Chapter 35:

Silence in the Infirmary - Part 2


“’Kay! Nod fer a yes and shake fer a no, gotcha?” Annabeth asked her subject with most eyes around the infirmary focused on her. The kitsune answered with a nod, so she seemed to understand the idea.

“First question, y'were looking fer somethin’, ‘aight? Somethin’ we could see in the ley line map even.”

There was a nod in answer while the room stood silent.

“Good. Second one, ya found it? Or at least thought ya found it.”

The fox lady looked at Anna for a while, clearly apprehensive about answering her, but ended up nodding to the second question too. And silence in the surroundings continued.

“As expected. Third then! Were ya ambushed after findin’ what y’were lookin’ fer?”

This time, the target of the questioning answered by shaking her head, which somewhat changed the expression on the inquisitor’s face. It was hard to notice, but she got much more serious as she took her time for the next question. Even her easygoing aura was weakening by now.

“I see… The thingys that attacked ya appeared when y’were returning with the artifact then?”

A nod came in answer. And the questions started picking up speed.

“Some of ‘em had left already when we arrived?”

Confirming nod once more.

“Ya tried to go after them? And when ya did, somethin’ weird happened and the fight went awry, didn’t it?”

Two nods in fast succession while the eyes of the kitsune grew in size, seemingly due to her not understanding how the questions were mostly on point. A feeling that grew even more when the next question came.

“The artifact was still with ya, ‘aight? Even if ya don’t know where it is now. In fact, y'were sure it was where the others were already until this one question…”

Another nod, a very shy one even, and one that was followed by a gaze towards the unconscious fox lady by the side. It also made the eyes of the redhead get sharper and set the people hearing them in motion right away. These were new information for them either way.

“Last question then…” Anna continued with most of the picture already set in her mind. “They were stalling the fight fer some reason. Ya took a good while to go unconscious but those things didn’t try anything other than keepin’ ya both in place. Have I said somethin’ wrong?”

A final nod. Anna closed her eyes and started to think for a little while. On her back, the petite officer was watching the whole exchange with a very confused expression as she couldn’t exactly believe what was happening. She couldn’t break the concentration of her partner for some reason though.

After a few moments passed, and with the priest that was sent outside returning in a hurry to talk with who seemed to be the infirmary’s overseer behind the outsider’s attention, Annabeth got up.

“Thanks fer the answers, fox lady number two. I already got yer findings to the big boss, so don’t worry y’all.” She then turned around and broke her seriousness right away, going back to the usual smirk while waving goodbye to the infirmary. “I would prefer to be wrong, but well...”

With her leave, the people who could still talk started to check the belongings and the patient herself, probably in search of the lost artifact. They wouldn't find anything there though.

It was obvious by now, but this search in the ley line points was something that was happening ever since the last Bureau meeting. Anna wouldn’t be able to ask how many pieces this temple already had or if they were moving them to Louise, but it was confirmed they had a few of them.

The main discovery was much more relevant though. It was something very troublesome too and, this time, she would have to explain this to her group. The group that was now following her to the exit of the building.

“If I didn’t read it wrong… Are our enemies targeting you both, Annabeth?” Karim asked the moment the trio got into a less crowded area of the temple devoid of civilians. “Is that what you were trying to confirm there?”

And with her question, it seemed that explanations weren’t that needed in the end. Maybe the small blondie was actually a decent cop or something in the end... Or that’s what went through Annabeth’s mind when she heard her question at least.

The redhead wasn't used to working with people capable of investigating. Most inquisitors worked more around the lines of ‘point to an enemy and let rampage’ than about thinking either way. Thinking was the work of the investigation team.

The person Anna’s mind was focused on was still following them with half her focus on not being ambushed and the other half on her tea leaves. She was more like a bodyguard than anything else.

“Ya betcha, shorty. There’s more to it since a bunch of priests and maidens are being affected by that silence, but that one attack was aimed at us.” Anna answered with a satisfied nod and a genuine smile instead of her usual overbearing smirk. “Findin’ out what we, foreigners, can do seems much more plausible than seein’ what a local would be able to do too. And they don’t need to wait to steal the voices.”

“I thought this much, but I can’t understand how… All dolls went down, didn’t they?”

“It’s either someone hidin’ while we fight or some trick we can’t see… Clairvoyance or somethin’ would work fer that.”

“That’s hard to counter…”

“Should I start holding back from now on, Anna? We didn’t show much for now, but I’m pretty sure we’ll be fighting again soon.” Col asked to be sure while trusting her guts to the second half.

“Nay. Yer techniques are too simple to be easily countered. Keep doin’ as y'were and we'll be golden." The other inquisitor answered with some hints in her voice that Colette easily understood. “More than that, I would’ve liked if ya told us ‘bout the whole artifact hunt before, shorty. It would've helped with that li'l problem at the entrance...”

Karim winced a little when she heard Annabeth’s words, but she didn’t avoid or try to ignore the redhead’s eyes, biting her lips instead. She seemed more bothered than apologetic overall, which was a somewhat weird reaction. Her following words made the weirdness vanish though.

“I can’t speak about things no one told me... I’m not going to lie and say that I would have told you if I knew about it though.”

“So it’s like that… That’s fun.” The abnormal inquisitor smirked once again and then took a certain item from her shoulder bag. “I still wonder why everyone wants these thingys so much…”

“I would love to know too… Wait! How?!” Karim cut her phrase short and instead stared in surprise to the hands of her chaotic partner when she noticed the stone gear she was holding. “You gave this thing to Min… No, that wasn’t it… The shrine maiden's one, right?”

Once again, the tanned witch managed to reach the answer by herself, and, once again, Anna nodded in acknowledgment of her feat.

Anna was also thinking that having someone who could somewhat keep up with her without insider knowledge was very fun. She would never say this much aloud, but she was somewhat happy with this partnership by now.

“Col could go much faster than she did, y’know? She only kept up with us to gimme time. I also had to be sure those foxes were what they seemed to be.” Annabeth explained as they reached the exit of the holy site. “I wouldn’t give up all pieces of somethin’ I don’t know too. Even more when this temple keeps somethin’ even more dangerous up there…”

“Dangerous?” The two other girls asked with very different intonations.

“We either don’t have to worry ‘bout it...” The dramatic gunslinger kept going without giving a direct answer or being willing to. “Or that’ll be the whole reason why this place is bein’ targeted later on.”

And with her cryptic but easy-to-understand words, the trio of free agents, in name at least, finally left the temple at the hill.

"Now follow me to some dark alley, 'kay? I have some explainin' to do."