The two men looked at Laurence. He was in a matte grey room, strapped to a chair and had been there for the last two hours. The Bobbies had quickly realised that even the Saint tier Break Talismans did not last as long as they hoped, so they had bound him with a talisman that was Heaven ranked. He could not hear them talk, but every so often they would look at him, talk about something and then turn away. It was an odd experience for him, as even his truesense could not permeate the walls and glass that separated him from the men. He assumed the room was made by the Hephaistia clan before their bizarre disappearance, which was why it rendered him devoid of ability. He simply could not imagine a way that an array could do the same thing.
Eventually the two men came into the room itself and stared at him. The shorter of the two, a balding man with a stern face, approached Laurence. He pulled up a chair and looked the boy in the eye. “Please state your power level, name, and family line for the record”. As the man spoke, an array beneath them crackled into life.
So the arrays work in the room. I wonder why. Laurence had very little time to consider the question before they would get suspicious, so he answered calmly and in a very measured way, “My rank is Saint, my name is Laurence Absolution, and I am of the lineage of Angus and Maris Absolution”.
The man blinked. He said nothing, but obviously recognised the names that had been given. Unlike everyone else who recognised the name of Laurence’s father, the man did not retreat in any way. He just sat, assessing the possibilities and deciding on the correct path of approach. “You are Law the Young, correct?” He said, after three minutes of silence.
“That’s what you call me. I’m not sure why though. I mean it’s accurate, but my name is just Law, or Laurence”.
“I don’t know either, but I do know we have thirteen warrants for your arrest due to petty theft and larceny. We also now have ten men in the infirmary because of you. Do you have anything to say about that?”
Laurence frowned, “Well, I don’t deny the theft charges, they were my way of earning money to keep living in the city. As for the men in your infirmary, there are no wounds there that won’t heal. I made sure of that when I was breaking my way out”.
“You want me to believe that you went through my men and purposefully incapacitated them without killing them?” This was simply too much for the man to believe. He understood that there were monstrous children in the world, but to intentionally only injure people in places that would heal quickly was beyond what he could deal with.
“No. I want you to believe that with my strength, all of your men surviving should have been impossible, even with the amount of talismans you threw at me”. Laurence was deadpan, his face like stone. “I can also fix them if you don’t have any of my clansmen around. I’m not exactly proficient with the Book of Life, but if you get me a few herbs that I can name for you, I can heal them in a way that means they will be fine within two weeks, no matter how bad the injury. Does that sound agreeable?”
The balding man stood up, with a worrisome look on his face. “End recording,” he said, before exiting the room. The other man who had been watching the interview quickly took him aside and they began arguing about something. While they argued, Laurence thought over the array that he had seen the man use, the one that had dissipated the moment he had told it to stop recording. It was not that different to the ones he was used to making, he just could not see where the battery was located. Generally speaking, an array would be inscribed on a battery to power it, and then if the array was required to be in a separate place to the battery, you would use an array marker to tether the array to a point far away. This array seemed to not work with that rule though. The more Laurence thought about it, the less the array made sense. The room’s walls and floor were perfectly smooth, there weren’t streams of mana that he could see defining the array. It was like the array was ignoring some of the rules that Laurence had learned about arrays.
The bald man came back, looking rather angry with someone. Laurence had not really paid any attention to the man as he was far too interested in working out how the array worked, than the outcome of what they decided to do about him.
“Law, we have spoken in great detail,” the man grumbled. “We have decided that we will release you, as long as you take the time to heal the members of my squad that you injured. We will put out word removing you from the wanted list, but that is on the proviso that you stay out of trouble”. He peeled the piece of paper that made up the talisman off Laurence’s chest and it immediately decayed before their eyes. The man pulled Laurence onto his feet before guiding him through the door. “You can go once you heal the people downstairs”.
As Laurence left the room, he noticed long streams of mana covering the outside of the room he was in. His eyes opened wide as he came to a realisation. So that’s how they did it! He realised that the reason why the array worked was because the whole room was a battery for an array, which meant that despite its strange capability to shut down mana inside it, the array could still activate.
With his curiosity satiated for the moment, the boy followed his captors down to the infirmary and began working. He began by getting the herbs needed for a malmas tincture, then mixed a batch up and moved on to more difficult remedies. The big issue for him was that while none of the wounds were life threatening, there were several people with bones that were pulverised beyond repair. He could stimulate bone growth with ease, but the challenge was getting it to set right. As it stood, the bones would regrow, but they likely would not connect, and there would be shards of bone shrapnel in the wounds of every single person who had been heavily injured.
Laurence knew that he had to heal these people well, as they could become valuable allies to him in future if he played his cards right.
He grabbed his bag and pulled a few Earth metals out, true forming them into pairs of rings. When he had six pairs, he began inscribing them with a fine blade of mana. Each line of the inscription was perfectly straight, and each glyph that was formed was perfect in shape, thanks to hours of practice that Laurence had made over the last year and a half. Ten minutes later he had six sets of identical steel rings, with a thin black line twisting round the shining metal.
Taking the rings to the balding man he handed him them and said, “These are Bone setting rings, I found them on my journey up Babel. I never really got any use out of them, and they are only of peak Earth rank, so I don’t mind giving them to you. If a person channels mana into them then the rings will allow the bones of the person wearing them to set properly, no matter how badly they are damaged. The rings will change size if you will it, and can be used on any bone in the human body”. He paused, realising something for the first time. “They could likely also be used on corpses to make them look pristine when sending deceased members back to their families. I know that in the army, that can be important”.
For the first time since the two people met, the balding man looked shocked. These rings were an incredible gift, even if they were only of Earth ranking. “Thank… thank you. For a notorious thief, you are not what I expected”.
“You aren’t bad either. I didn’t know what to expect coming in here, but I’m pleasantly surprised as I leave”.
“You really aren’t like those other gang kids, are you? You speak like an adult sometimes, and have focus that no normal child has”.
“Huh. I just try to live by what my daddy taught me. He always says that I should finish what I started, because giving up halfway is a crime to the soul. It’s why no matter what I do, I put my whole being into it”.
“Your father is a wise man”. The balding man gave Laurence a soft smile. “My name is Bertrand Mallory, and if you ever need my help for something, just ask for the captain by that name. I will see what I can do to lend a hand”.
An hour later, Laurence was returning to the gang headquarters in Spring Street. Despite everything that happened, he made a healthy habit of not taking the same route back to the base, often doubling back to make sure no one was following him. Eventually he ended up in an area, just three streets away from the base, called the promenade. The promenade was littered with statues in various states of disfigurement and decay, with ivy covering ones further back in the street to the point of near complete obscurity. This was one of Laurence’s favourite places in the entirety of Spirit, there were so many unanswered questions here.
To Laurence, each statue represented a question, not just ‘what were you’, or ‘was that really what you looked like?’. Instead, he wondered why there were statues of these people, and what the statues represented to the people who made them.
He would walk through the promenade, admiring as he strolled, but he always stopped at a single statue. It was obviously the newest statue there, and consisted of a man and a woman, in each other’s arms. The man was tall and strong, wearing some sort of ceremonial gear, perhaps of an army. The woman was the reverse. It was not to say that she did not look strong, but rather that she was petite, graceful and lithe. He was the earth, and she was the sky to the world that was this statue. The heroic aura of the two together made Laurence want to understand the statue more than ever.
Every time the boy stared at the statue, he would feel a flash of recognition. The flash would quickly pass, but it left a yearning in him that he could not shift. He wanted to know who these people really were. There was a plaque below the statue with the words “Creole and Grace, The lady hath no greater design”. but the phrase meant nothing to Laurence. He knew neither of them from stories, and even their names were comparatively uncommon. In the end, he sighed and moved on. Perhaps one day he would meet Luke again, and he could ask him.
In the end, he could do nothing about these statues without more information, and so decided to head home. It took him ten more minutes, just to make sure he was not followed, before he reached one of the several entrances to the gang tunnels. Knocking on the door in an odd pattern, Laurence expected to wait for a minute or so before he was vetted and let in, but instead the eye slot slid open and a pair of steel-blue eyes peeked out.
Looking Laurence over once, the door creaked into life as it too slid open. Inside the door stood Jim, wearing a grin so wide his mouth seemed to cut his head in half. The older boy ushered Laurence inside, then closed the door quietly. The members of Spring Street were always conscientious about the location of their base, as they had a lot of powerful rivals who would enjoy ransacking their home ground, if given the chance.
“Welcome back! How did you get out? I saw the poster of yours in the main hall after word of you being caught spread around. Thirteen counts of larceny is not something people usually walk away from,” Jim said, spitting each sentence out as soon as the previous finished. “Your reward was up to 20 gold shards!”
“Wow!” Laurence said. “What’s the rank of the reward then?”
“Sixth highest in gang history. Though you’re only behind the Masked Man in current gang members”.
“I overtook Orwell?” Laurence’s eyes went wide and his jaw dropped. Earlier that day, he had only been tenth on the list of current members. Now only the mysterious leader of the Spring Street Bashers was ahead of him in value. The Masked Man was a character that only Orwell and Nae had actually met. He was a reclusive master thief who used Spring Street as his base of operations. Supposedly if a gang member got enough merits then they would be allowed to meet the leader, but in all other situations he was only ever seen by the Night and Day Masters of the gang.
Laurence could not help but feel both good and bad about his bounty. For one, the bounty was now moot; thanks to his healing of Bertrand’s men, he was no longer wanted, and so no longer had a price on his head. For another, he knew what his perceived worth was. Unfortunately he was also slightly ashamed. The fact that he was wanted for thirteen crimes meant that he had been identified for all thirteen. There was a saying that went around the gang every so often; the best thief is one that no one has ever heard of. Laurence was annoyed that in the hundred plus missions in the last six months at least a tenth of them he had been discovered over. It was embarrassing.
He decided not to dwell on the embarrassment and instead went to the mess hall to celebrate his release. He sat with his friends and gossipped about the situation he had gotten in. When people heard that he had escaped by making himself indispensible to the Bobbies, people throughout the hall were stunned by the boy. Every so often he would do something that made it seem like he was just another member of the gang, but then occasionally he would do something that would blow their expectations out of the water. Laurence was a true enigma to the gang.
Across the room, Damien stared at Laurence’s back. The man had long since healed from the wounds he had received from the boy, but he had not healed his hatred. The better Laurence did, the more he despised him, despite the fact that he had no one to blame but himself for his current predicament. After Laurence had defeated him, his place within the gang had dropped considerably. He still had sway over a large amount of the members, but Laurence stood in their eyes as a paragon of strength, while he was a relic of the past. He had spent four whole months dealing with the stares of the people in the gang, taunting him, tormenting him about the fact that he simply was not as strong as a nine year old. He had even punched one of his detractors, nearly killing the boy in question, but it did not ease up. He was considered emotionally weak, and that he could not allow.
Over the four months that he had been at full strength, he had followed Laurence’s team and spent his time reporting where they would show up, often allowing them to be caught with their trousers down by a few Bobbies. When that failed to work, he spent his time trying to garner support from the other people who had been crossed by Laurence, but no one else really hated him. Everyone else respected his strength. Everyone else respected his skill. It made Damien sick to hear it.
After days of deliberation about what he was going to do, he saw his last plan had not only failed, but made Laurence have more of a name for himself than before. He growled in anger at the sight, crushing the mug in his hand. Brushing off the splinters than were now slightly embedded in his skin, he stood up and walked out of the mess hall. Desperate times called for desperate measures.