This will be a short chapter. Originally, I planned to have a short interlude here before moving on to the Third Task, but I've been unable to figure out how to write said interlude, so instead I will go straight to the task, with flashbacks to show some plot points.
Sorry it took so long to write this chapter, but I hit a writers block in May which stuck for a long time, and was laid off from work in the beginning of June, which forced me to cut down on everything not connected to finding a new job and. To add to that, I was diagnosed with depression in November. I'm writing when I can, but it will take far longer for each chapter to be finished.
The months had passed by quickly, and it was now time for the Third Task. Takumi sat in the tent together with the other champions, waiting for the Task to start. It was less than a month ago they learned about the task, having been summoned to the Quidditch pitch in mid-May.
The spring sun was warm on his skin as he stood with the other champions next to the Quidditch pitch. Krum and Diggory seemed to be in a bad mood, since a crap-ton of bushes had been planted on their beloved pitch.
"Fantastic, isn't it?" came the hyperactive voice of one Ludo Bagman from behind them. He was met with two dark glares and two bored ones, but that didn't change his attitude.
"Fantastic?" Diggory said in a harsh voice. "You have ruined the Quidditch pitch!"
"Don't worry, my boy!" Bagman said with a slightly insane grin on his face. "The pitch will be returned to its original condition once the third task has been completed."
This mollified the two Quidditch fanatics somewhat, but they still muttered threats under their breaths as they listened.
"Now, as you can see," Bagman continued, "we have planted these hedges for the Third Task. Anyone of you who want to take a guess on what the task will be?"
The champions looked at each other, before Fleur spoke.
"Ez is a Maze."
"Correct!" Bagman said with a grin. "The Third Task will be a maze. The four of you will have to navigate it in order to reach the centre, where the Championship Cup will be placed. The first to touch the Cup wins the Tournament."
"So the previous tasks were completely unnecessary?" Takumi asked.
"Well... not entirely... You see, the points you earned in the previous tasks will determine in what order you enter the maze."
"How nice of you..." Delacour snarked.
"Anyway," Bagman said, ignoring the glares he was sent, "as you have now been informed about the Third Task, you are free to leave. Bye!"
And with that, he left. Shaking his head at the man's actions, Takumi watched as Krum approached Diggory before he too left.
He would later learn that both Diggory and Krum had been attacked not long after, but there were indications on who or what was behind it.
Naruko's pregnancy was progressing nicely, and she as now in her 7th month of pregnancy. She could no longer be as active as she used to, so instead she spent most of her time talking to the portraits of James and Lily Potter.
It was in that position Takumi found her when he returned to their rooms. Seeing Naruko sitting and laughing as she talked to his parents.
"Having a nice time, Na-chan?" he asked as he approached them.
"Yes." She answered with a smile. "James and Lily has been telling me stories of their time at Hogwarts. Did you know James was a prankster?"
"No I didn't. No wonder you get along so well." Takumi said with a smile as he sat down next to Naruko, giving her a light kiss at the same time. "Any interested pranks?"
"Oh, many." the portrait of James said with a grin. "Let me tell you about the time when..."
What followed was a few hours of laughter when James described the many different pranks he and his friends had played during their Hogwarts years, with Lily clarifying and correcting the stories whenever he exaggerated something.
"Those were some interesting pranks!" Takumi when he had finished laughing. "But I must ask, how were you able to perform some of those pranks without being found?"
"Oh, that's due to an old Potter heirloom; an Invisibility Cloak!" James declared with a grin before turning serious. "Speaking of which, do you have it?"
"I'm sorry, I have no idea what you're talking about." Takumi said with a confused look on his face.
"Of course..." James said with a sigh. "Well, you'll just have to get it, then."
"How am I supposed to find it?"
"Talk with Dumbledore." Lily said. "James let him borrow the cloak a few weeks before we were attacked, so he should have it, or at least know where it is."
"I will do so in the morrow." Takumi said to his mother's portrait.
The rest of the evening continued with storied of the past.
It was some time after breakfast, and Takumi was making his way up the outside of the Headmasters' tower. Reaching the window of the Headmaster's office, he looked inside and saw Dumbledore sitting at his desk, doing paperwork. Climbing inside the office, he cleared his throat, making the old man jump.
"Dear me!" Dumbledore said as he held a hand to his chest, attempting to calm his heartbeats. "Can I help you, Mr Potter?"
"Yes." Takumi said, ignoring Dumbledore's use of his old name. "I was told yesterday that you have something that belongs to me. I would like to have it returned."
"I'm afraid I don't know what you are talking about." Dumbledore said.
"Oh, I think you do." Takumi stated. "A certain cloak, which you borrowed from my father a few weeks before he and my mother were killed."
A look of shock flickered over Dumbledore's face before he answered.
"Correct." Takumi said. "The cloak is a Potter Heirloom, and as the only Potter alive at the moment, I request that it is returned to me."
"Very well." Dumbledore said with a sigh. "I don't have the cloak at hand, so if you could return tomorrow, I will have it retrieved."
"Good." Takumi said with a nod. "Then I'll return tomorrow at noon."
With that, Takumi turned 'round to leave through the window. He stopped when Dumbledore spoke again.
"While you are here, my boy, there are something I've been wanting to talk to you about."
"What?" Takumi said as he turned back towards the headmaster.
"As the Chief Warlock to the Heir and future Head of the Potter Family, I beseech thee to rethink your marriage."
"Explain." Takumi said with a cold look on his face.
"The Potters is an Ancient and Noble House, and control a large part of the British Wizarding world. With the death of your parents thirteen years ago, and your grandparents three years before that, the Wizarding economy started to stagnate. For our world being able to survive, the Potters are needed. As such, you would have to marry a nice Light witch, so that the Potter bloodline remains where it belongs."
Takumi's face became void of any emotions as he heard what the Headmaster was saying.
"So, you wish me to abandon the one I love for a place I have no connections to, just so you people can have it a bit easier? Did I hear that right?"
"It is for the Greater Good." Dumbledore stated with a sagely nod.
And then Takumi moved.
With a quick Shunshin, he was right next to Dumbledore. As the old man lifted his wand in reaction, Takumi ripped it from his hand. Shocked by the loss of his wand, Dumbledore couldn't even think to react as Takumi grabbed him by the throat.
"Let me make one thing clear, Dumbledore-san." Takumi said with an ice cold voice. "I couldn't care less about what would happen when I leave. Your 'Greater Good' means nothing to me, and neither does your world. Only four things matters to me; my family, my friends, my village and the Owl Clan.
For my family, I would raze the earth if needed. For my friends, I would face an army. For my village, I would give my life. And the Owl Clan... Well, as their summoner, there's mutual respect between us."
Pushing Dumbledore to the wall and holding him there, he continued:
"If you ever try to go after my family, I will raze this castle to the ground. Make sure those who follow you know this as well, as their actions will reflect upon you."
With that, he released Dumbledore and disappeared in a flurry of leaves. Sitting on the floor in the back of his office, Dumbledore massages his throat, his thoughts all over the place. The loss of allegiance from the Elder Wand was a setback, but not an insurmountable one. Young Harry's threat, on the other hand, was.
The threat to destroy Hogwarts made any attempts to guide (read: manipulate) Harry far to dangerous. But still, not impossible. Perhaps a word with the Minister was needed. After all, the Ministry was a separate entity, and as such, he could not be held responsible for its actions. Sure, there might be some casualties, but such things happens. After all, it is all for the Greater Good...
A few days later, the Invisibility Cloak was delivered to Takumi's and Naruko's suite.
Takumi's thoughts were interrupted when Bagman entered the tent.
"Finally, the third task!" he said, rubbing his hands in glee. "Gather 'round, and I'll explain it."
Rising from the place he was sitting, Takumi joined the others as they moved towards the hyperactive announcer.
"Right!" Bagman said once they had come closer to him. "As you all know, the third task is a maze. You will all start at a different point along the outside, and will be able to enter the maze based on what score you have, in order from first to last.
Once inside the maze, the four of you will have to navigate it in order to reach the centre, where the Tri-Wizard Trophy has been placed. Whoever reaches the trophy first wins the Tournament.
Now, any questions?"
"What can we expect when inside the maze?" Takumi asked when the others just looked at each other.
"Oh, nothing much. Just some enchantments, spells and creatures that you will have to overcome in order to reach the trophy. And the maze will randomly change its layout from time to time."
"So just like a normal day in Hogwarts, then?" Cedric said, his voice heavy with sarcasm.
"Exactly!" Bagman exclaimed with a grin, unable to understand sarcasm due to one to many bludgers to the head. "Now, the task is set to begin in about ten minutes, so if you could follow me outside, you'll be shown to your starting points."
The three school champions exchanged some incredulous glances, but still followed Bagman out of the tent, with Takumi trailing further behind. Once outside, they split in three groups. Bagman left for the announcement booth and the four champions went the closest way towards their starting points. Not long after, Takumi found himself at his entry point and was preparing to go. In the background, he could hear Bagman start introducing the task to the crowd.
He ignored most of the mans babblings, except for the part where he said in which order they would start (he was in second place, two points behind first place and four points ahead of third place). Soon, he heard the sound of cheering as the task started and the first champion was let into the maze.
Settling into a ready position, Takumi waited for his turn. As soon as his path opened up, he took off at high Genin speed – not his fastest, but still faster than any witch or wizard had ever seen before. Keeping his senses at the maximum, he disabled any creature he came across with a kunai charged with lightning chakra. The obstacles he came across were easily avoided thanks to the Tree Walking Technique. In less than five minutes, he had almost reached the centre of the maze, but was forced to stop as he came upon the last obstacle.
In front of him, perhaps some 30 feet away, was a giant creature he had never seen the like of before. It had the body of a feline, but the head of a beautiful woman. It exuded a calm air and its eyes were filled with wisdom. Knowing that this was no mere beast, but a being similar to a Boss of a Summoning Clan – in intelligence, if not combat capabilities, at least. As such, he approached it in the same way.
"Greetings." he said, as he slowly walked closer to it. "May I ask who and what you are?"
"I have no name, young one." The being said in a soft, melodious voice. "I am simply known as the Sphinx."
"Well met then, Sphinx. My name is Uzumaki-Ishimaru Takumi, Tokubetsu Jounin of Konohagakure no Sato." Takumi said with a bow. "May I ask; why are you here?"
"I was placed to guard the centre of this maze. Only the ones who can perform a specific task may pass and enter the centre."
"And what task is this?"
The Sphinx smiled a secretive smile before she(?) answered. "A riddle."
"Then ask your riddle, and I will do my best to answer." Takumi stated.
"Very well. Though, be warned. You will only be allowed three tries to answer a riddle. If you fail all three times, the path forward will remain closed to you, and you will never win."
"I understand." Takumi said. "Please, speak your riddle."
The Sphinx nodded before straightening, and then she(?) spoke.
"There exist a house. One enters it blind and leaves it seeing. What is it?"*
Rubbing his chin, Takumi started to ponder the riddle. He had several options, but slowly discarded them one by one. A few minutes later, he was down to two possible solutions. Knowing how backwards the Wizarding world was, he went with the less logical option.
"A school." he said as he looked at the Sphinx.
"Correct." the Sphinx said and shifted to the side. "Go on, young one, and know that no matter how dark the road may seem, there is always a way home."
Giving the Sphinx a final bow, Takumi headed onwards to the centre of the maze. Entering a large circle, he spotted what he needed. The Tri-Wizard Trophy, standing on a pedestal in the middle of the circle. Taking a deep breath, he went up and grabbed it. The moment he touched the trophy, he felt a pulling sensation behind his bellybutton, and the world dissolved on a whirl of spinning colours.
* This is perhaps the oldest riddle ever discovered. It comes from ancient Sumeria, some 4000 years ago. What I used is the shortened version. The original wording of the translation goes like this:
A house based on a foundation like the skies
A house one has covered with a veil like a secret box
A house set on a base like a goose
One enters it blind,
Leaves it seeing.
And that is where I will end this chapter. The next chapter will see the story finished, and with a short epilogue too. Next to be written is chapter 21 of Child of Light and Madness. Hopefully, it wont take as long as this chapter did.
Until then, enjoy.