Barrett looked at the young man in front of him who seemed to expect him to give up his seat just because he was asked- no, ordered. “You say move… so?”
“So move!” the young man’s face distorted into a frown, “Is that so hard to understand?”
Barrett gestured to the room, “Just go sit in the floor. There’s plenty of space. There’s no reason for me to give my seat to you.”
“Huh? You must be new.” He pointed to an insignia on the silk shirt he wore, “I’m a Silver Blade.”
Barrett thought back to what Master Hykel had told him. He recognized the Silver Blade as the name of a notable faction. Also of note was how well they got along with the Immortal Berserker Sect- or didn’t. “So? I’m a member of the Immortal Berserker Sect. Go sit on the floor.”
“Perfect,” the young man half grinned, but his smile was mirthless, “One of those uppity idiots.” There was a flicker of light and Barrett found himself with a silver knife pointed at him- but he’d instinctively reached up to grab the wrist.
“Back off.” Barrett only held his wrist lightly, ready to squeeze if necessary- but also ready to let go if he stepped back.
There was another flicker and a second blade appeared… and Barrett’s hand grabbed the other wrist. The he simultaneously snapped both of them. A moment later, Barrett felt a terrible foreboding feeling wash over him, and the pain of a knife in his heart.
Then the pain was gone, but the feeling grew stronger. It was terrifying enough that Barrett jumped out of his chair, back and to the side, covering his chest with his forearms.
Barrett couldn’t actually see what was happening, but he felt something sharp pierce into his arms… through his arms, and into his chest.
As he continued his backwards momentum, the blade tore itself out of his chest and forearms. His mind caught up to what had happened, and he saw an old woman in front of him clutching a bloody dagger. Latched onto her wrist was Alnherr, and Barrett knew if he hadn’t stopped her arm the dagger would have pierced all the way through his heart.
“Old hag!” Barrett was almost knocked off his feet by the shout- and he heard windows shatter. Then Master Hykel was in front of him, “How dare you lay hands on my disciple!”
The old woman flicked her wrist and stepped back, glaring at Master Hykel. “He broke my disciple’s wrists. For that, he should die.”
“You attacked my disciple… for that, you should die.” Barrett felt that foreboding feeling again, but it was less terrifying this time. That was because it wasn’t directed toward him. However, he could almost see the old woman’s head being torn off and her neck spouting blood everywhere. Then, the feeling was gone. Master Hykel’s voice lowered, and his voice steadied. “I could kill you right now, and nobody could stop me…”
“But you’re too afraid of the consequences. A coward” The old woman grinned, showing yellow and black teeth.
“…But I won’t, because the Immortal Berserker Sect follows the law, unlike the Silver Blade. Don’t even pretend that your disciple didn’t initiate the dispute. So I’ll give you a choice. Bet my life versus yours in a match in the arena, or subject yourself to the penalties of the law.”
“Hmph. You think I’m a fool? I’ll not throw away my life in a fight against you in the arena. For all that your sect lacks… I admit you have strength.”
“Me versus you?” Master Hykel shook his head, “No, that wouldn’t be fair. After all, you’re so old and decrepit, but never even made it to fifth tier. No, I see your disciple is second tier, just like mine is. I suggest that in a month, we have them fight, with our own lives on the line.”
The old woman looked at Barrett, and especially his bleeding forearms, “One month? Deal.” She turned toward a corner of the room, “You hear that? One month from now exactly, set in stone.”
A tall figure clad in armor stepped out, “I hear. What of the participants themselves?”
The young man from the Silver Blade glanced at the old woman, who nodded. “I accept.”
Barrett looked down at his forearms. The dagger had gone all the way through… tearing up muscles in both directions. It had even gone through the tendons. He couldn’t even grip his hands into fists. “Hmm. Agreed.”
“Then it is set.” The figure who had been in hiding declared, “One month from this day, there shall be a deathmatch in the arena between these two, with the lives of their respective masters on the line.”
The old woman brushed past Master Hykel, nearly dragging her apprentice behind her by the elbow, “Until then… Hykel.”
Alnherr waited for a few moments, “Umm, shouldn’t you bandage that or something?”
Barrett continued to look at his arms and sighed, “I used to have magic bandages.”
Master Hykel shook his head, “It wasn’t really a good look on you.” Then he tossed Barrett over his shoulder, “Let’s get that looked at.”
Buildings flew by, then a few minutes later Barrett found him with sewed up arms. The doctor shook his head and clicked his tongue, “That kind of wound is going to need months and some special medicine to heal. Don’t use your hands until then.”
“He’s one of the Immortal Berserker Sect,” Master Hykel pointed out.
The doctor shook his head, “You think I can’t tell that? I had to get out my special needles and I could already see the flesh wriggling around trying to heal.” Barrett frowned. He couldn’t see anything of the sort… but maybe he just hadn’t looked close enough. “That’s why I didn’t say his hands will never work again. I know you have access to the right sorts of medicine, and that this kid is mid second tier of your methods. Remember, several months, or you risk them never working again.”
“Oh.” Barrett looked at his wrists, “Thank you for the help.”
Master Hykel paid the doctor, and they left. “So… can you win with just your feet?”
“Probably. Maybe. I’m not sure. I don’t think he got to show off his full abilities.” Barrett sighed, “I should have crushed his wrists into powder.”
“Don’t worry about it. It was more appropriate to hold back, even against our enemies. Excessive self defense still carries with it some punishments.”
Alnherr shook his head, “I can’t imagine that old hag knew what would happen. Why would she risk the consequences?”
“It was likely clear Barrett was a competent disciple,” Master Hykel explained, “And since we’re… not on good terms, killing him or crippling him probably seemed like a good idea. Maybe she thought she could escape right away. The sect would have declared she went rogue but would have rewarded her.” Master Hykel shrugged, “Or maybe she just really liked that disciple, but I doubt it. I haven’t heard good things about her.” Master Hykel stroked his chin, “Also, what give you the right to call someone old?”
“Me?” Alnherr waved a hand in front of his face, revealing a smooth face unblemished by wrinkles, “I am but a young, handsome man.” Then he relaxed his control, and the wrinkles returned. “Besides, old hags are old hags, even if they aren’t particularly older than oneself.” Alnherr looked down at Barrett, “So, in the interest of you not having to fight with your feet… I think it’s time to try some suddenly extremely practical training.”