The old man introduced himself as a mere fourth tier pure body temperer. “Oh, and the name’s Alnherr.”
Barrett knew that being fourth tier wasn’t something to be ashamed of. After all, the elders of the Raging Fire Sect had also all been fourth tier. For the region, he was among the top. “What’s different about being a pure body temperer? You put strong emphasis on that part.”
The old man grinned a nearly toothless grin, “It’s our pride… and also our downfall. We don’t train any types of energy or magic. Unfortunately there are things that a body just can’t do. Our pride is that we do it anyway… or at least strive to.”
“Oh.” Barrett wasn’t really sure what to say. “I don’t really understand…” If something couldn’t be done, it couldn’t be done. If it was accomplished, then it could be done. Perhaps the old man had gone crazy… but Barrett reserved judgement as he continued his explanation.
Alnherr looked at Barrett and Master Hykel, “The two of you train both your bodies and a berserk energy, right? That energy allows you to increase your force, to stabilize yourself, to sense things around you- including other types of energy.” The old man wagged his finger, “We don’t have that. For some it is by choice, for some it is not. However, our training isn’t like that of common soldiers. Although they only train their bodies, they use primitive methods- and they never touch upon the threshold of true body training.” The old man waved his hands toward Barrett and Master Hykel, “The two of you have exceeded the normal standards, and your bodies might even be similarly strong to a pure body temperer at the same tier… but that’s where our special attributes come in.” The old man’s stomach growled, “I don’t suppose you could spare some food? I haven’t been eating all that well lately.”
The kitchens were one part of the Raging Fire Sect that hadn’t yet been destroyed. All of the disciples had already abandoned the area, so the five of them were alone. Barrett watched the old man cram more food than looked physically possible into his stomach- and then he kept eating. “Umm… Aren’t you supposed to start with light food like soup after not eating for a long time? The stomach can’t handle it.” Barrett looked over toward Clara and Jack, who were carefully sipping broth.
Alnherr laughed. “That’s something for normal folks. I won’t be limited by such petty restrictions.” Alnherr continue to eat, and Barrett saw his body go from gaunt and skeletal, with wrinkly skin hanging everywhere to… still old and wrinkly, but with much less loose skin. Barrett couldn’t easily make out the bones in Alnherr’s face by the time he was done eating the veritable mountain of food he had procured for himself. He patted his stomach, “Ahh, that feels good. Now then, how about a demonstration?” Alnherr stood up straight and held out an arm to the side, palm up. “Try standing on my hand.”
“Well… alright.” Barrett shrugged. He stepped up onto the table and stepped gently onto Alnherr’s hand, before gradually putting his full weight on it. He stood on the outstretched hand, expecting to find himself falling at any moment. Since he didn’t fall, he looked carefully at Alnherr’s feet to determine what he was holding onto to keep himself from toppling over. Barrett knew about physics enough to understand that no matter how strong Alnherr was, he should have toppled over. With nothing offsetting the force on his outstretched hand, his strength should only allow him to maintain his rigid posture as he tumbled over. He hopped down to the ground, “Uh… how heavy are you?”
Alnherr turned up his nose, “Hmph. Quite a bit heavier than I was an hour ago… but that’s not the trick.” He lay down on the floor on one side, “Go ahead, try to pick me up.”
Barrett reached down, grabbing Alnherr by the waist. It was easy to lift him. In fact, he felt nearly weightless- until there was just one of Alnherr’s hands touching the floor. Then the sudden resistance stopped him short. Barrett repositioned himself so that one hand was directly under Alnherr’s armpit, then continued to lift. It took more effort, but he managed to lift him… but it felt like all of his weight was in a single hand. Then all of the weight suddenly redistributed itself to a normal arrangement, and Barrett nearly dropped him. He slowly set him down on one of the benches at the table they had been eating at. Barrett carefully looked over the old man, looking for signs of him manipulating some sort of energy, but found nothing. “That’s impossible.”
Master Hykel shrugged, “Don’t bother telling him that. Pure body temperers don’t give a damn about what’s possible and what’s not. Not that there are many of them who are successful at it.”
Alnherr nodded, “It’s unfortunate. You wouldn’t believe how many disciples ruin themselves thinking they can stand on a spearpoint before they’re ready.”
“How many?” Barrett asked.
“Not many.” Alnherr laughed, “They usually screw up something before then and end up with deformed hands or something.”
“Uhh…” Barrett blinked.
Alnherr held up his hand so Barrett looked at it directly from the side… then bend his fingers backwards. Each joint bent a full ninety degrees before finally the tip of his fingers touched the back of his hand behind the first knuckles. Then the fingers folded back to their straight position.
Clara’s eyes widened, “That’s disgusting!”
Alnherr shrugged, “Everything abnormal can have that effect. This isn’t something that any amount of flexibility training will allow.”
Barrett tentatively asked, “If you can do that…” he looked at Alnherr’s broken hand.
“Why break my hand? It was easier and took less energy. It’s a rather draining process, even if it might not look like it. As tired as I was, if I messed up… I could have had a permanently deformed hand instead of a broken one.
Master Hykel crossed his arms and nodded seriously, “We train our bodies to the limits, slowly expanding the limits piece by piece… whereas pure body temperers see limits and decide that they don’t exist. Unfortunately limits do exist, so even if the training methods are well thought out… it usually doesn’t go well.”
Alnherr shrugged, and held up his hands. “That’s the unfortunate thing about us. Our numbers are small, and even though we do things others can’t… They usually just have better ways to do them to begin with. There’s rarely an advantage to our methods.”
Barrett frowned, “Is there any reason you can’t cultivate energy along with your other training methods?”
Alnherr laughed, “Going straight to the interesting questions, hmm? There are reasons for everything. Some good… some bad. This is a mixed bag as well.”