Not always seeing the same faces around the Immortal Berserker Sect was fairly common- they got new members regularly, and there were always people travelling. Some first tier members left when it was clear their success at destructions was not high enough to continue. Beyond that, some people never returned from missions… or died while advancing to the next tier. Even so, those that were successful and stayed around would usually reach a high tier. That was why, despite making up just a tenth of a percent of the population of Stredo, the Immortal Berserker Sect still had five Seventh Tier members, compared to a total of several hundred throughout all the factions.
With all of that said, usually not quite so many faces disappeared from the dining halls all at once. A few dozen first tier members being lost in a battle where the enemy outnumbered them four to one was overall quite good, but it was still sad to see. Barrett didn’t know any of the others that well, but he’d seen them around some and now he never would again.
The rest who had fought and survived despite many serious injuries would have valuable combat experience that would help their future growth. More importantly, there was a purpose behind them going to battle. Sashor was safe- though not entirely thanks to the effort of the army. One of the sixth tier members of the Crystal Palace had stopped a smaller but potentially just as dangerous army going through a pass in the mountains.
If Stredo as a whole had bothered to try to stop the army from Ruclua, they wouldn’t have even considered getting near the border. Now Ruclua wouldn’t have another chance, because they had utilized necromancers in their armies. One thing that all of Stredo at least publicly agreed upon was the banning of necromancers and curses. Thus, there had been a public statement that any further actions by Ruclua would not be tolerated. That sounded good, until Barrett thought about the fact that the people who gave the orders would mostly still be alive and consequence free, even though they tried to take over a country just because it was available.
The necromancers brought something else into question. They had abilities similar to the Grasping Hand, who were from the Ostain Empire. Did Ruclua have any connection to the Ostain Empire, or did they just both allow necromancers? They did border each other, which made either the necromancers actually coming from the Ostain Empire or the training techniques being spread between them both quite plausible. Barrett wasn’t sure which it was, but he didn’t have a good way to find out. The news he found from either place was unclear, and it didn’t seem that they publicly acknowledged the necromancers in either place.
There were certain types of training that Barrett didn’t approve of, but a large portion of necromancers effectiveness required the sacrifice of others, their life force or their bodies or both. Perhaps there could be necromancers who weren’t evil, but they would be a rarity. Countries that willingly allowed evil to live among them bothered Barrett, but the methods he had for dealing with it weren’t perfect either. Despite being raised as a noble, he was never much into politics. His father had raised him with the idea that one could be a good ruler- bettering their people as a whole. Barrett loved the idea, but he didn’t see it being implemented. Even Stredo merely provided opportunities to grow just because of its very size, and not because of any choice on the part of the various factions that ran it.
The Immortal Berserker Sect and a few others worked to make things better, but it was hard to punch poverty and suffering in the face. Even the number of support personnel needed was limited, though the Immortal Berserker Sect was always growing.
Sashor applied to become a vassal of Stredo, which was logical based on their positioning. They were surrounded by a curve of mountains that opened up next to Stredo- though that had previously been blocked by the Tornado Plains. Sashor didn’t have much in the way of defenses, and while they could raise an army, they would never be able to match Ruclua if they tried to attack again. Sashor realized that it was possible Stredo wouldn’t do anything if Ruclua snuck an army through the passes again, so it was better to work to provide food for Stredo. They could even expand to the west- into the plains that had once been the Tornado Plains. Though they had been windswept for untold years, the soil was quite fertile. It had become clear that The Tornado wouldn’t be coming back, so all of that land would be a good addition to Stredo’s farmable area. It was better if Sashor didn’t try to compete.
A year passed, and it was time for the next tournament. Barrett was ready for his second time participating in the third tier tournament. He’d been early third tier for the previous one four years prior. Kail was in a strange state where he was just on the border of second and third tier. He’d been at the peak of second tier the previous year, but it could still take time to advance. After the conflict with Ruclua, Kail had gone to the Metal Sea for training. It was dangerous… but also the best place for him to train. As long as he stayed away from the northern end of the Sea and avoided any giant worms, he would be fine. Even so, the tournament had arrived and Kail had not yet returned.
As Barrett approached the arena to find out his first opponent, he nearly ran into Kaylani. “Barrett? Dammit, don’t tell me I’m matched up against you.”
Barrett shrugged, “We still need to find out. There will be many people fighting today. Anyway, you make it sound like fighting me is bad.”
“It is bad!” Kaylani shook her head, her long silvery hair swaying slightly compared to her head, much longer than it had been before- nearly reaching her waist. “Even if I was confident in winning, I have no delusions about getting through unscathed.”
“It would be a shame to meet in the first round anyway. Hey, is your hair soft now? It wiggled around…”
Kaylani tilted her head, “What? Oh, no. I just do that now outside of combat. It’s a habit. It lets people forget that I am a warrior if I pretend to not always be armored.”
Barrett nodded. “That could be useful. I doubt anyone would believe I wasn’t a warrior whether or not I have armor.” Barrett looked down at his arms. They were large, but not tree trunk sized like some warriors. That was just because the muscles were more dense. For the same amount of training, he was probably slightly weaker… but that was made up for by the benefits of retaining flexibility, and possibly more efficient training. The two of them finally reached the counter where they would get their arena assignments. “#1,” Barrett read.
Kaylani sighed in relief, “#36. Good, I wasn’t mentally prepared to face off against you today.”