Barrett understood why merchants were necessary- someone needed to carry goods from place to place and expedite trade between people. However, he had no experience with that. His relation to money itself was also odd. He’d been a noble, not worrying about money at all- though his parents had trained him to avoid overspending. Then he’d been a poor servant worried about getting enough money to pay for bandages and other things he shouldn’t have had to pay for. Then he became a warrior and everything he’d spent money on changed- though Master Hykel covered everything Barrett still did work, even if it wasn’t the sort of work to bring in money.
Now he was getting paid several times as much as he would be working as a servant- assuming proper servant wages and not what he got from his cousin and aunt. Several times as much, plus room and board while traveling. Of course, there was also potentially danger involved, so the pay made sense. It was just that his cut of pay for his actual mission would be over a hundred times more than he could earn working as a servant for about the same period. On the other hand, his chances of dying was probably more than a hundred times higher than as a servant- at a normal place, anyway. Not that his chance of dying on the mission was high, unless he got careless or it was more difficult than anticipated.
Nora, Misa and Colin were nice enough, but they didn’t have much to talk about. There wasn’t much they had in common. Colin was interested in Barrett’s training, but Barrett remained vague about the details.
A week had passed with no signs of bandits, but that didn’t mean Barrett let his guard down. While he expected his presence to be enough to drive them away, carelessness was the easiest way to get in trouble.
Sadly, there was only so much he could do. A carriage was a big obvious target, while a few people skittering around in the woods were harder to spot. He only barely noticed one of them before the man stepped out from behind a tree, perhaps twenty meters away, drawing his bow. “Stop the carriage and leave it behind and you can keep your lives!” Barrett took note of around a dozen others, likewise with bows.
“I’ll do what I can to protect you…” Barrett whispered, “But I can’t guarantee your safety. You have to make the choice.” Barrett wasn’t worried about himself- even though the leader showed some traces of ki training, he couldn’t be more than first tier. However, with people on both sides of the road with bows, he couldn’t block for the entire family. The wagon also wouldn’t necessarily provide sufficient cover. Well-made longbows could pierce plate armor, and while the wood was much thicker there was no guarantee that it would protect them.
“We’ll walk away,” Nora, the mother, declared. Barrett could understand that. This bandit troupe was larger than expected, and all with bows. Likewise, her two children were also at risk. While the loss of a wagon full of goods would be a large blow to their family business, losing family members would be worse… and there would be no guarantee they did not lose both.
Barrett pulled up the wagon and climbed down from the driver’s seat along with Colin, who was also sitting out front. Colin frowned, but also knew this was not a good time to cause trouble. “You there! Guard! Leave your weapon.”
Barrett looked down at his axe and reluctantly set it down in the wagon. If it was an easy thing to leave behind his armor, they would have also asked for that. Of course, Barrett didn’t plan to actually let them keep his weapon, but he couldn’t have a long conversation to explain his plan without being at minimum very suspicious. It was best to get the family to safety first.
After they had all climbed out of the wagon and were walking down the road, perhaps twenty meters away, Barrett threw his arms out and grabbed the three family members together in front of him. The sound of metal on metal rang out as arrows bounced off of his armor, and a few more arrows whistled through the area they had been standing.
While longbows could penetrate plate armor, that was if the armor was made of normal steel and at a fairly close range. While the range might have been just close enough, Barrett didn’t wear armor that a common guard or soldier would wear. It didn’t look much more impressive, but it was many times stronger. Otherwise, it wouldn’t have been much better than his bare skin.
Barrett slowly reached down to his waist as more arrows hit him, “They’re moving around for a better angle. After the next volley, you need to run. I’ll hold them off.”
“But-” Misa opened her mouth to protest, but Barrett stopped her.
“Staying like this puts us all at more risk. Everyone will be safer if you run and I fight. Now, go!” Just as more arrows glanced off of his armor, Barrett picked up a fallen arrow in one hand and pulled out a lead ball from his belt in his other. He filled both with berserk energy and tossed them at two of the bandits.
The arrow was actually in Barrett’s right hand, so it could have been expected to be more effective. However, arrows weren’t designed to be thrown… nor did they fly straight when they exploded into pieces. Barrett grimaced. Only the arrow head remained intact, but it flew unstably and only grazed the ribs of the target it was aimed at. At least he knew the lead balls would hold. That one went straight through the chest of the archer it was aimed at.
“Raaaaagh!” Barrett yelled. Despite being a berserker, he didn’t really do much yelling. There wasn’t a point most of the time. However, it was a good distraction, and people didn’t necessarily think clearly when there was someone running toward them angrily. The leader, the one who had some ki training, aimed carefully at Barrett and let an arrow coated in ki fly. It was surprisingly well aimed, heading straight toward where the eye slits on Barrett’s helmet was going to be when the arrow arrived.
Unfortunately, his attack was too obvious… not only visibly, but the killing intent behind it was undisguised. Barrett ducked under it and used his arm to deflect it as it tried to change trajectories. That was the first arrow to actually scratch his armor, but it wasn’t deep. The other arrows were mostly aimed at Barrett still, and continued to skirt off his armor.
Barrett pulled out a handful of lead balls as he continued to charge forward. Soon enough, the archers would be running away from him… or dead. He preferred the second.