Barrett was not just sent down the mountain to the city of Verton with no guidance. He was given an initial destination that would probably have people around the right strength for him to spar with. The Southern Tiger School was fairly large, and thus would likely have a number of newer recruits around Barrett’s level of training. Barrett wasn’t entirely sure how strong he was- just that he was completely incomparable to how he had been a year or more before. How would he do in a fight against his cousin’s guards? He didn’t know. He hadn’t fought them at all then. That said, he thought he should be as strong as most of them on an individual level. According to Master Hykel, most guards and soldiers fell into the first tier of power, and he could be considered in that tier now that he had completed his initial training. He was even above the bottom, having completed his second destruction- but since he would be in the first tier until after his tenth it didn’t mean much.
Being in the same tier didn’t mean two people would be evenly matched… just that taking any random person from such a tier would have a good probability of either winning. In actual fights, people might get a lucky blow or have an advantageous combat style. If someone was unprepared and didn’t have weapons or armor it would significantly sway the odds. However, even more important than overall power was combat experience. Master Hykel said that those who had to think about their next move or how to react to their opponent were a step behind.
Barrett had no real combat experience, though he had practice with proper form and some slight sparring with Master Hykel. Against someone so much stronger, there were limits to what he could learn. Even though he was going to spar with those from the Southern Tiger School, it wouldn’t be quite as good as real combat experience either. There were some things done- or not done- in a spar that you wouldn’t do in a real fight. Real weapons were asking for death in a spar, and even training weapons could cause serious injury. There were also certain attacks that weren’t proper for sparring. Even so, training in real combat wasn’t feasible. It wasn’t a guarantee that the victor would live. Master Hykel stressed that Barrett should avoid life-or-death battles unless they were truly important- such as saving another life. Of course, the other reason was the laws of the country. People couldn’t be allowed to just go around killing each other, or nobody would come to those cities- or if they did, everyone would be dead.
Barrett pondered about the name of the Southern Tiger School. It sounded rather funny to him- not because Tigers weren’t a threat, but merely because it was north of where he had lived for most of his life, and east of the mountain he was currently living on. Their grounds were rather imposing. They needed the space, of course, since they had over a hundred students many of whom lived at the school. They sustained the cost of the school through mercenary work- hiring out guards and hunting dangerous animals. Apparently they were also partly sponsored by Etron, and would send members to support a war effort if it came to that. Barrett briefly wondered where the resources for the Immortal Berserker sect came from. Master Hykel never went out on jobs, and Barrett certainly wasn’t paying for them. Presumably, his future value would make up for it, but with the failure rate of students it seemed like it was not going to be a profitable venture even if- when he became a valuable member of the sect.
Barrett finally knocked on the front gates of the Southern Tiger School. He was soon met by a young man- though actually still older than himself. He had to have been at least fifteen or sixteen. “Yes?”
“Greetings. I was wondering if anyone might be available to spar with me.”
“Ah… I’m sure there will be someone. They might be in the middle of exercises at the moment, but the masters encourage us to spar with other schools. Iron sharpens iron, they say.”
Barrett followed the young man into a training ground. He watched as dozens of students trained with weapons. Most of those in this group were young- from those somewhat younger than him to somewhere in their twenties. Barrett’s escort went over to the other side of the courtyard where some older people were supervising. Barrett could see that those who were training were all strongly muscles, and almost entirely young men. That made sense, because the Southern Tiger School was a warrior school that bordered on being a berserker style, emphasizing strong and fierce attacks. It was just the kind of thing that hot-blooded young men were interested in.
After a short time the young man who had brought Barrett in came back. He brought with him one of the older men… though that didn’t make him old. He was at most middle aged, and was a large, muscled man. “Greetings. I am Master Vencel.”
“I am Barrett Ravenhall,” he returned politely.
“Good. You wish to spar? I’m sure we can find someone to match you. They could use more practice against those not from our style.” He continued to ask a few questions- what type of style Barrett practiced, what type of sparring weapon he would prefer, how long he had been training… this was so he could determine a fitting partner.
Eventually, Barrett was matched up against a bulky young man who looked too large to be fifteen- but evidently was. Both Barrett and his opponent had training axes, though they were more like padded blocks of wood on the end of a shaft. They were better designed than just blocks, but the idea remained. There were no sharp edges, though they managed to maintain a reasonable amount of weight. They could certainly still bruise or break bones.
“Ready… begin!” Master Vencel announced.
Barrett’s opponent slashed down at an angle, and Barrett dodged to the side, bringing his axe across into the opponent’s stomach… he had prepared his next move, but that was the end. The young man was on the ground clutching his gut.
“Stop!” Master Vencel announced, though Barrett had long since stepped away. “Too slow, Michael. You lost.”
Michael groaned, then stood up. “I- I can do better! I wasn’t ready!”
“Bah! You were plenty ready. You can’t make excuses in real combat. Still, if you wish to try again…” Master Vencel glanced over at Barrett, who nodded. After Michael had a few moments to catch his breath, the two young men faced off again. “Ready… begin!”