The assassin managed to stay invisible, and Barrett’s senses couldn’t pick them out with all the energy around disrupting him. The wind of Aurelia’s barrier also made enough sound that Barrett couldn’t pick them out… and he hadn’t trained scent enough for it to be useful in this situation. That still left sight. Though the assassin was invisible, it wasn’t perfect. It seemed they had done something to their wound to prevent it from bleeding much, but the wind still picked up tiny droplets of blood. If he could track where they first appeared, he could lock down their position.
Barrett moved in with his axe, ready to chop them in half. Then he felt his throat being sliced. He jumped back as he felt the killing intent, unable to do anything but retreat. Even though he did so, he felt a tiny nick on his throat. It was extremely difficult to dodge attacks he couldn’t see coming. For one thing, just sensing killing intent gave him less time to react, at least when the opponent could hide it to some extent.
Aurelia was… doing nothing? Instead of moving to attack with him, she was just standing, concentrating on something. Though the wind barrier did take concentration, normally it wasn’t that much. She must have had a plan… he hoped. Training with her for a month and fighting with her in a large battle and for the last day had given Barrett confidence in her competence, but he wasn’t really sure how good their teamwork would be when it really mattered.
On the assumption that he wouldn’t actually be fighting alone, Barrett prepared to move forward again. Then he saw it. It was becoming much more clear… there were swirls of sand and dust where there should have been only streaks. They vaguely formed the shape of a human figure… or at least the outline of one.
Barrett charged back in, but threw another lead ball to explode vaguely towards the assassin’s feet as he got close. With the dust swirling around the figure, he could just make out their movements a moment before he felt the killing intent… and that let him continue his swing and lean forward so that his helmet would be the direct target- and aiming at his neck would require an entirely different attack trajectory. Attacking in such a position would have unbalanced him, but he shifted his weight with some stamina.
The assassin’s attack actually cut through Barrett’s helmet and cut open part of his forehead, but the berserk energy on Barrett’s axe sliced into them. The actual blade didn’t connect, but there was a splattering of blood… and then no signs of the assassin at all.
“He’s gone,” Aurelia said. “He retreated out of the barrier.”
That was the correct choice, and that also disappointed Barrett. He’d missed his chance to kill whoever that was… though hopefully they would be injured enough they couldn’t attack anyone else. If he had kept more alert, he might have had a chance to attack at the same time as Aurelia… it was a hard balance to strike, when resting was necessary as well.
A moment later, Barrett sensed something else. On the other side of where the assassin had left another sort of hole in the dust storm had opened up. He whipped around to look… and saw a man with another wind barrier around him.
“Leo!” Aurelia called out.
“Aurelia!” the man waved as he moved closer, the two wind barriers combined into one, leaving the three of them in the calm where they didn’t have to shout. Leo turned to Barrett and gave a slight bow, “Leo, of the Order of Four Winds… though I suppose you could guess that.”
Barrett bowed back, “Barrett, Immortal Berserker Sect. I suppose I should be moving on now.”
“Why?” Leo asked, looking at Aurelia, “Are we not all allies?”
Aurelia responded, “We are, but this place seems to be keeping groups larger than two apart from each other. Attacks by various things come to force people apart. I don’t know if that’s typical of the Bicentennial Conflux…”
“Oh, I see.” Leo nodded, “I have not run into anyone else since the start… no one friendly anyway. There were the monsters and a warrior who was likely from Ruclua. Regardless, I suppose I should be moving on then. I don’t want to break up a team.”
Barrett shook his head. “I have reasons to go looking for others. It seems like the two of you should work together well, right?”
“That’s right,” Aurelia agreed, “Leo and I have fought together many times before. I don’t want to send you off on your own though…”
“Someone has to be alone. And, like I said, I have to go look for someone.”
“Who?” Aurelia grinned, “Oh, is it Reina?”
“Well… I don’t know. She’ll likely be fine, but I got this vague prophecy from the Fourth Eye Seers.”
Leo sighed, “Uuuugh their prophecies are the worst. I mean, they’re accurate and all that but sometimes it just makes your head hurt. I don’t know why they can’t just explain.”
“It’s possible it makes the prophecies inaccurate…” Barrett pondered, “Though I also heard that being able to see the future makes you crazy and incapable of proper communication.”
“Makes sense,” Leo nodded.
“Well then…” Barrett stopped as he was heading towards the edge of the wind barriers, then slightly moved between Leo and Aurelia. “Before I go… are we sure you’re Leo?”
“I am,” Aurelia responded. “His wind barrier is real.”
“Great,” Barrett nodded, “I just wanted to make sure. It wouldn’t do to just leave.”
“I remember Reina talking about the time in the forest after you guys met again… appearances aren’t that hard to disguise, but techniques and energy are harder. Speaking of which, this technique is somewhat based on the teachings from the Tornado Plains. Thanks for that tip.” Aurelia nodded.
“Well, we are allies after all,” Barrett bowed, “Now I should be off before the Bicentennial Conflux decides we’ve been loitering too much.”
For the next day, Barrett wandered around, occasionally wandering across allies or enemies- and sometimes there were other cultivators that seemed to be neither. Those he completely avoided, and they were happy to do the same with him. Some of them seemed to have just advanced to fourth tier, which was not surprising because that was the very reason people would come to this place. Barrett still felt there was something just a bit more he needed.
Then he came across a lone figure facing away from him. The figure leaned slightly to the side and stabbed out over his shoulder with a dagger, stabbing a formerly invisible assailant who was holding a garotte. They fell into a bloody heap on the sand. The lone figure Barrett had first spotted turned around, and Barrett could see it was Einar… with all four of his eyes glowing. “Barrett. Now is the time. Act quickly.” He held his arms out to the sides, and at that moment Barrett just heard two voices on the wind. The first was Reina, and the second was Nilima.
Barrett’s feet moved on their own, running. He wasn’t sure why he made the decision he did… but it was the first thing that came to mind. After knowing someone for so long, all the feelings about them were tied up in a strange mess.