Barrett’s first round was against a wizard from the Burning Caves. A group of wizards who lived on and around the volcanoes in Voscea. That meant his specialty would be fire- and thus, Barrett planned to defeat him quickly.
While Barrett was quite resistant to fire, he had too many unpleasant memories involving it. Defeating Ruben in the volcano had basically cleared him of his fear of fire, but it was still better to not draw out the battle.
As soon as the battle began, Barrett rushed towards his opponent. The boots from the Order of Four Winds helped him move much more quickly to start off, and the only thing his opponent could do was fling a sheet of fire at Barrett. The man had likely hoped the fire would deter Barrett and slow him down long enough for the wizard to launch a more powerful attack… but Barrett charged straight through, the flames barely singing him.
It was too late for the wizard to turn and run, so he only managed to throw up a barrier of fire… one that was immediately broken through by Barrett’s axe swinging down on him. Then the restrictions of the arena took over to stop the blow from killing him.
The match lasted less than a handful of seconds. The wizard turned away dejectedly, not listening to Barrett’s words. Barrett hoped he would stay to watch later matches and realize how strong Barrett really was. In fact, singing Barrett with his fire magic was something of an accomplishment, especially since the man was just early third tier. His barrier had also slowed down Barrett’s attack significantly- but unfortunately for him, his body wouldn’t have withstood the remaining damage. He was just a poor match for Barrett.
The first round of matches didn’t have much in the way of excitement, at least not that Barrett saw. That was to be expected, however, since the tournament mostly separated those who were expected to advance into different matches. It meant weaker cultivators didn’t generally get a good match, but it also avoided them getting several rounds in only to go up against much stronger opponents. If they were stronger than expected, they would of course advance as normal.
The tournament four years earlier had many different participants. There would be some new third tiers as well as some who hadn’t shown up at the previous tournament for whatever reason. In addition, a portion of the stronger third tier cultivators would have moved on to fourth tier in the four years that had passed- and cultivators who had been late third tier in the previous tournament would almost certainly be fourth tier or never make it much further in their cultivation. Being a third tier cultivator was nothing to be ashamed of, but those who were forty years old or more still felt embarrassed to be competing against some people in their early twenties.
The second round of matches overlapped with the first round, and Barrett watched as many involving people he knew as possible. One of particular interest was a match between Lavender and Kaylani. Lavender had faced against Barrett in the previous year, and though he had beaten her he knew she was quite skilled… especially for an independent cultivator who had access to fewer resources for training.
Lavender must have researched her opponent at least somewhat, because she wasn’t wearing a longsword at her side. She already wore textile armor- a different set from the previous years- so she didn’t have to change that out.
Barrett hadn’t seen many matches between two ranged fighters- and certainly not ones with such diverse skillsets. Wizardly duels were one thing, but archers versus… whatever Kaylani would be called… was a special case.
The match started off with Lavender firing an arrow straight for Kaylani- nothing was strange about that. Kaylani retaliated with only a handful of metal spikes, moving at a speed Barrett didn’t think would even reach Lavender. Then he realized there was a different meaning to them, with the spikes flying in a formation towards the arrow. The center spike slightly deflected the arrow, barely brushing against it as the spikes turned towards the arrow and the arrow swerved around. Kaylani then had to jump to the side to make the arrow just hit her shoulder. Barrett knew how powerful they were, and could see it had gone through the armor there.
As an outside observer, Barrett had the luxury of watching the arrows fly without being concerned with silly things like watching for other attacks or avoiding getting hit. Thus, he was able to discern what the problem was. Kaylani had tried to deflect the arrow not by deflecting it directly but by using metal energy… and there was no metal in the arrows. They were obsidian tipped- or perhaps a sturdier variant of glass.
Kaylani had realized immediately after the first hit that there was no metal, so her strategy changed. Instead of using metal energy to deflect the attacks, she threw out dozens of metal spheres, using them as a mobile shield to block incoming arrows. At the same time, she launched metal spikes and needles as actual attacks towards Lavender.
Lavender had the advantage of range- Kaylani had to control her attacks with pure energy, while Lavender used the bow for more of the propulsion and distance. She was able to move away while firing quickly enough to avoid most of the flying projectiles, and she was adept enough to dodge them. However, she soon found that many of the projectiles that had ‘missed’ were instead forming a sort of barrier around part of the arena. She had been backed into a corner- a feat only possible because Kaylani could control hundreds of individual metal spikes at the same time as she advanced forwards. Perhaps most of them were just floating menacingly, but if Lavender tried to move through them they would be under primary control and converge on her.
Lavender’s final attempts were admirable- she shot arrows that curved around behind Kaylani while she took advantage of the distraction to try to move through one of the barriers. Unfortunately for her, Kaylani wasn’t so easily distracted. Her attacks reached Lavender just after the arrows struck her in the back- and Barrett had the right angle to see that Kaylani’s metal breastplate expanded outward to catch the arrow before it hit, the metal grasping around the shaft and stopping it from penetrating deeply. Meanwhile, only a few of Kaylani’s spikes were going to hit- but all of the dozens of spikes in that area were aimed at vital points. The arena’s restrictions stopped the attacks with several of them about to drive into Lavender’s chest and head… though Barrett couldn’t help but wonder what Lavender could have done with just a bit more space.