Three failed destructions out of eighteen total students was a good record. It proved his method was sound, as well as his judgement of probable success rates. Of course, failure was terrible… nobody wanted to see a student die. However, if successful they could continue with the Immortal Berserker Technique and would likely have a good rate of advancement. For one reason or another, all of Barrett’s students could not or did not cultivate energy or magic. That meant body training was the only method left to them. Pure Body Tempering was the only way to advance body training beyond first or second tier on its own- and there weren’t many avenues to learn it.
There was only one more student that had not chosen a different path. Hayden would be the final student in the current class. If Barrett’s students continued to be successful in their cultivation, it was likely that more people would seek out his teaching, but it would be a year or two before many results could be seen.
The worst part about watching a destruction was just that- he could only watch. Once it came to that point, there was nothing he could do to influence success or failure except make sure his students had distraction free environments to work in. Of course, the Immortal Berserker Sect had many places already picked out for that… so it wasn’t like he really did much work to arrange to use one.
Hayden looked frail- at least compared to the general stock of Immortal Berserker candidates. Actually, he was from the Order of the Four Winds. They had determined that he wasn’t suited for energy cultivation or magic- but his temperament was good and he wanted to cultivate. However, no matter how he looked, he was quite tough. He was the hardest training of Barrett’s students, and that said something in that batch of students. He also took some risks, a trait Barrett wasn’t exactly happy with even though Hayden had been successful so far. He’d delayed Hayden’s destruction because he felt he wasn’t ready, but now he had no reason to stop him. His chance to succeed was as good as it would be- at least without many more years of Pure Body Tempering training.
As Barrett watched, he saw the technique was performed nearly flawlessly- Hayden must have been simulating the situation beforehand. As was always the case, Hayden was carried away after the destruction.
It was only the next morning that Barrett heard from the doctors- Hayden had failed the destruction. However, he wasn’t yet dead. He’d only caused the very minimum amount of damage to himself, besides what was necessary for the destruction. However, he wasn’t recovering. After one week, it was determined he was at least stable, but he couldn’t even lift himself out of bed. Normally without any healing rate, one would die regardless of injuries… however, Hayden was extremely lucky in that he had been slightly above average in healing rate to begin with. A single destruction only increased- or decreased- healing rate by approximately the average for a healthy human. Thus, Hayden had just a tiny sliver of healing rate left, supported by magic bandages. The bandages would normally add a full level of healing, but on his weakened body the effect merely seemed to keep him alive.
Months passed, and those who first passed their destructions returned to peak form, first of which was Rolph. It was not long before Rolph was successful with his second destruction, and could be said to have truly started down the path- there were many stories of those who regressed on the second destruction, finding themselves back at the very start… and it was hard to keep heart in such a situation. With the aid of magical bandages the early recovery time was significantly improved… from a year to half a year for the first destruction, a third for the second, and a quarter for the third. In total, that was thirteen months plus some small downtime in between. At this point, Hayden was showing signs of recovering… though not to a normal healing rate but instead just to any form of functionality.
Barrett was worried about him, but he couldn’t do anything at the current moment. Worrying wouldn’t do anyone any good… and Barrett also had his own things to take care of. One of those things was the fourth tier tournament… the master’s tournament. Yes, there was also the fifth tier tournament that came once every decade… but that didn’t apply to him just yet. The fourth tier tournaments were still tournaments of masters.
There were no elimination rounds before the tournament, so being from a sect didn’t mean anything. After all, masters were masters. Some might be better or worse, but all of them deserved their chance to properly compete. The fourth tier tournament would only be eleven rounds. That wasn’t a decision, just how it ended up. Though it was only three rounds shorter than the third tier tournament, it meant a lot. There were ten times as many people participating in the third tier tournament- more or less. Thirty two thousand versus a much smaller three thousand masters. In fact, it was only like ten and a half rounds… but that was just how it was. Because it wasn’t forced into a multiple of two, some people got a pass the first round- randomly. In exchange, those who didn’t fight in the first round fought early in the second round, giving those who fought as much time as possible to rest after their first match.
Barrett looked around the arena. There were not particularly fewer people around. The fourth tier tournaments filled the stands in all forty arenas. Overall there would be millions of people watching, anyone who could get a ticket from Stredo or even further away- once every five years was a serious event… and the other fourth tier tournament in the rotation was shortly before the fifth tier tournament, which meant this was the biggest thing to happen for a handful of years in either direction. Picking out one person among all of that might be impossible, but there was a difference between tournament participants and everyone else. Besides, eyes could more easily pick out those that were recognized… even more so highly trained eyes of a fourth tier Pure Body Temperer. His eyes soon picked out his target, small though she was.
“Hello, Nilima.” Barrett greeted her as he approached.
She turned upon hearing her name, then blinked. “Barrett.” She stood silent for a few moments. “It… is good to see you are healthy.” She looked him up and down, with her eyes and energy senses. Barrett felt just a slight tingle of berserk energy covered by the gentle energy she had previously cultivated exclusively. “You still cultivate magic? That’s… good.” Then she frowned, “You’re… here for the tournament?”
“Of course. Didn’t we promise to fight here?”
“I thought I…” Nilima held onto her arm with the other, gripping tightly, “I thought I ruined that for you. You almost died and… it was my fault. Sorry.” Her senses continued to scan Barrett, “We both got pretty messed up, huh?”
Barrett shrugged, “It was just one big mess. Don’t lose before we meet up.”
“You can really fight? … Body tempering?” Nilima narrowed her eyes.
“I’m now using a very strange technique due to extenuating circumstances, much like yourself. How’s the berserk energy?”
“I hate it so much.” Nilima’s energy flared as she said that, “But I have to admit it’s a bit useful. I’m glad you lived and… that I didn’t completely mess things up for you after you saved me.”
With that, Nilima seemed to have had her fill of emotions. Barrett let her walk off. Things hadn’t been easy for her either… especially since she didn’t have the support of a sect. From what Barrett had heard, even Mistress Joshi wasn’t able to give her much guidance on cultivation. Then again Barrett knew Nilima could handle whatever life threw her way, even before she became a Mistress herself.