“Oh, Alexander, sorry, I’ve been busy working my case.”
“Of course, of course, but you should take breaks sometimes. How about we grab a quick drink? Relaxation is good don’t you know.”
“I really need to..”
“Yes, yes, yes, of course. But first the drink.” Alexander grabs him around the shoulder and pushed him down the street and into a local bar. He held up a couple of fingers to the barkeep who pointed at them toward a couple of bar stools.
“Just a beer each, something good. We can’t stick around too long.” Said Alexander and the barkeep nodded and began to pour something.
Berardo finally sighed and gave up. Alexander was going to force him to have some relaxation so he might as well go along with it. “Alright, fine. Have it your way. But I need to be in Owl Heights in around 2 hours so that is my limit.”
“Good enough!” He slapped Berardo in the back in exictement. Alexander had always been forcing Berardo into this situations and Berardo usually wasn’t opposite to it. Maybe he had been working a bit to much.
“So, Berardo, what case were you working on? Some serial killer or something if I recall.”
“I thought we were supposed to be relaxing. And yes, goes by the name of Cockatrice.”
“Scary sounding name. Having any luck tracking him down?”
“I’ve figured out how he chooses his victims and I have a list of suspects however he is patient and crafty so I haven’t been able to peg him yet.”
“Special assignments are always going to be difficult like that.” Said Alexander. Berardo was about to speak up but the bartender handed over the drinks and Alexander distributed them. “You will eventually get the hang of it.”
Berardo saw some of the hidden implication behind his words. If the Chief wasn’t exaggerating Alexander also do special assignments, maybe had some kind of secret that he didn’t want to talk about. Berardo had checked out a lot of the Destiny Burst community recently so he was pretty certain that Alexander didn’t have any relation with that so he must have something else.
Berardo sipped the beer. “Is this how you deal with special assignments, drinking?”
Alexander laughed, “Nah, only to help depressed friends. I deal with it using sheer determination and talent. Things I’m sure you wish you had.”
“I think your the only member of the police force who would say that I didn’t have talent.”
“Maybe but they don’t know you as well as I know you. They just mistake your sense of purpose and knowledge of what to do as actual talent. There are a lot of people who could do what you do but most of them would never realize they could get there.”
“I’m not certain if you are trying to encourage me or not.”
“Definitely.” Said Alexander in a way that certainly didn’t answer the question.
Berardo wanted to say something but instead didn’t and instead just drank. It was kinda comforting sitting there knowing that each other had secrets but not actually wanting to share them or be shared with. Berardo had enough on his plate with Destiny Burst and didn’t need whatever it was that Alexander knew to complicate things.
Maybe Alexander already knew about Destiny Burst or not was irrelevant. He wasn’t going to press Berardo about anything and that was comforting.
Finally Berardo said, “I was thinking of visiting the Garnet Palace when I was done with this case. I have never been there and I hear that it is nice and warm there.”
“The Garnet Palace huh? Can’t say that I have ever been there. I’m a Listorna man through and through. I’ve never really felt the need to go off and visit far away places.”
“So you have told me before. However I think you would change your mind if you went to a few places. Going there really makes you realize how much the ancient civilization managed to accomplish.”
Alexander contemplated for a moment before saying, “Just a warning. Your vacations might be less relaxing then they use to be. Eventually you reach a point where other places feel more strange and unusual. You have trouble closing your eyes and pretending not to notice unusual things.”
Berardo looked down at his half drunken beer. “I understand but I think it will still be nice. Plus I’m sure they would be disappointed if I didn’t go now.” Berardo then realized what he said but Alexander didn’t mention anything and let it slide.
However the idea that other places would feel less like a vacation had occurred to him. Some strange quality of Destiny Burst had caused him to notice other Dreamers or Heroes almost accidentally. Rose said it was normal to be able to feel the energy that active crystals give off. Apparently it was possible to hide that feeling but took experience and constant monitoring of yourself so most Dreamers didn’t bother.
Berardo couldn’t feel any of that specific feeling from Alexander but something else nagged at it like there was something else hiding but Berardo didn’t have the ability to notice. However not questioning each other was part of the unspoken agreement.
“How about you?” Asked Berardo, “Have you found any more fools to go bowling with?” It was Alexander’s hobby. Not just playing but getting people into silly punishment game bets. Most of the police force had already learned not to go bowling with Alexander.
His grin spread widely across his face, “Oh yes, apparently there is a new legal office in town formed mainly from out of city people. I have been working on them but they haven’t yet broken. But don’t you wait, soon enough they will regret thinking that they could beat me.”
Berardo knew Alexander too well. The man was an expert bowler but he was also an excellent con artist. He knew exactly how good other people were after their first throw and then compensated to make them think they stood a chance against him. Then he won but just a few points. His opponent then thought they could win if they practiced and took revenge.
And Alexander then won again but just a few points. By the time they figured out they they would never be able to win Alexander had already had all of his fun. Those poor fools. Berardo had already experienced this himself and found some joy about hearing it happen to other people. That is probably why Alexander always found new victims. The old ones wanted to share the misery.
Berardo chuckled remembering, “Well, you will have to tell me how that goes. If I find any good people to throw to the lion then I’ll tell you about them but right now nobody who would be appropriate.
“Thanks, much appreciated.”
Berardo looked up at the clock. They hadn’t talked a lot but there had been long moments of friendly silence. More than an hour had passed.
“Thanks Alexander, I appreciate it.”
“Anytime. Any remember if you need help, just call me. I’ll force you to beg for it but I will come help you.”
“I don’t think I’ll ever beg you for anything but thanks.” Then Berardo left.
The trip back up to Owl Heights was more pleasant then had had thought it would be. Berardo had initially planned on brooding and contemplating his mistakes alone but it had been better to spend that time with Alexander.
Berardo arrived at the Destiny Burst store a bit early and found that neither of his companions were here yet. He could have activated the communication spell but it wasn’t needed. He could tell that neither of them were fully awakened which meant that they weren’t in any particular danger.
The store clerk was helping some customer that Berardo vaguely recognized. It was one of the people who had been in Destiny Burst long enough that they were almost certainly not Cockatrice.
Berardo instead checked out the selection of packs that he could buy. There were a lot of different packs. He didn’t really know what was different about them other than the makers made different development cycles and each time they focused on something else.
According to Rose the packs were even different between cities so local and foreign Dreamers had access to different spells. While he was looking the clerk finished with helping the customer and then went over to Berardo.
It was a different clerk then the one he remembered seeing last time. He couldn’t tell if the person was a hero or not but they had the feeling of somebody associated with crystals. Maybe the workers of the store were actually makers. Berardo thought that was more likely considering heroes typically look stranger then the two clerks he had seen working here.
“Can I help you?” He asked.
“I was looking for a pack that would have a bunch of equipment in it.”
“Equipment you say. Normally we recommend Hidden Treasures however I personally feel that that set is getting rather old. Instead I would recommend Curiosities of Wonder. Those packs were produced a mere three months ago. Although I should warn you that Curiosities of Wonder has stranger equipment than Hidden Treasures and its contents might be more difficult to use.”
“Are they more powerful then Hidden Treasures?”
“Hidden Treasures is three years old at this point although it is still being reprinted occasionally. However progress had advanced since then and the new cards use innovations and techniques that would have been impossible then.”
“Oh, how has the design of cards changed?”
“Interested in the history of Destiny Burst then? Most people haven’t expressed much interest.”
“The other clerk I spoke with was less talkative.”
“Ah, I suppose that might be true. Our newer employees haven’t been around as long as I have. I guess you are lucky that they are all off today so I can help explain things.”
Berardo examined the man. He was certainly older then the clerk he had remembered before, this one was maybe in his forties.
“So about that history lesson?” asked Berardo.
“Of course. Destiny Burst has been around for ages however around 150 years ago there was a major break through in card creation. Modern influences mainly, improvements in creation and distribution. Spells that were too complex before became common place. While there were still limits to raw power due to crystals the broadening of special effects and usual abilities became more common place.
“Even more recently this same practice has been applied to heroes as well. For a long time heroes were primarily seen as bearers of equipment cards since adding complexity and unique powers to heroes was impossible. Of course those simple heroes were cheaper to maintain. Now the idea of a one crystal hero seems insane but in the past those were not uncommon.
Berardo considered this story, “Seems like modern heroes are more powerful.”
“Potentially. Old heroes can still be dangerous but they need their Dreamer to support them more with spells and equipment. In some way modern heroes are weaker because they are more specialized. Given the difficulty to create heroes more generic heroes could actually be more preferential. However the Council of Makers believed that making heroes more unique led to greater engagement and fewer sacrifices of heroes.
Berardo nodded showing his understanding, “That explains why most of the heroes I’ve seen are special in some way.”
“Yes indeed. The Council of Makers have come to the conclusion that more unique spells and heroes lead to more engagement but also more sales of pack since with more specialized effect you would need more cards to cover things you want to do.
“Of course there are exceptions. Certain spells are considered classic and we sell basic packs as well which have generic utility effects.”
“Like the communication spell?”
“Precisely. Distribution is important and most packs have at least one simple to use card so that Dreamers have something from each pack.”