Chapter 33: Personal Charm

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Seawater sprayed over the bow of the powerful speedboat as it skimmed over the waves of the Atlantic, and salty air filled the nostrils of the four intrepid trackers as they made their way deeper into the ocean. With Liam's aptitude in gathering intelligence and Courtney's charm with people, they discovered the marina where "Enzo Ruiz" bought his own vessel and headed to sea. Though Bryce was one of the most skilled seekers on the planet, he didn't perceive the trail Amber followed, and his confidence waned. The trail was over a week old, and even Amber's expertise was being tested tracking the faint traces of mana across such an ever-moving environment as the open ocean.

"Are you sure we are going the right way, Amber?" he asked quietly, not wanting anyone else to hear.

"Yes!" she said, her tone harsh. "I'm sorry," she said more genially, "Yes, I can feel it. Please trust me."

"Alright, my friend. If you say we are on the correct path, I will trust you, but I must be honest with you, I cannot see it."

Amber put her slender hand on Bryce's broad shoulder. "Don't worry, Eric. I know this is the right way. We're getting closer."

Bryce nodded his head. "Alright, but how sure are you really, that Mr. Calvin and the girl are the ones we follow?"

She shrugged. "I'm not, really. It just makes sense, doesn't it?"

"That it does."

After they knew for what they searched, Bryce managed to decipher the subtle patterns in the mana they investigated back in the city, although they were subdued and altered somehow. The ploy would fool anyone else except Amber. Not her. Not for long.

They continued to motor out into the Atlantic on Amber's word, though all they saw in every direction was water extending to the horizon.

Amber shuffled back to the rear of the boat near her wife. She settled down on the bench next to her, and the couple spoke quietly. A few minutes later, Bryce noticed the telltale sign of mana being conjured from Amber's talisman. Amber was taking another opportunity to teach Courtney how to manipulate archonic mana. Having another mana channeler could come in handy if they were forced into another fight. For once, Bryce didn't feel as troubled taking Courtney on the dangerous journey, since she could finally be healed if injured. Though he admitted he didn't expect much competence in the archonic arts from the dark-haired woman. He watched again as Courtney attempted a rudimentary task Amber assigned her. Oh, he was impressed when she managed it deftly, but despite her dexterity with the energy in her hands, the effect wasn't all that impressive.

He recalled Amber's words when the two archon scholars discussed Courtney's transformation and her lessons, "she has a lot of natural talent, just like she seems to with everything, but the mana is not strong with her." Bryce understood Amber's meaning with perfect clarity. Courtney would be an adroit channeler in time, although she would never be powerful with the archonic forces. He wasn't sure they would find the necessary time for her skills to develop before being thrust into another violent situation. Losing the means to fabricate more of her invaluable archon busters was another heavy thought on his mind.

Bryce was so lost in his thoughts, he almost missed a glimmer of mana shining faintly in the distance. "Amber!" he called behind him. "Look. There," he said when she stood beside him again.

"I see it!" she exclaimed.

They slowed the boat to a halt a short time later. Though the location where they stopped appeared no different than any other in the endless and featureless ocean, Amber assured them they needed the be here.

"Are you sure, honey? There's nothing here," Courtney said.

"No," Amber said, looking around and furrowing her brow. "I don't get it. It can't just be gone again. How does he keep doing that?!"

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