A few days passed with the trio doing very little since they had no lead to their main mission. All the trio did was patrol the areas marked on the ley map Karim had acquired for them while noting the most suspicious positions. Annabeth would go missing on most nights and her sleeping schedule was still terrible, but little happened during the day.
They would sometimes bump into petty criminals or some small fights between locals, but they were easy to solve. Some peacefully by Karim and some with guns and fists by the other two. It could be noted that the number of occurrences was a little higher than usual, but there was a reason for that too.
Either way, more than a week passed by, and almost all points of interest in the city were scouted, but still, nothing was happening. Actually, something was happening, but it had little to do, in theory, with the trio.
“Is some holiday goin’ to happen ‘ere?” Annabeth asked as they walked close to a group of shrine maidens working on some kind of palanquin. Anna only knew that they were shrine maidens due to Karim's explanation a few days ago though. Their clothes didn't match with the usual priests of the city's temple, or even with the citizens to be fair.
They had white robes and red skirts, both very long and hot-looking, and nothing more. Other than that, they all had fox ears and tails like the kitsune member of the Bureau, even if these had one or two tails each.
“It’s some new country festival if I'm not mistaken. A collaboration between the government of each island to show national unity.” Karim answered with a vague recollection of what Louise had told her a while ago. "Since the southern island sent some maidens here to it, the whole thing should be very important. It's rare to see kitsunes around here..."
Anna had suspicion on her face while hearing so, but she wasn’t bothered enough by it to ask anything more. It was the same thing she was thinking ever since they saw one of the fox maidens moving around the city for the first time, but she could wait. She was also very sure that, if something was to happen, they would know it soon enough anyway.
“A festival, eh? I heard about those back home...” Colette commented while leaning closer to the shrine maiden’s workplace. “They say it’s an all-you-can-eat street party with games and all. Sounds very fun.”
“I don’t like the way you described it, but it’s somewhat right. Never say something of the like for a member of the Tooris though, okay?”
“Tooris? What’s that?” The brunette inquisitor went on while the trio kept on walking.
“The Toori Administration is the group that runs the temples and other religious services in the Archipelago. They also take care of everything related to spiritual energy and exorcisms, which technically turns them into a military organization too.”
“They’re like us inquisitors then?”
“Nay. They use the word ‘exorcism’ very loosely, Col...” Anna interjected with her eyes wandering around the area. “Everythin’ from time losses like convertin’ demons to cleanin’ the corruption fits in. And elimination is a last resort fer some reason, ‘aight?”
“They also have enough good sense to not dip too much into politics, which is very different from you, warmongering baboons.” Karim snarked back since she didn't like hearing Anna's remarks about spirit society. "The wonders of having your church NOT control your government."
“Ay, ay, decentralize everythin’ and see how things go fer y’all…”
“When the other option is leaving everything under a bunch of racist warmongers, then yes, decentralize all you can, please.”
“Not sure if ya dumb or too innocent...” Annabeth gave an exasperated sigh while saying so, but the target of said sigh instead doubled down on her
“Well, I’m sure you’re dumb, so that’s easy to understand.”
“I’m not sure if you two are best friends already or if you want to kill each other all the time...” Colette added to the discussion as she stared in confusion at the two squabbling girls. It only gained her two pairs of glares though. And the muscular member of the trio then had to back down before she would be caught in the banter.
The momentum of the discussion was lost though, so there was that. After such, both Anna and Karim snickered at each other and went back to walking. Passing through another group of weirdly clothed people soon enough.
These had simpler garbs, they being somewhat similar to Karim's outfit, and looked more like priests of a hot place would use. None of them had fox body parts too. They were all carrying building materials though, so the two groups should be working on the same project.
“So… Why do those fox girls have different clothes?” Colette kept on asking. "It's just because they're from another island?"
“Kitsunes are natural holy mages with strong bodies, even to spirits. They almost always join the Toori and go to the higher echelons right away, where they use the traditional clothes of the original temples.” Karim resumed her lecture on the religious faction of the country, explaining it all while skimming through anything sensitive. “It’s a little weird to see that many of them helping with menial work, but they’re also known for being very pious. That may be the reason.”
“Or maybe the lil’ foxes are honorin’ their ear, ay? Some sneaky-sneaky foxes walkin’ ‘round us…”
“Are you trying to say something, Annabeth?” The petite mage asked out with a hint of suspicion in her voice.
“Me? Nay. I’m just suspicious of foxes, y'see? I know nothin’ more…” The redhead answered with a smile that gave no weight to her words at all. She walked away right after saying so too, briskly turning into the next intersection right away. What left both her companions with different expressions on their faces.
“She never tries working together, does she?” The bothered blondie asked even if not expecting an answer.
“Anna will only do what she needs to do. She’s almost a force of nature even…”
“It’s closer to some kind of calamity you can just clean after.”
“There was a saying back at the HQ about that, actually...” Colette said while giving shoulders and heading forwards too. “When dealing with a calamity, you can never stay in front of it and you won’t get anything from staying by its side. All you can do is watch it from afar and control the damage..."
"So you're more of an observer than a real companion, eh?"
"My orders are as such, but I don’t think it’s an absolute maxim…”
The stream of cryptic words ended with Col leaving the side of the smaller member of the group as she also headed closer to the intersection. As she crossed it too, the first thing in her sight ended being a red-haired girl leaning on a wall in wait.
“Ya guys take too long, ay?”
“And you could have left without us, couldn’t you?” Col asked with a smirk. "I was giving the little girl some tips..."
Just as their small exchange was closing to the end, the last member of the trio also crossed the road intersection, approaching them with a weirded-out expression.
“What are you both doing?”
“Waitin’ ya. We still partners, ‘aight?”
“This…” Karim started even if unsure of how exactly she should answer in this situation. “If you were going to do this, why in the heavens did you rush forward in the first place?!”
“Dramatic effect,” Annabeth answered with a smug smile and a playful aura that soon turned into a more serious one as her voice became a hush. “And also because somethin’ is happenin’ a bit ahead, y'see?”
Her eyes were pointing to a small and ignored alleyway around the slightly busy street. And even before Karim could react to the sudden warning, the noise of a gunshot came from that same overall direction.For once, something was happening during their patrol.
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