The real deal after all

“Now, Cesar!” Esmeralda yells. Yabe-Senpai’s back is open and would stay that way if Esmeralda had anything to do with it. Charged with divine energy, Cesar rushes the open area while Esmeralda does her best to lock Yabe-Senpai down. Her strike placed Yabe-Senpai’s sword across her back. A clean hit. Esmeralda couldn’t believe it. This is what she needed to turn her day around.
Was that a growl? No way! They had actually hurt him.
There was a swoosh, and he was gone. Esmeralda knew precisely what was about to happen. Yabe-Senpai teleported to the other side of the field and started prepping a spell. She knew that even before she felt the swirl of magic build up.
“Behind me!” Esmeralda shouts and builds her Power to send a slash to stop Yabe-Senpai from casting the spell, or at the very least, blocking some of it. Using her Power, she swings her sword in a horizontal slash and pushes her Power to create an energy slash from her blade. The red crescent flies across the battlefield and is pushed back from the wave of ice magic that pours from Yabe-Senpai’s hand. The crescent tries to keep the blast of ice magic at bay but quickly loses the battle.
Esmeralda prepared her sword to redirect some of the magic, but she knew this would be it. Wait. Is that Cesar taking point?
“Get behind me! Quickly!” Esmeralda screams. Esmeralda reaches for him, then feels a cooling calm wave through her. She felt of all things… safe? That can’t be right. Then Esmeralda noticed that there was a slight golden glow around Cesar. Was this true divine energy?
There is a loud crashing as the energy wave shatters under the pressure of Yabe-Senpai’s magic. Esmeralda and crew now faced a large wave of ice magic that is flash freezing everything in sight. Cesar still stood his ground. Placing his shield to his chest and planting his foot down, he took a defender stance. The area around them was encircled with a golden aura, and when the wave of ice magic hit the aura, it split and went around it. No. Way.
Esmeralda took this time to concentrate all of her power. There would be a small window of time after this spell that Yabe-Senpai would be open. She will take it if Cesar’s aura holds. In the sanctity of this aura, the only cool they felt was the divine magic that filled the air around them. The warming sensation of healing magic covered Esmeralda’s bruises, and she could feel Elisa pulling magic to her arrow as she prepares a shot.
The wave of magic ends, and the smile on Yabe-Senpai’s face disappears. In the slight moment that he needs to pull back to his stance, Esmeralda shoots across the battlefield. Esmeralda’s power-infused strike breaks his ice sword, and there is a genuine look of fear on Yabe-Senpai’s face when he nearly misses the business end of her blade. His near-miss is a short-lived victory. The magic shot from Elisa’s bow finds his side, sending him into a spin as he goes to the ground.
Yabe-Senpai’s armor kept the arrow from piercing through, but Esmeralda could tell by the way he held his side, the shot still did some damage. Following through with her attack, Esmeralda leaps in the air and comes down with a downward strike. Yabe-Senpai finds time to teleport out of the way, making her strike miss. Esmeralda quickly looks around to see him floating in the air.
“Kuraokami,” Yabe-Senpai’s voice echoes open fields of the training room. Esmeralda sucks in a hard breath and bites out a soft curse. Magic from all corners of the room pulled into his hand as a white and blue scythe appears in his hands. The manifestation of the weapons burst an aura of unnatural cold, chilling them deep within their bones. Frozen by terror and possibly ice magic, Yabe-Senpai’s eyes changed to a haunting yellow as he looks down on them.
“Yasuhiro! This is training, remember.” Xiao called out, getting up and pulling her headphones out of her ears. Yabe-Senpai’s eyes didn’t change. He hovers over Esmeralda and the crew, emanating power and creating dark tremors.
“Yasuhiro! Unless you fancy your face being shattered into pieces. Drop the scythe,” Xiao’s wife, Kira, yells from across the room. There was now a new power rushing over the area. This one was far more primal and matching her wife in training attire. Her voice shook Yabe-Senpai. Shaking his head and dispelling the scythe, he landed on the ground and looked around.
“What… what happened?” Yabe-Senpai’s voice was a lot less haunting without the scythe in his hand.
“You lost your bloody mind is what happened,” Kira says with more than a hint of annoyance.
“The kid blocked your spell, and you got smacked by a divine enhanced arrow,” Xiao says, showing her devious grin.
“The kid?” Yabe-Senpai says, and his eyes find Cesar. “You blocked my spell? How?”
“I don’t know,” Cesar admits. “I just didn’t want anyone to get hurt, so I ran in front of everyone and held up my shield. I asked Thenosan to grant me strength to protect everyone.”
“And the Goddess listened.” A smile warms Yabe-Senpai’s face. “Holy shit, you may be the real deal after all.”
“How did he do that, Yabe-Senpai?”
“He accessed celestial energy,” Yabe-Senpai says with the kind of pride that Esmeralda feels like she should have.
“How is that different from divine energy?” Cesar asks. Luckily he did because Esmeralda wants to know.
“Divine energy is pulling from the source of energy that the Gods or spirit of a cleric or paladin’s order pulled form. Celestial energy is the power given directly from the God or spirit. It’s been amplified, and it’s almost as powerful as if the God or spirit used it. It can only be as powerful as the host using it, of course, but it’s far more powerful than normal divine energy.” Wow, Cesar did that?
“How did he do this?” Esmeralda asks, patting Cesar on the back.
“The Holy Mother found him worthy of her power. This usually happens when the host is in line with the God or Spirit’s direct beliefs. They are then seen as worthy and become an instrument of their divine wrath, or in Cesar’s case, protection.”
“So I’m a real Paladin?” His hope is infections, and Esmeralda and the crew wait anxiously for an answer.
“Not quite, but he’s on the right path. He is past the first steps of doing it. He just needs to be able to do it when he wants to, instead of in dire situations.” This was still good news, and Esmeralda found herself pulling Cesar to her in an appreciative hug.
“I’m proud of you,” Esmeralda says, feeling his surprisingly strong hands.
“Thanks, Boss. I’m happy you believe in me.”
“Of course, You’re my Paladin.”
There was a smile on Cesar’s face, and for the first time in a while, there was also one on Esmeralda’s face. This was a good step in the right direction that she could do this. Everything before this moment faded away. No longer would she focus on his flaws or his past failures. This was her sign that he wasn’t hopeless, that she had made the right choice. That she would not have to kill him.
Feeling the pressure of the rest of her crew pile in on her, they huddle together in celebration of the progress they had just made. They hurt an S-rank bounty hunter to the point he nearly got serious. There weren’t many who could say they have accomplished this. Cesar is the star, tanking a full power spell from an Elite Arcane knight.
“What’s next, Boss?” Cesar says as they break up the huddle.
“We need to get you a squadmate—someone who will be on the front lines with you. But… we’ll worry about that another night. Tonight, we celebrate us coming together and getting stronger.” The crew cheers at her words, and there is clapping coming from the S-tiers not far away.
“Reyes-san, let me pay for it. You’ve earned it,” Yabe-Senpai says, joining the small circle. Esmeralda smiles and nods at him. This was only getting better for her.

Esmeralda comes too close to breaking the Bushido code, but luckily she did not indulge too much. The sake had been better than the last time she was there, or maybe sake just tasted better when you had something to celebrate. Esmeralda wasn’t sure, but what she did know was, she needs to get in the house and rest from all the parting they had done.
Luckily tomorrow was their day off anyway. Esmeralda struggles with whether or not she would give them an extra day off for all their hard work. Thinking back to Yabe-Senpai’s training, he had never given her a day off, but she had been built for battle. Her crew was made up of a couple of kids who wanted a bit of excitement in their lives. It was their choice to fight, no matter the reason, but she had to be aware of that.
Esmeralda taps her code a little slower than the norm but can still manage the task. After the tiny click of the locking mechanism, she pulls and wiggles her way through the door. Esmeralda didn’t remember the distance to the elevator being so far before. Maybe she had broken her Bushido code.
Letting that be something she would deal with in the morning, she pulls her feet and what feels like hardened cement all the way to the elevator. It’s only a couple of seconds before the ding alerts her that her chariot was on its way to swoop her to the magical place of her apartment. The hiss of the doors doesn’t sound as bad as they usually do. Tonight they sound like the start of a beautiful melody that will send her to the best of dreams. To doors open and spill dim flickering light.
Esmeralda steps in and holds props herself up against the wall with the buttons. Bumping the three button with her elbow, she rests her head against the coolness of the metal. Didn’t that feel amazing? Adjusting herself after the jutting of the elevator’s movement, she gets back in position. The voice that announced the floor was annoying, not sure if she had just realized that or if she was just still trying to pretend that her being drunk had nothing to do with this. Esmeralda tired of trying to pretend she wasn’t…
The doors hissed open, and evil seeped its way into the small corners of the elevator. This evil reeked of high-end cologne, and if Esmeralda was right, it would be wearing a tight-fitting polo, slacks, and boots. Esmeralda’s senses kicking back into high gear, she could now say for sure that if there was a hint of intoxication in her, it was entirely gone now, especially as her eyes landed on the demon at her door.
“Hello, Liebling.”

Rating: 1 out of 5.

When Honor is Lost part 4

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.”

Rating: 1 out of 5.

I don’t know what you want

Esmeralda does a parry, then another parry, followed by a side step with an attack to the stomach and finishing with a whack to the head with her wooden practice sword. Cesar falls face forward from the strike. A quick dash puts her right underneath Elisa, and before the hunter could nock another arrow, Esmeralda leaps up to deliver a downward strike. Elise yelps as her body bounce across the ground, and Esmeralda is already dashing at Matt.
Matt’s shaky hands can’t get a proper aim with his gun or spell, so he fires wildly. Changing her maneuvering to a zig-zag pattern, she dodges all of his projectiles and stops when she faces him. He drops his gun in panic, trying to put up a barrier, but loses the spell when Esmeralda’s fist plays tag with his stomach.

Crumpling forward, Esmeralda turns to see the Cesar is holding himself up with his sword. Very well, she thinks and takes a step forward. Esmeralda raises her sword, and Cesar falls over, holding his shield up cowering. Esmeralda tosses her sword beside her, causing it to stand erect beside her, then sits cross-legged.
“Alright, guys, take a break,” She says, pulling her lunch out of her kimono. She had started with her training armor, but after three rounds of not more than five hits landing, she decided to drop the buffs that the armor gave her and try to provide them with a little more of an advantage. This was the fifth try, and it had not helped.
“I’m just going to stay over here,” Elise yells out, face down where Esmeralda had left her.
“Matt!” Esmeralda calls.
“Give me but a moment. My insides feel as if they are on fire,” he says, in the fetal position, babying his wound.
“Don’t you have any healing potions, Elisa?”
“Healing spells don’t put the air back in your lungs after it’s been knocked out,” she gasps.
Esmeralda huffs. She doesn’t mean to, but the situation she finds herself in is challenging. She’s responsible for people’s lives now. Not just Cesar, but Elise and Matt too. Sure, it wasn’t as dire as it was with Cesar, and they could just walk away whenever they wanted. Until that happened, their safety was on her.
They all have a long way to go until they would be a competent unit, with the worst being Cesar, of course. Matt’s offense was unbelievably bad, but who could blame him? He’s a Cleric. He sits in the back and keeps people alive. Elisa’s defense was nonexistent, but at least she was decent with a bow. Her Owl did provide some uses, but combat was clearly not one.

Offensively, defensively, and support wise Cesar needed improvement. The only thing the kid had was wealthy parents who bought him state-of-the-art gear to keep him alive in a fight. Esmeralda was starting to wonder if it had seen any action before three days ago.
She had put in a request for all of their battle history, but she didn’t have high hopes for any of their records. Maybe Matt’s, but that was about all.
“You’re fucked,” a rough voice calls through. And Esmeralda knew that voice. Esmeralda turned to face the voice to see Xiao Niao walking through their portal. How did she find them in the vast halls of training rooms?
Her real name was Shufen Hayes, but only her closest friends and her wife knew that. To the rest of the world, she was Xiao Niao or little bird in Orcish. A nickname that had been given to her by her wife. Xiao was a powerful Orc monk, possibly one of the strongest. Specializing in Qi that could manipulate the world around her and her opponents. Most of the time, she just uses it to predict the movements of everything around her and uses her natural strength and technique to talk down her foes.
Standing at one hundred and sixty-five cm, she was beautiful in addition to powerful. Long black hair that reached the middle of her back whenever she let it down. She had a face that could have easily found a career in modeling, though now it was adorned with all sorts of piercings, her favorite being her lip ring. Her sandy brown eyes were also a nice feature that highlighted her good lucks. Her figure was that of an elite athlete, beautifully toned body that many men desired, even though she was clearly off-limits on two fronts. Her light green skin was tended for and gorgeous in its own right. No doubt her lifestyle of being a monk helped with that, though it was beautifully painted by tattoos that covered a majority of it.
Her training gear was nothing more than a matching sports bra and leggings. She chose pink for today, and Esmeralda, for one, could not argue with her choice. Her walk exuded power and pride as her body glistened with the sweat of her workout.
“Please tell me the Drow it the guy I’ll be testing in three months,” she says, wiping her brow and catching her breath. While she waters herself with her punk rock decorated water bottle, Esmeralda shakes her head slowly. “So yeah, you’re fucked.”
“Xiao, do not talk that way about my apprentices. It’s not good for morale,” Esmeralda counters.
“But getting killed because of a spoiled little rich kid wanting to play adventurer is?” Xiao’s words shot right to Esmeralda’s heart. Those were the exact words that Ben had used on her, and it was still a sore spot.
“This isn’t a game!” fire burned in her eyes as she spat it out.
“That would be the point that Yan and I are trying to get across,” Xiao says, utterly unfazed by her yelling whether it was due to her not seeing her as a threat or her just knowing what had happened between her and Ben. Esmeralda didn’t know.
“It’s not up to you who ‘plays adventure.’ We make our own choices, and if you don’t like it, then don’t deal with it.” This one caught her attention.
“I don’t know when you decided to put on your big girl bra, but if you think you’re up to challenging me, I could show you how a little girl should behave,” Xiao says, throwing her bottle to the ground.
“Just leave. I don’t need this right now,” Esmeralda says, turning her back to Xiao. Pain comes to a full roar in her head as Xiao grabs her hair and yanks her to the ground. The sting of her head crashing on the floor sends her body into fight or flight. Activating Power, she gains a red glow and dashes to her armor. Xiao casually walks over to her, giving her time to do whatever she felt needed. The others put as much distance between them as they could.
Stepping into her training armor and equipping Taiyo, she rushes back to Xiao. Miss, miss, miss, and big surprise, miss. Every swing of her sword is a miss. Xiao doesn’t have that same problem. How did her punches hurt so much through her armor? Xiao didn’t infuse her attacks with Qi. She naturally was that strong. Esmeralda, panting from the well-placed hits, watches those sandy brown eyes become overtaken with a full white set. This was her Qi sight.
Esmeralda sends out a wave of power with a roar, and Xiao shatters it with a punch. Before Esmeralda could recover from her attack, Xiao had her by the throat. Xiao takes two fingers and taps Esmeralda in a few pressure points, and Esmeralda can no longer tap into her power.
“Listen up, I don’t know what’s gotten into you, but fix it before I break you,” She says and tosses Esmeralda to the ground. Pain and a flood of emotions overtake Esmeralda as she sobs on the floor.
“Don’t you do that!” Xiao yells, commanding Esmeralda to be stronger. “I’ve seen you take hits from barbarians, warriors, and spells harder than I hit you. Don’t start crying. I don’t do emotions well.”
More sobbing.
“Oh, fuck, this is an emotional thing, isn’t it?”
More sobbing.
Xiao bites out an Orcish curse.
“Okay, here’s what we are going to do. I’m going to get Yasuhiro and Rinako in here, and they will handle all of this, Okay?”
More sobbing, deeper and harder than before.
“I don’t know what you want from me,” Xiao says, frantically looking for her phone. She finds it in her phone pouch and presses a few buttons in a panicked rush, and starts speaking to someone in Orcish. Esmeralda can hear Xiao say goodbye and then pace back and forth.
Then there was a big whoosh. A sound of magic filled the air, and that was one of two people.
“Reyes-san!” Yasuhiro’s voice calls out. “Report!” Yasuhiro’s voice is so demanding and forceful, yet. It works. Pushing herself off the ground and wiping her tears, she stands and faces her senpai.
“Here, Yabe-senpai,” Esmeralda says, standing and sheathing her sword.
“What is the meaning of this! Is this how you represent my teachings? Is this how you want Hideyoshi Bushido to be represented? What is the sixth virtue of Bushido?” Esmeralda’s heart sunk.
“Meiyo.” Honor. She felt unworthy to even say it.
“And do you bring yourself honor by breaking down admits your duties?” He says, starting up in Lycan.
“No, Senpai,” she hung her head down, bearing the shame she brought on herself.
“Pick yourself up, and conduct yourself like the Samurai that you are. Is that clear!”
“Yes, Senpai,” Esmeralda says, standing upright and fighting back the hurt that had earlier consumed her.
“Are you fucking kidding me! Yelling is how you got her to stop?” Xiao asks in frustration.

Rating: 1 out of 5.

When Honor is lost part 3

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.

Rating: 1 out of 5.

He Played you

“I love your shirt.” The cab driver says, striking up a conversation. 

“Yeah, the band is awesome.” 

“I got to see them live once. Best concert ever.”

“Was this the one they did in Reve?”

“Sure was. Whoever did the magic for their show was amazing.”

“It really was,” Esmeralda bonds with the driver over one of her favorite bands, Mercury and the Architects were a newer band, so not many people knew about them yet, but they were already making waves. Their big break was last year when they played at the sanctuary of Reve, where the biggest events of the planet happen. 

Esmeralda and the driver chat for a while, and when they finally reach the Phillips estate, the driver is quick to give Esmeralda his number. She takes it and leaves the cab. Then, pulling out her phone, she saves his number, gives him a five-star rating, and walks up to the door. 

Esmeralda always felt like a commoner coming to the Phillips estate. Not many have seen success like Andre and Lisa Phillips, and their house reflected that. The house was easily sitting on half an acre in Los Mitichas’ most affluent area. This enormous colonial-style house looked like it housed a small garrison of people, and it did. The house came with a full-time staff, and here she was in her rocker shirt and jean shorts. 

She lets out a long breath and presses the doorbell. Only seconds pass before a butler opens the door, greeting her with a warm smile. 

“Ms. Reyes, we have been expecting you.”

“Thank you.” Esmeralda bows and the butler returns the gesture. 

The butler leads her into the house and shows her to the dining area. After announcing her, Desmond and Alexa get up from the table to run to her. The seven-year-old Alexa and the five-year-old Desmond each pick a leg, yelling. 

“Auntie Esmeralda,” to the best of their abilities. 

“Hey, you guys!” Esmeralda squeals, picking them up and embracing their hugs. 

“Alright guys, back to the table to finish your food,” Andre says, with a delightfully warm smile. Every time Esmeralda sees that smile, or just Andre in general, she can only imagine how happy Lisa is.

 Tall, dark, and handsome were words that were created just to describe him. Even wearing polo and khakis, you could see the defined muscles of Andre. His trademark Drow red eyes seemed softer than most, and his short white hair was always neat and professional. Even in the heat of battle. 

Lisa was nothing to frown at either. She had the life that most women can’t even dream of. Her figure still competes with models even after two children. Her naturally curly hair bounces as she moves. Her curves were something that Esmeralda secretly jealous of, but it is hard to have a figure like hers when you are training to fight every day. 

Lisa pats the seat next to her, and Esmeralda and the children find their places. A servant comes out with a tray to deliver bowls of soup for everyone. Drow clam chowder. Esmeralda licks her lips in approval of the menu so far. 

Esmeralda has never seen the city in such a beautiful light before. She’s also never looked out over the city from a house balcony that was easily worth ten times what she planned to make in her lifetime. Her body is nourished, and her buzz starting. She’s sitting with Lisa going over the events at her house. 

“E, he played you.” 

“What!” Esmeralda sits up a little faster than her body was ready for. The lights of the city become a blur for a moment until she can re-adjust. 

“You were a trophy for him. It’s a sad tale that I hear a lot nowadays. Men seeking bounty hunters as a show of their manliness.” 

“That’s not … Ben’s not like that.” 

“Tell me, has he met your parents? Or even asked to?”

“No, we were just having fun. But it lead to more.” 

“If it lead to more, then why did he not want to meet your family? By the Queen, why didn’t he want to meet us?” 

“We were trying not to complicate things.” 

“You were trying not to complicate things. He was trying not to get attached.”

“He told me….” 

“What? That he loved you? Was this before or after your clothes were off?” Esmeralda tries to think. And the more she ponders on it, she believes it was after sex when she first told him. “Okay, another question. How many dates did you go on before you started having sex?”

“… maybe three?” Esmeralda isn’t even sure of herself at this point. 

“Were they real dates, or you guys just met up?”

“What’s the difference?” Esmeralda is feeling worse and worse as this conversation goes on. 

“Were they planned events, or did you just meet up and hang out for a minute?” Esmeralda’s silence answers. “E, it is a known fact that most women in the bounty hunter field are either promiscuous or insecure.” Esmeralda feels small as Lisa explains this. “For some men, it is a badge of honor to either be picked by a female bounty hunter or find one that will have sex with them. And with most men not wanting to feel fragile about their masculinity, most female bounty hunters don’t have a lot to choose from, making you easy prey.” Lisa takes another sip of wine and realizes how bad Esmeralda feels. 

“So it can’t be that he just felt the strain of dating someone who is in my line of work?” 

“I want to lie to you and tell you that, but I’m also your friend. He knew what he was getting into when he dated you. Unless you weren’t honest about what you did for a living?” Esmeralda shakes her head, and Lisa continues. “When I started dating Andre, he was just a trainer for the royal guard of the Queen’s elite forces. Before he proposed to me, Lord Rouse came to him and asked him to join the fight in the Orc invasion.”

“You’ve met Lord Rouse?”

“Yes, I’ll have to tell you about that man sometime.” There is a sly grin on Lisa’s face. 

“That Man? You talk about him as if he’s just like every other person on the planet.” 

“He may as well be. Ever since Simon has become eighteen, he’s stepped out of the affairs of mortals and only runs his shop. Besides, once you get to know him, it will change how you see him and your thoughts on how the Gods really were.

“Really,” Esmeralda’s eyes are full of stars, and it feels good to talk about something other than her for a second. 

“Yes, but I was going to make a point.” So much for that. “When Lord Rouse asked Andre to join the fight, I wouldn’t let Andre say no. I knew what that meant. I knew there would be a lot of nights where I wouldn’t get to see him. A lot of days of me worrying if he was okay. A lot of time for me nursing him back to health. When someone is a fighter like that, you have to have a certain mindset and if Ben knew from day one, he didn’t plan on being around long enough to care.”

“What kind of friend are you? Do you plan to make her feel better at any point tonight?” Andre says, walking out to the balcony. 

“Are you listening to our conversation, Babe?”

“I’m a parent. I hear everything. The young ones are in bed, by the way,” He says to Lisa, then turns to Esmeralda, “And you have an appointment to teach Desmond the basics of Power. That was the only way to get that boy to lay down.” Andre laughs. 

“Of course, Andre.” 

“Babe, I’m glad you’re here.”

“Because you love me, and you missed me?”

“Nope, so you can prove my point.” She smiles then leans to give him a kiss. After their kiss, Andre starts up. 

“What makes you think I want to prove your point after you say something like that?”

“Because you still have to sleep next to me.” She says with a devilish grin.

“I have a bed in my man cave,” his tone said that he was accepting her challenge .

“You think you can go a night without sleeping next to me?”

“Need I remind you who was the last person to go on strike…” 

“Okay, never mind. Please help me prove my point.” Lisa says, putting her hand to his mouth. He removes her hand and kisses her again. He then turns to Esmeralda. 

“Yes, it sounds like you were a notch in Ben’s belt. Would you like me to teach him a lesson?”

“No!” Esmeralda and Lisa yell at the same time. A proud smile slides across his face. 

“Why did you both yell like that?”

“Andre, dear, you’re terrifying. Unless someone has to die, I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.” Lisa says, holding his hand. Esmeralda has flashbacks of seeing him work during the invasion. She didn’t know anyone could make death look like someone composing a song. How fluid his movements were, how effortlessly he danced around the battlefield. Some of his kills happened so fast, she didn’t even see him move. Just bodies drop around him. 

“I’m not that bad. Right?” No one answers. They just pour more wine and look out at the night sky. “Lisa?”

“Andre?”

“You’re not afraid of me, are you?”

“I’m afraid of what you can do. The first time you came to my rescue in that basement. I nearly died from just fear alone.” 

“Well, this is all good feedback. Most people around don’t have a chance to tell me. Well, in any case. My services are yours if you need them, Esmeralda.” 

Esmeralda just nods and sips her wine, thinking about everything that’s been said tonight.  

Rating: 1 out of 5.

When Honor is lost part 2

“You will pay for your insolence!” The Shaman says. Borjas moves to strike him, but Salib gets in the way.
“Enough! If you hit him, you will create an incident. Go outside.”
“I’m not going anywhere, and I for damn sure am not leaving him alone with you,” Borjas’s eyes are full of rage.
“Ralph, I am okay. He can’t hurt me in here. His magic is gone, he is cuffed to the table, and you’ll be right outside if anything does go wrong.”
“Not a chance.”
“Listen to that bitch of yours,” The Shaman says, and before Borjas can get to him, Salib puts herself in his way. “We all know who’s really in charge,” He says, followed by a cackle. There is a brief second where Salib loses her will and almost lets Borjas go, but she quickly regains herself and pushes him to the far wall. She places Borjas’s face in her hands and forces him to look her in her ember eyes. Borjas grabs at her hips to push her off, but she steps into it and throws off his balance. Inches apart, she gives him a cold stare.
“I’m okay.”
“I will not have this…,”
“I’m okay.”
“He’s disrespecting you!”
“I’m okay, Ralph.” Her tone is getting softer and softer as she repeats herself. Everything fades away for Borjas except the memories of her following him around as a kid. How tough she’s always been, her resilience close to his. Their whole life, he’d protected her, but sometimes she has to remind him that sometimes she has to defend him.
Borjas takes a deep breath and snaps back to the present.
“I’m good.”
“Sure,” Salib says, not letting go of his face.
“Yeah, sorry about that. It looks like I owe you ice cream again,” He says with a smile. She laughs and lets him go.
“Make it a cheeseburger, and you have yourself a deal.”
“Aw, look at the cute couple,” The Shaman mocks, then jumps when a knife flies by his head and strikes the wall. Salib looks at him with her – seriously – look.
“You know I could have hit him, right?” Salib lets out a sigh of disgust.
“Go get us coffee. I don’t trust you in here right now.”
“Fine, It’s going to be a while. I need a smoke break anyway.”
“In that case, pick up that burger too,” She says as he grabs his coat and walks out. He waves an affirmation just before he gets to the door.
Now that Borjas and all his testosterone rage has left, she can think clearly, which is a bad thing because she’s not the one who’s good at this sort of thing. Borjas does the interrogations. She uses her powers to see if they are telling the truth or not. Dragons help her. What was she going to do?
She walks across the room and sits across from The Shaman. If she honest with herself, she wants to hurt him too. He had hit her with a boulder in their fight, and she didn’t believe she got enough payback for that. Salib knew that’s why Borjas was so pissed. He doesn’t like anyone hurting her, and she hasn’t exactly been subtle about her side still hurting.
“So detective, are we just going to stare into each other’s eyes?”
“I can get him back in here if you like. You do remember how you got in here, right?”
“That boy used dirty tactics to subdue me,” The Shaman hisses.
“Last I checked, throwing one’s henchmen at a person wasn’t a dirty tactic. Or are you referring to the punch to the jaw that followed?”
“He used my men’s bodies against me.”
“And you had us outnumbered.”
“And you were violating the sanctity of our laws!”
“And you are harboring someone who broke ours!” Salib stands and slams her hands on the table.
“Let me out of these chains, and let’s handle this as they did in the old days.” The Shaman says with a slimly smile. Salib knows that she can’t take him in a magic battle, and now was not the time for Borjas to come back into the room. The door opens, but she doesn’t break eye contact.
“Let’s do that, shall we?” Salib turns her head to see that Rosa enters the room.
“What are you doing here?” Salib asks.
“Solving a problem for you. I don’t work for LMPD. I’m a consultant who can act as I see fit. I may have to follow your guidelines when in the public eye, but I am an independent contractor if I do anything that breaks your ordinances. Now, what was this about handling things the old way?” Rosa says, and her eyes flash to demonic black. For the first time, The Shaman shows fear.
“Get that warlock away from me!” The Shaman says, moving as far as his cuffs will allow.
“What’s going on? Do you know him?”
“I know him very well.” A voice says coming out of Rosa’s body, but this wasn’t her voice. This must be her Patron.
“Let me introduce myself, mortal. I am Walpurga, Demon mistress of blood and sex magic. Lin Fa here and I, we have a bit of history, don’t we, Xiao Lin.” The smile on Rosa’s body is devious and puts the evilness of The Shaman to shame.
“Detective, I will talk to you. Anything you need to know, just get her away from me.”
“Why do you want her away so bad?” Salib asks.
“Because he owes me a debt. One that he didn’t think he would ever have to pay.”
“You tricked me! I will not give you what you want.”
“On the contrary,” Salib interjects,” You may have to. According to our treaty, thanks for making me read it; by the way, you will adhere to all laws of our lands when in our custody. And as it stands, any contracts signed with a Demon lord are admissible in court. Because unlike mortals who have been known to try to get out of deals; Demons, Dragons, Spirits, and Gods always keep their end of the agreement. So if you have not fulfilled your end of the bargain, She is well within her rights to take what is owed.”
“I’m starting to think I was wrong about you, mortal. I’ll have to apologize to Rosa later.” Rosa’s body steps forward, but Salib cuts her off.
“However, if you give me what I want, I can release you, then you can claim sanctuary. I’m sure you’re familiar with the process.” Rosa’s body produces a burst of soul-shaking laughter.
“Oh, I really like you, Mortal.”

*** ***

The opening of the door to the shrine breaks Dawei from his meditation. He stays kneeling, unsure of the intentions of the small group of Orcs joining him in the small shelter. A few seconds pass, Dawei recognizes this as respect for his time. After a few more words of devotion, he rises and turns to greet them.
“Why have you come here?”
“To ask questions.” Dawei can’t hide the smile for long. It creeps across his face showing his approval.
“Ask away.”
“Why do you still serve the Gods if they are dead?”
“No one truly dies. They just move along to the spirit realm. The Gods are no different. Only their essence is so strong, they can affect the world still, though, not nearly as much as they used to.”
“So which God do you serve?”
“None,” Dawei says. He always loved this part.
“But, Clerics must serve the Gods… right?” they ask, all confused.
“Or a purpose. I serve the spirit of vengeance. I gain my power from protecting or avenging all who fall prey to the darker things in this world.”
“That’s a thing?” Dawei releases his power, forcing his fear aura over them. Unlike the brute Gen, they were entirely under his spell. They cower before him, unable to move in the presence of his devotion.
“Gaze upon my armor. The crest I bear is not one blessed by the Gods, but earned by an order.” The Orcs are too afraid to look for long. They bow before him and heed his every word. “We serve the people and fight against any that would harm the innocent. In Los Mitichas, they praise the wolf Yabe as a hero, but he is a murderer, and I will see to his destruction.”
“How can we help.” One of them asks. Dawei knew this would happen. He was counting on it.
“Take up arms with me, and pledge yourself to defend those who can’t. Vow to avenge the weak and the oppressed. Seek out and destroy the greater evil, offer no mercy to those who spread their evil into the world, and do so by any mean means.”
“By… by any means?” the youngest says with a tremble.
“By. Any. Means.” Dawei says. Dawei draws his sword and walks to the youngest. The oldest starts to chant those words. Clasping his hands and nudging the youngest, the other two join in. Dawei raises his sword and prepares it for a swing. They continue to chant. He leans into his swipe, and the blade stops at the neck of the youngest. His body is protected by a white glow that forms all around him. The youngest looks down at his hands and back up to Dawei.
“The Spirit of Vengence finds you worthy,” He says with a smile.

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Playing adventurer?

Esmeralda reads the text a couple of times as if somehow it would change its wording. Her stomach turns from fear as she calls him. There are a couple of rings until his voice comes through. 

“What?” He says dryly. 

“What’s going on?” Anxiety fills her more and more as each second passes. 

“It’s pretty simple. I’m not coming.” The words weaken her heart. Never has he told her this before. She’s got ‘be there soon’, ‘let me finish up’, and even on occasion  ‘I can’t make it tonight, but I’ll make it up to you’. But never in time they’ve been dating has she ever got I’m not in the mood.

“Is it something I’ve done?”

“Can we not,” Ben’s voice is flat and almost sounds as if he’s annoyed with her. 

“Ben, can we talk about this?”

“What’s there to talk about? I’m not in the mood to drive all the way over there to nurse you back to health. This happens every time you go on a mission.” 

“I don’t need nursing. What I need is my boyfriend for comfort.” 

“That’s my point. I’m not going to keep babying you because you want to play adventurer.”

“Play adventurer?” Esmeralda is more hurt by the shock of this than his unwillingness to come. The women from this morning were unable to hurt her because she knows what she is. But when someone she loves says the same thing it makes her question herself.

“Yes, run around with a stupid sword and fight monsters and all that nonsense. It was exciting at first, but now it’s,” Ben spits out a low curse. “ Just. Look, I don’t want to talk about it. I’m not coming.”

“This is something we need to talk about, Ben.” Esmeralda is sickened with how weak she feels right now, but she can’t help but feel hurt. Hurt on a level that she didn’t think she could. 

“No, we don’t need to talk. You want to. I’m not coming, end of discussion.”

“Will we talk tomorrow?” Esmeralda hears her voice weaken, but hopefully, it’s not as bad as it sounds. There is no answer. “Ben?” she says and checks the phone. He hung up. She hits his number again, only for it to ring once before going to voicemail. She places the phone on the sink and braces herself. She’s not sure if Yabe-sama’s teachings of controlled breathing would help with this kind of pain, but she could try. 

Slowly she breathes in and out, keeping her knees from buckling. She takes a seat on the toilet lid and places her hands on her knees. The weight on her heart carries to her head, making it incredibly difficult to hold her head up. So when she feels the tiny warm drop hit her leg, she is shocked. A single tear rests on her leg, and she quickly wipes it away. Soon, it is joined by more, and no matter how much she tries to fight them, they invade her face. 

Running down in such force that it causes her to shudder when she breathes. The heaving comes next as she finds it harder to get air in her lungs. The slow, gentle shakes of her sobbing get more intense, to the point that she holds herself for support. This does not help. Racked with dread, she stops fighting her tears and lets them stream down. Nothing else would work. 

Leaning back and feeling the pain of the porcelain press into her back didn’t exactly help her cause. Still, it was the most minor inconvenience to her right now. Her hands covering her eyes from the bathroom light and the other muffling her cries, she can’t seem to think of why this hurts so much. 

She and Ben have been dating for a couple of months now, not even half a year. So why does this hurt her so much? Her brain tries to go over the statistics of the situation. But, unfortunately, her body took a vote, and her heart was winning this fight. The heart didn’t care about the amount of time they had been together, only the feelings it held for Ben. 

The feelings that she couldn’t get from anyone else. The feelings that even though all of his friends teased him about talking to her, he stood by her. The feelings that developed even though everyone else told her that she couldn’t have them because she decided to not follow the social rules laid before her, yet they found her anyway. The feelings that Ben seemed to have worked tirelessly for weeks to place in her. 

Esmeralda couldn’t begin to think of what would bring this about. She and Ben were good in their relationship, they saw each other several times a week, and they had sex many of those times. She never asked him for money, never asked him where he’s been, nor did she care. His time was his own, and what he did with it was not her concern. The only things she ever asked of him were time and, on a few occasions, sex. She usually didn’t have to. He usually came ready. 

He mentioned nursing her, but what could that mean? She had always had potions and healing items done by the time he came. Maybe there were a few times she needed him to message her, but even that turned into sex. It could be when she needed to cuddle with him after some of the more challenging missions. That couldn’t have been more than three or four times – was it? 

All this has her questioning her relationship and if she did everything perfectly as she remembered. She couldn’t handle this. A ding reminds her that she has a pizza in the oven, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. She needed to get out of the bathroom. She couldn’t be locked in here with her thoughts. 

After a quick dry, she tosses the towel in the laundry bin and walks to the kitchen bare. At least she still feels comfortable in her own skin. Taking the pizza out, she sets it to cool. This will give her enough time to get dressed before dinner. 

Earlier, she set out a low-cut tank top and denim skirt, a present for Ben. She couldn’t possibly think of wearing it now. So instead, she reaches into her closet and finds her Mercury & The Architects shirt and jean shorts. Something also compelled her to place on her high-top skater shoes, and she listened. She never puts on shoes when she gets home, but after her spell in the bathroom, her body is telling her she doesn’t need to be alone right now. 

After fixing her hair in a messy bun and applying all her beauty products, she drifts back into the kitchen and stares at the pizza. It was kind of a ritual with Ben, and all it did was push up those feelings she was actively fighting. She finds a plate large enough for the pizza, breaks it up into slices, and shoves it into the fridge. She would eat out tonight, but where? 

She takes her phone and sees that she has a few missed texts from Lisa, her order of potions are ready. Maybe there is a better opportunity here. Hitting the necessary buttons to get her on the line, Esmeralda puts on her headphones and waits for the Drow’s voice to come through. 

“Well, hello, E.” 

“Hey, Lisa. Are you busy?”

“I’m a business owner, a wife, and a mom. I’m always busy. What’s up?”

“I was wondering if I could come by… you know to get those potions.” She feels stupid in the way she asks. 

“Our doors are always open to you, E. You know that. Especially for dinner, the kids love seeing their extended family. I think Desmond has a few questions for you about how to use Power anyway.”

“I don’t want to intrude. If you guys are having dinner…” Lisa cuts her off.

“E, I am a woman, and I know when another woman needs to talk. It’s all in your voice Hun. Come by, we have plenty of food, and that’s an order. Don’t make me have Andre come and get you.” Esmeralda shivers at the thought. 

“On my way, Lisa.” 

“Good. Also, grab some wine. I feel like we’re going to need it.”

Rating: 1 out of 5.

When honor is lost part 1

Borjas doesn’t move when the arrow lands at his feet. Salib takes a step back, making Borjas a little agitated because he knew this would happen. Hence the reason he told her to wait in the car.
“I don’t want to make this any harder than it has to be. Just let me go in and grab young David Zaw, and we’ll be on our way.” Borjas says, exuding confidence. The stocky Orc who fired the warning shot isn’t impressed.
“Zhao Dawei! You can’t even get our names right,” The guard grumbles. “You know our laws. You don’t have jurisdiction here. Come back with your leader or get permission from ours.” The guard says.
“Xiao or Yan Wang are not our leaders. They are bounty hunters with lives. I can’t drag them away on police business every time this happens.”
“Every time this happens!” The guard yells and is joined by his buddies. “Are you to say that our people are filled with criminals?”
“Sure am,” Borjas doesn’t even miss a beat. “Petty theft, grand theft auto, distribution of narcotics, and the list goes on. Ever since the Treaty of the Three, Orc crime has increased. They know they can do whatever they want and then just run here for sanctuary.”
“There would be no treaty if your people didn’t slaughter our innocent,” The Orc says with a lot of his buddies chiming in.
“By your logic, we should be going to war because you are letting your people slaughter ours. I’m here to take him in to bring justice to our city and your tribe. Just as Yan Wang and Yasuhiro Yabe did before.” The gate to the village opens, and a few of the warrior Orcs walk up armed to meet Borjas and Salib. Salib starts to prep a spell, but Borjas stops her.
“They are just as afraid of Yan Wang as we are. They will not attack us. Not without cause,” Borjas said, lighting a cigarette. They march across the empty field until they are nine meters away. Then, showing their bows, swords, and shields, they try to bait them into fighting. Borjas doesn’t budge.
“Enough!” A voice calls out from behind the Orcs. They scramble and part for the Orc that they are clearly afraid of. An elder Orc, frail and thin, but the magical energy radiating off him is frightening. The air stands still for him, and the earth beneath his feet shifts with him, almost as if it was protecting him.
“This man is merely trying to do his job.” The Elder says.
“Thanks, finally someone with some sense.”
“But he knows our laws and shouldn’t be here.”
“Come on!” Borjas exclaim with a mouth full of smoke.
“There is no trust between your people and mine. That must still be built. This, our leaders knew, and this is why the Treaty was written so. You understand this, Detective.”
“I understand it, but what you don’t seem to understand is that your people are taking advantage of it. David didn’t even try to hide what he did.”
“Then we will bring him to justice on our end.”
“That’s not good enough for the family of the Talon that lost her life.”
“Would you fight this hard if it was one of our own? You only care because your partner is Talon.”
“That’s not true. We take every case as serious as the other.” Borjas says, finally letting his anger get the best of him. The one thing no one can do is bring up Salib to him.
“Careful Detective, you are not above our laws. Attacking us will put you in our legal system. Is that Talon worth it?”
“My Sister is,” Borjas says, flicking the butt of the cigarette at the feet of the Elder.”
“Borjas, don’t lose yourself. He is a powerful Shaman. I can feel his power.” Salib speaks up.
“Listen to your lizard friend,” the Shaman says and finds Borjas’ gun right between his eyes.
“Calling an officer of the law any slur is a hate crime. So I can take you in for that. And you may be a powerful Shaman, but bullets work on everyone.” The Elders’ backup moves to rush him, but the Elder holds up his hand to stop them.
“Are you willing to risk unrest over a girl?”
“You have the right to remain silent….” Borjas starts and turns the Elder around and freeing his cuffs with this other hand. The Elder laughs and nods his head. When he does, Borjas looks up and notices the other Orcs running to him. Clasping the cuffs quickly and pushing the Elder to the side, Borjas can hear Salib transforming and going into a breathing attack. Tapping into his Finesse, he swiftly moves out of spray range when Salib lets loose with her fire. The Orcs with shields step forward to protect the archers, but as soon as they drop their guards and the bows come up, they are tapped with shots to their shoulders.
The shield Orcs run to rush Borjas but are repelled by Salib’s magic pushing them back. In her dragon form, so takes to the skies and casts a barrier to keep the other Orcs from taking shots while she and Borjas take care of the ones closest to them. The barrier comes up just in time, and a wall of arrows slams into the barrier, but Salib’s magic was strong enough to take a few arrows.
Back on the Ground, Borjas was showing the Orcs what a Finesse user was capable of. Dancing around their attacks and landing precise blows to their jaw, knees, and throat whenever they opened up. It didn’t take him long to drop the big muscle-bound Orcs who couldn’t even tap into Power.
Turning his attention back to the Elder, he notices that the cuffs were on the ground next to him.
“Remember, detective, you asked for this.” The Elder says with a maniacal smile.

————————————————————————————————

“Dawei. Dawei! They have the Elder!” a youngling Orc cries out in the chambers of Dawei. Dawei’s anger builds as he rises from the altar to face the youngling. The Humans have no respect for the laws of the Orcs. Yan Wang should have sided with the Talons to crush the Human city. Maybe then, Dawei wouldn’t have to kill their sick. Those who would side with the Humans.
“How is this possible!” Dawei roars. The youngling shrugs his shoulders and tells him to come quick. The warriors that went to greet the Humans came back injured. Dawei grabs his shield and sword and follows the youngling to see what affliction the Humans have caused now.
The healers have gathered near the village gate and were casting healing spells. Dawei was surprised to see burn marks as a part of their injures.
“How did this happen?”
“One of the Detectives is a Fire Talon. She used her Dragon form to breathe fire at us.” One of the Orcs says.
“Yeah, she’s a powerful witch. She was able to create a barrier in no time. Strong enough to take quite a few arrows.” Another says.
“This is why we should have never stopped fighting them,” Dawei starts. “They are ruthless and will be the death of us all. They don’t care that they attack our sons, brothers, fathers, and lovers. No, they only see us as criminals and monsters, ready to be killed or imprisoned.”
“Dawei, they were only here because you killed one of theirs!” Gen says. How Dawei really hated that Human loving Orc.
“And I only killed them because they are recruiting the other races to finish the job they started.”
“That’s not true, Dawei. Your hatred blinds you. I have lived among the Humans, and they valued me as one of their own.”
“Lies! They used you to learn about us. Learned our secrets to better know how to defeat us.” Dawei says, arming himself with his sword and shield. Gen sees this and takes the weapons from a guard. Gen is a warrior.
Dawei can feel his Power aura already. However, Dawei knows that Gen’s Power was no match for his Divine energy. Channeling the power of vengeance, Dawei creates an aura of fear around him. Everyone but Gen moves away from him in fear. Gen is stronger than Dawei gives him credit for.
Gen Shouts to the sky, and his body gains a blue aura. Dawei bites back a curse. A red aura is fine, the extra strength can be dodged. Blue auras, on the other hand, were harder to deal with. It was clear to Dawei that Gen was a defensive fighter. He would have to use all his divine energy to get around this.
Gen Charges Dawei, and there is a moment of fear in Dawei when he strikes Gen in the head, and not so much as a wince. Gen Tackles Dawei and smacks him in the face with the shield. On instinct, Dawei uses his magic to repel Gen off of him. Scurrying to his feet, he is just in time to see Gen’s knee hit him in the face. Dawei only stumbles back from the knee but quickly finds himself in the air from the uppercut slash. Facing the sky, he watches as Gen’s shadow covers his face. Reaching out with his power, Dawei manipulates Gen’s mind. The spell hits, and Gen forgets why he is fighting.
Dawei gets to his feet, and as soon as Gen drops his aura, he charges his shield with divine energy and smacks Gen in the face. The force from the attack knocks Gen into the Gate wall, and before he can remember what’s going on, Dawei’s sword plunges into his stomach. Dawei rips the blade out and turns his back on Gen as he bleeds.
“You see! The Gods see me as worthy. It is he who spreads lies!” Dawei yells to the group surrounding them. “The Humans are a threat, and we must prepare for them.”

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Are you kidding me? Him?

The potion slides down Esmeralda’s throat, and its soothing magic mixed with its cooling sensation was just what she needed on this hot day. Aside from a way to forget that she just made a pact with one of her mentors to train spoiled rich kid Paladin or kill him in three months. God’s Mercy she was in over her head.
The Drow is more than a little startled when he regains consciousness, and there is a colossal Orc standing over him with an ax bigger than him. Crawling backward as fast as he can, he only recovers himself when he sees Esmeralda a few feet behind him.
“You need to heal the others,” Yan says, not making the situation better with his tone. The Drow is quick to agree and put some space between himself and Yan. Yan turns to Esmeralda, and his face can’t decide whether he is proud of her or pissed – The latter seems to be winning at the moment.
“I’m going to tell Yabe about this,” Yan says, continuing in Orcish.
“I would expect nothing less Lord Yan.”
“He will be proud of you.”
“How, I nearly got my team killed?”
“Because you couldn’t rely on your team. They are not strong enough to complete S-rank missions.” Esmeralda gasps.
“That was an S-rank monster!”
“A part of it. They put a job up for A’s and B’s to clear the smaller monsters and for an S to clear the cave. I’m likely to find more inside.”
“Let me come with you.”
“You’re in no shape to come with me. And you have a lot of work ahead of you.” Yan says, spitting on the ground as if the very thought of the Human being alive disgusted him.
“At least take someone else with you.”
“Andre is meeting me there. I was just getting an early start to do some fishing when I heard the beast.” Esmeralda relaxed a little knowing another S-rank would be with him.
“I hear I have you to thank for us being alive,” The Elf says, keeping a safe distance from Yan but wanting to show respect. “Zingakuthanda izinyanya,” He says in Elvish, with a fist over his heart. Yan nor I can speak Elvish, but we know respect when we see it. Placing his fist and hand together, Yan bows to the Elf.
“Why did you save me?” The Human says, his voice and hand shaky and struggling to adjust to the last five minutes. Esmeralda steadies his hand and helps him sheathe his sword.
“Because I believe that you can be a mighty paladin. With the proper training.
“Do you mean that?”
“Of course…,” Esmeralda is cut off by the Vampire.
“You have to be kidding me! Him?” The Vampire flies over to Esmeralda. Her tone is the most hurt that Esmeralda has heard before, and her eyes match this. Glistening just before tears, she looks on at Esmeralda with disbelief.
“Hunter….”
“Elisa Deschamps,” The Vampire says.
“Elisa Deschamps, I only did it to save his life. Everything just happened so fast.”
“I understand,” Elisa says, her words sounding sincere.
“As an A-rank bounty hunter, I can take on four apprentices,” Esmeralda says, placing her hand on Elisa’s shoulder. “And I would be honored if you would be one of them.” Esmeralda thought that would stop the tears, but it only made more of them. Her face beamed with happiness, and tears flowed as she lunged at Esmeralda, hugging her as tight as she could. Her overwhelming praise flowing just as much as her tears.
“Yes, yes, a million times yes,” Elisa says, jumping up and down. When Esmeralda winces, she backs off and gets worried. Esmeralda waves it off and tells her that she would be as good as new after some well-deserved rest.
“Are you sure my magic couldn’t help, Boss?” The Drow says, walking up.
“Boss?”
“There is no way you are going to take on the child and expect to make anything of him without a dedicated healer. As you just took on Elisa here, I was near certain you would take me on as well. My name is Matthiew Cox if you would have me. If not, it was…,” The Drow says, but Esmeralda starts before he finishes.
“No, no, I would love to have you. Thank you so much, Matthiew,” Esmeralda says and bows.
“Please just call me Matt. I think you’ve earned that right.” He says, bowing back.
“I didn’t get a bow,” Elisa says.
“That’s because you were squeezing the dear life out of her before she could offer.”
“Oh, yeah,” Elisa says, putting a finger on her chin. They all laugh a little.
“Elf!” Esmeralda calls over.
“I’m taking this one,” Yan says. Esmeralda notices that the Elf is standing next to him. “He trained with my tribe and shows great promise. You’ll have to find another to complete your team.”
“Yes, Yan-sama. The three should be enough.”
“It wouldn’t hurt to round us out with another warrior type,” Matt advises.
“We’ll worry about that later. Right now, I need to get home and rest after I get all of your contact information.” Esmeralda states.
“You did expend a lot of your Power. Do you need a lift?” Matt offers and complies with her command. The Human sends his info as well, give her a text with his name. Cesar Herrera.
“That would be nice.”
“Ride with me Esmeralda,” Elisa protest. “He’s not a fan of yours like I am.” Elisa’s eyes burn with passion. Esmeralda and Matt turn to each other, and in that look, it was understood, let her win this one.
“Fair enough, just know if you ever need a ride, I have one.”
“Sure, thank you, Matt.”
“Don’t mention it,” Matt says, waving and walking away. Elisa takes this time to loop her arm into Esmeralda’s and walk with her.
“You have no idea how much this means to me.” Elisa starts
“I have somewhat of a feeling. I obsessed over my Senpai. So much so that his wife thought that he was having an affair.”
“Really?” Elisa’s eyes brighten with hopes of tales of drama.
“Yes, I had to learn to keep my distance from the man I thought was the coolest in the whole world for a while. But then we got into a war, and then I was glued to his side.”
“Tell me everything!” Elisa shrills.

Esmeralda is delighted with how the day ended. She has never had a girlfriend before, but she was on board with hanging out with Elisa any time. So, after leaving the job, they hit up a Lycan steakhouse and had a lovely meal. Esmeralda was surprised to find out that Elisa also drunk Lycan beer. Although her reason was she consumed all alcohol that tasted good, it was nice to have someone who knew what she was talking about when she ordered it.
After their dinner, they went to the comic store and picked up a few Mangas. Though Elisa’s whole world wasn’t Lycan culture like Esmeralda’s was, they still shared a love of Manga and Anime. After they talked and shopped for a while, Elisa finally took her home. She wanted to keep the party going, but Esmeralda told her that she had ‘other plans. It only took about three times before she got the hint.
“I hope you have a good and long night,” Elisa giggles dropping Esmeralda off at her apartment.
“That would be the plan,” Esmeralda doesn’t even hide her intent behind that smile.
“We should hang out more, like outside of training and whatnot.”
“We will go over all of that tomorrow.”
“Okay, bye, Ezzy.”
“Bye, Elisa,” Esmeralda says, waving as she walks away from the car. She was happy with her Girl time with a new friend, but she needed time with Ben right now. She shoots Ben a text and makes her way into her apartment.
Once inside, she presses the button near the collar of her armor, scanning her thumb so that it will release her armor. The armor falls off, and once she steps out, it folds into a neat square. By the Gods, was she happy that she spent the extra money for this feature.
Walking through the kitchen in her under armor, she turns the oven on and tosses a frozen pizza in. She would need a snack after Ben arrives. Her body gets hot at just the thought. With that done, she goes to her room and gathers things for a shower. Not only did she need it after the day she’s had, but no doubt Ben wouldn’t want to touch her if she didn’t. Sweat and bile are horrible on their own, but mix the two together, and it’s even worse. Placing her speaker on the sink top and turning on her tunes, the sound of running water was a godsend.
Testing the water before jumping in, she approves and is amazingly relieved to feel the hot water meld away her pain. She is quick in the shower but still takes time to bust out a few dance moves to the groove of her Anime shower playlist. Next, she gives her hair a quick scrub, and once the shampoo and conditioner have done their job, she flips the water off and steps out onto the mat.
While grabbing her towels, she can see that Ben has responded to her text. Giddy with excitement, she quickly picks up the phone and instinctively types that she can’t wait to see him, but before she hits send, she reads the text that he sent to her, and her mouth drops. Taking a seat on the toilet lid, this was the last thing she thought he would send her.

Rating: 1 out of 5.

The Demon in his heart part 8

“We are not putting it up to a game of rock, paper, scissors!” Salib yells at Borjas, but she had to admit that she had no idea what to do with them. Cuffed and magic nullified, Victor and Rosa were sat on the couch while Borjas and Salib pondered over what to do.
“Well, it’s clear that Victor is going to prison, no way around that,” Borjas said.
“But he did it for a noble cause.”
“He took someone’s soul and framed innocent men for it.”
“Horrible and raciest men.”
“Let’s focus on the innocent part,” Borjas says and grabs another beer out of the fridge. Before opening it, he does ask for permission.
“Sure, I would hate for them to go to waste,” Victor speaks up, his voice a little strained from the pain in his jaw.
“We’re cops, Mal. We have to take him in.”
“Well, I won’t let you take Rosa. She was only defending her child.”
“That’s true, but she also attacked an officer.”
“I didn’t know you were officers at the time.” She defends.
“No one asked you,” Borjas says, still a little sore from her spell hitting him in the baby maker region.
“How many times must I say I didn’t aim there.”
“Still doesn’t change how much it hurt,” Borjas says, resting the cold beer on his lap.
“We can work a deal with her, maybe let her become an informant.”
“Do you really trust a warlock as an informant? You know she has to answer to her Patron, right?”
“Yes, but she will have a wealth of knowledge because of her Patron.”
“I suppose, but what’s to stop her from giving us the wrong information?”
“Gratitude?”
“Gratitude?” Both Borjas and Rosa say.
“Yes, gratitude for me saving Isabelle. I will perform her spell for free. Doing this favor for her, she will owe me one in return.”
“I don’t know. It sounds like a lot to gamble on.”
“It’s not!” Rosa screams. Eyes start to glisten. “Everything I’ve done wrong was for Isabelle.”
“Everything you’ve done wrong? Shouldn’t that be we?” Salib inquires.
“No, I’ve been using small suggestion spells on him for years. I needed to push him in the right direction so that I could do what was needed.”
“So killing the Demon was…,” Salib stammers.
“My manipulation of him,” Rosa holds her head down, and a few tears start to fall. Victor puts his head on her shoulder.
“Mi Amor, you didn’t have to do that. I would have done so had you just asked,” Victor tries to comfort her as best he could while being cuffed.
“Could you guys stop? This is making our job far too hard.” Borjas says, then pulls out a cigarette.
“Really, Ralph?” Salib turns to him.
“I’ll open a window,” Borjas says and finds the nearest window, and once it’s open, sparks up and leans against the wall.
“Let me explain what has my partner here so stressed out,” Salib says, rolling her eyes in his direction. Borjas just shrugs his shoulders and warns that they only have about five minutes before backup arrives.
“Now that we know that it was your spell, Rosa, we need to take you into custody as the killer. Our problem with that is, we will have to leave Isabelle with Victor, who doesn’t have proper childcare to keep Isabelle. As a child with special needs, she has to have someone at the house at all times. With his pest control business, he can’t do that.”
“Why not,” Victor says, struggling to sit straight.
“Mi Amor, how many times did you have to run out to an emergency job?” Victor holds his head down.
“So our next solution is to let Victor take the fall for it. That way, Rosa will be home with Isabelle and won’t have to go into the system.”
“Let’s do that.” Victor quickly volunteers.
“Then where will she earn money from?” This house is in a nicer neighborhood, and without your business, she won’t be able to keep up. And if she goes into your business, we run into the same problem with her going down for the crime.”
“I can find work elsewhere.”
“But how will we trust that you won’t seduce someone else? Trust me, our sympathy isn’t for you. It’s for Isabelle.”
“I swear on my life that I would never! Once Isabelle is cured, there will be no reason for me to seduce anyone else. Besides, Victor has proven to me that he’s the love of my life, and I don’t need another man.”
“Just as Rogues are manipulators of emotions, Warlocks wrote the book. You have to see this from our end.” Borjas says after blowing a puff of smoke out the window.
Borjas turns his head to Salib, who for some reason got quiet. When he notices her astral eyes were up, he got curious.
“I have an idea. But you are not going to like it.”

————————————————————————————————

“Have a good day at school, sweetie,” Rosa says, sending Isabelle off with a kiss.
“You too, Mami!” She says, bursting with excitement to see her friends again. Rosa couldn’t believe that she could see this day, and Victor didn’t have to die. She would miss him, but Detective Borjas and Detective Salib promised they would do all they could to get his sentence shortened.
Isabelle unbuckles her seat belt, and after leaning into the front cab to give Rosa a kiss, she jumps out of the car and runs to the teacher assigned to her class. It did Rosa’s heart good to see the teacher embrace Isabelle as if she was her own. Knowing that she was loved and sheltered from all the negative publicity of Victor’s case.
To the rest of the world, Rosa and Isabelle were victims of a Warlock’s greed, and it would have to be that way until Victor got out from prison and cleared his name. Rosa dreaded having to deal with the bullying that would come when the other children learned of her dad’s face, but she would deal with that when the time came.
Moving through the line, Rosa steers the car in a direction so unfamiliar to her, she needed GPS.
“There is still time to run?” Walpurga whispers, but Rosa will not have it.
“Don’t worry, Dark Queen. You will get the energy you desire. You’ll just have to be okay with smaller rations.”
“No, child. You will be the one who has to deal with smaller rations. I will not waste my powers on someone so weak.”
“Then free me from my contract,” Rosa says, slamming her hand down on the steering wheel and gripping hard with the other.
“You would like that wouldn’t you?” the old hag cackles. “You want to partition to another Demon lord? Or maybe go into another form of magic? No, your soul belongs to me. And I will make you suffer. Go ahead and try arcane magic. It’s near poisonous to dark magic users. The spirits will not come to you knowing that I have your soul. Don’t even get me started on the Divine.”
“I know my options, Dark Queen.” Walpurga hisses.
“Then give me the power I require, and I will give you back your full power,” her words more threatening, now that she knows that sweet talk won’t work.
“No. You’ve taken enough from my life. Luckily,” Rosa stops to make a right turn. “I won’t need you anymore. Time to start a new life without the use of dark magic.”
“You’ll be back. They always come…,” Rosa breaks the link, using the spell that Detective Salib had taught her. Maybe there was hope for her yet with spirit magic.
Parking among all the government vehicles is a little weird for her. She hadn’t worked in quite some times with her powers, and with her profession, being here was usually a game over. Not this time, though. She was blessed with a second chance, and she would not waste it. For the Sake of her Family and her newfound friends. One who was wearing a painfully dull cream suit.
Gathering her things and getting out of the car. The detectives were there to greet her.
“How did you know I would park here?” Rosa’s curiosity has to know.
“It’s where all the newbies park until someone tells you that the cafe across the street allows parking for LMPD workers,” Borjas says with a strained voice, getting frustrated at his phone. It seems he isn’t quite clever enough to clear a stage of block attack. It’s a tune that Rosa was quite familiar with before she quit the game.
“That’s good to know, Detective Borjas. Thanks for the tip. And for your game, you may want to use some power-ups. They give you plenty, so no need to hoard them.”
“He used all of them,” Salib can’t help but laugh. “And he’s only on the one hundred block of stages.”
“And where are you?” Rosa asks with an impressed inflection.
“My dearest friend, I am in the two thousand block.” She wears her smile like a badge of honor.
“How? When I was a stay-at-home mom, I still couldn’t find the time to get that high?”
“I’ve always been good at puzzles.”
“Well, I’ve always been good at strategy,” Borjas says, banishing his phone to his coat pocket. He was able to turn Victor’s anger into a crippling weakness for us.
“So what? You destroyed my base and used me to find new resources. You can’t beat me at puzzles.”
“You know what I can beat you in? Cooking.”
“I burned the Chicken Masala once, and you won’t let me live it down.”
“Well, I’ve never burned anything, so there.” Rosa laughs at their playful banter. “I hate to tell you this, Detective Borjas, but if I am to join your group of friends, I will take the title of best cook.” Rosa proclaims.
“That’s a mighty high claim. Hope you can back it up,” Borjas says, grinning for the first time.
“Lucky for you, I brought you a thank you for my first day.”
“Can’t wait,” Salib says, rubbing her stomach.

Rating: 1 out of 5.
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