Chapter 112:

The Temple of the Crystal Slab - Part 2


“What the flying fuck is this?!”

“Good question, Col, a very good question indeed… Annabeth?”

“Fox, how many reads can you do?” The spearhead of the group ignored said group as she approached the chained figure while asking a completely different thing.

The chained figure was making Anna second-guess everything else about this mission to the point that she was willing to just shoot him and leave. The whole reason she was yet to do so was her intuition telling her that doing so would likely blow this place up.

He wouldn't be sealed here if it was someone that easy to kill, right?

“I can do it some three times yet, but… Why is there a boy chained to the floor?”

“I’d like to bloody know too!” Col shouted again after leaving the staircase behind everyone else. And she was, again, ignored by the only person that had any chance of having any ideas.

What they didn’t know was that Anna was as clueless as everyone else. And she would like it if things stood like this.

“Draw yer cards, one to ask if I’d better kill and one if I’d better free, ay?”

“Hmmm… I can, but… Free him? Is that a good idea?” Minako asked again as she was having a hard time understanding the point of asking this. “I mean, it feels ominous and he’s sealed in a temple, so shouldn’t we instead look for something else here?”

“I don’t agree. This place was run by our enemies and we’re meant to find something good here, but this boy is the only thing in the whole temple other than the drawings. And since the enemy of my enemy is my friend, I say we free him.”

“None of you plan to fucking answer me, right?” The thrice-ignored brunette gave up on her questions and instead decided to seat on the closest stairs. She didn’t seem tired, but Anna still made sure to take note of the situation.

“Just do the read, Fox.” The redhead ordered this time, putting a different tone this time and then pointing up. “I don’t wanna alarm ya too much, but we on a timer ‘ere, and I’ve no idea what’ll happen when it clocks out. I’m ever considerin’ a full-on retreat now, y’know?”

The other girls stared at their unreliable leader, getting the fact that she wasn’t playing around right away. Even if one of them was pretty much smiling instead of being worried.

“Next time, start with this, okay? Would spare a good amount of effort.”

“That’s true… Didn’t cross mah’ mind fer some reason...” The pensive inquisitor turned her gaze away from her partner as she was unsure of why she was in enough of a hurry to forget all explanations. It was even more worrying than the random fits of forgetfulness. “Is it some side-effect?”

“What was it?” Karim asked based on the little of the whispering she heard, prompting Anna to shake her head and hurry to change subjects.

“Nothin’ important... Only tryin’ to understand this seal, ay?” She improvised, moving closer to the chained creature oozing dark energy. “How’s the read, fox?!”

“Ow! Right… Just a moment…”

The shrine maiden finally started to move her hands, summoning her deck right away, focusing her magic, and drawing a single card. Which one it was didn’t matter, and neither Anna could see it from her position, but she could notice a white color.

Then, the kitsune returned the sole white card and shuffled all a little before pulling a new one, which, to Anna’s surprise, also was white.

“That’s… Unusual?” The five-tailed fox kept staring at the card in her hand until it fully vanished. “I never saw this one come out white at least… And the reading would be…”

All waited in silence as Minako tried to make sense of what she had just seen. Colette and Karim still on the stairs waiting, and Anna moving with her shotgun as it seemed that killing was the best idea.

The results would be good either way, that’s what the white cards meant, she reasoned, so it was better to lower the variables.

But before she could move on with her plan, the maiden's words stopped the gun’s trigger in place.

“We have an uptight devil for killing him, so it can mean that it’s a self-sabotage, maybe, but will still be a good outcome.” Minako recited, even though she didn’t seem to be that sure this time. “It could also have something to do with vices, but I can’t understand why…”

“Vice and obsession, and somehow is a good outcome still. Are you sure about this one? Not to mistrust an oracle, but…” Karim asked while also trying to make sense of the situation. Not unexpected since words like ‘vices’ and ‘obsessions’ shouldn’t feel like good things for a cop. They were likely the most common reasons for crimes for one thing.

“Well, this kind of thing is the risk of making specific questions: interpreting the answer gets very hard. But I’m very sure my answer should match well enough with the prediction… Seventy percent sure even.”

“Heh! Vices and obsessions fit very well with Anna, so why not?” Col added with a small laugh. “It’s like saying we’ll win because of a huge maniac, which is like a common workday to me.”

“I don’t think it’s like that… And what do you think, Annabeth?”

“Ain’t sure…” She answered even though, only a few seconds ago, she was very sure of what she should do. “What’s the other card? If both ones’re weird, then it’ll be easier to choose.”

“No, no. The other one is a more standard option actually.” Minako answered by breaking the inquisitor’s theory and making a small drawing with her fox fires. “It was an uptight wheel of fortune, you see? My best bet is that freeing this person will either bring us a lot of luck or change our situation a lot.”

Indeed, these sounded more generally positive than the other option. Anna couldn’t say that she felt good leaning on letting what was most likely a full-blown demon, if not something worse, but it sounded better in theory. And again, her acquired sixth sense couldn’t choose which was better.

Her reading of the spells used on the chains wasn’t helping too. They weren’t standard issues, from that she was sure, but the methods seemed too abnormal.

For one, the chains themselves weren’t capable of weakening or sealing the boy’s power, they only kept him sleeping. Or at least that was all they seemed to be doing. And more, there was clear wear on both the physical chains and the spells on them.

Things sealed usually weren’t meant to ever be unsealed, but this one seemed more like something with a time-lock waiting to blow up. And if it was pure curiosity or something else, Anna was very inclined on letting it blow up to see what would happen.

“I say we free the brat.” Anna concluded suddenly, prompting her partner to spring into action as she tried to protest. Although she soon noticed that her protests were aimed at the wrong person.

“We can’t just ki… Wait, what?! Free? You said that?”

“Move away, Shorty, this Anna should be a mimic!” Col sprung into action, taking a fighting stance between the redhead and the petite girl. “And she used to warn me about them all the time…”

“Wait, wait, how could Annabeth be a mimic if she was with Minako most of the time?”

“Not sure, but Anna would never save a spirit or whatever.”

“Ah, I know how!” The fox that was terrible at puzzles gasped from her position a few steps away from the other three girls and then exclaimed her ‘discovery’. “I must be a mimic too! Then all would make sense, right?”

“I’m feelin’ mah’ brain dyin’ ‘ere… I’ll’ve y’know that a mimic would die if it tried to copy me, ‘kay? Such random theory…” Annabeth kept staring wide-eyed at the situation while still unable to react much. “I’m so done with this place...”

And so, without asking anyone or bothering to give more orders, she shot the two dispel-enchanted bullets at the chains on the boy and then turned to the staircase again. Stopping only to give a last order.

“Stop bein’ dumb and take our package, ay?”