The Owl Heights shopping mall was crowded, even during this off time of day. During the evenings the place was even worse. It was right off the tram so it was easy for almost everybody in the city which was one of the reasons it was so popular.
Rose lead them through the hallways and up the escalator. The Destiny Burst store was apparently on the fourth floor. Berardo tried to remember all the shops on the fourth floor. There were a bunch of them but he had been to this mall many time, most residents of Listorna had.
The major feature of the fourth floor was a large book store which had been there since the mall had opened. Some clothing stores, a restaurant. Berardo wracked his brain trying to figure out where the shop would be but came up with nothing.
Rose followed a hallway around the side. There was nothing there except for a small electronics store and the back side of the book store.
When she stopped suddenly Berardo said, “So, where is this store?”
She motioned toward the wall that was the back wall of the book store. Berardo turned to it about to say that there was nothing but a wall there. But he was wrong. He would have sworn that when he had walked down this hallway just moments before he had seen nothing but there was a shop there.
A small entrance with a little display window next to it. Nothing remarkable but it was certainly there. A sign above the door said, “Destiny Burst” and in the display window there were cards laided out. Spells.
“Oh.” Said Berardo. “I suppose there was something here. Whatever this concealing spell it that was surprising.” He pushed open the door and the three of them walked into the shop.
It was roomier inside then had seemed from the outside. It was wide but not very deep. It must have been nestled between the bookstore and the wall and nobody noticed assuming that the bookstore continued all the way to the back. Berardo did some mental math and decided that it could probably fit, he would have to consider doing some measurements some time.
There was a small counter to one side with an sales clerk behind it and bunch of card packs were stored in the displays behind him. They had all kinds of different pictures on them in different groups. There were also a bunch of other random things that Berardo couldn’t yet figure out what they were used for.
Then there was a bellowing sound and a giant man ran up to Rose of lifted her up, “Rose of Unyielding Flames! You’re alive.” She seemed to be being crushed in what was probably a hug.
“Hey, King of Endless Water. It is good to see you too but could you put me down.”
“We saw the news, is it true that Kathie Picozzi is dead? That is horrible! What happened?” The man was speaking loud enough that it could probably be considered shouting.
“Cockatrice attack us.”
His eyes widened, “Cockatrice! That bastard! Just wait until I get my hands on him. I’ll crush the life out of him.” He quickly changed his focus to Berardo and said, “Then this is your new Dreamer? You found him mighty quick.”
Rose finally managed to free herself from the man’s grip, “Yes, this is Police Detective Berardo Abarca. He found me at the crime scene and agreed to help me find Cockatrice.”
Berardo tipped his hat, “It is a pleasure to meet you. I’m sorry to meet in such circumstances however. I assume you were well aquatinted with Kathie.”
His anger seemed to slide away to show the sadness he had been hiding with it. “Yeah, me and the young miss knew her. We had even Dueled a few times. She had promised to challenge me again when she had gotten used to her new hero, which I can only assume was going to be you.” He said looking at Horizon.
She curtsied and said, “It is a pleasure to meet you King of Endless Water. I am Eyes that Gaze the Horizon. Unfortunately I have never meet Kathie Picozzi. She died before she had the chance to open my pack. It was awakened by Police Detective Abaraca.”
While they spoke Berardo saw the young woman, no maybe just a teenager who had creeped up behind King of Endless Water. She was wearing some kind of school uniform and had braided black hair. If the big man was a hero, like his name suggested, then she would have to be her dreamer.
King of Endless Water noticed the attention and smile a big friendly smile, “Ah, I see that you noticed her.” He turned and knelt a little so he could look at her face to face, “Come on, it won’t be too bad.”
“I’m not a child any more.” She said, although she did sound a bit nervous. “I don’t need your help for everything. I can introduce myself.” She moved slowly around him trying to look like she knew what she was doing. Instead she just felt out of place and uncomfortable.
“I’m Meike. I would say it is nice to meet you but our meeting is unfortunately heralded by the death of a friend. I would have preferred to never have meet you at all.”
Berardo looked down hiding his eyes with his hat, “I understand.” Had Kathie survived then they would have never meet. Meike would have been happier that way. While Meike seemed nervous she was also plain spoken, not sugar-coating her words. “I would like to make sure Cockatrice is punished for his crimes however I am unfortunately out of my depth. My visit to this shop was in preparation to finding out how to stop him.”
King punched his fist into his hand saying, “He will have his punishment coming when I find him. Lets see how well he can handle a five star generalist like me. I would like to see him try.”
Rose shook her head, “But he will be able to beat you. He doesn’t play by the rules and he has multiple powerful heroes at his command. I have been able to confirm at least two of them but I know he controls more and still is able to command multiple spells as the same time. He can control at least 20 crystals at the same time, maybe even more.”
Meike took a few steps back, “20 crystals? At least? I’ve tried controlling that many but things slip away and become difficult to control. I can maybe do that many in a casual duel, but it in a life and death struggle, that would be impossible.”
Horizon said, “Could he be better than you then?”
It was Rose that responded, “I suspect he is, which is troubling. Meike is a Destiny Burst prodigy. She had been playing for years and is in the top 5 Dreamers in the city. Anyone significantly better than her would be almost impossibly good.”
“You’re that good?” Ask Berardo.
“People give me more credit than I deserve.” Said Meike. “King of Endless Water supports me and my total win ratio is not that superb.” Berardo thought it was more personal uncertainty then actual modesty. “Even my strategy is still lacking. My redeeming feature is my crystal control. My renown is mostly give from my unlimited crystal duels where Dreamers are allowed to use as many crystals as they possess. Most people have trouble controlling more than 10 so the standard duels are limited to that many.”
Rose nodded, “It is impressive seeing her duel like that. I’ve seen her control 17 crystals at a time. It is an exceptional talent which is why Cockatrice is so dangerous. If we want to defeat him we have to have a plan, and you need to train Berardo.”
Kind looked Berardo up and down, “It looks like he had never been in a proper duel then? And nether has Eyes that Gaze the Horizon.”
“Correct,” Said Rose, “I wanted to make sure that he registered here today. However he really isn’t in any state to battle currently. It is currently all he can muster to keep the two of us manifested. I expect he needs at least 4 crystals before he is even capable of proper training. 8 would be optimal but I don’t expect that Cockatrice would wait that long.”
Meike nodded in thought, “A rookie with only a few crystals to his name. I would say we could share my crystals but only one’s own crystals are useful for Destiny Burst. Other people’s crystals can be kept and sold at the counter but if you were to take and use my crystals in a dual, you would certainly lose.”
“Great” said Berardo. “I guess magic isn’t perfect.”
Rose said, “Some things you have to earn. Other people’s crystals work fine for using spell cards outside of duals but the crystals reaction time is triple that of your own crystals.”
“However,” said Meike, “There is something we can do for you.” She pulled out a small box and opened it revealing a large collection of Destiny Burst cards. “You won’t have enough crystals to use more spells but I have a couple spare which might be useful. A Communication spell will let your phone work in almost all situations and let you communicate with your heroes are long distance. It isn’t much but it should make your investigation easier.”
Berardo took the card and said, “Thanks.” He pulled out a business card and was about to hand it to her. Then he took out a pen and wrote a second number on the card. “Take this. It had my number and the number of the special phone. If you need help or find out anything more about Cockatrice then call me and tell me. Although if you have the information about him now I’ll accept that too.”
She took it, “I’ll do that. Although right now I doubt I know anything more than Rose does. He was first seen a year ago. Came from out of town somewhere. He made an appearance at this shop once before rumors of him began to spread. He said he was looking for the Eternal Hero and when the shop had no answer for him he left. Kathie wasn’t the first Dreamer he has killed.”
“How many do you know?”
“At least 3 others that I know about.”
“That you know about?”
“How much do you know about people who play Destiny Burst, Detective Abarca?”
“Not too much.”
“Well, there are actually a fair number of people who know about it and are Dreamers however most of them are called light sleepers. They don’t actually care about playing Destiny Burst, they more care about the abilities Destiny Burst gives them. They don’t challenge others to duels, they just gather their own crystals. Buy some spells, have one hero, and they live a normal life. Well, normalish. Like a movie star and their loyal assistant.
“People who gain a little extra power from it and then live a lavish life because of it. Those people are more common then they think. They only come to the shop irregularly, since their crystals grow very slowly. Many of them might only be known by the Makers and there could be many of those that have already been killed by Cockatrice but we never know.”
“Do you really think that is true? That he has murdered a bunch of secret Destiny Burst Dreamers?”
Meike nodded, “Yeah, if he really is looking for this eternal hero checking with people who had little experience with duels would be easiest. The problem with guessing is that we don’t know what kind of qualities this eternal hero might have and why Cockatrice is looking for it. If we had that it would go a long way to defeating him.