Barrett edged closer to Ruben, trying to judge when he would be within range of the halberd. A reach advantage was important, but if he could get inside the reach he would gain his own advantage. There were only a few problems…
Ruben flared like a bonfire, and Barrett could already feel the oppressive heat. He didn’t really want to get close… but he would have to. On the other hand, Ruben was clearly quite adept at using his halberd, keeping Barrett at bay- while nearly singing him with the flames that radiated from it.
Barrett couldn’t afford to hold back forever. He considered that Ruben might exhaust himself from the constant use of flames… but before that Barrett would probably get hit. He was already starting to sweat inside his armor, and he could feel it heating up.
When Ruben dropped the tip of his halberd just slightly to the side, Barrett took his chance. He stepped in and shoved the halberd away with his arm. For that, he felt fire penetrating into his arm and the not-quite-healed wounds.
The temperature shot up significantly as he stepped closer to Ruben and swung his axe. His sweat seemed to be evaporating the instant it formed, but Barrett wasn’t going to stay close for long. His axe collided with Ruben’s chest, knocking him back- and Barrett used his own opposite motion to move away himself.
Barrett frowned. The scale were slightly cracked, but whole. Meanwhile, he was scorched all over and the residual heat on his armor wasn’t helping that situation. Staring into fire so long wasn’t helping either…
“What’s wrong? Afraid of a little fire?” Ruben’s grin was barely visible behind his helmet, “Why even step up onto the stage, covered in bandages… and with only an early tier two cultivation.” Ruben shook his head. “Let’s get this over with.”
Barrett wondered if Ruben knew he was a berserker. If so, he was intentionally provoking him. For berserkers, that could be both a good or a bad thing. They might get stronger from rage, but they could also forget their defenses. If Ruben was doing it on purpose and thought it would work on Barrett… well, he was right.
Barrett rushed forward at the next halberd thrust. He didn’t move blindly- but the blade of flames that extended beyond it sent fire into his armor and left shoulder. Even so, he managed to get back inside Ruben’s reach. Barrett already knew he wasn’t going to win. Maybe if he had a better state of mind… but he’s already failed that. He gathered berserk energy and chopped vertically into Ruben’s breastplate… still failing to penetrate the armor. In return, he suffered even more burns as the area of fire Ruben generated grew even stronger.
Then, Barrett did it again. He couldn’t completely avoid Ruben’s attacks, but he did manage to make sure no two attacks hit the same area. That way, he didn’t lose function in any of his limbs. His arms, legs, and sides were covered in cuts- but the flames immediately cauterized the wounds while at the same time making them deeper. Barrett could feel the damage was going far beyond skin deep, but he wasn’t done yet.
One more attack… his right thigh got a nasty gash and Barrett was remembering what it was like to be completely covered in burns, lying helpless in a bed. He hated that feeling… but it let him gather more berserk energy. Barrett shouted at the top of his lungs as his next chop went for Ruben. He wasn’t even trying to dodge, completely counting on his armor to protect him. That was good for Barrett… as his axe hit the same spot once again with a cracking and squishing sound. Barrett’s axe stayed in Ruben’s chest as he found himself kicked away.
Barrett coughed as he looked up from his back, tilting his neck forward to see Ruben. Ruben grabbed Barrett’s axe and pulled it out of his chest. His wound stopped bleeding almost immediately, but Barrett couldn’t see much more than that before he passed out.
Barrett’s wounds were worse than when his family’s manor had burned down and partially collapsed on him. That almost killed him, but he hadn’t had a strong body at the time. Now, Barrett felt that his skin was burnt through completely. He could feel the fire had gone deep into his muscles, and slightly into his bones. His eyelids had formed scabs sealing them together… but Barrett felt better than he had then.
This time, Reina was nursing him. She’d had nothing else to do after she lost in the tournament, and Barrett needed to recover before they moved on. Reina had actually managed to defeat her seventh round opponent, but lost in the eighth round. It was still a very impressive result, but she hadn’t been able to go any further. She did obtain some wounds of her own, but she had surrendered while they were still relatively light.
Barrett wondered if he was an idiot. He’d gone a bit too far. He wasn’t sure if his wounds would be able to recover without medicine. Regular salves weren’t a problem, but the pills Master Hykel gave him to recover from scars and other wounds would set him back if he had to use them. Then, Barrett had his suspicions confirmed.
“You’re an idiot,” Reina told him straightforwardly, “Did you even gain any useful experience from the last part of the fight? Mistress told me you went crazy in attacking. If you couldn’t win or get useful experience… why not give up before you were covered in terrible wounds? Especially since he finished recovering from what you did to him before lunchtime.”
“I just…” Barrett slowly raised his arm into the air. It hurt, but pain was no longer something that stopped him, “I had to do it. I’m a member of the Immortal Berserker Sect. He has an immortal body… We might be faking it, but I kind of wanted to compare.” Barrett frowned, his bandages shifting on his face, “Besides, he was kind of arrogant. I couldn’t let him get away without something to remember me by.”
Reina shook her head, “If by that you mean an expensive repair bill… I suppose you’re right. Dragon scale isn’t cheap to replace- he’s going to have to spend the rest of the tournament with damaged armor. Not that it seems to matter. I think he’ll probably win anyway.”
Barrett shrugged, avoiding wincing as he moved a large number of unhealed burns. “Next time I’ll get him… Except he might be too old to participate in the next tournament here.” Barrett shook his head, “Can I have some more soup?”