Chapter 29 - Ramachandra
The sorcerer was really into being mysterious, seeing as she picked a house of mirrors, of all places, to meet.
Still, taking into account her type of magic, it was one of the best places to meet. But Agathon still didn’t like it. Tried as he might, he couldn’t let go of Aellea’s stone.
He had insisted he be the one carrying it since, without it, he would not have survived the squirrel and doll, back in Aellea. It was the stone of his people, so he felt entitled.
Not possessive, of course, he would have to relinquish it later. But Spellgate was as dangerous a city as they come. Under the colorful and pleasant guise of a giant carnival, it was, in fact, an underworld of crime. He wouldn’t be surprised if they had crossed three or four of the most dangerous individuals in the known world on their way there.
So no, he didn’t feel at ease, and in fact, he had argued Fiahra should exit the city on her own, if only to minimize the consequences of being caught. However, she insisted on an escort.
He couldn’t blame her for being cautious about leaving the city with the stone but he could be angry about her stealing the stone almost a full day before they arrived. There had been plenty of time for Spellgate to notice it was missing.
Again, taking into account her magics, it did make sense. But he was still paranoid about the whole situation and being in a house of mirrors didn’t help at all.
“This is a stupid place to meet,” Agathon frustratingly shared, glancing around.
“At least it’s not well lit,” Shinyaki mentioned, referring to the Sen’s taste for darkness.
“Humpf,” he glanced at the Sen, who didn’t react, emotionless as ever.
She had agreed to not carry a stone quite easily, which was suspicious. Well, it wasn’t suspicious, she was suspicious. Agathon was not aware he had prejudice issues with the Sen until he met her, but apparently he did, because he just couldn’t bring himself to trust her, despite the lack of rational reasons.
“Still a stupid place,” he repeated.
“Hello,” a voice brusquely greeted from his left. Agathon reacted, punching through the glass with remarkable strength. Only then did his brain process the voice had been Fiahras’.
“Oh, Agathon, why are you always so jumpy?”
Her figure showed in some of the mirrors, her silver dress and clear white skin a beacon of radiance. Even for a Fea, she was remarkably beautiful.
Though with her, there was no telling if that was her true shape.
“It’s so I keep being alive. Where are you?”
“In a closed-off compartment. To your left, Shinyaki…that mirror isn’t actually there. Take that route and meet me further inside.”
Shinyaki slowly pushed his hand through it and smiled amusedly when it went through the illusion. “Haha, always so creative.”
He led the rest of them through.
“I still don’t understand why she couldn’t meet us outside the city.”
“Again with that? It’s too dangerous, Agathon,” Shinyaki told him with a shrug, “maybe if everyone wasn’t already on to us, but remember what he said when we were crossing the mountains? We can’t risk her getting caught. She had a plan to steal the stone, not so much to escape. She didn’t expect us to blow our cover.”
“If we’re caught, we’re not going to make much of a difference.”
“Don’t be so close-minded. If we’re together, some of us can stay behind as a diversion while the rest flee with all the stones. That wouldn’t be possible if she was alone.”
“Humpf. Most of us would already be safe, if caught, if she were to escape alone.”
“Look, they don’t know we have it, so I doubt it’ll to come to that. She’s a damn great illusionist, so with the stone, we can probably just waltz across the city’s border without any issue.”
“Humpf, right, it’s been that easy every single time.”
“Don’t be such a pessimist, my darling brute,” her voice emerged from a few feet away.
They crossed another mirror and finally landed eyes on her, sitting on a chair.
“A chair?” Shinyaki asked.
“Well, I wasn’t about to wait on my feet, was I?”
“But how did you get a chair in here?!”
“Oh what does it matter, I’m more concerned about how you acti--”
“You’ve been tracked,” Danatcia interrupted.
Agathon shivered in response, looking around suspiciously. He gripped his stone to make sure it was still with him and well strapped beneath his robe.
“What?” Shinyaki asked, startled.
“Impossible. The girl must be confused, what with all the customers probably walking around,” Fiahra said, not at all concerned.
“Reason why it took so long to notice,” she mentioned, “…there,” she pointed to her right and down, a dark corner between two mirrors.
“Oh…crap,” Fiahra said, recognizing something in the dark corner.
Agathon looked himself but was no expert in non-destructive spells other than reinforcing, so he didn’t know what it was.
“What is it?”
“Something only very perceptive eyes could catch,” another voice emerged, a male voice, though young and slightly high. Across all the mirrors around them, the figure of a Pan emerged. He was dressed in a black dress, with pink tie and shoes, and very large blonde hair combed into a physics-defying style. It was hard to tell where it was a man or a woman, and in relation to being a pan, girl or boy.
“…” Danatcia said nothing in response, her hands and tail slowly reaching for daggers, her eyes skipping and glancing in every direction.
Shinyaki just picked a mirror and casually greeted the visage: “Hello, little Pan. Can we help you with something?”
The pan laughed for a couple of seconds. “Really? You start with an insult? You really don’t want to leave Spellgate alive, do you?”
“Oh let’s just cut the crap,” Shinyaki waved the pleasantries aside, “who are you and what do you want?”
“I think that’d be obvious, little Jun. I want what any citizen of Spellgate wants,” he grinned, “More power.”
“Well you’re not getting it from us,” Agathon harshly stated.
“More importantly,” the Pan interrupted, his finger rising, “it’d be hardly beneficial for me if your boss had his way with Bellhall, let alone if he actually possessed all four stones.”
Shinyaki opened his eyes wide, along with Fiahra, both equally stunned by the fact the Pan seemed to know about their master’s plans.
“Don’t look so surprised, mercenaries. This is a smaller world than you think, as you…are about to find out.” He paused to smile mischievously.
“Well I hope you brought an army, becau--”
“Actually…no,” he leaned in, again interrupted. “I couldn’t. See, none of my compatriots know about you. Or at least, that I know of. Of course, most of them don’t care as much but the fact remains that they will be kind of mad if they know I knew about Miss thief there and did nothing. So…I sort of have to take you down without it being known it was me. That means using outsiders?”
“Well then, since I’m sure you don’t have the money to hire what the necessary force to take us down, I’d suggest you run along.”
“Oh don’t I?” He smiled.
“We’ve got all four stones in our possession, foolish Pan, I’m pretty sure you can’t afford a whole nation. You made a mistake when you allowed--” But Shinyaki was interrupted by laughter.
The Pan laughed, not maniacally, but not timidly either. Rather, it sounded quite condescending.
“Oh, little Jun… but I know very well you don’t have all four.”
“Are you stupid? Of course we do,” Fiahra said, still sitting down. She edged towards the stone on her hand, “as soon as I active this one.”
“What?!” Agathon reacted, mad, just before the Pan started laughing again, this time sincerely.
“That is just too precious!”
“What?” Fiahra asked, confused, still holding the stone.
“You don’t activate them, Fiahra,” Shinyaki said, now getting stressed out and worried. Calmly, he reached for his scythes, ”if you don’t feel it then it’s probably a fake.”
Fiahra gulped and got up, maintaining composure.
“We-well it’s not my fault, you didn’t tell me how they worked,” she complained.
“Where’s the stone, Pan?”
“Not only don’t you have our stone, you also don’t have Bellhalls’. It was stolen yesterday, after all.”
Shinyaki’s expression darkened but the Pan simply smirked. Amused.
“Well, you still have two and all. Even if it’s not a lot, I’d hate for you to actually manage to run away with them… I’m kind of invested in apprehending you. So I figured, why not fight fire with fire?”
“You’ll use it against us,” Agathon realized.
“What? No! Of course not,” he said, shaking his head, “my word, you pests wouldn’t survive a week in Spellgate. No, she stole the stone, what possible explanation would there be for me wielding it? Other than having stolen it myself? That would just get me into very undesired trouble, if it were true.”
“Enough with this go-around!” He drew his scythes. “You’re gonna tell us where the stone is or we’re gonna kill you right after whatever goon you gave the stone to,” Shinyaki threatened, finally serious.
His gaze had lost all carelessness, and he looked around as if trying to decipher which one of the mirrors was actually him.
“In any case,” the Pan commented, “I chose the perfect goons to make sure the city learns of your presence. And this isn’t Aellea, we don’t need for the royal guard, citizen’s justice works fine as long as there’s proof of necessity. And you are all carrying them.”
Agathon felt the stone again, snorting in anger.
“Whatever happens, I fear you are ending. And once you do, I will be taking those stones.”
And at that moment, mirrors started breaking and rupturing, all the way from the entrance and heading towards them.
They looked in anticipation.
“That sound you are hearing, my friends, is checkmate. Good, powerful and proud citizens of Spellgate should also be on their way. Now, I will leave you to your much deserved fate.”
Crashing and smashing, they approached. Heralded by giggles and enjoyable laughter which sounded higher and higher.
Agathon noticed Shinyaki already knew who was coming. In reaction, he looked back at the Pan with murderous eyes.
“Tell me the name…of the Pan who outsmarted me.”
The Pan opened his arms and took a slight bow…
“Ramachandra. It will be an absolute pleasure to witness your fall.” He straightened up and waved at them as patronizingly as he could. “Bye bye, now, little Jun.”
The image faded just as the mirror shattered.