Breakfast with all of her advisers had become something of a tradition for Ami, if traditions could be developed in the space of a week. Noticing that Jadeite, who was sitting across the table from her, had winced while chewing, she put down her own sandwich in concern. "Do the burns still give you trouble?"
"No, I already told you I wasn't hurt badly. You did check for yourself," the curly-haired blond replied after swallowing. His tone left little doubt that he was uninterested in the direction the conversation was going.
Ami suspected he just didn't want to be poked and prodded at again. "But there could still be traces of cooled ash stuck under your skin," she continued, leaning forward. "You are very important for our success, so you need to take care of yourself!"
Jadeite suppressed a sigh as he looked into the worried, wide eyes of the girl. At the right side of the table, he could see Jered's weasel-like features twist in pain when one of his whispers earned him a quick jab to the ribs by his girlfriend, who was sitting next to him. But Mercury was still waiting for an answer. Why was she making such a fuss, anyway? He was fine. Sure, it had come as a nasty surprise when Arachne had sent a bolt of lightning through the portal he was using to funnel lava from the Underworld into her spider nurseries, but the resulting spray of steam and molten stone droplets had merely been painful, not life-threatening to one such as him. Besides, she had healed him up already. This caring approach was quite different from anything Beryl would have done, and honestly quite unsettling in its own way. His former queen would probably have punished him for the perceived failure, never mind that he had, over the past few days, torched most of the webs in the enemy Keeper's dungeon, catching almost all of her minions in the conflagration. He had also melted her portal, set the remaining cocoons on fire, and poured some liquid magma onto the hill-sized spider guarding the entrance. Watching the flaming beast take off with an ear-splitting shriek and mow down everything in its path until it succumbed to the flames had been quite amusing. To summarise, he had pretty much left the enemy dungeon a smoking, hollowed out shell of its former self, even if he couldn't strike at the dungeon heart directly. But would Beryl have taken that into account? No, she would have focused on the one failure where the wraith-like form of the enemy Keeper had been near the opening portal by sheer bad luck, giving her the opportunity to retaliate. And then, the red-haired brat would probably have demanded that he find a way to maintain a portal for more than a few seconds, despite knowing what a strain that caused. Deciding that going with the truth would cause the least trouble in the long run, he said "If you must know, I bit my tongue."
"Now, how is the rest of your armour project coming along, Mercury?" Snyder asked, taking advantage of the muted snickers at Jadeite's expense. "My own contribution is proceeding quite nicely, but if you want the mana batteries smaller, you will not manage without using more expensive components."
Ami was successfully distracted by the inquiry. "Oh, the warlocks think they have mostly figured out how the skeletons use some laws of correspondence to move the bones that were once parts of their bodies. The most difficult problem that remains, for now, is copying that to an assembly of objects that weren't part of a greater whole before. Using an imp as central control won't work this time around, unfortunately, because I must be personally in control of the armour at all times if I don't want to be injured by it moving when I'm not completely ready yet. But we are already investigating some options."
"You have been busy, then," Jered commented. "We are still mapping the Avatar islands remotely via the crystal balls, but we haven't been able to locate an active hero dungeon heart yet. If some remain, they are bound to be well hidden."
Ami nodded at his report, looking not particularly discouraged. "Thanks, I expected that. I hope that I will be more successful once the dungeon heart arrives and I can go over there and use my scanner." There was nothing stopping her from transporting herself across the ocean and going there right now, but finding out how to create new dungeon hearts was less urgent than preparing to survive her duel, all things considered. Then again, if it could provide her with a way to lock out the dark gods' influence, then she wouldn't even have to fight. Deep in thought, Ami washed down her food with a glass of water, contemplating the issue.
Ami jogged past marble and amethyst pillars on her way down to the training hall. Small grains of sand, carried by careless feet out of the arena within the chamber, gritted beneath her feet. A broad-nosed troll gave her an odd glance as she passed, but inclined his head respectfully and stepped out of the way. Probably wondering why I'm not just teleporting, the girl thought, noting in satisfaction that her heart was not beating much faster from the exertion. Not any more. After changing in her room into more appropriate clothes for exercising, running the short distance to the training area was a good warm-up. She paused at the high, wooden door, already smelling the ever-present stench of sweat, straw, and sand coming from the room behind it. Her face fell when she remembered that now came the least pleasant part of the day. The high point of her daily schedule, the magic lessons with Jadeite, were already over, and what was left was a reasonable approximation of physical education. Where the former resembled a mixture of strange mathematics and physics lessons, with some meditation and focusing exercises thrown in for good measure, what was about to come felt more like a particularly strenuous form of getting herself beaten up by Cathy. Granted, it was very educational and provided a great incentive to learn quickly, but Ami had never been very interested in sports, aside from swimming. Out of necessity, she had learned how to duck, evade, and deflect the swordswoman's blows most of the time, but just 'most' would not cut it against the Reaper. Still, she'd much rather be back with Jadeite. On the way here, a few questions about the course had come to her mind that he could explain to her, for example how to properly modulate-
"...hello, I'm talking to you!" an impatient, female voice intruded.
Ami's eyes focused on the hand waving just in front of her face, then followed it back over the elbow gloves up to where the arm disappeared beneath the material of a sailor senshi outfit. Cathy was standing in the door, which had swung inwards without the blue-haired girl noticing it.
"Pleasant daydreams?" the blonde asked with a huge grin that boded poorly for Ami's immediate future.
Words of protest died unsaid before crossing the senshi's lips when the taller woman dragged her into the larger room by her wrist.
"I have thought up something special for today, to better prepare you for fighting an opponent of the Reaper's physical ability. I can't wait to see how it will work out!"
Ami gulped, watching the other woman ignore the wooden training weapons leaning against the wall. She looked past the curvy silhouette of her teacher to the back of the room, where currently unused training dummies and practice targets stood. The regular ones were bad enough, with their rotating arms and dangling, spiky balls on chains. The girl felt a chill at the thought of how Cathy could have modified them to simulate the Reaper more accurately. However, a cursory inspection of the devices did not reveal anything that promised impending doom. Instead, the blonde was walking toward the stone-ringed sand pit that served as a combat arena, located in the centre of the room.
"Don't you need your sword?" Ami asked, plodding after the woman and adjusting the sweatband in her hair.
"No, but you will need yours. Get down there!" Cathy ordered, pointing at the uneven sand.
Shrugging, Ami jumped over the wall and into the blood-stained pit. Her strong legs and the yielding sand easily cushioned the two and a half metre drop, and with a thought, the senshi summoned her weapon from the rack while she rose from her crouch. The wooden sword that appeared in her hands was nearly as tall as she was, but thanks to her enhancements she could easily use it in either hand, just as Cathy had predicted. Ami raised her head, throwing a questioning glance at the blonde, whose lower body was hidden by the wall at this angle.
"Good! Get ready! And remember to watch your technique!" the swordswoman rapidly turned a crank, causing a chain to rattle and go taut. A loudly creaking, rarely-used wooden portcullis rose, revealing Ami's opponent in the alcove behind it. Which, in hindsight, told her that she probably wouldn't have gotten down here if she had known what to expect.
"You have got to be kidding!" Ami shouted, taking a step back and shooting an incredulous look at the blonde, who was crossing her arms and smirking. At that moment, she reminded the teenager down in the pit very much of a certain dark general, before he had come to work for her.
"Nope! This will be the perfect training for what you need! Hey you, sic her!" At the woman's words, the dragon, who had lowered his head to fit into the cramped space, rose from his seating position, put his forelegs forward into the sand, and stretched like a cat. His long, serpentine tail waved behind him, throwing sparks as it scraped over the bricks constituting the walls. Then, the lizard-shaped warrior humped his back and smacked his lips while looking straight at Ami from slitted pupils. A moment later, his finger-long claws sank deep into the sand as he emerged from his abode with confident, prancing steps that looked as if he was walking on tiptoes.
Ami backed away. Her dragon was young and small, as dragons went, but that was little comfort to her. He was still big enough to tower over the Reaper, and that was just height! Add to that a body the size of a medium elephant, plus that length again in scaly tail, and you had something that made the wooden replica two-hander she was gripping look positively inadequate. The teenage girl turned back to Cathy with a wide-eyed, imploring look, to no avail.
"Begin!" the blonde shouted mercilessly and leaned forward to better watch the battle.
Ami took a deep breath and raised her weapon into a guard position, holding onto it with both hands. The dragon had raised his right foreleg in a gesture that was cute - on a kitten batting at a ball of yarn. From her perspective, the four-toed limb was right at head height, ready to strike at a moment's notice, preventing her from getting even close enough to the body to attack. She had to admit that the situation was eerily similar to facing the Reaper and his range advantage. Maybe Cathy did have a point with this exercise. So how do I win? I am faster, probably, and more agile. A feint perhaps?. Ami clenched her teeth in determination, mentally calculating the path that would keep her inside the monster's striking zone for the shortest amount of time. Muscles tensing were the only outward sign that announced her sudden dash through the sand. She leaned forward deeply, presenting a small profile, with her weapon held at her left, pointing backward. The looming paw of the dragon seemed to grow larger and larger. Now! Stirring up a crescent of sand, Ami threw herself to the side, swinging her sword so its momentum would enable an even sharper change of direction. Wind blew the bangs over her left temple aside as the paw whooshed past, and then she was within the monsters guard, with her weapon already in position for a backhanded swing.
Ami's world went black, foul-smelling, and very, very slimy.
Leaning down on the wall, Cathy shook her head. "First round goes to the dragon! And yes, that means you have to spit her out now!"
In the arena, Ami let out a scream of mixed horror and disgust, which came out somewhat muffled by the dragon jaws currently clamped shut over her head and part of her torso. A moment later, the opening maw released her, and she dropped into the sand, grimacing, and with her slobber-drenched shirt and hair clinging to her skin. Wiping her face, she protested "Eww! Get it off! This is so gross! Cathy, I need a break!"
"You'll have a bath later anyway, so deal with it. This teaches you to focus too much on an opponent's weapon, and not on what else he is doing. Now back into position! And don't drag the sword like that!" The blonde had at least the good grace to hide her amusement behind the mask of a strict taskmaster, and Ami complied, grumbling.
The blue-haired girl glared up at the dragon with red-blazing eyes, sure that his reptilian face was giggling at her plight. Her own expression became a mask of determination. She would not give up!
From above, Cathy observed the change in her disciple's stance. It looked as if she was properly motivated now. This should be interesting. Ah, the cautious approach this time, circling and holding the practice sword in a diagonal guard position. Silently, without giving away her intentions, the girl suddenly lunged forward. A green, scaled paw whistled down, only for the wooden weapon to block its path. The blonde warrior winced at the ensuing crash, then peered through the rising cloud of dust. Unfortunately, motivation alone could not make up for a lack of ability. Especially if the opponent was much stronger. Below, Mercury was lying on her belly, pinned down under the lizard's foot, and alternating between coughing up sand and glaring at the dragon and at her teacher. Cathy sighed. Better the girl had this kind of learning experiences in a controllable environment forgiving of her mistakes, rather than in a lethal duel to the death without second chances. "Dragon wins this round. Now let her get up already!"
A few days later, Ami's routine was interrupted by the much-anticipated flaring of the ward she had received from Snyder, indicating that someone was spying on her from a distance. Immediately, she dropped the book she was holding and rushed from the library, much to her warlocks' confusion. She didn't care though, and a crystal ball dropped into her waiting hands from thin air. With feverish haste, she conjured up a view of Rei's shrine, confirming that a fire reading was in process. Her actions seemed to be a cause of concern for her friends, and so she immediately conjured a well-prepared sign that spelled out in large, easily readable letters that, if they could see this, they should wave. Her heart leapt with joy when the tiny Usagi in the crystal ball immediately raised her hand and waved it left and right so hard that she risked falling over. Which she did after a moment, landing on Luna, who had been sitting at her side and been so focused on the fire that she didn't notice the impending danger.
Ami's hand went to her mouth and her eyes went round at what happened next. With a yowl, or so she assumed, the startled cat shot out from under the weight of the clumsy blonde, and collided with the sweating Rei, who was understandably distracted by suddenly having a screeching feline in her long black hair. The vision in the fire went out as the shrine maiden toppled forward. Ami could feel tears of frustration gather in the corners of her eyes. "Darn it!" Through the scrying device, she was witnessing a huge fight - a red-faced Rei shouting at an apologetic Usagi, while Luna tried to run interference, but was only making things worse. Ami wished she could be there to mediate, like she usually did, and wondered how much worse the fights between her friends got without her being there. By now, it had deteriorated into both girls blowing raspberries at each other. Ami felt depressed at the lost chance. With Rei agitated like that, it was unlikely that she could calm down enough to sink back into the right meditative state for another fire reading. To the shrine maiden's credit, she did try, but there was no reaction from the ward affixed to the blue-haired senshi's wrist, despite the obvious strain and discomfort showing on the red-and-white dressed girl's face. Ami saw her slide to the ground in exhaustion, and suppressed the urge to punch the wall. Darn it! Of all the bad luck! She had been about to ask them to get a book with the Morse alphabet. This contact was obviously draining Rei a lot more than it did her, but last time, the shrine maiden had been able to sense Ami scrying on her. That would make it possible for Ami to use the crystal ball as a kind of telegraph, taking glimpses of differing length to transmit letters to Rei. But no, the opportunity was missed for the moment.
Ami knew that she had no psychic talents to speak of, in contrast to Rei, so the factor that made things easier on her had to be the crystal ball. She would have to see whether her books didn't contain any easily-made scrying devices that her friends would be able to assemble. It would be useful if Rei wasn't the only one who could establish contact if something urgent came up. Ami thought she had read something about a water-filled basin somewhere. Fighting her disappointment by busying herself with work, the blue-haired girl resumed her interrupted schedule.
Ami stepped out of the green whirlwind of motes swirling over her dungeon heart, marvelling at the vaulting ice above that glittered like emeralds in the light. She was here to do some routine maintenance, replace some ice that had melted when the ship had entered warmer waters, and to see whether the propellers were still working correctly. Through the semi-opaque ice, she could dimly see the lights that burned in other corridors, all of which the imps had smoothed and engraved just as diligently as the dungeon heart chamber. Ami felt as if she was walking through a reflective, sparkling gem, and briefly wished her main dungeon could look like this. The breath condensing in front of her face reminded her that the ice ship wasn't really suited for inhabitation, and she moved herself to the engine room, rather than braving the smooth and slippery ice of the hallways that were doubly treacherous due to the slow, rolling motions of the vessel.
Lightning crept across the metallic assemblies set into the walls, sparking between metal prongs before flowing down the wires. Its light went more into the blue tones and reflected off of the chamber's walls so many times that the pace looked lit as bright as day. Ami meticulously inspected each of the lightning traps, which were not really meant for constant low-level output. They seemed to hold up better to the perpetual wear and tear than the large ice rotors outside of the ship though, which needed frequent replacement. She would have to possess one of the golem crew and repeat that process, Ami thought. Maybe she should also break off the horizontal icicles that formed in the ship's wake, like the tail of a very slow-moving comet? A few quick calculations revealed that the detrimental effect of the short ice spikes on manoeuvrability and speed was negligible, and Ami decided that she quite liked the look. They could remain for now.
Turning her attention to other things, Ami noticed her reflection in one of the carved ice facets, taking in the faint red gleam of her eyes and the strange black and golden garb she had taken to wear as a dungeon keeper. Suddenly, she felt the strange and irrational urge to be back in her Sailor Mercury uniform. Well, this dungeon heart didn't have one of the wards that prevented her uniform from forming, did it? Ami quickly searched her surroundings for anyone who could possibly be watching - not that any of the golems or imps would care, really - and then quickly stripped off the opulent clothes she had bought a while ago. The icy cold caressed her skin, which got goosebumps from being exposed to the freezing temperatures. "Mercury Power, Make Up!"
Azure light flashed through the chamber, refracted by the iceberg until it glowed from within for a brief instant. For Ami, it felt much longer, and she relished the familiar sensations of her sailor uniform coalescing from streamers of water, make-up appearing on her lips, and her body being cleaned. On reflex, she struck a pose in front of her mirror image in one of the ice facets, watching as it smiled back at her. It was great to look as she should once again! For the most part, anyway, as the black symbols on the collar denoting her magical skills had reappeared. The necromancy skull looked much more elaborate, while the teleportation squiggle had remained mostly the same. More symbols that she couldn't identify were evenly spaced between the original two, arranged so that they followed the lines in the cloth. A cold breeze brushing past Ami's legs made her straighten and wrap her arms around herself as she shivered. Well, the skirt is rather short for this kind of environment, Ami though ruefully. An imp scuttled past, dressed identically to the young Keeper. All in all, the sailor uniform was rather appropriate, given current circumstances, even if it looked strange on the little creature. It fit much better on the golems, whose bodies were identical to Ami's, after all. Continuing her inspection, Ami wondered what visitors would make of this place.
The cadence of Jered's steps on the ground increased in pace when he heard a short, terrified cry from the training hall, followed by a clanking noise. What kind of strange exercise had Cathy concocted now? When the noise repeated, he pushed the tall wooden door open a hand's width and peered in through the slit. Nothing out of the ordinary was immediately visible, though he could see his girlfriend in the delightfully short skirt she had gotten used to wearing, facing away from him and toward the arena. Pushing the door fully open, he walked inside. There was another scream, and a small, armoured, and blue-haired figure shot vertically up from the pit, tumbling around her own axis, and flailing with a long wooden sword held in her right hand. A moment later, she plummeted back down and out of sight. The wavy-haired man looked at the blonde, who was just shaking her head at the sight. There was a clang from below, and a moment later, Ami ascended again, letting out another yelp before she dropped back down. Jered blinked at the sight and approached to see what was going on. To his horrified amazement, there was a dragon lying on his back in the arena, throwing and catching the girl like a ball while she tried to whack it with her training weapon.
He turned to the woman nominally supervising the 'battle', wondering how she could possibly think this was a good idea. "Um, shouldn't you put a stop to that?"
"Indeed," Cathy growled. With her hands on her hips, she shouted "Oh, come on you two, take this seriously!"
Hearing the instruction, Ami stopped her fall in mid-air and righted herself, then swept down toward the dragon, whose tail lashed out in a lazy arc as he rolled himself to the side in order to get up.
"They tend to goof off now and again," Cathy explained. "Technically speaking, they are both kids."
Jered watched Mercury block the tail strike with her sword. Scales met wood with a loud smack, and the smaller figure was hurled backward, but steadied herself while still in the air and landed in a combat stance, dragging small furrows into the sand with her feet. "So it looks as if she has figured out that flight spell," the wavy haired man commented. "Is that the armour she was working on?" He was referencing the brightly-gleaming suit of plate mail that encased all of the young Keeper, except for her head.
"No, that's just something I had the trolls build for her. She needs to get used to the weight and feel. Besides, it offers some additional protection, which helps."
In the arena below the two observers, Ami was pumping her legs and focusing her attention on her opponent as the walls seemed to rush past her, breathing hard. There comes the claw swipe! Her legs stretched, carrying her over the sweeping flailing of the draconic limb. It was behind her now, which meant... turning and forcing her arm muscles to comply with the need for speed, she brought her sword down in the nick of time, interposing it between her body and the backhand blow coming from below. Rather than trying to put force against force, she rode out the shock, letting it carry her upward and past the head of the creature. The long, serpentine neck shot forward, but the wide-open jaws collided with the sword that Ami was holding like a staff, one hand on the heft, the other gauntlet steadying the blade close to the tip. This time, she didn't allow the blow to send her reeling. After bouncing back the distance of two steps, still in mid-air, she simply changed her direction. If she could shoot over her opponent's shoulder, she would have a clear swing at his neck. With a somersault, she pulled her legs out of way of the snapping maw, descending toward her destination all the while. This was it! This time, she would finally win!
A loud ringing noise went through the hall. "I can see why she would need the extra protection," Jered commented, looking at the two huge, leathery wings that had just smacked together above the dragon's spine, closing on Mercury as if she was a fly that had gotten between two clapping hands. The limbs opened, and the gleaming figure trapped between them dropped to the ground, bouncing off of the dragons back on the way down. Was the creature snickering? With some relief, he noted that the Keeper was already pulling her hand through her short blue hair, pouring some green energy into a bump.
"Don't just sit there! You are in range, keep fighting!" Cathy encouraged. As one, dragon and girl turned their head to the where Ami's sword had fallen. She could have retrieved it with barely a thought, but she wasn't allowed to rely on her Keeper powers during these training combats. So, the girl threw herself toward the weapon stuck in the sand, while the dragon unhinged his jaws. Ami could see the leg of her opponent loom like a pillar to her left as she dove toward the two-hander, and the world spun around her as she rolled back to her feet, the blade in her hand. A textbook recovery, so why were her instincts screaming at her?
Bright orange light flared, illuminating the dusty ceiling of the training hall. "Holy crap!" Jered exclaimed, eyes going wide as Mercury's slight form disappeared in the curtain of flame pouring from the giant lizard's mouth. He was about to jump over the stone railing to see if she was still alive when he felt a hand on her shoulder.
"Don't worry. With both the dragon and the Reaper being immune to fire, she has had enough examples to work with to make her own protection spell. She's fine."
Ami's large eyes blinked in her blackened face. Her hair was blown backwards and remained that way, stabilised by the soot particles coating it. A crinkling noise drew her attention to the weapon in her hands, which was on fire. White ash flaked away, leaving nothing in its wake.
"Dragon wins! Again!", Cathy called, now that Mercury had been effectively disarmed. "Break for now!" She spared more attention for her green-dressed boyfriend now. "So what brings you here?"
Ami appeared at their side, already rubbing her head furiously with a towel. A gust of wind blew sand all across the room as the dragon used his wings to assist his climb out of the combat pit.
"News about Arachne. The Baron's forces have destroyed her dungeon," Jered reported, "few casualties, I don't think anyone died."
"How did they do it?" Ami asked, intrigued and relieved.
"It wasn't that difficult, after Jadeite had weakened the defences so much. While the dungeon heart being in the ceiling prevented him from letting magma flow on it, the dwarves digging down from above could just remove the earth it was affixed to, and CRASH," he illustrated the statement by slamming his fist into his palm, "down the shaft it goes. Arachne couldn't do much without troops. She did enlarge another spider, but it was tiny to start with and didn't get much bigger than your dragon here, and the troops shot it with a ballista before it could do much damage."
"I see. Thanks for informing me," Ami replied, smiling happily at the thought that her efforts had managed to prevent the loss of life that would have been inevitable if the Baron had attacked a fully combat-ready dungeon. This was great, she was finally doing some good!
The bath water was warm, filled with scented bubbles, and a balm for sore limbs after the latest training session. Ami looked at her upper arms and shoulders that were protruding from the water's surface. She had gained some muscle tone, but her skin was nearly as pale as the alabaster that the large tub was carved from. She needed to get out into the sun more, she thought with a wry smile. At least she was making good progress on both the armour research and the training front, even if she had yet to win a fight against the dragon. What she really enjoyed were her magic lessons, though. Who would have thought that one day, she would be studying under Jadeite? Well, unless he disguised himself as a teacher for one of his schemes. She giggled. Today, he had mentioned that some of her Keeper powers, namely moving things around physically without putting them into storage space, reminded him of his own speciality, telekinesis, and he thought that she might be able to develop them into something more useful, with his help.
Ami's eyelids closed while she relished the warmth of the bath and relaxed. Her mind began to drift, and with it, her mind's eye view of parts of the dungeon. It was a bit like floating on a cloud that was blown this way or that way. There were the labs. The farms. She'd have to see how they worked one of these days when she was less busy. There was Snyder, tinkering with a gold-tipped brush. The orcs, using the training room. Jadeite, taking off his uniform jacket in his room. Tiredly, the senshi's mental sight rested there for a moment. He had such good ideas sometimes. And such a dreamy smile. Not to mention nice abs.
Ami's eyes flew open as she realised what she was doing. Her pupils were small like pinpricks, and she blushed. Oh no, no, no! She hadn't just thought that! She couldn't be developing a crush on Jadeite, of all people! Could she?
Her rapid heartbeat was the only sound in the silent room, and she forcibly breathed in and out at an even rate. Panicking would not help. She had to think logical about this. He was handsome - make that very handsome, did not look that much older than her (after all, she would be fifteen soon!), was polite and pleasant to her most of the time, and she spent several hours a day with him. It was only natural that she'd find him attractive. Teenage hormones and so on. It was also completely wrong and dangerous. Only a few weeks ago, he had still been a dark general. She didn't even know how loyal he was yet. This was such a complication she didn't need. He was her employee. He was also her teacher, which made things doubly wrong. He was dangerous and powerful, but he was also a useful asset. He was currently taking off his pants. "Eeep!"
With burning cheeks, Ami bent her knees and let herself sink deeper into the water, until her head was completely submerged. Bubbles rose to the surface as she let out a long sigh. Why did these things have to happen to her?
A storm howled, and waves of brackish yellow-tinged water washed against the sides of the swimming dungeon, sending up sprays of foam as they broke against the ice. Clad in her senshi uniform, Ami stood on the flat deck and peered into the twilight, a dark silhouette against the horizon. Only an angular strip of blue covering her eyes was brighter, illuminated by glowing numbers and the red light shining behind the visor. Deep-hanging clouds the colours of lead and rust chased each other in the sky, forming an oppressive ceiling. The Avatar Islands were less than half a day's journey ahead, but it looked as if trouble might be afoot.
Or, more precisely, in the air. Ami's gaze followed a V-shaped flight of seven lights that defied the winds and were moving in her direction.
"Confirmed, Keeper. They are fairies. I assume that they come from one or more warships patrolling the area to make sure that nothing escapes from the islands." a voice in her head provided her with the opinion of her staff back at the command centre.
Ami's lips became a thin line as she tracked the progress of the figures. Her vessel was for the most part underwater, and barely visible even in good conditions, which these were not. "Shabon Spray!" Her magical fog appeared, but did not resist the gusts of froth-carrying wind for more than a few seconds. Ami's hands clasped each other. She did not want to fight good guys. Please don't notice me, she pleaded silently.
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