Whenever Annabeth talked about plans, hers would sound terrible but somehow work in the end. Karim believed such after their month of cohabitation, even if her partner acted like a loose cannon most of the time.
She was even easy to predict if you paid attention to the patterns, most of the time at least.
So, when she fired her weird pistol and everyone started running, it didn’t feel like there was anything wrong. No explosions or anything that flashy happened. They even reached the exit without a problem.
But that changed some seconds later.
To her, the bubbles popping only created a weird grey energy burst that only bounced around the room and then vanished. Nothing special after that and not big to the point that nothing but silence and the weakening aura of the saved boy filled the room.
The only abnormality was how Annabeth simply fainted halfway through their escape. Even after closing the door and checking her vitals, nothing seemed to change and no reason for her sudden collapse became clear.
It was too sudden and too weird, and that could be even worse if Annabeth ended only as the first one affected. There were two unconscious members already, so more would start to be a problem.
To top it off, her eye was still affecting the surroundings, and it seemed that it was slightly more powerful than usual too. And worse than that, Minako was panicking
“What’s happening, Anna? Anna. Wake up, Anna!”
“Calm down, Minako. It’s likely some side-effect of that weird energy burst from earlier.” Karim tried to defuse the situation by giving her best shot at making sense of the situation. “She’s still breathing and her pulse’s… decent… so we should calm down and…”
“Is it poison? No… Curse?! No… A wound I can’t see…? Unlikely…” The kitsune ignored the explanation and went back to burning her talismans at a worrying rate while muttering less and less coherent gibberish. “Is it something spiritual? Maybe I should go for ress… No. It’s better to restart…”
She was uttering no more than ramblings by now and even the last few phrases were almost impossible to understand. And why her hands were now moving toward the gun fallen by Annabeth’s side was even harder to understand.
“Hey, hey, girl. What are you doing there?” Colette finally interfered, holding the shrine maiden before she could grab the gun and receiving a very cold stare in response.
“Just collecting it for safety. We’ll need to leave here soon, won’t we? And if Anna won’t wake up in time…” Minako answered in the most emotionless tone ever heard from her. It was so unusual that Colette even failed to react in time when the shrine maiden got the pistol and started to check it as if used to handling guns. “Do any of you know a way of waking Anna up?”
Her tone was unsettling enough to shut any questions the other two girls could have. In fact, Karim was so surprised she was barely paying attention to anything other than the gun-handling fox. And this lack of attention caused her to receive a shock when a young male voice called them out from the wall Colette had left him.
“May this ‘Anna’ be the vessel lying there?”
“Yes...?” The girl with a gun answered in an unsure way, which was more than Karim could do considering that she was unsure of what the question was. “But what does it have to do with you?”
“Is my translation working? If it is, I cannot say for sure, but I may be able to answer your question from earlier, young spirit.” The boy answered in a very composed tone that didn’t match well with his apparent age. “And if I may ask, what is the current date?”
“I don’t care about dates! Tell me how…”
“It’s Summer’s sixty-three, year seventeen eighty-one of the New Federal Calendar. And yes, we can understand you.” The cop cut into the conversation between the two people acting weird, trying to set some order to it. “Still, if I can ask, how long were you a prisoner?”
“Prisoner? Not right, but works fine too… But I may be unable to answer your question since the calendar seems from what I know. When was the Battle of Gloudhaus? I was sent here a little more than two months after that, and such a major battle was sure to be recorded...”
The Federation’s calendar, and by extension, the Archipelago’s, wasn’t that old of a system. It was made only when the human countries on the continent unified, meaning only a few centuries. But more than that, what was troublesome was that this ‘major battle’ wasn’t one Karim had any idea about.
Even considering that she wasn’t a history buff in any consideration, Karim knew most important historical dates. It was one of the few things she recorded from her limited time in school. Math, local geography, and geopolitics being the other few subjects she still remembered.
Either way, this battle was either something non-important or it changed names during the time.
“How old were you during this battle? I never heard of it, but it’s maybe something with a different name by now…” She decided to ask since being sure of a spirit’s age was a very hard-to-master process. “Also, was it between the Astellian Federation and the Demon Realms or was it something related to the Archipelago? Most battles are caused by one of these...”
“Astellian Federation…? And Archipelago? I never heard of these… The Three Devilish Kingdoms I know about. They were our main enemies as the Holy Covenant. I record something about Northern Tribes too, but they weren’t more than tribes…”
“Huh, I don’t think I heard of these… What about the Infina Chur…”
“Stop with it, you both! You’re making my head hurt.” Colette blew up at the conversation that, even Karim that was a main participant, was losing all sense. “Stop fucking up and wake up Anna, dammit! She’s the one that knows all this useless naming bullshit.”
“Yes, wake Anna up!” Minako also pitched in, although her eyes were still glaring at the weird boy and her hand was still on the pistol. “She’s more important than knowing some prisoner's real age anyway.”
“That is very uncouth, but I understand your worries… And since it seems that it may help my predicament too, I’m not against explaining what has to be done.”
As he finished speaking, the tunic-wearing boy started to walk closer to Minako and the unconscious girl, only to be blocked halfway. A little suspicion had to be cleared before anything, even if it wouldn’t clear everything no matter what.
“Before answering…” Karim started while still not letting the boy pass. “How do you know what you claim to know?”
“Oh? I see this person is important to you three, isn’t she?” He asked back, not receiving much of an answer until he gave up. “Well, what I know is because I had the chance of working with a vessel candidate once. I believe it was a human too at the time, although this one feels a little different… But what I know should still work with her. And it may be your best try right now too.”
His words seemed believable enough and now that Annabeth was out they somewhat had to hurry a little, so some questions had to be left for later. Some would likely rely on arresting this person for interrogation even.
They could also ignore whatever he suggested in any case and it didn’t feel like this boy could take Minako and Colette out too, so it was fine to hear him. At least for now.
“Go on then.” The cop concluded and moved away, receiving a ‘thank you’ and a nod as the self-proclaimed specialist passed. He then stopped right in front of the invisible defense line Minako was keeping before starting to glare at the fallen girl. And as he was doing so, his eyes started to shine blue.
“From what I can see, she’s afflicted by many conditions, but the biggest one is that her body and soul are currently desynchronized. She also seems to be afflicted by many different curses and most of her soul is sealed behind something that I cannot analyze, but...” He spoke after taking a thorough look at Annabeth’s body and breaking into an expression of full amazement the next moment.“How is this young girl alive to begin with?!”
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