Barrett charged straight toward the leader of the bandits, while flinging lead balls at the other archers. It took them precious moments to realize they should dodge, such that half of the archers were dead before they moved to hide behind nearby trees. Barrett didn’t bother with them, because while he could have probably still done something with enough berserk energy, it was a waste. He could deal with them later.
The leader of the bandits didn’t immediately move behind cover- though he was only a step away. He kept firing arrows at Barrett, charged with energy. It didn’t have any particular properties, but Barrett wouldn’t have expected more from an independent cultivator. At least, not one that had to stoop to banditry.
Barrett didn’t have his axe with him, but it was likely easier to deflect the arrows barehanded. They were slow. Compared to the fifth tier archer he had seen, the arrows didn’t move at all. Not that Barrett could have done much against that particular archer, but one who might just make it to first tier didn’t worry him at all.
He didn’t need to deflect the arrows at all, but it was possible they would damage his armor. However, he didn’t want to lose any momentum dodging to the side, though it wouldn’t really set him back much.
The bandit leader turned to run when Barrett was just ten meters away. Unfortunately for him, it was already too late. Barrett didn’t even need to waste any lead balls attacking. He hadn’t even been going full speed… and when the leader started turning, Barrett sped up.
It was only a second later that he caught up with a burst of speed, dirt flying everywhere behind him, kicking the legs out from underneath the bandit leader. “Spare me!” he cried out as he turned over, realizing what happened.
Barrett shook his head, “You shot us in the back.” Then his foot came down on the bandit leader’s head, smashing it into the ground. There was a crunch as his skull cracked, but it still retained most of its shape because of the yielding ground. However, he stopped moving and went limp. Barrett gave him another stomp just to make sure then looked at the trees around him. The other archers hiding took off in an almost coordinated effort, but Barrett took out two more of them immediately. He threw yet another volley at the archers in one direction, then ran after the others. He didn’t know if they were part of a larger group. Maybe they were just following orders… but they had tried to kill a family that was cooperating. And him, but Barrett didn’t take that personally.
Colin stopped to wait for his mother and sister. He ran faster than them, and while it wasn’t very manly to leave them behind… slowing himself down wouldn’t have helped. He did look back to make sure they were okay. He even liked to think he would have gone back to help, if they needed it… but fortunately he hadn’t needed to make that decision. The bandits were all distracted by the guard they had hired charging at them. He hadn’t expected such loyalty for the pay. He’d save their lives by protecting them, then had them run ahead. With a dozen archers, there wasn’t much chance he had made it out.
Colin’s mother Nora and his sister Misa nearly collapsed to the ground, panting and wheezing. A few minutes of running as fast as they could was all that could be expected of them.
“Come on…” Colin went to support them taking each by an arm, “We need to keep moving… walking, at least. They might follow after us…” He looked up to see another figure running toward them. Not one of the bandits, but rather the figure of the guard they had hired. Colin wasn’t upset- he’d given them a chance to get away, fleeing himself after the fact was just logical. In fact, he was running fast enough he could have just left them behind… that was impressive, given the armor and the fact that he had a wounded leg. Actually, Colin had no idea how Barrett could run with such an injury. There was blood all over his leg, especially around the foot. “Are you alright? How far behind are they?” Colin had just caught his breath, but he prepared to get moving as quickly as he could.
Barrett slowed down as he neared the three, “Oh, it’s fine. They’re dead. I just hurried because I didn’t want the three of you to get too far, or run off the road.”
“What?” Colin was having trouble understanding what was said. It wasn’t that Barrett didn’t speak clearly- he wasn’t even panting or anything. “Did you say… dead?”
Barrett nodded, gesturing to the axe he had returned to its normal position and the bow in his hand… as well as the blood on him. “That’s right. Just gotta pick up their bows and stuff.” He pulled back on the string of the bow he had… and the shaft snapped. “Damn. I thought it would be slightly better than that. At least the string’s still good.” Barrett looked over the group, “I can bring the wagon here if you want to just rest. It’ll take a bit though.”
“Are they really dead?” Misa asked.
“I’ll go back with you,” Colin volunteered. “You two wait here.” Colin wanted to go alone, just in case it was a trap somehow- though if Barrett wanted to kill them, he could have done so as they slept or simply not blocked the arrows heading for them. Or now, since they obviously couldn’t outrun him. On the other hand, if the bandits really were dead he didn’t want Misa to see the bodies.
He soon found it to be a good decision. While some of them were just bleeding from the chest, the bandit leader’s head was all over the ground, and not a pretty sight. “I think…” Colin said cautiously, “We might not be paying you enough.”
“You aren’t.” Barrett nodded, “But you can’t afford what I should actually charge. So just help me get their bow, armor, boots… and help to sell them. Then we can call it even.”