Chapter 44:

A Line Crossed by Instinct - Part 2


Anna injected herself another dose of elixir and then rushed forward to her small partner. She wasn’t perfectly fine after being thrown away, but Karim seemed to be in more need right now.

She didn't seem hurt per se, but she was still frozen there. The reason was likely something Anna had seen before though, so it was easy to deal with.

The inquisitor hadn't put much thought into it until now still, so she lacked a countermeasure right now.

“Hey, shorty, snap out!” She slapped her hands in front of Karim and then blocked the girl’s view of the wounded cops. “It was self-defense, y’know? Nothin' you could do 'bout it. We won't be arrestin' anyone if yer stuck there...”

Seeing someone panic by having to use a little bit of violence was very weird for Annabeth, but she could somewhat understand the point.

Seeing people panic after killing someone or something was kind of commonplace. She could emulate what the instructors back home would do, but that wasn't very nice at all. Talking seemed more reasonable.

Even more when the only remaining suspect was bleeding on the ground and she needed a healer with proper focus.

“Yer fine and the evil ones ain’t. That’s what matters ‘ere, ‘kay?”

“B-but he was…”

“A criminal. A criminal that attacked ya.” The redhead affirmed with a hard tone that wasn’t very usual for her while also raising Karim’s head so she would stop looking at the ground. “Yer a negotiator and a mage, so y’know that not everythin’ can be solved peacefully. If ya wanna bother with enemies, then do so after yer safe.”

She wasn’t the best at propping people up, even more, when the problem was something she never felt, but this should work.

If some forceful words and an ever more forceful body language didn't do the trick though, then it was physical. Even this much was her copying what she saw other people do still, but that was beyond the point.

And as Annabeth hoped, the expression on her partner's face started to change. She also stopped to try and look at the cut-off arm and the unmoving cop on the ground, so she should be fine now.

“T-that’s… That’s true. Sorry about that, Annabeth.” The short girl answered while leaving her momentaneous stupor. “I’m not bad with blood or anything, but being the one causing the bleeding isn’t something I’m used to... Also, c-can you… Well… Can you give me some space?”

The face holding and the difference in weight had forced the inquisitor to get a little too close, but the redhead didn't seem to care much.

Karim was blushing at it, though, and it only worsened when she noticed her coworkers approaching. The gunshots had attracted reinforcements as they would, and it wasn’t exactly the best time for it.

Again, Annabeth didn't care about this situation as long as Karim wouldn't freeze again, but since was told to stop, she did so. Unhunching her body while keeping her gaze on the small red-faced girl.

Why she was so startled by it was beyond Anna though. No matter what, the only thing she had of overly sociable were her clothes. Even if she was capable of pretending to be a person fitting for them, that was very far from how her mind really worked.

“Yer not lookin’ that fine, but we need to stabilize this lass. If y’have a fever or somethin’, you can go rest after doin’ so, though.” Anna pointed to the two bodies on the ground without much care before moving her eyes back to the small mage. “Better start workin’ on her, shorty. I missed ay vitals, but it was still a full load, y’know?”

“Wha…? Ah! Yes, I’ll work on it.” Karim reacted in a hurry as she remembered the situation they were in and went down to take care of the two wounded.

She almost froze when she saw them and remembered the small exchange though, but she could keep up this time. The lack of the surprise effect and the deadly danger helped a lot, even if there was a little something more in there too.

And since Karim’s head was back in place and the healing spells were running on already, the gunslinger went to talk with the approaching cops. She had to explain the situation to them and ask for help looking for her trolley bag.

Both of these took less than fifteen minutes to be over with, though.

By the time she was re-armed and the situation was explained, the two cops were already leaving the harbor. One for the morgue and one for the hospital.

It was bad that they would have to trust the cop's scout to keep their suspect alive, but there wasn't much to be done here.

This much was the reason why Annabeth would have liked to take them without a fight, in the end. Wounded, or dead, people couldn't answer questions properly.

She could feel that there was more to this situation. How the horned woman had changed from surrendering to trying to kill one of his coworkers, for example, was appalling.

In fact, if she were to take a wild guess, Anna would say that what happened there wasn’t something natural. This being true would open a very dangerous list of options, but thinking about all options was the best she could do right now.

Once more, she was lacking information to reach anything more than a guess.

At least they had a place to search for said information. And it seemed that both of her companions were already waiting for her to do so.

“Already done, Col?”

“The numbers were smaller than I thought. A little less than twenty even… I think it was because I tried to keep them alive like you asked, by the way.” The brunette pointed out with a slightly bothered expression since she was promised a no-holding-back fight.

Her friend with red hair, on the other side, seemed to not care the smallest bit about her point. Since she let the two ringleaders escape anyway, this skirmish was only an appetizer.

“Don’t worry. We’ll get better fights later. I need yer help now though…" Anna said while heading to the closest entrance of the warehouse. "You come too, shorty.”

“We’ll finally enter the warehouse?” Karim asked while looking at the beaten-down but mostly intact building. “I told everyone to stay put and keep the siege, but didn’t we risk losing the harbormaster with it?”

“That guy and the overseer are long gone. I lost ‘em during the fight, even if no one saw them leave…” Anna explained with a glint of anger in the back of her eye. “I got too focused on the big fish and ended ignorin’ ‘em. Sorry ‘bout that.”

“That’s… That’s unexpected.”

“True. It’s not every day that you see someone escape Anna’s eye.”

“I was talking about the apology.”

“Ow, that… Yes, that’s rare too.”

“Yeah. Yeah, let’s go already, brats...” The target of the talk dismissed it all and started to push her two companions toward the warehouse’s entrance. “I need Col movin’ the crates and shorty checking ‘em while I look ‘round, ‘kay?”

“Looks good for me.”

“I can go with this plan too.”

“Good!” Annabeth nodded but then closed her smile and approached Karim again after looking quietly to both sides. “Don't go leaving puddles 'round though…”

“What do you mean?”

“Not mah' problem now… Work on not gettin’ surprised that easily though."

And with another round of cryptic words that, initially, got both Colette and Karim staring in full confusion, Anna went ahead and entered the warehouse. It didn’t take long for the petite girl to understand her situation and notice the small mark on the ground…

Realizing this much almost made Karim’s skin go as red as an ifrit though.