A few dozen meters was not a long distance. On the surface, Barrett could move that distance within a single second. In the Metal Sea, he was just about at the limits of his senses to notice the grandmaster in the center. Moving with the weight of a mountain pressing down on him was quite a bit tougher, not to mention moving through a fluid medium that resisted his every motion. The veritable forest of undersea plants didn’t help either.
Being just on the edge, it wasn’t too late to turn around and leave. The grandmasters of the Southern Metal Sea could deal with him, though it would likely be more difficult. However, just because it was difficult to attack a foe inside their own defensive domain didn’t mean they couldn’t be beaten. While those who could control a large area were extremely dangerous as part of a group, they were conversely less effective alone. Making use of their abilities to control a large area when only a small space was needed was a tiring effort. Of course, that didn’t mean they would be weak. Instead of charging in directly, Barrett motioned for Nilima to circle around. He thought he managed to communicate the question- ‘Is there just him?’
It was one thing to seek out a fight with a grandmaster, but quite another to fight two. Just because they were told he was alone didn’t mean the initial assessment was correct, or had remained true. Barrett circled around the other direction from Nilima, staying ahead of the moving undersea forest. He supposed that on a proper scale, it was just a grove… but it certainly felt much larger because of the one controlling it. Barrett couldn’t pick up that many details, but he felt a strong middle seventh tier aura suffusing from the center. Barrett felt a tendril of mana reaching out towards him to scrutinize him in return. He let it pick up surface level information, but at best his opponent would know he was a Pure Body Temperer. They could make some assumptions about his strength related to how he arrived deep in the sea, but uncertainty would be Barrett’s ally.
With the assessment done, the forest reached out to grab Barrett in a sudden lunge. Having detected no other enemies, Barrett allowed it to happen- though he certainly wasn’t going to let it be easy.
He sliced through a dozen stalks of kelp as they came for him, a slicing sound echoing dully through his head, muffled by the sea. However, no matter how many stalks he cut there were always more- as the entire mass surged forward over him. They wrapped around his arms and legs and torso, grabbing and twisting. They tried to break his arms, to twist them out of place, to crush his body… but all they accomplished was the pulling. Barrett’s arms were indeed twisted behind his back but his body was flexible such that- if he allowed it- he could bend in any direction. That was low tier Pure Body Tempering, bending joints the way they weren’t supposed to go.
Barrett’s spear was twisted out of his grip as he was pulled in, leaving him unarmed. Then, briefly, Barrett found himself in an open section of the sea- before the mouth of a plant bit down on him. Very few plants had mouths, but Barrett had seen some in the jungles of Driasal that were close enough. This was very similar- of a larger size than the typical fare, but that was the case for some plants in the forest as well. He’d been inside a pitcher plant that was large enough to swim about slightly. The great mouth snapped down around Barrett and at the same time most of the rest of the plants pulled away, leaving Barrett with just a few bulbous algaes and a seemingly uncountable number of blades on the inside of the ‘mouth’.
That was one difference the metal sea certainly had. He supposed it made sense- at a large enough size, a trap plant couldn’t prevent a creature from breaking its way out. Thus, it had to be injured to weaken it. The mouth quickly squeezed flat to crush around Barrett like an iron maiden.
The teeth tried to puncture through his armor… but despite their sharpness they found it difficult to puncture through the living metal. The attack didn’t seem to be finished yet. As it continued to squeeze, Barrett sensed the presence of something more mixed in with the mercury- released from the algae as they were popped by the plant. Poisons or acid, maybe. However, while in the metal sea Barrett’s armor was always sealed completely, so it couldn’t get inside to him. Poisons of course wouldn’t affect metal, and acids tailored to dissolve flesh- even metal flesh- wouldn’t necessarily have any effect on living metal. Barrett didn’t plant to just sit still forever and fine out, though.
He twisted and turned, snapping the teeth of the plant as he did so. He managed to get one right at the base and tried to use it to carve out of the mouth. Unfortunately, it was quite tough on the inside- as if it didn’t want to be torn apart by the things it was eating. Barrett couldn’t get a good angle to stab into it… but what did a proper angle matter, anyway? He transitioned all of his force into his arm anyway, finally piercing into the mouth just slightly. Once he had punctured it, it was easier to slice along inside it. The plant likely didn’t feel any pain, so it didn’t react. Presumably the controller could tell what was happening inside. In that case, he at least wanted Barrett to tire himself out escaping.
Soon enough, Barrett had carved a hole he could pry open and pull himself out of. He was immediately assaulted by more plants, some of which had leaves sharper than the teeth of the crushing trap. However, Barrett had expected them- and he was close enough to his destination to let on a few tricks he had.
Barrett hadn’t completely lost all view of what was happening outside while he was contained. After all, his spear had been outside- and Nilima as well. The stone pits she carried on her told him more than just her location.
Nilima found herself diving into a forest of plants to go save Barrett. In fact, such a straightforward path would have been her preferred method- but it was nice to have someone to blame foolhardy tactics on. Not that she was careless with what she was doing. She kept a nice smooth bubble of energy around herself that was difficult to latch onto, not allowing any of the grasping plants leverage. She moved through the plants, not towards Barrett but towards the center- more or less.
Barrett could drag himself out of whatever mess he was in, but he would just end up in another tight spot if the controller of the plants was still alive. Wrestling plants wasn’t her idea of fun anyway, so she took every opportunity to slip bits of energy into seemingly important parts of the mass as she slipped past. Then… pop! Even cultivators were vulnerable in their squishy insides- plants didn’t have such specific training. These particular plants probably couldn’t, because they had to have been gathered from this sea, not brought by the cultivator controlling them.
Even as she destroyed masses of plants that went limp more replaced them. They got in her way and tried to pull her every which way, and it was starting to become somewhat troublesome. Dealing with each and every plant was a lot of work… and Nilima shrugged her shoulders as she changed tactics.
Normally she defended herself with a coating of gentle energy backed up by the power of berserk energy. It was a defense that was yielding where it needed to be, and tough where it needed to be. She was even used to resisting pressure from all around- so the addition of some plants wasn’t a big deal. However, they were still a pain. After a moment of consideration, Nilima flipped her defenses inside out.
Berserk energy wasn’t of any use in defense- if she completely coated herself in berserk energy and was cut by a sword, she would probably die. The sword itself might break shortly afterwards, but that wasn’t much use. However, as it surrounded her barrier of gentle energy… all the surrounding plants shriveled and died as they came into contact with it. They still reached the inner barrier, but she deflected their force long enough for them to start disintegrating. Nilima remembered Barrett complaining about having to replace his weapons and armor even when he was just second and third tier- and he’d had good steel. While Barrett’s issues were because of constant exposure, there was a whole realm of difference between him then and her current sixth tier berserk energy. It hungrily ate anything around it in short order, if she let it. And some people actually let that stuff inhabit their body directly. Though she’d inadvertently let that happen occasionally, she kept it more contained. It still forced her body to toughen up though.
Her target was near- in the center of the mass was a tight barrier of plants surrounding the controller of everything. He seemed quite capable of controlling two sections at once, targeting both Barrett and Nilima… but how would he do with defending himself at the same time? Her attacks were very tricky to deal with, and all she had to do was slip just enough past his defenses to explode him from the inside- or at least pop a few blood vessels in his brain. Even if he could handle it, it wouldn’t be easy. Nilima’s hand went down to the whip at her side, thinking of what different angles she might attack from all at once.