There was always some caution to be taken with surrenders and illusions being involved- but since Master Hykel wasn’t involved in the production of the illusions at all it was pretty clear. The arena itself was also designed to react to proper surrenders as well, at which point it became clear. More importantly, nobody was trying to trick the arena itself. Besides the fact that it wasn’t a living entity, it was both forbidden and unwise to attempt to feed it misinformation. It only responded when it detected the match was going to be decided, and it was very good at that- even if it couldn’t prevent all of the damage of attacks at fifth tier or higher. If an illusionist chose to conceal things from the arena, their own possible death was in their hands- and if they used that sort of method to launch a potentially lethal attack on an opponent, there were proper consequences to be faced.
Not that there was an issue with Master Hykel’s battle. While what had been happening wasn’t completely clear to Barrett, the end result was. Master Hykel walked away the victor. Barrett noticed that the wound on his side… didn’t exist. In fact, most of the damage to his armor wasn’t real either. The arena… was also nearly completely undamaged even though it had looked to be full of holes earlier.
“Hmm…” Barrett looked over Master Hykel, “Care to explain?”
“Why don’t you give a guess first?”
Barrett thought over what he had seen. While he knew he couldn’t believe what he’d seen since most of it was illusory, it still wasn’t useless information. “Umm… in addition to images of himself, he also created images of battle damage from his attacks. Well, not just images. There was sound as well, and I guess… feeling?” Barrett looked at Master Hykel’s uninjured side. “The real him wasn’t any of them however, and he made himself invisible. I think.”
“That’s right,” Master Hykel crossed his large arms in front of him and nodded, “It’s a common enough trick. If he hadn’t had to actually be where he appeared before the match started, it would have been harder to deal with him. I pretended to be fooled so that I could get a chance, but I was actually tracking him the whole time. I even pretended to not realize the damage to my side was fake to create an opening. He didn’t just rely on his invisibility to keep himself safe, but moved around and launched attacks from different angles… sometimes overlapping his attacks with the visible ones as they passed through… and occasionally launching invisible attacks. It was an astounding feet of coordination and calculation. Still, it wasn’t possible to completely hide himself. There was always something a bit more real about his actual attacks… and since he didn’t have to worry about complete accuracy with the fake images, they weren’t all actually trying to predict my movements. At most a handful were more carefully controlled to look real. Though that in itself is another trick…”
Barrett shook his head, “I don’t know how you deal with that.”
“You’ll likely pick it up as you go on. You already know how to sense things, so you can notice minute differences… or something where it seems like there’s nothing. There’s also killing intent… and though that can be disguised as well, it’s hard to keep it perfectly under control. That combined with what your real senses do and don’t tell you and experience will get you pretty far.”
Barrett sighed, “Everything seems so amazing, while we just…”
“Don’t die?” Master Hykel raised an eyebrow, “Because let me tell you, that’s a pretty nice ability to have. Those who use tricks like invisibility as crutches won’t have much success killing you.”
“What about those who just use it as another tool?”
“Don’t get on their bad side. Or learn to deal with it. Preferably both, because you don’t always have a choice about who your enemies are.”
Barrett was almost surprised to see Master Hykel’s next opponent was Mistress Joshi, Nilima’s mistress. He was surprised they were meeting in the third round, but not that they had returned for the tournament. It would have felt more appropriate for them to meet in one of the final rounds… but that just wasn’t the case. On the other hand, it also didn’t need to be a big dramatic ending. It wasn’t like it was a long time promise to fight each other to the death over a serious grievance, but instead Mistress Joshi had just mentioned that she would be at the tournament.
Barrett hadn’t seen Mistress Joshi fight at all, which he only realized once the fight started. He expected her to fight like Nilima, since she was the one teaching Nilima after all… but if he hadn’t known about the connection he never would have guessed. For all that Nilima practiced a ‘gentle’ style, she fought more like a berserker. It was only that she practiced fine energy control and redirection that put her in that category. Nilima favored straightforward strikes and blocks, though if she did everything right she never needed to deal with the second part. She was the sort of person who would bite down on a sword coming toward their face rather than miss an opportunity to win.
Mistress Joshi, meanwhile, demonstrated all of the elegance he expected from a gentle style. It was unlike the Sword of Four Winds style- though they were both deceptively peaceful in appearance. Each move Mistress Joshi made was calculated, each step precise and seemingly slow- though her actual speed was not. Instead of striking in an attempt to pierce through Master Hykel’s defenses, she didn’t even look like she was attacking. It looked more like she was gently laying her fingertips on his chest as she slipped by. Instead of someone fighting, she was more like a dancer finding her way through a crowd, trying to avoid causing a disturbance. She pressed her hand gently against a shoulder or back, or brushed a hand out of the way.
Except she wasn’t walking through a crowd, and was instead facing off against Master Hykel. Instead of brushing aside a hand, she was deflecting his whole arm and the axe that came with it. Even the slightest touches of her fingers carried with them enough energy that they could have liquified a normal person’s organs.