[Imagine you are someone’s shadow for a day.]
Long shadows made by the setting sun cast over the dark alley which Brita found himself in. The atmosphere of the place always sent shivers down his back, but there was no way in Hell that Brita would let that show. Weakness was what they used to decide who to mug.
Brita made his way past piles of putrid garbage, tons of discarded cigarettes, and the occasional shattered beer bottle. When he passed the bottles, Brita made sure not to avoid the pieces of glass, making cracking sounds as his shoes further broke them. He had no idea who could be watching and took every chance to look tough.
Finally, the familiar sight of the dealer’s cat lifted the strain on Brita’s nerves. Around that cat, and of course the dealer himself, no one dared act out of line. Rumor was that the last guy to piss off the cat wasn’t seen until his body was found buried in some random backyard with a spear sticking out of his chest. However, the story only gave Brita confidence, because the dealer’s cat happened to like him very much.
The long-haired brown feline jumped off of a wooden crate and approached Brita. Smiling, he put a hand forward for the cat to smell a bit before he scratched its head. It was very soft and never dirty, which was strange for where it was. Brita guessed that the cat was well taken care of by the dealer.
“Mr. Angelou Moroushe the Second, don’t just fraternize with any ‘ol street rat. You don’t know where he’s been.” The dealer said, speaking to his cat.
Despite being referred to as a “street rat” by the imposing man who seemingly appeared from nowhere, Brita chuckled and looked up to see Hundo smiling at him. Although he doubted that Hundo would care if he was stabbed in any other dark alley while buying drugs, Brita was happy that Hundo seemed to like those chosen by his cat.
“The usual, I presume?”
Still petting Mr. Angelou Moroushe, Brita nodded.
“Got it.” Hundo said.
Then, a few tense seconds passed as Hundo did nothing but stand there watching him pet Mr. Angelou Moroushe.
A chill washed over Brita as he worried that he did something wrong, and after a few more seconds, he ceased petting the cat to nervously stand up. Shaking, he asked, “D-did I do something wrong, sir?”
Brita was fully aware of how much more powerful Hundo was than him and did his best to show him respect.
“No, no. I just wanted to know something…”
Gulping, Brita nodded, waiting for the question.
“I know exactly what someone looks like when they’re addicted to nyilas, which is why every time you come to me for some, I get awfully curious. Why’re you taking the risk to buy nyilas from me if you’re not on the stuff yourself?”
Brita unconsciously released some of the tension in his shoulders as he realized that Hundo was still acting laid-back and natural. It didn’t seem to him that Hundo meant any harm in asking, which was great because it didn’t seem like Hundo suspected him of working for the police, but it made it harder to lie to him.
“Oh, that all? Just someone buying it off of me ‘cause they can’t get any themselves.”
Brita chuckled again, but this time to seem genuine.
“HA! You got some nerve making money off of me making money from you!” Hundo clapped Brita’s shoulder with a deep laugh as he took a small box out from his pocket. “Well, you better get all that you can from the idiot you’re selling to!”
Brita was very thankful for having Hundo. Even if he benefited from hurting others through drugs, the man seemed to stick to his own moral code, which involved looking down on those stupid enough to use the drugs he sold and respecting those who turned the drugs down. Those characteristics allowed the two to get along to an extent and saved a lot of trouble for Brita. After all, not all nyilas dealers were as great as Hundo.
“Well, anyway, here’s the ny—”
Hundo suddenly froze in place, his eyes wide and his mouth left hanging open. The sight of such a powerful man full of fear shocked Brita, who turned around to look at what Hundo saw.
“The Phantom…” Brita whimpered.
Slowly rising from the shadows of the alley was the woman known as The Phantom. Wearing the usual local police uniform, The Phantom distinguished herself from other police solely with her clan’s bloodline ability—Shadow Meld, which allowed her to enter and move through, making her perfect for intelligence reconnaissance.
Before Brita could even form a second thought, Hundo escaped his prior shocked stupor and flooded his limbs with qi, sending ripples through the air around him. Hundo crouched low, building power in his bulky legs for a jump, but in the next second, he was encased in a detainment field by The Phantom and couldn’t move.
Brita blinked at the sight, but rather than being afraid, he was sullen and jealous. Jealous at the power the two people displayed, Hundo effortlessly making the air ripple with only the qi running through him, and The Phantom, who instantly captured him. Power Brita would never have due to circumstances he couldn’t control.
He watched as The Phantom used some method unknown to him to subdue Hundo further, who could no longer utilize his cultivation base or body and slumped forward as soon as the police detainment field was put away.
“You’re smart for not running.”
Brita jolted as he realized that The Phantom had just spoken to him and lost his balance on a stray glass bottle he stepped on. Time seemed to slow down as he fell, his head on a direct path to the hard concrete ground. Brita was no cultivator, unfortunately, and couldn’t get his arms behind him to catch his fall due to being caught off guard.
Yet, instead of crashing into the ground, Brita found himself stopped in place by The Phantom, who grabbed his hand.
Brita’s eyes widened at not being immediately detained and arrested by The Phantom, which was good and all, but he didn’t understand. And seeing as how he was being treated nicely by someone known for their strict attitude regarding the law…
“Uhh, thank you.” Once on both feet, Brita asked, “Am I being arrested? I know you saw me buying from Hundo…” Brita knew that honesty would look better in court, so he didn’t mind outing himself like that.
However, The Phantom didn’t seem to expect such a meek attitude from him because she laughed and mimed wiping a tear from her eye…despite wearing a police helmet that hid her face.
“Truthful! That’s good.” She said in-between laughs. When she finished, she straightened her back before assuming a more professional tone. “We at the police department are fully aware of your circumstances and why you illegally purchased nyilas. You will not be charged for breaking the law with your offenses regarding nyilas. You will, however, be detained for a briefing about your circumstances. Now, come with me please.”
Just what he was afraid of.
“Does that mean you know of…”
“The demon? Yes.”
His heart fell.
“She’s not a bad person! She means no harm! She’s just a victim of the war our countri—”
“We’re aware of that, too.” The Phantom cut him off. “Again, you will be briefed at the department and will not suffer consequences of housing a demon.” She softened her tone as she said, “Don’t worry about the demon. She won’t suffer any harm.”
The Phantom’s words did soothe Brita’s jumpy nerves a bit, but he couldn’t calm down. It turned out that the police knew about his housing of the demon and allowed him to purchase nyilas for her—not many knew that, despite only acting as a recreational drug of the spirit for humans, nyilas could be utilized by demons in other ways, including as medicine.
Brita watched as The Phantom lifted Hundo on her shoulder to carry him out of the alley, then followed. He hoped The Phantom told him the truth, but even if she lied, there was nothing he could do. Brita was a cripple with no strength to his name. He was at the world’s mercy for everything.