Chapter 2: Fun at the Ball

It was a nice evening. The heat of the day was gone. Harley’s a one seater and parking was going to be a bitch at the Convention, so Aidan and I walked.

The Whistleblower Dance was completely sold out; there wasn’t a ticket to be had. Aidan quickly fabricated the illusion of two valid tickets and got us in without a problem. Casting spells is a skill like any other. I know the basics but I don’t have the finesse my armorer does. He cast the illusion in a couple of seconds and used almost no power to do it.

If I had tried to do the same as quickly as he had, I would have used up almost a quarter of my soul. It would have taken me a couple hours to come up with a spell as efficient as his. I wish I had to time to study magic like I wanted to.

The ballroom was huge. There had to be at least five thousand people in the room. There was a dance floor with a DJ playing some noise I didn’t recognize. I may look like I’m in my early twenties, but I’m actually forty-seven. The last time I paid any real attention to music was in the eighties—it’s gone downhill ever since.

Aidan turned to me and pointed, “Lad, I see Tim.”

“Go ahead, Aidan. I’ll hook up with you guys later.”

Over in the distance at the other end of ballroom, I thought I saw a familiar feminine shape. The girl had her back toward me, but way she styled her blonde hair and the way she moved her arms as she spoke reminded me of Mina.

This was nothing new. Since her death, I’ve been seeing her everywhere. I know what’s going on. Mina and I were genetically designed from conception to fall in love. It made sense that after she died, my brain chemistry would still be affected. I ignored the girl and scoped the ballroom for potential Oath Brothers. There were at least fifty conference goers who had the requisite power.

My eyes kept tracking back to the girl. Dammit! I need to get over Mina, she’s dead and gone! But as usual it didn’t matter what I told myself. Just like every other time I saw a girl that reminded me of my fiancée, I found myself walking toward her. I knew I was wasting my time. I was certain this girl’s similarity to Mina was a figment of my imagination, but I had to see her face to be sure.

I slowly made my way through the crowd. I grew angrier with every step I took. I couldn’t believe I couldn’t control my emotions.

I was about thirty feet away when I saw her sparkly flip-flops; they were exactly the kind that Mina liked. I stood frozen with disbelief as she headed toward the entrance of the ballroom.

As she walked through one of the doorways, I started pushing my way out. “Excuse me, Pardon me, Excuse me, Excuse me, Sorry, Pardon me” I got out of the ballroom into the hallway. Where was she? I caught a glimpse of golden hair and sparkly flip-flops entering an elevator.

I got to it right after it closed. I watched the indicator lights above the elevator. The elevator stopped at the third, eighth, and twelfth floors before it started heading back down. I took the next elevator up to the third floor. The hallway was deserted.

One of my involuntary paladin upgrades is super hearing, and it took me a while to learn all the nuances of my hyper-sense. It had been incredibly annoying to have to hear everything until I learned how to consciously dial my hearing back to normal levels. I kicked my hearing all the way up, and it was quiet enough for me to listen into each room as I moved down the hallway. No one on the third floor sounded like Mina. There were a couple of rooms with no conversation going on, but the sounds of these guest’s footsteps and the way their beds creaked let me know they were either too heavy or too light to be Mina.

I went up to the eighth floor; no Mina. On the twelfth floor, I heard Mina say ‘Steve’. A man’s voice replied; it sounded like Steve Willeso, Mina’s ex-boyfriend. WHY THE HELL was she with Steve?

My heart was pounding as I knocked on the door. Someone looked out of the peephole and then opened the door. It was Steve. “Victor, how are you?”

I didn’t bother answering. I put my hand on his chest and pushed him out of the way. He was four or five inches taller than me, but another of my involuntary paladin upgrades is increased bone and muscle density—it was easy to push him aside. I took three steps into the room. “Mina!”

The girl sitting on the king sized bed looked up at me. She turned off the digital audio recorder in her hand. The shape of her face and her build was similar to Mina’s, but she had brown eyes. With her other hand, she pulled her blonde wig off and revealed dark hair. I felt a sting on the back of my neck. My vision got blurry and my legs went out from under me. The last thing I heard before I blacked out was Steve’s voice. “So nice of you to join us, Paladin Paladin.”

Go to Chapter 3.