When Barrett found out there was a recruitment event happening in Crilen, he couldn’t help but attend. He obviously wasn’t planning to join up with anyone, but he wanted to see what it was like. He’d only seen the one in Triridge- and once he’d learned more, he realized they didn’t have much going for them.
Unlike that time, Barrett was confident he could pass any tests that were posed. The exception might be magic tests, but he wasn’t particularly old so being a first tier magic user wasn’t bad.
The question was… if he had to already be a cultivator to pass the tests, what was the point? He had wondered that before, and he still wondered it. Master Hykel had just required him to show determination to join. Beyond that, he hadn’t cared about Barrett’s qualifications. Training him was the job of a master, after all. Of course, the Immortal Berserker Style did come with the slight problem of a death rate of about fifty percent within the first tier.
Barrett went around to observe. Warrior groups still required a strong and healthy body… but that meant they couldn’t start training most candidates until they were already almost Barrett’s age. If Barrett had waited until he finished growing, he wouldn’t have even started training until his current age, or maybe even later. He was still growing a bit taller, but he wasn’t sure if he would have done so naturally.
Barrett did notice a few differences, however. There was one school of archers that had an archery test- but they not only allowed candidates and unlimited number of shots, but one of the masters there even corrected the posture and technique of the candidates. It didn’t seem like accuracy was the most important feature either, because Barrett saw several of those with higher hit rates were rejected. When he came back later in the day, he saw one young woman who had been there earlier still making attempts, and finally landed a single shot on the admittedly rather far target. However, the master looked quite happy to accept her.
The magic users were actually less varied than in the area near Triridge… but that made sense. All of those in the area naturally had more affinity for metal and earth. There was one general elementalist school recruiting, but the rest were nearly entirely focused on metal. Whether they styled themselves more as warriors, energy cultivators, or mages the general feeling behind them was about the same as the Leipeka and Bachon clans.
About halfway through the first day, Barrett spotted Kail. He was in the middle of a test for a warrior faction. He passed the tests admirably and the recruiters initially looked quite pleased… but then the tone of everything changed and he was sent away with a dejected look on his face. As he moved around to another group, Barrett listened in to what was being said.
One kindly looking older master shook his head, “I’m sorry. We can’t afford to take in a survivor of the Anakoni clan… and it is unlikely anyone else can either. You might try the Scions of Steel… but I can’t promise they will react differently. However, even if they reject you they won’t cause trouble for you. I can’t say the same for everyone.”
Kail nodded, “I understand.”
As predicted, the Scions of Steel also didn’t accept Kail once he told them who he was, though they looked somewhat regretful. “May you have luck on your endeavors.”
Kail sighed and walked away… right into Barrett. That wasn’t an accident on Barrett’s part, though he had somewhat expected him to realize someone was in front of him and stop. “Oh! Sorry.” Kail stepped back and apologized, then turned to leave without even really looking at Barrett.
“In a hurry to leave?” Barrett asked, “Where will you go? It doesn’t seem like a member of the Anakoni clan is welcome anywhere.”
Kail turned to Barrett, really seeing him for the first time. “It’s you again?” he sighed, “You heard that, did you? That’s right. It’s better for me to not tell anyone… but I can’t avoid telling a group I join, can I? That would be dishonest, cowardly… and a shame to my clan name. Not that there are many of us left.”
Barrett nodded, “I understand. None of my family is left. No real family anyway.”
“I see…” Kail nodded sadly. “An unfortunate commonality between us. Now, if you will excuse me… I need to plan a trip to another city, somehow.”
Barrett held out a hand to stop him from walking away, “Why not ask for my help?”
“You… I… we don’t know each other at all, and you have already helped me. I can’t take advantage…”
“If you don’t rely on others for things you need and can’t do yourself… then you can’t go far. What do you really need.”
“I need… I need to survive until I get somewhere else. I can find work and survive… and maybe join a cultivator group later.” Kail took a deep breath, “Will you help me? My coins are insufficient to pay for safe transport, and I can’t necessarily wait around for someone who will accept me as a guard.”
“Sure,” Barrett grinned, his teeth showing between his bandages, “I can bring you to any city around, and make sure you arrive safe and healthy. I’m not busy anyway.”
“You… will come with me yourself? That’s more than I can ask… no, thank you. I appreciate it.” Kail bowed his head, “If I can just leave the area of the Macaio clan’s influence…”
“You’ll do what, exactly?” a man spoke up as he approached, “Beg on the streets? Better that we take care of you now.” He gestured to two others nearby, who moved to surround him. “Just give up and your death will be painless.”
Barrett stepped next to Kail, into the encirclement. “Do you really plan to attack in public?”
“Who are you, outsider? This is none of your business. Just leave.”
“It’s my business if I want it to be. There’s no point in being in a righteous sect if I don’t do anything when something happens right before my eyes.” Barrett stood up tall, projecting a menacing aura- and letting it be clear he was a third tier energy cultivator. The two guards were as well, but the man in front of him was just second tier. “If you lay a single finger on this young man, I will make sure you lose it. Everyone around will be able to attest that you attacked first… But you’ll be down at least a finger anyway, so you’ll lose out even if everyone lies to the guards.” Barrett had raised his voice for everyone around to hear, though many people were looking away trying to pretend they weren’t watching and listening.
“Hmph. You can’t stop us from our goal with empty threats. Men!”
Barrett sighed internally. He hoped the guards weren’t corrupt or Kail could run quickly.