They Kill - A Nyxia White Story
~~~ When monsters come hunting…she will be their nightmare. ~~~
When Nyxia White transforms, she realizes she possesses a fearsome weapon and the power of the Darkin.
A power that threatens her enemies and makes her a target.
After rescuing Acheron, she understands her problems have only just begun. Someone wants them both dead and will tear their world apart to do it.
She must learn to control her new power in time, before the forces rising against her attack. Together, they must face overwhelming odds and confront a sorcerous enemy that believes the only good Darkin is a dead Darkin.
Release date: April 17, 2021
Publisher: Bitten Peaches Publishing
Print pages: 151
Reader says this book is...: action-packed (1) creative magic (1) emotionally riveting (1) entertaining story (1) funny (1) imaginative (1) terrific writing (1) witty (1)
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They Kill - A Nyxia White Story
Orlando A. Sanchez
“They all die,” I said. “Starting with Rodrigo.”
“Ambitious, but suicidal,” Acheron answered without looking up from his bowl. “This is absolutely delicious; you should try some. It’s not really that hot.”
He gently pushed a small bowl in my direction. It was full of Fong's famous Death Noodles, at least that’s what I called them. They were officially known as something innocent, like Fong's Family Sweet and Spicy Noodles. The sweet part was absent, and the spicy was dialed up to over nine thousand. They were so spicy that they came with a warning.
“I’m not in the mood to incinerate my mouth, thanks.”
“I’d like to test a theory,” Acheron said. “Indulge me.”
I grabbed one of the available forks; I wasn’t going to use the chopsticks. The last time I had tried that, I had nearly skewered Acheron in the eye. I twirled the fork into the noodles. I marveled at how it retained its fork shape and resisted melting into some formless metal slag.
Yes, the noodles were that hot.
I placed the forkful warily in my mouth and, planning the route to the bar for the special Extinguisher drink Fong's provided to those who chose to take their lives into their own mouths by trying the Death Noodles, braced for oral destruction.
“What the hell?” I asked, confused. “Why isn’t my tongue melting?”
“You’ve been fundamentally changed,” Acheron said, dabbing the side of his mouth with his napkin. “Your physiology has been altered.”
“More than before?”
“Yes,” Acheron said, and took another forkful from his own bowl while pushing the other bowl closer to me. “You transitioned into a Darkin, and then later, with the blood sigil Gryn gave you, into something more. I’d hazard you are more demon now than human. I’d say full demon, but I’d hate to insult demon kind.”
“You have got to be kidding, right?” I asked, suddenly aware of the new guests arriving in pairs. They smelled like Black Cleavers. “Is there any way to reverse the blood sigil?”
“Of course,” Acheron said, still focused on his bowl. “Death is usually the preferred method. It’s direct, effective, and quite final.”
“I meant other than death.”
“Ah, no,” Acheron said, with a slight nod as he glanced to the side. “I’m afraid I’m stuck with you being related to me. I may never live down the ignominy. I’m a Demon Lord, you know. Certain standards must be upheld.”
“That’s what you’re concerned about? Your demon rep?”
“I’m not just any demon, I’ll have you know,” Acheron said, finishing his bowl of noodles. “I possess a certain standing in the demon community. This blemish will not be easily erased.”
“Did you just call me a blemish?” I asked, glaring at him.
“Only in the best way possible,” Acheron answered, dabbing the side of his mouth again. “Think of it as a term of endearment. Would you prefer stain? I do think stain is more appropriate. Our recently formed kinship is a stain I won’t easily live down or wash away.”
“A stain?” I said under my breath. “You’re lucky I didn’t let them rend your demon ass.”
“This is precisely my point,” Acheron answered. “I will have to educate you on the proper Demon Lord standards of conduct. This language of yours is completely inappropriate, considering the context of our present situation. Respectful deference to your elder demon kin”—he pointed to himself—“would be the better, and expected, course of action.”
“I’m going to uphold your demon standards in a second, with a fist to your face,” I said, noticing more suspicious guests arrive. “You seem to be attracting attention.”
“You wouldn’t hit a demon with glasses, would you?” Acheron asked, pushing his glasses up on the bridge of his nose. “These aren’t inexpensive, you know.”
“Why do you even wear those things? You have perfect vision, day or night.”
“It allows me to hide in plain sight. It’s my Clark Kent effect.”
“My Clark Kent effect,” Acheron said. “Are you unfamiliar with the character?”
“Of course I know who he is,” I said. “What does this have to do with you?”
“The Kent Effect, as I like to call it, is the ability to blend into your surroundings by playing on the expected and preconceived notions of what society deems to be reality.”
“In English, please,” I said. “So far, all I got is that you want to blend in.”
“Exactly,” Acheron said, raising a finger. “Kent blends in by donning a pair of glasses, changing his posture, and adopting a meek demeanor, thus completely obfuscating his true identity.”
“So, what you’re saying is that secretly you’re a super demon?”
“What I’m saying is that by wearing glasses and dressing in the manner of a college professor, my identity as a Demon Lord is safely kept from the populace,” Acheron said. “What respectable Demon Lord would ever wear glasses? Even though,”—he tapped the side of his glasses—“I must admit, this pair makes me look dashing.”
“I don’t know any respectable Demon Lords, present company included,” I said. “All that being said, it doesn’t seem like your disguise is working on our new guests.”
“What makes you think they are here for me?” Acheron asked. “They seem to be paying you an inordinate amount of indirect attention, and failing spectacularly at their attempts at subtlety.”
He was right. The Cleavers kept glancing at our table, their looks lingering a little too long on me to be a coincidence.
“It would seem a surprise inspection is in order,” Acheron mused.
“You better let Dan know,” I said, trying my best not to stare back—yet. No point in scaring them off. “It doesn’t matter who they’re here for. I don’t think these new patrons are here to enjoy the Death Noodles.”
“Indeed,” Acheron said, raising a finger to get the attention of one of the waiters. “Perhaps these fans of yours just want to talk? Maybe a profound conversation on your new demon status?”
“Fans of mine?” I shot back under my breath. “I’m not the demon here—”
“Pardon?” Acheron interrupted. “That almost sounded like present tense.”
The waiter came over to the table. He gave us a smile, along with a slight bow, then pulled out a small notebook.
“Anything else, sir?” the waiter asked. “Are the noodles to your satisfaction?”
“Delectable, as always, Charles,” Acheron said. “Could I request a word with Dan?”
Charles’ face dropped, no doubt afraid that he had committed the cardinal sin of providing poor service. Acheron knew all of the staff by name. He was considered their most important guest, with a reserved corner table in full view of the entrance and what appeared to be an unlimited tab.
We would often get our food served by Fong personally, which spoke to the esteem Acheron was held in. Fong's was bustling at every hour of the day. To have the owner serve us personally meant he had to step away from all of his other business to take care of us.
The rumor was that Acheron had saved Fong’s life years ago, then provided the seed capital to help him start the restaurant, but remained a silent partner, never taking an interest in the business, just the food.
It was possible. I knew Acheron was well off, although I didn’t where his money came from, or why he would invest in a restaurant. What I did know is that he loved Fong’s Noodles.
“Sir? Are you sure?” Charles asked nervously. “Was there something else you needed? Mr. Fong is very busy at the moment. Is it possible I could assist you?”
“Certainly, Charles,” Acheron said, with a small smile; his voice gentle, like a dagger pushed into your side. “You can assist me by informing Dan I need to see him—now.”
“Yes, sir,” Charles said, nodding quickly. “I will let him know.”
He walked away quickly.
“You could have let him know he provided great service,” I said. “Now he thinks he failed in some way. Dan will have to talk him out of quitting.”
“Charles can’t quit,” Acheron answered, folding his napkin and placing it on the table just so. “He’s part of the family. In fact, all of the staff here are related to Fong in some way. I will make sure his exemplary service is noted.”
A few minutes later, after more pairs of Cleavers filled the restaurant, Fong arrived at the table with Charles in tow.
“Ah, Acheron,” Fong said with a deep bow. “Is something wrong?”—he glanced sidelong at Charles—“I am sure that whatever it is, we can fix it.”
“Nothing is wrong, my friend,” Acheron said, looking at Charles. “Charles was the consummate professional. Thank you for your outstanding service, Charles.”
Charles bowed deeply, and let out a short sigh of what I imagined was relief.
“It seems you have a vermin problem,” I said, keeping my voice down and looking across the floor at the Cleavers. “Large, disgusting vermin.”
“I’ll have you know, we are impeccable in how we conduct business,” Fong said, insulted. “Especially the cleanliness of our establishment. We have no vermin on the premises.”
“Even so,” Acheron said, motioning with his chin to the Cleavers, “I do fear, my friend that you may need to conduct a surprise inspection.”
Fong turned slowly, and casually looked around the restaurant, waving and smiling to some of the guests. When he turned back, his expression was dark.
“I understand,” Fong said stepping close to Charles and whispering something in his ear, too quiet for me to make out, before focusing on Acheron again. “How long?”
“I’d say we have ten to twenty minutes before they feel brave enough to approach,” Acheron said. “In the meantime, one more bowl, for each of us, before pain starts. Please make mine extra spicy.”
“For both of you?” Fong said, looking at me. “Are you certain, Miss? Last time…”
“I know,” I said, raising a hand. “I’ll pass. I don’t want to push my luck.”
Fong nodded to Charles, who hurried off to spread the word to the staff and to bring Acheron another bowl.
“Do you need assistance?” Fong asked. “I can stay and—”
“No,” Acheron said, his voice a guillotine, cutting off any further suggestion of Fong’s assistance. “Your skills are needed in the kitchen. Remember our agreement.”
“I will never forget it,” Fong said. “We will conduct the inspection now. Please be careful.”
“I shall,” Acheron said. “Besides, they aren’t here for me”—he motioned to me with his fork—“they’re here for her. It seems she’s making friends in all the low places.”
“These are bad men,” Fong said, looking at me and keeping his voice low as Charles brought another bowl of Death Noodles to the table. “They are dangerous.”
“I know,” I said. “I promise not to break too much of the place.”
“That is no problem,” Fong said, glancing at Acheron. “We have all kinds of insurance. Make sure they don’t break you.”
“I’ll make sure,” I said. “Thank you.”
Fong bowed again to both of us and hurried off with Charles. I could see the other waiters speaking to the patrons and packing food. They avoided the Black Cleavers as they weaved through the tables, clearing out the restaurant.
“Extra spicy?” I asked incredulously, as I examined his bowl of noodlebliteration. I marveled at how the bowl remained intact. The noodles were just this side of lava red and looked lethal to touch, much less eat. “How spicy is extra spicy?”
“Fong has a special batch of Carolina Reapers in the warehouse,” Acheron said, gesturing to the bowl of death. “These approach an average of two million Scoville Heat Units.”
“Is that even legal?” I asked. “That sounds a last meal type of spicy. As in eating them means it’s your last meal—ever.”
“They are painfully intense,” Acheron said, with a smile. “You should try some.”
“No, thanks,” I answered. “I make it a policy to stay away from any food actively trying to reap me.”
“Your loss,” Acheron said, nodding as the restaurant emptied. “In a moment, your fans will know we are aware of their presence.”
“How did you ever manage to have this arrangement?” I asked, looking around with a mild sense of shock at the efficiency of the ‘surprise inspection’. “This has to be one of the busiest restaurants in the city, if not the busiest. Yet Fong manages to clear it out in minutes.”
Acheron glanced around and nodded, his mouth full. He took a few moments to chew and savor before answering.
“The last time I was attacked in here, it ended badly,” Acheron said, enjoying his second bowl of culinary death. “Lives were lost, and I had to forcibly remove the threat. I promised Fong that would be the last time, thus the surprise inspection was created.”
“That explains the staff, it doesn’t explain the patrons.”
“The clientele that frequents this fine establishment does so with the awareness of the danger,” Acheron said. “I dare say, it adds to the cachet. They dine here with the understanding that they may be required to exit the premises at a moment’s notice. Quite exciting, I think.”
“It’s only exciting if they avoid becoming collateral damage,” I said. “These Cleavers are looking twitchy.”
“I do hope they have the decency to wait until I’m done. These noodles are simply awe-inspiring. You really should have gone for the second bowl.”
“Pass,” I said, eyeing the Cleavers in the room. I counted ten low-level sorcerers and one mid-level potential threat. That must have been the leader. “How did they even know we were here?”
“Perhaps you’re getting predictable in your old age,” Acheron said. “I hear complacency is the first step toward extinction.”
“This is your favorite place, not mine,” I said with a low growl. “If anyone is getting old and slow, it’s a certain Demon Lord I had to rescue recently.”
“As your newly appointed elder demon kin, I object to the insinuation and your tone,” Acheron replied. “Haven’t you been taught to respect your elders? For the record, you didn’t rescue me, you facilitated an extraction, one I was in the midst of executing when you arrived.”
“The only thing about to be executed was you,” I hissed, picking up the movement in my peripheral vision. “Oh, look, we have a contender.”
One of the Cleavers approached our table. I suppose it was better than encountering the OSA. The Order of Supernatural Affairs would have just started flinging orbs of energy in our direction, obliterating the restaurant. Many of the patrons would have been caught in the attack, becoming needless collateral damage.
Things would’ve gotten bloody, and the body count would’ve been unacceptable. The Cleavers may have been bright as bricks, but they preferred to be in the shadows, not attracting attention. The OSA counted on the strength of the Order to act with impunity. They didn’t care if they attracted attention.
In other words, they were gigantic assholes.
“Nyxia White,” the lead Cleaver said. “We’re here to take you in.
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