This time around, the barbarian troupe traveled for five days straight. Along the way, Lorist managed to gather a good amount of thatch which he used to make a pair of grass sandals for himself. After that, he requested one of the male servants of the female chief to cut off two pieces of beastskin from the one he used to cover himself at night to be used as padding for his sandals, thus solving his problem of having to travel bare-footed.
That male servant actually seemed rather fierce. Even though he wasn't that old, being at around 15 or 16 years of age, his large size would suggest otherwise. He was quite curious when he saw Lorist working on his sandals and squatted down to look for a good amount of time. That skill was actually learned by Lorist during his days as a mercenary and the sandals he made were based on the cloth shoes from his previous life, meaning that the left shoe was slightly different from the right, unlike most other grass sandals worn by the commoners of Grindia.
The finished grass sandals was taken by the male servant for him to satisfy his curiosity. But he didn't claim them for himself and returned them to Lorist after giving them a good look, with the condition that Lorist teach him how to make those sandals. Lorist was quite eager to do so as well and he chatted with the barbarian throughout the lesson.
According to the barbarian servant, the gold-crowned barbarian woman saved Lorist because she was worried that he would be ravaged to death by those ravenous women. If he had died, she wouldn't be able to show him off to her father, since Lorist was the only flatlander that wore a gold badge that signified his relatively high status.
This explanation made Lorist understand why the female mountain chief had ignored him even though she bothered to save him. He took that chance to ask that young male servant whether there was another person alongside him when he was first found. He really wanted to know where Reidy was.
The male barbarian nodded and said that there was an idiot with great strength that caused even two Six Ringed Ulay to be unable to hold him down. However, apart from his strength, that idiot wasn't good at anything else, so they tossed him to the rear end of the troupe and had him take care of the workhorses.
Ulay was a term made by the mountain barbarians to describe warriors. The number of rings was an indication of their Battle Force power level. The barbarians believed that Battle Force was actually a gift from their mountain deities and they divided the 'power of the mountain spirits' into 12 different 'ring levels'. Each 'ring' represent a unit of strength and the more rings one had, the stronger one would be. A Six-Ringed Ulay was roughly equal to a Three Star Iron ranked Battle Force user.
Lorist was really agitated as he finally got some news about Reidy. However, he didn't understand why that barbarian called him an idiot.
The barbarian then explained that 'the idiot' was also a mute and when they found him, he was injured all over his body and had even used his teeth to bite a magical wolf to death. However, he behaved rather well and was rather obedient as long as he was fed. Apart from being really strong, he didn't do much to cause trouble.
Lorist felt like that description didn't quite fit Reidy, but if it was really him, then something bad must've happened. Even so, Lorist had to prioritize his own safety for now and he was only allowed to roam around the main troupe where the female mountain chief was, so he couldn't go to the rear troupe to check if that idiot was truly Reidy and had to be patient until the time was right.
Perhaps because he had taught that young barbarian how to make grass sandals, his dinner that night was far more luxurious than usual. That barbarian male brought Lorist a meaty thigh. Even though half of it was charred, it was still meat, and Lorist was incredibly glad to be able to have some as he had eaten nothing but the black, musty biscuits for the past few days.
During the night when they camped out in the open, Lorist leaned on the luggage that was offloaded from the horses and covered himself with his beastskin blanket, seemingly asleep. In actuality, he was seated cross-legged and slowly circulating a minor cycle to recover some more internal energy. His current situation prevented him from executing a major cycle as he was worried that some barbarian would come to give him a kick when he was in the middle of it. If that really happened, in the best case, he would lose control of his cultivation. In the worst case, his body would be paralyzed partially and he would truly be beyond salvation.
In the distance, a volcano that resembled Fuji Mountain could be seen. All the barbarians cheered out excitedly as they were about to reach their meeting point.
After another half a day of walking, the volcano seemed incredibly near. However, the troupe didn't travel directly towards it and instead took a turn and headed towards a slightly shorter mountain.
Halfway up that mountain, they arrived at a settlement at the bottom of a large cliff which was surrounded by a wooden stockade. The gates of the stockade were already open and the barbarian troupe marched into it proudly as the elderly and young watched and cheered.
After entering the derelict-looking stockade, Lorist realized that there was a large cave at the bottom of the cliff and that was where the barbarian troupe was heading. However, just as they were about to enter it, Lorist was dragged out of the troupe. According to the male barbarian servant, Lorist wasn't allowed to step into their sacred cave since he was a slave.
That's why Lorist could only stand by the cave entrance and could only watch as the every barbarian from the troupe gradually entered the cave.
This was the first time Lorist got to see the full barbarian troupe. When he was traveling, he only knew that the troupe had hundreds of people and around thousands of work horses. But he didn't know why they ventured into the wildlands in the first place. Now however, he understood that the barbarian troupe was sent to hunt and collect enough food for the barbarians to survive the winter. It became obvious to him when he saw the dried meat packed into beastskin bags that were hung on both sides of the work horses.
"Sol, even though these savages can enter the cave, someone like me can't?" muttered Lorist softly outside the cave. He was quite curious what the insides of that large cave looked like, but just at that very moment, he saw Reidy.
Reidy looked incredibly dirty and was almost completely naked, save for a beastskin kilt that he wore around his waist. He was bare-footed and his hair was completely messed up. Apart from the lack of face paint and tattoos on his body and face, he looked no different from the other barbarians. But the Reidy he saw before him truly looked like the idiot described by the male barbarian attendant. He was quite aloof and only moved when the people in front of him bickered at him.
At that moment, Lorist instantly jumped and called out to Reidy as he tried to run over to him, only to feel a harsh tug coming from the collar he wore, causing him to fall flat onto the ground. One whip-wielding barbarian male immediately rebuked Lorist and began whipping him, causing him to shield his head with both his hands while enduring the searing pain.
After the barbarian whipped Lorist four to five times, the blank-eyed Reidy began to growl all of a sudden before leaping and pushing the whip-wielding barbarian to the ground and trying to bite at his throat, causing the barbarian a huge fright. But with his quick reflexes, he hurriedly stuck the whip into Reidy's mouth and listened to the squishing sounds as it was chewed to pieces by Reidy's teeth.
A few other barbarians came over from the side and pulled Reidy away from the male barbarian, who then got up from the ground with his face reddened with anger. He pointed to Reidy and scolded loudly before having the other barbarians release Reidy with the intent on teaching him a lesson himself.
But out of their expectations, Reidy didn't attack that barbarian after he was released and instead rushed straight to Lorist's side.
With all fours on the ground, he prodded onto Lorist's body with his head much like a dog trying to get its master's attention, though without actually licking Lorist.
Everyone who witnessed that sight was flabbergasted and the male barbarian realized that Reidy had attacked because of the flatlander slave. Lorist sat up and gave Reidy a tight hug as he let out streams of tears. The reason Reidy was like that was because he had suffered heavy impacts to his head. From the look in his eyes, it seemed that he couldn't recall anything else apart from his attachment to Lorist.
"What is going on here? Why is the entrance to the cave blocked?" asked the tiara-wearing woman as she came over with a group of attendants.
The male barbarian hurriedly reported, "Mountain chief, that idiot seems to recognize that flatlander slave and the slave also hugged him while calling him Reiti or something. The slave was blocking the way of our troupe and I wanted to pummel him, but then that mute idiot leaped over and tried to bite me..."
The woman with the golden tiara waved her hands to signal that she understood the situation. Looking at the hugging guys on the ground, she asked Lorist, "Oi, who is he to you?"
With a face full of tears, Lorist raised his head and said, "He's my student and is also my attendant. If he didn't save me back then, I would've been killed by my nemesis., But I didn't expect that we would separate after falling into the river and right now he's become an idiot like this and can't even speak..."
The crowned woman nodded and said, "Since he's your attendant, I will allow you to bring him with you. Don't block the way into the cave. You are my first flatlander slave of high status, so you can bring your attendant with you as proof of it."
Lorist really didn't mind that he was being treated like a flatlander slave as being able to stay with Reidy was already a huge surprise for him. He hurriedly brought Reidy away to the side of the cave to stop blocking the entrance as he wondered how he should inspect Reidy's condition. He needed to know specifically which part of his head was injured.
By the time the sky darkened, everyone from the barbarian troupe were finally inside. After that, the male attendant approached Lorist and brought him to an old wooden hut within the stockade and called an old barbarian man out. After being told something, the hunchbacked old man nodded before he proceeded to bring Lorist and Reidy to a small wooden shack not far away and signalled for Lorist and Reidy to enter it.
But the male attendant from before stopped Lorist and said seriously, "You will be spending winter within this shack and if you might die if you are not careful. Since there's still a little time before winter, go collect some dried grass or something to keep warm. If you need anything, tell me, I will try my best to aid you. Oh, and I'm called Ashu and you can have the guards standing outside the cave to deliver a message to me when I'm inside."
After Ashu left, the hunchbacked old man smiled and said to Lorist, "A flatlander slave with status? Hahaha, how ludicrous. I've never heard of something this laughable., But no matter, since you will no doubt die during the winter. The mountain chief won't bother with two frozen corpses after all."
After saying that, the hunchbacked old man asked Lorist to follow him back to the wooden hut and tossed an old beastskin sack to Lorist. "Take it, this will be your food for the whole month. I hope that you will survive it, haha... Now scram back to your little shack."
The sack contained many kudzu roots. They were plants that were similar to potatoes and contained a high amount of starch. They tasted a little bitter and were harvested from a kind of vine plant, making it a great meal substitute when food was scarce. That sack weighed around 25 kilograms and Lorist finally understood how the biscuit he had been eating for the past few days were made. Basically, the kudzu roots were ground into powder and mixed with meat chunks and vegetables before it was cooked atop a hot rock surface, resulting in the biscuit that was suited for long travels.
The shack was rather small, not exceeding 5 square meters large. The ground within the shack also had a hole that was almost one meter deep. Fortunately, they were halfway up a mountain and the altitude was rather high. Otherwise, if rainwater got into the hole, it would be stay there and be incredibly hard to remove. The shack was basically constructed by a chaotic assortment of wooden branches of different lengths plunged into the ground, forming a wall that was roughly 1.5 meters tall with a makeshift roof on top. Not only was the shack not insulated from the air outside, the starry night sky was also visible from within. There was also a patch of dried grass within the shack that stank with a rotting smell. The ground within the shack was also rather muddy and some feces could be spotted at the corners of the shack. Some shameless person must have used the shack as their latrine just recently.
It didn't even have a door and its entrance was only covered with a piece of torn, old beastskin. Lorist recalled what Ashu said as well as the old hunchbacked barbarian's snickering laugh. It was true that if he truly planned to spend winter within the shack, he and Reidy would end up becoming two frozen corpses by the end of winter.
However, Lorist didn't put that matter to heart and thought, only people with something wrong with their heads would spend winter in a shack like this. Since there was no longer anyone to watch over him, Lorist could finally begin his internal energy recovery undisturbed. By the time he recovers, he would bring Reidy back to the dominion right away and wouldn't bother to continue staying there as a slave.
Even though it was rather cold at night, he decided that it was better to stay outside in the open using his beastskin cloak as a windbreaker than stay within the smelly old shack. Lorist found a few broken pieces of earthenware and brought some water from the water pool nearby and began washing some kudzu roots to make food for Reidy and himself. Lorist consumed two of those biscuits while Reidy ended up eating five.
When dawn was breaking, he walked back into the shack with a solemn look and sat down beside the snoring Reidy. Lorist's condition wasn't that simple as he had thought because after he completed a major cycle circulation throughout the night, he recovered far less internal energy than expected. Additionally, he noticed that the meridians within his body were incredibly withered and dried up with many places requiring recuperation and repair, causing him to have much difficulty activating his ki technique. His internal organs also still hurt quite a bit.
Having successfully executed a major cycle during the night, Lorist had recovered up to 10 percent of his full capacity. On days he wasn't injured, he could execute three whole major cycles within that span of time and could at least recover half of his internal energy capacity even if he had previously used it all up. Right now however, it was as if he had returned to the days when he just began to train in the Aquametal Technique and he had to clear out his blocked meridians and repair the damages they sustained. Lorist estimated that it would take at least two months' time for him to recalibrate his body's condition to return to his former state.
If one were to quantify internal energy, the ten percent of it recovered by Lorist during the night would be more or less equal to 100 'threads'. It was no wonder Lorist had only managed to recover one or two threads after executing minor cycles during the past few days given the level of internal damage he sustained. At that time, he was already incredibly excited at the fact that he could recover any internal energy at all and didn't consider why the rate of recovery was so slow. He finally understood what it meant to lose everything he worked for over the years within one single night.
Lorist sighed deeply before lifting Reidy up and leaning his body against his own. Reidy opened his eyes and looked at Lorist without a shred of hostility and was told to keep quiet and stay still. Lorist then placed his right palm onto Reidy's back and activated his technique and sent in his internal energy into Reidy's body to inspect his state.
Reidy's body turned out to be in a rather bad condition; the Blademaster's double palm strike he sustained on the back before he was pushed down the cliff had destroyed a few circulation nodes of Reidy's hexagonal circulation diagram, causing him to be unable to use Battle Force altogether. And given that he had fallen from the cliff of roughly 20 meters of height, his head sustained severe impact without the protection of Battle Force when he rolled down the sides of the cliff before falling into the river, causing internal bleeding and clotting within his brain. Lorist theorized that it was these blood clots that caused Reidy to lose most of his memory and it was already a small miracle that Reidy had still been able to recognize Lorist.
To treat Reidy, there were two ways. The first involved restoring his Battle Force circulation and using it to clear out the blood clots within his brain. But since Reidy had lost his memory, even if his body was restored, he wouldn't be able to remember the proper method to circulate Battle Force for the recovery. The second method involved using Lorist's own internal energy to first clear out the blood clots within Reidy's brain to restore his mental faculties. However, the effects of that method would take much longer to manifest.
Perhaps, I have no choice but to spend winter in this shack with Reidy, Lorist thought as he turned to look at the derelict walls of the shack.