The city of Crilen appeared much less impressive to Barrett since he had been to Stredo. Anything that didn’t take up the entire horizon was rather disappointing. In size, it was comparable to Durham. That made it a large city, but it was still populated for the most part by regular people. That said, Barrett hadn’t known of any second tier cultivators or even known they existed while in Durham, but Crilen had first tier cultivators standing guard at the gates. That was nothing compared the the third tier or higher guards in Stredo, but it at least marked it as a place that actually trained cultivators. To survive around the Metal Sea, it was necessary.
Barrett pulled the bandages away from his face to let the guards check him. They immediately waved him through, but there was no reason they shouldn’t have. He wasn’t one of the locals, and thus any bounties would be obviously different from him. The Silver Blade might have a bounty out on him, but that would be a black market bounty- and while Crilen wasn’t exactly a beacon of righteousness, they were still a real, functional city. They couldn’t openly allow bounties where there was no real crime involved. That was the same as allowing murder and kidnapping as long as someone put up a flyer and handed out money.
As for why he even wore bandages… Barrett preferred not to show a scarred face to everyone. Perhaps that was somewhat vain, but that was the way things were. While his wounds would heal up in a day or two, scars took longer to heal… and weeks of traveling through an area where his skin was constantly being corroded led to his face being an awful mess of scars. Everywhere else, too, but his clothes generally covered most of the rest of him.
The first thing that Barrett wanted was something good to eat. Travel rations might have filled him up, but their taste left much to be desired. His magic bag didn’t have the properties to preserve food, and he couldn’t cook anyway. The best he did was roasting meat. He didn’t burn it or leave it undercooked, but it wasn’t going to be the same as carefully prepared food. He could tolerate bland food for a time, but there was no reason to live solely on it.
He entered the market and looked around. Later he would find an inn or a restaurant, but for now anything already prepared would be good. The market wasn’t that different from what he would expect elsewhere. Besides people with metallic skin tones and different materials making up everything, it was the same. People bought and sold clothes, food, and whatever else they needed. There were also pickpockets.
Barrett kept himself aware of people passing by. As the owner of a magic bag, he had more to lose if he was oblivious to his surroundings. Such awareness also came with training for combat and detecting ambushes. However, not everyone was as prepared. Barrett grabbed the arm of a young man who was walking past, “That coin purse isn’t yours, kid.”
“It’s just a rich kid!” The young teen tried to wrench himself away… but couldn’t even cause Barrett’s arm to move slightly.
“People having money doesn’t mean it’s alright to steal from them. Besides, he’s down on his luck. That purse is more coppers and silvers than gold, and his fancy clothes are rags.” Barrett easily plucked the coin purse in question out of the pickpocket’s hand. “I suggest you try another profession. Maybe chef or if you have the bravery, a swashbuckler of some kind. Honest work lasts longer.”
The kid just glared at Barrett when he let him go and slunk off into the crowd. Barrett doubted a single instance would make him give up, but he wasn’t willing to turn the kid in to get a hand cut off. Then he would just be stuck being a one-handed pickpocket. The people around had seen the confrontation anyway, so they would be wary of that particular kid.
Barrett moved toward the ‘rich kid’. His clothes had definitely seen better days. “Here. This is yours.” Barrett tossed the coin purse to him when he turned to look. The rich kid was about the same age as the pickpocket- perhaps thirteen or fourteen. He felt around at his belt to realize that his coin purse was indeed gone- or rather, the one in his hand was the one that had been at his waist.
“Thank you, sir.” The young man bowed. “I am not sure what would have happened to me without this.”
“You’re welcome. Try to keep a better watch on your things.”
The young man clutched the purse tightly. “I will.”
Barrett looked over the young man carefully. He was a native of the metal sea- with a golden-metallic skin to show for it. “What’s a cultivator like you doing in such poor straits? You should at least be able to get a job with the city guard.” Barrett could tell he had genuinely stepped into the first tier, which was a decent accomplishment at his age. Barrett had done the same, so he knew how hard it was.
“I… may have to.” The young man looked away.
“What’s your name?”
“Kail…” the young man said shortly.
“I’m Barrett.” Barrett looked over Kail, recognizing feelings he’d once had. Feelings of hopelessness and weakness. “What do you train in?”
“I train in the Ana- I train in metal energy and body strength. I’d be classified as a warrior… I guess.”
“I’m a warrior too… in case you couldn’t tell.” Barrett had sizable but not overly large muscles, but he definitely radiated internal energy at least a little bit. Berserk energy wasn’t exactly subtle. “I train in bodily strength and toughness, plus berserk energy.”
“Oh.” Kail looked away, seemingly unhappy with the conversation.
Barrett shook his head. If the young man didn’t want to talk, he couldn’t make him. “I wish you luck with your future.”