Only a relatively small number of mages and even fewer archers had made it to the fifth round of the tournament. This wasn’t because they weren’t just as good, even though their particular fields were somewhat more difficult to start out in, but rather that the arena wasn’t set up to favor them. While Barrett felt that one hundred meters across was a sufficiently sized fighting arena, that only generally applied up until the third or maybe fourth tier.
At fifth tier, not only was the general cultivator fast enough to cover the hundred meters in a handful of seconds or less, the effective range of archers and mages could be much greater than that. Creating an arena entirely suited to them, however, would be unfair in the other direction. More importantly, matches on that level were more rare than in the lower tiers. The arenas were good enough for their purposes, even if they didn’t allow every style to shine. For example, assassin types- or, if Barrett were being polite, stealth types- performed even more poorly in the open area, with few exceptions.
Master Hykel’s next opponent, however, was an archer. Barrett was especially interested in the match because he hadn’t had the opportunity to duel an archer. He’d been fortunate to not make too many enemies, and none of them had been archers. While that was a good thing, not knowing how to face them would be an issue eventually.
Of course, Barrett knew the basics. Don’t get hit by their arrows, get into melee with them, and then defeat them as normal. However, it wasn’t like he could just hold a shield up and just walk at them. Cultivators had more options available to them than normal archers, though in exchange for their potential they had some difficulties.
For example, they were severely limited by the bows they wielded. No matter how strong or accurate they were, their bow could only do so much. While they could supplement the physical makeup of their bow or even create arrows with energy or magic, that took more power they could be using elsewhere. Otherwise they needed physical arrows that could go along with the bow and deliver the force behind their attacks. While regular weapons could be broken, it was easier to run out of arrows- at least before they could afford magical storage of some sort. However, having large numbers of sufficient quality arrows was another matter entirely, even if they had the space. In short, being an archer was expensive- though no type of cultivator didn’t always want better equipment of some sort.
Though the arena was a hundred meters across, Master Hykel and his opponent didn’t start at the edges of the arena. Instead, they stood with about half the arena in between them- enough to give them both a decent chance.
Master Hykel’s opponent was a woman, and while some thought of archery as a womanly sort of combat, that for those physically weaker… it really wasn’t. Master Hykel had Barrett practice with a bow, and it took a lot of strength to draw them, and even more to hold them steady. Of course, they varied in power, but the general idea was the force behind the arrows had to come from somewhere. The woman from High Winds Peak would absolutely not be weak, even if she wasn’t specialized in hitting people with heavy weapons.
When the match started, Barrett saw Master Hykel dash forward, but with more measured paces and not quite at full speed. Of course, his opponent drew her bow and started firing arrows… but she soon had to move. Not only did she have to retreat from Master Hykel, she also had to dodge his counterattacks.
That was the first method for dealing with people at range- don’t let them be the only one with long range. Unfortunately, archery took a long period of dedicated training to be good. While it somewhat overlapped in the area of body training with any other warrior type, berserk energy did not interact well with bows. Thus, the only option was to either repeatedly acquire new strings made from the sinews of rare magical creatures and occasionally replace the entire bow… or to use another method. For ‘short range’, which was anywhere within a hundred meters or so, simple was sometimes better.
In his particular case, Master Hykel threw rocks. Actually, they were lead spheres like those used in a sling. They would do better with a sling, of course, but having your weapon disintegrate after a single use isn’t much good. They were about the size of a chicken egg, but still weight about half a kilogram. Needless to say, the archer didn’t choose to stand still and get hit by them.
Since she had to move, it disrupted her attacks. While she was still capable of firing her bow while moving, she would be less stable and slightly less accurate. Thus began a scene of Master Hykel chasing her around the arena, attacking whenever she got too comfortable.
Even the fastest arrows still took time to reach their targets… and with the reaction speeds and movement capabilities of fifth tier cultivators, it might seem like dodging them would be easy. However, Barrett saw the arrows were very fast- such that he wouldn’t have been able to react to them at all, and could only barely react by the time they reached the edge of the arena. Master Hykel could react more quickly… but unfortunately dodging didn’t always work. Unlike the arrows of mundane humans, cultivators could change the trajectory of their arrows after firing. That could be through reading the wind currents, a spin on the arrow or simply energy or magic, but nonetheless even if the initial trajectory of the arrows could be judged, they weren’t as set in stone as they appeared.
The archer from High Winds Peak clearly used magic to achieve the desired effect, changing the direction of the arrows just slightly. They also used it for movement, in the same way Reina did. Air magic was used to lighten her movements and keep her momentum when leaping backwards instead of stopping or having to awkwardly keep stepping backwards.
Though some of her arrows went wide, most of them actually struck Master Hykel- but he wore very solid armor. With the distance somewhat reducing the force behind the arrows, they couldn’t penetrate his armor, at least not with him moving to avoid getting hit as intended. Most of the arrows went for joints in his armor, though some were launched directly at his torso. Those felt special, and Master Hykel always maneuvered, twisting his torso so they would glance off instead of hitting directly. Even so, Barrett saw his armor taking some damage.