This time Michael stepped forward and opened up with a sweep of the axe across the body. Barrett took a quick step back, leaning slightly, then shot forward, bringing his sparring axe up into Michael’s gut again- this time a bit harder than before.
“Stop!” Master Vencel announced again. “Nice try Michael, but you really need to work on your finesse. Victory, Barrett!” He turned to face Barrett, “Looks like I was a bit off. Interested in facing another opponent?” Barrett nodded. “Ivan, get over here!”
Ivan was less visibly bulky, though still taller than Barrett. His age was around the same, and he brought with him a training sword. The spar started, but Ivan didn’t immediately move for an attack. Instead, both he and Barrett watched each other for a few moments, shifting their position slightly as they circled around. Then Ivan took a quick step forward, stabbing out with his sword. Barrett dodged to the side, and brought his axe down toward his opponent’s arm, but Ivan fluidly withdrew his arm and stepped back at the same time. Barrett exchanged several more moves, but found it hard to strike his opponent. Barrett himself also remained unscathed, until he took a swift slash to his side. However, Barrett still had moved himself away from that, so the power behind it was only enough to cause a bruise at most. After a few more moves, Ivan overextended on a thrust, and Barrett brought his axe into his side. Ivan clenched his side, backing up, “I concede.”
“Victory, Barrett!” Master Vencel stroked his chin, “You know, I forgot to ask what school you’re from. Unless you’re a wandering warrior?”
Barrett shook his head. “No, I’m from the Immortal Berserker Sect.”
There was some mumbled discussion from some of those who were watching, and Master Vencel nodded slowly. “Oh, we haven’t seen one of you in a while. I suppose we can take it up one more notch. That alright with you?” Barrett nodded. “Brody! You’re up!”
Brody was even bulkier than Michael had been, and also wielded an axe. He looked to be around sixteen or seventeen- as long as one ignored the muscles covering his body. The match again started off with some rather cautious circling, before Barrett saw an opening. He took a swing, but knew that Brody would have enough time to step back. However, he felt his axe connect… and at the same time felt pain in his own side.
Barrett had seen the blow out of the corner of his eye, so he had stepped away slightly. He let the force of the blow carry him a few steps away to give him time to get his bearings. He hadn’t expected to be struck at the same time. He considered the pain in his side… it wasn’t too bad. Nothing seemed broken, but it would definitely be bruised. Perhaps if it had struck him completely unprepared, or if his opponent hadn’t also been softening his own blow it would have been worse.
Barrett stepped back into the fight, and found himself trading blows back and forth. He tried to dodge, but found it was hard to completely avoid all of the attacks. Thus, he had to respond with an attack of his own. He traded a bruised bicep for a thigh, and then various blows to the ribs, side, and back. Then the two opponents struck simultaneously, with their axe handles meeting in the middle. There was a jolt, but they both held on. Barrett knew the right move was probably to step back… but instead he pressed forward. Brody did the same. Barrett found himself being pushed back slightly. Any more, and he would lose his footing… so he summoned a bit of berserk energy. It flowed through him, the axe, into the ground, and he pushed. He was forbidden to use berserk energy in an attack, at least in a spar, because he could seriously injure someone… but he wasn’t even swinging the axe, just pushing.
Brody staggered back, even though he summoned some of his own energy. Barrett took the opportunity to step in and attack. He saw a swing coming in for his side as well, but he had taken the initiative and would strike first. Then his opponent would be forced away, and lose power in their swing. There were two large cracking sounds, and Barrett frowned. He wasn’t supposed to be on the ground.
Then he noticed that one of the cracking sounds had come from his own ribs. The other… he looked at the haft of the axe still in his hand. Well, part of the haft. It had split, even though they were made out of sturdy wood. For a moment Barrett thought he had gotten a bad one… but he soon realized that wasn’t the case. It simply hadn’t been able to handle the injection of berserk energy. That had weakened it for the subsequent attack… and caused his loss. “Victory, Brody!”
Barrett took his time to stand up, then went over to Brody. “That was an excellent spar, thank you.”
“You as well. If only your weapon hadn’t broken… you probably would have won.”
Barrett shook his head, “I don’t think so. Maybe in the future though.”
Barrett bid Brody and the rest of those at the Southern Tiger School goodbye. After he stepped out of the gates, he coughed. There was a little bit of blood. That was understandable. His right side burned like hell. As he gingerly felt it, he knew there were at least a few broken ribs, and probably a slight puncture. He concentrated hard, and there was a popping sound. Setting ribs was a troublesome process to do by hand, but fortunately he had energy to push with from the inside. That just made it hurt more… but at least his ribs were the right shape now, if still broken. Barrett shook his head. His training had been very detailed… including things like that. Who went over how to set their own bones in basic training? The Immortal Berserker Sect, apparently. Barrett started the slow walk back up the mountain, in the fourth worst pain of his life. First through third were after the fire and his first and second destructions, though he wasn’t sure exactly what order those were all in.