Barrett also went to Master Hykel about the fight with the skinny kid. “It just took one hit, then I was unconscious… without a bruise or the normal feelings of getting hit in the head.”
Master Hykel nodded, “That sounds like the practitioner of a gentle style.”
Barrett recalled how his head had hurt after being defeated, “I’m not sure if I would call that gentle. It was pretty dang painful.”
Master Hykel shrugged, “I don’t name everything. The point there is the attacks aren’t supported by any sort of bodily force. Given the opportunity their attacks would be just as dangerous if they laid a hand on you gently as if they charged at you from a distance and hit you with a kick. The real attack comes in the form of how they used their energy. It is a ‘soft’ form of energy, good at going through defenses until they reach the weak points they want. How’s your head?”
“Oh, it recovered just fine.”
“Good. Attacking the brain is a rather dangerous proposition. If they were careless or malicious they could easily cause lasting problems.”
“How do you defend against that? Besides not getting hit I mean.”
“Avoidance is always the first goal, but there are indeed ways to defend yourself. If you can’t avoid their attacks, you can make them avoid you. In most cases they won’t practice any body training techniques and thus will avoid a direct confrontation. If you can attack them at the same time they attack you, you might force them to back off to avoid taking a hit. The other way is to counter with energy of your own. While our berserk energy isn’t optimal for defense, it is excellent at eradicating other energy. If you can shift a portion of your energy to the area just as you are struck it will significantly dampen the effect. Of course, if you use too much you might damage yourself.”
Barrett nodded, feeling the berserk energy stored inside him. It was both in him, and somewhere else. When he called upon it it took a more ‘real’ form, and thus could be used for attacks. If he left it materialized without sending it out it strained his body. This was fine, and was even used for training, but damaging oneself in combat was not the best method. Thus, it was rarely used for defense, unless one considered meeting an attack head-on a method of defense. In most cases, such a collision would favor the practitioner of the Immortal Berserker style. That was the point of the training, after all. There were other styles that were happy to meet head-on as well, but Barrett felt this style was better. The risks brought greater rewards. That wasn’t always the case, but from his time with Master Hykel Barrett knew the Immortal Berserker style had been perfected over time, and the risks and rewards were well known enough to be sure they were justified.
He felt it in combat too. He was strong, not just in body, but the berserk energy was very powerful. He could use small amounts of it in combat safely now, though he could easily imagine the devastating effect it would have if he struck with the intent to kill, like in a real life-or-death fight. He had seen the destructive effect on rocks, weapons… and even himself if he was careless. He could tell he was growing stronger faster than most of those at the Southern Tiger School, and it wasn’t that he was an exceptional genius or anything. He had watched their training, and while it wasn’t lax and easy, it wasn’t nearly as dangerous as what he went through regularly.
Barrett wondered how he would compare to others of the Immortal Berserker style, but there was nobody to compare to. Master Hykel was much older and stronger, and thus was not a good measure. As for the other students Master Hykel had… he didn’t speak about them. Master Hykel at least seemed to look on his training approvingly, so Barrett knew he was not doing poorly, but neither did he hear an excess of praise.
Barrett returned to Verton with a goal. He would find that skinny kid and get a proper rematch. He could accept that he had lost the first time. Careless or not, he had been defeated, and would have been defeated. However, he could not accept staying defeated or not trying to improve. The skinny kid was the only one he knew who practiced the right kind of techniques.
It took took some asking around before Barrett could even confirm the skinny kid was still in Verton. Along with that, he confirmed that the skinny kid was a young woman, a teenager of about his age. She had gone around challenging people to fight in a manner that was strangely unfit for a practitioner of a ‘gentle’ style, and more akin to Barrett’s own berserk style.
Eventually he tracked her down to the inn she was staying at. She was away, but returned later in the evening. When she saw him, she tilted her head, “Haven’t I seen you before, bandage boy?”
Barrett nodded. “That’s right. We fought before. I’m here for a rematch… twig-girl.” He realized he hadn’t learned her name yet, even when trying to find her.
“Oh yeah?” She frowned for a second, as if thinking. “Didn’t I beat you down instantly? I was told you were strong but I guess it was a lie. Well, I’m up for a rematch. Let’s go outside!”
As soon as they were both outside and Barrett turned to face her, he saw a skinny figure start dashing toward him. It was the same move as before. This time, Barrett knew what to expect, and punched out in a counterattack. The body twisted past his fist, and a palm struck him in the head. This time, he was prepared. As he felt foreign energy enter his skull, his berserk energy countered it and started eradicating it… along with causing a little bit of pain to his skull.
Though his punch missed, Barrett’s knee immediately came up. The skinny girl looked surprised that he was still able to move, but she still reacted immediately. Her other arm came down to block her stomach… and then she flew backwards through the air, tumbling end over end. She landed on her feet about five meters away, but her face revealed a similar amount of shock to what Barrett felt.