She and the Hunter went around for a couple of hours until they finally found Shadow. She was lying down on a roof looking over the edge. She reacted quite startled when they pulled themselves up onto the opposite edge of the rooftop.
“Wha?” She turned her head but hesitated to move. “Sorcerer. Hunter.” Her voice was coming out in a whisper and Morgana found herself again surprised at how she looked. It wasn’t as much that her outfit wasn’t completely black, it had a blueish tint to match her hair, or that there was the whiteness of bandages covering from elbow to shoulder. It was her red eyes that surprised her the most. The Shadow had been known to use a full mask, eyes slits darker than black, the special shadow lenses. All the Shadows had had that visual cue so, even after a generation, it was still hard to remember that the Shadow no longer possessed them. That it had been left behind with the Shadow of legend, upon his sacrifice to send the invading beasts back.
The rest of her head was still covered, however, save for her hair which framed her face with curved bangs and still had enough of it to tie into a wide ponytail. It looked elaborate but, in her opinion, Morgana had the slight impression she was just lazy to cut it properly. That was why it was so lengthy in every direction, not that she had any standing to complain, one would be hard-pressed to find a living being a longer hair than hers. Right that moment, it was inside her robe, long yellow hair flowed over her shoulders and down her chest like a scarf uncurled.
“Shadow,” the Sorcerer nodded her head in respect, “I assume you have noticed the beasts have returned?”
She nodded and looked forward, pointing ahead.
“Their vessel,” she whispered, her voice betraying how scared she felt.
The Sorcerer opened her eyes in surprise and looked at Hunter to find a lack of any reaction beyond approaching the ledge. She walked up with her.
“You have already sought it. I was afraid you would be trying to escape.”
“Crossed my mind,” the Shadow admitted a bit timidly, “but… I have the title. I have to…act according.” The Sorcerer nodded. She was every bit as inexperienced and young as she had expected, but she was, after all, still a child of the Kagekawa. Selected for a reason to bear her title.
“I will teleport us inside so we may repeat history.”
“Hunter,” she heard the Shadow greet and noticed the Hunter had crouched and put her hand on Shadow’s shoulder. She saw them looking at each other like they were friends, or had already experienced some kind of event together.
The girl nodded and stood up.
“The Shadow will once again be a part of the effort,” she looked determined.
“Will you accompany us, Hunter?”
“I will,” she simply said, her eyes less determined, and more doubtful.
“Great. Touch me then, and we sh–” the Sorcerer was interrupted by a light low-volume snort. It was very surprising and she looked at the Shadow in confusion.
“Sorry,” she apologized, scratching the nostril she had just blown through. She timidly reached for the Sorcerer’s shoulder, “mask is a little dusty. Wanted to get that out before we go inside.”
“…very well. Close your eyes and be ready. Once inside, Hunter will take the lead. Let us maintain absolute silence.”
“Okay,” the Shadow agreed.
They were an unlikely trio, but then again, so had the original. But they were skilled and exactly what the mission demanded. She was confident that, with her leadership, they would be successful.
She closed her eyes, focused and whispered the words. She was half-way done with it when an alarm erupted into the airs of the mist, making all three of them open their eyes, alerted.
“What the heck?”
“We are not inside,” the Hunter pointed out, “it’s not us.”
“Who then?” The Shadow asked, “who else would dare to try? Or care, even?”
“Perhaps that ghastly man, the Circus Freak? I have heard he was insane,” Morgana pointed out, “it does not matter, we can certainly use this.”
The Hunter looked on even more doubtful but only the Shadow gave her worries voice.
“How? With the alarms raised…”
“After what happened last time, and since no one is really left in this city to stand against them, I believe they were already under heavy guard. We need to take advantage of this event, use it as a distraction.”
“I suppose,” the Shadow half-heartily agreed. “Maybe though…maybe we back off.”
“You are right, Sorcerer. They must be expecting us, on account of what happened last time.”
“You think it’s a coincidence they came back up just as the competition was under way?”
“I am saying I do not think so,” she took her hand off Sorcerer’s shoulder, “they wanted to come up now. To entrap and end us.” Her eyes were trembling, betraying how scared she was.
“Your mind is clouded by fear, Shadow,” Morgana said judgingly, “this is the prophecy being realized, the best of the Shadow Conclave–”
“We don’t know who that is,” the Shadow commented, “the competition did not end.”
“It is us, us three, there is nothing in the words of the prophecy to suggest that the “best” is one individual. It can be a group as it was in the past.”
“It can also not,” the Shadow argued, carefully but stubborn, “it can also be another group.”
“Shadow, give thought to the situation,” the Sorcerer spoke with a commanding voice, “either by their choice or not, the beasts have rose during our competition, fully prepared for our infiltration. And yet, an unknown identity has found their own reasons, and methods, to infiltrate them, to alert them…thereby creating a distraction. This is by design, Shadow. This is fate.”
The Shadow looked aside at the Hunter and the Hunter was still with her hand on Sorcerer’s shoulder, indirectly siding with her.
“Prophecy aside,” the Hunter’s voice surged, emotionless and a bit spent, “we should try to stop them.”
That finally seemed to strike the right nerve with the Shadow as she looked down in acceptance. She sighed.
“Yes…you are right.” She walked and put her hand again on the Sorcerer’s shoulder.
With the sounds of alarms high and innervating, the Sorcerer focused her power and said the words.
In a blur of purple light, they were gone.
She was not prepared for how loud the alarm would be. Instantly she knew a migraine would force itself into her head the next day, and that immediately put her in a bad mood. On the other hand, silence was no longer such a necessity.
“Wow that is loud,” the Shadow complained.
“All the more reason not to dally,” the Sorcerer agreed, “Hunter.”
The Hunter lifted a hand for them to wait and closed her eyes, crouching and concentrating.
“What are you doing? We must move.”
The Hunter replied rose a hand in silencing gesture, very near to a dismissal. It offended Morgana more than she would like to admit.
“What do you mean to be–”
“Ssh,” this time the Shadow insulted her, “let her do the thing,” she whispered. And the Sorcerer just crossed her arms and looked around, feeling exposed and in danger.
Who could even concentrate in the midst of all that noise? She didn’t understand how but, after a minute or two, the Hunter did finally stand up and motioned them to follow her.
The vessel, however, was utterly packed. Almost every couple of minutes, they would have to hide, float in the air or something else. How Hunter knew where she was headed was beyond her, but voicing a question felt too dangerous, even with all the noise. She preferred to simply trust the Hunter.
They eventually reached a turn that led to a corridor that itself conducted them to a door. She had heard the descriptions before, of when her predecessor had been there. She knew that was the door within which the power stone awaited.
“Good job,” she whispered under the alarm. They had gotten there so fast, she didn’t know how Hunter had done it but she was far more useful than Dark Runner because of it. “Ok, you two get ready, I am uncertain what expects us inside.”
“I think I know,” the Shadow exasperated, placing her hand on her shoulder anyway. The Hunter quietly did the same. The Sorcerer retrieved her small staff from inside her sleeve.
They appeared in the room the Sorcerer expected to, but she did not find what she expected to find. Based off the descriptions she had received from her predecessor, Eliza, she had teleported them right behind one of the panels they had used for cover. But it did not make a difference really…for the room had a group of nearly twenty beasts standing guard.
Ten of them trailed the walls, five were the ceiling, their foot-claws sunk into it to keep them in the air and upside down, and other five were around the pillar. Only two of the beasts saw them, but that was two too many. They reacted immediately, as did her charges, they both trembled in fright.
The Sorcerer did not allow the Shadow to finish the sentence, as that would enable both the beasts to land their leaps right on top of them. She opened her arms to make sure she maintained contact with the two, lest they jerk away, and teleported out of there. Alas, teleportation was not that an instantaneous thing, and as they materialized, she had the uncanny feeling one of the beasts had reached her.
“—d. Oh! Oh man, oh ancestors! Oh boy oh boy,” the Shadow flinched out of contact and looked around all startled and nervous, “we need to run.”
“We need to stop them,” Morgana cringed, feeling some sort of pain in her chest, “ugh…we need to…Hunter, find the leader.”
She wanted to reach for her chest but she was too concerned another beast would appear, she had both hands on her staff so the spell would be faster.
“Are you crazy?” The Hunter ignored the Shadow and crouched, focusing.
“I am…committed,” she was finding it hard to breathe.
“What is wrong with you? Are you okay?”
The Sorcerer fell to a knee in response.
“Ugh…I do not…” she reached for her chest, where it hurt, and felt a…dent. That scared her, sending her mind in a race to try and realize how fatal it should be.
I must be bleeding internally…but wait, if the beast hit me… if we were touching, how did it not teleport along with us? “I am fine,” she forced herself to stand up, “we must succeed, or the entire world will…”
The Hunter stood up. And looked up, indicating a way to go.
The Shadow took her hands to her head, breathing loudly and unevenly.
“Okay. Okay okay, let’s go.” She placed her hand on her shoulder, as did the Hunter.
Morgana breathed in, which hurt, but she fought through the pain and teleported them over the ceiling.
They appeared in front of a beast, the realization dawning on them as fast as the Sorcerer found herself stumbling from the pain.
“Cripes!” The Shadow swung her hand in a swift blur of a movement, it was followed by a flash of light that blinded Morgana. She felt arms grabbing on to her and her body being carried away, but the arm pushed against her wound, somehow causing a cascade of reactions inside her body that led to an ejection of blood in a violent, abrupt cough.
This is bad…
She had to accomplish her mission. She had to. Her vision finally came back with her hearing, and she noticed she had an arm around Shadow’s shoulders. The girl was helping her move. She made a quick, instantly forgettable assertion about how quickly she had reacted to help the Sorcerer.
“Are you okay? Hey, are you–”
A loud laughter surged and passed by them, calling her senses even more to consciousness. She looked up in time to see the clownish individual, the Circus Freak, running away at the opposite end of the corridor, three beasts leaping after him.
“What in…is that?”
“Heh,” she finally spoke, pushing herself off the Shadow to stand on her own two feet, no matter the pain, “guess that answers that question. Lead the way, Hunter.”
She looked at her, a hint of worry in her eyes, but she nodded and turned, following through.
“You look like you’re about to die,” the Shadow told her honestly. And pleadingly. Which was confusing.
“I feel as such,” she admitted, “focus on the task.”
She grumbled and kept close, which was endearing and, at the same time, belittling. And confusing.
They followed Hunter across the corridor the Circus Freak had come from, to find a room where a conversation was going on.
They could hear the English before they came near it.
“…as such! Both I and the Eye! Illustrious members of Led by Anarchy would be honored in assisting you in your destructive endeavor!”
What in all the hells…
They carefully approached right up to the door, where they all three peeked to take note of what was happening, and what they found were two competitors…talking to a more humanoid version of the beasts. The thing was definitely more the size of common men, and it had no fangs, but his feet were shoved into hooked boots and he was dressed in clothes and rags, all dirty and fashioned off materials she did not recognize. The face was hairy, a bit scaly but definitely humanoid, with nose, ears and eyes which were exactly the white with black spheres as irises that one could see in the beasts.
It made Morgana realize the beasts might have been some sort of armors or mechanical constructs. That would explain why it resisted the teleportation spell.
More surprisingly were the two competitors, offering the man assistance. The top hat and mechanical limbs betrayed the identity of Falk Goldsmith, the infamous terrorist Mad Genius. His companion was the Eye. The Eye sported a helmet which had built-in devices to allow him to see anything, or so was believed. Rumors were that he could see even magic, beyond being able to perceive through walls and other materials. They were both notorious fiends who did not like the world all that much. And now, to her surprise, they were offering to…help the beasts?
She grinned in anger.