After the brief lull in wind and lightning, it suddenly redoubled its efforts. Though the wind had been slowly and inexorably blowing sand to the top of the mountains, now it was being picked up much higher than normal, somewhat obscuring sight.
Barrett hoped that the wind would reduce the accuracy of any needles thrown at him, but their small profiles meant the effect of wind would be minimal. However, anything could help. Barrett looked around for anything else that might make him safer, since he didn’t want to risk getting hit again. However, there wasn’t much of anything around except lightning, rain, and wind. There was also sand- and lightning glass. However, most of the lightning glass wasn’t big enough to use as cover- and even if it was, it only barely covered any of him. Furthermore, it wasn’t exactly structurally sound- it really was just glass, if extremely impure glass. Still, it gave Barrett an idea.
He found the biggest piece of lightning glass possible, settling on a scraggly structure that snaked off in all directions like a strange bush. It only reached up to slightly below his chest, but it covered the most area possible. He started gathering mana, using it to move some of the surrounding sand- which was earth, as such arbitrary elemental distinctions went. Regardless, he had practice controlling it, and was starting to create a sort of webbing between the ‘branches’ of the lightning glass. Then lightning struck him. He had felt it coming, but he couldn’t have moved away- sometimes the bolts of lightning were just inevitable.
With a giant roar of thunder, Barrett nearly went deaf. Or at least, he would have if his eardrums were still anything like a normal person’s. As it was, it was just very unpleasantly loud and hot as he had to guide the lightning through his body in such a way to avoid it stopping his heart- though even if it *did* stop his heart, he could restart it if he was conscious.
In the end, Barrett just shook his head and went back to what he was doing- except he found that there was nothing in front of him. At best, there were a few centimeters of lightning glass near the root, where it had been a bit thicker. The rest had shattered- which made complete sense. Even if it took a direct hit there would never be that many structures of lightning sand, with the constant bombardments of lightning in the area. Each temporary structure would be the tallest thing in the area, making it the most likely candidate to be struck. Barrett had already seen that happen to them, but he just hadn’t thought about it shattering just from the sound.
Barrett just managed to sense the next needle coming, and deflected it- and though he couldn’t be sure, he thought he saw a hint of something that wasn’t water. He certainly couldn’t afford to be poisoned at this point.
Abandoning his plan to restructure the lightning sand into a wall, Barrett instead felt down below him. The sand wasn’t that deep- maybe half a meter at most. However, that could be enough. It wasn’t that hard to use magic to shift the sand so that his feet rested on solid ground, though he was buried up to his shins. Then Barrett started shifting the sand to create a little wall in front of him, another half-meter above the sand. At least, that was the intention- though he started with a curved section a few centimeters tall and about a meter wide. However, he realized he was quickly using up his mana. He wouldn’t be able to create anything substantial.
A bolt of lightning stopped the next attack from the enemy targeting Barrett. Barrett could tell, because he briefly saw an image of them as lightning struck them. That gave him perhaps a few seconds to choose what he was going to do.
Then Barrett thought of it. It was the simplest thing to do. He lay onto his back… and moved the sand up and around him. It took most of his remaining mana, but he was now under a half meter of sand. He couldn’t dodge anymore- but that much sand would make a needle’s progress to attack him very difficult. All he had to do was harden some sand around his head and up to the surface so that he had a way to breathe. He could no longer see the battle, but Master Hykel would be doing just fine.
Master Hykel suddenly felt Barrett’s presence, his berserk energy, become muted. Hopefully that was a good thing. At least, if he was dying there should have been some sign- Barrett wouldn’t go down so easily. The second enemy who was targeting him couldn’t move forward because of Master Hykel’s vigilance, so the attacks had been significantly weakened.
It was annoying to fight two invisible enemies and stop them from advancing, but now he had a chance. Assuming Barrett had found a way to make himself safe, Master Hykel could now move forward to attack. On the other hand, if Barrett was dying… he needed to win fast so he could go help.
A few minutes of resting at the top of the mountain and a few minutes of fighting had let Master Hykel catch his breath. He honestly hadn’t been that low on stamina when they stopped- it was just the safest place to fight.
Master Hykel felt a moment of opportunity coming, and jumped forward down the hill. There were only perhaps ten meters between him and the first invisible enemy. That sort of distance only took and instant to move, and Master Hykel chose right after lightning struck behind him, which would make his movements just slightly harder to register. Then he reached out with his hand to grab… anything.
His fingers found purchase on something- a hand, wrist, or shoulder. Regardless of what it was, he was channeling a good portion of his berserk energy into his fingers and used his stamina to increase their strength to clamp down. He started crushing as the figure also pulled away, and then the lightning struck.
Occasionally, there was a much larger bolt than normal. They were equivalent to about five regular lightning bolts, though all combined together instead of in sequence it was much more dangerous. Enough to kill a fifth or sixth tier cultivator? Absolutely not, unless they were careless. However, that didn’t mean they would have it easy.
The lightning struck Master Hykel, and he channeled it through him to his outstretched arm. As it passed through him, the inside of his arm started to burn… but it wasn’t the worst he’d ever experienced. It flowed out through his fingertips into the invisible figure… an invisible figure who had no energy gathered at that point to resist the attack. It had all been blown away by Master Hykel’s own berserk energy. Unfortunately they were already pulling away, reducing the effect… but Master Hykel still saw blood appear in the air, the first bit he was sure they had shed this fight.