“You’re really fully recovered?” Reina asked.
“Of course. I wouldn’t lie about that, and I know my body better than anyone else.” Barrett patted his chest, “I’m in top shape.”
“Tch.” Reina turned away and glanced at him from the side, “Here I am, still recovering from the few cuts I got, and the guy with burns on his bones finishes healing before me.”
“This is literally what the Immortal Berserker Sect is about.” Barrett shook his head, “I still look disgusting though. Scars everywhere.”
“I think… scars can be attractive.” Reina pursed her lips, but her eye twitched slightly.
“Yeah, but not like this, right?” Barrett pulled bandages off his arm, “I look like I got the pox…” Reina grimaced. “Hah, don’t worry about it. At some point I’ll have to take some recovery pills and then these will be… more mild.” Barrett shook his head, “I hate looking at scars though.”
“Maybe try to stick to a few cool ones next time.” Reina grinned.
“Oh, sure. I’ll just ask nicely, ‘can you give me a cool scar in front of my eye? Try not to hurt the eyeball though…’ and then I can ask whoever I’m fighting to just surrender.” Barrett nodded seriously at the situation in his imagination. “Honestly if it wouldn’t set me back in training I would have already taken… a lot of scar recovery medicines. Purely for cosmetic reasons… so don’t tell Master Hykel.”
Mistress Seviren coughed as she entered the room, “I’ll consider that… as long as you two finish getting ready quickly. There’s no point staying here relaxing. We’ve got to get you back to Master Hykel for more training.”
Barrett saluted and gestured over to his newly repaired armor, “All I have to do is put that on… and suffer through a lot of running.”
“I’m ready as well.” Reina nodded.
On the second day of the journey, Mistress Seviren frowned and looked back.
“Is something wrong?” Reina asked.
“Indeed. I’m being followed. I thought I caught a glimpse of them at the tournament… I didn’t think they’d noticed me.”
Mistress Seviren shook her head, “Just some old enemies.” She grinned, “While they might be old, I’m still quite young. They won’t be a problem for me to deal with but… you two need to continue on ahead. Wait for me in Ember city, if I hadn’t caught up by then- or if I don’t go by road I might get there before you. Either way, go to the same inn we stayed in on the way here. No, wait… go to the one a few streets away. The Speedy Tortoise. I don’t think they followed us on the way here- they likely saw me at the tournament- but just in case…” Mistress Seviren pulled out a pouch of money, “This should have plenty. In fact, this could easily cover the whole trip back, so if you manage to spend it all in the next day I’ll have some questions.”
Reina took the money pouch, “We’ll see you there, Mistress.”
Mistress Seviren turned toward Barrett, “You should ride your horse… it would be best if the two of you were past that hill within the next ten minutes, just to be out of sight. They shouldn’t be able to get past me, but it’s best if they don’t even think about trying.”
Barrett nodded. There was no point in working on training when there was real danger immediately near.
Reina kept glancing back over her shoulder as their horses continued forward along the road. “Do you think she’ll be alright?”
Barrett shrugged, “She said she would be. Either way, we can’t help if they’re on her level. For example, if I were to attack Master Hykel with my full power- and he let me hit him- I would only barely cut through the skin, not even harming the muscle. Then he would be healed right away and my arms would be sore.”
“… Why does it sound like you did that exact thing?” Reina shook her head.
“He wanted to show me how much three full tiers mattered. He couldn’t completely ignore me in combat but… almost. Your mistress is nearly that strong, so anyone who is relevant against her we won’t be able to do anything. Sure, maybe their defenses are less and they let one of us get in a critical blow… but more probably they kill either of us casually- or Mistress Seviren has to do something to protect us, leaving her open for an attack. We’re not the right type to assist in such a battle.”
“Archers.. Maybe. But Master Hykel can chuck pebbles a few hundred meters and they still have enough force to lodge in a tree’s bark.”
“He sounds very strong.”
“Berserkers like to show off… and have styles very suited for that. We can’t even see the techniques your mistress uses- cuts just appear. It just feels less impressive because it’s harder to comprehend.”
“That’s… true.” The pair rounded a bend in the mountain road, catching sight of other travelers up ahead. They tensed up, not knowing if they were after them or not. “Hmm.” Reina frowned, “They shouldn’t be related to Mistress’ enemies, but… I have a bad feeling.”
“We could leave the road but… they’ve already likely seen us. If they’re looking for us, they can just follow us… and it’s harder for the horses to run there.”
“Maybe it’s nothing.” Reina said, but she kept her eyes forward.
Both groups continued to approach each other. Barrett estimated they would meet somewhere near the branch in the road up ahead. It was entirely possible the other group would travel down the other branch leading deeper into the mountains and they wouldn’t even pass each other directly.
As they approached closer, they recognized the other riders. At least, the one in front. It was Ruben, and a few others that must have been from the Raging Fire Sect based on their style of equipment. “Well, at least they shouldn’t be with those after your mistress. She would have told us if she had trouble with the Raging Fire Sect, right?” The two groups passed each other, with Ruben and his followers having started up the path- presumably toward their sect as it led deeper into the mountains. Barrett supposed they had been out for a visit to Ember’s taverns or some such. They had probably left several days before the Barrett and Reina, since Barrett had been recovering from wounds for another four days after the last match of the tournament. Just as he thought they would ride by without incident, the hooves on the other path stopped. “If you two would wait there… we would like to talk.”