Chronicle of Mana
by Glarryg

Chapter Twelve: Retribution

She had no idea how long she stood there, gazing at the card. The card that he gave her. Guardian Systems. "The Best since the Mana Age." Johan Kett. Apparently this was the best way to regain their specimen: hire somebody to find the man that stole it.

She turned the card over again, as if it would help her to think. Not that it had helped her the twenty times she did it before. She looked around to make sure that nobody was watching her, then turned her attention back to the card that he gave her. Clearing her throat, she reached for the telephone.

Surely the CEO of Vandole Enterprises knows what he's doing, doesn't he?

She dialed the number quickly and sat down at the desk. When this was over, she'd have to go back to the basement level and try to wrap things up, get that lazy Zeno back to work. Tomorrow's flight will be early; it will be good to get back to her own building, and her own desk.

Of course he knows what he's doing.

"Thank you for calling Guardian Systems; how may I direct your call?" the voice on the line said.

Suddenly unsure, she said: "Oh, uh, this is Dr. Jamy Kalin... of the KAI Research Institute. In Mintos. Well, I'm in Forcena right now." She cleared her throat. "Uh, I was referred by Hans Geshtar; I was told to ask for a Mr. Johan Kett."

"Right away, Dr. Kalin," the voice said unflappably. "Let me transfer your call."

"Uh, thank you." She looked at the card again.

"I didn't realize how much time had passed," Kion said. "When I woke up, I though it was twilight."

"Nope, dawn," Sayoe said. She looked back at him. "Are you okay?"

He stopped. There was still a limp in his step, and most of his muscles were sore, but it was a far better fate than what should have happened to a man who went through what he did. He stood a little straighter: "I'm fine."

"Alright," she replied. "You just seemed to be talking more than usual."

"Am I?" He forced a nervous smile, not quite realizing it himself. Sayoe smiled a little and began walking again, and he followed. Her pace was a little more brisk, as the four Elementals leading them had not stopped for their conversation. The blacksmith tried to jog a few paces to catch up to them, but felt so ungainly that he abated after two clumsy gallops.

"I just thought you might be in pain or something; I don't want you becoming delirious out here," she explained.

His brow furrowed. "Well, by my guess, I should be dead now; delirious would still be an improvement." He slowed down. "It's a little odd thinking that kind of thing, isn't it?"

She stopped again, looked at the sky in thought, then turned to him. "I didn't really think of that. What do you mean?"

He tried to meet her eyes, but diverted his gaze to the ground instead. "Well, it popped into my head a while ago. I remember seeing how far I had fallen, but I don't remember landing. On one hand, that memory proves that I should have died, but I never felt that it was right for me to die at that time." An uncomfortable sigh passed through his nostrils. "I guess my instinct treats the whole thing like it was a big injury or something, but in my mind I know differently." Finally looking at her, he knotted his brow. "In all honesty, I don't know what to think of all of that."

Her face barely registered the mix of surprise and fear, but her hand inadvertently rose and touched the scar on her neck. "Yeah," she said quietly.

"Hey!" a rocky voice called out. "What are you two doing back there?" The four Elementals floated back to where the two humans had stopped to talk. "Let's go," Gnome ordered.

"Are you alright, Kion?" Undine asked.

"I'm fine," the young man declared, instantly losing the uncertainty in his voice.

"I can try to give you another dose--"

"No, I can handle it," he interrupted.

Gnome folded his arms. "I'll bet. We'd get there faster if you'd let the girl help you."

"You heard me," Kion said flatly.

"Humans used to be tougher," Gnome complained, "All your modern gadgets are making you soft." Heading back down the valley, the elf muttered more to himself, but none of the other Elementals paid him attention.

"How far are we?" the blacksmith inquired dully.

"Not far," Undine answered. "You would be able to see the Palace from here if the snow wasn't so heavy."

"Palace? What Palace?"

"The Ice Palace," the tiny mermaid said.

"Why are we going there? We already found you," Kion pointed.

"The Seed of Water is kept in the Ice Palace," Sylphid pronounced. "We suspect that Sheex may be going there."

"At least we're not putting it past him," Salamando added.

"You could have said something sooner." Kion narrowed his eyes. "So... you thinks he's still alive?"

"He doesn't look like the type of guy who'd do what he did without a backup plan," the Fire Elemental mused gravely.

"In mid-air, Sheex cast a teleportation spell on himself," Sylphid said. "If he has such an ability, it would follow that he used it to save himself."

"The Water Seed is the most accessible of all the Mana Seeds," Salamando said, sneaking a glance to Undine. "He could well be on his way there now."

"Provided he can find his way through the Palace," Undine added, returning a glare to the Fire Elemental.

"Again, it's not worth the risk to assume that Sheex won't try it," Salamando repeated.

"Well, let's go, then," Kion suggested. "The sooner we get there, the sooner we can know if he found it, and the sooner we can leave this place." Kion trudged impatiently after Gnome, and Sayoe quickly followed, soon overtaking him again. The three remaining Elementals joined them after Undine snuck another glare to Salamando.

Within minutes, as was predicted, a large building came into view. Easily ten stories tall, the palace bore a massive facade with pointed arches spanning the gaps between immense columns. The rock that constituted the ornate fortress was an oddly vibrant bluish hue; it seemed to shimmer the slightest as one stared at it. A trapezoidal staircase beckoned them forward, and Undine quickly took the lead.

"I'll get us inside." She waved her trident at the huge doors barricading the entrance, and they obediently swung open with a tired creak.

Kion pulled his cloak around his neck. "Doesn't look much warmer in there than out here," he observed.

"It shouldn't," Undine remarked. "No human has been in there for ages, and it's been out of use for much longer than that. People today don't even remember the name of the tribe that built it."

"So how do we know it isn't going to collapse on us?" the blacksmith asked.

"It's been around this long," Gnome remarked, "What do you think are the odds it's gonna fall the very day we decide to go inside?"

With an uncertain frown, Kion hesitated, then followed Sayoe into the palace. Upon entering and realizing that there was no source of natural light inside, Salamando floated in front of the group and searched out a torch, lighting it with his staff and handing it to Kion. The corridor of the palace presented two large doors. Sayoe, still in front, glanced back at Undine.

"It's fairly simple once you know the way," the Water Elemental explained. "Just take the right-hand door in the first two halls, then stay to the left after that."

"Doesn't sound too hard," Kion said, wandering up to the first pair of doors.

"Maybe, but a lot of the other rooms have traps inside them," Undine replied. "You can't afford to make a mistake here."

"Booby traps in a palace?"

"Well, it was only a palace until the tribe left this area," the mermaid recounted. "After that, they used it as a tomb and a place to hide their valuables. They would come back every few months to store treasure or bury their most respected relatives."

"Really," the young man thought aloud as he dropped the torch to the ground and seized the ring-shaped handle of the right-hand door, pulling at it until he had to stop and catch his breath.

Sayoe crept up beside him and hovered her hands near the handle. "Maybe you shouldn't be straining yourself so much," she suggested.

"Probably not," he said, and kept pulling.

After feinting towards the handle and registering no reaction from him, Sayoe took hold of the opposite side of the ring and leaned back. With a throaty grunt, the door yawned open, grating against stone as it lazily allowed the humans to drag it across the floor.

Undine cleared her throat. "The others aren't quite so large."

Ignoring her, the blacksmith retrieved his torch and continued into the hallway. As they walked through the palace, every movement they made bounced around the frigid walls and returned to them in an eerily melodic chorus. The next room was a small circular alcove with a short staircase leading to another pair of doors; the right-hand portal opened to another, shorter hallway. They entered the next room, a wide meeting chamber, and the echo of their footsteps changed to register the shape of their surroundings. The young lady smiled as she listened to the new rhythms produced by the chamber. She looked around at the ornamentation of the room: carved faces in the walls, images of monsters and gods battling amidst vast forests of vines and trees. The thoughts such carvings prompted seemed unlike the type of civilization suggested by the environment.

"Was this continent always so cold?" she asked aloud.

"No," Undine answered. "It used to be a lot warmer. There was a waterfall a few miles to the west that was more beautiful than anything existing today. I used to go there all the time." she lowered her head. "That's why I put the Water Seed here after the weather changed and the people moved away. I wanted to remember the waterfall."

"Are you saying you'd ever forget something like that?" Salamando asked.

"Not really, but... you never know." The Water Elemental kept her eyes to the ground as the group continued across the chamber. Their very steps seemed to quiet down as they neared the door to the next hallway.

In the growing silence, a soft shuffling sound hiccupped through the chamber. Everybody stopped instantly, and Kion sliced his torch through the air to look behind himself. He darted his eyes around for a moment, then quietly hissed: "Sylphid."

"Yes," the Wind Elemental calmly answered.

"Is someone in here?"

"In this room?" Sylphid asked.

The blacksmith cocked an eyebrow and slowly glared at the creature. "You're kidding, right?"

"What I mean is that there is a person in this palace, but not in this room."

The shuffling sound burst across the far corner of the room. "Then what was that?" Kion snapped.

"One of the creatures walking these halls has found us," Sylphid said.

Undine placed a hand to her mouth. "Uh-oh." Receiving questioning stares, she said: "There were monsters posted in some of the rooms as a means of guarding the palace. They must still be alive, and roaming chambers that they shouldn't be."

Kion drew his sword. "Lovely." As soon as his weapon left its sheath, the shuffling sound erupted again, louder and closer. It seemed more of a swishing sound, as if the creature making it started moving faster. The young man swept his torch back and forth, sneaking a glance to Sayoe. She had assumed a ready stance and was watching the spot from which the swishing last sounded. Kion looked that way, then back at her. He started to speak: "Can you tell--" but was cut off when the sound erupted much closer to him. Tensing up, he heard it again, as if it was only a few yards from him. Nothing could be seen, and he stepped back, searching frantically for the source of the noise.

Suddenly, exactly where he thought it might be, and object appeared before him, growing into view like an eye opening. The thing did, in fact, resemble an eyeball, looking straight at the blacksmith and floating in mid-air of its own power. Kion found himself both confounded and oddly intrigued by the creature.

"It's a Beholder," Sayoe whispered. "Be careful; they can tap into Elemental powers."

"Whose?" Kion asked, absently handing her the torch as he took his weapon in both hands.

"Luna's," Sylphid replied.

Kion frowned. "That's twice I've heard about this--" The eyeball blinked quickly, startling him, and upon opening its pupil seemed more contracted that before.

"Look out!" Sayoe warned. Kion froze, and at the same time a voiceless shriek tore through the room. A beam of trembling energy shot from the Beholder's pupil, punching Kion square on the chest and throwing him into the wall behind him. Reacting swiftly, Sayoe charged the creature and thrust the torch into its pupil. As the thing recoiled, she followed it, spinning around and swinging her leg over her head to ram her heel onto the monster. The eyeball bounced roughly onto the floor, and Sayoe drew the torch back, throwing her free hand forward. A burst of frigid, blue energy flew from her palm and enveloped the Beholder. As she poured more force into her attack, the thing seized up and shattered, as if made of ice.

Without stopping, the young lady spun around and ran to Kion, already surrounded by the four Elementals. He was awake, and already trying to stand up. "Be careful," she said, hovering her hands over him. He flashed her a warning look, and took a deep breath as he pulled himself to one knee. Undine floated up to him and attempted to sling his arm across her back, but he pulled it away with a grunt. Putting her hands on her hips and frowning indignantly, the Water Elemental flashed a look to Salamando, who shrugged.

"Are you alright?" Sayoe asked the young man. Drawing the torch a little closer to him, she could see that his face looked pale.

"Just winded," he wheezed.

"The Beholder sapped most of your strength," Sylphid explained. "Luna's powers can cause a variety of adverse conditions in a victim."

"You were lucky this time, kid," Gnome added.

Kion glared at the Earth Elemental as he threw himself to his feet. Swaying a little, the blacksmith took a second to secure his balance. Sayoe stepped back, making sure he was not about to fall over. He shifted his weight to start walking, but stopped himself. Noticing his hesitation, she looked over her shoulder in the direction of his gaze.

"There's something..." he trailed off, slowly starting to back up. About ten feet behind Sayoe, a flurry of shuffling burst into the room. She started to turn, and saw as a half a dozen Beholders opened up just a few yards away.

"Let's go," she whispered. Kion had already started lumbering for the door, and she followed him despite the fact that he was not running as quickly as he was usually able. Fumbling a little with the handle, Kion yanked the door open and loped into the narrow hall. The young lady quickly ushered the Elementals after him and pulled the door shut after her.

Sylphid floated after the blacksmith. "Beholders can pass through--"

"Don't want to hear it," Kion warned in annoyance.

"We're almost there," Undine said.

"Better," Kion remarked. He half-smiled, but was breathing much harder than he should for such an effort. His forehead had already beaded up with sweat. The hallway was easily one hundred yards long, and by the time Kion reached the door on the end he was on the verge of tripping under his own exhaustion. He pitched his shoulder at the door, ramming into it and falling back onto the floor.

Sayoe hesitated over him, but he pointed at the door: "Open it!" She pulled the unwieldy handle and drug the door open. Kion awkwardly jumped to his feet and followed her into the pitch-black room.

As the young lady pulled the door shut, Undine floated to Kion. "This is the room we want. We'll be fine here; most lesser monsters are too afraid to approach a Mana Seed.

"It's in here?" Kion asked, trying to see anything past the light of the torch Sayoe held.

"Yes," Undine confirmed, pointing to the center of the room even though the humans could not see anything there.

"And Sheex?" Sayoe asked.

"Sheex is not the person in this building," Sylphid answered.

Kion grunted his frustration, wafting his cloak open to release some of the heat his run had generated. "Well then who--"

A series of footsteps echoed from the other side of the massive chamber. Slowly, a ring of torches tracing around the room lit themselves, burning with an eerie white fire. Most of the room could be seen in the odd light; its ceiling stretched as high as the building itself, and four decorative columns supported an ornate stone pagoda around the altar that held what looked like an immense walnut. Aside from that, and more of the same wall carvings as the other rooms, the chamber was empty. A staircase near the back of the room appeared to have once led up to a throne or two, but no furniture could be found anywhere in the place. Kion had to stop his quick examination of the room as the stranger came into view.

Easily taller than six feet, the man was bald except for a long braided ponytail hanging just above his neck. A fiery-looking tattoo covered the top of his head, and his hardened face looked as if it had not moved for years. He wore a cloak that hid all of his clothing but the heavy boots that kept ringing through the room as he rounded the altar and looked the group over with stiff eyes.

"You're not a carpenter," the man said to Kion in a low, blank voice.

The young man narrowed his eyes. "Well done," he said dryly.

"But you are the man I'm after," the stranger continued, ignoring Kion's comment. "You have the Spirits with you; an unforgivable offense as it is."

Kion widened his stance slightly and shook off a little vertigo. Seeing this, Sayoe approached him from the side, stepped a little in front of him, and faced the stranger. "Who are you?" she demanded.

"You should recognize me as one of your own, child," the man said contemptuously. "I am Akitsune Koshiro."

Sayoe leaned back a little, tossing the name around in her head. "Koshiro... the Silver Knight?" she thought aloud.

"His son, actually," the stranger corrected. "I was hired to find the man who kidnapped the Spirit of Earth, but it suits my own purpose that he has all four Lower Spirits in his company." Calmly, the man pulled his cloak back and drew a shimmering broadsword, slowly starting to pace in front of the altar. "I intend to prove that the Mana Tribe has indeed lost its direction, and the fact that an outsider and a child are commanding the Base Elemental powers is more than the proof I'll need."

"Who hired you?" Kion asked, straightening his posture suspiciously.

"That is not your privilege to know," Koshiro replied, "And is incidental to my cause anyway. I aim to take back what is owed to my family. The Silver Knighthood will be returned to my family by your folly, smith."

"Look, I don't want to fight you," Kion said. Koshiro stood silent for a second, then slowly assumed a fighting posture. The blacksmith drew his sword with a dejected grimace, blinking hard to maintain focus on his opponent. Sayoe glared at him; his posture had slackened quickly after he fixed it. With a furrowed brow, she started to say something, but Koshiro suddenly charged the two of them. The pair dodged away from each other, and the man swung his weapon at Kion, landing a blow square on the blade of Kion's sword, knocking the blacksmith to the frozen stone floor. Sayoe moved to counter his attack, but hesitated upon registering that Koshiro managed to swing the large broadsword with only one hand.

Gripping the weapon in both hands, Koshiro raised it above his head and swung at the fallen blacksmith. Kion barely rolled away from the assault, and Koshiro quickly had his sword in the air to swing again. Having quickly composed herself, Sayoe ran at the man, but Sylphid reached him sooner, throwing a palm forward and tossing an arc of lightning into Koshiro's arms. With a clumsy spasm, the sword fell from the man's hands and clanged noisily against the ground. The young lady continued to rush the stranger, and tackled him to the ground. Still rolling away, Kion awkwardly sprung to his feet, tripping on the way and falling backwards into the altar.

Koshiro was on his feet quickly, but Sayoe slipped on a patch of frost. The man moved towards her, and was promptly tripped by a sweeping kick; as he fell, Sayoe twisted away and jumped to her feet. Koshiro braced the floor with his hands and flipped backwards onto his feet, wasting no time in attacking her; a wide chop aimed at her neck missed, but her dodge left her open to catch his knee in her stomach. Reflexively, she clamped her arms around his leg, and threw her weight forward, twisting her arms slightly before letting go. As she pushed the man away, he stumbled backwards, hopping on one foot a couple of paces while she tried to catch her breath.

Kion stood up, gripping his sword. "Are you okay?" he called. Falling to her knees, she gave no answer, but jabbed her finger at Koshiro a couple of times. Wasting no time, Kion charged the man, ignoring both his own lightheadedness and the odd gestures the stranger made with his arms. Just as Kion drew his weapon back, he saw a white aura wrap around Koshiro; he was too close to alter his attack, and followed through with the swing, aiming his blade at the man's stomach. Koshiro did not move, and was standing straight as if he expected the assault. Kion's weapon sliced through the still air, making no sound as it stopped in midair one inch from Koshiro's body.

The blacksmith's arm were stunned by the sudden tremor that ran through the sword. He had done nothing to stop the attack himself, but it was instantly paralyzed upon hitting the man's pale aura. A sickening numbness spread through the young man's head; he muttered, "What the he--"

One backhanded swing from the man felled Kion. Koshiro looked down at the blacksmith, mixing disappointment with disdain. As Kion shook off the blow, Koshiro wandered over to where he had dropped his broadsword; retrieving it and returning to Kion, he said nothing, but aimed a cynically apologetic glance at the four Elementals. Sylphid kept his eyes on the man, returning no discernable expression. Salamando searched the floor in slight embarrassment, and Gnome rolled his eyes and folded his arms. Undine kept her eyes on Kion, studying him with concern. Koshiro slowly shook his head and looked back down at the injured young man.

Kion looked up at him, and Koshiro threw a kick to the young man's ribcage; the white aura around the man faded away. A few more kicks followed, and the man raised his weapon above his head. Making no sound, Sayoe flew at the man suddenly, landing a jumping kick just below his neck. A purplish glow surrounded her as she pushed off of his chest and flipped backwards the instant her attack connected. One foot touched the floor, and she sprung forward again, somersaulting in midair and swinging her heel and the top of Koshiro's head. He barely avoided the downward assault, but was unprepared as she charged him upon landing again. Planting three punches to his stomach before he could even register the first, she dodged back. His arms were still above his head, and he dizzily tried to grip the heavy weapon in preparation for an attack. Leaning back for a split second, Sayoe drew her hands back; the azure glow left her body, and an orange haze wrapped around her hands. Throwing them forward, she seemed to spray an energy that faintly resemble a cloud of gas onto Koshiro's face and arms.

The son of the Silver Knight squinted his eyes and gritted his teeth; recovering from the spray, he found his face stuck in the grimace he had made. Furthermore, his arms had seized up, and could not move without great pain. He stumbled backwards, thrown off balance by the broadsword stuck in his grip. He blinked hard, and fell to one knee. With a desperate furrow to his brow, he leaned back and pitched his shoulders forward. Letting his paralyzed arms fall towards the floor, he grunted against the pain, and the instant the broadsword rang against the ground Koshiro vanished, sucking all of the white light from the surrounding torches with him.

Sayoe stood up quickly, brushing icy dust from her clothing. "I don't get that guy," she explained in annoyance. "He said he was hired, but it sounded like all of that stuff about the Tribe losing its way had nothing to do with finding you." She looked at the blacksmith for only a second before stalking over to the torch on the floor and seizing it with an irritated sigh. "I would wish that we never see him again, but I'm not that naive."

Kion slowly sat up and stared wide-eyed at the young lady, breathing hard under the pain of his fractured ribs. Undine floated up to him and waved her trident over his torso; a bluish light seemed to flow from the wake of the little spear, washing over the blacksmith as if it was liquid. Initially seized with numbness, the young man's body relaxed and the pain subsided.

"You need to learn to do this yourself," the tiny mermaid said.

Still looking at Sayoe, Kion absently said: "Right." Drawing his feet up and rising, he swayed to the side in a small spell of dizziness. Words spun around in his head, and he pointed a finger as if he meant to speak. Gnome hopped up in front of him, grinning smugly.

"You're probably wondering how she dealt with that jerk," the elf smirked. "Those were my powers that stopped him on his feet like that. If she had done that harder, she could have turned him into stone." Folding his arms, the Earth Elemental nodded victoriously.

"Ah," Kion mused. He squinted his eyes. "But the other stuff..." Turning to him, Sayoe moved to speak, but he halted her with a palm. "No, I'll get it. I've seen that before, not with a person, but... you," he pointed to Sylphid.

"Indeed," the Wind Elemental confirmed. "When channeled inwardly, my powers can augment a being's natural agility."

The blacksmith nodded slowly. "And I bet you all do something different," he said, tracing a circle in the air with his pointed finger.

"He's catching on," Gnome remarked.

Pursing his lips for a second, the young man cocked an eyebrow at the elf creature, then tossed a look between Sayoe and Sylphid. He sighed slowly. "So, we're going to wait here until Sheex comes, then?"

"I figured he would have been ahead of us," Sayoe thought aloud. Patting her hair into place a little, she turned her eyes to Sylphid.

"Well, Eyes of Truth," Kion charged, "Where is he?"

The Wind Elemental seemed to sigh quietly, then took a sweeping look about himself. "Sheex is not here..."

"We knew that."

"... On this continent," Sylphid finished.

Kion's shoulders drooped. "So we came all this way for nothing."

"Don't worry; we're not very far from Todo," Undine announced.

"What's that?" the blacksmith asked, rotating a stiff arm around a few times.

"It's the only live city on this continent. The Walri will be able to help us reach Wendel."

Kion frowned uncertainly and glanced over at Sayoe. "Walri are Walrus People," the young lady said. The blacksmith knotted his brow and curled his lip in worry; she shrugged: "Well, at least you know what they are ahead of time."

He forced an uneasy smile, then said, "Let's go, then." He looked down the hallway from which they had entered. "Can't wait to push our way back though those things out there." Sayoe shook her head with a smile and started towards the door, following the Elementals. Halted by a voiceless urge, Kion stood in place for a second, and looked at the large seed sitting on the altar in the middle of the room. As he stared at it, it seemed to glow a little, as if to prove that it was an actual presence in the chamber. He looked at Sayoe, then back at the Mana Seed, then walked to the door.

As soon as he left the chamber, the emptiness of the frigid air suddenly hit him; it did not feel any colder than before, but it was somehow thinner and more hollow than the air in the room he had just left. Or, possibly, he simply realized just how thin it was upon leaving the room. Stopping again, he looked back at the Seed for a second, then managed to discard the faint obligation not to leave it alone.

"It is kind of funny," Sheex said to himself.

Standing on a pedestal of nothing, he basked in the nihility swirling about him as he watched them. Something resembling a ragged hole torn into the air throbbed in front of his face; through it he saw a warped image of the desert-dweller and the girl leaving the palace, aided by the Spirits.

"What's funny?"

Sensing her approach, Sheex crouched down and commanded the hole away. "I was simply watching my quarry; such a stupid human to be making his way around the world; the only thing more stupid is his success so far."

"You've been too easy on him," Carmilla observed.

"Possibly, but it's been a while since any human has tried to tangle with the Spirits like this; I guess I've been trying to savor the experience. I'll never have to worry about any of this garbage after this is all over, but I may never get such a great opportunity to play around with these human worms."

"Speaking of which," she said wryly, "How about we get another look at you human form?"

"You like it better than this?" Sheex asked.

"I don't know, it's... cute," she teased.

Sheex paused, eyeing her for a moment. "Okay," he relented in mock disappointment. In a second, he contorted himself into the shape of the armored man so often used when he roamed the humans' realm.

"Not bad," Carmilla smirked, wrapping her arms around him.

"You know," Sheex suggested, "I'll bet that if you give me a hand with this... job... you'll be able to share my reward."

"I'd like that."

"We'll just have to follow them for a while. It looks like they're heading for Wendel right now."

"That's not good," she pouted. "The higher-ups watch that place too closely for you to make a move there. They'll find out what you're doing."

"Sure, but those kids won't be there for very long. We'll catch them after they leave."

"So it looks like we have some time to kill," Carmilla deduced with a grin.

Sheex's grin widened to match hers; he cocked an eyebrow. "So we do."

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