My Exploding Cat

Just stories and drawings really, no actual fissile felines.

Chapter 45

CHAPTER FORTY-FIVE

Sometimes I hate being the spy of the group. It can be so frustrating. Normally shapeshifters = evil, sadistic, cocky people who wanna kill us, and who aren’t recognized easily until they change forms. For some reason they’re partnered with the Gateguards. Therefore, shapeshifters = bad. This lady was confusing.
But I wouldn’t be confused long; in fact, while she wasn’t trying to kill us, she still despised me.
“I have been watching you,” the shapeshifter said. “And you…” she pointed at Daniel, “…your magic has a mind of its own, doesn’t it? Well, if I’m not mistaken, I’m pretty sure that you have most of the books. Right?”
There was a general nod from the audience. It seemed like this was the first time the shapeshifter noticed how large the party was.
“Now how did you manage that?” she asked, seemingly more to herself than any of us.
“We follow life,” Angel said, speaking up. “All things look for life at some point.”
“Indeed,” the shapeshifter said. “But you know firsthand that some things look for life to kill it. Shall I skip the joke about being the life of the party?”
“Spare us,” someone said. I realized it was me.
“Hm!” she said. “Mage, why did you train her as a spy mage? Look at her!” She grabbed me by my cloak and dragged me over. “She’s filthy!” The shifter scowled, and I scowled back, then immediately felt self-conscious about my mud-stained cloak, grubby boots, and unbrushed hair. I had cut it into fluffy layers recently, because… well… never mind because. Then I realized something: Several months ago, I wouldn’t give a rip. I wondered what had happened.
The shifter shoved me back into place. I faded into the crowd, and for once, I didn’t need a spell. Maybe I had been around Daniel too long.
“I didn’t train her,” Mage said. “She picked it up.”
I didn’t know that. I’d always thought Mage had taught me everything I knew. What did that say about me? Were the other members of the party similarly talented?
The shapeshifter narrowed her eyes. I wondered whether the hatred between spy mages and shapeshifters was causing tension here. “I know what you want and what you need, but you have to fight me to get it. Choose a member of your party to fight. It ends when one of us is sitting on the other.”
“Oh, a traditionalist,” I said. “Go on, Daniel, kick her butt.”
Daniel wasn’t there. And then he was.
The shifter recoiled. “You did not tell me that he was one of THEM as well!”
“One of ‘them?'” Mage said.
“You know the history,” the shifter hissed.
“Daniel’s not a spy mage! You have no reason to be hostile.”
“Then how did he disappear? Obviously he’s not an enchantress; they’re all girls, and I would know if anyone did magic. I have seen enough mages that I know it is impossible for them to disappear without a spell.”
“All hostility aside, I suggest that both of us fight without an implement,” Daniel said with innocent, straight-faced eloquence.
“Agreed. I would not fare well in a magical battle with you.”
She didn’t watch us very closely, I thought.
I looked at Daniel. He was grinning.
Daniel stepped into the lady’s living room. She set a timer on her microwave for the fight to start when it went off. 4-3-2-1… it went off, and Daniel quickly knocked the lady over with a simple spell. He moved up quickly, but the shifter had defied her age and was quickly on her feet again, looking disappointedly proven wrong in the assumption that Daniel couldn’t do magic now, and determined to beat him anyway. (Overestimation of your own skills. Tsk. You’d think she’d know when she’s sunk.) Unfortunately for her, Daniel was close enough now that he could sock her in the gut. Daniel simpled things up with a pause spell that he bound her with so that she couldn’t move. Then he just knocked her over and ended up on top of her.
“Ooh. Scary. That was so hard.”
The shifter looked ticked. “Should have expected…” she mumbled to herself.
“Why should we believe that your directions to the next “book” aren’t going to lead us into an enemy camp?” I asked.
“Don’t tempt me,” the shifter hissed. Looking at Mage, she seemed to calm down a little. I frowned. “No, I’m not exactly for the destruction of the universe, seeing as I’m in it,” she said. I don’t know why she hates all spy mages, especially when she’s about as sarcastic as any of us. I’m one of the worst ones about that!
“No,” the shifter said in a forced tranquil tone, “If they’re all for the same cause, pick the ones that will be the best at the job and let them do their thing, no matter who they are or what history you have with them. I will give you my stash of maps, and you will use them in whatever way possible to find the books. They are marked on the maps. One of them is in the strongest Gateguard camp because they think that the book will lure you there. You must not be captured, but do not sneak up and try to steal the book; you must fight your way through to earn it. If you are caught in the middle of the camp, you will be stormed from all sides. Therefore, it is strategic to….” I stopped listening here, but she was just saying the same thing (Daniel told me later). But at least we knew where the next three books were (I had lost count of how many we had already gotten. Tress gave us a vague “ten” estimate, but I’m not sure if we’re above, below, etc. on that. Anyway, the maps showed only three remaining, but there was a hint of there-might-be-a-fourth-one in Cat-World. I’m going to end the parenthesis now).
I realized that there was no fourth one; we got Psychiatrist on our way out. So I threw the map in question in the bottom of my pack and went on – no need for it now. I saw that Raven carried one of the books, one was stuck in a tree, and there was a really dangerous one in the middle of another Gateguard camp. Naturally, we all agreed to save that for last. Ryder and Hannah offered to quickly return most of the books to Liana, the librarian. That way, if we didn’t get out of the camp alive, we’d still help a little to save everything.
Daniel simply teleported to the tree where the first book was. Cat bolted up the tree and returned about five minutes later reporting that she couldn’t find the book even though she’d searched the entire tree. Daniel climbed up, surprisingly fast for being five foot six. He also came down with nothing.
“But it’s substantial nothing,” Daniel said. He handed me a patch of air, and I wheezed as three pounds of magical book were dropped into my arms.
“Shouldn’t this be covered in bird poop by now?” I muttered as I handed the book to Khorabelle to put in her backpack. She took it and pouted about the weight.
“It’s invisible bird poop.”
Khorabelle dropped the book like it was on fire. “EW!”
“Daniel’s kidding,” I said in an effort to make Khorabelle pick it back up and put it in the stupid pack.
“Yes,” Daniel said, putting on a straight face. Khorabelle picked it up with four fingers and dropped it in a separate part of her backpack in disgust.
“The things I do for the universe,” I heard her mutter.

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