It had been more than a year since the first of Nilima’s students became cultivators. Barrett’s students were a bit behind that pace, but still definitely fully progressing from the first to second level of cultivation. Truth be told ‘students’ was something of an exaggeration. He had two… maybe two and a half students. Simran was the first to successfully accomplish doing anything with Pure Body Tempering. Somewhat behind her was a man named Vikram. Then, there was another woman who made up the other half-student. She was the only remaining one who came for tests every day or two, the others either having given up and left, actually accomplishing something, or only making the attempts much more rarely. Barrett wasn’t sure if she was ever going to successfully manage any Pure Body Tempering. Maybe she didn’t understand what was being done… but she was growing stronger. In fact, in terms of purely her muscle strength she outstripped Simran… but her ability to use those muscles to their full potential was more limited.
Simran was still making up for a lifetime of poor nutrition, but her progress was easily measurable. She was becoming something of a competent hunter now, able to catch a wild boar on her own- and track them down in the first place. She quite naturally focused her slightly more limited capabilities into whatever she was doing at the time- achieving success with fewer resources. She nearly instinctually focused her stamina on the parts of her body she would use in a fight, and Barrett could see her going far… if she didn’t cripple herself.
So, in addition to providing her instruction on how she should train, he also gave important cautions. It was important to never draw too much away from any part of the body, or it might break down- and even if some extra stamina or toughness was returned to it later, it would already be worthless and dead. She wasn’t yet capable of drawing that high of a percentage of her attributes elsewhere, but it was important for the future. Of course, the brain needed to be kept at least at the baseline at all points, since it couldn’t easily recover from any sort of damage or setbacks. Other organs varied… human hearts were actually quite robust in terms of continuing to function but that didn’t mean it was wise to draw anything away from them.
In addition to Pure Body Tempering, Barrett taught Simran how to fight. Mostly unarmed and with a spear, since that was the weapon she had made for herself, but he also taught the very basics of everything, so she would have a place to start if she chose a different weapon.
Simran’s spear struck Barrett in the chest, and he nodded. “Good accuracy and speed. The power was also sufficient to give enemies pause, but you didn’t watch your defenses.” Since he’d been immersed in the language, Barrett had managed to pick it up- especially cultivation related terms from listening to Nilima’s instructions.
Simran nodded. “I understand.” She thought for a moment, “Master Ravenhall, how can I make my body as durable as yours?”
“Continue training, and your body will grow more durable with time.” That was true, but not quite complete. Barrett didn’t want to lie even by omission so he continued, “However, my particular level of toughness requires a certain technique. You are currently not suited to it. You’ll die.”
Simran stood up straight, trying to look tall and strong, but while she’d certainly grown stronger… she was still not particularly impressive to look at. Thin, on the shorter side, and her body just didn’t show much muscle definition. “I’m not afraid. I can do it.”
Barrett sighed. He had some experience determining, at least in a broad way, someone’s ability to recover from the Immortal Berserker Techniques destructions. Simran had somewhere less than a fifty percent success rate. If it were something else, Barrett would let her make the attempt. If she truly wanted to risk her life on something with only a ten percent chance of success? That was up to her. But the problem with the Immortal Berserker Technique was that it wasn’t a fifty percent chance of being able to properly cultivate. That was the chance of each destruction being successful. Even a sixty percent chance meant an immediate forty percent chance of dying, and then the same chance of regressing every attempt at a destruction. After the first destruction, there was a high enough chance of regressing twice in a row that it was around a total of fifty percent chance of death in the first couple of years. After that… it would just be extremely slow growth.
Anything near fifty percent or below was basically just a death sentence. However, he knew Simran was stubborn as well. He really did want to give her the chance. “You can’t do it… yet.” He crossed his arms, “There’s more you need to do first.” Later he would prepare a vial of his blood to study and the method. First, he wanted her to develop a True Immortal Body- or at least develop her body’s qualities that would improve her chances of success. If she was incautious she would make the attempt immediately after he left… but that would be her own choice. If she was wise, she would wait- and maybe even choose to forge her own path instead.
Boars were heavy, but Simran couldn’t exactly butcher one on the spot, out in the middle of the woods. She found the same was true of tigers, and she was very glad she had learned how to properly drag such creatures. She didn’t exactly have a magic bag, and carrying them the whole way back was quite a bit of trouble. Simran didn’t have a magic anything, in fact. The most valuable thing she had was probably the spearhead Master Ravenhall had given her. Most of her stuff was made from various hides she’d hunted herself, and she’d even been able to sell some meat and extra hides in the nearby cities to have it properly handled and fit to her. Having extra food at all was amazing… though she also found she could eat pretty much any amount she had.
Simran hadn’t exactly hunted a tiger to go along with the boar she set out to catch, but she got one anyway. Along with a few claw marks. She was looking forward to resting back in her hut, but it seemed things wouldn’t be so easy today. Out of the forest around her stepped a handful of men- and one woman. She had noticed them, but dragging two carcasses didn’t exactly lend itself to quick maneuvering around people.
An older man she recognized but did not know the name of seemed to be the spokesperson for the batch. “Good evening. It appears you have an abundance of food. I don’t suppose you’d be willing to share?”
Polite words without anything more to back them didn’t mean anything to Simran. She continued on her path, planning to ignore them. Not that she expected them to let her.
The others moved closer, and the leader stood immediately in her path. “Did you not hear? We are hungry and without food. Certainly you could share.”
“If you’re hungry, why are you not out in the fields?” Simran glared at him. “Plenty of space to grow more there. And if you have time to be waylaying people, you have time to work.”
The woman in the group turned up her nose at that. “Of course a personal disciple of the masters would say that. You have so much food you hardly have to spend any time in the fields.”
So they were newcomers then. No wonder their behavior was so poor. Simran dropped the ropes pulling her ‘sled’ with the two carcasses on it. She unstrapped her spear from her back and held it over her shoulder. “There is sufficient room for you to move to the side. If you don’t get in my way, I have no quarrel with you.”
“Fine then,” the leader spoke, “If you choose to be so uncooperative-”
In an instant, Simran’s spear was next to his head. Then he was knocked tumbling to the ground by a quick tap to the head. The remaining five had only just lowered their own bamboo spears, but as they stabbed out Simran was no longer where she had been a moment before.
Using her spear more like a staff, she struck to each side, hitting the guts of the next two and making them double over in pain. Two men and the woman remained, but one of the men was young and quite strong looking. He didn’t seem to have taken the hint when the others went down, only noticing that Simran was fast. Instead of trying to stab her, he performed a wide sweep with his spear, aimed at her midsection so she couldn’t dodge it. He likely hadn’t expected her to catch it with one hand while swinging her own with a single hand, striking him in the ribs.
The woman and remaining man had hesitated, but at that moment they turned and ran. Simran shook her head as she returned to grab her sled. Nobody would be able to stand up for a while. She could have killed them but… besides not having killed a person yet, she also slightly understood where they were coming from. While they didn’t look quite as bad as she had been, she understood the hunger. She’d just been incapable of doing anything to take from others in her state… and then once she was part of the community of disciples and potential disciples she wouldn’t dream of taking from them. She thought the meal they shared every week made them feel like family, but apparently not everyone felt the same way. She looked at the boar on her sled and shook her head. If they’d just waited, they would have had some of it.
Barrett held two people under his arms. Even though they’d taken off running in different directions, it wasn’t like they could think to escape him. Not that they’d even knew they were running from him. He brought them to the four who were in various states of rolling around on the ground in pain. “All of you should have known better. You had plenty of opportunities here, but you chose instead to take the easy path… and that’s not here.” Barrett waved his arm, “You’re all banished from this place. You brought no seed of your own, but I’ll be generous and allow you to take what is in your fields. If you cause any further trouble, anything at all… you die.” Even the healthy two groaned is pain as he said that. He wanted them to know he was serious.
Barrett then turned to leave… though he would be watching them. He looked towards where Simran had gone. She’d done well. They hadn’t needed to die. That didn’t mean that forgiveness had to allow them to stay. They would be sent off no worse than they had been when they arrived. Better, except for a few reasonably sized bruises.