Chapter 71:

Deal With the Devil - Part 1


Another few days had passed since the whole battle at the temple's venue, and now Annabeth could finally call herself recovered. It wasn't a total recovery, as the seals on her right arm were still damaged, but she was under proper control now.

The real side-effect of that whole situation was the fact that the continent wasn't answering her calls for support. Even her reports weren't being acknowledged at the moment.

It was no more than expected, though. Just some small punishment to keep her from causing too much damage in a short period of time. And it wasn't as if she lacked a temporary countermeasure, even if this one relied on a demon and a lot of bureaucracy.

Louise would have to deal with that and not her, so that was fine. Maybe she could even manage it all before the new date of the postponed festival that had to be partly rebuilt.

Either way, It was time to go back to her real job, even if it meant waiting for the next infiltration chance, which in turn meant more idle patrolling. She had ditched her partners today, though, as a certain activity had made itself available.

How she was called and who called her were both making the redhead very unhappy.

“You’d expect somethin’ more proper fer a call to a secret meeting, but NOOOO, just a letter with some address I’ve no idea what means and an hour...” Anna complained to herself as she walked through the slums without calling any attention. “Is a li’l encryption askin’ too much? It’d be such a pain if shorty got her hands in that before me… And I ain’t even sure if she bought mah’ excuse as to why I was playin’ ‘round the condo’s mailbox.”

You don’t call a secret meeting using the public postal service, that much Annabeth was sure of, but it didn’t seem like the ghost cared about it.

Anna likely had to thank Minako a little later for giving her a small piece of a sixth sense, but she wouldn’t. If it wasn’t for the weird skill she got from that fox, then she had no idea of what could’ve happened.

One way or another, she got rid of the letter and managed to sneak away, but the fact that she only knew this city for a month came knocking right after. If it wasn’t for that first fight a few weeks ago, then it was hard to know if she would ever find this pub in the middle of the slums.

“The fact that I can’t remember the owner makes this place even shadier…” She noted as her brain tried to picture the person she was sure she talked with. And it wasn't as if Anna was ever someone to forget things.

Even if it was something minor like a random smuggler or a small-time collaborator, keeping tabs on them was very important to her job and she was very well-trained at doing so. All it meant was that some outside factor was involved then, but the options only went further from there.

Too much elixir, overdoing her magic, some spell she didn’t notice, any of these could be an answer, even if each was harder to happen than the one before it.

“Guess I’ll leavin’ this question as a side objective then...” She decided as her legs finally went deeper into the alley and then inside the place she wasn’t, technically, allowed to enter. “Now… Where’s mah’ ghost?”

This place was, to be blunt, almost empty and very shady.

The building was an old makeshift shack likely made of whatever was available. The half-dozen small table thrown around didn’t match each other’s and the counter was just a raw plank set above a few others with stools in front of it.

It seemed to have electricity and water, though, and the assortment of drinks set on display wasn’t that bad too.

Other than that, all she could see were three very drunk patrons on the old wooden tables and a very short and very large bearded man at the counter. And it wasn’t even surprising when said owner easily managed to acknowledge that she had entered.

Anna then nodded to the man she believed to be a dwarf and approached his counter while avoiding the drunkards. He didn’t seem to mind her being there, though, and kept cleaning the cups like he was before, only stopping when she took a seat at the counter.

“How can I help you, lass?” He asked while setting his utensils where they should be but continued before she could answer. “Oh, don’t try to ask for any alcohol, you don’t seem to be old enough for it.”

For a few moments, the redhead couldn’t react to his words at all. She could understand them, of course, but doing so only made things worse.

There were many ways to make someone forget something and it wasn’t as if there weren’t people who could track her, especially since she wasn’t trying that hard. But in all honesty, Anna looked a lot older than she actually was.

She was unusually tall, her face was sharp and her clothes were, well, immodest. Calling her out like this was very unusual no matter how she saw it.

If it was to compare to anything, it would be as if Karim entered a brothel for the first time and everyone took it for granted.

This place had to be investigated at some point, even if her sixth sense was telling her that it had nothing to do with her current job.

“Well… Ain’t ‘ere to drink, mate.” She shook the weirdness off and went on with what was more important. “I’ve gotta an appointment ‘ere, y’see? Shady person of unsure gender and with a terrible voice who may be lookin’ fer an inquisitor. Saw anyone like this?”

Her question came with a small ‘tip’ being pushed to the counter, as it was proper, but the owner ignored it and went to the fridge by his back. He then took a certain easy-to-recognize bottle, four of them in fact, and set them in front of Annabeth, only taking the bill after that.

“These are hard to get by, but I find my prices very fair and I’m almost sure they’ll be to your liking.”

“White-cola?! Why...? What… That ain’t why I’m ‘ere, dammit!”

“Not to your liking, lass? I was sure someone trying this hard to be a stereotype would prefer these over anything else…”

“No, I like ‘em, but that’s beyond the point! I’m not ‘ere to buy drinks, I’m ‘ere to…”

“I know, lass.” The pub owner interrupted Annabeth as she was trying to make things straight. “Take it as a service then, okay? Your guest is in the backroom that way.”

The owner’s hand was pointed to a door Anna was sure wasn’t there a moment ago, but she was done with trying to understand this place by now. At least she knew this was the right place now.

“Sometimes ya better go with the flow, ay?” She told herself while grabbing the four bottles of imported bubbling liquid. “Thanks fer the help, mate. I’ll be on mah’ way now…”

“Have a nice one and don’t mess the room too much, please.”

“Don’t worry ‘bout that, I’m chill durin’ meetings.” The inquisitor carrying an automatic pistol answered as she turned around and headed to her destination. Before reaching it, though, she stopped and asked a last question to the pub owner. “A li’l question ‘ere, mate… What’s yer name?”

A moment of silence went by, one that made Anna think that she had stepped on a landmine. Her blood was even heating up with expectation, but all came back to normal right away.

“The name’s Elam.” He answered before finishing off with another phrase that increased Anna’s interest even more. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Annabeth.”

“Nay. The pleasure’s all mine...” And while barely holding herself from getting into a fight right away, Annabeth went to her secret meeting.

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