By winning in the fourth round, Barrett and Reina had approximately placed in the top one hundred. However, there was no meaning to it if they were to lose. There were only prizes for the top eight, and even the top seeds would have to win two rounds to place in the top eight. Not that prizes were the only reason to come- the experience of fighting different people and watching others fight was also important.
Barrett didn’t expect to win any prizes, unless he happened to fight opponents uniquely suited for him. He would have to win four more rounds to do so, and at that point he would be fighting only against people at the upper end of second tier. Perhaps he might be able to beat some of the weaker ones, but many of those who came to the tournament were confident in their own strength. Barrett supposed he would find out how strong he really was.
“My next opponent is from… Whistletree Forest?” Barrett looked questioningly at Mistress Seviren, “I haven’t heard of that group.”
Mistress Seviren shook her head, “It’s not a school or sect, just a place. That doesn’t leave much to say about your opponent. While it does mean they aren’t part of any large group, that doesn’t mean they are weak either. Strong people can come from… anywhere.”
Barrett nodded. Back in Ashia he hadn’t known of anyone who could have even been classed as more than first tier. There probably were some- but not under his father’s employ. The Ostain Empire as a whole had many more powerful countries than Ashia, so Barrett supposed there must have been various cultivators of body, energy, or magic. Perhaps some of the stories told to children were truth instead of fiction. Regardless, he had come from Ashia but was already in the second tier- and if he did well he would go much further. There was no reason for him to think others couldn’t be strong no matter where they came from- if they had the right teachers.
Barrett hadn’t known who he would fight the round before, so he hadn’t closely watched that particular fight. He couldn’t have paid close attention all of them anyway, since more than one match took place at a time.
Looking at his opponent, Barrett would dub him a druid. Many designations for cultivators of various sort weren’t obvious. It was hard to tell if someone was a berserker or knight without seeing them fight-, and various sorts of magic users shared similar visual traits and equipment as well. Druids were somewhat distinctive because of their dress styles. They were supposed to be more in tune with nature, and thus often wore armor made out of wood and plants instead of metal. This was the case with Barrett’s opponent. Thus, he was either a druid or trying to pass as one.
Barrett knew not to underestimate his opponent because his armor was wooden. He had learned that there were many types of very durable wood. The trees in Temperpine forest had been gigantic- and tough. In that case, much of their strength came from their great size. However, the handle of Barrett’s axe was from a class of ‘ironwood’ trees. It was nearly as tough as iron… which was good, because it needed it to withstand the strength of Barrett’s attacks and the berserk energy flowing through it.
Unfortunately for Barrett, determining his opponent was a druid didn’t tell him much except that he would use magic of some sort. Although it was a sub-designation of magic users, it still wasn’t specific. Some of them were like elementalists, some used transformation magic, some used poison… and a number of other things. Barrett could rule out controlling animals- no outside help was allowed in this tournament- but there were still many options.
The referee for their match took his place to the side. “Ready? Start!”
Barrett immediately moved toward his opponent. No matter what sort of magic he used, it wouldn’t matter if he didn’t get a chance to use it. Though he moved nearly straight toward his enemy, Barrett was still prepared to dodge to the side at the first sign of an attack.
What Barrett wasn’t prepared for was sudden darkness. Before Barrett had gone far, darkness flowed out of the druid and swiftly covered the stage- and Barrett. Barrett dodged to the side, then heard and felt something scrape against the metal of his breastplate. The training after he fought the assassins had paid off… though Barrett still hadn’t been able to completely avoid the attack.
What Barrett was most unsure of was what scraped against him. HIs opponent hadn’t looked like he had any sort of sharp weaponry, but the sound indicated he did. At least, it wasn’t the dull clunk or grinding sound of a staff or other wide object but the higher pitched sound of something with a point or edge.
Barrett dodged again. Again there was a scraping sound, but if he hadn’t moved he knew things wouldn’t have gone so well. He tried to concentrate on where the enemy was, but he couldn’t hear the sound of their movement. He didn’t know what direction they would come from or when. Only when they got close could he sense them.
Another attack, and this time Barrett barely manage to avoid an attack from the side toward his armpit- a weak point of most armor. To this point, Barrett hadn’t had a chance to launch an attack. He couldn’t keep dodging forever, but before that he might overstrain himself from constantly sensing to his maximum capacity. Of course, the constant darkness had to take some energy on the part of his opponent, but Barrett didn’t want to bet on who would run out of energy first with no basis to measure it by.
Barrett stood with his axe out, but hanging down by his side. He didn’t know where he would have to swing it, and some ready stances might throw him off balance when he suddenly had to dodge. Then… another attack came. Instead of avoiding it, Barrett threw himself toward it- not directly, but off to the side slightly. He stretched his arms out, and one of them caught around something. Barrett ignored the fact that something stabbed into his side- that was an expected consequence.
With his left arm wrapped around the figure he couldn’t see, He could feel one of his opponent’s arms was trapped to his side. Barrett kept a hold on that arm and dropped his axe to have another free arm. There was only so much his opponent could move, though they tried to struggle out of his grip. He was met with a few more stabs to the side before he managed to fling his opponent to the ground, and then grabbed onto his other arm, then twisted him around into a hold where he could barely move. Barrett would have called his opponent strong- but he wasn’t a warrior type, and certainly no expert in grappling. He would have had to be much stronger than Barrett to break the hold, or possessed of some other trick. The thrashing soon stopped and the darkness faded. “I surrender.”
As Barrett’s eyes adjusted to sudden light, he caught the tail end of his opponent’s ears changing from large bat ears back to normal human ears, and his hands had been claws of some sort. Well, that answered that question. A transformation type. Barrett stood and helped his opponent to his feet. “That was impressive. I bet many people wouldn’t have been able to handle you.”
“Thanks.” The young man frowned and looked at Barrett’s side, seeing the blood dripping from several small wounds. “I thought I got you. Not that deep though… your skin is tough like boar hide.”
“Thanks.” Barrett assumed that was a compliment. He stretched and let his magic bandages shift to cover the wounds. Then he turned to look for where Reina would be fighting.