The first student to volunteer to undergo destruction was a young man named Rolph. Barrett was perhaps even more nervous than he was- though Barrett didn’t let it show. He was responsible for this young man’s life. Barrett thought he should be capable of undergoing a destruction, but if he had inadequately explained it or overestimated the abilities of his students, he didn’t know what he would do. Even though it wasn’t a destruction using berserk energy, failure of the first destruction meant death. Barrett was certain of that, even though nobody else had used his Pure Body Tempering method besides himself.
Rolph couldn’t show inside his body by making it transparent- and even if he could, he definitely couldn’t yet do so while undergoing a destruction. Barrett wouldn’t be able to see exactly how he did things, but it didn’t mean he wouldn’t have some sense of it. He could hear it, for example. If he tried, the sound of blood flowing through the bodies of his students was clear to his ears, as well as many other smaller sounds, including the rumbling of muscles. It didn’t give him the same exact picture as he could get with energy senses, but with practice relying on his bodily senses he would be able to interpret information more clearly.
Rolph chose to attempt the destruction publicly- though that just meant the other students would be watching, plus a few other masters of the Immortal Berserker Sect. Barrett hoped Rolph would succeed- for Rolph’s sake, and for the others. Barrett was confident it could work… but not that it would have a perfect success rate. If the first person to attempt it failed, the confidence of others would be shaken. Barrett could still teach people Pure Body Tempering even without them having to undergo destructions, but their advancement through tiers would be up to themselves… and the lack of quick healing would make things more difficult.
Barrett sat cross legged in front of Rolph, and the two of them faced each other. Barrett nodded, “You are ready. Remember my instructions.”
Rolph nodded, taking a deep breath, then another. He closed his eyes in concentration, and the entire courtyard fell quiet. Nobody wanted to disturb this moment.
Barrett’s ears focused on Rolph, and inside him. Blood flowed through veins, heart pumped, lungs bellowed, and muscles creaked. Then, there were tiny little changes in sound. Popping and a change in the flow of blood. More than there should have been, which meant the destruction wasn’t perfect… but perhaps it wasn’t far off. Barrett couldn’t stop Rolph at this stage- all he could do would be to stand ready for him to finish. What felt like forever later but was perhaps only a minute, Rolph’s eyes flicked open. “I did it…” he said, before collapsing onto his side.
Barrett reached out to catch him, placing a finger gently on his neck to feel his pulse… though it was mostly a gesture. Rolph’s blood flow was still strong, and not getting weaker… but there was too much internal bleeding. Barrett pulled out a few healing pills- they wouldn’t change success or failure in the destruction, merely help with the aftereffects. If Rolph failed… they would know soon enough. Pills couldn’t do anything on a body with no natural healing rate- the Immortal Berserker Sect had tried many, many times to change that, with no success. Magic bandages also didn’t help… but they did reduce the recovery time if the destruction was successful.
There were no signs of anything more wrong- besides a few burst blood vessels, the destruction seemed successful. Rolph’s bleeding was being managed with the pills, and his breathing and other vital signs remained steady. He would be watched for the next day as he stabilized, but Barrett breathed a sigh of relief at the success. Though they would have to wait weeks or months to be sure everything had gone right, it didn’t seem to have gone entirely wrong.
Rolph was up and about within a few days- not strong looking, but that was exactly as expected. Having a percent or two of one’s healing abilities meant even the normal reparation of the body took what felt like all the energy in the world. It had been almost twenty years from Barrett’s first destruction, but he still remembered that specific feeling… and was reminded of it much more briefly on subsequent destructions.
After Rolph’s success, others came forwards to attempt destructions one at a time, though Barrett delayed some of them for a month or so if he felt they needed more training. Within a few months, ten of his students had been successful… and Barrett was starting to get nervous. Even though his students had excellent bodies, even the most optimal projection without an immortal body had a five or ten percent failure rate for destructions. Barrett was certain there would still be some chance of failure- even if the students did everything right- even though it was done with Pure Body Tempering. He had about twenty students who he felt would undergo the process total, others having dropped out because of the difficulty of Pure Body Tempering or other risks… or because they found another more enticing trajectory to bring their life.
Eventually, it came to Caroline’s turn. She was the young woman who had answered Barrett’s very first question in his first lecture. While her answer wasn’t particularly hard to arrive at, he still appreciated her for being willing to speak up. Barrett sat with her as she underwent her destruction. He had a pretty good picture of what was happening in people now, the tiny shifts in their body standing out to his ears. Everything was sounding just right- no imprecision in her locations and no excess bleeding. Everyone collapsed afterwards, but shortly after she did so, Barrett heard her heart rate and breathing turn south. Barrett fed her healing pills, and the standby doctors checked her over for hidden bleeding or other problems… but over the next few hours her life signs faded slowly. It was a failed destruction… not because of bad technique, but just unfortunate luck.
Barrett understood why Master Hykel hadn’t been willing to invest much feeling in Barrett before his first destruction- and he finally felt the pain that Master Hykel had felt many times during the years waiting in Etron by himself. He knew in his head that he hadn’t done anything wrong- his instructions had been clear, and Caroline had even followed everything correctly… but she still died. His head couldn’t reconcile what it knew to be right with his heart. Of course, Barrett wasn’t the only one who was disheartened. Two of the remaining seven promising candidates withdrew- they knew there was a risk, but they hadn’t yet seen it firsthand. They couldn’t be blamed- even Barrett might have hesitated if he hadn’t been at such a low point in his life where everything seemed like it lead upwards, even potential death. There was a month of time where Barrett didn’t oversee any more destructions for his students… but even having seen failure, some of them still wanted to try. Since they were ready, he couldn’t hold them back.