Opponents for early rounds in the tournament were only announced a few minutes before the match, so knowing beforehand about the various factions that existed was useful. Of course, with so many people in just Stredo, there were also many factions… and cultivators came from outside as well. However, the number of factions that had masters was more limited… still easily hundreds, but limited. That was enough to know at least a basic overview of each faction’s abilities- and they would vary by individuals anyway. During later rounds, Barrett might have the chance to study his opponents more… assuming he made it to the later rounds. He was determined not to lose before facing off against Nilima, but he wasn’t sure if he could consistently beat late fourth tier opponents. He could certainly beat one if he was willing to overdraft himself- most people wouldn’t be willing to do so just to advance in the tournament, since they would waste precious cultivation time recovering. Maybe he could beat two or three if he got lucky. More, if he got favorable matchups. However, instead of that Barrett just hoped not to face off against any late stage cultivators in the first few rounds.
In the first round, he would be facing off against Skyla Schenck, from the Court of the Heart. They specialized in illusions… and emotion influencing. That could be a problem for berserkers who were unprepared- even with training. Barrett didn’t have any berserk energy anymore, but that didn’t mean he had no emotions. A master likely wouldn’t be relying on people being easy to influence anyway.
Skyla was thin, almost wispy… but Barrett could tell her body wasn’t weak. Not trained to the same extent as a warrior, but it wouldn’t be a hindrance in battle either. Sensing energy and magic without using energy in return had taken some time to learn, but the results were that Barrett could sense some things people didn’t know to hide. The woman cultivated energy as well as magic, though the magic was stronger even if the feeling of it was more vague.
As the match began Barrett moved in to close the distance between them. He could certainly attack with the stone pits, but he wanted to save that for a surprise… either in this battle or for one he needed it. As for other weapons, he found them strange to carry. It was like they didn’t belong. It wasn’t the type of weapon, but just that he couldn’t control a weapon as well as he could his own body. Even armor felt strange, but whenever he got his hands on living metal it would first go towards a weapon.
Though magic users weren’t generally thought to be best in melee combat, Skyla didn’t retreat as Barrett approached. That said, she didn’t stand there doing nothing. Barrett felt… something. Anger, the desire to attack… and he did so. As his clenched fist curved towards her ribs, he felt a sense of calm and peace… there was no need to attack. Of course, he didn’t stop entirely but the sudden swing of emotions slowed him down. At that same moment, a dagger stabbed towards his neck, the killing intent behind it expertly concealed. With Barrett’s body feeling a bit sluggish, he barely managed to move. Even so, the long thin dagger still managed to just barely reach between plates of armor and slice into his skin and some muscle underneath. It wouldn’t have been the end to the match unless he actually stood still and did nothing, but if she’d cut a vein or artery it would have held him back.
Barrett shook off the emotion influencing and backed away, but he knew it would happen again. The only questions were what and how much. Barrett steeled his mind- more literally that one might expect, since he actually used Pure Body Tempering to affect his brain somewhat. Then he moved back in, reaching out for a grab. No, that wouldn’t be enough, he had to break something. He shifted into a kick, which of course was the plan all along. His aggressive attack left him open… but his body wasn’t trained for nothing. Skyla ducked to go under his attack, but wasn’t fast enough and had to deflect his leg with her own arm and a coating of energy, sending her flying backwards. Barrett felt his emotions return to normal, but he could tell he’d kept things slightly more in control… at the very least, his opponent had required more effort to get the same effect.
Protecting his mind was good, but he could do better. Maybe instead of trying to react to the stimulus or block them… he would ignore them. Barrett’s body moved in a flash, closing the distance between him and his opponent. He would grab, and if that missed he would go for a leg sweep. Anger came over him, sadness, calm… but he didn’t change his motions. However, because of how he had envisioned his attacks he couldn’t quite keep up with Skyla’s dodging. Her dagger stabbed into the inside elbow of his outstretched arm- probably not as deeply as she had expected, only a centimeter deep instead of all the way through the elbow. Barrett’s body still changed into a leg sweep, and his foot clipped Skyla’s ankle as she stepped away. There was no real damage except to her energy reserves- which wasn’t inconsequential.
Both participants traded blows back and forth, neither gaining enough of an advantage to end the battle. Even if he knew what was coming, Barrett couldn’t completely negate the emotions trying to throw him off. If he kept a set plan in mind, it wasn’t flexible enough to account for her reactions. However, he was still able to somewhat resist her influence and he had one advantage that couldn’t be made up for. He was stronger and faster and if he wasn’t slowed down by emotional and mental chains there wasn’t much she could do. She had the speed and accuracy to strike at his unarmored points, but not to do enough damage to take him out. Barrett didn’t want to rely on possibly taking a hit to win, but what was important was whether it was something he could do in real battle. He thought so… and if he was fast enough then she wouldn’t have the chance.
Barrett rushed forwards, moving towards a predetermined distance from Skyla. As he did so, he saw a slight flicker. She wasn’t quite where she appeared to be… but Barrett’s eyes picked that out. With an additional half step that required him to skew all normal rules of balance, Barrett transitioned instantly from running into a sweeping kick with his full force behind it. All of his weight ended up in that leg, and his strength was distributed through the rest of his body to provide the necessary force. With all the stamina that took, he couldn’t make such an attack many times… but Skyla wasn’t prepared for him to attack exactly the right location. Emotions flickered through Barrett’s head, but he was waiting for one response in particular that would make him consider his plan a success.
As his leg collided with Skyla’s side- she couldn’t dodge fast enough to move- he shattered through her energy and then… the arena’s defenses took over. Barrett had seen and felt them many times before, so he knew their efficacy. He didn’t intentionally stop his leg- it just stopped. His senses told him that there was no illusion in place, and the only illusions that were strictly forbidden were pretending the match was over when it was not. Barrett doubted anyone could exactly replicate that feeling at fourth tier anyway… though perhaps that was one of the many reasons there were no sixth tier tournaments.
Skyla bowed in acknowledgement to Barrett and turned to walk away, not looking disappointed but rather thoughtful. Meanwhile, Barrett considered what he had learned as well. He’d had some practice resisting emotional influences, but that hadn’t applied to in battle. If he hadn’t been expecting it, things could have gone much worse… though he’d managed to rely on his more practiced qualities to push through anyway.