Chapter 26:

Performance Tryout - Part 4


“What?!” Karim asked in disbelief.

“I’ll investigate while ya both cause chaos around to help me stay hidden. It’ll work… Probably.”

“That sounds violent, stupid, and easy. I’m in.”

“What?!” Karim asked both inquisitors now, still in disbelief.

“What can I do?! We have an investigation quest and ya both can only fight or support from the sidelines.” Anna explained with an exasperated expression towards her companions. “I could sneak around with ya, but that would fail fer sure.”

“How could you know? I’ll have you know that I’m very good at staying hidden.” The petite holy mage proudly proclaimed. “I even have a medal for hide-and-seek. Stealth should be easy…”

“Nay, I don’t think so... Make noise and let me move by mahself, ‘kay? It’ll work the best.” Annabeth cut in before her petite partner could get too heated up. "And I ain't sure of how useful somethin' like hide-and-seek is when talkin' stealth."

“Now you’re just underestimating me again.”

“She’s probably right though…” Col added by the sidelines. "I'm already enough of a problem to sneak around, so another one would be too much. Even for Anna."

“Don’t agree with her!”

Karim seemed adamant about not letting Annabeth act alone and talking her out of this idea wasn’t working as well as the red-haired inquisitor wanted. The best she could do for now was sigh and try something else then.

“Sigh… Fine.” She complied and decided to give her partner a test. “We do it like this then, hide and I'll count to whatever number ya wanna, and then, I find ya. I won’t even use mah’ right eye, ‘kay? Keep it inside the walls though.”

“Isn’t that giving too much advantage to me? And what closing one eye will change?”

“Just go on already. I wanna patrol later and I still need some rest...” Annabeth dismissed the blondie’s question while sitting on the ground with her eyes already closed. “I’ll start countin’ if ya don’t move in five.”

“Wha…? To one hundred then!” Karim rushed away while shouting a small number and trying to muffle her steps to the best she could.

“That’s a misguided fairness, shorty…” The sat girl said to no one in particular as she started to slowly count. "Yer number is too small."

“She would have a chance with more time?”

Anna gave shoulders to her friend’s question so as to not stop her countdown, but she wouldn’t be surprised if Karim’s chances didn’t change even if she had a whole day. Stealthing around ranked threats had very little to do with skill and training in the end. It was all a matter of how much you could cheat.

Either way, less than two minutes went by and the counting stopped, but the redhead was still not opening her eyes.

“Col.” She called with her eyes still closed.

“What’s it?”

“I’m too bothered to move, so just say if I’m right, ‘kay?”

“But how would I know where she is?” Colette feigned ignorance as if she hadn’t kept tabs on where the tanned cop was.

“I’ll pretend ya ain’t looking to the direction she went when I ended 'ere then and you’ll pretend I kicked ya fer tryin’ to help me, ‘aight?” The questioning hunter said so while still on the ground. “Now, to where she is truly…”

They were in an open area behind the three walled buildings, which was opposite to where the parking lots were. Other than inside the buildings and around the cars, there were few decent hidden spots. Some small bushed and decorative trees could be used, but Anna knew none of those was the answer.

She could open her golden eye and find out instantly, but that was boring. It wasn’t as if she needed it even, so that was beyond the point. The hushed footsteps from earlier, the small sound of clicking, and the impact of a door were more than enough.

“I don't remember the exact map, but shorty is inside the vehicle right in front of the right passageway between the buildings. It may be one of the others around it, but she’s there fer sure. Check it fer me, ay?”

“Fine...” Colette started walking with a bothered expression towards the direction Anna had told her to and, a little after, two pairs of steps with different intensities came back.

“That’s cheating!”

“Nay. Col didn’t know where ya were and neither she could guess that ya managed to enter one of the cars, ‘aight? I told her to do so.” The person waiting on the floor said so, with her eyes still closed, by the way. "I just didn't go there mahself since I'm thinkin' now."

“But how would YOU know?!”

“Fer one, ya steps ain’t even close to silent enough and ya make other noises too, but this much can be solved, y'see? The problem is everythin’ else…”

“Everything else what?”

“Smell, movement, spirit energy... Yer not even tryin' to hide those.” Anna started to raise her fingers one by one in the direction of the girl she shouldn’t be able to see. “And more importantly, I can hear ya breathing.”


“Any scout knight or an A-rank demon could do it, you know? Tacticals are even worse…” Col added from the side. “I can’t, by the way. If you were trying to kill me, maybe, but I'm no scout…”

“No hidin’ if I can hear ya, y'see? And if ya can't hide from me, then what'll happen if we find a big one?”

“And what you want me to do about breathing then?”

“Stop doin’ it.”


“Stop breathin’, ay? No noise if ya don't make it.” Annabeth said in a nonchalant tone.

Karim’s expression became pure confusion and she speechlessly stared at her red-haired partner. Even Col who was used to this kind of abnormal act from Anna was unable to say something at this point. The silence broke by itself though, so there was no problem.

“AND HOW YOU THINK I CAN STOP BREATHING, DAMMIT?!!!” The outraged little mage exploded at the stupidity of the whole request, and her situation only worsened when she heard the answer.

“Dunno. That’s a ya problem, ain’t it?”

“I want to punch you.”

“Many do.”

“Couldn’t you tell me this much from the start and avoid making me search for a hiding spot for no reason?”

“There was a chance ya could manage it, wasn’t there?” The inquisitor gave shoulders again while getting up from her spot. “I didn’t believe in the slightest and ya would need magic, but there was a chance... Who knows what the other can do, so there was a maybe, ‘aight?”

“You wanted to make her run for no reason though, right?” Col said while staring at the two squabbling girls. "Just to prove a point or something."

“That’s more accurate, yeah,” Anna smirked while closing in on the small girl and starting to pat her head mockingly. "I would've asked fer ya to drive more if I knew ya had a car, by the way."

“I want to punch you so much…”

“Ya can try later, ‘kay?” She cockily declared while still patting down her partner. “It’s time fer a bath, and I need a nap too.”

Annabeth then laughed at the bothered expression on both her companions and then went to the top-floor apartment as if nothing had happened.

“All this was…” The smallest of the two remaining members of the team started to ask what they both knew the answer.

“Just because she wanted to have a laugh?”

“It was, right?”

“It always is.”

“I want to punch her so very much you wouldn’t believe…”

And with two sighs in different intonations, the inquisitor and the witch also headed back home for they had work to do later.