Chapter 16:

Enforced Partnership - Part 2

Gloudhaus


The two girls had left the department by now, and to the foreigner walking around, it was obvious that something different was happening. For some reason, the streets were now filled with movement moving down the city.

Very few cars still, but a lot of pedestrians moving away from their offices and businesses and towards the harbor, which was as packed as before. It wasn’t hard to understand why when considering the abysmal number of food-related facilities around here, but still...

The idea was making Anna’s belly hurl quietly, for now.

“Hey, shorty…” She called before they both could head further away from the area.

“My name is Karim. I have to spell it to you?”

“Nay, but that’s beyond the point… Let’s get some grub, ay? I’m starvin' 'ere.”

“We can eat at the apartment. It’s cheaper that way.”

“Strapped fer money? I can get ya some then. I’m pretty much rich 'round 'ere with the conversion rate…”

The Archipelago was a self-sufficient union of small states but had a very limited economy. Any of the powers from the continent could easily overshadow them, and this fact showed.

The groups of islands were lacking in resources, territory, and population to compete. It all meant that, in summary, Anna's somewhat big savings were enough to set her as first-class here. And that was without even considering asking for monetary aid or using her salary as an inquisitor.

“If you have that much money, what about fixing my missing room? I had some… Important…? Yes, important things there.” The short girl said while trying to not be annoyed.

“That… That’s not happening. I’ll leave soon though, so don’t worry 'bout it, 'kay?” Anna countered while giving shoulders. “It’s not as if I wanna live in this middle of nowhere anyway…”

“This middle of nowhere has much better average living conditions than your chaotic country...”

“Yeah, it’s pretty good indeed… Eatin' a whole meal with mah' breakfast change is quite remarkable.”

The red-haired inquisitor was smugly grinning while overexaggerating her claims, but she wasn’t far enough from the truth to be called out.

“You’re a real pain even when you’re not being a massive racist, you know? What about fixing your attitude now that you accepted that we’re partners?” The petite local asked with a tired expression covering her face again.

“I’m hearin' yer orders, but that’s it,” Anna noted while turning towards the sea, but then closed her smile and muttered under her breath. “And it’s not as if yer smart enough to abuse this power…”

“What was that?”

“Yer not growin' if you don’t eat properly, y'know? Oh, wait, I’m pretty sure yer too old to grow anymore…”

“When I thought you were going to be less infuriating now...”

"Infuriatin' is mah' thing, y'know? Can’t flee from that now.” Anna smirked again while walking down the street. “Do y'know any good place to take a bite though?”

Karim glanced at the question for a while as she followed the taller girl, and then decided on her answer.

“You’re paying?”

“I said so already.”

She then put on a small cocky smile and walked a few steps in front of Anna.

“I’ll show you a good place then…”

A weird sense of dread filled Annabeth as she looked at the petite back heading forward, but she wasn’t going to back down against a demon. 

With determination in her eyes and a smile on her face, the redhead followed her partner. They approached the sea at a constant pace and then headed to the same area as the crowds. And just getting there was enough to see why.

The streets were filled with all varieties of eateries, be they a restaurant, cafe, or food cart, this area had it all. Anna was unsure if she had skipped this detail or if these weren’t open when she arrived though.

Not seeing them was weird.

Either way, the area that connected the big plaza and the main street was now a gourmet paradise. It all seemed a little crude and homely for what she was used to seeing, but that wasn’t enough to defeat the delicious smell that filled the area.

Even the massive crowd moving through this one single street wasn’t enough to kick the growing hunger caused by the air of this area. Be as it was, Annabeth couldn’t go against the single praise that she had ever heard about the Archipelago…

“This place smells could bring a saint down… Gluttony ain't even a bad option now.” She muttered while almost in a trance.

It could be called as expected, but a place that was colonized, in parts, for its spices should have a reason for it. Anna was unable to pinpoint all the spices and combinations attacking her nose, and the fact that she was liking it was very bothersome.

Karim could notice this much, of course.

“So the inquisitor is an average foreign when faced with the Spice Quarter, eh? All we have around here are the average ones with good presentation though, you need a real local if you want real food.” Her guide stated with her tiny chest puffed.

She then headed further into the crowd, ignoring the more popular and populous places around them. And while clicking her tongue, Annabeth followed suit.

As their made their way towards Karim’s secret spot, the petite local kept on naming every weird plate and bright spice she could see.

Annabeth counted five different types of pepper, eight fruits she knew by name but looked different here, three powders that literally shined, and more than ten other ingredients she never heard of.

In food names, she couldn't understand a single one, but she thought there were too many. Seeing fruits and chocolate sold as a commonplace dessert was a novelty too.

As they were moving around though, Anna noticed something that she knew very well…

“Hey, wait a little bit here, ok?”

“Hmm? What? Why?!” Karim asked as her cocky smile turned into confusion, but her partner was already moving away when she did so.

Annabeth waved through the crowd, locking her eyes on a certain white-skinned man with bird wings and blonde hair. Confirming her suspicion was minor, the inquisitor just approached in a hurry and tapped his shoulder.

“How’s the pickpocketing going, lad?”

The sudden call coming out startled the man beyond comprehension and he turned around in a rush. Turning only worsened his expression though as he saw a girl with a big ass gun holstered on her hip.

He then entered in a panic and shoved Anna away before trying to flee.

Some people around them noticed the abnormality and opened the way as the girl fell, but the winged man was already trying to fly away when they did so. As he was taking speed towards the sky though, the smiling redhead with glowing tattoos drew her gun and aimed at his leaving head.

“Way too easy...”

“Don’t kill him!”

But a moment before she could finish the pickpocketer off, a girly shout forced her aim to change. The shot still left the gun and the man was still hit, but he just fell on some crates, seemingly alive.

“Tch! Happy?! I can’t do much if gravity does the work, but he alive...” Anna turned to the origin of the shout while stowing her gun again.

“You could have apprehended him without firing!” Karim protested again as someone who saw most of the scene. “Even letting him shove you was on purpose…”

“Take it as a test.” The inquisitor said while noticing that some nearby guards were already headed to the wounded criminal. “I gave him the chance to give up and repent, but he didn’t, so he’s corrupted and a demon. Works fer ya?”

“Anyone would flee an armed person calling them out of nowhere! Your logic is pretty much a loaded question like this.”

“And yer being naive… Looks like that guy's alive though. Can we keep movin'?”

Karim wasn’t a bit happy with the situation, but she couldn’t find the right words to argue right now. 

It was hard to define a demon since it was hard to define corruption the less pure a spirit was, so she couldn’t exactly say that a criminal wasn’t a demon. And in the end, even if she was overly violent, Anna still managed to get a robber, so Karim couldn’t argue much.

“Let’s go then. The guards can take care of that guy…”

At least, she decided that she wouldn’t be holding back anymore and hurried her steps. The redhead followed without thinking much, reaching a deserted wooden building in one of the quarter's hidden corners.

“Shady…”

“It’s good. Way too good even. Trust me on that.”

“I’m almost dyin' either way, so whatever…”

They entered the small wooden cabin with no more than a dozen tables and three patrons, and Karim instantly sent some orders to the only worker in the place.

The chef, a man that Anna could only describe as a literal devil, nodded his head and strapped a pink apron to his chest before going to the back of the building. And soon enough, while stuffed with the best food she had eaten in maybe ever, Anna learned the real meaning of terror.

It was hard to fault her when she had to watch someone that small eat ten times as much as she could.

Even more when this one person later asked for desserts...

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