Chapter 33:

Chapter 33 - Blind Man’s Bluff


Roulette flinched at the sight of her wounded enemy. It wasn’t like she’d cut him up personally, but the fact that her actions had contributed directly to his mutilated state was a bitter pill to swallow. It was enough to give the girl second thoughts about seeking revenge on the Gun Czars; would it just lead her to this, again and again, until she’d carved a bloody path through anyone and everyone unfortunate enough to get in her way?

“YOU… I’LL KILL YOU…!” the scion rasped, leveling his firearm in her direction.

With that, Roulette decided that this one, at least, was unlikely to impact her ability to sleep at night.

She doubted he could see her at the moment. He might have spotted her dashing across the room by arcanlight, but she had long since left the range of the cool, green aura emitting from the wall nearest him. So long as she didn’t lift her own weapon–or arcan chunk–to the wall, the girl would remain shrouded in darkness. He wouldn’t be able to get a bead on her.

Sadly, he didn’t have to.

Roulette heard a small “click” as the scion dispensed a new bandage to seek her out. With his gun now a couple feet distant from the arcan wall beside him, even he had become obscured by the utter blackness that had come to dominate the room. Now neither of them could see each other…

Which meant that he and his mana-seeking projectiles held every advantage.

The girl cursed. He was forcing her hand, threatening her into the dangerous position of illuminating her surroundings to track the ribbon’s approach. If it got a hold of her, it was all over. She thought of running… But, if she did, she would give up her best opportunity to make a stand. The traps littering the floor between them definitely represented the best option of taking him out, and she couldn’t stomach the thought of giving up that important edge.

Think! she prompted. There’s got to be a way to see, attack and defend all at once…

Prodding herself into an epiphany seemed to work; in a rush, she concocted an unconventional plan–now all she had to do was put it into action!

Roulette tossed her chunk up in the air and lashed out with a well-aimed kick, pinning the fist-sized hunk of arcan between the wall and the sole of her boot. The chunk worked just as she’d intended, deriving enough arcane energy from the clothed sole of her foot to create a reaction with the wall’s arcan inlay. The ensuing sphere of light was enough to provide a ten-foot radius of visibility, which the girl quickly determined to be more than enough for her purposes.

Next she felt around on the ground ahead of her, identifying a couple square-shaped patches of floor that weren’t precisely flush with the rest. Once she’d located the pressure plates she took a moment to adjust her gun in its sling, rotating it around her shoulder such that she could take it up at a moment’s notice if need be. Then she simply rested her hands on the two pressure plates ahead of her and waited.

She didn’t have to wait long. The strip of cloth slithered into her little orb of light, clearly intent on snagging whatever entity was holding the arcan chunk to the wall. It coiled through the air a few feet off the ground, just about level with what would be chest-height on the average human explorer.

Roulette couldn’t have asked for a better setup.

She pressed down on a pressure plate, unsure of exactly what effect would transpire. Given that the plate wasn’t anywhere near the one true path through the open chamber, though, she knew that something would happen. Sure enough, a burst of chilly air sprang from the wall a half-second later, coating the foremost portion of the bandage in a rapidly-crystallizing sheath of ice. It immediately plummeted to the ground, striking the floor with an audible “plunk”.

Roulette didn’t hesitate. She followed the length of fabric with her eyes, intuited its point of origin, took up Lady Luck, and fired a couple of volleys into the darkness. She could only smile in satisfaction when she ended up scoring a direct hit; the sound of the scion grunting in pain all but confirmed it.

His noises of displeasure didn’t stop there, though. Enraged by the immobilization of his precious projectile, the man loosed a cry of frustration and began taking steps to free it. Roulette watched as the tip of the frozen cloth strip was yanked out of sight. She was forced to imagine what happened next, but the clamor that erupted from his side of the chamber made it all too obvious: he was banging the icebound bandage against the walls in an attempt to break it free. The distinct shattering sound that followed announced his eventual success.

Alright. That’ll be the last time I rely on that trap, then.

She adjusted her strategy accordingly, lifting her hand to hover above the other pressure plate instead. Hopefully this one’s a fire trap, she thought. Can’t imagine that strip will hold up too well to a blaze. The girl settled in to wait with smug confidence, certain that she’d outmaneuvered him. If she kept this up long enough, he’d eventually bleed out! All she had to do was keep working these traps, and–

Roulette detected a hint of movement in her peripheral vision. She turned her head to find that the unthinkable had happened:

The strip of cloth had entered her aura of light from the side. In a sickening moment of realization, she deduced that he must have shattered its icy prison against the far wall, causing it to begin its approach from a completely different angle. As it was, the strip wouldn’t travel anywhere near the pressure plates in front of her–it was headed right for her unprotected side!

Roulette acted on instinct. Despite the danger of the traps, she threw herself forward directly onto the pressure plates just as the bandage moved to lunge in her direction. She gasped on the floor, wide-eyed, as a random assortment of elemental blasts erupted directly above her prone body, filling the air above her with a cacophony of hazards.

She couldn’t make out what was happening to the cloth strip–she was so terrified that she’d probably have been unable to register it even without all the visual noise. But, when the gouts of elemental fury finally reached the end of their duration and dispersed, she finally got a chance to look upon the results of her handiwork:

The bandage was burning. It was burning faster than it could possibly extend, a fine rain of ash drizzling from its tip as it receded in the direction of the Gunslinger who’d fired it. Roulette scrambled back to the safety of her pressure plateless patch of floor, watching with a growing sense of pride as the scion’s now-useless projectile retreated back toward him, nothing more than a winking ember in a sea of darkness. She expected he’d surrender, now… Or at least leave her alone.

Instead, the scion shouted a battle cry and sprinted across the trapped floor with reckless abandon.

By favoring the middle, he moved too fast to become fully engulfed in the barrage of any one trap. She could see his flesh burning, freezing and sparking as the chaotic blasts of energy lapped over his body, but none were concentrated enough to bring him down. He charged toward her like an avenging demon, his own magic-scalded body lighting the area as he raced against the complete immolation of his burning bandage.

Roulette barely had time to react. She hefted her gun and peppered him with as many bullets as she could before he reached her side of the room… But if the traps couldn’t stop him, how could she expect to put him down with a peashooter?

He made it to her side of the chamber with time to spare, laughing maniacally as the bandage lashed out to seize her by the ankle. Roulette screamed, continuing to pelt him with bursts of gunfire all the while, but it was no use; she felt the flaming bandage tightening around her shins already, coating her legs in wicked burns that would be slow to heal.


Roulette cried out in agony as the bandages rose to enclose her arms and torso, flames licking at her body from every angle. Her blood struggled to circulate as her limbs were pinched together. The long, dextrous bandage encircled the girl without giving her a single moment to breathe. To her terror, the cloth strip was making rapid progress toward her slender neck.

“...Help…!” she croaked, lacking the lung capacity to produce any more than that single, desperate syllable.

Then, the white ribbon climbed to enclose the entirety of her head…

And the girl spoke no more.

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