Before he even heard anything, Barrett sensed the killing intent. Then he heard the rustling of bushes as something approached. Whatever it was wasn’t very subtle about its approach. All Barrett could see as it was approaching was the toppling trees and vegetation. Then once it was just fifty meters away he could see it was a giant ram, three meters tall at the shoulder with curved horns that became sharp points on its head.
Barrett readied himself, pulling out his axe. While he could tell it was powerful, even the strongest animals suffered in tactics. As it came close enough to actually see him, it lowered its head to charge, snapping a few trees as it approached. Its horns were angled so the points on either side were at chest level for him, but he thought the ram would have trouble going much lower. Just as it got to him, he ducked and stepped to the side, swinging his axe towards its leg. Barrett felt the impact and heard the loud cracking sound, barely keeping his grip on the axe.
As he turned, he noticed that it was actually not the ram’s leg that had taken the damage, but his axe. It had snapped just below the head- and while Barrett would have expected a normal axe to break in those circumstances, this one should have been able to withstand more. Barrett was glad he had instinctively lowered his center of gravity to brace himself, or he would have been knocked flying anyway… though in that case his axe would have likely survived.Barrett only saw the slightest trace of blood on the ram’s shin, but from what he could tell he hadn’t cut into the bone at all. The ram was already far past him and turning around to charge him again.
It was too late to change his mind about buying a new weapon. He would need to seek one out as soon as he got a chance, but he couldn’t just leave. Well, he could but then he might miss the chance to help Hayden. Barrett wasn’t sure if he could outrun the ram in a straight line, but he could certainly get out of its territory and it would stop chasing him sometime after that. What he needed to do now was defeat this. He could try to bet on his body being tougher than it… but there were certainly more sensible options. While he might be able to make one part of his body tougher than it for a few moments, that wouldn’t be enough. As he approached him again, he flung one of his stone pits at it and dodged to the side.
This time, the ram had been ready for his movement and he felt a searing pain in his side as the horn grazed along his ribcage. Fortunately his body was tough enough that he was pushed away more than impaled- and the fact that he was already moving helped. The stone pit just bounced off of the ram’s neck, leaving no visible mark. His plan wasn’t working so far, but he was confident in having a chance.
Taking into account the creature’s size, Barrett pulled out two more stone pits, holding all three in his right hand. As he had attuned his body to them, they felt like part of his right hand… it was just that they didn’t have to stay there. The ram pulled back around and charged with even more force. It seemed it wasn’t satisfied with having to attack Barrett multiple times. As it pushed into the ground, great gouts of dirt and rocks flew up behind it. When it was only a fraction of a second away, Barrett’s last chance to dodge came… but instead he stood his ground.
Seeing that he didn’t move, the ram just angled its horn directly at the middle of his chest, but Barrett reached out his left arm to grab the horn. Of course, that did nothing to stop the ram’s charge- but he pushed himself back before the point stabbed into his chest very far. The sudden shock to his arm was tremendous, but it held on long enough for him to reach the same speed as the ram and he was being carried along. At the same time, his right hand shoved one of the stone pits into the right nostril of the ram.
As the ram started to shake him off, Barrett levered himself off of the horn, flipping over onto the neck of the ram. He pushed another stone pit into the left nostril of the ram, wrapping his other arm around the neck to stabilize himself. The ram snorted, trying to remove the blockages… and its powerful lungs may have been able to do so, if Barrett wasn’t holding them in with his own stamina. He’d never tried to use Pure Body Tempering inside another’s body- he wasn’t going to cut off part of himself, and the stone pits were approximately six centimeters across. They wouldn’t fit inside someone’s stomach, and a cultivator would always prevent anything from going into their body that they could- and they would have the advantage in most cases.
When the ram opened its mouth to breathe, Barrett threw the third stone pit down its throat. The ram tried to snap its teeth closed on Barrett’s hand, but it wasn’t made for biting quickly- its mouth was merely for chewing food, not for combat. With the third stone pit blocking its throat, Barrett wrapped his other arm around its neck as well. He couldn’t squeeze hard enough to cut off air and blood flow entirely, but adding that on top of blocked air passages would certainly have some effect.
The ram seemed to notice the danger… or merely didn’t like Barrett being where he was. It thrashed, trying to throw him off. It slammed him into trees which snapped like twigs and had relatively little impact. The two of them continued moving rapidly through the valley. Barrett could tell the two nostril blockages were now superfluous- the one that went in through the mouth was blocking the windpipe of the ram at a lower level. However, it wasn’t entirely blocked. He could feel some air slipping by, and he could feel air from the lungs trying to force it out- he had to hold it there intentionally.
Barrett hadn’t been paying attention to their exact location, but then he found himself being smashed into a boulder. Fortunately it was just a normal boulder that he would expect to be lying around anywhere- but it still held up enough to make him feel he would be bruised later. He didn’t have time to wait around for this ram to go unconscious, so he grabbed his remaining stone pits- the ones in the nostrils were a bit inaccessible at the moment- and shoved them into the mouth of the ram. It tried to keep its teeth closed, but it still needed to try to breathe. Barrett pushed them all to block off its trachea and squeezed as tightly as he was able around its neck. Even with all the physical activity, the ram still held on for another minute of running and smashing Barrett into things before it finally gave out. Barrett listened for its heart to stop before he let go and started the process of retrieving his stone pits.