Volume 9, Prelude: Big Plans

“How is production of the masks going?” she asked, inspecting a production log.

“Very well, my lady. It’ll take one more month before the number you requested is completed,” Al replied, offering her a cup of coffee.

“Excellent. Can you get these materials for me?” she requested, handing him a list.

“Of course. I shall be back soon,” he said, departing immediately.

The woman sat in her workshop, modifying a plain mask. She grabbed an azure butterfly wing, attaching it to the right eyehole. She placed her finger on the accessory, transferring a minute amount of magic into it. An alert on her phone popped up, pausing her work. After checking it, the woman departed her workshop, heading to the Crossroad outskirts.

The captain of the SIU, receiving a tip, arrived at the specified location. He walked around, searching for clues. Hearing nearby footsteps, he hid behind a wall and monitored the situation. It was her. The same orange haired woman he encountered before. He pulled on a pair of silver gloves, ready for a confrontation.

“Come out, officer! I know you’re here,” she taunted.

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The man remained in place, waiting it out. He felt a light breeze and turned around, seeing the masked woman. She thrusted her glowing hairpin at him, but the captain grabbed the item. The hairpin lost its glow and the masked woman stepped back in surprise. He pulled out his baton, attempting to strike her from behind. She outmaneuvered him, knocking it out from his hand, and stabbed another glowing hairpin into his wrist. The woman then snapped her fingers, confident that her attack would succeed this time.

The captain yanked the object out of his wrist, tossing it to the ground. Thanks to the anti-magic brace, her attack had no effect. She pursed her lips, annoyed that the man was so well-protected. The woman was still just an amateur, relying on items to inflict damage rather than actual magic or physical combat. Still, she had a large repertoire and wouldn’t give up.

He pulled out his firearm, aiming for her mask. His first shot missed wide when the woman held up a small gem. The captain pulled out marbles of assorted colors from his vest pockets, scattering them across the ground. He fired off another shot and struck his target this time. Her mask cracked but didn’t break. He aimed for her chest, but the woman hurled a perfume bottle onto the ground. A sweet aroma struck the man and he felt his chest tighten up. The captain tried to take a step forward but remained in place. The masked woman leaped into the air, vanishing in an instant.

Five minutes later, he regained movement. The captain still felt pain but less excruciating as before. He notified his unit, requesting someone pick him up from his current location. He stared at the glass fragments on the ground. She was sly, alright. Even if he wore anti-magic gear, he was still susceptible to natural world adverse effects. He notified his unit about his condition, requesting for them to pick him up.

“Captain! are you okay?” his subordinate questioned, arriving with medical personnel.

“I just asked for you. You didn’t have to go and bring in an ambulance,” the captain scolded.

“Sir, I just wanted to make sure, in case anything bad happened,” he responded with a sheepish grin.

 “Bag up that glass over there. Get the lab to process it. Also, call the analysis unit and have them inspect the area,” the captain directed.

“On it!” the officer dashed off to his car.

She didn’t want him digging any further. What was so valuable here? He checked the records but found nothing of significance. The captain stared down at the ground, going through potential explanations in his head. In the end, he didn’t arrive at an answer. He would just have to wait and see what the evidence revealed.

“I must insist you refrain from getting into such dangerous situations all the time. I know you are more than capable of protecting yourself, but that task was perfectly suitable for someone like me or any of the many employees Master employs,” Al rebuked.

“Al, I know Father is concerned, but I have to feel and do it by hand. Besides, I just keep building up experience. That man is a worthy adversary, one that will be crushed once my plan comes to fruition. Although, it may be in my interest to try recruiting him. What do you think, Al?” she disagreed.

“I would not, my lady. The Special Investigations Unit is an organization that we should avoid. They have many connections, including the Gatekeeper and her team members. I suggest keeping a low profile until phase two is complete. You’ve already seen the success of your masks. There’s no reason to jeopardize that,” Al offered his opinion.

“That’s no fun, Al. Okay, I’ll listen to you. We will challenge the Special Investigations Unit when we’re ready. I don’t care if the Gatekeeper is involved. That’s just a bonus to me. They need to be taken care of eventually,” she relented.

“As you wish,” Al said.

The woman resumed work on the mask. She drew on it with a pencil, outlining future parts to be added. This would be the mask everyone knew her by and the woman wanted to ensure it not only oozed charisma but also intrigue. After all, she needed to impress any potential members she would recruit.

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