Barrett’s opponent in the third round was a duelist at late fourth tier named Egon. Barrett himself could be considered in the middle of fourth tier, though just barely. A high tier didn’t mean anything without a good underlying cultivation technique, but anyone who could become a master had something powerful to work with. However, even more important than differences in cultivation progress was the suitability of opponents.
Egon was fast and strong, augmenting himself with magic and energy and stabbing through Barrett’s armor and into Barrett himself. However, for all of his effectiveness, he had a weakness. Egon wasn’t specialized in one-on-one combat. Instead, he was a support type- and while he could augment himself, he would have been even more effective augmenting a whole team along with himself. Even so, Barrett didn’t find the fight easy.
The rapier stabbed into his chest where his heart and lungs… would normally be. Shifting them enough to avoid damage was simple enough, and the damage to muscles wasn’t such a big deal. While it might seem like he was taking a hit to provide an opening, Barrett considered it differently. This was more like dodging an attack by a small margin- just because the sword happened to be in the middle of his body didn’t change the fact that he’d dodged that way on purpose. As the sword pierced him, he clamped down the muscles around it, and grabbed onto the blade with his hand as well. At the same time, the stone pits he was controlling came to attack Egon from behind.
Egon swiftly dodged away, but that meant he had to leave his sword behind… and while he had backup weapons, they weren’t quite as good. Barrett managed to squeeze out a win but not without many cuts and scrapes… and he hadn’t always properly avoided the hits to his organs. Nothing that a few years of recovery wouldn’t fix, however, so he was fully recovered for the next match.
In the fourth match, the competition became even more fierce. The average strength of the participants was higher, and Barrett found himself up against a woman warrior wielding an axe and using light energy. He was able to resist her blinding attacks, but he wasn’t able to stop her from chopping up his armor- and almost himself. One of her swings got about halfway through an arm even though it was tougher than steel. The fact that it did surprised her because normally the arena would have stopped her before things got that far. It did stop her later sideways chop at his ribcage, since it probably could have nearly bisected him… and there was only so much he could move his organs.
Barrett was disappointed to lose, but he couldn’t do much about it except become stronger. The sad part was he hadn’t gotten to face Nilima… but there were still 256 people in the tournament on the fourth round. The chances of them coming into contact by that point were quite low. Barrett had underestimated the competition… but in four years he would be back.
Of course, before then he had to tell Nilima. Just because they couldn’t fight in the tournament didn’t mean they couldn’t have a proper match. As it turned out, she was just leaving her match. Nilima looked over Barrett with her energy senses, “Wow. That arm is… barely attached. Did you win?”
Barrett shook his head disappointedly. “No. Even if I did, I wouldn’t even be recovered for the next match.”
Nilima sighed, “Good, I lost too,” she pointed to a cut on her neck, “This one I more or less dodged… but it took most of my energy. Still, I learned a lot… I haven’t fought that many masters yet.”
Barrett nodded, “Indeed. If you’re willing to wait a few days, we can still have our match…”
“A few days for that? And here I was feeling good that this cut would clear up in a day or two. The faster healing was the one good thing that came out of that whole mess…” Nilima shook her head. “I’ll be there. Let’s say… a week?”
Barrett looked down at his arm, “Probably for the best.”
Barrett was glad that he hadn’t said he could heal faster than a week. Even with concentrated effort, stitching together so much muscle and bone and making it right was tiring work. If Barrett had left things alone, it would have reattached and become a mass of scar tissue that would eventually recover- maybe even in just a few weeks, since his healing rate was so much. A doctor could have helped, but Doctor Stieber and Shanta were not around for this tournament… and Barrett didn’t trust anyone else to get it quite right. Even if they stitched everything up properly, it wasn’t as good as having his body reconnect itself. Barrett was glad the cut was nice and clean. That meant he could distinguish which muscle fiber went with which. He actually suppressed the healing his body was trying to do in favor of specifically attaching each bit on his own, reattaching with minimal scar tissue involved. Otherwise, even if the scar tissue healed up eventually, he would have to retrain the muscles. Besides, he had an important match to take place in.
Barrett noticed something different about Nilima… not that it was hard. It was difficult to hide anything on her person, especially something like a whip. He hadn’t seen her use it in the first few matches, and he hadn’t been paying attention to whether she had it in her fourth match. He did know she had never used one before reaching fourth tier, and Mistress Joshi had no whip techniques to teach… which meant Nilima had added it to her own personal style. Barrett had never even considered using a whip- while they could be useful for energy cultivators, berserk energy was not kind to them. Nilima had berserk energy now… but not just berserk energy.
Meanwhile, Barrett had his stone pits which weren’t something that was really part of the Immortal Berserker Style at all, though he supposed the idea was similar to throwing lead balls. Immortal Berserkers couldn’t use bows because the strings wouldn’t even last a few shots. There were other options, but Barrett had really liked that particular style for ranged combat. Either way, Barrett actually felt like the two of them could really be called masters- they had really started to form their own sub-styles. Not that everyone had to do that- sometimes the best method for them was already what was in place. Barrett and Nilima had been forced to change things around due to circumstances. “Well, shall we?” Barrett asked. “Let’s see how strong we’ve gotten.”