Salib glides her thumb across the tiny screen, causing an impressive collapse of colored blocks. She raises her other hand to take a sip of luxury in a cup and does a tiny dance from its taste and warmth. A victory song plays as she’s beat the stage, and no surprise got the high score of all of her friends. A small banner appears at the top of the screen and invites her to a game sent by none other than Ralph.
No, Thank you.
She swipes up and tries to enjoy the time she has away from him. She takes another sip, hoping it will push out her memories of Ralph and Rosa, but there is not a coffee out there good enough for that. What those two called harmless flirting was the thing that belonged in romance novels, and they have probably exchanged enough words to fill one. Humans have no reserve. At least not like Talons.
Talons have the lowest number of mates of any other race, and it is becoming more than just a stereotype. It is becoming a fact. Her mind slips into the number of ‘mates’ Ralph has had over the years, and unfortunately, her best friend duties forbade her from forgetting all thirty-seven of them. Those being the ones he bothered to remember the names of, and there was no telling if there were any that he may have straight up forgotten.
Salib made that function of Ralph’s friendship easy. A loud and proud zero. Not so much as a first kiss. Salib takes another sip and starts working on the next stage while thinking about how different she and Ralph were. She was sure that he would remember all twenty-four suiters he’s had to scare away from her.
Maybe she should do the same for him. He could use a friend that would keep him from going down an immoral path. At his rate, he wouldn’t be husband material for anyone in a long time, and as much as she didn’t want marriage for her, the thought of her not having a little niece or nephew was unacceptable.
The high pitch laughter of Ralph’s favorite new person comes within earshot, and Salib knows what that means.
They’re back. Ugh.
Ralph and Rosa walk around the corner, and they may as well be hand and hand the way they carry on. While that may have been all in Salib’s head, they looked the part of ‘just friends.
“Hiding, I see,” Borjas says, silencing the sounds of victory music from his phone as well. No wonder he sent her an invite. She wouldn’t fall for it this time.
“I simply mean to give you to your space. I knew I couldn’t be your best friend forever,” Salib says, sipping from her cup and pushing play on the next level.
“You’ve never been my best friend,” Salib frowns. “You’ve been my kid sister since I met you.” Salib takes another sip to hide her smile. The scoundrel always knew what to say, that’s for sure.
“Besides, I wouldn’t want to become the best of the man who threw my husband in jail,” Rosa giggles.
“He threw himself in jail. He attacked me first knowing I was a detective,” Borjas gave a grin back.
“Why do your faces say different?” Salib says sharply. The both of them giggle.
“You’ll understand later,” Borjas says, losing the battle to lessen his grin.
“I’d rather not,” Salib quips, then squeals when she outdoes herself in a combo in her game.
Rosa and Borjas continue to talk, but all three stop when they hear a call from the Captain’s office. Excitement shoots through them as they move with haste to hopefully get the good news that they’ve been waiting for.
Captain Horst Schmidt was the best of the best in his time, which far more impressive due to him being a Demon, facing the prejudice of being a demon during the Demon Wars, and still rising through the ranks. This clearly shows how well he did, that the big wigs in LMPD couldn’t deny his loyalties or work.
Living dangerously close to all the criminals he took down. He wrote the playbook that many rogues like Borjas lived by. Being a bard himself, he carried a couple of skills that most rogues didn’t pick up, but he lacked in some of their subtle ways.
Salib always admired the Captain’s office. A bit of chic blended with modesty. Only a few paintings crafted by his daughter’s hands adorned his walls. An honor many of his plaques and certificates didn’t even get. A dracaena gold star plant kept him more company than most other living things. It was also his reminder to tend to himself. The plant only needs watering about once every week. This was when the department noticed he would take himself or some random lady out.
For all his skill in criminology, he had none in the art of dating. He tells the story of how he got lucky with the mother of his daughter, but after she passed, he had lost his touch. If it hadn’t been for his daughter insisting… demanding he find another mate, he probably wouldn’t have.
The Captain’s had a smile that always pulled away from the two horns that sat atop his head. Small backward curving spikes that could be hidden under his hat, which he usually did. However, with a small meeting of two of his top detectives and their consultant, who he knew was a warlock, he didn’t feel the need.
Lime and black-colored eyes peered from behind his desk as he gestured for them to sit. Salib always thought that his ash-gray skin helped his eyes pop more and found the combination beautiful. Still, she never voiced her opinions from fear of miscommunication making things awkward.
“Whattaya got for us, Boss?” Borjas asks with a grin that gave away any mystery of what was on his mind.
“That which you desire most, my boy.” He says, then notices Rosa standing between Borjas and Salib. “I’m sorry, my dear, I haven’t properly introduced myself,” He says, walking to her exchanging a handshake and names. “I’ve been told about your hard work around here. Welcome to the team.”
“I always expected a police captain to be a bit of a dick. How refreshing you are,” Rosa says with a relieved smile.
“My dear, there is good and bad in the world. Only you can choose which you will be. I could be the type of boss that wields my power like a whip, cracking down on those to submit to my will or be forced from my department, or I can use my power and knowledge to build the type of officers and detectives I would like to help me defend the streets. One just seems to make more sense,” He says, placing his hand on her shoulder.
Salib knew the smile that forms on her face at this encounter. It was the same one that she wore any time she and the Captain had a chat of their own. The feeling of a mentor instilling confidence in his crew. By the Dragons, did we need more men like the Captain in the world.
“The swat team have their orders. Tomorrow at 0600, you will move on the outpost. I need this to be by the books, Detective Borjas,” He says, turning to Ralph.
“Why do you say… Fine, I’ll be good.” Ralph doesn’t even try to smooth talk his way around it.
“You and Salib are still point on this. They don’t act unless you say so. Understood?”
“You can count on me, Captain,” Salib chimes in. A smile fills her face when he shows his approval.
Deep in the forest northwest of Lao Jusuo, Dawei walks with purpose to follow the Dark Mistress’s words.
“Just a bit further now, darling,” her voice chimes in, guiding his feet and heart all the same. His sword helps him carve his way to the heart of the forest and through the few monsters that dared stand in his way. Why was he doing this? He couldn’t answer himself. He only knew that it must be done. He should be turning southward to the city of Los Mitichas. To the hands of their local authorities, as instructed by Champion Kobayashi, but yet his feet kept onward, unnaturally unburdened by his long travels.
“Here,” The Dark Mistress voice informs, and Dawei begins to look around. There was nothing here. Dawei turned all about, but he was just in the deepest parts of the forest. There was no lair, no temple, no … Dawei notices a sound. A sound known to all as fear, given breath. A beast feared by mortal men and often used to show the spirit’s rage.
A giant serpent.
The giant predator coated in scales of variant scales of greens and browns looked down on him, flicking his tongue to feel for his prey. Glowing with magic, it lets out a hiss that spews a toxic mist. Dawei’s heart locks from fear but hears the voice of the Mistress. “Have some faith in me.” Dawei could do that. Taking a step toward the creature and pushing his fear behind the Mistress’s words, he found that the mist did not affect him.
“Champions cannot be affected by poisons, toxins, diseases, or anything of the like,” her voice both soothed and strengthened him. He was a Champion now, and it was time to act like one.
The serpent looks surprised at him being unfazed by his toxic mist and retorts to show its fangs.
“Bring those to me,” The Mistress requests. No words were given back, only action. Dawei leaps up to the serpent and delivers two attacks. With a shield and sword strike, he liberates the serpent’s fangs and causes it to rear back. The serpent hisses once more and moves to slither, back into its’ lair, and away from Dawei.
“On second thought, I want its tongue too.”
Just like last time, no words are needed. The divine power fills Dawei, and he leaps across the distance and divides the serpent at the head. The spray of blood paints the forest with his deeds, and a barrier covers him from having a single drop on him.
“I like my Champions to look their best,” The Mistress remarks, and Dawei is filled with pride that she honors him so. His stride carrying the same purpose that drove him here, but that feeling is now coupled with confidence in his newly gifted power. His blade makes quick work of the head of the serpent, and it takes little effort to rip the desired muscle from the mouth of the slain monstrosity. Dawei goes to his knee as his Goddess makes an appearance, placing the required items in a pile.
Her gifts levitate and glow with her magic around until they merge into one ball of magic. The spirit of the slain enters the ball, and the magic can be felt in Dawei’s soul. A scream is pushed from Dawei’s throat when the magic of The Mistress floods him. The enchantment causes his armor to shred away, falling to the forest floor, and her magic covers him, feeling as it attaches to his skin and soul.
“You have witnessed the power I grant you, Zhao Dawei. Now stand and see your true potential.”
Dawei comes to a stand and is overtaken by joy when his eyes meet the reflection shown to him by the… His Mistress.
The plate armor of his old order was gone, and in its’ place is the armor from the scales of the great serpent. And the crest of his Goddess.
“I pledge my life to you, Mistress.”
“I knew you would.”