Chapter 25:

Performance Tryout - Part 3


“You believe in me now?” Karim asked while plopping herself to the ground for a little rest.

“Not gonna lie, I thought y'would be bashed in a minute. Fightin' Col back is quite somethin’, even if half was due to her lack of neurons…”

“Hey! You’re not lying, but still...” Colette complained a little while her gauntlets retracted to their bracelets. “Was I going to lose though? I’m sure that last one would connect…”

“And I’m sure my timing was perfect. Even Annabeth saw this.”

“Or maybe she just wanted to safe your face from being fucking bashed to oblivion. It happened before even.”

“You lot has to learn how to take a loss, eh? First one says she was fine with half the body covered in blood and now this…”

“I stopped ya both because yer this close to killin’ each other.” Annabeth added with a smirk still on her face, cutting the useless discussion the two other girls were starting. “I ain’t that sure, but my bets were in a tie at that last exchange, y'see? Col was way too close to goin’ all-out though and yer idea of 'not strong' is very wrong, shorty.”

“I’m good at holding back, ok? It would feel like being punched at worst.”

Both inquisitors looked to the marks on the floor and then to the cause of those with expressions that screamed ‘not convinced’.

“I could take it and would still hit her after.”

“See? Colette trusts herself. We could try this out right now though.” Karim’s ego was a little inflated after this small duel and it was showing by now. To be fair, it wasn’t only the duel that was causing this whole effect, but that was beyond the point.

Anna saw it as reasonable enough though, so she didn’t care that much. Still, she was curious about how the small cop learned how to fight like this.

“Ya don’t know what ya playin’ with at all... Changin’ prayers mid-chant with no delay is already impressive, but ya use smite and communion like it’s nothin’ too. I wonder how yer that unaware of how powerful those are…”

“Is communion that ‘learn everything for a while’ one or the ‘be possessed by a super master of old’ one?” Col asked as she too was curious about Karim’s fighting.

“The first one. The possession one is called possession. Y'know, like it obviously would.”

“Oh. It makes sense…”

“Anyway… Who teach ya, shorty? Yer using a rare style for a mage.”

“Huh? My fighting style? I learned it with an old man that runs a shop in the slums long ago. Auntie wouldn’t let me join the cops and she was against letting me train with the militia, so I was quite down at the time... Finding someone who could teach me was such a lucky strike I couldn’t believe it.”

“A weird old man in the slums… Why it sounds familiar?” Anna stopped to think as she was sure there was something there, but she couldn’t remember who she thought about no matter how long she tried.

“I would like to meet this lad if possible. Maybe I could get some new moves from him...” Col added with her brawler disposition taking control of her words.

“Maybe we could find him, but I don’t remember well where it happened… My aunt should know the place though.”

“Well, to the DP then! Getting some training while we wait would be freaking perfect.”

“I would like to see how he is too, so maybe we should really pass by. I wonder why I never went after him before though...” Karim got up and approached the other two before heading to the condo’s exit with Colette.

“Y'both remember we have work to do, ‘aight?” The redhead, as weird as it was, called out the other two before their random ideas could fly off. “This whole thing was fer a reason, y'know?”

“Why are you so hurried?” The petite girl turned around with a confused expression. “Didn’t you say that we would need to wait for a call?”

“We also have to organize our roles goin’ forward… Which was why I asked y'both to show me yer skills, remember?”

“Ah, right, that… Yeah, you’re right. We can visit the old man after we solve this.”

“But my training!”

“There’s a box of supplements inside mah’ room, y'know? Be helpful and they’re yers.”

“I can wait a little without a problem.”

The exchange weirded Karim out again, but she was getting used to the inquisitors’ antics by now, so it went away fast. Col was pacified and Karim was decently focused to begin with, so they could start.

“Ok. We lack in manpower fer now and only I can manage some stealth, so I have two options fer ya both...” Anna rose one finger of each hand as she started. “First, the backup plan, we throw stealth to the air and raid the bases in search of clues while also tryin' to get a counterattack. The navy, the military and the temples, in this order to be specific.”

“I like this one.”

“This one is terrible.”

Two opposite reactions came from Anna’s companions as they heard about her aggressive option, but that much was expected. Even Annabeth herself wasn't that fond of going with this option either way.

"As I said, backup plan." She explained even if the two other girls should have understood that already. “I don’t really like this one too, but we have too much ground to cover... If it was two groups instead of four, then it would be easy. Bettin’ on ‘we’ll get the target before the surprise wear off’ with this many options is nonsense though…”

“You’re boring now.” Col complained as she saw the most exciting option going away. "We shoulf be able to manage. Just get the big guns and we can go."

“It’s a last resort, ‘kay? If we managed to cut the options, then usin’ it would be the best even.”

“We need to investigate first then, right?”

“Pretty much so.”

“You two should stop with the crazy action-flick plans. Just because the Archipelago doesn’t have many forces, it's not as if you both could take them all.” The member who was a local noted out while glaring at the foreigners.

“That’s a point too.” Anna agreed without thinking too much about it, but then continued. “Which is why the main plan has two points... One, we’ll slow-play at first and wait fer situations in which the agencies need out help, and use it to investigate ‘em from inside. And two, we’ll get as much attention as possible while pretendin’ to be oblivious to the situation. We’ll basically force ‘em to ask fer support and mess up with it as if we’re just bein’ lucky.”

“So the plan is bumbling around with no idea of what’s happening?!” Colette exclaimed with a surprised expression. “That’s not a plan, dammit! That’s a Thursday.”

“Which means that goin’ with this plan is perfect to the limited set of skills we have, ‘aight? Even shorty’s magic is good fer this approach…”

“What it has to do with knowing what I could do?” Karim asked slightly lost on her partner's line of thought.

“Well, that’s simple too…” And Anna answered her with a very dangerous-looking smirk. “We flashy, y’see? Flashier than most can manage, but I can also sneak around with no problem, so there’s only one way to use it…”

Just by Anna’s expression and the unnecessary pause, it was obvious that something outrageous was coming. Both Colette and Karim knew that, but neither could do anything by now.

The red-haired inquisitor was very easy to read when she wasn’t paying attention to her mannerisms. And just as expected, the next moment she opened her mouth, something very stupid ended being her whole plan.

“Y’all be the baits fer my snoopin' around, ay?”