As he walked towards the soldiers of the Church of Ristos surrounding the old man, Barrett pondered his options. Upon infusing himself into the situation, Barrett didn’t know what he was going to do… but he knew he would do it with confidence. “What’s happening here?” Barrett asked loudly. He hadn’t had as much practice projecting his voice with just his body as with energy, so it came out a bit louder than intended, instead of just travelling a long distance… but the effect was still good. It got the attention of the soldiers.
“Nothing that concerns you, mage,” said a warrior leading the group of soldiers without turning to see Barrett. His assumption wasn’t strange- Barrett projected the aura of a second tier mage. In fact, he was a second tier mage. That just wasn’t all he was.
“Really?” Barrett’s voice raised a bit more, “Because I was going to call the guards to arrest your group of street thugs.” So far, attempting to sway public opinion had rarely ever improved his circumstances, but if he was just going to kill people he could have already done that. Barrett continued walking toward the group.
At his continued interference the leader of the group turned around, “We are not street thugs, we are enforcers of the Church of Ristos. Now back away.”
“So you admit the Church of Ristos acts like a group of thugs and unlawfully attacks people in the street,” at this point, no one within a few blocks could even pretend to ignore Barrett’s voice. Barrett could have been louder, but the first eardrums he would have broken would be innocent civilians standing around and not that of the warriors.
“All of our actions are within the laws of the city-”
“So you admit to bribing the city guards too?” Barrett was only two steps from the group.
At that point the captain stepped forward and drew his sword, “Men, seize the blasphemer. I’ll handle this one.”
As the remaining handful of soldiers stepped towards the old man pressed up against the wall, Barrett moved. He completely slipped past the captain and into the middle of the other soldiers, reaching the old man before they did and grabbing him under the armpits. Then he leaped into the air, getting about three meters into the air- halfway to the height of the roof of the nearest building, followed up with tossing the old man the rest of the way from the height of his jump. There were some tricks he used to reduce the strain on the man’s body, but he still couldn’t safely do it all in one move. Overall, Barrett was in the air for a second and a half, just long enough for the soldiers to start drawing their weapons- or to point their spears at him. As he fell, he twisted his body to avoid the spears reached out to stab at him. “Violence in the open streets! How barbaric!” Barrett wondered if the windows would give out before people’s eardrums, but he had no desire to find out at the exact moment, so his voice remained at its previous volume.
“Get him!” the captain shouted. As he did so, he moved in to attack Barrett at the same time as the others.
Barrett grabbed the nearest soldier, holding out the soldier’s arm to block an incoming spear. It was completely unnecessary, as he could have dodged out of the way… or had the soldier stabbed straight in the gut. However, he had a different idea. “Be careful with those weapons!” Of course, they didn’t stop attacking, so he next directed another soldier’s leg into the path of the captain’s sword, “Well, fine then. Don’t blame me when the Church of Ristos abandons you after you get crippled.”
The soldiers were only first and second tier, with the captain being at the peak of second tier. Against a second tier mage they would have had no trouble… is what they likely thought. However, two of their members had been severely wounded in an instant. One soldier backed away, but one continued to attack with the captain. Barrett glanced around to make sure Wilt had safely left the scene, then directed the captain’s face into the tip of the spear of the final soldier- at its farthest point, so the spear didn’t go into his brain. At that point the captain started screaming incoherently and Barrett heard the footsteps of more soldiers coming a couple streets over. He wasn’t sure if the Church of Ristos had actually successfully bribed all of the guards, but he didn’t want to stick around to find out. He jumped up onto the roof where the old man was gripping onto a chimney.
“Time to go,” Barrett said, grabbing the man by the waist and jumping from roof to roof- relatively short jumps- until there were a few solid rows of buildings between them and the coming soldiers. Barrett then jumped down to the ground, decelerating the man by holding him above his head when he hit the ground, allowing a certain amount of force to push his arms down until they nearly reached the ground below. The actual impact to the man would likely be less than throwing him up onto the roof, but it was certainly more disorienting. “Be careful, alright?” Barrett held onto the man until he stood on his own two feet. “They might remember you. I know some people who can hide you if you need it.”
“I- no, I’ll be alright.” It took the old man a moment to remember he could speak. “I’ll be leaving the city.”
“Why were they after you?”
“Ah,” the old man pulled a paper out of the rucksack he had slung over his shoulder, “I was distributing these. A simple comparison of how much money the Church of Ristos takes in versus their charity. Half of the money goes to large buildings and the rest goes to priests and soldiers. Only a few percent actually goes to handouts.” The old man then pulled out another flyer, “This should be compared to an official report of the Church of Egdas, who preach self-sufficiency as a primary tenant. Charity is not considered a primary virtue for them, yet they give approximately three parts in twenty of their earnings- primarily from crafts and services rather than donations- towards work-education programs. It’s the hypocrisy that’s the problem…” he shook his head, “Not that I’d support a church of greed, but at least they’d be honest if that’s what they said. Unfortunately, nobody cares, and enough of the guard is bribed…” The man shook his head, “I don’t speak loudly so I thought I would go unnoticed as I left these, before I moved to another city… but I suppose now I’ll be leaving town sooner.”
“Perhaps your words have more impact than you thought, then.” Barrett looked at the pages, “Numbers can make people feel things are real. How accurate is this?”
“Not perfectly, but it should be within a few percent in each area…”
“They really spend that much on soldiers huh… that must be a lot of cultivators. Maybe a hundred. As for you leaving town… they might end up with men watching the gates. I’ll give you a contact to help with that.” After arranging things with the old man, Barrett waited. Once he was sure the watcher didn’t follow the man, he walked along the streets. If he stayed too long the guards might find him, if they were willing to go out in force. He still needed to deliver the rice and flour- whose weight had not been good for the roofs he stepped on. Before that, however… he stepped around a corner, faking the sounds of fading footsteps.
As the watcher came around the corner behind him, he grabbed them by their face and pressed the back of their head up against the wall. Their legs flopped against the wall as he held them off the ground.
Barrett narrowed his eyes and spoke sternly, “You know a lot of watchers? Scouts, spies, whatever you call yourselves?”
“I’ll never give them up!” the man he was holding onto still had free arms, and stabbed out with a dagger towards Barrett’s eye. If the killing intent hadn’t been so obvious, his attack might have done something. The man wasn’t exactly weak, and his previously well concealed energy expertly coated the dagger and increased its sharpness. In fact, Barrett got a tiny nick on his eye even after he moved a considerable portion of toughness to it.
Barrett pressed harder on the man’s face, hard enough the man had to use his energy to keep his skull from being crushed. “Don’t worry. I won’t ask who they are. In fact, I’ll do them all a favor. You tell them not to even try following me, and I won’t crush any of their skulls. You can tell that to your friend with the bump on his head too.”
“What fr-” the man started to speak as Barrett’s left hand whipped out, tossing one of the lead balls he still had off onto a distant rooftop. At that distance it wasn’t enough to kill the other watcher, but Barrett’s arm moved in such a way as to hide the attack until the last moment. It was difficult to track the movement of a tiny sphere coming directly towards you.
“As I was saying, you can talk to everyone you know and save their lives.” Barrett’s grip tightened and his pressure against the wall increased, forcing the man to desperately defend with his energy… before his control broke. Barrett loosened his grip at just the right moment to not crush the man’s skull. “You understand?”
The man tried to nod, then spoke, “Yes. I do.”
“Great,” Barrett smiled and dropped the man who barely kept to his feet. “Remember to tell everyone, because the next person who follows me dies.” Then Barrett walked towards his actual destination, after doing a few loops to make sure no one else was after him.