Barrett thought someone might have tried to stop them from putting a sign in the middle of Ember, if Master Hykel wasn’t so intimidating. Instead, people stood around watching- looking down the street and out of the windows of shops. Master Hykel used a hammer he had taken from the Raging Fire Sect’s armory as a mallett and pounded a metal-shafted spear point first into the ground. Then he attached a breastplate to the spear with the message carved into its metal surface.
“The Raging Fire Sect, for its crimes of assaulting and kidnapping cultivators, unlawful detainment of civilians, and lack of honor- among other crimes- has been officially disbanded by the hands of Master Teran Hykel of the Immortal Berserker Sect. Any attempt to reform the Raging Fire Sect will be taken as an intent to continue with more of the aforementioned crimes, and will result in the termination of any such people attempting to do so.”
It was a pretty straightforward message- and the same message had been left in front of the remains of the Raging Fire Sect’s property. Technically, most of their members were still alive. Master Hykel had only killed a few dozen of their regular members- but he had also killed five out of six of their elders. With the destruction of their buildings and with their armory and archives raided, they wouldn’t have much ability to continue on as the Raging Fire Sect in any case- without the strength they had, their overbearing presence in the area wouldn’t be tolerated. While not all of their members were corrupt, enough of them had been corrupt or simply arrogant enough to ensure they had no lack of enemies in the area. They would likely be destroyed by others if they attempted to continue on as the Raging Fire Sect- and even if they weren’t, the sign was a promise from Master Hykel that he would do it. Not that he actually planned to be nearby in the future.
Barrett watched as Clara and Jack went through the single room of their house, packing up what they could carry with them. With the Raging Fire Sect disbanded, it wasn’t likely that there would be any retribution regarding them. However, all it would take was one person remembering their connection and holding a grudge against them. They were normal people- unable to stand up against even a basically trained soldier, let alone a second or third tier berserker. Thus, it was better for them to move- and the best time was the current moment.
Clara kept fastening more pots and pans onto the pack, while Jack stood out in front of the house, just staring at it. “I build this house myself, you know?” He looked over at Barrett, “When I got married. All I have left of her is this house… and Clara.” Then he shook his head, “Clara’s more important. Besides, there wasn’t much of a life here anyway. Perhaps we can do better somewhere else…”
Barrett nodded, “Like I said, I’ll help you buy a house somewhere… I owe you more than just getting you out of problems caused by your kindness.”
Jack nodded in return. There wasn’t much else to say- protesting at the expenditure of money would just be for show. He knew Barrett had more than enough, even not counting Master Hykel’s help, and they did need the help. “Thank you.”
Barrett sat in meditation. He’d thought, from all of the talk about pure body tempering, that he would currently be doing more moving… but he was not. Instead, he was sitting… meditating… and trying to forget everything he knew about how a human body worked. Not that he had to actually forget, but even the most basic parts of the process involved making the body work in ways he didn’t think it could.
First, he started with controlling his breathing. That was something easy. It was normally unconscious, but could be taken control of at any moment. He focused on his senses, the sounds around him, the smells, the sights- and then he felt what it was like to ignore them. He focused on the feeling of his skin, each itch of his skin and the feeling of his clothes against it. Then he focused on the feeling and sound of his muscles as they moved underneath his skin. That was hard, but if he held his hand up to his ear he could hear the faint rumbling, trembling sound of muscles along with the usual slight echo.
Next, he worked to control his heartbeat. While he could control some of the factors that affected his heartbeat- such as his rate of breathing, his level of exertion, and his emotions- controlling his heartbeat directly was something else. He could feel his blood flow in his neck, and hear it pulsing through him, faint though the sound was. Then he worked to try to control it.
*ba-dum* *ba-dum* *ba-dum*
His heart beat on a regular schedule.
*ba-dum* *ba-dum* *ba-dum* *ba-dum*
His pulse quickened.
His pulse slowed.
A slow beat followed by a fast beat. Then…
Barrett woke from his unconsciousness that he hadn’t even felt coming. He put his hand to his throat to feel his pulse.
It was normal. Or rather, it was back.
“How was it?” Alnherr’s voice caused Barrett to look up next to him.
“Frightening. I think I almost died.”
Alnherr shrugged, “Only if you were both surprisingly good and surprisingly terrible at the same time. The heart isn’t normally under your control- so without your consciousness it returns to functionality on its own. Unless you reach the level of control where you can control your body even unconsciously…” Alnherr shook his head, “As frightening as it might be, this is the first process because it’s mostly safe- and even if your heart didn’t start again on its own, I could do it for you.”
“That’s comforting, I suppose.”
“It should be! You know, nobody likes losing students. Except people who don’t care, but any good master wants their students to live… and does their best to develop techniques with the highest chance of success.” Alnherr shrugged, “Sometimes there are failures, but techniques don’t get passed on if they have a high enough chance of killing the users. At least, not for more than a generation or two. Now then, I think you’re ready to try something more advanced.”