While some goat stew sounded nice, Barrett wasn’t far from his goal. He could save that for later… and possibly bring it to a real cook. While he could likely make it edible, it wasn’t the same as someone who actually practiced cooking.
His wounds weren’t quite healed yet, but that was just the way things went. The bruises all over him were rapidly changing color from dark purple splotches to strange yellowish colors, and Barrett could sense a few chipped bones trying to realign themselves. It was nothing that would affect his ability to fight if it came down to that.
As he walked back into the area guarded by the ram, nothing approached him. That would make sense, because the ram was probably the dominant force in the area. Barrett walked through the broken bushes and trees, vaguely following the path back to where the battle had started, then continuing from there towards the ruins he had spotted in the center of the valley.
Once he got close he could make out the buildings better, or rather what they had once been. There wasn’t much to say about them- it appeared to be a manor of some sort. Bedrooms, kitchens, dining room, meeting rooms. Barrett stepped through the husk of the buildings and out into the central courtyard, where he sensed someone. It was a strange and sudden feeling. Was a normal person all the way out here? He didn’t sense any energy or mana, and it would have been even more obvious given the area around them. However, he felt none of that… and the more sensible solution than them being a non-cultivator was that they were a Pure Body Temperer. The ram couldn’t have been the only dangerous thing on the way here.
Barrett could just hear them breathing, steadily and evenly… as if they were in deep concentration. As he passed through the various plants into sight of the orchard, he saw a man sitting underneath a tree. Tusks protruded from the sides of his mouth, indicating he was from the lands beyond Nospor. As Barrett saw him, his eyes sprang open and fixed on Barrett. Barrett sensed a wariness from him- a form of killing intent, but not necessarily directed at Barrett yet. The man spoke, “Unfortunately, you are too late.” He stood up slowly, “This tree bore but a single fruit, and I have already eaten it.” Barrett’s eyes flicked to the tree above- indeed, there was no fruit left on it… and its leaves resembled that of a normal pear.
Not wanting to get into unnecessary conflict, Barrett calmly responded, “This was the Vitality Pear tree?”
“That’s right. As I said, I already consumed it- it will do you no good to try to take it from me now. It is already digested…” he waved his hand, “See? There are the seeds.”
Barrett sniffed, and indeed he could smell a sweet scent coming from the seeds lying on the ground, and just slightly from the man himself. “Perhaps there was more than one. What about in that magic bag of yours? I would be willing to trade for it.”
The man shook his head, his shaggy hair lagging behind momentarily as he did so. “No, there were no more- and even if there were, I would not store them in a magic bag.” He rested a hand on a short sword at his thigh, still cautious.
“Ah, of course…” Barrett shook his head, “It wouldn’t do well in a magic bag, now would it?” Barrett walked over and scooped up the clump of dirt beneath the seeds with his hand, “Since you don’t seem interested, I will be taking the seeds with me. Good luck with your travels.” Barrett turned, and he could feel the man’s eyes on his back for some time, but he didn’t follow after Barrett.
Once out of sight, Barrett shook his head. Though he didn’t show it on the surface, Barrett could tell from the beating of his heart the man was injured. Barrett could tell he was more than just a first or second tier cultivator, so perhaps Vitality Pears were more valuable than he initially thought. If they could help Pure Body Temperers in general… it could be useful. Of course, there was no way to say for sure- perhaps the man came here as a desperate measure of some sort. Unfortunately he hadn’t been able to get a fruit- even if they could grow a tree, it wouldn’t be of much good to Hayden. His fate would be certain within a few months- years was out of the question. Without magic being able to assist the growth of the tree, even a normal tree would take that long to produce fruit.
Barrett looked at the few tiny seeds atop the clump of dirt. They didn’t feel like much of anything, but at the very least he knew they were the seeds of the fruit the man had eaten. He’d seemed to think it was a Vitality Pear tree, and Barrett had no reason to disbelieve him. It was a shame the tree hadn’t had more fruit- but perhaps the animals in the area had eaten it. That was not a strange idea- keeping birds and vermin away from the gardens was a major undertaking at the Immortal Berserker Sect. They couldn’t just seal off the area, because some creatures were needed to pollinate the flowers, and of course earthworms and other such creatures helped the soil.
Barrett shook his head. With the closest possibility gone, he would have to go elsewhere. He couldn’t blame the man who ate the Vitality Pear- it was to protect his own life, and it wasn’t as if Barrett had any claim on the wild fruit. He didn’t feel any anger, just disappointment. If the ram hadn’t attacked him, he might have arrived in time to at least negotiate for a piece of the fruit- or obtain it himself. If only he had been a little faster… but he hadn’t delayed unnecessarily either. Barrett began the trip back to the Immortal Berserker Sect. He might as well drop off the seeds on the way to the next location. He doubted any important news would have come in the days he had been gone, but it was on the way to the next possible locations anyway.