Barrett thought he couldn’t feel pain or burns anymore, but his face directly touching the lava below woke him up. He was far beyond thinking- instead, he acted. He stood up, his now-bare feet stepping on the viscous lava. It supported his weight as he half stood, half crawled forward.
His eyes were burned shut, but eventually he came to a wall. He fought for air and consciousness, clawing at the wall. Then his hand caught something and his instincts took over. He’d climbed the cliff beneath the Immortal Berserker School many times now, in many places. He was stronger, and could easily support his weight with one hand- a few fingers even.
Barrett didn’t consider he usually climbed with two arms, with vision… without being on fire, with good lungfuls of air. He couldn’t afford to. In fact, he couldn’t think at all, but only keep moving. If he paused to think- that would be it.
Somehow, with the remaining muscles in his arm, he pulled himself up. His feet found purchase somewhere, and the process repeated. Grab, step, step. Most of the time there wasn’t a good step, so Barrett made one. He smashed his foot or hand into the wall with berserk energy. That only served to further break down his body, along with the fire… but eventually the fire started to fade. Then, his hand groped empty air.
This time, Master Hykel wasn’t there to grab his arm. Somehow Barrett stumbled up and over the edge… then miraculously kept going. One foot in front of the other. Pain shot up each leg as it stepped down, the barest remnants of a foot supporting a leg that was little more than bone and just enough muscle to keep going. Then his other foot shot pain into him, but he kept moving… until his feet feel out from under him and he found himself tumbling… down… down… down… and into unconsciousness.
Barrett was surprised to wake up. He’d been surprised to wake up once before… but having experienced that, he was now even more surprised. He should be dead. Blood loss could have done it… the fire that had covered and filled him should have done it. He was certain his organs had been strained enough to fail… but he woke up.
Everything hurt. It was much worse than his most painful destruction, and at least ten times as bad as after his family’s manor was burned down. He didn’t relish the fact that he could survive more pain. Perhaps it would have been better to die.
After all, what would await him for living? Reina… she should be safe, right? Barrett hoped so, but he couldn’t guarantee anything. Before, he had weeped for himself. This time, he was out of tears. Even so, he wanted to.cry. Before, he had lost everything he had. This time… it was the same.
His axe and armor were unimportant. He liked his magic bandages, but they weren’t strictly necessary. His arm, however… that mattered. His cultivation of berserk energy, his muscles… his strength. Those things… were now lost to him.
Barrett could feel the status of his body very well. HIs muscles were ruined, and even if they recovered somewhat they would never work right. His body wouldn’t be able to handle berserk energy if he was even capable of gathering it- but with his organs in disarray that would also not be possible.
Of course, Barrett had pills back at the Immortal Berserker Sect, but they didn’t cover things like this. Reina’s eye and the scars on her hand had been relatively superficial as wounds went. Her eye had been whole for the most part. Barrett… felt that his eyes were ruined. That wasn’t all. His ears, his lips, his nose… everything that stuck out at all was burned down to the bone- if they had bones like the fingers on his one hand. Barrett was certain that the bottom of his feet were no better.
Then, Barrett felt pressure on his head. He felt his mouth pulled open, and something was poured down his throat. Soup? He couldn’t tell. He couldn’t taste anything but ash and burnt flesh. He tried to speak, but merely coughed. Was someone talking? He couldn’t tell. They continued to feed him, and then Barrett fell unconscious again.
Barrett’s eardrums were surprisingly the first thing to heal. He heard the voice of a girl, though it was muffled. “Look, daddy. He’s awake again! He moved!”
Barrett couldn’t hear the other voice.
Later, when he drifted into consciousness again, the girl’s voice spoke to him..”Can you hear me? Can you speak?”
Barrett tried to shift his head. It was excruciatingly painful… but he managed it while gritting his teeth.
“Oh! Sorry! Don’t move! Don’t worry, I’ll take care of you. Here, have more soup!”
After a week, Barrett could almost make sounds. That was good but… Barrett knew that was a problem. He heard he’d been unconscious for two weeks… another week of healing on top of that should have been more than the equivalent of a year. Yet, here he was- still in bed, still injured. That meant he couldn’t recover from the wounds- or that he’d lost his healing which was the same sort of thing. If he had to start training over again from the first level… he would risk his life on the First Destruction. There was probably at least a 10 percent chance of death.
Barrett laughed to himself. Here he was, completely incapable of recovering, and he was thinking about trying to become strong again.
“You laughed!” The girl’s voice came, “I think?”
“…Yeah.” Barrett croaked.
“You can talk! Dad! He can talk!” The sound of feet scurrying away from him on wooden floors rang out.
He wanted to stay conscious, but he felt sleep overtaking him. Was this what his life would be like? A few minutes of consciousness per day, immobile in bed? Well, at least his caretaker was nice… Barrett thought dumb thoughts until he saw black again.