as watching Clara grow. It was one thing to see his peers grow up- that made sense, but people younger than him were little kids, right? Of course, that couldn’t remain true for very long. Even back in Sashor, Clara had taken over working the farm when it became necessary. Barrett was still quite fond of the two who had saved his life, and even though he had saved them a few more times probably, that didn’t make him like them less but more. Clara often had questions about cultivation, and while Barrett didn’t know much outside of Pure Body Tempering or the Immortal Berserker Technique, he could give insights on some things… and he had been practicing earth magic for almost a decade. He didn’t mind answering any questions she had. “I see you here often,” Clara commented, “What are you doing with that pit?”
“Trying to make it move.”
“With earth magic? Is it very heavy?”
Barrett shook his head, “It moves just fine with earth magic.” Barrett stretched out his hand flat and sent the pit rocketing into the air, catching it as it came back down. “I want to use Pure Body Tempering.”
“I assume you don’t mean throwing it? Because I’m sure you can do that. How would you use Pure Body Tempering to move it? It’s not part of your body.”
“Indeed… that’s the problem. In fact, I don’t even know if I could. However, there is such a thing as Living Metal that can be controlled by Pure Body Temperers. I have a hunch that this is Living Stone… but so far I might just be wasting my time. Maybe Living Stone doesn’t exist.”
Clara nodded, “So… what is Living Metal? How does it work?”
“That I’m not entirely clear on. However, the idea is that as I can shift around, for example, my weight and toughness and strength…” Barrett balanced in an impossible position to demonstrate, “Living Metal could do the same, as an extension of the body. Presumably, grandmasters can produce it from their body after intaking certain metals and utilizing special methods.”
“I see… so they eat hunks of metal?” Clara tilted her head.
“That would seem to be the easiest method to intake it, yes. Pure Body Tempering doesn’t work outside of one’s own body normally, and I don’t know any of the details to form a connection so it’s difficult, even without being uncertain if Living Stone exists and this is some of it.”
“Sounds complicated. Since eating it doesn’t work, perhaps it isn’t Living Stone,” Clara nodded.
“Right, that’s what’s so hard to tell. I don’t even know if- wait, did you say eating it?”
“Of course?” Clara frowned, “That’s what the grandmasters do, right? If you can’t do Pure Body Tempering outside of your body, you have to do it inside… right? That’s true even for me… food I eat becomes part of my body… though it doesn’t really stay in the same form, which I imagine Living Metal and Stone would.”
Barrett looked at the pit between his fingers, then tossed it into his mouth. It was far too big to swallow in one piece, being a few centimeters across… but that wasn’t really a challenge for Barrett. He ate food way too big to easily be swallowed all the time… at least when he was in a hurry. Barrett felt the weight slide into his stomach. It was heavy… not that he didn’t know that, but he could really feel it… and not just the weight. It felt like he could reach out and touch it… or reach in, as such things went. It sloshed around inside him as he tried that… but Barrett wasn’t sure if he moved it, or just the stomach acid around it. Even so, he grinned to himself. It was just like with the ice spirits. Pure Body Tempering didn’t work unless it was part of the body or inside the body… perhaps the grandmasters created Living Metal… or perhaps they just uncovered it.
“Barrett?” Clara asked, waving her hand in front of his face. “Are you alright?”
“Oh? Yes, I’m fine. I think this might help…”
“Are you sure? That doesn’t look like something you can digest…”
Barrett shrugged, “Probably not… but I don’t plan to digest it. It’s not that hard to bring it back up if I need to. But to be honest… I hadn’t thought of eating it. I held it between my hands, trying to make it a part of me while it was outside… but of course it needed to be inside.”
“That looked… really uncomfortable,” Clara said, “But you should know what you’re doing… Master Ravenhall.”
Barrett grimaced, “Oh, that’s so weird to be called.”
“It’s also weird to say. Well, I still have work to get to. I hope that didn’t just make you sick, Barrett.” Clara nodded and moved on her way.
Barrett watched as she went for a few moments, then returned his thoughts to inside himself. Why was something so simple so hard to think of? Well, perhaps it wouldn’t actually work… but Barrett thought it could. At least, it was already more progress than anything he’d tried lately.