Borjas enters his shared office space with gifts in hand. Upon seeing Salib and Rosa working on the case and catching up on all the events, he looks longingly at his burger and hands it over.
“Good job, you have potential,” He says, holding on to the Burger shack burger that he walked two blocks to get, a little longer than he intended to. Rosa must have taken notice. She shakes her head and pushes it back to him.
“I couldn’t, and besides, I brought my lunch,” are the words she chose, but Borjas can tell she wants it.
“Then let’s call it a trade.” He smiles. She takes half a second to grab it and looks at him with eyes that show her internal struggle.
“You know this is horrible for my diet.” Borjas gives her a good look over.
“I’m sure you’ll be fine.”
“Are you flirting with a married woman?” Salib says, mouth slightly full from her second bite.
“Not yet, still weighing my options,” Borjas answers and watches the corner of Rosa’s mouth curl.
“Detective, how inappropriate. You locked up my husband so you can have your way with me?” She says, taking a small bite of the burger while giving Borjas a little eye action.
“No, your husband tried to set me on fire, which is why I arrested him, but I have a pair of cuffs for you too,” He says, heading towards Rosa’s lunch box.
“Can you guys not do this while I’m eating?” Salib chimes in after a sip of her king-size refreshment. Borjas gives a little laugh.
“Sorry, Kiddo, does big brother flirting bother you?”
“I just don’t want to think about my big brother’s kinks while I’m chewing, or ever really.” Rosa laughs.
“There is nothing wrong with having kinks, my dear,” she says, facing Salib, watching her roll her eyes. “There is also nothing wrong with a little harmless flirting.” She says, now fully scoping Borjas out.
After taking Rosa’s lunch and placing it in the microwave, Borjas turns to the girls and starts going over what they knew.
“There is a reason they’re so stubborn about this. Zhao Dawei is one of their clerics,” Salib says, mixing ketchup and mayo for her fry sauce. After years of seeing this, Borjas still doesn’t like it. Following tradition, he pretends to gag. “Shut up. I say nothing about how you like to eat your falafel.”
“With ketchup and mustard, like a real Human,” Borjas says proudly.
“Do not lump me in with you. I’ve never done anything so uncultured. I eat it with the tahini that it comes with.”
“You don’t know what you are missing,” Borjas says, refusing to drop his smile. He grabs the lunch out of the microwave and is a little happy for the switch now. Arroz con pollo is one of his favorites.
“Anyway!” Salib shivers from the thought of how Borjas butchers her family’s food. Worse, even converting her little brother to his ways. “Clerics are protected in every region of the world. How are we going to deal with this?”
“The treaty clearly states that they are to uphold our laws. That means, even though you said the Shaman could go free, he still has a warrant out for his arrest. Sorry, will have a warrant out for his arrest when Walpurga learns how to file a complaint on the breach of contract,” Borjas is finding it hard to think with such good flavors melding with each bite.
“So we just lied to the Shaman?” Salib says, rubbing her fingers together to rid herself of the salt.
“No, we are letting him go. It will take a couple of days for the complaint to go through. I’m sure we have a friend who can help us push the paperwork.”
“This gives them time to flee,” Rosa throws out concern. Borjas shakes his head.
“They think they are safe behind sanctuary laws, they may not come out for a while, but this is better than when we showed up today. We will have a court order to be there. We can get the task force together and roll right into camp, and grab the Shaman. The Cleric will feel obligated to help his friend and attack, which will give us all the cause we need to take him in.
“And if he doesn’t?” Rosa says, wiping her mouth.
“Then we have the Shaman, and we press to get the Cleric later. The only way he gets away with this is another member of the order has to validate the kill. Seeing as how the victim was a college student in good standing, I’m pretty sure it won’t hold up.”
“Why do you have to be such a macho ass? If I didn’t have to kick you out earlier, you could have already set all this up.” Salib says, throwing a paper ball at him from her napkins. He dodges and isn’t even concerned with retaliation. He’s lost in the bliss of Rosa’s cooking.
“But then I would have had a burger instead of this, and I like this outcome better.”
“If you like how that tastes so much, just wait…,”
“Please don’t say what I think you are going to say.” Salib intervenes, placing her hands on her ears.
“Are you sure she’s untouched? I was going to say my tamales.” A blush appears on Salib’s face
“Naw, I like where she was heading,” Borjas flashes a smile.
“Detective! So forward. Need I remind you…,”
“No need. Married women usually come with no strings attached,” Borjas winks at her. Borjas can tell that she’s flattered, but in all honesty, this was just fun for him. He wouldn’t act on anything. “But in all seriousness, I need to start paying you for lunch.” Rosa beams with pride.
“What are you willing to pay for it?”
“Whatever you had in mind.”
“Oh, I have a lot of things in mind.” Borjas reminds himself that he wouldn’t act on anything.
“Revenge is not vengeance!” Champion Kobayashi says, slamming his fist into his desk. Only due to Champion Kobayashi being seen from miles away through an astral projection on his communication sigil did Dawei feel safe.
The Champions of the divine are the strongest of Paladins and often time the avatar of that particular order, who were leaders of their order. Champion Kobayashi’s history ran redder than the evening sun and longer than all the rivers of Drekenvold. Dawei would have to tread carefully.
“Champion, if I may.”
“You may not!” His fury nearly felt through his voice. “You will hand yourself over to atone for your transgressions.” Champion Kobayashi was a Lycan of few words.
“Champion, I still have my gift,” Dawei says calmly, careful not to anger him more.
“Your gift is not one of vengeance but of corruption. Did we not warn you in your training years that the Demon Queen can provide the gifts as well. She was a Goddess and can grant those powers.” Impossible! Dawei searches his feelings and will not believe that he has succumbed to the Dark Mistress.
“As you say, Champion,” Dawei says, bowing to him. “I shall go at once.”
“Do not disappoint me. We have Paladins everywhere. If you do not follow my words, I will send one for you,” his tone strict.
“I assure you, I shall do as you request.” Dawei places his hand over his chest, and then Champion Kobayashi ends the transmission.
Dawei wastes no time, dropping to his knees and saying his prayers and rattling off the words of his oath that have kept him in his path for so long. Honor, duty, and determination, not just parts of the pledge but also part of his being. His heart plummets in a deep cold that he’s not felt before. The words do not bring him the hum of his power.
Again, he says the words. The words that have charged his divine energies for nearly half a decade, yet there is nothing. Not the slightest tingle of power drips from the spirit of vengeance to him. He feels alone, as if he … was forsaken.
He clutches his hands tighter, sings his words, pours his heart into his oath. Nothing. Dread starts to bubble within him, and he feels his power release, but how can this be?
“Hey, Sugga,” a voice drenched in sweetness calls to him. “Well, shoot, I guess that Champions has spilled the beans. No use hiding anymore.” The voice is alluring, with the accent of the ancient Elves—the same accent as, Her. “You haven’t received your power from vengeance in quite a spell, Hun. So I reckoned that I would just give you what you want. Is that so bad?”
“But you are, The Demon Queen Cystala! I’ve heard tales…”
“All lies, I assure you.”
“You feed on mortal souls!” fear seeps into his core, griping him into the reality that he’s been working against his vows.
“Lies, Sugga. I don’t ‘feed’ off of anything but good home cooking. These are the lies told to you by your people to keep you from getting what you truly want.”
“I want Vengeance for my people,” Dawei counters.
“Run and tell that lie to your order, but I know better. I can see in your heart Zhao Dawei. You know that your people have received their just due. They are a happy and thriving people once again, with no more or no less than what they started with. They are now closer friends with Los Mitichas, and everyone is happy. Except you. You know they deserve more. You know they are capable of more….”
“Stop vile demon. I will not allow you to corrupt me more.” Dawei says, trying to pull power to exorcise the Dark Mistress.
“Baby, I’ve already told you that won’t work. Your spirit has long forgotten you. But I tell you who hasn’t forgotten you. Me. I’ll tell you who can give you what you really want. Me.”
“I want salvation,” cries Dawei.
“Naw, Sugga. You want revenge,” The Dark Mistress’s voice grows darker. “And I can give that to you. I can give you and your people power as you’ve never known.”
“I will not be bound by a contract. I will not become a Warlock.”
“A Goddess has little use for an errand boy. What a Goddess Wants is a champion.”
“But the Gods are dead. What can you do that the spirits cannot?”
A red and black mist swirled about in the room. The divine and dark magic so powerful that Dawei could breathe it in. The magic formed in a shape of a woman, and slowly molding from her feet up, the figure of a beautiful Elvish woman appeared before him.
Fitted in a devilish red strapless dress, her curves and bust pulled a very different emotion from the fear he felt out of Dawei. Auburn hair fell gracefully down her shoulder and perfectly pooling around her breast. Dawei followed its trail to her lovely diamond-shaped face with full lips, a dimpled smile, and her Goddess golden eyes.
“Baby, you’ll be amazed at what I can do.”
Dawei bows before the Goddess.
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