Barrett took a moment to ask Master Hykel about the match, “I thought we weren’t supposed to get hit on purpose even to cause the opponent damage…”
Master Hykel laughed, “A non lethal duel is quite different… and his attacks weren’t as easy to dodge as they looked. Eyes like to play tricks on you. You’ll see that from my next opponent.”
“Oh yeah? Who is it?”
“He’s from the Palace of One Thousand Eyes.”
“They don’t grow extra eyes.”
“Some people shouldn’t be allowed to name things,” Barrett grumbled, “At least the Immortal Berserker Sect cultivates immortal bodies… and was made for true immortal bodies to begin with.” Barrett sighed, “So… what do they do?”
“You’ll see. Or maybe you won’t… but it will be a good chance to try.”
“Uhh… right.” Barrett shrugged. He supposed not knowing ahead of time would be more useful… somehow. Master Hykel didn’t just keep secrets for fun. Usually.
While members of the Palace of One Thousand Eyes might not have grown extra eyes, the particular member Barrett saw had a large number of eyes tattooed on him. There was one on his forehead, his throat, one on the back of each of his hands, and Barrett thought he saw some going up his sleeves. The tattoos were so realistic Barrett almost thought he saw one blink.
Then the match started, and the man was suddenly a hundred of himself, each one standing as part of a circle around Master Hykel and moving to cast spells at him. Or maybe it was further spells. One man didn’t suddenly become a hundred… and Barrett was pretty sure if it had always been a hundred men the match wouldn’t be going. Each of them threw bolts of pure mana at Master Hykel, who moved as quickly as he could to dodge most of the hundred attacks and even attack the real one.
Barrett saw Master Hykel’s axe swing down and cleanly bisect the man… before hitting the arena floor and shattering some of the tiles. The false image flickered as Master Hykel’s axe went through it, but came away unharmed. Barrett blinked in surprise.
Obviously the hundred images were illusions, right? But the one that Master Hykel had attacked had been the one that entered the arena. Yet, it hadn’t had a solid form. On the other hand, Barrett saw some of the manabolts impact Master Hykel’s armor and leave marks, and they also left marks on the ground nearby. So were they real?
Master Hykel dashed around avoiding attacks and chopping through illusory figures. Strangely enough their attacks seemed to cause damage to Master Hykel even when a moment later his axe passed right through the figures. Barrett saw Master Hykel’s side bleeding where one attack had pierced through his armor. It wasn’t serious yet, but Barrett felt like it was just the first sign of the battle going downhill.
Master Hykel had told him not to trust his eyes, but he wasn’t sure what to trust. Clearly some of the attacks were real, but the figures didn’t seem to be. What was going on? Barrett shook his head. If it was that easy to figure out then fifth tier illusion specialists wouldn’t have been much of anything.
Clearly Barrett’s eyes wouldn’t be of much help. He closed his eyes and listened. Though the battle was far away, he clearly heard one loud pair of feet hitting the ground… and in a moment of quiet from the stands around him, a hundred lighter steps and movements. Not that he was sure it was exactly a hundred, but the point was he could hear about as many unreal footsteps as images he could see. What else?
He couldn’t touch or taste or smell them. Not from where he was, but he felt like at least some of those options would be covered. His energy senses told him all of the figures were real, even up to the point where they were chopped in half. He wasn’t that good at viewing mana, but all of the figures seemed to be using a lot of mana and firing real mana bolts. It just couldn’t be the case because the caster would run themselves into the ground in a few moments- or the bolts wouldn’t be powerful enough to cause damage.
So far, nothing Barrett could do let him determine where the real person was. He had to be there, though, because the contestants were required to fight in the arena. One of the figures had to actually be him… right? Could he… teleport?
Barrett only had one more method, sensing killing intent. Sadly, that ended up much the same. The illusionist wasn’t hiding his killing intent… in fact, every single one of the figures projected their own killing intent. Even not directed at him, Barrett could feel it… not that he would have been able to do anything about a hundred separate killing intents at once. He might have been able to dodge one or two attacks, but without knowing which one was real he would have been hit every time. Or even more than once… because all of the attacks seemed real. They couldn’t all be real… but maybe several of them in each barrage were.
Master Hykel clutched at his side as his wound got hit again. Barrett frowned. Was this it? Was he going to go out in the second round? All he seemed to be able to do was dodge and do fruitless attacks. On the other hand, maybe he could just outlast his opponent even without injuring him. So many illusions had to take a lot of effort, even if they weren’t real. It was just a matter of whether or not Master Hykel could avoid enough real attacks before that point.
Master Hykel continued moving around, but he kept that one arm pressed to his side, on the wound. He chopped through illusions left and right. No longer were they arrayed in a neat circle, but strewn almost randomly about the arena. Their numbers never seemed to diminish, but Master Hykel had attacked every image at least once.
He chopped through another one, then another, dashed toward a third… and used his free arm to grab at empty air. His hand squeezed… and all of the illusions disappeared… revealing the man himself in Master Hykel’s hand. He signalled his surrender with his hands, since he couldn’t exactly talk with Master Hykel’s hand around his throat.