Phasing into a world of eternal darkness, Nisha wondered where she currently stood. After returning from the trip with Alestar through the various establishments controlled by the thieves guild, she had elected to return home and go to sleep early, eager to practice her new skills after studying the two remaining skill books in her [Soul Space]. Since she was able to rest her body and practice at the same time, this method only held upsides for her.
By some chance, the dragon still fell asleep somehow, although she didn’t remember how it came to be.
At least I think this must be a dream. Didn’t look like this the last time I checked.
Most would have panicked in a similar situation, trapped in an infinite dark space, however Nisha already lived in a similar condition after losing her eyesight, a bit of darkness didn’t even bother her anymore.
On the other side, neither her innate night vision nor her [Spirit Sight] allowed her to pierce through the twilight governing this space, the only remaining perception lingering to her being the makeup of her own body.
Again, people besides Nisha would likely panic and freak out at ending up in a different body than what they originally possessed, but the dragon also owned claws and sharp fangs in the past.
The black and red scales were missing and this informed her that she was not a dragon currently. Still, the form didn’t feel unnatural and she instinctively knew how to operate all of her limbs. Her fangs secreted small drops of liquid, which tasted incredibly sweet to her, eliciting a smile from the creature lurking in the dark.
Whoever would have had the misfortune to see her right now would probably die from sheer fright at seeing the abyss smile at them.
Lost in exploring her new body and wondering how she ended up here, the darkness suddenly started moving. Slithering, twisting and splitting, the ever present dark parted, revealing two giant eyes staring down at Nisha. If her own claws were made to rip and maim enemies apart, then the one above her was meant to mutilate armies and cleave apart lands with its own appendages, a single claw aloft in the air above her already many times the size of her body.
In a normal situation Nisha should usually have been shaking, waiting for the end and then awaken in either her bed or the [Spirit Space] … but she somehow knew the overpowering organism towering over here . A completely baseless conviction filled her body. No matter what she did, the overlord of darkness would never harm her.
Realizing that the twilight came from a black body coiling around her form, a sense of security lulled her into a more comfortable position, answering the stare pinning her body down with her own.
Starting softly like a whisper in the night, a voice filled the dragon’s head, evoking her most primal instincts and convincing her that nothing would happen to her in this place.
“Little One. To have come here so early, it immensely pleases me. My guess is that you obtained this opportunity by embracing your inherited element completely and took a life with a single strike of a dark skill.
Which also means you understood the true meaning behind the element itself. Dark doesn’t inherently represent evil like fire doesn’t automatically equal destruction. While you have discerned the weapon utilization very well, you cannot stop trying to understand an element at any point in time. With this gift, I hope you will continue to strive towards completely understanding the legacy given to you.”
Having said its piece, the being fell silent. Turning its eyes away from Nisha, its whole body started to fracture, returning to the darkness with a triumphant roar.
And the dragon learned two facts.
Firstly, the voice it spoke with to her was just a whisper of a whisper, a miniscule volume compared to the current boom that threatened to rip apart her soul.
Secondly, it was not a complete creature, just a shadow left behind as an imprint in time. Returning to the millions upon millions of runes floating in the obscure night, Nisha was not able to recognize many of them before they turned into a black tide, rushing to cover her body.
She relaxed instantly as the outcry earlier carried a promise. Even with the tower-like waves of runes making a mad dash towards her, the dragon just remained in her place and awaited the rolling tide.
Opening her defenses to accept the gift, Nisha lost consciousness as the obsidian torrents rushed into her.
Back in her bed inside the mansion, tears streamed down her face endlessly, as if mourning the passing of something incredibly precious even while still out cold from her dream.
Her lips moved slightly, muttering the gift’s name she received: [Thorns of the Night].
At the same time, Alestar was still caught up in his business deals. Despite his assurance to the interesting girl he had met earlier on the same day, he still sat inside the [Bliss] den, discussing various topics with the old man running the shop.
He hated the dense vapor clouding his mind, inhaling the yellow smoke already induced a small effect similar to directly smoking it, robbing him of his control over his mind. Sadly, his direct superior was the old yellow man currently facing him behind the dark mahogany desk, a high priced commodity fitting the rank of a high executive under the seat governing their branch.
“A good haul as usual, Alestar. How about a pipe to celebrate, it’s on me.”
Drawing a deep breath full of smoke from his pipe, the elderly criminal offered it to his underling as well, who simply refused by shaking his head. This in turn elicited a chuckle from the smoking man.
“I’ll never understand why you won’t even give it a try, it’s of a much higher quality than the stuff I sell out there. Or why you refuse to work with some grunts, everyone does. But at least you make a good amount every time, so I guess it’s working even without some muscle. You’re even recruiting some new customers, the girl who was with you earlier … will she be a customer soon too? I noticed she held a merchant plate.”
Alestar shook his head at that notion.
“It’s not like that. The girl had some trouble with the pickpockets, I gave her a badge as a favor. Which reminds me. Please help me relay a message to the Finger, sir. Her problem is solved and she owes me one now in return. The losses will stop, once she verifies that, she’ll know that I speak the truth.”
The declaration made the wizened eyebrows of the owner rise, word had not been going around for long from the pickpocket branch detailing who they were looking for and one of his lower overseers now claimed to have stopped the threat of another guild or a new organization setting foot in their city completely.
“And it’s related to that elf? So the plate is a reward for information then, is it?
Tell me more, who was responsible? Which guild dared to ignore the rules and make a move on our turf.”
Fire burned in the sunken eyes of the aged owner. The fire that held Alestar at bay, kept him chained and beneath the control of the [Bliss] den owner. The very same fire that burned since the day he had arrived at this place after getting his own thieves guild card, having caught the attention of the fire raging in these eyes, recruiting him for this branch as barely a teenager.
As long as the old man ran this place and held the reins over him, Alestar wouldn’t even attempt to climb the ranks. But arranging for the time afterwards and collecting favors to pave a smooth road …
In the middle of their discussion, when he was about to explain his superior the reasoning behind giving away a free merchant plate, the wooden door leading to the deepest room opened, hidden from prying eyes belonging to the addicts above, which were engrossed in smoking and eating [Bliss].
Strutting inside like he owned the place, a fancy man brushed back his cape as it flared around him. Alestar knew him - his name was Baldo - and did not like interacting with him much. While the newcomer’s vengeful eyes focused on Alestar, the lackeys belonging to Baldo closed the door outside, their muscles almost too big to accurately handle the small knob of the door.
Sneering at his fellow colleague, both of them working as mid level collectors in the protection money business, while at the same time crunching his brows in anger, the vain idiot raised his voice.
“Who knew you would dare to show your face after what you did, Alestar! The guts you have … Sir! I want to file a complaint with you, if you’d please!”
His nasally effeminate voice did not change even with his raised volume and the tall gangster felt sick just by listening to it while the old man frowned.
Pointing straight at Alistar, ruffling his pink jacket and releasing strands of his hair while strutting around left and right in the office, Baldo continued.
“You have broken the rules, brute. No one will be able to save you this time. Oh yes, you will get a sharp punishment. Maybe I should personally educate you after you get demoted. Placing you in my squad will certainly open you to the world you despise so much.
While a shudder travelled down Alestar’s spine, the owner couldn’t take it anymore.
“Enough. Stand down, Baldo. Then explain. What do you want to report.”
Alestar could not understand why no one saw the fire in the old man’s eyes. Turn after turn, he had considered breaking away from the place he hated so much to work somewhere else, rising towards the top of the thieves guild. But he knew better. As long as the owner was alive, he held a leash around his neck. He wouold not allow him to get away from his bony yellow fingers, to use the skills he learned under him against him.
Why couldn’t Baldo see it? Not that Alestar cared about his well being. He just would never provoke the old man like that.
No one ever saw it.
“Most certainly! It is outrageous, I tell you. While I was making an appearance here to make my usual report and drop off the guild share, my humble personage saw a most unusual event. This … commoner walked around with one of the nobles from my district! Of course I went ahead and found one of the guards working for us at the inner gate to confirm my story, so I know for sure that Alestar” - Baldo spat his name out like a curse - “is breaching the rules and poaches in my territory. My group demands justice!”
His overly dramatic performance only earned him two very confused stares as neither the old man nor the accused had any idea what Baldo was talking about.
“How many times do I need to tell you to make a concise report and not just ramble about pointless things, you damn fairy. Either you clarify that or you can get right out of my office.”
Apparently Alestar wasn’t the only one fed up with the flamboyant way Baldo expressed himself as the owner reprimanded the man in question.
Puffing angrily on his [Bliss] pipe, the old man played his part quite well, leading the intruder to explain his side.
“Allow me to elaborate. My informant, who is habitually on guard duty directly under the captain, confirmed for me that the girl I recognized earlier lives in the part of the noble district under my jurisdiction. He can’t say which house exactly she belongs to, but apparently even the guard captain acts courteously when she comes around and even opens the small gate before the regular hours for her.
I can’t stress it enough, this is an attack on my territory and the first step in a long meditated plan to take over my clients by establishing a foothold!”
Flipping back his hair, Baldo sent a secret glare towards his rival, eager to use the rare opportunity to fight for his position and clients.
Pondering the new information, the owner adopted a dangerous smirk. Cold sweat started pouring down Alestar’s back.
“Interesting. That’s the girl you gave a merchant plate to, isn’t it, boy? I’ll hear your friend here out, let’s see what he has to say. Leave the room for now, I’ll talk to you later.”
With a clenched jaw, he exited the room, relinquishing his seat to Baldo, who still smirked at him while showing his true nature.
The problem currently was not the interference from Baldo or the interest of the owner, who would not let go of an opportunity to see an interesting play.
Even if Alestar murdered his competitor and took over all of his clients, the old man would not bother lifting a finger. Countless young thieves grew under his care and many of them met a bloody end, losing one or two didn’t matter at all to the owner.
The actual problem was that Alestar did not finish the job without getting caught and left his opponent a chance to dispute this issue with a higher ranked officer in the guild, even if there was no such event happening at all.
He could only grind his teeth and hastily depart towards another branch of the guild. Since the pieces already made their move, it was now time to change the playing field.
Luckily, he obtained a large favor earlier, so he might not get taken out of the game this time.