Barrett found himself at the fourth arena, dressed in his armor and carrying an axe- he preferred fighting unarmed if he could, but reach was important… and an axe could deal much more damage in most cases. His opponent, Lavender, had arrived before him. She was an independent cultivator, and unless she was trying to pull some sort of bluff, she was an archer. That was usually what someone holding a bow would be called, anyway. Barrett didn’t know if there was any more.
As he stepped up on the stage, he looked her over. She had a longsword at her side, but she looked very comfortable holding the bow. Beyond that, she wore cloth armor- not to be confused with actual clothing, but a thick gambeson. She wore a hooded cloak, and underneath Barrett could make out fair skin and blonde hair. If he had to guess, the cloak would be magical- otherwise it would probably just get in the way. Alternatively, she would have to be extremely concerned about getting sun in her eyes. Either that or she was concerned about concealing her identity but didn’t realize people could see into shadows- but that was very unlikely.
Barrett took his place, and the match started. If he had been in his normal state he would have sprinted forward using berserk energy to help propel him. However, while he could use berserk energy, recovering it would take a very long time if he wanted to avoid risking being too weak to fight the curse. His normal methods could recover the entirety of his lost energy in a few days at most, but its natural recovery would take weeks. Thus, he could only spend a little bit of his berserk energy in each battle. That also meant he couldn’t really do much in the way of long ranged attacks- a lead ball was only so threatening without berserk energy.
His physical body was still strong, however. He also felt several times faster now that he wasn’t wearing multisteel armor. Maybe he was several times faster than that… and slightly faster than he normally was.
An arrow was drawn and launched the instant the match started. It aimed straight for his chest, but he leaned to the side just enough to conserve energy. That resulted in the arrow hitting his shoulder… even though it should have missed entirely. It pierced through his armor… but only a few millimeters into his shoulder. It made moving his shoulder annoying, but it wasn’t a significant wound.
Barrett dodged the next arrow, carefully sensing the killing intent. It wasn’t really concealed, and he definitely dodged what he felt the arrow was aiming at and the trajectory he saw. It was just that the arrow curved to hit him. It wasn’t magic, but energy control… and at twenty meters, that was much more than energy was normally optimal for.
The second arrow had a bit more power behind it, and was deep enough it would cause trouble if he left it. Barrett pulled both arrows out as he ran, just in time for another arrow to come towards him. The third time, he twisted his body far to the side at the very last moment, and the arrow flew past him. He kept running- there was little enough distance between him and the archer, just enough time for one more arrow to be shot. Barrett didn’t have much time to dodge… but the arrow was aimed straight at his heart. It was simple enough to slash into it- and it didn’t even try to avoid his attack.
That was probably because all of Lavender’s concentration was on the arrow behind him. He felt it impact directly behind his heart- through his armor and into the shoulder blade. If his bones weren’t so strong, it might have pierced through into his heart.
Instead of turning to run, Lavender drew another arrow. However, they were only a few meters apart and Barrett had already built up to nearly his maximum speed. He swung his axe back and towards Lavender. Just as his axe was about to connect, the arrow in her bow launched towards his throat- which was just as covered in armor as everything else. His axe swung towards her chest, and Barrett fully expected the arenas wards to stop him- but that didn’t change his attack.
He was surprised when Lavender kicked his axe. It wasn’t an attack, but instead she kicked off of it, placing her foot right between his hands and pushing away. It reminded Barrett of Nilima, though she was often crazy enough to use the momentum from the blade of a weapon instead of bothering to touch somewhere not-sharp. Either way, it sent Lavender flying backwards… but in a rather controlled manner. She flew back over ten meters, drawing her bow as she did… but she didn’t fire until she reached the ground.
The arrow aimed at Barrett’s throat mostly deflected off his armor- as it was designed- but it still partly pierced through at an angle. The arrows were good quality metal and backed up by a powerful bow- and the energy used was just a nice addition to their effectiveness. The energy was smoothly flowing, like the curve of a sword. Beautiful, but sharp.
Barrett continued to chase Lavender throughout the arena. He could maintain a running pace for a full day- and a combat sprint for at least an hour. He wasn’t just going to lose in the first round of the tournament. He needed something good and not for things to become much worse. Each time he caught up to Lavender she used the momentum of his axe swing to push away, and though he tried to force her up against one edge of the arena, she moved around, firing arrow after arrow at him. They always hit- either on the first pass or the second… or in the rarest cases, the third.
Barrett started adding berserk energy onto his axe when she kicked, but if he gathered it in one spot she moved to another. One time he just straight up punched at her, and she kicked off of his fist instead- she protected her foot with energy and had magical boots, but Barrett saw her face showed a moment of pain.
Barrett himself was turning into a pincushion. At least he’d been able to continue training his toughness while he was cursed… his body itself was like armor, though of course having real armor on top just made things even better. No individual wound was enough to cause him real trouble… and even the sum total wouldn’t be too hard to recover from. However, he wasn’t going to be able to take much more. Another dozen or two arrows and he might have issues.
Some of the arrows hit the same place as others- but the previous arrows actually hampered them somewhat. Even so, Barrett was dripping blood… though for the more serious wounds, he made sure he didn’t bleed too much. He could spare the stamina for that much Pure Body Tempering, anyway.
His steps continued at a rapid pace, charging towards Lavender. She reached up to nock another arrow… and held her arm behind her for a long few seconds. Barrett continued barreling towards her, ready for the next arrow to come for a vital spot… and he saw her reach for her sword. Then she shook her head. “I surrender!” she called out.
Barrett stepped to the side so his momentum carried him past her instead of into her. As he went past, he saw that her quiver was empty. It clearly hadn’t been a normal quiver, either. Those could only hold twenty or so arrows. This one had held much more… but it was out.
The referee announced Barrett’s victory.
Lavender bowed her head, “You have unstoppable endurance. My arrows are enough to fell a dire boar, but I just didn’t quite have enough power to deal with you…” Barrett knew she had fired several shots that could have actually wounded him- but he had slashed into those arrows. Even when they avoided his attack, he twisted and turned his body enough to avoid any of those arrows getting a direct hit. The standard attacks, however, just hadn’t quite been enough. “I have just one request… can I have my arrows back?”
He looked around the arena. There were perhaps a couple dozen arrows scattered around, mostly in various states of brokenness. Then there were many more in him, covering most of his body, front and back. “Sure… just give me a bit. Let’s clear out of the arena.”
One thing that surprised Barrett was that the curse hadn’t done anything during the battle. In fact, it seemed quite docile at the moment. Well, he wasn’t going to complain about that. He pulled arrows out one at a time, while also eating a giant sandwich that Master Hykel had brought for him. He waited for most of the bleeding to stop before moving onto each next arrow. He didn’t count, but he had to have been shot at least a hundred times. He was very glad that his armor was so good… or at least, it had been before it was filled with so many holes. Fortunately he would have a high priority with the sect’s blacksmiths because of the tournament. It was also fortunate that they could use magic to aid them, because otherwise they would basically just have to make new armor. Barrett wished he could just collapse into his bed… but he had to go meditate instead. The curse flaring up when he got back to the sect didn’t help with his rest, either.