Chapter 102:

Temples and Puzzles - Part 4


“I must be some kind of genius. Very impressive indeed.” The raven-haired fox spoke as she returned the detached scope they were using as a makeshift spyglass. “I mean, that shouldn’t be there, should it?”

“Seems like a landmark fer sure... And a man-made one too.” Anna smirked while taking a good look at what seemed to be some old-era structure on the islet a few hundred meters away. A relay of weird brick obelisks set across the whole perimeter of the island.

Things would go a little astray if it was an actual old-era something, but it would be weird for such a thing to be unknown to the locals on her team. And something of this caliber was sure to fit the 'landmark' label, so this place was perfect. Even if landmark was a hard-to-define term.

In a small city, the biggest building, no matter how bland, would be one, but the most colorful building around, no matter how small, would too. Meanwhile, in a big one, everything was usually so big and eye-catching that landmarks became either a matter of arbitrary names or fame. But in a continent, a whole city would instead be the landmark or it would be so big it would be either a geographical feature or a one-of-a-kind building.

And on the other side of things, everything abnormal could be a ‘landmark’ inside a room, which was how Minako's theory worked.

It wasn’t very hard to link the objects in the room and how the ley lines on the map were after understanding that. In fact, it was uncannily easy even. The bigger problem was finding the right place.

“So, this is their overturned chair, right?” Karim asked as she received the scope and started to scan the island too. “I can’t believe we got here with a random guess again…”

“Yeah, kinda as if we’re followin’ an oracle, ay? Visitin’ on the moment we’d end on whitey’s ship, bein’ too early so it wouldn’t be fully staffed, havin’ no proper temple ‘round, all-cause Col drew those cards...”

This comment seemed to hit the pin on the cop’s head, likely at the same time that she noticed how powerful was the skill they were messing with.

“It’s scary how it makes sense… I wonder if we’re not playing on the hands of something else though. We may even be heading on the wrong direction without knowing...” The petite blondie turned pensive at her own words. Words Anna was sure she wouldn’t get much from wasting her brainpower wondering about this. It was a matter too hard to prove and impossible to be sure in this situation, but that was something for Karim to decide.

“Hey…” Colette called out with a troubled expression covering her face. “Can we tell our captain to raise this fucking thing a little? We’re almost at sea level already…”

“We’ve gotta observe the place, y’know? And I can’t do it from too far since it wouldn’t be safe… Yes, safety is the problem.”

“So, you’re just scared about looking down again… Sigh... Why they couldn’t have flying islands too? It would make everything so much easier.” The brunette came back to complaining until she brightened with what seemed, to her, to be a good idea. “Wait! Why don’t we drop there then? We could investigate the place better too.”

“Yeah… Not happenin’. This one’s still too small to be worth the effort and we’ve gotta many places to look yet. One of ‘em has to be the ‘good’ size...”

This islet was as big as the frigate looking at it, and a good bit of it would probably go bellow water as the tide rose. It was too small to have anything worth investigating. They needed something as big or a little bigger than Minako's one, or at least that was what the redhead was predicting.

She wasn't, of course, thinking that they would find the missiles or the main enemy base like this, but that was fine. What was needed right now was information, so understanding what these 'landmark islands' were would do wonders in this field.

It was also the best plan Anna had.

“Heck! Let’s fucking move on then. Why are we risking getting this close to… Hmmm…? Isn’t this island a little too…”

“Aham! We lost enough time ‘ere. Go tell whitey to move to the next spot, ay?” Annabeth rushed to cut the enlightenment of her friend before something could go wrong. “We also need to go fast or we risk being seen by some patrol.”

“Huh? Yes, right… I’ll rush then.” Col agreed in a confused tone and then rushed towards the bridge in a very willing movement to get away from sea level.

Two risky events on the same day were worrying, though. Anna was even starting to consider forcing everyone to stay inside the ship from now on. Some lame excuse would do for that and it would be harder to see the mismatches on the hypnosis, but she was unsure if it was the best possible move.

The other option would be rushing this whole process even more, which had its own risks too. Namely, having a huge fight while the redhead couldn’t fight that well and risking her willingness. .

“I don’t think we’ll get more than one day or two from now on…” She noted to the shrine maiden and the priestess still staying at the deck. “And then I don’t think Col’ll be of much use inside ‘ere.”

“You’re currently closing into being useless and Colette is in danger of panicking and becoming useless… Maybe we should call everything out.” Karim requested in a serious tone and a stern expression. “Retreat to the city and then try again.”

“Maybe we’ll’ve to… This ship shouldn’t take that long to make the voyage too, so…”

“It sounds troublesome.” The kitsune muttered in a somewhat unexpected reaction that made her turn around in surprise and then explain herself. “What? Doing that whole process again would be a problem, wouldn’t it? Or was it a one-time thing and I understood the situation wrong?”

“Damn… There’s that thingy too. Hells"!” Anna sighed and looked around as the frigate started to move again, heading to the next spot. “We can’t lose another week considering we barely started the investigation, so we keep the plan. And y’all helpin’ me pray we’ll do it in time.”

“You’re melodramatic enough to make the whole situation look a lot better, you know that?” Karim smirked at her partner’s exaggerated take, and Anna smiled back at her. “Guess we’re solving this case in two days then. Seems good enough.”

“Considering that you saved me in a single day, why wouldn’t it be?” Minako also joined the lightening mood, even though her smile was much closer to a genuine one than the smirks her companions had on their faces. “And now you have me too. We’ll solve this in one day and use the other on my personal beach! Everybody agrees with this plan?”

For all that mattered, it seemed that this fox demon with a puffed chest and a prideful smile was a lot more decent than she looked. Her words were even tipping the inquisitor’s planned smile towards an unconscious genuine one. But she had work to do.

It was only fair that she would give something to the kitsune in exchange for lifting the mood properly, though. Even if it wasn’t anything more than a token prize.

“I’ll tell a thing fer ya, fox… You may not be that far from havin’ a chance on yer goal ‘ere." The cryptic gunner then turned away after leaving some crafted words and a hollow hope. Both things that would be broken if anyone heard what she muttered right after. “It’s such a waste yer aimin’ fer the impossible…”

And now with a closed-off expression, Annabeth went back to the wardroom to take a second look at the map and think again.
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