Sunday, October 21, 2018

Hayate Reflections: My Impressions of Tonikaku Kawaii



Just finished catching up with all the currently scanlated chapters of Hata’s new manga, Tonikaku Kawaii. It’s now up to volume 3, so if you feel like supporting the author of Hayate no Gotoku!, go ahead and order the manga online through your favourite hobby supply store.

Anyway, this week, I’d like to talk about my general impressions of Tonikaku Kawaii in relation to Hayate no Gotoku!

First of all, I must say that it’s a nice change of pace. There’s the fact that the romantic relationship between Nasa and Tsukasa is established from the very beginning and that no misunderstanding exists between them. The only real mystery is Tsukasa’s true identity and/or what she really is because there are hints that she might actually be thousands of years old. However, as to the two main character’s feelings for each other, it’s established from the start that there is romantic attraction between them, although at this point, I wouldn’t call it love yet. Actually, what they both admit is that they find each other cute – as per the title of the manga.

Nasa himself makes a good point about this. In his own words: “I didn’t marry her because I proved my love. I married her to prove my love.”

He has done a lot to try and prove his love for Tsukasa so far, but at this point, while the couple’s feelings for each other have not been really put to the test, I’d say they’re still a step behind what Nagi and Hayate had for each other at the end of Hayate no Gotoku! It’s not about how many dates they’ve been on, or a matter of how many romantic moments they’ve hard with each other. If an author’s idea of love is that it is to be counted based on quantifying the number of romantic moments that two people have had with one another, then I would stop reading anything ever made by that author – fortunately, Hata is not like that – at least based on my personal perception.

The fact of the matter is that the feelings that bound Hayate and Nagi was put to the test time and time again and at the end of the series, that bond was alive and stronger than it had ever been – that much, not even haters should deny – but they will.

Anyway, moving on, so far Tonikaku Kawaii is definitely a much lighter story to read than Hayate ever was. This is because there is no looming “bomb between them” that threatens to end in tears. With Hayate and Nagi, the misunderstanding between them was established from the very start, and then Hata kept on adding one complication after another into the plot – some of which were never resolved, but most of them, just adding on to that feeling of dread that either Hayate or Nagi would be seriously hurt once the big revelation came about – as it did in the final arc of the manga.

In the case of Tonikaku Kawaii, it seems that Hata took a route that can be pretty much seen as an antithesis to Hayate. First of all, the couple are already married and romantically involved with each other from the start. Secondly, any complications that try to set them apart get resolved almost instantly. There’s Nasa’s neighbour who had a crush on him and was quite dense and thought that Tsukasa was just his relative and that’s why she had the same family name as him. However, in the most recent chapters, she found out that they were married and her moment of heartbreak lasted for about one page. Nasa’s parents already accept Tsukasa and are very glad that their son chose to marry the person who saved his life. Quite the opposite of Hayate’s good for nothing parents. Finally, there’s Tsukasa’s non-blood-related younger sister who was concocting one scheme after another to get them to break up, but in the latest chapters, Nasa used his first-class communication skills (and sincere feelings for Tsukasa) to get her to accept him – possible complication solved.

If you were reading Hayate and got super frustrated by all the complications that Hata threw into the plot just to prevent Hayate and Nagi from getting together, then you’ll find that Tonikaku Kawaii is a breath of fresh air that presents the reader with a lot of similar situations, but which are resolved in a way that just makes you feel good. If Hayate no Gotoku was about building up anxiety under the façade of comedy, then Tonikaku Kawaii is the true definition of comedy, one that gives you a good laugh and also has you rooting for the main couple as they prove their love for each other no matter what complications may come their way – at least for now.

Anyway, this has been Hayate Reflections and this is lordcloudx out.

Fanart Corner

It's Halloween month, so have a dark angel Nagi. Inspiration for this piece came from the video for Ed Sheeran's "Give Me Love." Look it up on youtube and you'll see what I mean.

Bento Picasso Watercolors used.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

The Prince's Bride Chapter 5: The Knight of Red and White


It had now been quite some time since the beautiful prince entered the Forest of Lies. 

There were rows upon rows of tall trees whose branches filled the sky. What is more, the scenery seemed to look all the same after a little while. Still, with one goal in his mind, the prince kept riding straight forward without even batting an eye.
But even so, even with his strong desire to be reunited with his would-be bride. Even the resilient prince soon grew tired.

“How long does this go on? This Forest of Lies?  I have already been travelling for miles upon miles!”

He shouted out to the branch-filled sky, but only the echoes of his voice came back in reply. Soon, even his trusty steed, could no longer sustain its powerful strides. It slowed down to a walk, it was obviously quite tired. The prince dismounted from his noble ride.
“Old friend, you’ve been with me through all this time. Take a rest for a little while.”
A contented snort came back in response from the horse with fur of black slashes on pure white. The journey had been a long one and its eyes were beginning to shut tight.

“Still, I will not leave you here to die. Not inside this cursed forest of lies… so my friend, rest for a while – and when you have recovered, will you at least walk by my side?”

And with one last snort, the horse keeled over on its side. Within its once fiery eyes, the light had finally died.
“I’m sorry, my friend. If only I had not pushed you to make this long and tiring ride… and yet, if I can’t find my way out, then perhaps this forest will also be my demise.”
“Move, move, move, I say! If you don’t get out of the way, then you won’t even make it through this day!”
Suddenly, a lithe figure with a reddish cape, clad in chain mail of red and white, fell from the sky from such a great height.
The prince jumped up several feet high, and snatched the falling figure from right out of the sky.

“I daresay, miss… are you okay?”
“Huh? Oh? You saved me? I didn’t expect things to turn out this way. Still, I must thank you, stranger – and yes, I’m okay.”
The prince put her down on solid ground. The fallen knight looked all around, but her face was invisible – clad in helmet all around.
“What were you doing at such a great height anyway?”

“Ahem… well, it’s a rather embarrassing story, must I really say?”

The knight hesitated for a moment and she started fidgeting every which way.

“Sigh… I was trying to find my bearings, so I climbed up to one of those branches sky –high. It was to find my bearings, if you need to know why! Anyway, when I finally reached top, it suddenly dawned on me – why did I ever climb so high up?”
The knight hesitated again and fidgeted every which way, it seems she was really embarrassed by the next thing she had to say.

She pointed her finger at the prince with a beautiful face – and then cupped her right hand to her heart with a bow.

“Now, look promise me that you won’t tell a soul about the next thing that you will hear from me, okay?”
The prince could only nod in response.

“Okay, okay… I guess I really must tell you anyway. So there I was, way up in the sky – when I suddenly realized, I’m quite afraid of heights! So great was my fear that I started to shake, and that’s when I fell – and thought the next thing would be my funeral wake.”
“Umm… okay, was that really so embarrassing to say?”

“Yes, it was. It really was, okay?” The knight breathed a sigh of relief.
“But… at least I got that out of the way. So anyway, stranger. I couldn’t help but overhear your plight – your voice was reaching me from such a great height. Let me at least you give you one word of advice. I heard this from a hooded figure of rather childish height.”
“Oh, thank you, miss knight. Do you have anything that might help me conquer this forest of lies?”

“She said that you should listen to the voices inside. This forest is fickle and it whispers ever so slight.”

“The voices inside? That sure seems like a riddle that I’ll have to ponder for a while. In any case, thank you for that little insight.”
The knight nodded once in reply.

“Well then, if you’ll excuse me, stranger. I must be on my way. I don’t know about these ‘voices inside’ but if you ask me, I’d rather just force my way through this forest of lies.”
With that she drew her sword, which glistened in the light. It was bluish and translucent and seemed to shine from inside with a faint glow of pinkish light.
“Wait, before you go, won’t you tell me who you are, miss knight?”
“Oh I’m a hero of justice – just passing by. Anyway, stranger, I must be on my way. Bye bye!”
The prince waved farewell to the red and white knight, the one who was deathly afraid of heights. She ran through the forest swinging her sword of pink light as she slowly disappeared from sight.
Suddenly, the prince’s eyes lit up with delight, his trusty steed had stood upright.

“Dear friend! I’m so glad to see you’re okay…” he paused and looked to the path that the knight had made.

“Well then, shall we be on our way?”

The horse replied with a contented neigh.


To be continued...

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Think You've Got It Bad? - A Vent Post

I see a lot of people vent-posting, so why not? Also, read the whole post before you drop any of your pearls of financial genius wisdom on me -- genius. I'm posting to vent, not to ask for your unsolicited, unwarranted and probably annoying financial advice. Also, please don't include me in your prayers. I am an atheist and your prayers aren't going to change my mind nor "help" me in any tangible way whatsoever.

Furthermore, do take note that I live in a country wherein social welfare is realistically nonexistent and what happens if you can't make enough money to feed yourself or seek medical attention for serious injuries/diseases is that you die. If you live below the poverty line (which I don't), you'll probably die sometime anyway as target practice for the motorcycle assassins currently prowling the streets for anyone who even looks a little bit like a drug addict.

So... this is more or less what my bank account looks like near the start of every month (1 usd = 55 php so what I have here is a little less than 45 USD) -- and it's going to look this way perhaps for as long as I live or even worse, at least from the foreseeable future.


Now allow me to explain. This isn't my secondary bank account -- it's my primary and only one. I do not have social insurance. I do not have third party insurance. I do not have health insurance. I do not have any sort of long-term investments. This bank account is my one and only source of liquid assets. I live off of my salary as a freelance virtual assistant which is 5,500 php a week or 22,000 php a month. Aside from the food, internet, cable, and half of the electric bill, there are also some unexpected expenses that pop up every other month leaving me with more or less around 3,000-7,000 php a month. This month, there were a lot of expected expenses for the maintenance of our car and the renewal of its annual insurance policy, so it fell below the 3k line for a bit.
I once took out some kind of long-term investment/insurance scheme for 3500 php every quarter, but I found that I couldn't handle even that much, so I pulled out and since I hadn't paid off the threshold for the premium, I got nothing out of that. I just ended up paying 10,500 php to the insurance company.
So yeah, the bottom line here is that I'm in a position wherein I'm not realistically able to make any long-term investments for the future since I can't handle any more regular monthly, quarterly, or even annual expenses and I'm not and never will be in the mood to kill myself by working extra jobs on the side just to earn a little bit more loose change for personal expenses.
So what's my next step? I dunno... maybe I'll buy that one video game for the PS Vita I saw online (around 1000 php).
Wait... why am I thinking of buying video games, you might ask? Well, duh? As I said, I'm not in a position wherein I can change my financial situation realistically and none of your pearls of wisdom are going to be of any help to me (really, do you think I haven't thought about what you're going to advice me before? I've been there, done that, seen it all, so shut up and keep reading.) -- so forget about it. The truth is that I'm not at all dissatisfied with my current situation. After all, the financial aspect aside, why would I be?
I work some reasonable and very comfortable hours at my leisure because my employer allows me to do as I please with my time as long as I turn in quality output. We've known each other online for years and I'm a very valued and trusted colleague to her -- even if she can't pay me as much as a larger third-party business.

I can actually afford to eat out every single day and even have money leftover to buy an anime figure/ a video game, or some other premium item every other month.

I don't like brands/brand-name clothing/brand-name gadgets like Apple, Samsung, Oppo, Vivo etc. I'm actually quite satisfied with a Cherry Mobile or some no-rep chinese brand that offers medium to high-spec phones at low, low prices.

I have a good backlog of games to play and anime to watch. I can buy (most) artist-grade art supplies and have ample time to paint/draw the things I want to (mostly Nagi).

My Nagi Sanzen'in figure collection is complete except for some very hard to find garage kits (unofficial third party figures). I have relatively stable internet at home and I sleep in an airconditioned room in a very large house for just two people.

I drive a top-of-the-line (for Suzuki) car that handles very well and that I've customized with a peeking decal (1000 php for two large decals on the side windows) of mai waifu using my own CG art. I wear custom-made shirts featuring my own art every single day of the week.

I don't have a family to support. I don't have a pet, I don't have nor need a social life, I have no friends IRL and I only talk to a select few acquaintances from all across the globe online.

I don't dream of traveling the world nor owning a large mansion -- (our house already counts as one anyway) and I've never really felt the appeal of traveling to other countries. Unlike other otaku, it has never been my dream to travel to Japan nor am I even interested in local conventions.

I can continue to write my stories that no one (actually, at least one person. Thanks, Roop.) ever seems to be interested in reading (or at least even feels like letting me know that they enjoy reading them) and keep deluding myself that I'm actually a pretty competent writer.

I can make more and more videos gloating about the victory of Hayate x Nagi every week because cry all you want, haters but HayaNagi is canon and you were all wrong while I was right all along~! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjl_gesaK6A&t=393s
I can still afford to pay for my domain name (http://www.jaded-perspectives.com/) and I'm even a developer on Google Play with my own visual novels up both for free and for a fee. https://play.google.com/store/apps/collection/cluster?clp=igM0ChkKEzQ3MjczNDYxMTg2MjY3NDc2MzUQCBgDEhUKD2NvbS5yYWRpY2FsLmFtcBABGAMYAQ%3D%3D:S:ANO1ljL6KmQ
Most of all, I'm fit and healthy and I don't have a bulging potbelly like a lot of other people who let their bad habits get the better of them do.
So why would I be dissatisfied? Sure, I could always use a little bit more money than I'm actually making right now -- but the same is true for everyone. It's all a matter of perspective.
-This is lordcloudx out.

Hayate Reflections: Taking A Break This Week

Life has been unusually busy -- and not in a good way. Anyway... have a video and fanart.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Hayate Reflections: Video Version of an old post


This week we have a video version of an older post from here

Fanart Corner

Like I said, I've just recently discovered how fun Mobile Legends can be. I'm pretty  sure other heroes are fun and all, but for now I enjoy using Layla.
Layla Nagi will drive away the darkness!


Sunday, September 23, 2018

The Tale of The Prince's Bride Chapter 4: The Kindness of Strangers



Six days had passed as the prince followed the trail of the golden fireflies. There was no end to the path in sight. So much so, that he was starting to believe that the girl had lied. Before long, it was already the sixth night.
“This is probably a wild goose chase. I’m being taken for a ride.”

He thought of how much he loved his would-be bride. The princess clad in black attire whom he had fallen in love with at first sight.
Suddenly, on the road ahead, he saw a man lying down… was he perhaps dead?
There was a girl in a thick black cloak by his side. She was ever so slight that the prince missed her form at first sight.
“Hunger is indeed quite a burden to bear, but stranger, you’ll live if you’ll just take a bite from this pear.”

“Thank you, dear lady. You are indeed generous and kind. I think I can manage, but this fruit is expensive. Are you sure you don’t mind?”
“It was the last of my food for the road ahead, but I’m glad to part with it if it means you don’t end up dead.”

At this point, the beautiful prince had heard enough. He approached the kind lady for it was his turn to speak up. He reached into his satchel and…
“I’m truly touched by your sweetness, oh lady so kind. Won’t you please take these sweet treats and some wine? For your travels, I mean… that is, if you don’t mind.”
“Uh… oh-“ Underneath her cloak, the little lady hid behind.

“It’s alright. No need to be shy.”

“Thank you, then I’ll take them and I’m sorry that I can’t stay, but I must hasten and be on my way.”
In his heart, the prince would really have desired, for the kind little lady to stay for a while. With that said, he knew that he too had to go forth and ride. And continue his quest for his elusive kidnapped bride.
On and on he galloped on his steed of black stripes and pure white; chasing the trail of the golden fireflies.
Before long he had finally arrived. At the entrance to the Forest of Lies – although it was not much of an entrance all entangled with vines.

Meanwhile, at the castle on the hill past the forest of lies. Some chatter was going on between the witch and the princess in black attire.

“Pardon me, miss witch, but might I inquire as to the cause of your mischievous smile?”
“W-what do you mean? Where do you see a smile? I’m just quite amused with the prince you so desire.”
“Ara, but let me correct you there, I do not see him as an object of desire.”

“Eh? What do you mean?” Said the witch quite surprised, “Didn’t I abduct you from him on your wedding night?”

“True, I was to wed him on that night, but don’t misunderstand. It’s not like I would tremble if he held my hand.”

“So why would you allow him to become your husband?”
At the witch’s innocence, the princess smiled.
“I was simply bored out of my mind. We met just hours before and he said it was love at first sight.”

“But… you never loved him from the start?”

“If I did, then right now we wouldn’t be apart.”
The princess’ eyes had a mischievous spark.
“You must have had a really boring life – to agree so readily to be a stranger’s wife.”
“Indeed, I was. So bored, I could have died. But the prince, I wonder what  his so-called love… is truly right.”
At the Princess’ musings, the young witch smiled.

“We shall see soon enough, Princess in black attire. He has finally reached the forest of lies. The path ahead will be filled with trials…”

The princess looked into the young witch’s eyes.

“Ah I see… now I understand what it is you truly desire.”


To be continued...

Fanart Corner

I like how this one turned out. This is a hand-sized card and painted with Bento Picasso watercolors. I've been playing Mobile Legends Bang Bang (lol at that "Bang Bang") lately, so you might see Nagi in Layla cosplay next week.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

The Tale of the Prince's Bride Chapter 3: The Path To The Forest of Lies



On his steed, the beautiful prince rode in haste, to find the Forest of Lies without waste.
He rode for awhile, for days on end, until he came to a foreign land.

“Excuse me, sir. Might you lend me a hand?”
He asked this of an old, silver-haired but somewhat well-built man.
“Yes, of course. Ask away, lad.”

Deep inside, the prince was quite touched – at the fact that he had been called a lad. After all, as you may be well aware, he was always being mistaken for a lady with his feminine face and skin so fair.
“Can you tell me anything about the Forest of Lies?”

“Oh, it is known to all, but to travel there would be unwise.”

“I fully understand that monsters may lurk inside, but sir, if you would please tell me where to go, for I have to find my would-be bride.”

“Well, now that is a different matter altogether. Fine then, young man. To the tavern, let us step inside.”
And so, the two chatted for a while and before long, morning had given way to the night.
“I see, that is indeed a terrible plight. So a powerful witch abducted your would-be bride and on your wedding night?”
The prince nodded to confirm that this was right.
“Well, I understand that you have to enter the Forest of Lies to get to the castle on the other side but… what if your information wasn’t right?”

“What do you mean? Why wouldn’t it be right?”

“Well, the information came from the witch who took your bride. Wouldn’t it make sense for her to mislead you with lies? But in any case…”

“In any case?”

“There’s one more reason why you shouldn’t enter the Forest of Lies.”

The old man stared at the prince with scrutinizing eyes.

“Umm… this is getting kinda creepy, I hope you’re not into guys?”
“Oh perish the thought. I was just looking at your hands. I understand that you are an extraordinarily strong young man… but that will not help you in the journey beyond. There is something that you should know about the Forest of Lies. It preys upon the weakness of the heart, and those whose convictions were wrong from the start. If you lack the strength and resolve from inside, then you could even lose your mind.”

“And you think that I will have trouble in this Forest of Lies? If you doubt my convictions, then please tell me why.”
“Then answer me this…”
But the old man had drunk too much wine, at that moment, he fell asleep and bade the prince…
“Good night.”
SMACK!

Suddenly, a wooden cup flew by and hit the old man on the head, which did not disturb him, he was sleeping quite tight.
“H-hey! Don’t fall asleep before you get to the best part! Oooh, I knew I should have done this myself from the start.”

It had come from a lady, or perhaps a mere child. Who was clad from top to bottom in a cloak of red and white.
“Listen up, stranger. I’ll tell you the best part.”

But at that moment, the owner of the tavern held the prince and the girl by the cuff.

“I’m sorry, but you’re both underage and I’ve had enough.”

And thus, they were promptly evicted, because drinking for minors is strictly prohibited.

“Ahem anyway, stranger about the best part.”

“Wait, a second…” The prince responded, “don’t I know you from the start?”
“O-of course not.” Was her prompt reply.

“Now if you won’t listen to me, I must say goodbye.”

“ No, please wait, go on and tell me… what is the best part? You see, I must enter the Forest of Lies. I implore you this time, tell me what I need to know, to find my sweet heart.”
“S-weet heart? Well okay then. I’ll tell you the path to the Forest of Lies. See these?”
The prince turned his eyes to some buzzing lights.
“These are pretty. Quite an amazing sight.”
“Aren’t they? Anyway, Just follow the trail of these golden fireflies. It’s three days from here to the Forest of Lies. The only problem is that  you can only see them at night.”
With that, the girl hopped on top of a giant rock to supplement her lack of height.
“Well then, farewell stranger… and I bid you good luck.”
“Thanks but…” the prince kindly smiled
“Aren’t you really the witch with powers beyond my mind?”
The girl seemed to shake from her knees for a while but then she recovered and said, “Of course not. I’m going now! Good luck and goodbye!”


To be Continued...

3 chapters left until the finale~

Friday, September 14, 2018

White Nights Watercolor Painting - Nagi Sanzen'in

Just a video of me using my White Nights watercolor set to paint Nagi using washes for a negative painting technique and finishing up with hard outlines.




Sunday, September 9, 2018

Hayate Reflections: For The Hina Shippers!


So it has come to my attention, that a lot of Hina shippers, which of course, doesn’t necessarily apply to all Hina fans, are quite dissatisfied with the ending of Hayate no Gotoku! Because they claim that they at least wanted to see Hina’s confession scene. The way Hata handled it was apparently quite disrespectful to her character... well, ok, I’ll give you that. In fact, I agree with you. So for this week’s Hayate Reflections, I’m going to give you exactly what you want, enjoy!

Yeah, like she said, how does that make you feel? Are you satisfied yet? I sure am. Hahahaha! 
This is lordcloudx and this has been Hayate Reflections – sort of. I’ll see you next week for the third episode of the Prince’s Bride.











Sunday, September 2, 2018

The Tale of the Prince's Bride Chapter 2: Love At First Sight



Chapter 2: Love At First Sight
The beautiful prince traveled to the lands beyond. On and on he rode on his steed of black slashes and pure white.  Before long, he came upon a palace, or perhaps more accurately, a mansion of grand design.
The place seemed abandoned, so he dismounted and carefully set the rusty iron gates aside. Perhaps the garden had a well for both he and his horse were thirsty and somewhat tired.
He went around the building and circled to the right side, from there, he saw a well but something else filled his sight.
It was a maiden of golden hair in a royal robe of the blackest of attires. His heart skipped a beat as their eyes met for the first time.
“Oh my, who might you be? What a curiosity to find such a fine lady in this lonely royal mansion of mine.”
“You’re mistaken, milady. Ahem,” the prince sighed as he stifled a look annoyance that even his pretty face could not hide, “with my admittedly feminine face aside. I assure you that I am a man – and a prince, nonetheless, who has fallen in love with you – at first sight.”

“Ara-ara,” the beautiful lady responded with a mischievous smile.

“That is quite interesting, this love at first sight. Might it be some kind of affliction? How may I help you with this plight?”
“Will you marry me?” The prince replied. For he was certain such a fine lady clad in pure-black attire, had to be a princess and was more than fit to be his bride.

“Hmm… you amuse me, so certainly, let’s get married tonight!”
The journey to the black princess’s kingdom took them quite a while – and because this is a lore in medieval style, naturally, some bandits had stalked them and blocked their path with sly smiles.
There were five of them and each with a dagger – surrounding the couple from all sides. The prince dismounted as his bangs covered his eyes.

“Stay put, milady. He said with his usual kind smile.”

The black princess stared back at him with a look of surprise. This was the first time after all, she had seen his winsome smile.
“Now then, ladies, hand over all your goods and while you’re at it, leave the horse behind.”

“Hey boss, I like the fair-haired one with the beautiful face, but I really can’t resist the buxom one in the black attire,” said another bandit as he ogled the couple with lust in his eyes.
And of course, this remark had pushed the prince over the edge. With a kick, and a punch, and even a poke to the eye, without drawing his sword, he let his fists and feet fly.

Ah yes, I forgot to tell you didn’t I? Actually, the prince can take care of himself in a fight with his feminine looks and charm aside. What is more, he was quite filled with rage at being mistaken for a girl all the time.
And soon the prince and the princess rode away, leaving five half-dead bandits in quite a state of disarray.
At the kingdom of the princess with black attire, the beautiful prince was accepted and well-liked. The kingdom had been ruled by the princess all alone for quite a while, due to an unfortunate accident that killed her parents in a fire.
“Well, my prince. As promised, we shall get married tonight… but this journey has actually left me quite tired, so if you’ll excuse me, to my bedchamber I shall retire. Oh, and the guest room is on the door to the right.”
“Hah, not so fast! You princess with obnoxious breasts and black attire! You’re coming with me right now. Dare to refuse and you shall invoke my ire!” Said a loud, high-pitched voice, which came from a figure of small stature wearing a hood of thin animal hide.
“Ara… an intruder has crept inside? And what of my guards, do tell me child.”

“C-c-child? I’ll have you know I’m a powerful witch with powers that will blow your mind! As for the guards, why not draw your curtains and see for yourself.” Said the witch with a glint in her eye and her witchy face concealed in her hood of animal hide.
“Indeed, my guards are on the floor – all dead.”
“N-no! I didn’t kill them. There’s no blood as you can see! I ran in-between them and they just tripped over their feet and clashed with their heads.”
“Ara-ara… such powers, you possess. So why have you come here? Pray tell, do confess.”
“Hehe~ you don’t seem to know very much, so I will tell right now. I have come here to kidnap you, oh princess of black attire.”

“But why?”

“W-why!? I can’t tell you that… let’s just say that it’s to fulfill my wish – my greatest desire.”
“Oh my, how sinister, oh powerful witch with powers that blow my mind. Well come then, let us descend together. My carriage will take us and leave my prince far behind.”

At this point, the prince finally spoke a line.

“Wait! Don’t I get a say in this, oh princess of mine? We were supposed to get married tonight!”
“Ara… we were going to do that. You’re right. But as you can see, I’m a bit preoccupied. This witch has powers beyond my mind. I am powerless to stop her rampage – so my prince. I’m afraid I must leave you behind.”
The princess uttered this with an amused smile.
The prince sank to his knees cursing his own helplessness from the inside, as the princess, his would be-bride, casually walked away leaving him behind.   With that, the princess and the witch slowly disappeared from his sight – but not without turning back to wave bye-bye.
“See you next time, prince.” The witch said with her high-pitched voice like that of a child.

“At the castle on the hill past the Forest of Lies.”

To Be Continued...

Fanart Corner

Greetings! To break it up a bit, I might do a regular Hayate Reflections next week instead of continuing this tale. In any case, see you next week for sure.




Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Rivers of Blood Chapter 2: Hazel (Original Fiction)


Read the first chapter here

“I’m not sure what to call it… intuition might be close, or maybe it’s more of a wild guess. I suppose, if a wild guess, and I mean totally wild, based on nothing but first impressions is consistently correct, I guess it becomes a sort of skill… or talent. Something like that.”

Eric Williams raised his eyebrow at his companion’s dubious claims. Raising the straw to his lips, he took a long sip from his frozen latte with his right hand while raising up his other hand to signal that he had something to say.

Half-closed, jade-green eyes stared back at him. A sly smile formed on her lips in amusement.

“Ahh… that was good,” placing his 20% finished latte quickly onto the glass table between them, he continued, “but anyway, Sheena, you mean to tell me that’s all there is to it? No fancy techniques? 101 rules for profiling a suspect or anything like that?”

Sheena Baker bit her lips stifling a smile.
“No, of course the basics are important. There are plenty of rules for profiling someone – and not just a suspect, mind you. I mean, in this line of work, you should be able to tell a number of things about just about anyone at a glance and you have to base that off of technical knowledge about a number of different things from technology to science to engineering and don’t even get me started on body language… but you know, I don’t think anyone can actively think about these things all the time.”

“Well , that’s a bit disappointing I mean, that time when you arrived at the scene after my father’s murder… you really saved me.”

Sheena’s eyes lit up.

“Oh yeah… that was really horrible. And I don’t mean just for you, I mean for me as well… umm… what, why are you looking at me like that?”

She adjusted her dark-rimmed glasses a bit before continuing.

“Yeah, yeah I get it. You want me to tell you how I managed to identify the culprit, right… which reminds me, it would have gotten ugly pretty quickly if I hadn’t exposed him at that moment.”

Eric nodded in approval.

“Well, it’s a bit hard to explain, but it’s like what I said earlier. I basically make a guess based on first impressions and then I proceed to find evidence that would support that guess – and my guesses often turn out to be correct. Here, let me demonstrate. See that lady coming out of that store over there?”
Sheena pointed to a Forever 21 store across the street.

“Yeah, that girl who is obviously a fashionista?”
“Lawyer. She looks young but she’s Asian, so about 36 years old. I’d say she’s been in practice for about 6 years or so…”

“And this is based on?”

“She’s wearing a $1000 Prada bag. It’s pretty much a status symbol for female lawyers nowadays.”

“Wait, that’s just blind speculation. You mean to tell me that your entire technique is based around confirmation bias?”

Sheena clutched her chest and grimaced hard as if she were having a heart attack.

“Ugh… that really hurts, rookie… just for that… how about a wager?”

Sheena winked coyly at Eric.

“If I’m right, you pay the bill.”

Eric raised his hands to his side

“Well, I figure you’ve got about a 30% chance of getting it, right. So I’m up for it.”
Sheena grinned with the look of a cat that just ate the bird and got away with it.
“Can I borrow your smartphone for a sec? My 3310 can’t display pictures.”

“Sigh… I have no idea why you insist on using that ancient thing. But… shouldn’t one of us go up and talk to her? You know, just ask if she’s really a lawyer like you said. She’s getting into her car now… oh, nevermind. I guess the bet is off. She got away.”

“KA-CHING! Aaand, I win. Here she is. Here’s her name on the roll of attorneys. Government website, no photohsop, no filter, no editing. And if you need further info, she’s pretty active on social media. Even has a Google+ account. I thought nobody ever uses that?”

Sheena showed him the woman’s social media profile. Indeed, the face matched that of the woman who had just sped away on a Pearl White Hyundai Genesis. Atty. Linda Parker, joined the roll of attorneys back in 2012.

“T-that’s simply amazing. You knew all that from just a Prada bag? That’s some intuition.”

“Haha! Hahahaha! You’re so gullible, Rookie.”

“Huh?”

Eric stared dumbfounded at the woman before him who was guffawing so hard that the other patrons of the outdoor café were starting to glare at their general direction.
“Pfft! Sorry about that… and I mean sorry about that EVERYONE!”
This caused the prying eyes to look away… whether it was disgust or embarrassment that they felt at that moment, Sheena did not seem to care.

“Anyway, there’s no magic trick to it. Linda is an acquaintance of mine. That’s the real secret, rookie. You don’t show your trump card until you’re sure you can win…oh, and in the same vein, you don’t take a case unless you know you can resolve it. It may be difficult, it may take some effort, but you should at least be certain that you can actually resolve it before you accept it. As private investigators, we have a responsibility to our clients to resolve the case and not just try our best.  The people who try their best are those who have given up from the very start and are only hoping to win by mere chance.”
The young woman before Eric stopped smiling. She readjusted her glasses and looked straight into his eyes. Her pools of jade reflecting the look of amazement plastered on his face.

“Listen up, Rookie. Fate is a bitch, so you never leave anything to her whims. If something isn’t certain, then that just means you need to find more clues that will lead you to the definite conclusion – that is how we resolve the unresolved.”
_________________________________________________


“When she said that… she was really amazing. You know how in those movies when a dramatic scene comes up and epic music starts playing? It felt just like that.”

“I see, she was really something, huh? This Sheena Baker?”

Eric turned to the young woman seated in a relaxed yet elegant manner on the barstool next to him. She had long straight, black hair even-cut bangs barely touching her eyebrows and two long fringes at each side of her face that just about reached her collarbone. Sharp, hazelnut eyes spoke of Asian descent, although it was pretty hard to tell beneath the heavy foundation she was wearing.

It had been two weeks since Sheena Baker’s death and Eric was very glad for any opportunity to talk about the meager but very vivid memories that he had of his former mentor – even with a complete stranger that he had met just a few moments before. If he had been more sober, he might have found the woman, who had introduced herself as Mai Sakata to be quite a beauty. Of course, drunken with depression and about five shots of cheap whiskey, he wasn’t exactly in the best mental state to even notice the femme fatale in front of him. What mattered is that she was a living, breathing person who was willing to listen and she was right in front of him at that moment – he needed that.
 Sheena had been cremated unceremoniously – as specified in her holographic will, which was found neatly folded inside her purse, handwritten, dated and signed by her. Sheena had no living relatives and very few people in the police force wanted to be associated with someone in her line of work, so not even the ones she knew came for her funeral wake.
Eric understood this clearly. After all, his father had been a police asset and when the current administration took over nearly a decade ago and began a massive bloodbath based on the premise of ridding the city of drugs entirely. The police officer who had been using his father as an asset to infiltrate a particular criminal group turned out to be the same person who would eventually take his life in an effort to clear his own name. His father died alone in the streets – shot in cold blood. He was an unsung hero who exposed more than six different criminal groups as an insider – and yet, the authorities would never acknowledge his accomplishments. In fact, not a single police officer turned up for the funeral.
“So, tell me more about this Sheena woman. Was she… more than a friend to you perhaps?”

Eric downed his sixth shot of whiskey and signaled for the bartender to bring him another.

“She was… amazing. But, we weren’t like that. I looked up to her. She was the one who solved my father’s case back when she was just a rookie officer. The irony is that the perpetrator was her partner all along. The investigation took place at our house and she just casually named him as the perp and then proceeded to assault him with a boat load of facts that all pointed to him being the killer. Of course, everything she said was merely circumstantial, but she delivered it so convincingly that the guy just broke down completely in front of her. He didn’t even put up a fight. He just put his hands out and instructed her to cuff him and take him in. “

There was a glint in Eric’s eye even as he continued to reminisce his past from his drunken state.

“ I didn’t even know her name back then… but what I could never forget were her cat-like green eyes. I… joined the police force hoping to follow in her footsteps, but I’d heard she already left the force when I finally earned my badge. I didn’t stop though, I kept searching and searching and then… and then… I finally found her.”
“And now she’s gone, is she?”

Mai asked this question in a deliberate manner. No signs of sarcasm or even pity in her voice.

“But… she seemed like such an amazing woman. It’s hard to believe that someone like that could be killed so… unceremoniously.”
Eric took another quick gulp downing his seventh shot of whiskey. The truth is that he wasn’t really much of a drinker. The first time he’d encountered alcohol was back in high school. It was just after his father had died and his friends convinced him to drink some kind of gin mixed with lime juice and a whole lot of ice. It took no more than half a glass of this before he started feeling light headed and just slightly dizzy. He threw up all night after that incident and woke up with a splitting headache that lasted all day.

Eric had sworn off alcohol since that first encounter, but being a man down on his luck, of very few interests and an even weaker will, he needed something to help ease the pain of Sheena’s death and currently, he found the whiskey very comforting.

He took a quick glance around the room. There were very few patrons inside. He’d deduced that most of them were office workers looking to unwind a bit after a hard day’s work. There were a group of kids by the window: two girls and three guys. They were clearly underage; of course, it was none of his business so he left well enough alone. He felt sure that she would see it that way as well.

“So, Mr. Williams…”

“Eric is fine.”

“Did you ever check the corpse yourself, Eric? I mean, as an investigator, you confirmed her death yourself, right?”
The young man took another swig at his shot glass, but was rather disgruntled to discover that he’d already emptied it a few moments earlier.  He motioned the bartender for another one, to which the man behind the counter firmly shook his head. The bartender, 58 year-old John Morris had been in the business for far too long. He’d seen this pattern countless times before and he understood fully-well that the customer is always right – unless that customer happens to be dead drunk and wants another one.
Eric raised one finger from the back of his balled fist at the gentleman and flipped him the universal sign of strong disapproval. Of course, he knew himself better than anyone else and he was a former private investigator with a criminology degree for heaven’s sake. He understood the levels of intoxication better than some bottle juggling old man.

“The medical officer on the job confirmed it for me when I arrived. It was more than an hour since she’d been shot. Her body was already on the ambulance stretcher – still wearing the same clothes from when we last saw each other. They asked me to confirm her identity.  Apparently, she had no living relatives or close friends – or anyone who wanted to be associated with her for that matter.”
“Ah, so that means you never checked her body yourself?”

Mai Sakata smiled sweetly as she said this.

Eric shook his head.

“No no no, that’s not how it works, miss. The medical officer is a professional – they don’t make mistakes. I saw the gunshot wound on her forehead myself. It was unmistakable.”

“I see… that is quite a shame. So Miss Sheena Baker is really dead…ah, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to stir up any bad memories. It just seemed like you really wanted to talk about it.”
Eric remained silent. She was correct. Until now, he had been a mixed cocktail of dangerously volatile emotions keeping things all bottled up inside.  While the whiskey helped to dull his emotional pain, it acted just like an anesthetic. The pain was still there, it just didn’t hurt as much. In contrast, talking things over with someone like Mai offered him some sense of actual relief.
Sheena had warned him before. In this line of work, you have to operate from the shadows. You need to kill your presence and your identity entirely. You must not exist. You must become no one.
This led him to question more than a few times whether the name “Sheena Baker” was itself nothing more than an alias.
Still, these things were far from his mind right at that moment. When he discovered that Sheena had left the Baker agency in his name, he had been overwhelmed with a flood of emotions – emotions that overloaded his senses so much that in the end, he just felt hollow and empty inside. At that moment, Eric knew that his career as a private investigator was over. As for the Baker Agency, he had planned on selling it off to someone else eventually without ever revealing the real secret beneath it – about the ace detective who clandestinely resolved the most unresolved of cases beyond the watchful eyes of the law.
Eric fiddled with his empty shot glass. Time seemed to slow down as his eyes focused only on the transparent container held between his thumb and forefinger. He noticed that there were actually many tiny scratches on it – indicating that it must have been used countless times before. The glass was thick, which usually spoke of low quality production methods. It bore no particular manufacturer’s trademark or indicia He surmised that the owner must have bought it at some backyard auction or as a set at some thrift shop.
“So… was I wrong? Am I being a bother after all?”

Mai’s voice snapped him back into reality.

“Uh… no, you’re right. It feels… comforting to have someone to talk things over with.”

The young woman smiled sweetly. She lightly tapped the space between her eyes.
“By the way, did you ever catch the killer?

“No… it was a drive-by shooting via motorcycle. You know how it is in this city. It happens every day. I just never expected someone like her… someone so smart, so amazing to die just like that.”

“It really does seem quite unlikely, my friend. This Sheena person was really special based on what you have told me… but rather than that, isn’t it a bit strange?”

“Eh? Strange in what way?” Eric asked genuinely perplexed.

Mai scratched her chin for a bit before answering.

“Well, if you think about it, the victims of almost all the drive-by shootings have all been homeless people or people living below the poverty line – mostly small-time drug pushers working for the big fish. I don’t think there have been any incidents at all of any drive-by shootings happening inside of gated villages or targeting white collar workers, or just about anyone who didn’t look poor. I do not think your mentor would look like a possible target by mere appearance, would she?”

Eric buried his face in his hands. His reply came in a faint, almost unintelligible mumble.

“No… I mean, sure she did dress a bit like a slob but like a nerdy slob. Nothing that would make her a target. I mean, her fashion sense could have used a bit of work, but it’s not like the clothes themselves were cheap. She certainly couldn’t have passed for some hobo.”

“Do you not think it’s worth investigating? You were a private eye until just a few weeks ago, were you not? What’s the use of all your skills if you can’t even help the person that you cared for the most? As a man, you should at least avenge her death.”

“Hey, hey! That’s overstepping the line lady. You make it sound like she was my lover or something. Didn’t I make it clear that we’re not like that?”

Mai giggled mischievously.

“My friend, I didn’t say anything like that at all. You said it yourself… but don’t try to change the subject here. I’m no detective, but even I think there are a lot of contradictions with the circumstances surrounding her death.”
At that moment, Eric would have turned red with embarrassment, but fortunately for him, his face was already as red as it could get from all the alcohol he had ingested.
Mai did not let up.

“With that aside, even if you have no plans of investigating her death, I think… that there will always be people who will need someone like you. Someone willing to resolve the cases that no one will ever bother to resolve.“

Her words did not sink in immediately, but gradually, beyond the tunnel vision, beyond the dizziness he felt from having had one drink too many, beyond the intoxicating smell of the whiskey coming from his own body, a realization was starting to form within the muddled, dormant brain cells of Eric Williams… until finally, the idea came to fruition.
Eric turned to face her. He stared long and hard at her visage. There was a quiet strength emanating from Mai Sakata.

“Say… if I were to continue being a private investigator, would you be interested in a desk job at my office? I mean, things are probably all in shambles in there right now, but you seem like someone who would be a perfect fit for this line of work. I could really use a new partner.”

Mai smiled her sweetest smile yet.

“I would be honored, Mr. Williams.”

“Then,” Eric dismounted  from his bar stool, “If you’ll excuse me, Miss Sakata. I think there are a few people who need my help in here right now.”

Mai raised an eyebrow and then gave a nod of approval. Of course, at this time, Eric had already left her side.

It wasn’t exactly easy. He was clearly far more intoxicated than he had bargained for. So he had to steer himself carefully so as not to fall over on his way to his intended targets. The corner table by the windows seemed so very far away – especially for someone who could barely keep his balance.

They say that walking is merely a series controlled falling, if the person who made up that definition could only see Eric at that moment, they would have been quite proud.
After spending around five minutes and nearly planting himself face first into the wrong table quite a few times, the former detective finally arrived at his destination – the table with the group that he suspected to be underage.

One of the youngsters, a brash teenager, who was much bigger and definitely taller than him, stood up to face the older man.

“What do you want, pops? I think you’re in the wrong table.”

The two girls who were seated in the same booth together giggled in unison while the teenager’s two other male companions glared at Eric from their seats with a dead eye gangster’s stare.
“No, I think I’m exactly where I want to be.”

“HEY! Don’t you cause trouble in my establishment, you drunk idiot! I’m warning you, I’m calling the police.”
John Morris, the old bartender shouted from behind the counter.

Eric raised his hand.

“It’s fine, Bartender. I just want to show these kids a little magic trick… unless, you know, you really want to call the police. In that case, I’m not the one serving liquor to minors am I? Just saying…”
With a grumble, the bartender replied, “Hmph! I… uh… I didn’t see a thing. Carry on, sir.”

“Right, so where were we…?”

“Pops... I’m warning you. If you try anything stupid, I’m going to knock some teeth out.”

“Yes, yes, of course you will, umm… I’m Eric, by the way. Eric Williams. You might say I’m a traveling magician. I do magic tricks. Reveal the unrevealed. That sort of stuff.”
“We’re not interested in your magic tricks, old man.”
“Well… well… just give me a moment, will you? I promise... entertainment.”

He tapped the brash teenager standing in front of him on the chest as he said this. This earned him a good shove, but almost miraculously Eric managed to retain his balance.
“Hey, hey. Don’t be so mean, Chris. Let him show us what he can do first.” Said the girl seated by the window. She had brown eyes with matching straight brown hair tied up into twin ponytails.

“Yeah… hmph! You can beat him up after he entertains us for a bit.” One of the male companions chided -- a delinquent with a red bandana on his forehead. Eric could not help but muse inwardly that this guy was dressed for the wrong decade.”
“Th-that’s a bit mean.” The other girl added. She was a brunette with nondescript features and a rather shy demeanor.

Eric shakily regained his footing.

“So… with that out of the way, let us begin.”

Eric grabbed the five glasses of alcohol that the kids had been drinking from. He eyed each one carefully, especially the girls’ glasses. He breathed a sigh of relief when he saw that the glasses were almost full.

“Hey – that’s!”

Eric raised his hand right at Chris’ face.

“Shhh! I promise I won’t ruin your drinks. I just need them for a little bit… so… observe the glasses carefully, do you notice anything?”

“Umm… the drinks are different? The guys all ordered some kind of clear liquid, while we girls have this funky colored drink.”

“Bingo! Good job, shy girl… um what’s your name again?”

“It’s Emily, Mr. Williams.”

“Excellent… but if you please, would you try one of the guy’s drinks, Emily? Here’ I’ll wipe the lid if you’re worried about an indirect kiss or something to that effect.”

Eric took a piece of tissue paper from the table and carefully and meticulously wiped the lid of the glass of alcohol and offered it to Emily.

Taking the glass, the girl took a tiny sip. She licked her lips and furrowed her eyebrows.

“It’s the same. It tastes the same as ours. It’s the same drink, isn’t it?”

“Bingo! You got it right again. Good job, Emily.”

“Wait, if it’s the same as ours, then why does it look so different?”

“Ah, excellent question, miss twin-tails.”

“Mary. The name’s Mary.”

“Well, Mary… as to your question, that brings us to my little magic trick. Observe…”

Eric quickly dropped two small capsules into the two remaining drinks on the table that didn’t belong to the girls. Immediately, the capsules dissolved into bubbles and emitted a dark blue-inkish powder that spread all over the liquid. When the capsules had completely dissolved, the drinks were indistinguishable from that of the girls.
“Ta-dah! You see, I just added a little substance called Rohypnol into these two glasses. If that name didn’t shock you, then perhaps you’re familiar with a little something called ‘the date rape drug?’ Oh and if you’re wondering where I got that from. I stole it from your good friend Chris there when I gave him that little love tap on his chest pocket.”

“WHAT THE FUCK, MAN! MAGIC TRICK MY ASS! YOU RATTED US OUT!”

Chris, clearly infuriated, suddenly threw a massive left hook at Eric. Clearly, this youngster was not without training, Eric thought. Boxing, perhaps?
Chris’ punch was strong yet cleanly executed. If Eric had been a fraction of a second later in moving his head slightly downwards and to the right, he would have been floored in an instant.

“Hey, kid.  Have you ever watched this old Jackie Chan movie called Drunken Master? Nah, I guess not. Anyway, the more drunk the protagonist became, the stronger his kung fu got.”

“Shut up, pops! I’m going to fucking murder y--- AAGH!”

Chris screamed in pain. Eric delivered a vicious inside leg kick into his thighs before he could complete his sentence. The exclamation point came quickly via an overhand right from Eric delivered into the sweet spot just below his chin. Chris doesn’t expect drunken busybodies smaller than him to do that. Chris is a bully. Chris fell back to his chair on top of both of his buddies unconscious.
“Will I be expecting any more trouble from you boys?”

Eric beckoned them to come hither in the best Bruce Lee pose he could muster.

“N-no sir!” They answered almost simultaneously.
“Well, I guess that’s that. I trust you ladies will be more careful in the future?”

“Th-thanks a lot, Mr. Williams. What should we do about these guys?” Mary asked.

“I leave that up to you, Emily.”

“It’s Mary. Emily is the shy one, remember?”

“Right, I leave that up to you, Mary.”
“Ok… just one more question: who are you really?”

“Me? Well… I’m just a private detective passing by, I suppose.”

Eric smiled and then turned gracefully on one foot, but he crossed his legs over while doing so and fell flat on the floor face-first.  It’s not a wise idea to attempt a pirouette while drunk after all.

“I’m ok… I’m ok!”

___________________________

Three days after that incident, footsteps once again rang out through the narrow passageway that led to the Baker and Company Security and Consultancy firm. It had been quite a while since this had happened. Eric Williams, the new owner of the agency, adjusted his necktie. He had decided to start anew after all and if he was going to play private eye – he had decided that he might as well look the part.

The front door creakily swung open.

“Welcome, I’ve been expecting you.”

She sat down on the small sofa in front of him. He immediately understood that she wanted him to ask the questions now.

“Why did you do it?”

“Someone was watching us ever since we entered the crime scene. They would have gone after both of us, so I had to prove that we weren’t a threat. The rest can be explained with B-grade movie prosthetics and pulling a few strings with the local TV station.”

Eric turned on Sheena’s old mmx PC. In hindsight, he regretted waiting until now to do it. Now he’d have to wait at least 15 minutes on minimum before it finished booting up
“Who did it?

“It’s a crime syndicate. What I know so far is that it’s a weapons dealer with massive connections to China and quite a few friends in government.”

“That’s not much to go on, is it?”

She smiled sinisterly.

“Nah, we also have this.”

She tossed a small vial at him. He caught it crisply with one hand.

“Careful with that. One drop is enough to kill an elephant if ingested. It attacks the nervous system directly. Once inside the body, it just turns the off switch.  It’s also highly corrosive on skin.”

Eric opened a drawer from behind his desk and carefully placed the dangerous vial inside.
“Bill Taylor and Cindy Garcia’s deaths are definitely connected. It seems the boyfriend stumbled upon a hornet’s nest. Had some lab rats examine that vial. It’s poison. It’s not some kind of party drug. It’s a new type of chemical weapon that they’re manufacturing. This version is not yet perfected, but once it’s fully-developed, it’s apparently going to be more lethal than Sarin.”
“I see… well then, I suppose it’s a mere formality at this point, but welcome to the team… Mai Sakata.”

“Glad to be on board, boss. So, what’s our next step?”

“We need more evidence, Mai. Three people have died so far in a case that was never formally accepted by this agency. It began with the death of Bill Taylor, that led his fiancé Cindy Garcia to seek help from this office, but Cindy was killed shortly after and then they went after Sheena Baker as well. The deaths of these three people are strongly connected. We need to gather all the pieces of the puzzle and expose the people behind these murders – or else, this city- maybe even the entire world will be drowned in rivers of blood.”
At that moment, the windows 98 startup tune chimed in. The old mmx clone PC had booted up.

Rivers of Blood Introduction: END
Thank you for reading the pilot chapters of Rivers of Blood. This is as far as the story goes for now until I can get more chapters ready. I'm currently writing the 4th chapter of this piece. Do let me know your thoughts on this -- the story I mean, and not your unwarranted "constructive critique," thanks~


Saturday, August 25, 2018

The Tale of The Prince's Bride Chapter 1: The Prince With A Beautiful Face




The Tale Of the Prince’s Bride

Chapter 1: The Prince With A Beautiful Face

Come now my friends and let us travel back in time – a little bit forward, or perhaps a step backward, whichever it may be. Witness with me, a tale of jealousy, pride, despair and conflict – and without bridging the gender gap that many people so desire, it nonetheless challenges the meaning of what is love and what is right.
Long ago and far away, in a place forgotten by history, there lived a prince with a face that was neither quite handsome nor even particularly manly, but rather more of destitute and quite womanly. Nevertheless, with his casual kindness, which was well-known to all his subjects and even in the lands beyond; the young prince won the hearts of all; man, woman, and child alike.
It goes without saying then, that the beautiful prince had many admirers who vied for his heart; again, man, woman, and child alike. Indeed, his charm was such, that age and gender did not matter, because all were attracted to his feminine face and his kind and giving heart.
When the prince reached the age of 16, his father, the king told him that it was customary for him to find a bride. While most royal families would hold a ball to help a prince find a potential bride, because their kingdom was a small one and the nobility were few and far between – there were really no eligible brides. Thus, the beautiful prince set off to ride to the lands beyond and perchance find himself a lovely bride.
As the prince rode through the village on his curious steed, with black slashes stained on its fur of pure white, people from all walks of life came to greet the beautiful prince that they so admired. There were many parting gifts showered upon the road – they were flowers of all kinds – roses of red, yellow and gold, white azaleas, and even asters, all of which were symbols of love in their own right.
And as the prince finally arrived at the gates that led to the outside, a hooded figure suddenly leapt in from the side.

Obviously taken aback, the prince almost, but did not quite succumb to fright, but of course, he greeted the stranger with his usual smile so kind.
“What is it, uh… dear child?”

He asked perplexed, as the rather short stranger brashly removed her cloak of thin animal hide. She was a curious one with the stature of a woman, but the height and face of a child.
“H-here? Won’t you take this with you? For good luck, my prince so fine.”
It was a single daffodil of yellow and white.
“Little girl, that flower is such a common kind. Why would you think it worthy for the prince so fine?” Said someone from the crowd, which prompted everyone to laugh with their mouths open wide.
“Hush…” The prince commanded.
He closed his eyes for a moment, waiting for the noise to subside.
He clasped the flower close to his heart and then took out a purple book from the satchel hanging on his side. Carefully, he pressed the daffodil to one of the pages and closed it tight.

“Thank you for this gift. I’ll cherish it for as long as I live, my dear child.”
“Y-y-you’re welcome! And… you’re not that much older than me, so DON’T CALL ME A CHILD!”
The young girl screamed quite loudly as she ran off while covering her face with her cloak of thin animal hide.

To Be Continued...

Fanart Corner

Well... as you can see (from the illustrations of the characters) this is still Hayate-related. Anyway, here's the fanart for the week. See you next week for sure.


Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Rivers of Blood Chapter 1: Jade (Original Fiction)

This is an ongoing novel that I've been writing since the past year. I thought I'd share the first few chapters in public for the first time. This is unlike anything I've ever written in the past, I think. This is also my first time writing in this particular genre. With that said, I hope you enjoy this pilot chapter of Rivers of Blood.

Rivers of Blood

Chapter 1: Jade

Soft, normally inaudible footsteps rang out as loud as church bells on a Sunday within the hollow wooden passageways that led to the Baker and Company Security and Consultancy firm.  There were empty rooms on each side of the narrow passage with dilapidated doors worn down by termites and glassless windows covered with cobwebs. The doorknobs had been hastily stripped bare by scavengers looking to cash in any piece of scrap metal they could get their hands on long ago. On the ceiling, a lone light bulb hung stubbornly from a flimsy electric wire, emitting faint, yellowish incandescent light that offered little in terms of illumination. The floors, whose boards had outlived their usefulness long ago, sighed and creaked in shallow protest with each dainty step that Cindy Garcia took.

She was a petite young thing with a small face and heavily angular eyebrows that accentuated her smart, round eyes that burned with a distinctly fiery red haze. She wore a tight-fitting one piece purple dress cut very high up to her thighs with black leather gloves, matching leggings and platform shoes. If not for the innocence of her face and her small stature, the outfit would have been downright lewd, yet, Cindy carried this highly unusual get-up with the flair and confidence of a fashion model.
“Uh…  Sheena, I think we have a guest coming up.”

Eric Williams dutifully informed his superior. Of course, there was no urgency in his tone. Eric had been working as an understudy/partner/rookie/lackey for Sheena Baker’s agency over the last few months and this kind of event had become a normalcy for him.
The empty halls that preceded their modest 4 square meter office created such loud echoes that they didn’t even need a CCTV camera nor any kind of early warning system to know that a prospective client was approaching . There was only one way in and out of the office and it would have to come through the front door and always by walking through the dimly lit passageway lined with abandoned, dilapidated offices.
 The agency itself was fairly well-known throughout the city as providing competent, well-trained personnel. It was far from the best security firm in the business, but it was reputable enough to have several retainer clients mostly from lending-institutions and small business owners that operated in the area.

Of course, this was not the reason that Mr. Williams was working for this particular agency directly under the sole proprietor, Sheena Baker right now.

The truth is that the Baker Agency also doubled as a detective agency, but more importantly, Sheena Baker was a living breathing unsung hero, a real live ace detective – although very few people even knew her name. 


“No shit, Sherlock. Go on and open the door before she gets here. It’s a girl – a very slow moving one. Oh, and don’t open the door too quickly, you might spook her. She’s a shy one.”

Sheena Baker casually ordered her subordinate without so much as batting an eye at him as she continued to pound away at some piece of paperwork on her personal computer – a clone Pentium MMX from the late 90s; the kind that took 30 seconds to five minutes to open a single program.
Eric had asked her once about the computer. Certainly, the agency earned enough money from just retainer fees, but Sheena herself could earn anywhere from $30,000 to $100,000 from closing a single case from one of her private clients. Therefore, it’s not like she couldn’t afford a more modern PC.

“You don’t get it, kid. This thing has charm.  It’s the only way to play old school PC games while preserving the authentic experience,” was her response.
Of course, she also insisted on doing all her work on the same ancient PC – which sometimes led to complications since modern browsers weren’t exactly built to run on 32 mb of ram. Not when even mid-range smartphones have at least 2 gb of ram on minimum.

Eric glanced sideways at his employer.  She was older than him at 32 years of age. At 5’3” and with long, curly, disheveled hair, she wasn’t exactly striking nor even intimidating at a glance. She wore heavy dark-rimmed glasses  which Eric was more or less certain were just for show since he’d tried them on when she had left them on her desk and the glass was as clear as day – no grade whatsoever. Actually, he was certain, she’d bought it at the dollar store just across the street and they were actually glare reducing computer glasses.
Eric’s gaze traveled down to her lips, which quickly curved into a sly smile.
“What’s wrong? Are you going to confess your love for me or something? Sorry, but you’re not my type, kid.”

“W-wha? Where the heck did that come from? I didn’t even say a word? Sigh… never mind. I’ll get the door.”

Eric paused before turning the knob.  He couldn’t help thinking about how eccentric his employer turned out to be. Still, he did not regret being in his current situation.
The door to the Baker security office could only open outwards and through a doorknob from the inside. There was no knob at the other side of the door, only a metal tin that had been hastily nailed on. One might think that this is a clever, low-tech security hack, but it was actually just Sheena Baker being too lazy and cheap to replace the outer doorknob after it fell off some years ago. Fortunately, the doorknob itself was as old school as Sheena’s taste in computers and could easily be opened by sliding a credit card or some similarly shaped object into its tongue. It’s actually a trick that every kid in third grade and higher once knew back during the glory days of the super spy genre.
“Welcome, please come in. It’s a bit untidy right now, but you’d probably feel more comfortable inside.”

Eric confirmed a small click coming from the direction of Sheena Baker and nodded in affirmation.

A very small, very young-looking girl, barely even 4’11” timidly stepped into the room. Eric ushered her inside and led her to a small sofa that Sheena had reserved for prospective clients.  She bowed and quietly took her seat.

“Baker detective agency at your service. So, what can we do for you, Miss?”

Eric decided to skip the formalities. Although officially, the Baker Agency was a security firm, it was an unwritten rule that anyone who would walk through the doors of this particular office was coming in, while fully aware of the agency’s hidden services: investigating unresolved crimes when the police and other government agencies cannot help – or if it is impossible for the client to seek help from these entities for some odd reason.
The Baker agency had a policy of never prying into the private affairs of the client nor the reasons why they would seek out the help of a clandestine private eye operating under the eyes of the law. Of course, it is also an implicit agreement between the agency and the prospective client that their case may be refused without question and without appeal.
“Tell us only as much as you comfortable with. We are here to listen. If your case is deemed worthy of investigation, then we will inform you and appraise you of the fees that you will be charged. We only charge a one-time fee and payable only after we have resolved the case. The services we offer are considered outside of the commerce of men, therefore, there  are no contracts to be signed here. Once we resolve the case for you and we WILL resolve the case for you, you are on your honor whether you pay us or not.”

Smart fiery red eyes blinked nervously as Eric delivered the standard operating procedure speech. She nodded in affirmation.

“I understand.”

Her voice was thin and very high-pitched. Combined with her over-all appearance, one could easily mistake her for a child, or at the most, a pre-teen, if it were not for the engagement ring on her left ring finger.

“My name is Cindy Garcia. About three days ago, my fiancé was killed while shopping for groceries. It wasn’t even classified as a murder. They shot him in cold blood – the police did. They claim that…”

“Wait, is that the one that was on Channel 6? It was all over the news. Whoa…! So you’re his fiancé? The media never even mentioned that he had one.”

Sheena interrupted without leaving her precious MMX computer.

“Yes, that was him, Bill Taylor. He was a seaman, a 2nd mate. He’d just finished his second voyage recently and we were supposed to get married this November just after he had cleared up some family issues he was having. Some sort of land dispute with his siblings. I’m not sure, I don’t really follow that stuff.”

“But the police shot him because apparently, he was smuggling cocaine. They also claim that he fought back.”  Eric tried to be as neutral and nonchalant about it as possible, but the truth is that he felt uncomfortable confronting the girl before him with this statement.

“That’s a lie! My Billy wasn’t like that at all! He had zero connections with any drug dealers as far as I know – and he’s my fiancé, I should know! Besides, like I said, he’s a 2nd mate. Do you realize how much he makes in a month? Why would he even need to smuggle drugs? Also, he never carries a weapon in public! Never ever! The police planted the evidence and killed him in cold blood to add to their monthly quota of criminals killed. I know you guys were former police officers! You should know how corrupt the system is!”

“C-calm down, Miss Garcia. I assure you, we’re on your side here.”

“Hmm…”

“Sheena?”

“Actually,  you may escort Miss Garcia out right now, Eric.”

“W-WHAT!!!” Cindy Garcia shrieked so loudly that her shrill voice reached the same pitch as the incessantly creaking fans inside of Sheena Baker’s mmx computer.
Sheena got up from her desk and approached the smaller woman, stopping within two steps in front of her.
She calmly adjusted her glasses and then lazily placed one hand in her pants pocket.
“I’m sorry, Miss Garcia… but I’m saying that we have to refuse your case. As far as I know, there is nothing more to be resolved here. Our agency specializes in unresolved cases that the police cannot handle. I’m afraid that Bill Taylor’s case is not one of these.”

“Wh-what do you mean?”
Sheena readjusted her glasses and then looked Cindy straight in the eye.

“I’ll only ask you this once, do you really want to know the truth?”

“What kind of cockamamie question is that? Of course I do? Why do you think I’d be here in the first place!?”

“I  see…”

Sheena smiled with a look of pity on her face. She placed her hands on Cindy’s shoulders and gently pushed her down onto the sofa. It was a very gentle, almost motherly gesture and Cindy made no move to protest. In her heart, she was dreading the words which she was about to hear. She did not know what they would be, but she knew that this woman before her was formidable – that rather than the young man who had initially entertained her, she was talking to the real detective now.

“First of all, Bill Taylor is a known drug smuggler. He’s not a big-time drug lord, mind you, but he is on the drug enforcement agency’s list of known smugglers. They have been closely monitoring him over the past few weeks. I had a friend send me this email earlier. He’s an insider. Don’t ask anything more, I can’t tell anyway.”

Sheena handed Cindy a small letter.

“This is known as the ‘drug matrix.’ It lists all the known suppliers, dealers, and smugglers in this area. The police either try to collect enough evidence in order to arrest them or… well, they end up like your fiancé.”

With great disbelief, Cindy perused the piece of paper that Sheena had given her. Sure enough, Bill Taylor AKA “The Plunderer” was listed.

“Of course, this alone could be mere hearsay. After all, you have no reason to trust me on this matter. Which brings us to the next portion: motive. Umm… here.”

Sheena took out a small newspaper clipping from her shirt pocket and showed it to Cindy. It read: “City’s Last Remaining VHS Renal Store Finally Closed: Owners File For Bankruptcy.”

“This was an article from six months ago. Actually, I happened to save it because I was a regular at that store. Anyway, you are probably aware that it belonged to your fiancé’s family… but what you were not aware of is that it closed down several months ago and his family has been struggling to make ends meet since then. You know how it is. This city basically operates on a survival of the fittest principle. Really no room for old, obsolete things here.”

Eric thought this remark from Sheena to be quite ironic considering her penchant for old pieces of technology.
“You said you weren’t interested in your fiancé’s family business, well, this was basically the family business. It was a huge chain of rental stores back in the day, but they were just too traditional and refused to stock newer media like Blu-Rays and DVDs. Nowadays, even VHS players are becoming rare, so it’s no small wonder that the business went bankrupt.”

“This… I… I just can’t believe it. I mean, sure he has a motive, but where’s the evidence? They said he was smuggling cocaine, but they never produced any evidence of that. They killed him based on mere suspicion! Isn’t that worth investigating.”

“Eric, do you have a knife?”

“Huh? Oh, sure! Here…”

“Hmm… a switchblade. Nice and illegal – quite dangerous too… but I digress.”

Suddenly, from out of nowhere, Sheena sprung the blade and in one swift motion, took a giant slash at Cindy’s left wrist – or at least it seemed that way at a glance.

Immediately, small clouds of whitish, crystalline dust burst from her glove.

“Well, I kinda thought those gloves looked a little bit heavy when you came in. I wonder what he told you when he gave you these? That these were some kind of unique fashion trend overseas, maybe?”

“Thi--- this is?”

“Yes, unfortunately, it’s cocaine.”
“But- why? I mean, why would he do something like this… of all things, smuggling illegal drugs? Oh Bill… why? Just why?”

Eric could think of several reasons why. Because he needed the money. With your marriage coming up and the family business going down, his salary as a second mate just wasn’t enough. Because as a sailor, Bill was in the perfect position to become a smuggler and make a lot of money very quickly. But of course, Eric kept these thoughts to himself.
Sheena scratched the back of her head.

“If it’s any consolation to you…  you should know that your fiancé didn’t fight back. That gun that they found on the crime scene. It was definitely planted. It’s an old revolver that belonged to me. The police confiscated it when the new gun laws were enforced over a year ago preventing anyone from having illegally modified and home-made guns.”
Cindy Garcia timidly got up. Her head hung low with her bangs casting a grim shadow over her eyes.  She took off her gloves and cast them aside on the sofa.

“Don’t worry, we’ll dispose of these for you.”

“Thank you.”
And with that, she turned towards the door and walked away, her small back slowly, but surely fading into the darkness.

 ---------------------------------------------------


“Hey, rookie. Would you stop that?”

“Umm… stop what, exactly?”

“Stalking Cindy Garcia. We don’t do that at our agency.”
“How did you kno… I mean, what are you talking about?”

“You really wanna play that game with me, Eric?”

“Look, Sheena. I just felt sorry for her. She had no hand in all of this and yet she’s the one who has to suffer the most now.”

Sheena  furrowed her eyebrows.

“Sheesh… kids. Look, if you have a crush on her, you should just say so. I can’t have my apprentice moping around like this so I’ll tell you what. Let’s pay a visit to her after business hours.”

“I do not have a crush on her.”

“Sure, sure… of course you don’t. What’s her address?”

“5 Rosemarie Street”

“Good job, stalker.”

5 Rosemarie Street was located in the upper crust corner of town. Eric had suspected it before but based on her appearance and clothing, Cindy Garcia was definitely an affluent lady. Although it was bad professional protocol to be visiting a client’s home uninvited, Sheena decided to humor her subordinate.
Cindy Garcia’s residence was a sprawling 2-storey residence with walls made from imported mactan bricks and tiled roofing. The windows were barred with ornate metal grills painted in black. It was quite an elegant house with a dainty yet prosperous appearance that fit its owner quite perfectly.
“Wow! This is really something isn’t it, Sheena? Uh… Sheena?”

“Oh… were you talking to me? Sorry, I was just checking something by the window.”

“Anyway, I’m pressing the doorbell, ok?”

Ding! Dong!

“No answer.”

Ding Dong!

“Hmm… still nothing. I guess she’s out?”

“Eric, try knocking and do it hard.”

KNOCK! KNOCK!

“Still nothing huh… then…  HELLO! CINDY! CINDY GARCIA! WE’VE COME TO VISIT!”

“Whoa! Don’t shout all of a sudden like that! The neighbors will think we’re robbers or something.”

“Forget about that. Eric, break down the door and I mean now!”

“What? Are you crazy? That could get us arrested.”

Sheena glared at her subordinate. Her jade green eyes, normally calm and almost cynical, looked sharp enough to pierce diamonds at that moment.

“You’re serious, aren’t you? Ok then.”

Eric was not a very large man by anyone’s standards at a mere 5’7”, but he was athletic and solidly built. With two to three body tackles, the hardwood door that led into Cindy Garcia’s house finally gave way.

The two rushed inside and they did not have to look very far. What they saw next made their stomachs turn.
Cindy Garcia was lying prone and unconscious on the kitchen floor -- still wearing the same clothes that she had worn just a few hours ago. A pool of blood and some kind or organic liquid had formed around her mouth.

“Cindy!” Eric was prepared to rush to her side.
“Eric! Don’t be hasty. Follow the procedure.”

“R-right…”

Trying his best to regain his composure, Eric went over the steps in his head over and over again as he approached the victim.

First, he did a visual check to ensure that no sharp objects or other dangerous weapons were nearby. Next, he scanned his surroundings to ensure that it was safe to approach the victim. Both conditions were met, so he approached Cindy Garcia’s body and placed his hand on her back gently.

“Hey… hey! Are you alright?”

No response.

He placed the back of his hand next to her nose. No warm sensation. She wasn’t breathing. Finally, he checked for a pulse. Nothing… furthermore, the body was cold. Cindy Garcia was dead.

The rookie detective did not need to look far for the cause of death. Clutched in the victim’s left hand was a pack of rat poison – explaining the pool of blood around her mouth. Rat poison caused internal hemorrhage.

“She’s dead… Oh, God Sheena, she’s dead! She committed suicide… because, we were too harsh on her. We killed her! Sheena, we killed an innocent person! We drove her to her death!”
“Tsk...”

“Say something! What good will clicking your tongue do? She’s dead! Cindy is dead! We were just talking to her hours ago and now she’s dead!”

“Arrgh! Would you shut up, rookie! I’m trying to think here!”

“Y-you cold-hearted woman! What else is there to think of? This is reality! The answer is right before your eyes. Case closed! We were too harsh on this young lady earlier and now she’s taken her life because she has nothing left to live for.”

“Hmm… this is reality huh?”

Sheena cracked a smile.

“Wh-what kind of inhuman being are you? How could you smile at this situation?”

“N-no. Sorry. I’m not smiling because Cindy is dead. Rather, you just helped solve this case for me.”

“Like I said, what case?”

Eric was clearly exasperated at this point.
“Calm down, rookie. Your first mistake was assuming that this was a suicide based on that one piece of evidence you found. First of all, the rat poison is one thing, but what’s that liquid forming around her mouth as well? It doesn’t look like saliva and it’s definitely not urine or semen.”

“What does that matter? It doesn’t change the fact that it’s suicide.”

“Like I said, it’s not a fact. These are what I found outside earlier.”

Sheena produced several items that she’d wrapped in some tissue paper. There were four screws, all the same size and shape and one piece of plastic that looked like a used syringe.

Eric’s eyes lit up with a sudden realization.

“Do you see what I’m getting at now?”

“Do you mean…”
Sheena adjusted her dark-rimmed glasses before speaking.

“That’s right, Rookie. We’re not looking at a suicide here. We’ve got a murder on our hands.  My theory is that the perpetrator gained entry through the grilled windows by removing the grills and of course, this syringe is the murder weapon. I’ll bet whatever that liquid is that’s mixed with her blood is the real culprit and not the rat poison.”
Sheena took out a cellphone. A Nokia 3310 that surprisingly still works to this day.

“Hello? It’s me. Yeah… yeah, I think I have something here that your boys will want to have a look at. Yes… it is that type of thing. Oh, the address? You know what? We fooled around with the evidence quite a bit so I don’t want to have to hear a lecture from the chief. Tell you what, I’ll throw away the sim card and leave it right here. You can trace my last location via GPS. Thanks!”
After some searching, the pair found an empty medicine bottle and an eyedropper inside of the bathroom medicine cabinet and used these items to procure some of the organic liquid from the crime scene.

“Cindy, I’m sorry… but don’t worry, we’ll find your killer for sure.”

“Saying goodbye to your girlfriend, Eric?”

“How can you even joke at a time like this?”
“Hahaha”

Sheena laughed hysterically, and then she grabbed Eric by the cuff of his shirt and pulled him close to her.

Despite her brash demeanor and whimsical behavior, Eric could not help but notice for the first time, that beneath her shabby tomboy clothing, Sheena Baker was definitely a very attractive woman. He blushed a bit as he thought of this and was forced to avert his gaze.
“Because life is too short for anyone to take anything so seriously. I’ve faced death head-on so many times. I’ve seen so many people – people who were important to me, lose their lives because they made one tiny mistake. Life is ironic and comedic that way – and at any given moment, at the blink of an eye, at the snap of a finger, it’s over just like that… so, I think it’s better to laugh as hard as you can, cry all the tears in the world if you’re sad, and just have fun with whatever life throws at you.”
“Th-that was actually very profound.”

“Would it sound less profound if I told you that I paraphrased that line from a book?”

Eric hesitated for a moment, before smiling.
“Sigh… no, I still think that was wonderful.”

Sheena adjusted her glasses.
“You flatterer. C’mon, let’s get out of here before the police arrives. I’ll meet you tomorrow. We’ve got a lot of work to do. For now, I’m going to pull a few strings and have some old friends examine this liquid. There’s something not quite right about it.”

“Ok, see you tomorrow, Sheena.”

“Later, rookie.”

That night, as Eric turned on the TV inside of his one-room apartment, a bitter revelation awaited.

“And now for the news. This just in, a businesswoman and former female police officer was gunned to death by a motorcycle riding duo a mere 30 minutes from now. Reporting live from the scene of the crime is…”

“N-No…it can’t be!”

“Sheena…? Sheena! SHEENA!”
To Be Continued