Mistress Joshi made her actions look effortless, while meanwhile Barrett could see the power and strain going into every attack from Master Hykel. That didn’t mean Mistress Joshi’s actions actually were effortless however. Even if she was extremely efficient with her deflections, it still required energy to deflect attacks and cause damage.
Barrett was unsure how injured Master Hykel was- there was no visible damage, but that would never be the case. Short of him starting to cough up blood, the damage to his internal organs couldn’t be measured. Barrett could only go by his own experience with Mistress Joshi’s style… in which case, Master Hykel would definitely be starting to feel the strain. He had managed to keep himself from any serious injury- Mistress Joshi would have had to step too far into his range to damage anything that could take him down quickly.
While he wasn’t yet seriously injured, Barrett didn’t see things going well for Master Hykel. He wasn’t able to land a real hit on Mistress Joshi, and she was using less energy. Even if he had more- which Barrett wasn’t sure about- it wasn’t a favorable position.
Barrett watched carefully. This was a chance for him to learn something by seeing it in action. Barrett saw berserk energy in Master Hykel’s every movement, increasing the speed of his attacks and his dodging. It almost looked like his axe didn’t weigh anything instead of whatever massive weight it actually possessed. However, no matter how fast his attacks were or how smooth his dodging, Mistress Joshi managed to avoid any direct hit while still damaging his arms and legs, and occasionally more.
Then Master Hykel stumbled slightly, an opportunity not missed by Mistress Joshi. She moved around behind him, striking his back directly over his heart. However as she did so, she was sent flying backwards. Barrett had seen that many times before with Nilima. She turned the force of most of his attacks into motion, dissipating the energy gradually and walking away mostly unharmed. As Mistress Joshi was flung back a dozen meters, Barrett supposed she must have had a massive amount of energy to disperse.
Master Hykel hadn’t been able to turn to attack her, nor could he even move quickly enough to elbow her or kick backwards. However, Barrett had seen and felt him quickly mobilize his berserker energy to block her attack… and counter it. Berserk energy wasn’t much good for neutralizing other attacks, however- especially not piercing type attacks like Mistress Joshi’s. Thus, he would have still suffered most of the damage. In fact, he might have even taken more damage because of all the berserk energy he used at that moment.
On the other hand, Mistress Joshi hadn’t gotten off cleanly either. She clutched her left hand, which now had blood dripping from it. Barrett couldn’t see clearly from the distance he was at, but he thought he could see some muscle and even bone. Clearly she hadn’t been able to cleanly dissipate all the berserk energy.
Master Hykel turned, and the two of them stood looking at each other for a handful of seconds without moving. Master Hykel tilted his head, “Waiting for something?”
Mistress Joshi shook her head, “I was hoping I missed something… or that you would collapse.” She slightly flexed the fingers on her bloody hand, wincing. “This is going to be a pain to heal, you know?” She waited a few more moments then sighed, “I concede. I couldn’t go forward in the tournament if this got any worse.”
Master Hykel rubbed his shoulder blade as he walked off of the arena. Barrett saw a number of other cultivators gather around to congratulate him on another victory, before he broke away to find Barrett. “Haha! That was a close one. While I don’t mind losing to someone strong, having both the master and student lose to another master and student pair in consecutive tournaments would be a bit depressing.” Master Hykel patted his chest, “Good thing she didn’t consider I’d started up Pure Body Tempering. Her attack was absolutely enough to stop my heart there, if not worse… but I managed to gather some toughness there.” Master Hykel stretched, but Barrett could see the strain that movement caused. “If it hadn’t been for that, I would have lost the match even if I could restart my heart. The general assumption is a stopped heart is a loss. If it were a real fight and I couldn’t restart it on my own… that would mean I was dead unless I had someone around to help. It’s not like I could use berserk energy to that effect… it’s not good at making things better. Speaking of Pure Body Tempering, I hear you’re doing pretty good yourself.”
“I’m working at it. It’s hard. There are so many things and everything controls slightly differently. Using it in combat is even more difficult, especially when controlling energy at the same time.”
“I’m sure you’ll get there, Barrett. You’re a good student, equipped with both talent and effort. Alnherr says you’re one of the top few students of his, and that includes those with more overall experience. If you get some practical Pure Body Tempering experience under your belt I bet you’ll make great strides. There’s a difference between how things go in sparring and real life or death- even if you are going all out, the threat just isn’t there… and sometimes you find what everyone thinks will kill you doesn’t.”
“Like falling in a volcano.”
“Exactly!” Master Hykel nodded, “Though with a year or two more of experience, I would have had greater expectations for your survival there. After all, it was only a lesser volcano.”
“How is that different from an actual volcano?”
“Well, lesser volcanoes are still real. It’s one of the hottest natural things you might experience… but there are all sorts of supernatural things in this world as well.”
“Like Tornado Plains,” Barrett nodded.
“That’s right. You wouldn’t have trouble with a regular tornado picking you up. At most it would be a major inconvenience if you remembered to protect your head. No more than 206 broken bones and some organ damage, but you’d survive- and in the right conditions you’d be basically unharmed. But the one in Tornado Plains… it picks up all sorts of heavy debris and whips it around at hard to fathom speeds. It could tear you apart in a matter of minutes.”
“Right. So, do you know your next opponent?”
“That would be…” Master Hykel scratched his chin, “Mistress Abels, unless her opponent greatly surprises me. You definitely need to see that match. While you could see us spar any time, with the formations here… we can do a bit more. It should be helpful to your growth.”