Chapter 52:

Ghosts in the Night - Part 1


It was almost funny to see how many places could be used to hide things at a festival.

Food crates, sound boxes, stages, palanquins, stuffed animals, trash bins, stalls, and all hard-to-see places in between. It was quite the well-made work to hide this many.

Obviously, not every single one of the spaces that matched the description had something in them and she wasn’t searching that hard, but it was still a lot. At least the dolls were easy to break.

It was good that this area was made of businesses that closed this late, or Anna would be considered a vandal for sure. Even her skills that would easily pass off as being from a ghost would hardly keep many from seeing all this chaos.

Still, the inquisitor had dismantled a little more than half a hundred dolls already and she was yet to leave the first block. Even using her rifle as both a club and a crowbar wasn’t enough time-saving to clear everything.

Annabeth was even forcing her seals to their limits to get some extra boosts to her body, even if this part was less about the dolls.

Breaking the dolls and thinning the enemies was a side dish. All part of a waiting game if she would say. Something meant to keep the deception going until what spent a while watching would decide to appear.

“I wonder if they can make the decorations move too...” The redhead said while staring at a couple of small stone foxes set on pedestals around the area she was in. “If they could solve the lack of joints, then it should work... Usin’ the first steps of golem creation would do the trick too, but it’s such a chore… Well, it won’t hurt breakin’ ‘em too.”

In a swift motion, she unlocked her holster and drew the revolver inside it, rapid-firing degrading spells on each of the statues right away.

Turning these to dust could cause some problems, but Anna would think about it later.

Before she could store her gun again, though, an approaching figure entered her detection range. It wasn’t a flying one and it moved fast enough for teleportation to be an option, so it should be something strong.

Being so meant that Anna wasn’t allowed to pick a fight right away this time, though. All due to an absentminded order even, but that was fine. She didn't want a fight right now.

“I wonder if that shorty notices how much power she has...” The markswoman clicked her tongue and then move from cover to cover in hiding, keeping an eye above as she did so. “Let’s see what’s patrollin’ us, ‘aight? Maybe they’ll even force mah’ hand in the end…”

Unless she had no other option, picking up a fight would classify as too much risk, but there was that 'unless' there. She wouldn't be going against any orders as long as she was attacked first.

Still, the teleporting creature didn’t seem to have a reliable way of detecting Annabeth. It would vanish and reappear at different points on the rooftops, stopping a little between each jump but never getting the redhead in sight.

If Anna were to guess, this one had some way of detecting her overall presence but couldn’t pinpoint it. It was likely some way of detecting the stone gear she was still carrying even.

If it was true, though, then the inquisitor could safely gather information while moving closer to the temple. Two birds with one shot.

“Havin’ fun lookin’ fer me, brat? Quite sure ya ain’t findin’ a thing.” The hidden inquisitor asked while also trying to take a look at the figure on the rooftops. “I’m kinda unable to fight ya, but I’m not against gettin’ some free info, y’know?”

There was no reason to engage right here, and it seemed unlikely that she would be found out before reaching her destination, so it wasn’t a problem. Movement-focused enemies were a pain to deal with too.

Luckily or not, the teleporting demon didn’t seem to want to engage too and stopped in place after the question. It was still outside her line-of-sight, but would follow when Annabeth moved too far, so it was unlikely that they would engage right away. In fact, the thing even was answering her as they moved.

It wasn't a pleasing voice to her, though.

“Are you an inquisitor or a ghost?” Asked the off-putting voice that Annabeth couldn’t even define as male or female as its sounds echoed and overlapped in itself. “I just want to talk with you. There should be five or so minutes until our package’s arrival anyway…”

The mix of blackboard screeching and the echoes of different voices mixed in the same one as it spoke, creating quite a terrible noise. It was terrible enough to make Anna wonder if she was sure about wanting to hear it.

Hos this enemy was willing to talk was news to her still, so it was worth the auditory torture. It wasn’t as if being interesting was enough to leave her hiding spot or to stop moving closer to the temple, but it was enough to slow her pace.

“With a voice like this, I think the apparition ‘ere is you, y’know?” She answered while projecting her voice and then changing locations to be safe. “I wouldn’t be against hearin’ ya, though.”

“Hearing you like this is very concerning… Can’t we have a proper talk?”

“Says the thing maskin’ its voice.”

“I would hate to mess up with your little wolf hunt. Wouldn’t it be very anti-climactic if I gave you the impostor right away?”

“Never heard of rats who can teleport.”

“And I never heard of a living being who won’t replenish their own soul. Will you explain your trick if I do mine?”

“…” Anna stopped in place at this question, losing some good seconds pondering how she would answer only to go with the simplest one at the end. “Nay. I’m fine as is.”

“Why so, Golden Calamity? It’s not as if I didn’t know a lot already…” It continued in a cheerful tone that only made the terrible voice worse. “Your body is barely at the level of an average human, but you can take punishment many times bigger than what a proper spirit could. You produce no spiritual energy but can hold and use enough to put a kitsune to shame. You have an evil eye and seals on your whole body, but nothing was ever registered about it... Aren’t all these some weird details?”

The street got silent again for a good while as Anna, instead of answering, started to grab catalysts from her bag and set them on her fingers. It was a little too early, but she would need to break the seal right now and deal with this one. It was too much of a danger to let someone who knew this much go.

“I’m not sure, but you’re getting ready to shoot me, right?”

“Glad you understand.”

“What about hearing my preposition first? We kind of have the same goals here and it would be a shame if I had to leave without even telling you.”

“I don’t think a demon would’ve the same goal as me, y’know?” Anna continued getting herself ready to jump from cover and unleash hell. She had only a few minutes before all catalysts were burnt and she would start to cause damage to the surroundings, so it had to be fast.

“But I have. The reason may be different, but the ends are the same for us both...” The thing on the rooftop went on, now with a weird happiness in its voice that somehow stopped the inquisitor in her tracks. “We both want to ‘reset’ this hellhole we call world. Finish off everything that’s dark and corrupt for a new beginning that’ll, hopefully, be better…”

Time was ticking and things would get bad for the people in this area of the city soon, but Annabeth couldn’t force herself to ignore what she was hearing. And it seemed that her conversation partner also noticed this much.

“We’re pretty much the same, Annabeth Solomon… All that differentiates us is who has the means and who has the power.”