Master Hykel preferred to travel on foot… but that didn’t mean he and Barrett travelled slowly. When he had first recruited Barrett he wasn’t capable of moving quickly, but now they travelled much more quickly. Instead of walking, they jogged. It was a pace Barrett could keep up for the entire day… though he did have to push himself some. That was the point, though. It was training, even on the way to a training exercise. After three days of travel, they walked for a day- still quickly, but slow enough to let Barrett recover some. Then there were three more days of jogging… and a final day of walking before they arrived at Temperpine Forest, the location of the training mission.
Barrett enjoyed the travelling, even with the sore muscles. It was the first time he had gone anywhere with Master Hykel since he joined the Immortal Berserker Sect… and the first time he had travelled anywhere for more than a day on purpose since then. Getting drafted wasn’t exactly an intentional trip.
One thing that made the running harder was Barrett had to wear some of his armor as he ran. Because they were going for the whole day, Master Hykel didn’t require Barrett to wear the breastplate or helmet- and even carried them in his own pack… but it was still extra weight. Barrett didn’t complain, however, because on top of the parts of his own armor in Master Hykel’s pack, Master Hykel wore his own armor.
Barrett had never seen that armor before, but he could tell it was quite special. It was silverish like most metal, but with a red tint that Barrett didn’t think was paint… and it was heavy. He knew that because he had picked up Master Hykel’s helmet once… and it was easily over 10 kilograms. It wasn’t particularly bigger than his own helmet in any way, but was still twice as heavy. Barrett also had reason to believe it was magically enchanted, too.
“I’ve never seen you carry your armor and weapons with you before, Master Hykel. Will you really need it?”
Master Hykel shook his head, “I shouldn’t- Temperpine forest may be monster-infested, but there shouldn’t be anything near my strength-.but if I do need it and don’t have it, I would regret it greatly. It’s not like I could make a quick trip to pick it up. Besides, it’s good training.”
“How strong will the monsters be?”
Master Hykel shrugged, “There’s a good variety of things from first to third tier. I wouldn’t expect you to fight a third tier monster alone, but that’s why you’ll be in a group with others. You might still wish to avoid them, but at least you should be able to stand up to them with your group. Not that you’ll ever be perfectly safe but it should be manageable. It’s not a good idea to throw your students in areas with a high probability of death, otherwise you just a likely lose the good ones before they become good… and it’s not really good training to have to rely on luck. Just the right amount of danger is best.”
Master Hykel sighed and shook his head, “Of course, some people believe otherwise, but they usually die out. However, if they have enough people and don’t care about the inevitable death tolls, some groups send their students into nearly certain death in the chance of getting out more powerful trainees. Our school would argue that calculated risks are more likely to achieve desirable results… and sending people to die hoping that some will live and become strong is… and unpleasant practice. The Immortal Berserker Style has enough inherent danger already, and others have their own troubles as well.”
As they crested a rise, Barrett looked out at the forest unfolding before his view. “Hmm, is that all? I thought the forest would be… bigger.”
Master Hykel laughed, “Oh, it’s plenty big. It’s just that the size of the trees is confusing your perspective. Look down there.”
Barrett looked where Master Hykel pointed. “Are those… people?” Barrett frowned. If those were people… then the trees were much bigger than he had thought. The people were almost tiny specs, which meant the trees had to be at least twenty meters tall, with many of them reaching thirty to forty. As he looked down the road they travelled, he could see it seemed to disappear much sooner than his eyes thought it should, indicating the distance was much greater than he’d assumed.
Barrett scanned the various people once they reached the edge of the forest. He recognized some, such as a few from the Southern Tiger School. Barrett also recognized the elementalist Lamont.
Then his eyes caught someone else’s and he glared. It was Twig-girl. He thought she’d disappeared… but now she was here. She glared back at him. Barrett knew if this were a more appropriate time, they would have gotten into a fight… but they were supposed to be working together with other groups. It wouldn’t be good to start a fight- and almost certainly have someone get injured- just before a training exercise. Their eyes stayed locked for a few moments, before moving on.
“Heeeey, Barrett! Over here!” Barrett turned to see a young woman waving. It was Shanta, and though they’d only really met once, he quickly recognized her and her shoulder length light hair. He walked over, and Shanta looked him up and down. “Good to see you’re alive and… healthy, I think.”
Barrett nodded. “Thanks to you. I would have died on the field if it wasn’t for you.” He turned and bowed to the thin old man standing behind her. “Doctor Stieber, I presume? Thank you for training up such an excellent student. She kept me alive after a very unfortunate situation.”
Doctor Stieber grinned, “Oh, I heard about that alright. I would also like to thank you for helping her out of a tough situation. Though she likely could have handled it herself… chivalry is an excellent trait to see in young men.”
“And especially rare in berserkers?” Barrett raised an eyebrow.
Doctor Stieber laughed, “That’s true… though overall less true of the Immortal Berserker Sect. Everyone I’ve met from there have been excellent individuals. I’m sure you will think the same once you get the chance to meet some others”
“I suppose so, but aren’t they in some country far away?” Barrett tried to remember what he’d been told. Master Hykel and himself weren’t the only members of the Sect… but the only ones nearby. “It will likely be a while before I meet any… unless Master Hykel finishes his business soon.”
Doctor Stiber nodded, “Ah, of course.” He grinned and looked behind Barrett, “Good luck with that, Hykel.”
“I don’t need luck. I have patience.”
“Alright, alright.” Doctor Stieber waved his wrinkled hand. “I should never doubt the stubbornness of one of you.”
Master Hykel grunted.
Barrett spent the rest of the day reacquainting himself with some of those around, and meeting some of them for the first time. For most of them, he hadn’t even heard of their school. Fortunately, he would have a day or two to rest up and get to know some people before everyone was fully gathered and the training exercise started.