Inside Barrett’s room there was a mattress, a dresser, and a small pile of equipment, some of which belonged to the Immortal Berserker Sect. Some might have called the room austere, but Barrett would have then informed them about how comfortable the mattress was. It had just enough firmness to support him, but enough softness to conform around his body and not press down on any wounds he had. It also cleaned itself, which was good because he didn’t want to sleep on a bed full of bloodstains.
Master Hykel had come to visit and tell him of Ismene’s prophecy. “It’s up to you, kid. It should either benefit you or be ‘much worse’.
“Do prophecies always arrive so conveniently? It was just yesterday that I was saying I wouldn’t enter the tournament.”
“Sometimes they do,” Master Hykel shrugged, “Though Ismene isn’t always timely with dispersing the prophecies she makes. Several of them have come out after the events were over.”
“How reliable are her prophecies?”
“Absolutely. They’re real prophecies, not just divinations.”
“What’s the difference?”
Master Hykel shook his head, “Some people would say they’re different words for the same thing. However, Ismene says that real prophecies must come true. Generally, it’s harder to seek out a prophecy- most of the time they just come to the diviner on their own. In this particular case, entering the tournament won’t result in a neutral outcome for you no matter what. Since winning or losing isn’t that important in the grand scheme of things, that means something exceptional will happen if you enter. Or perhaps it will happen anyway, and you will be involved if you enter.” Master Hykel shook his head, “She didn’t leave any real details.”
“Hmm…” Barrett stood thinking for a few moments, “So I can stay as things are now, pretty much… or fight for my future.” Barrett cracked his knuckles, “I’m not happy with the way things are now. I don’t want to just sit around fighting off this curse and training slowly. If I can get something out of the tournament, I’ll do it.”
“Alright then,” Master Hykel nodded, “Let’s get training then!”
Barrett fell to one knee, “This isn’t… really… fair…”
“Of course it is!” Master Hykel grinned, “I’m not using berserk energy or any Pure Body Tempering techniques, and I’m reserving half of my strength just like you!”
“Yeah but… you’re sixth… tier and I’m third.” Barrett could barely breathe.
“And you get weapons and armor! Real armor, even.”
Barrett looked at the cut he’d gotten on Master Hykel with his full power. Or rather, what had been that cut. It hadn’t gone much through the skin, and now only a handful of seconds later it was completely healed with minimal scarring. Even Katja with her tier 1 immortal body would have taken a full minute to heal something like that. Of course, that was the Immortal Berserker Technique at work. Someone at Master Hykel’s level would heal one hundred thousand times normal speed- a day’s worth of recovery happening in less than a second. In a single minute they would recover from basically anything, and not just a small scratch. Barrett hadn’t seen any of the seventh tier masters… but they would heal ten times as fast at that, recovering from almost anything in less than ten seconds. Obviously that required the attack to not instantly kill them and also to actually be able to heal at all. It also took stamina, but based on what Barrett knew about himself they would be able to fully recover from multiple life-threatening injuries per day.
Barrett stood up again. He needed to maintain enough stamina to fight off the curse… but he could push himself just a little further. It was important to know his limits and at least with Master Hykel he was as safe as he could be. “Alright… one more time.”
Training was slow. Barrett couldn’t push himself that far, and the fatigue was building up. Half-exhausting himself several times per day was one thing, but since he couldn’t really sleep, his extremely comfortable bed was no use. Barrett had to spend far too much time meditating instead of actually sleeping. After another month of training that was not nearly as effective as he would have liked, the tournament approached. The last few days he did no training at all to get up to a only-slightly-tired equilibrium.
The third tier tournament attracted people from further outside Stredo, both participants and observers. However, because of the difficulty of reaching third tier, the number of participants was about one quarter of the second tier tournament. The Immortal Berserker Sect had half as many third tier members as second tier, but many methods fell off after first or second tier. Most actual sects fell between half as many and a quarter, with smaller sects or independents falling below a quarter.
In the end, the third tier tournament would be two rounds shorter than the second tier.It would even out to one match per participant every other day, but most of the matches were held during the first days. After all, the final round only had two people, whereas the first round had sixteen thousand matches to go through. That was four hundred matches per arena, which meant if each match took half an hour and the matches ran twelve hours per day, it would take almost seventeen days to finish the first round. Fortunately, most matches were significantly faster, though some were quite drawn out. Overall, it would likely take a full ten days to finish the first round of matches. As before, matches for the second and subsequent rounds would be interspersed with the ‘first round’ matches, to give more participants time to rest between later rounds.
Barrett looked around at the other tournament participants. Most of them were early third tier like himself, but there were many middle or late third tier participants as well. While Barrett could defeat almost any ‘typical’ third tier cultivator, as people advanced in tiers there were fewer typical cultivators. There would still be some who were better at cultivating than combat, but each tier narrowed the gap between the top and the bottom.
He wished he’d had more training time… or rather, that he had been able to train more effectively. He’d had a few good months of training but he’d been cursed for about half a year. He obviously wouldn’t have reached middle third tier- and he wouldn’t for a few more years, even at normal training speeds- but he still missed out on significant improvement. The worst part was being behind in destructions- the past six months he hadn’t been willing to risk undergoing a destruction, and thus he was at about the hundred and twentieth destruction instead of the hundred and fortieth like he should have been.
The biggest problem was that Barrett couldn’t go all out. With the curse in play, he might find it difficult to fight even the weaker third tier people. However, if there was a chance for something good for him, he was going to fight for it. He just had to trust Ismene- and he did, but only because Master Hykel did.
Barrett’s first match was announced. All he got was a name- Lavender- and that she was an independent cultivator. He would have to see her to find out more.