The speed with which the slightly injured Silver Blade tested the handle, pulled out lockpicks and attempted to pick the lock, and then realized the lock wasn’t the problem was rather incredible. She managed to go through all of that and still ready herself for Barrett’s incoming attack. She dodged out of the way, probably hoping his axe would continue forward and chop into the door… but of course Barrett wasn’t going to hit himself in battle. He had more awareness of his own parts than that. His axe went from a vertical swing to horizontal seemingly without losing momentum, forcing her to awkwardly parry with a backup dagger.
Her energy couldn’t hold up to Barrett’s momentum, and since all four of the Silver Blades’ best daggers were currently in Barrett’s arms leaking poison into his bloodstream, the remaining weapons they had weren’t so sturdy. While his attack was deflected over her head, he sliced off half of the dagger in the process.
For all how he hated their methods, Barrett understood the Silver Blades had been top tier assassins. They just didn’t do well in fights against extremely high durability opponents like the Immortal Berserkers. He admired how quickly the man changed his tactics, running for the middle of the room to grab the mechanisms for the gate. Fortunately Barrett was already there… in the form of the chains that reached out to wrap around the man’s outstretched hand. He pulled away just in time, demonstrating excellent reflexes avoiding something he could have hardly anticipated.
The woman managed to pull away from Barrett with her parry, giving her enough space to throw small needles towards Barrett. However, he was ready for the attack and his defenses were at their best. The bracers on his forearms sealed tightly around the daggers- he couldn’t afford to pull them out at the moment, so they were going to be an exotic form of armor for him instead. There were no gaps in Barrett’s armor anywhere at the moment, so while the needles were propelled by energy they couldn’t break through his concentrated defenses with a majority of Barrett’s toughness moved to his armor.
Barrett’s vision was blurry from the poison, so he closed his eyes. His opponents were invisible anyway. His balance was off, such that he hadn’t noticed it immediately… otherwise he might have been able to chop through the woman faster. Still, now that he knew he could somewhat resist the effects. He admired the poison inside him- it must have been quite rare and expensive for his body to not quickly drive it out on its own. Barrett completely ignored everything his body told him about what it was seeing and what his balance was like, and instead just told it how to move. Assassins weren’t made for straightforward fights, but Barrett was. His axe chopped into the ribcage of the woman who doubtless thought she had dodged back quickly enough to avoid his attack. And she was right, if his weapon hadn’t grown longer in the process. Her energy stopped his axe’s momentum before it reached her sternum, but that didn’t stop it from slicing clean through one of her lungs and nicking her heart. Not an unsurvivable injury, but it wasn’t helped by Barrett immediately kicking her in the chest to pull his axe back out.
The man was still trying to find a way to wrestle the mechanisms for the gate. However, as he reached for a wheel it would move and strike his hand, and the chains would move to grab him at every opportunity. He was a great multitasker though, and he had been throwing poison powders in Barrett’s direction the whole time. Unfortunately for him the air in between them was Barrett’s domain at the moment. Also unfortunately for him, Barrett was quite experienced at fighting Silver Blades… and now there was just him.
Teran Hykel had been keeping a portion of his attention on his best student. Not that he had been doing much different than Teran himself, attacking those approaching the walls. When Barrett was ambushed by previously unsensed enemies, Teran almost moved away from his position… but that was both a bad tactic and a poor show of confidence in Barrett. When he found it hard to sense anything at all through the walls, he was fairly sure it was Barrett doing that. At the same time, he had other things to deal with.
He didn’t have a sling that could withstand berserk energy, so his method of ranged attacks was the normal option for Immortal Berserkers- flinging something akin to a sling bullet charged with berserk energy. Anything of some mass that would fly straight and hold together long enough to explode where it was supposed to. The first targets had all been low tier cultivators with some masters mixed in. But now there were several grandmasters reaching the gates… and even as Teran pelted them with attacks they started beating on the gates, protecting themselves from its retributive attacks. Then behind them appeared several eighth tier cultivators… and Teran had a new target.
One of the eighth tier masters radiated berserk energy. Not just any berserk energy, but a kind that quite matched that of the Immortal Berserker Sect. A familiar individual… one that Teran would never forget. The energy was Aurora’s, but the woman who had killed her and bound Aurora’s soul to her own was Grandmistress Safa. Teran angrily threw a berserk energy charged handful of lead spheres at her, but she batted them away with one hand and they exploded an arm’s length away from her- greatly reducing their force of impact, though the shrapnel did injure a few weaker cultivators nearby.
Teran almost attacked again, but he calmed himself. He wasn’t at his best fighting at range. Attacking a stronger cultivator with his own weak point… wasn’t going to get him revenge. He needed to conserve his energy.
The gates rumbled. Teran found himself impressed by the gates. Standing up to a combined attack of so many grandmasters- with some eighth tiers too- wasn’t simple. They did have to defend themselves from attacks at the same time, but slowing down the enemy at all was already a big accomplishment. Every second of vulnerability gave something to their side.
Teran could take out a few weaker cultivators from his position… but that wasn’t the most efficient use of his energy. Or the one he wanted to do the most. He started moving off the walls, down past the inner gate where he would wait for the enemies. He saw many others were already there. Perhaps a quarter of the grandmasters in all of Stredo were stretched around the area, ready to intercept anyone who broke through. Some of the others were defending other gates or still on the walls… or in the gatehouse, getting ready to make use of the murder holes there. Those who had better ranged abilities, of course.
Barrett stood over two bodies, breathing heavily. With the loud sounds the gates were making, it seemed like his efforts wouldn’t be stopping the enemy army for long… but if they had opened both the inner and outer gates they would have saved all of the effort of breaking through them. Then the massive attacks that were quaking the walls and gatehouse around him would have been able to be used on cultivators of Stredo. If they could get powerful enemies to exhaust even ten or twenty percent of their energy, it would be worth it.
Of course, the fact that he’d successfully defended the gatehouse mechanisms also meant the enemy alliance was down two grandmasters. Barrett coughed up a ball of goop that was coagulated blood and a significant portion of the poisons that had been flowing through his veins as he investigated them.
The man was older- he was probably one of the grandmasters who escaped originally. The woman, however, was a bit younger. Still older than Barrett, but she was likely not at seventh tier when they had to flee Stredo. Which meant if there had been two or three before, the Silver Blades might have… well, four or five grandmaster tier cultivators left. Maybe as few as two or three if they’d taken some time to settle down in wherever they went to. Presumably the Ostain Empire somewhere.
Barrett thought about a vitality pear he had in his pack. Was it too early to eat it? He had two, but they would have to cover the entire battle. He wasn’t so exhausted that he needed it just yet, so he decided to forgo that option. The holes in his arms were already closed up, and most of the damage from the poison was beginning to recover now that he’d removed the majority of it. He could even see again.
The gates rumbled again. Barrett decided to stay in the gatehouse watching the mechanisms until the inner gates were breached, just in case more Silver Blades or someone else managed to get inside Stredo. He wanted as much of the enemy forces to be exhausted as possible, and even a few seconds of difference from the gates being opened early could matter.