Chapter 19:

Interlude: Failure Report


A winged man in tattered clothes and some open wounds entered the small room covered in books and maps where two people worked by the central desk.

The tired ifrit was very apprehensive about entering this place and for good reason. Not only the leader of the organization was there but also his second-in-command, and he didn't have good news for them.

If possible, he would love to go to sleep and forget about the foreigner that had caused him a good deal of trouble.

His wishes were irrelevant though. 

A stolen artifact and some random inquisitor forcing him to flee were too big of a trouble for things to stay well.

For a while, no one spoke in the room.

The young man, a human even, was too focused on his documents to pay attention right now and the fox-woman by his side didn't care that much. She had seven tails though, so having her not care was much safer.

It wasn't as if the human was a safer opponent too, but he at least was a human.

A human who started a catastrophe at the astellian capital, but a human still.

He used darkish-grey clothes and had a fedora held on his chair, a decently built body, a messy mass of discolored grey hair on his head, and red eyes. And to those that followed his orders, he went by the alias of Watchmaker.

“Report what you saw and be in your way, Transporter.” The man broke the silence while being sure to use the ifrit’s alias. “Don’t worry, your punishment will be soft as long as your reason is decent…”

The wounded ifrit always thought that it was a lame nickname, but he wouldn't be the one to point it out.

“Well…” He started while trying to decide the best way to explain the situation. “The smugglers got the item and my guys went there to collect the thing, but they were attacked by a girl. When they called support, I went there and we had a fight until some holy mage appeared and I had to retreat.”

“A single girl managed to buy time against an ifrit, and all by herself?” The fox woman gave up on trying to focus on the boring papers around her and joined the talk. “You sure you didn’t sleep in your post and lost the thing, boy? Lying is not good, you know…”

Her face turned to the ifrit, showing the dark makeup that she used, which meshed well with the dark blue color of her tails, hair, and ears, and also with her similarly dark clothes. 

It was somewhat weird to see a kitsune wearing a short buttoned dress in continental style, but hers fit very well somehow. Even more when she also had long black thigh-highs and gloves to pair with them.

It was some trendy new style around the rich parts of the Federation, but Transporter didn't know that. All he knew was that he could never survive in such hot clothes around here, even if he would never ask how the hells she managed to do so.

“If he’s lying, then we’ll deal with it later.” Watchmaker rose his eyes from the documents and looked at his panicked subordinate. “For now, tell me how was this girl that fought you off. Losing a single gear is not much of a problem, but there’s a chance this person is…”

“She could barely fight me, so I don’t think you should care about her.” The red man tried to argue, which got an unexpected reaction from his boss.

“She still got your package in the end, right? Just answer the question and we can ‘think’ later.”

There was a threatening aura around the grey-haired young man as his warning came, one that no common human could have. And since Transporter wasn’t paid enough to risk bothering his boss, he just dropped the subject.

“As you wish, boss… How she was, right? Pretty young, red-haired, human, probably an inquisitor. She only had a revolver and a stealth barrier though.”

“A lucky scout?” Huntress asked.

“Scouts wouldn’t be seen by three random thugs and fight back. Be it an observer or a retriever, they would flee right away… And it would be weird to see an assassin around here.”

Both top members started to ramble about something the ifrit didn't care about, so his mind started to wander.

Back when he was first hired, he found it weird that these two were so well-versed in how that far-away group of maniacs operated, but he would always decide against looking deeper into it. It was too much work and too much risk, two things he despised.

“She’s way too light-armed for a hunter. Even more for someone who came to the Archipelago… The last one we heard of even had an armored car, right?”

“I would usually say that we shouldn’t believe in rumors that old, but... There was a solo hunter who used heavy equipment and was sent here to be sure the islands would stay neutral." The human commented, showing again some deep insight into the inquisitors. "He isn’t the standard no matter what, but a revolver and a barrier are way too little... I know of one person who could pull it off though.”

“An inquisitor that likes small arms? Who’s the weirdo…" The kitsune eyed the grey-haired man with a weirded-out expression but stopped mid-sentence when a realization hit her. "Is that dead girl back?! The one you mentioned from back there?”

“Dead girl isn’t the right word, but a redhead holding an ifrit with a pistol would be doable to that anomaly. I was sure that mistake wouldn’t come knocking so soon though…”

Watchmaker got stuck into a pensive expression as he tried to match the limited data he had and what he knew about that old mishap. It was very hard to be sure without seeing himself though.

Redheads were rare for sure, but it still meant a few million of them around the continent. And to think that the church would let that specific one leave their sights this easy made very little sense. The worst of all though, was that the countermeasures to that were still far from ready…

Even if he skipped directly to the main plan, the timing to deal with that person would still be off. As he was thinking, though, Transporter was looking in the desk’s direction with a worried expression on his face.

It wasn’t due to his punishment, since what he heard seemed to classify him as having a good excuse, but that was now minor. The big problem was with his boss’ expression.

He saw Watchmaker thinking before and he saw him looping into some plan a few times too, but there was a singularity between all these moments. 

No matter what happened, and no matter what ended up being the verdict inside that human’s head, it would always be something complex. And whenever there was some complex planning going on…

It always meant that the person who dealt with the acquisition and transport of goods would have a massive spike in requests. A spike in requests that would mean no time for naps, that was the only sure thing.

Luckily or not, it at least meant that he wouldn’t be ‘dealt with’ today.

“I’ll get you a new list, Transporter. I’ll also need to contact Brooker and the Puppeteer right away… We’ll need to pick up the pace here.”

And without even stopping to care about the small third-party subordinate, new orders were scribbled and given to the winged man.

“Understood, boss…” He answered while doing his best to not weep right here and right now when he read what was in there.

The ifrit then nodded and left the room right away as he feared receiving further requests in this situation. Even with what he had now, it was sure that he wouldn’t be sleeping in the close future anyway…