In one of many small platforms distributed throughout the grand arena in Facraona two cultivators were continuing a match, watched by only a small portion of the eyes around them. But neither of them could afford to think about anything outside what they were doing. Reynold might have seemed like he had the advantage at first, but he no longer had his whip. While Gerd had given up her hammer to disarm him, she was much more confident in close combat.
She kept light on her feet, as much as she could do with extra weight pulling down on her left ankle. She didn’t have time to break off the hindering device, because Reynold would simply pull something else out in that time. Even now she saw him reaching behind to grab something as he was getting to his feet.
Gerd lunged forward, grabbing the top of his shield with one hand. If he went nowhere when she crashed head on, and up when she yanked it towards her… she shoved downward, leaning on the extra weight caused by the band wrapped around her ankle. Once again he moved in an extremely odd direction sliding forward towards her even as her arm pushed down on his shield. But while it was odd, it also wasn’t unexpected. She was holding up an elbow that went straight for his head as he moved towards her with great speed, but he ducked well enough that she only managed to dent his helmet as he was flung past.
No doubt she shook up his head, but he wasn’t down yet. Before Gerd could finish spinning around to kick him in the rear, he flipped up a short cloak he had, sending a wave of fire over her and forcing her to retreat. She might have been able to power through it, but she judged it to be safer to withdraw.
Both participants glanced off to the side, where their weapons still lay. Gerd was still confident that she would have the advantage with neither having a weapon, so she moved to keep him away from them, even if she couldn’t get to them herself without leaving an opening.
She had to admit that Reynold was a tough opponent. He had various annoying enchanted tools and pieces of equipment, but if she was right and he had made them all on his own… she couldn’t complain. She had access to resources to help her advance as well, and the Order’s armory. She knew materials were cheaper, but she simply didn’t have the skills to put it together herself.
Gerd felt something as they fought. A sliver of inspiration. It was itching at the back of her head, but she couldn’t quite grab it. She could grab the shield though. Most importantly, she realized that if she shoved it to the side things worked almost like normal. Except for the fact that Renold’s boots went along with it. That was the trick to them. They shared the force placed on the shield somehow, so a direct hit directly imparted the force into the ground, causing a rebound that only affected her, the shield, and the boots. Reynold himself could ignore the force. But because it rotated the force relative to the boots and shield, shoving down moved him forward. Up would probably push him back, but the sides were perfectly normal- or even strangely exaggerated.
Another stick slapped against her wrist as she pulled his shield to the side and punched at his shoulder. It curled into a band and weighed down her arm, but she still clipped him regardless. What was a little more extra weight. She was strong. And if she wasn’t strong enough now, she would get there!
Gerd’s left side was quite far off balance with the two enchanted weights, but she pushed through the awkwardness. She found that the one around her wrist allowed her to pull even more strongly on the shield, to the point she actually disarmed it from Reynold. With it in hand she swept it around to throw his feet every which way. It only took a moment for him to stop the connection between his boots and the shield, but the effort left him open to a kick, with her heavy foot. The enchanted band certainly weighed her down, but it also carried its own momentum once she got it moving.
Her own fairly normal boots collided directly with the chest of Reynold, sending him flying backwards. Gerd took a half a moment to catch her balance before she began to move towards him for a follow up attack but in that moment… “I surrender!” Reynold called from the floor.
Gerd stopped. “You… could keep fighting. I know you’re not exhausted yet.”
“Too late for that,” he said as he sat up. “Besides,” he tapped his breastplate. “If I allow you to hit me again, I’m just asking for you to cause a permanent break in this. Or my helmet. I’d rather not have to forge new gear.”
“So you did make it yourself,” Gerd nodded. “That’s good.”
He shrugged, “Not quite good enough, I guess. I didn’t think anyone would figure out the shield thing. I’ll have to work on that.”
The inspiration was still digging at the back of Gerd’s mind as she stepped out of the arena. She had the feeling that she could break through to Spirit Building. It would have been great to do it in battle, but the stories about people doing it were probably made up. She was exhausted. There was no way she could summon the energy required at the moment. It simply couldn’t be done. But after a bit of rest… she would be fine to make the attempt. This time, she would succeed.
She wondered what that would mean for her place in the tournament. She was supposed to have another match later in the day, but if she was suddenly in Spirit Building… would she be disqualified? If so… she didn’t care. If she gave up this opportunity just to get some rewards for advancing further in the lowest level tournament, she couldn’t be sure if she would ever have as good of a chance again.
It was only a few hours after the match was over that Reynold realized he didn’t get his gravity bands back from his opponent. It wasn’t a huge problem since he could make more. The materials were fairly inexpensive since they were made from heavy but not particularly durable metal, with some enchantments to enhance the traits he wanted. But he supposed he should at least offer to remove them properly. It would surely be inconvenient to move around.
“Excuse me,” he said as he cautiously approached the delegation from the Order of Ninety-Nine Stars. “I was in a match with one of your disciples, Gerd, and I realized I forgot to remove my restrictive devices. You can break them off without danger, but I thought I should offer to do it properly…” There was nothing to really be nervous about. He’d only been her opponent in the tournament, the two sects weren’t enemies. And they certainly wouldn’t attack him with so many people around. But it was a bit intimidating to feel the Spirit Building guards checking him over, and he thought he saw their Life Transformation expert look at him. He turned his eye away, though, so it could have been she was simply looking past him.
“We’ll send a message to her,” one of the guards standing at the periphery of the gathering said. A few moments later, a disciple was running back into the group, and several minutes after that Gerd shuffled into view.
“Oh, hello,” she said. “Did you need something? I was told you were here to see me.”
Had she already removed them? No, he could clearly see them on her left wrist and ankle, and the way she walked clearly indicated she felt their weight. Even if she… had just stepped into Spirit Building. The aura was faint, but distinct. “I came to remove the gravity bands,” he pointed at her wrist and ankle.
“Oh!” she looked down. “Do you have to?”
“What?” he asked.
“It’s just,” she thrust her arm forward, “They seem like good training devices, or maybe they could help augment my attacks. I was kind of thinking I’d like to have some on my other limbs. Though not all the time, of course.”
That wasn’t his intention with them at all. Training, adding to striking power? They were restrictive devices. Reynold took a deep breath. No, getting upset wasn’t the right response at all. He knew that different inventions sometimes were used for purposes unrelated to their original creation. It was a compliment that she would want more. “You can’t remove them,” Reynold commented, “Not without breaking them. And they’re not so cheaply made that you’d want to do that regularly for training.”
“Oh. Can you make some that I can take off?”
“Of course! Though they wouldn’t be much good as traps then.”
“I’d like to order some, then, if they’re not too expensive.”
Reynold thought for a moment. He’d rather someone wanted to use them as intended, but could he really give up a sale? Enchanters weren’t always capable of getting everything they needed with their own hands. And if they actually worked for training, other people might want them. Though he doubted many people would. They were really annoying. He knew that, because the first set he’d made even he hadn’t been able to remove. “I’m sure we can figure out a price.” They wouldn’t be expensive, but if she wanted them attuned to her own energy instead of his it would require a bit of extra effort.
Though the Body Tempering tournament had the most participants, it also had the most matches happening concurrently. After a few days the tournament concluded and the Spirit Building section started up. It generally began with those at a lower rank, and Alva had the chance to see Pete and Oskar fight on the first day, and she had her first match, but it was fairly simple.
Everyone received notice about their next opponent ahead of time, giving Alva a chance to research. The Crimson Trail Sect were a group of blood cultivators, but unlike the Flying Blood Cult they weren’t violent and unrestrained. For them to be allowed into the tournament they had to meet certain standards, and they seemed to hold to them. Most important among those was maintaining lawful conduct as a sect, and not using blood from their cultivation outside their own sect members.
They practiced what would be categorized as a forbidden technique, but if they were to go by Everheart’s definitions it would fall in the second category. It wasn’t so concerningly powerful that great sects banned it, and it didn’t have horrible effects on their opponents… but using one’s own blood as a catalyst to increase power was indeed potentially harmful to the user. Among other things, they used a coating of their own blood on their weapons to increase power and control.
Alva also determined that her opponent was a woman. Older than herself, but even most of the Body Tempering cultivators were older than her. The more interesting detail was that she was also an archer. That would make the match more interesting than her first, she imagined, where she simply had to run around shooting at someone who couldn’t catch her- even though she wasn’t riding on Fuzz. At least the second match had more interesting terrain, as the pair of archers were now standing in a not-quite-empty field, with pillars blocking the area at irregular points.
Alva wasn’t sure what she had expected her opponent to look like, but she certainly hadn’t expected white clothing. When the woman pulled out an arrow, she half expected her to stab it into her palm, but instead she pulled out a vial and dipped the point in it. She was obviously not trying to hide her intent for once the match started, though Alva wasn’t sure if one arrow would be sufficient.
Then again, she knew her grandpa and Grand Elder Kseniya could circle their shots around behind people. She would have to watch out for that. Maybe she could destroy the arrow? She didn’t have too long to think about further counters as the beginning of the match was announced, and both participants raised and drew their bows almost simultaneously.