Nilima didn’t start off easy. The moment their match began, her whip was twisting towards Barrett. He dodge, of course, but its course changed as her energy redirected it. It only grazed the edge of his shoulder, but from there energy flowed into him and then exploded. Barrett could feel the effectiveness of berserk energy riding along with gentle energy, able to penetrate deep before wreaking maximum havoc. However, his body had grown used to berserk energy, and the ‘gentle’ energy wasn’t enough to significantly harm him either. That said, it was only a small amount of Nilima’s total energy, and he couldn’t say the damage was nothing. However, until something shattered bones or tore apart muscles and tendons, he was liable to count it as inconsequential. His shoulder was still basically intact, but he had to make sure contact was brief.
Barrett tossed out three stone pits. He could control more if he focused on that exclusively, but in their current form they served as a distraction- able to cause damage if ignored, but otherwise hindering movements. They responded to his mana easily, flying with sufficient force to kill a second tier cultivator. While they wouldn’t serve as a threat to Nilima on their own, Barrett himself was the threat. As he had them attack from the sides and back, he moved in from the front.
Nilima flicked her whip and struck one of the stone pits, sending it flying away as she dodged in that direction. However, the stone pit came out relatively unharmed- and Barrett could feel Nilima’s expenditure of energy for that. Meanwhile, he didn’t have to spend any mana to defend against the attack, merely to bring the pit back close to her.
Seeing that she wouldn’t be able to completely take the stone pits out of the picture, Nilima adjusted by returning to attacking Barrett. She had to dodge the stone pits at the same time she attacked him, but she hadn’t reached fourth tier for nothing. The stone pits would only cause problems if she let them hit directly and she was able to twist and deflect them with her energy. Meanwhile, she attacked Barrett with the whip, and he focused on avoiding getting too close.
He considered grabbing the whip- but felt that prolonged contact would just end up with him having a destroyed hand. He likely couldn’t yank it out of Nilima’s grip either, since she could hold on tight enough to move with it… it wasn’t worth trying that tactic at the moment.
Instead, he moved in when he saw a slight opening, dodging around the twisting whip. With some changes of his weight placement, he could keep most of his forward momentum while moving his body far to the side, moving almost as agilely as the whip. When necessary he used his hands to push off the ground instead of his feet- like when the whip came for them instead. There were a few grazes, but he managed to reach Nilima.
He kicked out, but she caught his leg and pushed off of it- right into one of the stone pits. She hadn’t felt it coming because Barrett had left the traces of his magic behind, instead pulling it to him. It was hard to say it was like a part of his body with it being fully disconnected from him, but it was close enough.
Nilima went flying and tumbled over the stone pit as it struck against her protective energy but for all it looked like she was out of control she landed firmly on her feet. She was basically uninjured, but the expenditure of energy would start catching up to her eventually. Barrett would grow tired himself, but in that exchange at least he’d gotten the upper hand.
Things went back and forth- each graze of the whip past Barrett sent energy into him, wearing him down, while every attack against Nilima lowered her defenses slightly. Nilima’s whip actively sought to twist around Barrett, but he could change direction fast enough that it could never catch hold.
The few meters between them seemed like an impossible distance to close, but Barrett did it over and over, slowly wearing Nilima down… but not without taking a few hits himself. In fact, every time he struck her half of her defenses counterattacked him- as she pushed away from him, berserk energy flowed towards him as well. Even if his body was used to it- even if he still cultivated it currently- there was only so much he could withstand. His arms and legs, the easiest places to reach, were starting to get bloody and battered… though mostly on the inside.
Once more, Barrett reached Nilima, but he feinted with a kick- though he was capable of turning that into the real attack if the circumstances arose- leaning into the attack and meanwhile reaching out towards Nilima’s hand holding the whip. Nilima wasn’t slow by any means, but it took her a fraction of a second to realize what was happening. By that point, it was too late to pull her arm away.
As Barrett grabbed her wrist, he crushed and pulled to slam her into the ground… but that also left her with a direct way to attack Barrett. Energy flowed into his arm. It wasn’t all at once, instead coming in a continuous wave. Nilima crashed into the ground, but Barrett had to let go before she hit- unless he wanted his arm to turn into jelly again. She bounced off the ground and rolled away… and the two of them both stopped at the same point. Barrett sighed, looking down at his hand. Her energy had worked its way up his arm and into his chest, and one lung was filling with blood along with all the muscles and bones along the way there. “I think you win the match.”
“Uuugh…” Nilima groaned, “Why don’t I feel like a winner then? If we fought for real and you wanted to kill me…”
“We’d probably both die…” Barrett shook his head, “But it could be just one of us.” Barrett sat down, pulling his blood back inside himself and holding together his blood vessels. The damage to his arm wasn’t as bad as the last time he had fought Nilima, but conversely the damage had reached all the way to his organs so it was actually more dangerous for him. Nilima had scrapes and bruises and a broken wrist and a few ribs- no matter how good she was at redirecting energy, Barrett’s attacks weren’t inconsequential.
“I can’t imagine you dying without taking your opponent down with you.”
“I imagine it all the time…” Barrett pulled a mouthful of blood back down into himself, “It’s the worst feeling in the world.”