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.”


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.”


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.”



“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.”


“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.”


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!”

“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?”

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

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Hayate Reflections: My Digital Art Process

I have a new Hayate-inspired story that I'll be featuring next week. For now, let me walk you through my digital art process in this video.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Hayate Reflections: Nagi's Character Development Part 2

Lordcloudx here again and this week, we’re picking up right where we left off and discussing Nagi’s character development. So let’s get right down to it.

Beating Maria and not being afraid of the dark anymore

The next stage of Nagi’s character development came in the closing moments of the level 5 arc in chapter 515. At this point, Maria had gotten into the act and it culminates into a roulette battle between Nagi and Maria. This was a pretty iconic moment for Nagi. It marked the first time that she had ever beaten Maria in any game – since one of Maria’s quirks is that she’s basically invincible at games. Secondly, Nagi won without relying on Hayate or any other outside factors except the traits she was born with – an amazing intellect and even more amazing luck, which she was well aware of.

Needless to say, both Hayate and Maria were shocked by her victory. It is at this point wherein  her two pseudo guardians would disagree in their assessment of her. Maria notes how she has been sleeping on her own without being afraid of the dark for a while, but Hayate, in total denial says that nothing about her has really changed. At this point, Hayate is conflicted because he is probably well-aware of Nagi’s rapid development, but at the same time, he wants to retain the status quo.

Climax - heart broken

Next, we move on to the climax of Nagi’s development in chapter 561 and onwards.  And of course, this was the point when Nagi found out that Hayate never confessed to her all along and it leads to an explosion of negative emotions from her that was strong enough to open the path to the royal garden.

It’s also worth noting that delusional Nagi haters thought her ship had sunk at this point because Hayate had nooo romantic feelings for her. How did that turn out for you?

Ahem… anyway, her character development seemed to have taken a step back here since she wished for a world where Hayate loves her and thus, the royal power granted her wish by sending her into an illusory world where she could live with a fake Hayate and Maria forever.

Chapter 566

Of course, her redemption wouldn’t take too long. Near the end of the manga, Hayate manages to convince her that the time that they spent together wasn’t a lie even if he hadn’t noticed her feelings for him. This continues on into chapter 567 when Nagi’s character development reaches its true climax. It is here that Nagi gives up her inheritance to Hisui and then subsequently sets Hayate free, choosing to live on her own and become the woman that she had always aspired to be. Hayate stares at her with a lovestruck look on her face – which is easy to confirm if you will visit Hata’s blog – but if you’re in denial, then that’s too bad.. for you.

Also, let me take this moment to say that… of course Hisui was ok with just leaving and not causing any more harm after everything that’s happened. Nagi gave the inheritance to her. She got what she wanted. Furthermore, no matter how violent and greedy she was portrayed to be, Hisui never once tried to directly harm Nagi nor did she ever show that she hated her childhood friend.

And of course with that, there’s nothing left to do except to confirm Nagi’s character development – and this is adequately done when we see her two years later as a 16 year-old. Able to take care of herself in all aspects and most importantly – being stalked by Hayate for the last two years until she finally calls him out to confess to her for a happy, lovey-dovey ending.

Fanart Corner

Just a painting of Nagi in casual clothes this time. Reference was some Korean model, I think. Used White Nights watercolors for this one.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Manila Trip 2018 - Day 6 (Final Day)

We spent most of the day packing up our things. We just finished off the food we had left inside the fridge for breakfast. After making sure that nothing had been left behind, we made our way downstairs with our luggage to check out. There was a bit of a misunderstanding because they requested us to deposit 4000 php as security on the first day, which would be returned when we checked out. However, the receipt they gave us only said 2000 php. Of course, my mother and I were pretty sure that we gave 4000 php, we just failed to check the receipt. My mother was about ready to explode on the woman behind the front desk at this point because she was actually the same employee who made the request when we first checked in. Fortunately, she just asked us to sign a paper acknowledging that we received our 4000 php back and there was no need for us to make much of a protest. Pretty sure the hotel would just settle things amicably rather than risk having us go public with it via social media and ruin their reputation anyway.

We then opted to just stay in the lobby for a while to wait.

A relative would be picking us up in her car for lunch. By about 12:00, the car arrived and after loading our luggage into the back of the car, we were off to the Power Plant Mall for lunch. It was just a short drive away.

I figured that since this was our last day, it was a good time for some last-minute shopping. We met another relative inside the power plant (both of them were women about 20 years or so older than me, by the way).

Anyway, while they were choosing a restaurant at the ground floor of the mall, I excused myself to go to the restroom. After that, I took a little detour up to the top floor and the Fully-Booked store over there. I browsed around the manga section for a bit to see if there was anything I wanted to buy -- nope.

Next, I went over to the art supplies section and bought three packs of 4x6" watercolor paper from Tokyo Finds and some black paper (these would be great for colored pencils and pastels).

At this point, I also took Nagi's last picture in Manila for a while.
See you again, Manila!

I rejoined my mother and relatives for lunch -- which was nice, except I forgot the name of the restaurant. Anyway, they had a mixture of different Asian food ranging from Thai to Indian and Chinese.

After a little bit of chit-chat, they wanted to see some of my watercolor paintings and they each asked for one -- and I was like, yeah, why not? Interestingly, they choose the ones that I rendered with Sakura Koi and not the Kuretake Gansai Tambi ones.

So with lunch done, we walked back to the carpark to go to our next destination. Dali's son came to pick her up at this point and we parted ways there. "Nene," the one who came with us to the mall would be accompanying us all the way to the airport. Fortunately, our flight was still at 11:40 PM, we had the rest of the day ahead. It was about 1:30 PM.

We had no idea where to go next so we let Nene decide. She asked us if we wanted to visit the house of our other relatives living here and we agreed. It took about 45 minutes to get there, but unfortunately, they were out of the house. Thus, we went on our way. She took us to a nearby SM Mall where our relatives were waiting. It was a mall that we'd never been to before. This place was on the outskirts of Manila, actually. Outside of the main city.

The mall was a bit smaller than most Manila malls, but it was quite passable. We walked around inside for a bit and finally met up with our relatives -- including her husband, children and grandchildren. It was a sort of mini-reunion. We found a place to sit inside of Pizza Hut and they ordered extra-large pizzas for everyone. My mother and I just ate a slice each because we were still full.

We spent quite some time chatting and reminiscing about our other relatives in Iloilo and all across the Philippines. I just mostly listened and let my mother do all the talking. I'm really not good with this type of stuff. In any case, they were really nice people and I definitely didn't feel uncomfortable nor left out.

After that, it was about time to get to the airport. It was around 6:40 PM when we parted ways with everyone and Nene drove us off to the airport, NAIA Terminal 3.

On the way there, she shared her own stories and heartaches with us -- especially about her singing career and her parents.

She dropped us off at the entrance to the airport and recommended that we see the Casino that was connected to terminal 3. 

After checking in our heavy luggage, we considered the thought, but ultimately decided against it because of how bulky our handcarry luggage was. Fortunately, terminal 3 has a mini-mall on the second floor with its own food court and several shops. We walked around the shops for a bit and then decided to eat a little bit for dinner. It was about 8:30 PM at this point. There were several restaurants there, including some high end ones. In the end, we opted for something simple at Wendy's.

I noticed there were several Caucasians in the restaurant as well -- and I noticed they acclimated to the "Filipino way" pretty quickly... and by that, I mean leaving their trash right on their table without even bothering to fix things up a bit for the waiter. Hah! Looks like we Filipinos aren't the only ones who act like lazy slobs when given the chance.

Heh, with that aside, we went straight to the waiting area after that and awaited our flight home. It took about 4 anime episodes on my phone before boarding time.

And that concludes our 6-day Manila trip for 2018.

Final Thoughts

Over-all, I'd say that this was the most fulfilling of any of our trips to Manila. Over the course of our trip, I'd heard the many colorful stories of people from all walks of life who have etched out a living in this massively diverse city. 

We were never really at a loss as to what to do in Manila and a part of it is because we were pretty familiar with the city at this point and which places we wanted to visit there. My only regret is that I never got to try ice skating while over there -- although we do have our own skating rink in Festive Walk Mall that opened fairly recently. A video of the Skating Rink shows that it's probably about the size of half a basketball court or less though... that's kinda pathetic.

Personally, I think Manila is a place that I could get used to living in pretty quickly. The city is so big that almost everyone on the street is a stranger -- unlike Iloilo City, which is so small that you're bound to run into someone you know if you hang out in the malls and other densely populated areas for a while. Being in such a massive city with so many people going about the daily rat race of life within the massive network of roads, skyways, and buildings that characterize Manila sort of serves as a reminder of just how insignificant we really all are in the grand scheme of things. I realize that most people see this as a negative, but for someone like me, an antisocial individual who doesn't quite value self-importance the way others seem to, I find it comforting -- reassuring even. 

I think I wouldn't dislike such an existence; being someone totally content to be nothing in a world where every other person is aiming to be something. 

With that said, this has been our 6-day trip to Manila and this is lordcloudx out. See you again in future travels to come.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Hayate Reflections: Nagi's Character Development Part 1

Greetings, lordcloudx here and this week, I'd like to talk about an often-understated portion of Hayate no Gotoku and of course, this would be Nagi's character development.  I mean, sure, it’s pretty much in-your-face if you were paying attention throughout the series, but I say that it’s understated because people often purposely ignore her character development to talk about the imaginary romantic developments they perceive with Hayate and all the other girls in his harem except for Nagi.

Therefore, let’s try to rectify this. I’ll keep things nice and simple.

Starting A Part Time Job

Now let me get this straight. I’m fairly certain that Nagi’s character development was always a work-in-progress that actually culminated in the penultimate chapter of the manga, but in my opinion, there were several key chapters that really highlighted her character development and of course, taking on a part time job was one of the first triggers.

At this point in the story, Nagi had just decided to burn a winning ticket for some small-time prize that Hayate had won. She was wondering why Hayate was so upset about it. Therefore, a little bit later, she asked Hayate what he would like for a birthday present and when Hayate said that he’d like a watch if it was from her so that he could always keep it with him, she decided to take on a part time job at the Café where Hayate and Hina work – Café Donguri. This triggers an episode wherein she totally shows up Ayumu when it’s shown that they’re both clueless about working in a café but that Nagi actually learns pretty fast.

It may not have seemed like much, but this was one of the first times that we were shown a more competent side of Nagi – even if it was played off for laughs.

Chapter 252

Chapter 252 needs no introduction, but for non-manga readers, I’ll do it anyway. This was the turning point for Nagi’s character development, basically. It was during this time when Nagi broke the King’s Jewel for Hayate’s sake. Her grandfather Mikado had said that the stone should be protected at all costs because it was the proof of her inheritance. On the other hand, Hayate had been informed by Nagi’s friend Isumi that his childhood sweetheart, Athena, needed the stone to be broken in order to be freed from the curse of King Midas. As you can imagine, Hayate was put into quite a predicament. 

He had to choose between saving the woman that he arguably loves and the girl who became his savior at the lowest moment of his life. Of course, while Hayate was agonizing over the decision he had to make – Nagi made that decision for him by breaking the king’s jewel herself and therefore, putting Hayate out of his misery. In effect, she actually gave up her inheritance just to see him happy – but wait, here’s the best part: Nagi was totally unaware of just how serious the matter was for Hayate since she had no clue about the curse of King Midas nor of Athena’s case. 

She broke the stone only because she saw that it was something that was troubling Hayate – in short, she did it out of a pure and honest love for him – however you may choose to label this love – platonic, romantic, whatever.

Writing Her Own Manga

The next stage of Nagi’s character development came in the mangaka arc. As you all know, she and Ruka were competing in a self-imposed doujin competition here with Hayate at stake. If Ruka won, Nagi would set Hayate free from his debt and allow him to marry Ruka. On the other hand, if Nagi won, then the status quo would stay and Ruka would continue being a pop idol and not bother her about Hayate again.

In the end, beyond the matter of who actually won the competition, the entire point of this arc was simply to show Nagi accomplishing a personal victory of her own – writing a manga from the heart and selling it herself despite having her manuscript almost destroyed just a few days before the due date of the competition.

Nearing The Finish

Nearing the end of the manga now, the next phase of Nagi’s character development happened in the Level 5 arc in chapter 510. It was during this time when Nagi began to reflect on her feelings for Hayate and about how her feelings of love were closely connected with the debt that he had with her at that time.

What she said at that time was: “I didn’t fall in love with him because he said he loved me. There must be times when someone falls in love with someone else upon first laying eyes on them.  Hayate, a lot has happened since I met you. They were busy and turbulent times, but they were still happy times. Is that why? Once that happiness became commonplace and the liveliness grew normal… I found I wasn’t sure of something. I didn’t know why you were by my side. Was it because you loved me? Or… was it because of your debt? Unlike formless love, solid numbers are powerful. At some point, those solid numbers had bound the two of us and become a strong support for my heart. But if not for that… Hayate, would you still stay by my side? Can I still believe in that formless bond? Hayate, my feelings for you have not changed.”

And then it stops as the alarm clock wakes her up… anyway, in this chapter we can see the reaffirmation and growth of Nagi’s love for Hayate. Yes, it may have started as a simple crush, but at this point in the story, surely, those feelings have blossomed into love – not yet reciprocal at this point… but now we all know what happens in the future.

She didn’t know it at that time, but it was also in this chapter when Hayate would permanently pay off his debt of 150 million yen to her – while still choosing to remain as her butler.

Anyway, this video is getting a bit too long, so I’m going to cut it up into two parts. This has been Hayate Reflectons and I will see you next week for part 2 of my personal analysis of Nagi’s character development. This is lordcloudx out.

Fanart Corner

Hata-sensei noticed me again this week~
Link to twitter post:

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Manila Trip 2018 - Day 5

The 5th day of our trip fell on a Saturday. While we woke up pretty early, there was really not much to do since my mother's former High School classmates would be picking us up by 10:00-10:30 for a mini get-together that they would be having. I'd be tagging along, of course.

We had breakfast just inside our hotel room. The refrigerator was stocked with provisions that we hadn't used up yet -- including several cups of yogurt and ice cream. 

Anyway, by 10:30, two of my mother's classmates picked us up in a Mitsubishi Adventure SUV. It was actually a short drive to where we were going -- a place called "Paluto" just in the outskirts of SM Mall of Asia. 

Paluto was a pretty rustic place. There was a wet market at the center and several places where you could have your raw food materials cooked. They had fish, vegetables, and meat, as well as some miscellaneous items like sunglasses and cheap children's toys in their wet market. The way it works is that you buy your own groceries there and then head inside one of the many restaurants to have them cook the food to your specifications. There's an extra charge for that service, of course. Part of the reason why I think my mother's classmates chose this place is because the owners were "Ilonggos" from Iloilo City.

Anyway, we were led to a large long table where a few of my mother's other classmates were already waiting. Some of them wouldn't arrive until a few minutes later. Me having nothing much to do, I settled down to completing another mini painting. I was really loving these 4x6" pieces of watercolor paper.

When the food was finally prepared, I was quite impressed. The vegetable dish that they cooked made out of broccoli, mushrooms, carrots, and a few greens was really something else.

The group spent quite a while taking selfies, asking me to take group pics of them and just having a fun chat reminiscing about old times in general. 

By about 2:30, it was time for everyone to go on their separate ways. We were driven back to the hotel, of course.

Back at the hotel, we rested up a bit until about 5:30. We'd be meeting a younger batch at SM Mall of Asia -- some of my former seniors at the University of San Agustin Publications, and one younger individual who also went through the USA Pub and was a close friend of my mother's.

We took a GRAB car to SM MOA and it took just a little bit above 15 minutes to get there -- it was actually really close to where we were staying. When we arrived at about 5:30, no one was there yet. I decided that this was a good time to buy a few more clothes for Nagi. We went to a local toy shop called Toy Kingdom, where I picked up three more dresses for her. While I was paying at the counter, one of the people that were to meet, Jakeson, arrived. He worked at Call Center here and as I learned, was also into SEO and other virtual assistant stuff -- pretty much, what I do. Also, he'd become much, much more muscular since I last saw him. Oh, and he does Acrylic paintings too. He showed me a few pics of some paintings that he did on T-Shirts and canvas shoes. He's got some pretty competent skills.

We walked around a bit more and into the department store where my mother managed to buy some piece of makeup or something as a "pasalubong" for someone back in Iloilo City. A little while later, the youngest individual we were to meet, Pietros,  To my surprise, he seemed like a rather reserved young man -- even moreso than I am IRL. (Yeah, yeah... I know it's hard to picture me as an introvert based on how I write, but you'll have to take my word for it that I really am.)

The last person who would be joining the group said texted us that he was still somewhere in Ortigas -- which was still a bit far away considering the traffic situation since it was the weekend. We decided to find a place to have dinner at this point. The group chose some kind of Asian-Filipino restaurant. We ordered in advance for the group. Greg, the last person to join us, finally arrived at about 7:00 PM, just about time for our food to be served. I was quite surprised at how fit and slim he'd become since we last met as well.

It was really nice sitting down and just chatting with this group. We learned a lot about each other and what everyone else has been doing the past few years. We also learned that everyone shared a mutual dislike for our current president -- because honestly, no matter what kind of progress our compatriots may perceive is happening, that doesn't justify the rampant murders being left unresolved in our country. We also talked about all kinds of things such as our views on literature, art, career paths and our personal philosophies. This is the kind of group that I like to be with, personally -- people who want to make more than just small talk and really dig deep into different issues. I also managed to complete another Nagi drawing on the paper placemat.
Now if I could only remember the name of this place...

It was about 9:30 by the time we left the place. Greg, an attorney who was currently working for a local advertising agency, offered to picked up the bill. We couldn't really disagree.

After this, we took a taxi to a 24-hour Tim Horton's that was actually just a few blocks away -- of course, given how massive the buildings are in this area, a few blocks away probably translates to about 4-6 kilometers.
If you don't know where I am in this pic... you really need to get a clue.

We ordered some vanilla, coffee and a few light snacks at Tim Horton's. There, the group continued discussing different topics that just flowed one after another -- including mutual acquaintances and our experiences with San Agustin. It was a lot of fun but at about 11:40, it was about time to call it a night for everyone. We booked a grab car and had planned to have the car drop us off at multiple locations so we could chat a bit more while in the car. Unfortunately, the car we booked had already scheduled multiple drop points with two other passengers with whom my mother and I shared the ride with. So with that, we parted ways with everyone.
I recently sent one of my paintings to Greg as thanks for his genuine hospitality during our trip

There was no more traffic at this time of the night during the drive back to the hotel. We arrived at exactly 12:00 AM. We started packing up our things a bit at this point, since we would be leaving tomorrow.

With that said, day 5 of our trip to Manila ends here. See you soon for the last day of our trip.

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