Mika parted her cat ears so that Helga could pat her head. She didn't say anything back to Helga, but her widening grin and closed eyes were a clear indication that she was enjoying the attention. When Helga turned around to face Su, her expression changed. Her eyes opened up to half mast as her grin continued to expand. She reached out and stroked the top of her snake's head, which was wearing the same face she was. ”Gah!”
Was all Su could manage before Boteg cut in. ”Tis most splendid!”
He approached Mika, who at this point was innocently playing her flute again. ”Thou shall go forth and bring the terrible one's champion to justice! Then mayhap we shall celebrate with most bountiful feast! One made from ocean sprinklers and valley runners!”
Mika giggled. ”We've got to teach you some modern English. Hey, can you pass me your laptop?”
Su still didn't trust Mika. But that was hardly something that needed to be pressed at the moment. It wasn't like she could pose much of a threat to Boteg. However... ”Huh?”
Su was yanked out of her thoughts when Helga asked a very important question. ”Um.”
She lowered her head and her bangs covered her eyes. ”I'm... Actually not sure where we should start looking.”
After allowing herself a moment to regain her composure, Su lifted her head back up. ”I don't know where Mariette or Eli are, but I know they are friends with a certain group of genies. They should be easier to find.”
Helga and Su transformed back into their normal appearances ”Hopefully it won't cost me a wish this time, but I doubt fate will be that kind to us.”
The duo turned a corner to walk down a flight of stairs. Soon enough they would be on the street, actively searching for their mark. Maybe no one saw Mariette, but someone
had to have seen the djinn sisters.
Something landed behind Katelyn.
Eliza was not going after her particular quarry in a very discreet way, and neither had Katelyn. It shouldn't have been a surprise that more magical girls would become alerted by the wanton destruction. Perhaps the stranger had simply been watching Eliza, waiting for his moment to strike, before Katelyn showed up.
The individual in particular was none other than Elroy Bates. Eliza would have recognized him from the battle at the garage if she could remember the encounter. He had come out of his monster form and walked away from that fight. Katelyn likely had no recollection of this individual. He was covered in blood, and gripping a blood stained paper note. If either of them had third eye, they might have noticed him using shadow magic to blend into a nearby building before jumping to where he was now. Otherwise, he would have seemed to appear out of nowhere. "And alllll I need to finish my shopping list is some monster wings."
Elroy tossed the bloody piece of paper off to the side before flashing a grin. "...But nobody said they couldn't come from monster girls!"
He pulled the shield off of his back and let it slam into the ground. The chains wrapped around it's surface were moving suspiciously. "Lizard lady! Chicken little! Let me have the wings off of your back! You'll find you'll fit into a lot more dresses when you don't need to squeeze your wings into them. Take it from an incubus who has no wings of his own!"
Regina was laying on her belly on the roof of a nearby building. Her sniper rifle positioned in front of her. She might have been able to get a clear shot at Eliza, but Katelyn's attack put both girls into a building to the left to Regina position. Regina wasn't really set up to fire directly into the office building at this angle. That wasn't to say she would be useless, but the types of attacks she could use were more limited. Her psychic shots couldn't permeate solid objects. "Remember the part about ambushing her, Elroy?"
Regina grumbled to herself. She currently had a very impressive array of spells cast around herself. She couldn't be seen or heard by those outside her spell, at least under normal conditions. Her cover had been blown too many times for her to believe she was safe from all forms of detection. But at least now they had the ability to shut down their auras. ”Please don't be upset with Elroy.”
One of the converted beacon girls placed a hand on Regina's shoulder, rubbing it slightly. ”If you'd like, we can rush them.” "The less you guys do, the better."
Regina looked through her scope. "I want you to be a surprise for later."
Veronica was not one to stand idle for very long. She had many girls under her control, and was often touching bases with one of them at any given time. But Veronica did find time to do things that didn't directly pertain to her duties with the Mint. She was currently sitting in her office reading a news article. The newest article marked “Penrose Preternatural” in particular caught her interest. The story was already covered on a different page, but it was done in a way to make the story believable to normal humans. This story was made for the magical girls who could understand what actually happened. Veronica did find it unusual that both stories were written by the same writer: Charlotte Suthers. While it was clear to Veronica why it was done this way, it seemed like a good way to lose credibility with those less magical in nature. Not that many people would remember such things anyway. They had been doing things this way for the better part of two years, so it must not have been an issue. It was just a mental note Veronica made to herself every time she noticed it. Her job was not that much different than that of a journalist. While the end goal was different, both dealt in intelligence.
And if the apology by Charlotte Suthers was any indication, it seemed like her intelligence wasn't very good.
It is foolish to believe that intelligence and information are the same thing. A rumor, a source, a story, all were forms of information. But information needs to be verified before it can be transformed into intelligence. The reporters in this instance should have been verifying everything they were seeing. Assuming that there were no beacon girls present when not all of the magical girls had been verified was extremely ignorant on the part of the independent's reporters, or “agents.” Charlotte Suthers may have dumped all the blame on the reporters, But her presenting bad intelligence was not entirely their fault. A few simple questions could have revealed a “lack of information,” and she would have gotten her facts correct. Instead, she decided to run with her “information” that made for a better story. It was one thing to report a grizzly murder, but the idea that Beacon was turning their back to the whole thing was vastly more interesting. But that likely blew up in their faces. The fallout must have been spectacular to write an edit nearly as large as the story itself. There must have been a huge backlash from a lot of beacon girls. There was very little that could save the credibility of Charlotte Suthers, her editor, and the independent at this point. At least in Veronica's eyes.
But Veronica was not faultless on the front of relaying bad intelligence. She had just received word this morning that there was a plant in her organization. One that had her sending Sam after one of her own girls weeks ago. Unfortunately, the reclusive nature of Ebon Mint meant that she could never properly verify the sources of her information. It was rare for Veronica to ever receive true intelligence. She had recently taken steps to make communication between her agents more transparent, but she wasn't sure if it would be enough. There had to be more she could do, to make sure she wasn't a victim of bad intelligence again.
Before Veronica could pursue that thought much further, she got a call on one of her lines. She lifted a finger to her ear. ”Ugh...”
an exausted groan escaped Veronica's ear piece. “Binky?” ”Gah!”
Binky's yelped. ”Veronica! I didn't expect you to call back!”
The coin broker folded her arms. “You just called me.”
Binky was one of Veronica's older contacts. She was pretty easy to identify because she looked more or less like a virgin sacrifice.
In terms of magical girl powers she got the short end of the stick. While her magic would normally be very potent, her specialization is making fast food appear out of nowhere. She can make Chinese, burgers, even pizza if she really focuses. Binky is also relatively cowardly, and prefers to stay out of combat. Normally that is not an option for a magical girl. However, Veronica has recruited her as a researcher. Her ability to create food and duplicate herself makes her adequate for such a task. ”Right right, that's right!”
Binky wiped her mouth on her arm. ”I haven't slept in thirty-six hours. So I'm a little exhausted.” “I don't want to hear excuses, do you have anything to report?” ”Right right, I'm sorry!”
Binky sighed. ”It's about project scarlet.”
She laughed. ”I got a reaction!” “From the coins?” ”Yes! They work!”
Binky gasped. ”This is, a very big first step. Even on its own this could change the world forever!”
Veronica smiled. “You're not done until you reach the end goal, but I'm glad progress is being made.” ”That's not all though. These mutations.”
Binky flipped through some pages. ”I've never seen anything like it before! I've documented it all but-” “I'll have to stop by to take a look.” ”Yes! Please!”
Binky's voice was shaking with excitement. ”Please bring toilet paper, and some change. I haven't been able to do any wash for two weeks straight, and I'm not sure how much longer my underwear is going to last. It's really itchy.” “Of course. I will get you all squared away as soon as I can.” ”Alright, I hope you come soon. My clones are starting to bully me.”
as soon as she ended the call, she looked at the web page for the Penrose Independent. Someone had written a comment. Apparently not everyone was as unforgiving of bad intelligence as Veronica was. But that was fine. Not everyone had what it took to be a decent coin broker. Though given who posted, that didn't surprise Veronica. Regardless, that was hardly important. Veronica had been getting reports of a nuisance. Perhaps it was time to deal with that just to keep things quiet again.
Nevermore caught a lead that directed her into a fairly dark alley. Allegedly Veronica was spotted here frequently, and it would be a good place to search for her. But as soon as she flew inside, the world started to turn very dark. Almost as if the sun had fallen out of the sky. But even in total darkness, Nevermore was able to see. What the raven might have been surprised by was the tar-like substance forming in the darkness. It bubbled and popped, and soon completely surrounded the bird. Nevermore was now flying inside a giant sphere no wider than the alleyway. She had to keep circling to stay aloft. “It is not wise to search for an Ebon coin broker.”
Veronica's voice seemed to come from all angles. “Why are you looking for me?” ”Ahhh! Jeez, you and Lord Soth seem to come from the same school of ‘scaring a bird 101’. What’s next, i get sent to find a dancing penguin only to trigger Second Impact?
Ah, but yes my master does have business he wishes to do with your group! He wants to acquire one of your proprietary coins to give to his magical girl to use at a chosen time! It is something that would of course put her in the Mint’s Debt and at your service, yes!
And in return for his sending a servant of his into your service, he desires certain resources in return!” “Hmmmmm.”
Nevermore couldn't see it, but she could picture the owner of the voice rubbing her chin in thought. “It's not very common for me to offer a coin, especially at the suggestion at a horror. It's not especially difficult for me to locate magical girls. I do not see what makes yours so special.”
started to poke out of the all encompassing tar wall. Once the tips of Nevermore's wings started to brush them, they stopped. It became apparent that they were the tips of various weapons. “I would like to know what it is that your lord requires, and what makes him think one worthless, mind bent girl is worth my time.” ”She is the magical girl of Lord Soth! The Infinite Abyss! The Emptiness of the Void! The Great Lord by which all returns to in the end, yes!
She can tap into Lord Soth’s great power! She can project the void into her darkness, and erase your problems and enemies away, yes! Free cleanup duty for messy situations is also possible, due to her powers! Her magical might is high, and her willingness to serve is good as well, yes! She can be put to work very well, hmm!
All my Lord Desires in return is a corpse. Be that of a young girl exposed to magic, or that of a deceased magical girl, yes! All to study how to better craft magical girls on his part in the future!
Is not a living servant a potentially fair trade for an unmoving, useless corpse, hmm?
If this does not work, then what else might the Ebon Mint want of my lord in payment for his request? He possesses many things, yes, many things from around the universe as well that he has acquired in his immense work!” “Create magical girls?”
Nevermore was not left in silence this time. She could clearly hear a growl as Veronica formed her thoughts. “If Soth is so quick to throw away one of his magical girls for a corpse, then maybe he can make his own.”
An object was fired out of the tar and struck Nevermore hard enough to knock her off course. Fortunately, the weapons retracted and the tar vanished. Nevermore was able to crash land beside the projectile; a black coin. ”I pity you raven, there on the floor. You'll get this coin, and nothing more.”
Then the darkness faded, and her presence seemed to disappear.
Nevermore stood up again, checking her feathers over and trying to shake off the rude landing. The raven mumbled a few words under her breath in an alien tongue, but swiftly snatched up the single Black Coin in her talons. She then tried to get up in the air again, before a sudden gust of wind sent her flying down again, crashing into the open dumpster in the alley, having been sent off course again by….sudden forces at play. ”Rahhh!”
the raven squaked from the dumpster, voicing frustration at having landed in-, ”Wait, is that a dead rat sitting on top of half an onion-topped stuffed crust pizza?! Score!!!
After a brief moment to take a bite to eat, which was in retrospect far faster than a normal bird should be able to eat, Nevermore hopped up onto the edge of the dumpster. The Black Coin was firmly in her talons, though before she could say more an inky black orb appeared in the air in front of her. It lacked the same nature as that broker’s, er, sphere? Hard to tell that overall shape of the place when she had been having to keep flying to avoid drowning in tar or running into points objects.
’Ah, your mission was to this end a success, my servant?
Then come, embrace the darkness and return to Annabelle’s side. The coin shall remain in my care proper till’ the chosen time when it will be used. Just as you told the Broker.’
Nevermore rolled her eyes at the situation as Lord Soth’s voice bounced around inside her skill, but regardless she hopped off the edge of the dumpster toward the orb. In an instant, the orb swallowed up the raven and itself, both disappearing in the blink of an eye and without a trace.