The match could easily come down to endurance. While heavy armor slowed Master Hykel down, he also focused far more on the strength of his legs. While his opponent might be able to outrun him, that was only if they could actually run. In an arena match, they were limited in how far they could go and had to fight… and that meant their movements were slowed.
Barrett noticed the archer slowing, almost imperceptibly… whereas Master Hykel started moving faster. That was even with the archer finally getting a few good shots that hit weak points in his armor. They even managed to get an arrow into his armpit. Barrett wondered if them slowing down was a trick, because the match hadn’t been that long yet and they seemed to have plenty of energy and mana left. Master Hykel continued to throw lead balls, which occasionally exploded either upon impacting the ground or perhaps more intentionally at a certain point nearby. The archer took a few small cuts and scrapes from the shrapnel, but was otherwise fine.
Then, after only a few minutes the archer called out, “I surrender!” Barrett thought it came out of nowhere. She must have had more techniques to pull out… and she was just starting to actually damage Master Hykel. If she didn’t have more techniques, she wouldn’t have made it so far in the tournament.
Master Hykel sighed when he returned to Barrett. “I hardly feel like a victor winning just because of the tournament format… though I am fairly certain with similar circumstances and unlimited space I would have still won.”
“Why did she surrender?” Barrett asked. “She should have at least tried…”
“Because she wanted to go back to training in the near future,” Master Hykel nodded. “That’s one advantage I can say I earned. She was still injured from previous rounds. And while I’ll have a few scars to remember the match by…” Master Hykel looked down at one of the rapidly healing scratches, “Tomorrow I’ll be completely recovered. Even if I’d been laid out flat on the ground with my intestines hanging out, tomorrow I could go back to training as normal. Even if she had beat me, she would have lost the next match for sure… and probably spent a month or more in bed. To no benefit, I might add. Any time we spend recovering from injuries is still training, but to some people it’s just wasted time.” Master Hykel shrugged, “I earned this healing speed. The small arena just worsened the issue for them, which is a shame. Some people have suggested stretching out the matches with a week or two in between them, but even with the unusually high participation rate of Immortal Berserkers, it’s not really that popular. Besides, then the tournament would drag out for three months and they’d lose both participation and viewership. Well, it doesn’t matter much anyway. It seems neither of us were bound to go any further.”
“Why is that? You’ve been doing so well…”
“Tomorrow’s opponent is a necromancer.”
“They allow necromancers to enter the tournament? Or actually, aren’t they barred from Stredo entirely?”
Master Hykel shrugged, “Why not? They allow assassins in too, as long as they obey the city laws and tournament rules. In a way, necromancy is a more legitimate path. It’s just another way to weaken and kill opponents. Of course, the desecration of corpses could be a problem, but not all necromancers are involved with undead… and not all of those who desecrate the dead are necromancers. Nobody is comfortable with having them stay in the city, because even saying they’re a curse focused wizard or such leaves people upset… but the Silver Blades can just appear to be duelists.”
“What about tomorrow’s opponent then?”
“He’s from the Grasping Hand. As necromancers go, they aren’t bad. Not good, either, but they avoid messing around with undead. They still go for energy draining, curses, blood magic… all that.” Master Hykel scratched the back of his head, “Not that we can criticize blood magic. At least, we used techniques that damage ourselves the same way they do. Now, blood magic also involves blood that isn’t the mage’s own, but by itself it’s just another way to get power.”
“They can’t use much blood magic in the tournament, right? Unless they let them bring in… outside sources.”
“Not much… but not none either. The Grasping Hand, at least, has a technique to quickly regenerate blood… and even store extra blood in their body. It’s good enough for between days of the tournament. The Immortal Berserker Sect is quite interested in it since we don’t recover blood as quickly as we heal from wounds, and having extra would be nice.”
“How… could you have extra blood? Wouldn’t it take up more space?”
“That’s the question, isn’t it? It’s probably not stored extradimensionally. That would be a very difficult feat. It might just be denser, or there could be some other trick to it. Sadly, they don’t seem inclined to share that particular secret.”
“So why is it hard to win? Everything takes power and if you can defeat them before they really hurt you…”
“Well, any random necromancer might not matter, but the Grasping Hand is especially good at stealing power from others. Combined with strong defenses, they are even better at endurance than Immortal Berserkers. Though Mistress Joshi would strike right through their stupid bone barriers and magical death fields. It’s not like I definitely can’t win though, but it’s not looking good. Even if I do win, it might take more than a day to recover, and that’s even with them not being able to use some of the worse techniques because of tournament rules.”
“So what you’re saying is… never fight a necromancer.”
“Not if they know you’re coming. Though that can apply to anyone especially strong. I would say avoid life or death fights entirely, but the world isn’t kind enough to allow us that luxury. If it did, I’d have to be a farmer or something.”