Author: John Nest
The only thing darker than the looming summer sky was Nash’s thoughts. Dreadful black clouds filled with malice whisked and riled.
Heavy rain covered everything beyond the street across the hospital. He watched outside the window, hoping for a ray of light to shine.
Then, Nash turned around when he heard the most soothing voice.
“Sorry, it took so long,” blurted a drenched Sherry from behind him. “I rushed here as soon as I got your message, but my uber took a while.”
Despite wearing her long brown trench coat, she was still soaked to the bone. “How are you?” she asked softly.
Nash only shook his head and let out a deep sigh in response. “I think I’m about to lose it,” he replied, almost in a whisper. “They told me that some Detectives are running down the staff and the Doctors, but I bet they’ll wipe their hands clean of this. They don’t know crap!”
Sherry was taken aback by Nash’s scream but understood his frustration. “Where are Seth and Donny?” she asked as she tried to put him at ease.
“I had them stay at home,” said Nash. “In case someone called there or something.”
Sherry let out a deep sigh and embraced him. “Don’t worry, we’ll find her.”
Nash hugged her back and said. “What if this is all my fault?”
“Huh? How could it be your fault?” asked Sherry.
“What if someone found out about me being Smoke? Like Macher or Sagen?” asked Nash, trembling.
Sherry shook her head. “No, no, I’m sure it’s nothing like that. You’re just being paranoid.”
“Then why would anyone want to take her?” asked Nash. “We’re not rich, we can’t afford any ransom. Why would they take her?”
Sherry bit her lips as a tear rolled down her cheek. She shrugged and hugged him even tighter.
Then, two men in their early thirties walked up next to Nash and Sherry. One of the men wore a long brown trench coat while the other wore a blue shirt with rolled-up sleeves.
“Ahem, ahem. Excuse me,” said the man in the blue shirt. “I’m Detective Alonzo Faltoso and this is my partner Detective Ray Malear.”
At once, Nash stood up. “Did you find her? Is she alright?” he asked while shaking Detective Faltoso’s hand.
“I’m sorry, but we haven’t found her yet,” replied Detective Faltoso. “Now, can you think of anyone who would want to take your Grandma?”
“No idea,” replied Nash with a blank expression. “She’s the sweetest person on earth.”
“Of course, she is,” said Detective Faltoso. “But are you sure you can’t think of anyone who might want to use her to get at someone else in your family?” he said, scrutinizing Nash’s reaction. “Maybe, as a form of getting back at someone? You, perhaps?”
“Nash is a good person,” answered Sherry. “All of them are, no one would want to do anything like this to them.”
Nash did not respond and stared at the floor instead.
“Alright,” said Detective Faltoso, backing off. “Detective Malear will give you an update on what we have so far.”
Nash turned to face the other Detective, his eyes quivered with anger and despair, lost in his helplessness.
“As of three in the morning, the nurse doing the rounds in your Grandmother’s floor still found her sleeping in her bed,” began Detective Malear. “But when she came back, less than ten minutes later, your Grandmother was already gone.”
“And no one saw anything?” asked Nash, his voice grew louder. “What about the security cameras?”
“Actually, your Grandmother was never seen in any of the camera’s inside the hospital—” replied Detective Malear but was cut short by Nash.
“What? Are you telling me my Mima magically disappeared out of thin air?” sarcastically asked Nash.
“No, I didn’t say that,” replied Detective Malear.
“Hey, Kid, you don’t have to snap at us,” interjected Detective Faltoso. “We’re already working our butts off here. We haven’t even gone home yet!”
“Al, that’s enough,” said Detective Malear.
Seth and Donny arrived with hot cups of coffee, startled by the raised voices of their brother and the Detectives.
“Nash? What’s going on?” asked Donny, confused.
“What are you two doing here?” asked an angry Nash. “Didn’t I tell you to stay at home?”
“I had the calls in the house forwarded to my phone,” calmly replied Seth, offering him a cup of coffee.
Nash gave him a wry smile and accepted the cup, ashamed for snapping at his brothers. “Anyway, it seems like the police have no idea how Mima got taken,” he explained, peeved. “And apparently, they want me to be calm about it!”
“Yes, please do, that would be the best,” said Detective Malear. “Like I was saying, the cameras didn’t see anything, but I found something strange,” added the Detective quickly before Nash could interrupt him again. “There’s a gap of three minutes missing in the footage from the hallway outside your Grandmother’s door.”
“What does that mean?” asked Sherry.
“It means that someone tampered with the hospital’s security cameras,” answered Seth.
“That’s right,” said Detective Malear, surprised. “I’m having one of our tech-guys come in to take a look, but it’s most likely that the hospital has been hacked.”
“Detective, can you also take a look at the street cameras outside the hospital?” asked Seth. “Maybe we’ll spot something there?”
“Of course, we’re going to do that,” replied Detective Malear. “But that’ll take some time. I’ll have to issue a warrant for the other cameras besides the ones on the traffic lights.”
“I don’t care how long that takes,” said an irate Nash. “Just give us the answers.”
Detective Faltoso looked like he was about to have a heated argument with Nash, but was stopped by his partner.
“Don’t worry, we’ll find her,” said Detective Malear, pulling Detective Faltoso away from Nash and his family.
After the Detectives left, Sherry turned to Nash. “So, what are you going to do now?”
“I don’t know,” replied Nash. “But I’ve already spoken with Mr. Kohle and explained the situation. I told him that I won’t be logging into Zectas anytime soon.”
“What now?” asked Sherry, confused. “And who is Mr. Kohle?”
“He’s the manager in the game center I used to work in,” explained Nash. “He’s the one who gave me my game pod.”
“I see,” replied Sherry. She paused before continuing. “Um, Nash, is it okay if I tell everyone back in Verbrannt about your situation?”
Nash eyebrows met when he faced her. “Why? What for?”
Sherry lowered her head and broke away from his gaze. “Well, I was hoping they could help me pray. I know you’re not into that stuff, but I am. So, please, can I—”
Nash stopped Sherry mid-sentence, shaking his head. “No! I don’t want anyone else to know about this. Just tell them that I won’t be coming back for a while. I’m on a different continent from you guys anyway.”
Sherry’s mouth fell open, speechless.
“But I’d like you to continue praying for her,” quickly added Nash, grabbing Sherry’s hand.
“Don’t worry about it, Sherry, I’m sure we’ll find her soon,” said Donny. “And then Nash can go back to Zectas then.”
“Zectas?” said Nash, incredulous. “Honestly, my mind is far away from that world right now.”
* * * * * *
“What’s up with this rain?” said Sherry out loud. She removed her soaked jacket as soon as she entered her house.
She offered to stay together with Nash in the hospital, but he told her to go home and go back to Zectas. Apparently, Nash was going to the police station after the Detectives were done questioning the hospital staff.
Sherry turned on her television while she prepared a quick dinner. She needed the energy to tide her over for a marathon of gaming.
As she was chopping the lettuce for her sandwich, she suddenly stopped as news about a Zectas player was on the television.
“Vierge Canaille, a level 150 HighElf with a Job of Paladin Lord, has been permanently banned from Zectas as of this morning,” said an alluring Newscaster. She flipped her blonde hair as the screen zoomed in on her face. “Now, as you may all know, Zectas has boasted that their system is impregnable, but this man is the first one to do it. They say he hacked his game pod and added new source code into it, giving him maxed out stats and maxed out abilities.”
Sherry brought her finished sandwich in front of the screen to listen better and nestled into the couch.
“Of course, the Zectas Moderators instantly found him out,” added the Newscaster. “But the player himself was happy with what he did, and we have him here right now.”
The camera then zoomed in on a strapping young man in his mid-twenties, who was sitting next to the Newscaster. “So, Vierge, what do you have to say for yourself? Now, that you can no longer access Zectas,” she said.
“To be honest, I do have some regrets,” began Vierge. “I would love to play Zectas for as long as I live, but my time left here on earth is really limited. You see, I have stage four bladder cancer.”
Vierge then gave her a bright smile, his face shone his contentment. “So, at least I got to experience what it would have been like if I could have played for the rest of my life.”
The screen then turned to the dumbfounded Newscaster. “Uh, um… I’m really sorry, Vierge, I pegged you for something else,” she stammered. “I didn’t know it was something like that.”
Vierge shook his head and smiled. “I don’t mind what you or what the rest of the world thinks of me. I just wanted to express my love for the game and my character, but I would like to apologize to the developers and the creators for my selfish actions,” he said, turning to face the camera.
“What about a second opinion?” blurted out the Newscaster. “Have you already gotten one?”
“Of course, that’s what the first thing my parents had me do when we found out,” replied Vierge. “I think the only other option would have been to get into one of those capsules in Dream Life,” he paused and let out a regretful sigh. “But I’m afraid my family can’t even afford the initial payment, let alone the monthly maintenance fees.”
“I see,” said the Newscaster. “Well, at least you were able to live your life without any regrets.”
The Newscaster then turned to the camera. “There you have it folks, the first player who dared to hack the Zectas game. Even though he was caught less than a few minutes from hacking, the smile on his face still conveys the pride in his decisio—”
Then, the Newscaster was stopped by a man with papers, who rushed to the stage and whispered something to her. Her head shifted backward and her face lit up after she heard what the man had to say.
“Looks like we have a special call on the line right now,” she said with a wide grin. Her nose expanded to the sides whereas her eyes became wider, which turned her pleasant face to something comical.
“You’re live on air, Dr. Lisa Zuckerman,” said the Newscaster.
“Oh, am I on? Alright, then,” said Lisa over the phone. “Your name is Vierge right?”
“Yes?” replied a confused Vierge.
“Do you know who I am?” asked Lisa.
Vierge shook his head. “Um, sorry, am I supposed to know you?”
“Hahahahaha,” chuckled Lisa. “No, of course not.”
“Vierge, Dr. Lisa Zuckerman is the CEO of Zectas,” explained the Newscaster to him.
“Oh, oh! I’m so sorry, Dr. Zuckerman,” apologized Vierge. “Sorry, I’m not really caught up with the current events.”
“That’s alright,” said Lisa. “No problem. Anyway, I called because I’d like to tell you how wrong it was of you to hack our system.”
“I’m really sorry, I didn’t mean to cause any trouble,” said Vierge.
“That’s okay, Vierge, as long as you won’t do it again,” said Lisa.
“Of course! I promise that was just a one-time thing,” said Vierge.
“Good. Now, that that’s settled, I’d like to tell you the second reason why I called,” said Lisa.
The Newscaster and Vierge tilted their heads as they waited for the Zectas CEO to continue.
“I’d like to offer you a complete Dream Life package absolutely free,” said Lisa.
“What? Is this for real?” said Vierge out loud, his eyes grew wide and watery.
The Newscaster herself lost all composure and broke down in tears as she hugged Vierge.
“Thank you so much! Thank you so much! I can’t believe this! Woohoo!” screamed Vierge, as tears dripped down his cheeks.
“You’re welcome, Vierge,” said Lisa. “Now, before you get settled into your Dream Life capsule, I’d like you to visit me in our Zectas main office. I’d like to hear more about how you hacked our system.”
The television screen went black, as Sherry turned it off.
“Now, that’s something you don’t see every day,” she said loudly as she headed upstairs.
When she got to her room, she examined her game capsule and wondered how that Vierge person did it.
Her examination of the capsule took less than a minute since she knew nothing about computers, much less a complicated piece of hardware like this one.
With a shrug, she finished off her sandwich with one large bite. She then stepped into the game capsule to rejoin her virtual friends.
* * * * * *
Sierra opened her eyes to the marble ceiling of her bedchamber. The golden moldings lined in the ruler’s suite were but a fragment of the renovations that were done in Rauch Castle. Her HighElf body lazily rolled off her soft mattress and walked towards the balcony. There, she breathed in the invigorating view of Verbrannt.
Yet, even this was not enough to sate the pang in her heart. “I hope they find Daphne soon,” she whispered to the blowing wind.
Wanting to rid herself of the pain, she focused on the grounds below her. Five Gardeners were working on the flower beds inside the courtyard as they brought back the former glory of Verbrannt’s gardens. Meanwhile, the bustling marketplace just outside the walls was filled with her smiling subjects.
She found some solace in the fact that there were little signs of preparations for war inside the second wall of Verbrannt, the section where the marketplace and the main housing district were located.
Looking beyond that, she spotted the lush green farms stretched out in the third wall of the village. Several acres of land irrigated by Ledur’s canal. The canal itself served not only as the water source for the vegetation but also hastened the transportation of their yield. Boats were docked next to the canals and loaded with their harvested produce.
And even beyond that, a new addition was added to the fourth wall of Verbrannt. Since Sierra and most of Smoke’s core members did not want to completely remove the trees of Anbau, they decided to create homes and workplaces with the consideration of the former wild forest. Treehouses were built within the living trees, with stairs that circled around the humongous trunks.
Of course, Sierra could not see all of this from on top of her balcony, but she could imagine them all as she looked at the horizon.
KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK
“Come in!” she yelled without turning to face the door.
A blond young man in his early twenties entered the room.
“Good morning, Thyrsus,” she said with a forced smile, as she tried to brighten her mood.
“How did you know it was me?” asked a surprised Thyrsus. “I thought you could only know who was who when you were in your Werebear form?”
“I don’t need my transmogrified form to know it’s you,” began Sierra. “You’re always the one who comes to greet me and give me the updates on Verbrannt as soon as I arrive.”
“Ah! Of course. Let me get to it then,” said Thyrsus. “Most of the residents are happy with the changes going on around the village. There’s just some slight monetary issue.”
“They don’t have a problem with our war taxes, do they?” asked Sierra, worried.
“No, no,” said Thyrsus. “It’s nothing like that. All of them are willing to help fund our war against Burmistrz.”
She let out a sigh of relief. “Then what’s the monetary issue?” she asked.
“Um… well, the Cooks refuse to pay the agreed upon price of fishes and vegetables that our Fishermen and Farmers are selling,” replied Thyrsus.
“How much is their difference?” asked Sierra.
“They’re just off by twenty zecs per kilo,” said Thyrsus. “Don’t worry, I’ll sort it out by the end of the day.”
“Great,” said Sierra. “Thanks for doing that.”
“No problem,” replied Thyrsus. “Next, I’m happy to tell you that our offensive power has gone up to 6,194,000, while our defensive power has gone up to 7,204,000.”
“Good, we’re almost at the 10,000,000 mark,” said Sierra. She smiled at him for she could easily know all this information by simply opening the Village Window, but Thyrsus insists on doing this whenever he was free.
“Listen, gather all of the core members in the strategy room,” she said in a serious tone. “I have some sad news I want to share with everyone.”
Thyrsus’ faced became stricken with worry. “Alright, give me ten minutes,” he said and rushed out the door.
Sierra returned to her calming view of Verbrannt and let out a deep hopeful sigh. “Yeah, I’m sure they’ll find her.”
* * * * * *
It took less than ten minutes for all the core members to gather. Sierra sat at the head of the black onyx table, with an empty seat next to her.
“Welcome back, Sierra,” said Espion, as he sat down next to Rear.
Sierra’s Therianthropes Phen, Rear, Ardu, and Vrai sat next to each other, all of them in their human forms.
The Maneators Weise, Stark, Rasant, and Adelige sat down on the floor, as the were too big to sit on chairs.
Thyrsus, Vijaya, Ichaival, and Sharanga sat across from one another, scattered between the Maneators.
Jinggu, Gandiva, and Guro took their seat between Adelige and Rasant, as the two of them seem to have an argument.
Meanwhile, Mamelon, Courant, and Virer sat on the opposite end of the smooth onyx table.
Only Adder and Ledur were absent.
“Is this everyone?” Sierra asked Thyrsus.
“Afraid so,” replied Thyrsus. “Ledur went away with the young Volataur named Neffe, and Adder is still out training his Condortlians.”
“There’s also Smoke and Ilad,” blurted out Mamelon. “Although they are on a different continent at the moment, we mustn’t forget to mention them too.”
Thyrsus stared at Mamelon and gave her a knowing nod. “Of course…”
“I believe Ledur is training Neffe at the moment,” chimed in Espion. “I can’t believe how strong we’ve all gotten. Guro with her trained Lioumereans, and of course everyone else’s Mercenaries are sure to have gotten stronger as well.”
“Why are you so chatty all of a sudden?” Ichaival asked Espion.
“Oh, shut up, Ichaival,” interrupted Sharanga. “Just let him be.”
“I don’t mind,” said Espion. “Just happy about the news I heard from my Da about Smoke’s new achievement, is all,” he said with a proud grin.
“Really? What kind?” asked Courant. “If he got some extra zecs with him, maybe he’d be willing to sponsor my wedding with Aime.”
“Don’t be stupid,” said Virer, hitting the Electro Knight on the shoulder. “We need all the zecs we can spare to fund the war.”
“Oh, come on!” Courant said to Virer. “Don’t be like that just because you got dumped by Cheri.”
“Guys, this isn’t the time or place for that,” reprimanded Mamelon.
“Anyway, we’ve all been gathered here because Sierra has some important news,” said Thyrsus loudly, enough to silence the chatter amongst those seated around the onyx table.
With that, all of their heads turned to face Sierra.
She combed her curly red hair out of her face and tucked it behind her ear. “Um… I don’t know how to say this… But I guess just saying it straight would be the best way.”
“Absolutely, whatever it is, just say it,” encouraged Vijaya.
“Well, as you all know, we only have a little over four months left until the battle against Burmistrz,” began Sierra. “Now, I know that all of you have put great effort into the preparations for the war—”
“What? Is that no longer happening?” asked Virer. “But I’ve poured out my heart and soul into training my Mercenaries. They could easily take out twice the number of Cavalry Knights thrown against them.” Anger, confusion, and hurt took turns in the Flame Knight’s face. “I even neglected my beloved Cheri for this.”
“Calm down, Virer,” said Mamelon. “And let Sierra finish what she wants to say.”
Everyone around the table stared at the pitiable Virer.
“You know, you used to look like that when you were still chasing after me,” blurted out Sharanga to Ichaival. “But I’m glad that you’re not anymore. Now, that you’re with that Banalite.”
“Sharanga, please. Her name is Sympa,” said Ichaival. “And I thought you liked her?”
Then, Thyrsus raised his voice once more. “Everyone! Please settle down!”
With that, all were silenced.
“Thank you,” said Sierra. “I apologize for being unclear. Virer, the fight against Burmistrz is still on. The news is this. Something happened to Smoke in our world, and he won’t be able to come to Zectas for a while.”
Audible gasps were simultaneously heard in the room.
“When you say your world, do you mean the place you go to when you disappear from here?” asked Ichaival.
Sierra nodded, her face sullen.
“What happened? Is he alright?” asked Vijaya.
“He’s not hurt, is he?” chimed in Sharanga.
“I know we don’t talk about personal matters, but where are you guys from? If you’re anywhere near Marseille. Maybe, I can help with whatever it is?” offered Mamelon.
“Thanks, but that’s too far away from Michigan,” replied Sierra. “Don’t worry, I’m sure he will be back soon.”
“So, what does this mean? What are we supposed to do with that information?” asked Virer.
Suddenly, the gray Maneator expanded his shoulders, knocking Virer off his chair.
“Hey, watch it!” said Virer, sprawled on the ground.
“This means that we have to step up!” said Weise, offering his hand to help up the fallen Flame Knight. Weise then turned to face Sierra. “Don’t worry. We’ll double, no triple our preparations for war. I hate to admit it, but I have been dependent on Master Smoke for far too long.”
An orange Maneator rapidly stomped his hoof on the floor.
“That’s right, that’s right. We should think about winning this war without him,” began Rasant. “I’m sure he’ll be surprised when he sees how powerful we’ve become when he returns. I bet he’ll be so proud of us, that he’ll decide to throw a party in our honor, and—”
“Stark agrees!” interjected a bulging red Maneator. “Stark has grown more powerful too! And Stark’s men as well.”
“I was already planning on doing this from the start,” huffed Adelige, stroking her golden mane. “You’re just pointing out the obvious, Weise.”
A teary-eyed Sierra covered her lips with her hands, touched by their sincerity and support. As the rest of the core members began sharing similar thoughts, all of them stood up and let out a thunderous cheer, united against Burmistrz.
“Thank you,” was all Sierra could muster, as she remained seated.
“Well, then?” began Thyrsus. “What are we all waiting for? Let’s go and train!”
With that, the Zectians began leaving the room. Virer and Courant followed soon after.
After all of them left, Mamelon, who stayed behind, walked up to Sierra. “Hey, I’m serious about earlier,” she said softly. “If you and Smoke ever need my help in real life, I’ll be there. Just tell me when, where, and how,” she said playfully, trying to cheer Sierra up.
“Thanks, I’ll be sure to tell Smoke about it,” replied Sierra.
The two of them hugged and quickly broke off.
Yet, before Mamelon left the strategy room, she had one more thing left to say to the Vigilantez’s Leader.
“Um… Now, that you’ve mentioned about Smoke not being able to log into Zectas for a while, I have something to tell you as well,” began Mamelon. “It looks like I also have a Sonstwelter who can’t log into the game as well, and this just happened before you called us for this meeting.”
“What? Who? Is it Virer?” asked Sierra. “Is something wrong with him, too?”
“No, no, it’s not Virer,” replied Mamelon, chuckling. “Although something is wrong with him, but he can still log in here.”
Sierra’s eyebrows met, confused.
“I’m talking about Earat,” explained Mamelon. “You know, the little Halfling who always follows me around?”
“Oh! Him,” replied Sierra, after finally recognizing who she was talking about. “Why? What happened to him?”
“He went to the very first Zectacon in France,” began Mamelon. “And leave it to that dimwit, he somehow got himself banned from the game there.”
“No! Did he try to learn how to hack the game pod?” asked Sierra, remembering what she saw on the news earlier.
Mamelon shook her head. “He didn’t do that. Furthermore, I don’t think he has the brains for that.”
“Oh, then why did he get banned?” asked Sierra.
“Apparently, there was a guy on stage showing off the top 100 sexiest female Sonstwelters in the game,” said Mamelon. “And when the guy revealed that I was only number seven, Earat went up on stage and punched him right in the face.”
“And he got banned for that?” asked Sierra. “That’s a bit too much, that’s not even game related.”
“Well, the presenter’s name is Mark Zuckerman,” explained Mamelon. “Nephew of Lisa Zuckerman – CEO of Zectas.”
“Aww, that sucks!” said Sierra.
“I know, right?” replied Mamelon. “Too bad he just got banned now.”
“Why does the timing matter?” asked Sierra.
“Because he would have made history if he had done it a few days earlier,” explained Mamelon. “Now, he’s like that astronaut, Buzz—something.”
“Buzz Aldrin? But he’s famous,” said Sierra.
“Anyway, talking about history,” blurted out Mamelon, steering the subject away. “You know what the forums are saying right now?”
With her eyebrows meeting, Sierra shook her head.
“They say that Tristan is a thing of the past,” said Mamelon. “But I bet he’s just laying low right now. On the other hand, Amahan’s been conquering several dungeons lately. They say that it’s thanks to that Djinn of his.”
“Thanks to a Djinn, huh?” said Sierra. She then looked up at their banners, the grotesque and frightening image of a two-horned Ifrit swaying with the wind.
* * * * *
A party of eleven people stepped outside the warm and cozy tavern of Gros Porc.
One of them, an Aero Mage, clutched her long thick robe. She was desperate to cover her revealing outfit against the bone-chilling winds.
Meanwhile, the other members were unaffected by the icy weather as all of them wore appropriate clothing. Except for their eleventh member, who were nothing but a thin black cloak and robe which completely covered his face, arms, and hands.
“Magikera, why do you insist on wearing that, anyway?” asked Amahan, with his neck tucked inside his fur coat. “Doesn’t that inflict you with frostbite?”
“It does nothing to my casting time, only reduces my movement speed by 5%,” replied Magikera. “And I’m already slow as heck as it is. Anyway, my viewers want me to wear them.”
Then, a Death Knight in black plated armor stepped up. He had white skulls on both shoulders and rested his skull-embossed shield next to the thick ice. He then turned to his fellow Death Knight and said. “Bato, can’t you put some sense into your sister?”
“Ligon, I already told you, Man, even my parents can’t make her do anything,” replied Bato, placing his skull shield next to Ligon’s.
“Yeah, leave her be,” said the Night Templar named Baskog. He also rested his silver cross embossed kite shield next to Ligon’s skull shield.
Amongst the Decane’s tanks, Baskog was the only one who did not change Jobs into a Death Knight.
“Here we go again,” said Ligon. “The righteous Baskog to the rescue. You know, you’ve literally changed ever since you changed your Job to a Night Templar!”
“No, I haven’t,” argued Baskog.
“Alright, guys, that’s enough,” said Amahan.
The eleventh cloaked member floated over to the Exorcist and asked. “Are you Sonstwelters always like this?”
“It’s nothing, Matz, that’s just how they bond,” Amahan explained to his Djinn, Gahoul Comataz.
“I am already a shell of my former self, and now I have to suffer through this as well,” said Comataz. He removed the hood of his cloak, revealing his falcon head with a silver beak and black feathery humanoid body.
“Don’t be like that,” Magikera said to Comataz. “Instead of complaining, why not join in?”
“You really want me to?” challenged the Djinn. “Alright then!”
A flash of blue light blinded the Decane members. When their sight returned to them, they saw the arguing members Baskog and Ligon, frozen in a solid block of glacial ice.
“That’s not exactly what I had in mind,” said Magikera. “But that works too.”
“Matz, free them right now,” sternly said Amahan.
“What?” exclaimed Comataz, acting all innocent. “I thought you wanted me to raise my Intimacy with the rest of your guild members? Besides, aren’t they supposed to be the strongest of the Decane? Can’t they break a flimsy ice made by a helpless Djinn like me?”
Amahan then rolled up his left sleeve and placed his hand on a tattoo resembling the Djinn.
“Pareo o pereo!” yelled out Amahan as he touched the symbol on his skin.
At once, Comataz fell on his knees and covered his falcon head with his talons. “Alright, alright! I’ll do it!”
Amahan released the emblem and said. “Why do you force me to hurt you?”
“I didn’t! You’re just a sadistic bastard, that’s all,” replied Comataz. He waved his talons across the blocks of ice and both Baskog and Ligon were free.
“You stupid Djinn!” said Ligon, quickly picking up his skull shield and drawing out his death sword. “Do you want me to pluck out your feathers?” he threatened, pointing the sharp edge of his sword on Comataz’s neck.
“Kill me if you wish,” said Comataz. “I would rather revert back to stone and wait for a more appropriate master than the one I have now.”
“Do you want me to punish you again?” said Amahan, touching the tattoo of Comataz on his arm.
“See what I mean, Master?” said a condescending Comataz. “You’re the one who likes to punish me? I was just simply stating the facts and there you go again, bullying me with that infernal seal!”
“Forget about the Djinn, for now, Amahan,” said Atiman, the Decane’s Shadow Priest and strategist. “Anyway, it’s time for Hilot, Tabang, Bato, Puthaw, and Tirador to log off.” He then turned to the members he mentioned. “How long will you be away for?”
“I have a seminar to attend to,” replied the Range Sieger named Tirador. “So, maybe eight hours for me?”
“Don’t know how long I’ll be gone,” said the beautiful Archbishop named Tabang. “But I’ll just call you when I get back,” she added and logged out immediately.
“Typical Tabang,” said the Death Knight called Puthaw. “Put me down for eight hours as well,” he said and gave everyone a salute. “Don’t want to tell you what I’m up to, but I’ll see you all later,” he added and logged out.
“Twelve hours for us,” said Bato, indicating in behalf of Hilot. The Death Knight then turned to his sister. “What about you, Magikera? Are you sure you’re not coming with us to Aunt Maria’s birthday?”
“Nah, I’d rather stay in the game,” replied Magikera.
“Do we really have to go there?” said Hilot to Bato. The HighElf Priestess twirled her long blond hair before she spoke. “Don’t get me wrong, I love spending time with your family—”
“But?” asked Bato.
“Um… but not when it’s all of them,” explained Hilot. “Especially not all in one place.”
“Great! Hilot is staying,” Bato said to Atiman. “Wonder if Isa is free for the party.”
“No, no, no, I’m going with you,” quickly said Hilot. “I’m logging out now,” she added. “Pick me up in about thirty minutes.”
Without another word, Hilot logged out of the game.
A sudden wind-cutter smacked the back of Bato’s neck and sent his head deep into the pile of snow.
“Pwee, pwee, what was that for?” asked Bato, spitting out the snow.
“Jerk! I know you’re only teasing her, but quit it,” said Magikera. “If you don’t, you might lose her.”
“Fine, I’ll apologize to her when I pick her up,” replied Bato. He shook his head before his body faded out of the virtual reality realm.
“Just can’t log out anymore without some kind of drama,” said Tirador. “Everyone has the right to be stupid, but Bato is abusing his privilege.”
“Hey, you okay?” Atiman asked Tirador. “Is something wrong?”
“I’m fine,” replied Tirador. “Although, pretending to be okay is never easy,” he mumbled to himself. “Anyway, I’ll be back on time,” he said and logged out.
“What’s up with the guild lately?” asked Atiman aloud.
“You really don’t see it?” asked Baskog, picking up his silver cross embossed shield. “Tirador likes Hilot.”
“Huh? But he never talks to her,” said Atiman. “Besides, he knows that Bato and Hilot are going out.”
“You may be a genius at warfare and strategies, but you certainly don’t see the obvious,” Baskog said to their Shadow Priest.
“That’s enough,” ordered Amahan. “Let’s get back to the quest. Where do we head now, Atiman?”
“Not sure,” replied Atiman. “The information said that it’s somewhere in this region.”
“If anywhere is fine, let’s just head north then,” suggested Magikera. “I don’t know why, but it creeps me out when I go south.”
“Alright, north it is,” said Amahan. “Prepare the carriage,” he said to his right-hand man.
With fewer members, Amahan, and his party sat comfortably inside their war carriage. They were being pulled by four stag moose and were driven by two WoodElf Pathfinders whom they hired as drivers.
“Hey, why don’t you ever want us to get some kind of riding ability?” Magikera asked Amahan. “I mean, Smoke and his core members have them.”
“I’ve already told you before, we’re not planning on any large scale engagements,” answered Atiman in Amahan’s behalf. “Moreover, leveling up an ability we barely use would be pointless.”
“I wasn’t talking to you,” retorted Magikera.
“In all the time we’ve been together, what have we been doing?” Amahan asked Magikera with a smile.
“Hunting Dungeon Bosses,” replied Magikera.
“Now, have you gotten bored with that?” asked Amahan.
Magikera shook her head. “No, but I just thought that we could save money if we don’t hire coaches like this one.”
“Do you know how much it would cost to train a stag-moose?” began Atiman. “Plus there’s also the maintenance of this carriage, the feed of those animals, their lodging, not to mention any untoward incidents of their death. We would have to retrain them again and—”
“Alright, alright, I get it,” said Magikera, raising her hands in surrender. “Sheesh, you’re such a drag.” She let out a deep sigh. “I just thought it would be cool to ride a mount, is all.”
“If that’s what you really want, then we’ll schedule a time for you to learn a riding ability, okay?” said Amahan to Magikera.
“But that would just be a waste of—” began Atiman, but was silenced with a wave of Amahan’s hand.
“But let me remind you of who we are,” began Amahan. “We are strong, but only against Bosses and the Undead. We’re not aiming to be mediocre at everything here, remember that.”
With that, their journey continued mostly in silence. Except for your occasional heated repartee between Baskog and Ligon, but that was already a common thing these past few weeks.
After traveling for two hours through the frozen tundra, all they saw were a herd of bighorn goats and a snow lion chasing after them.
“Maybe, we should head for another direction after all,” suggested Magikera, guilty about their unfruitful travel by far.
Yet, before they could change directions, Amahan and his party spotted a young man outside their carriage window. He was lugging a wooden cart filled with Adventurers’ equipment through the thick snow.
“Driver, stop!” instantly called out Amahan.
Curious to find such high-level equipment being displayed in broad daylight, Amahan got off their ride and walked up to the Zectian youth.
“Good day, My name is Amahan,” he began. “And I was just wondering what you were doing here by yourself?”
The young man stopped walking and dropped the handles of his wooden cart. “Nothing much, just collecting my haul for the day.”
“If you don’t mind, can I ask how you managed to get such a big haul?” further inquired Amahan.
“Sure, no problem,” replied the young man. “There’s piles and piles of equipment just lying there, ready for anyone to take them.”
Atiman, who quickly followed after Amahan, asked him. “And where is this place supposed to be?”
“It’s in an abandoned castle just two kilometers from here,” replied the young man.
“What are you planning to do?” Atiman asked Amahan.
“You heard him, right? It’s a castle, why not investigate it?” replied Amahan.
“Don’t know,” said Atiman, shaking his head. “I’ve got a bad feeling about this one.”
“Relax, we got this,” said Amahan. “Besides, if we find trouble then we’ll just come back until we have our whole guild.” He paused. His eyes widened, giving his friend an intense stare.
“Don’t give me that look!” said Atiman.
“What look?” coyly said Amahan.
“The one where you’re already imagining the loot that we’ll be getting,” replied Atiman.
Amahan nodded and gave him a smug smile. “So? What do you say?”
“Fine, let’s do it,” replied a forced Atiman.
“Hey, do you think you can lead us to this castle?” Amahan eagerly asked the young man. “By the way, my name is Amahan,” he said offering him his hand.
“Filou,” replied the young man. “Sorry, but I can’t,” he added and shook his head. “Do you know how heavy this thing is?” he said, pointing at his wooden cart.
“Come on, can’t you help us out?” pleaded Amahan.
The young man crossed his arms and pondered. “Um… I can’t take you there, but I do have a map.”
“Great!” replied Amahan.
“For a million zecs, the map is all yours,” quickly added Filou.
“What? No way!” exclaimed Atiman. “No way am I using the guild’s resources for something as expensive as that!”
“Don’t worry, I’ll pay him out of my own pockets,” said Amahan. He opened his inventory window and dragged sack after sack of zecs into the young man’s cart icon.
+ You have transferred a million zecs to Filou
“Thanks!” said Filou. He then reached into the pocket of his vest and pulled out a map.
As soon as Amahan opened the map, a notification window popped up.
|MAP LOCATION: Castillo de la Muerte
Coordinates: Latitude: 11°01′ N, Longitude: 16°73′ E
“Alright, you got what you wanted,” said Filou. “So, if you gentlemen will excuse me. I have a prior engagement.”
With that the young man left Amahan and Atiman on the side of the road, pulling his heavy wooden cart along.
After Filou was some distance away, Atiman said to Amahan. “You know, we could have just searched for it. Two kilometers isn’t that big of a search area.”
“Nah, it’s okay,” replied Amahan. “You’re just too wound up too tight sometimes. Besides, I’m sure I’ll get my money back after we loot that castle.” He then patted the nervous Atiman on the shoulders and said. “Alright, let’s tell everyone our next move.”
Their stag moose drawn carriage traversed through an old road. Tree roots and branches scattered on the ground, forcing them to slow down.
“Sir, I don’t think we can ride through here,” said one of the Pathfinders to Amahan.
“No problem, we’ll go on foot,” replied Amahan. “Everyone, let’s go!”
After he instructed the drivers to wait for them, Amahan and his party members headed deeper into the forgotten road.
“This place looks promising,” said a sarcastic Comataz. His black feathers ruffled as a strong gust of wind came from the end of the road. “I can’t believe I’m forced to be here.”
“Hey! It’s still an improvement compared to that stinky shrine where we summoned you from,” blurted out Magikera.
“Quiet!” commanded Amahan. “We’re almost there.”
After five more minutes, they finally reached their destination.
Amahan and the rest of his party members stopped in front of a natural bridge. It crossed a deep gorge, and across it stood an ominous castle covered in snow. Four watchtowers stood on the corners of the decimated wall, while half of the main castle itself was at the center. The ruined structure showed signs of being a former citadel, protected solely by a rusted gate.
“Now, doesn’t that just cheer you up,” said Comataz.
“Definitely!” exclaimed a cheerful Amahan.
“Has he gone bonkers?” Comataz asked Atiman.
The Shadow Priest shook his head in response. “He’s just glad that his gamble paid off.”
“Well? What are you all waiting for?” asked Amahan. “Let’s go!”
With Amahan in the lead Atiman, Magikera, Baskog, Ligon, and Comataz followed suit and headed for the castle.
Sounded the rusty iron gates as Baskog and Ligon forced them open.
“It’s good to see you pulling your weight for once,” said Ligon to Baskog.
The Night Templar only let out a deep sigh in response and held his tongue.
Amahan and the rest of his party members then saw a notification message.
|– Entered Castillo de la Muerte
– Once the capital of Maldito City. It is now but a ruined remnant of the mighty city. It is said that a new dark power has taken residence in this place.
After closing the window, Baskog and Ligon then went straight to the main castle. Yet, before they could open the massive doors, Atiman stopped them.
“Just so we’re clear, we will divide all the loot equally,” began Atiman. “Like always, fifty-fifty.”
“Of course,” said Magikera. “You know that’s one of the reasons I joined the Decane guild in the first place.”
“Right, right, equality through and through,” said Atiman. “But before we do divide the loot, I’d like a million zecs worth of items set aside first,” quickly added the Shadow Priest.
“Huh?” asked Ligon. “Now, why would you do that?”
“Well, because Amahan paid for—” began Atiman, but was cut off by their Exorcist leader.
“No,” interjected Amahan. “We’re splitting everything we find right in the middle.”
“Really?” asked Atiman. “Fine! Never mind what I said,” he said distinctly, exasperated.
Amahan then turned to their two Tanks and said. “Be ready for an ambush, we don’t know if this is a trap.”
Baskog and Ligon nodded simultaneously and tightened their grips on their respective shields.
With one coordinated burst, the Night Templar and Death Knight yelled with all their might as they rushed into the castle. Both of them expected attacks coming from all directions.
However, there was nothing there but silence. The only thing that greeted them was a great hall decimated by a blizzard.
“Is this it?” asked Ligon.
“I know. What a letdown,” replied Baskog.
“Wait,” blurted out Ligon. He then began sifting through the snow.
There, he found piles and piles of high-level equipment covered under a thick layer of snowfall. The Decane Tanks rested their shields on the few pillars of the castle atrium, the only things which remained visible above the white snow. With fervor, they dug up the snowfall with their shields, their thoughts were on the bags of precious jewels and other treasures they might uncover.
“Wooohooo!” screamed Ligon, digging his sword deeper into the snow. He quickly stuffed the items he found into his inventory window.
“Shouldn’t you give that to Atiman?” Baskog reprimanded Ligon. “How is he supposed to divide the loot if it’s not in one place.”
“Oh, I’ve placed a label on them,” reasoned out Ligon. “Besides, I’m sure Atiman won’t be able to carry all of this!”
A few seconds later, Amahan, Magikera, Atiman, and Comataz walked in.
“Wait a minute!” exclaimed Magikera. “Are you sure we have to split this equally?” she asked Atiman.
“As always,” replied Atiman, as he began putting items into his inventory window.
As her eyebrows met, Magikera’s face contorted. “Really? Even for the members who aren’t here?”
“Yes, Magikera, even for the ones who aren’t here,” replied Atiman, exhausted.
“Fine!” replied Magikera. “Should’ve logged out when I had the chance, I could’ve been eating Aunt Maria’s cassava cake right now,” she muttered to herself.
Suddenly, Amahan caught a glimpse of movement from behind one of the pillars. It looked like the young man who gave him the map to this castle.
“Oi, Filou, how did you get here so fast?” shouted Amahan from across the great hall.
Without turning to face the Exorcist, Filou bowed down before the pile of snow and treasure then said. “Master, it has been a while but I have brought fresh meat for you,” he said in the most unnerving manner.
The ruined castle rumbled. More snow fell from the cracks in the rough. A black coffin close to two meters arose from the snow.
“Damn it, is that a Vampire?” asked Magikera, peeved. “I hope he’s nothing like that Alucard guy,” she shuddered and said. “I hate how he always tried to take a bite at my neck.”
The door of the coffin bolted off in a flash and flew straight across the great hall.
“Filou, is that what I think it is?” asked the two-meter tall man who emerged from the coffin. He was covered in a black velvet cape.
“Yes, Master, I’ve brought them for your dining pleasure,” replied the young man.
“Mm… Fresh blood!” exclaimed Filou’s Master, licking his lips with his long forked tongue.
“Everyone, get out your anti-Vampire gears,” commanded Amahan, taking out his holy war scepter.
At once, they switched out their items. Baskog, the Night Templar, got out a double-headed ax which resembled a cross. Ligon, the Death Knight, equipped his blood-sucker sword. Atiman, the Shadow Priest, got out an ancient holy book. Meanwhile, Magikera swapped her revealing two-piece set for a black turtleneck jumpsuit that covered her entire body, especially her neck.
“Crescere Vita!” began Atiman, as he started shouting out blessings on Amahan and the rest of their party members. “Vitam Reficio! Medeis Reficio! Ultima Pugna!”
Amahan and everyone else was flooded with minimized notification windows.
+ You’re Blessed with Crescere Vita for the next ten minutes: Your Maximum Life has increased by 25%.
+ You’re Blessed with Vitam Reficio for the next five minutes: Your HP Recovery has increased by 50%.
+ You’re Blessed with Medeis Reficio for the next five minutes: Your MP Recovery has been increased by 50%.
+ You’re Blessed with Ultima Pugna for the next ten minutes: Your most powerful attack will be triggered in the moment of your death.
“Remember, don’t look at his eyes,” shouted Amahan. “He’ll hypnotize you with his Charm ability. That goes for the men as well,” he added, looking directly at the Death Knight.
“Yeah, yeah,” said Ligon. “It was just one time. Who would have known that it works on guys too?”
All of the Decane Members except for Comataz lowered their heads. The Djinn looked straight into the tall Vampire, unimpressed.
“Matz? What are you doing?” asked Magikera. “Do you want to be his slave?”
“Djinns are unaffected by such parlor tricks like Charm,” replied a confident Comataz.
“Whatever!” said Magikera, staring at Comataz’s casted shadow on the icy floor. “Let’s just kill this stupid Vamp and get our loot.”
“How dare you speak to Lord Mosfartu like that!” exclaimed Filou.
“Mosfartu? Why does that name sound familiar?” asked Atiman, recalling. His head still looking down, as he made sure to avoid direct eye contact with the monster.
“Who cares, we’ve already killed dozens of Vamps,” went on Magikera. “Who could keep track of their names?”
“Oh, so you’ve fought other Vampires before?” asked Mosfartu. “By any chance did you meet my younger brother? He’s name is Nosferatu?”
“That’s it!” exclaimed Atiman. “Everyone, remember that one vampire that has a strong paralysis attack with its fangs? I think this one might have something similar—”
Yet, before Atiman could finish his warning, an alarming noise came from the monster’s location.
Mosfartu let out a puffy green cloud from under his black velvet cloak. He then transformed into a small bat and circled around the Decane members.
– [PARALYZED] caused by Mosfartu’s Egg Bomb
A split second after they read the notification window, Amahan and his entire party succumbed to the odorous green cloud. Their bodies froze, only their eyes remained free to look around with fear and disgust. Even the mighty Djinn – Gahoul Comataz fell victim to Mosfartu’s Egg Bomb attack.
Then, the Vampire Lord reverted back to his humanoid form. He leered at his unmoving victims, as he gave them a malicious look. With a snap of his fingers, all of them fell down on the snow-blanketed floor.
Their life bars were still at full capacity, but what good was that? None of them could move. They were nothing but helpless cows, waiting to be slaughtered.
“I’ve never seen a Djinn this small before. I thought it would be bigger,” Mosfartu said to Filou. “Fetch me one of my corked bottles, I’ll have this Djinn’s special blood age a bit,” he commanded his servant.
“As you command, Master,” replied Filou with a bow, giddily running towards the exit.
While waiting for Filou’s return, Mosfartu took his sweet time examining each one of his victims inside his green veil of stench. Not one of the Decane members could see their comrades, concealed by the repugnant cloud.
“Bet this one will taste bad,” he said as he floated over to Ligon. “It looks like a stick is up his ass.”
The Death Knight’s eyes grew wide with rage, but that was all the movement Ligon could muster.
Mosfartu then drifted over to Baskog. “Pfft, this one looks like an idiotic lumberjack,” he said then shook his head.
“Hmm… this one looks promising. It seems to have that experienced taste,” he said as he hovered next to Atiman. “But he’s a Shadow Priest, ick!” he added and formed a disgusted face.
Suddenly, Mosfartu began licking his lips. “What’s that?” he said, completely ignoring Amahan. “Something smells sweet.” He then floated towards Magikera. “Ah! There you are my dear,” he said to her, as he lifted her up with a mere gesture of his hand.
Mosfartu shivered with ecstasy. “Mm… It’s been a long time since I’ve had someone like you,” he said to Magikera. Tears began trickling down her cheeks, as her eyes pleaded with him. “Don’t worry,” he said innocently. “I won’t make you suffer.” He gave her a winsome smile and a wink. “Besides, I could never stop once I start with someone as succulent as you!”
Without another word, Mosfartu ripped the turtleneck of her black jumpsuit and sank his fangs into her nape.
Magikera’s life bar was drained at blinding speed.
Mosfartu then dropped her spent body on the snowy floor, a few drops of blood dripped down from the side of her neck.
“Now, who should I eat next?” lustily said Mosfartu, tilting his head as he looked at his victims.
Suddenly, Atiman’s Ultima Pugna blessing on Magikera activated. Her lifeless body floated upward. Then, a powerful gust of wind turned into a tornado and blasted everyone inside the green puffy cloud away. All of them were damage for 100,000 points, but it also dispelled Mosfartu’s paralysis. Finally, Magikera’s body faded out of existence, as she was forcibly logged out of Zectas.
“What the crap!” screeched Mosfartu.
Yet, before the Vampire Lord could do anything, a silver-crossed shield and a skull shield came at him from opposite directions. Mosfartu was squashed and stunned for three seconds.
“A stick up my ass, huh?” screamed Ligon, drawing his blood-sucking sword over his shoulders. “Let’s see how you like a taste of your own medicine!” he shouted and plunged his sword into the Vampire’s shoulder, draining Magikera’s blood out of his system.
Meanwhile, Baskog bellowed. “You killed her! Now, I can’t see her for another twenty-four hours! You know we only meet online!” He then repeatedly hacked his double-headed ax onto Mosfartu’s right arm.
Then, came Comataz’s turn. He stretched out his black-feathered arms and directed his talons to the dazed Mosfartu. “I maybe a shadow of my true form, but let me show you what a tiny Djinn can do!” yelled Comataz. He then let out an icy blue light and froze the Vampire Lord’s lower body. He left Mosfartu’s upper half exposed, which allowed Baskog and Ligon to hack away.
“Duis Zamia!” yelled out Atiman as he blessed Amahan with double damage on his next attack. “Baskog, Ligon, pull back!” he yelled.
After the Night Templar and Death Knight stepped aside, Amahan bashed his war-scepter into Mosfartu’s cranium. “Interficientis!” he yelled out, dealing 600,000 damage points on the undead. “I’ll teach you not to ignore me!” howled the Exorcist.
Mosfartu’s life bar revealed (3,200,000/4,000,000 HP).
The Vampire Lord then let out another one of his paralyzing attacks.
Again, a puffy green cloud came out from behind Mosfartu’s black velvet cloak. However, Comataz’s block of ice completely contained the Vampire’s Egg Bomb attack.
With Atiman continuously blessing Amahan with Duis Zamia, and Baskog and Ligon dishing out melee damage with their double-headed ax and blood-sucking sword, the trapped Mosfartu could only last for another two minutes.
Then, Amahan struck down his war scepter for the last time.
+ You have dealt a fatal blow to the Vampire Lord: Mosfartu
“Find his underling!” commanded Amahan, pointing to the direction where Filou was headed to earlier.
After a few seconds, the vanquished Vampire Lord left something in its remains. Amahan picked it up and inspected it.
+ Acquired unique cape: The Egg Bomb
“Atiman, you deal with this,” he said, throwing the black velvet cape to the Shadow Priest.
All of a sudden, a special notification popped up.
† [GLOBAL ANNOUNCEMENT] Patch <6.29.16> Update:
“Hey? Are you seeing this?” Amahan asked Atiman.
“Yeah, I see it too,” replied Atiman.
“Have you read about this in the forums?” asked Amahan.
Atiman could only shake his head in response, as he kept rereading the global notification.
“Really? That’s a first,” said Amahan. “I thought you knew everything about the Zectas updates.”
“Me too,” replied Atiman. “We better head back to the capital and check this out.”
* * * * * *
Two weeks had passed since the disappearance of Nash’s Grandmother. Every day he traveled to the police station and the hospital. His mind would not allow him any peace, forcing him to keep moving.
Today, on this windy summer afternoon, Nash and Donny were at the police station.
“I’m sorry, but there haven’t been any new updates,” said Detective Malear.
“Nash, let’s go home,” said Donny. “I’m sure they’ll call us when they find something.”
Nash ignored his younger brother and turned to the Detective instead. “What about the compiled videos from the traffic lights?”
Detective Malear let out a deep sigh. “As I told you before, we found nothing on the cameras.”
“Except for the two minutes that went missing,” said Nash.
“Yes, I already told you. The hackers also got to the cameras from traffic lights,” said Detective Malear. “But other than that, I’m afraid we don’t have any other leads.”
Then, a middle-aged man walked into the Missing Persons Division.
“Excuse me, I was told I’d find Nash Smoak here,” said Kohle.
“You mean the regular?” asked one of the Detectives. “The kid’s right over there,” he said, pointing to Detective Malear’s desk.
“You already call him a regular?” asked Kohle.
“He’s been here every day,” said the Detective.
“That’s sad,” said Kohle.
“Hey, it’s still better here than him being in the Homicide Department,” added the Detective.
“Of course,” said Kohle. “Thanks,” he said and headed towards Nash.
“Mr. Kohle?” asked a surprised Nash. “What are you doing here?”
“Your brothers asked for my help,” replied Kohle. “I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult this must be for you, but you have to put it together,” he paused and patted Donny’s shoulder. “At least, do it for them.”
“Yeah,” chimed in Donny. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m not giving up on finding Mima, but she would want us to think about our everyday lives.”
“Exactly,” said Kohle. “And I doubt that your minimum number of views will be enough to pay your bills.”
“My video!” exclaimed Nash, as the realization sunk in. “I still have time to submit one for this month, right?”
“Yeah, yeah, of course, you still have time,” said Kohle. “And the timing is great too,”
“Why?” asked Donny.
“Apparently, they’ve released a new patch,” replied Kohle. “Some new oracle or something? Not really sure what it’s about though.” He then turned to Nash. “So? What do you say? Like Donny said, going back to Zectas doesn’t mean you’re giving up on your Mima.”
Nash reluctantly nodded his head. “Alright, I’ll get back online.”
“Good,” said Kohle with a smile. “How about I give you boys a ride to your house?”
“Thanks, that would be awesome,” said Donny.
But before they left, Nash spoke to Detective Malear once more. “Please, call me when you find something new.”
“Absolutely, you’ll be the first to know,” replied Detective Malear.
“Ready to go?” asked Kohle and ushered the Smoak brothers out the Missing Persons Division.
As soon as they stepped out of the police station, Kohle’s phone went off. He looked at it and formed a disturbed face.
“Excuse me. I have to take this,” said Kohle. “Don’t worry it’ll be really quick.”
After walking some distance from Nash and Donny, Kohle answered his phone. “I’ve already convinced him to get back to the game. So, let me see that she’s alright.”
A picture of Nash’s Grandmother was then sent on his phone.
“Why are you doing this?” asked Kohle.
“Just tell Nash that his Mima is well taken care of,” replied the one on the other end of the call.