Barrett moved closer to the whirlwind of steel. Unlike the actual tornado up above, the debris was much more concentrated and made specifically out of sharp pieces of metal. They scraped against each other as they swirled about rapidly. With the distance they covered, it would take a few seconds to run through them… Barrett considered they and the wind might also slow him down, but it would be less than ten seconds all told.
There was still no sign of the Silver Blade woman. She’d had sufficient time to get through, of course, but Barrett couldn’t see any sign of blood or other disturbances- and he doubted she could get through completely unscathed. Not that the whirlwind was making it easy to look for that. Nor was it making it easy to listen for her heartbeat or breathing.
Barrett took a few steps back, stroking his chin… then reached out to grab at the air. Finding purchase on something, he rushed forward, holding his hands out into the whirlwind. Then he felt a sharp pain in his upper arms, and he lost his grip. There had been no killing intent he could detect… and since she was invisible, he obviously couldn’t see the attack coming.
His arms wouldn’t move, but he watched for the disturbances in the whirlwind, moving to try to cut her off… but instead of trying to leave, she moved deeper in. Barrett took a moment to get his arms moving again. The needles in them were cutting off all motion… and the energy with them made it hard to bypass the area. After a few seconds he got one arm to move and pull out a needle, then he easily pulled out the other. Meanwhile, the disturbances had already gone out the other side of the whirlwind- leaving a few drops of blood behind on the floor. The door opened and then closed.
Barrett stood for a few moments, thinking. Dealing with invisible opponents was quite tricky. Even if he knew where they were, he couldn’t exactly track their whole body. Perhaps he should have attacked- one good hit with berserk energy would lay flat almost anyone who wasn’t a warrior. However, gathering that energy would have given more time to react. Maybe he could have faked using that energy to try to get through the whirlwind… well, it didn’t really matter. He’d think more on those tactics later. In the current circumstances it was enough that he knew she could turn invisible.
Without the needles and the energy on them, Barrett’s arms worked just fine. There was some damage to the nerves, but they hadn’t been completely severed- just blocked. Dealing with that just took a small bit of stamina comparatively. He could have recovered, but he didn’t want to fall behind.
Barrett dashed through the whirling steel. In theory, he could have avoided some of it. In practice, it was better for him to cover his ears and close his eyes and just go. As long as he ran down one side to go with the flowing blades he would take relatively little damage. Some of the thousands of shards of metal wormed their way inside his armor, but none of them penetrated much deeper than his skin. Each little piece was more powerful than an attack by a normal soldier, but his armor protected him from most of the damage. Each shard of metal hitting him even propelled him forward some, until he was out of the area. Barrett kept running with his eyes closed and his hands around his ears until he hit the wall. He paused for a moment, then opened his eyes.
He muttered to himself, “She really wants whatever is in there… she didn’t even wait to ambush me on this side by pretending to open the door…”
This time, Barrett decided to attempt stealth of his own. It was just that there was a huge problem in his way… a door. If she wasn’t watching the door and she somehow missed the sound of a steel whirlwind suddenly being audible, he might get a chance.
The door opened easily, and Barrett quickly stepped through and shut it behind him as carefully as possible. As he did so, he observed the room ahead. There was no wind. It was just a normal- if large- room, supported by several pillars placed regularly throughout. In the center, however, there was a glowing figure speaking to the Silver Blade woman.
Barrett pulled out a lead ball. The Silver Blade woman was animatedly talking with the glowing figure, “But I was the first to pass the trials!”
The glowing figure appeared to be a young man in his prime- except, obviously, he was not real- or at least not present. He was dressed in flowing robes, but was transparent and appeared twice as large as any normal person. “Speed is not the only thing that is judged in the trials. I shall wait until I see all of the participants. There are several still active… and more seem to be on their way.” Barrett didn’t believe that attacking someone from behind was honorable. Or rather, he didn’t believe that attacking anyone who you didn’t have a legitimate conflict with was honorable. Usually attacking someone from behind came in such circumstances. At the moment, however, he was happy to gather some berserk energy and get ready to throw the lead ball and explode the woman in front of him… but a voice whispered next to his ear, “I know you have had conflict up to this point… but for the moment, no combat will be allowed in this hall.”
He lowered his arm. Barrett decided not to test the rule. Instead, he stepped forward. His step echoed throughout the hall, and the Silver Blade woman turned around. Instantly, needles were in her hands… and then in the air, just in front of them. She’d thrown them, but they’d immediately stopped. Barrett shrugged. That hadn’t been so bad, but at least he hadn’t wasted his energy. “Well, since we can’t fight right now… what’s your name, anyway? I presume you know me, since you tried to kill me at all.”