Book One: The Innocent Heart

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Hijo Honorado

Part 15.1 of 1.9: Honored Son of the Cross

The same day following their thirty minute training with their new Pit Traceur, the twin beasts walked side by side through the path created by the spectators. Stopping before the cage, they turned to each other. Mackie grabbed Ash’s shoulder and squeezed as she responded, “Fight well Ash. Hurt him.”

Ash grabbed her hand and nodded. Turning around, she entered the pit as the spectators cheered her on. On the center of the pit she saw both Mark and Sani facing each other. Sani’s holo form shimmered as she cocked her head and gazed into the eyes of her boyfriend. Her height was shorter than Mark by a few inches because of her stocky build. She wore the orange prison uniform with the words New Alcatraz DOC on the back. Ash snarled with hatred for her. Apparently the prison allowed Sani to project her holo image just to watch her man fight.

Sani’s holo form shimmered. Compared to her boyfriend, Mark was of average muscular height and weight. Their arms were the same stocky size. Her hair was shaved. A prison barcode was tattooed across the side of her scalp. With her hand on his neck and her muscled arm around Mark’s waist, she kept her lips locked onto his mouth. They kissed in their embrace. Mark had his hand around her waist. On his other hand a cross was hanging from the chain. Releasing from their embrace, Sani gazed lovingly into the eyes of her boyfriend. She cooed touching his lips with her finger.

Mark was shirtless and had his tattoos across his chest. As his cross hung from his hand, Mark responded in Spanish to his girl, “Mi niña. Te amo no importa lo que haga. Lucho para usted. Cuando Cuando termine esta pelea, te encontraré. Mientras estoy de pie, le liberaré. Independientemente de lo que pasa aquí ahora, sepa esto. Siempre estaré contigo en el corazón. Mi Amor.”

Sani smiled at him. Taking the cross, Mark placed the chain around Sani’s neck. Sani’s tears fell as she accepted his gift. She whimpered softly looking at his cross. Taking the cross, Mark kissed it once and placed it onto Sani’s bosom. Sani cried gripping Mark’s hand on the cross. She feared letting go. Touching her hand, Mark moved it and kissed the top of her hand. Touching his face, Sani kissed him. Releasing their hand hold, Sani placed the cross onto her chest. Touching the back of her head, Mark kissed on her naked, smooth scalp above her cranium.

Sani gazed at him and responded cooing, “Te amo demasiado, mi amor.”

Ash looked at both with disgust. Opening her mouth, she snarled baring her sharp canines. They finally turned to her. Both offered their cold scowl at the beast. Mark spoke with a Spanish accent, “As you know, Beast, I am Saint Mark de Ryac of the Stryker team. Yo soy el hijo de honor de la Cruz. You have hurt my Sanità. With Him on my side I shall make you pay in blood.”

Ash scowled at Mark. The announcer appeared in between them. Pointing toward Sani, he spoke directly toward her, “You stay at the edge of the ring. You will not intervene for any reason. Step away from him but cheer from the sidelines. You are the observer in this ring.”

Sani nodded. Grasping the hand of her love, she kissed him on the cheek and whispered a Spanish grace into his ear. Mark smiled and nodded. Turning to her, he stroked her cheek with his gloved hand. Kissing her again, they separated as Sani coldly whispered to him, “Matar a la bestia, mi amor.” Facing Ash, Sani took several steps back toward the cage. She gripped the cross and grasped the cage while watching them.

Satisfied, the announcer resumed, “Welcome all to another match between the two champions! The Saint Mark Vs ‘The Beast’! With wins under their belt, they have come a long way to the top! However, there is only one champion! This is the fight we all were waiting for! Can’t you just feel the anticipation in the air? I know I do! Begin fight!”

Part 15.2 of 2.9: Saint Mark Vs ‘the Beast’

The announcer vanished. Ash scowled at Mark with cold hatred. Walked toward him, she clenched her fists. Mark raised his fists and pounded both against each other several times. He bounded forward toward the beast. Thrusting himself forward, he charged with his left fist hitting Ash’s jaw. Taking the blow, she stumbled. Sani cheered him on as two fighters paced themselves walking around the ring. The spectators cheered. Mark jabbed with his right fist as he stepped forward onto his right foot.

Ash ducked low and countered against his chest. With her other fist, she pounded Mark across the face. Mark took the blow and stepped forward again. Grabbing the beast on the neck, he elbowed her across the jaw. Ash gripped her fist and rammed a blow against his chest. Taking the back of his neck, she dealt another blow. Their feet shifted on the ground as they moved clockwise around the mat. Their strengths matched as they held each other in place.

Sani walked around the pit as she trailed her fingers across the cage. Her holo shimmered as she cupped her hand near her mouth and shouted, “¡Ejecutar la bestia a la tierra, San Marcos! ¡Dirija la bestia abajo! ¡Matar!

Listening to his love, Mark gripped the beast and pulled her toward him. However, the Beast was the bigger opponent. Standing her ground, she spaced her legs and her strong upper body straight. Instead of being pulled, Ash gripped Mark’s neck muscles and pounded him again on the face. Pulling him in, she opened her fangs with a roar. Saliva dripped over her mouth and down her lips. Smelling his blood, she was hungry.

With the injection she received, the beast could smell the blood of her opponents. It ripped her into frenzy like a shark as she pulled him harshly kneeing him on the chest. Mark’s guard was knocked down as he lost his footing. Taking her chance, she wrapped her arms around Mark’s waist. With another roar, she constricted his torso and pulled him against her body. She lifted as Mark struggled grabbing her face. He pounded away at her face and followed it with an elbow strike.

However, that only increased her grip as she squeezed harder. Mark yelled pushing her off. With a grunt, Ash lifted and turned ramming him down on the mat. Mark grunted with a cough. Placing her hand on his chest, she held him down and moved up. Mark struggled as Ash pushed down with her arm against his chest.

With her fist, she pounded him on the head. His blood transferred onto her knuckles as she moved her hand to her side. Mark grabbed her wrist and arm trying to push her off. However, the beast used her weight to hold him down trapping him. Her legs were wrapped around his waist and legs.

Keeping him down, Ash raised her fist and sniffed his blood. Licking it, she uttered a snarl as she swallowed the crimson red liquid. Gripping his chest, Ash quickly pulled him up and bashed her head down colliding with Mark’s cranium. Mark grunted in pain as his forehead started bleeding. Sani shouted with concern, “¡San Marcos! ¡Ánimo! ¡No se rinda!

Mark struggled with her arm. He couldn’t move his back because Ash locked him in with her legs. Taking his fist, he rammed another punch against her face. The beast took the blow as she gripped his chest again. With another lift, she head bashed him on the cranium again harshly. Mark was dazed as he coughed. Opening her fangs, she snarled lifting him on the chest. The beast bit down with her fangs onto his throat.

Part 15.3 of 3.9: The beast tasted first blood...

Sani gasped covering her mouth. Mark screamed in pain struggling to get Ash off his neck. The beast kept her jaw locked in as it latched into his neck. She tasted his blood and jerked her head while causing damage to his neck. Keeping Mark slightly up from the ground while her jaw locked into his neck, Ash took her time to wear him down. Sani screamed at Ash, “¡Suelte ahora!

Obeying her, she kept her jaw locked onto his jugular and tore open the vein as she flipped her head up. Blood sprayed across the pit as the drops spattered onto the mat and the bars of the cage. Her dark curled hair flipped over and onto her back as she licked her fangs. Blood dripped down her mouth and onto Mark’s chest. Sani covered her mouth with a gasp as she watched the beast tore his throat.

The beast snarled as her dark eyes shimmered red. Looking back down, she watched as Mark gasped once. He flinched as his back made an involuntarily twitch. Blood poured from his wound in the neck. He coughed blood and ceased his movement. His eyes were still open leaving him in a shocked expression. Saint Mark de Ryac de la Cruz is dead.

Dropping him, Ash looked up and scowled at Sani. Offering a cold smirk, she looked on with hatred. Wiping the blood off her mouth, she slowly rose to her feet. Sani snapped ripping out a roar. In rage, Sani charged at the rising Ash and grabbed her chest. With her large upper bodily strength, she pushed Ash onto the cage and screamed, “¡Tú lo mataste! ¡Te mataré! ¡Lo asesinaste! ¡Usted pagará esto en sangre! Lo juro en mi vida!

Ash gripped her hands and smirked coldly taunting her enemy with her own expression. It ripped Sani into frenzy as she grabbed her throat and raised her fist. With a roar, she primed her fist for a blow. Her holo vanished as someone on the other end cut her transmission. Ash relaxed her muscles as her foot met the ground. The cross from around Sani’s neck fell. It clattered onto the mat with a metallic sound. Bending over, she picked up the metal cross.

Walking toward the dead fighter, Ash fidgeted with the cross in her hand as she lifted the metal and placed the chain onto her other hand. Wrapping the chain into a pile, she transferred the cross necklace between her gloved hands. Stopping before Saint, the beast looked upon his form with respect. He fought well till the end. Bending down, she closed his eyes. Standing up, she placed the chain around her neck and placed the cross over her tank top covering her breast.

The announcer appeared and responded, “In a shocking turn of events, Saint Mark has perished as he lost his life to the Beast! Long live the true champion!”

Ash grunted at him and snarled baring her fangs. Licking the blood off her sharp canines, she turned to head out of the pit. Mackie approached her and slapped her shoulder squeezing it before speaking, “Good match, Ash. We won’t miss Saint because I never liked him the first time I saw him and even worse since his girlfriend conspired to poison you. Good riddance to him. He fought a good match though, but you are better than him.”

Mackie cooed touching the cross on her breast and inspected it. Ash grunted and snarled at her. Turning away, she walked from the cage. Mackie followed her and walked down the path. At the end, Tyler was waiting. Giving her nod, he responded, “Good. You handled that fight well. Are you ready to join the Strykers?”

Shaking her head, Ash responded with a snarl, “Not yet.”

Part 15.4 of 4.9: And finished with the first official invitation to the Strykers.

Turning to Mackie, she beckoned her forward. Tyler responded unsure, “I don’t know. I only have one slot available. I can only take you. Sackie will ha-“

With a roar, Mackie interrupted him with a snarl charging forward. She grabbed his chest and rammed his body against the wall. Her mouth was open as she roared lifting him against the wall. The twin beast was angry. Confused by her attitude, Tyler struggled against her.

However, Ash casually walked around Mackie. Touching her bulged biceps and stroking her shoulder muscles, she gripped her hardened traps and responded, “Ty, she has a real name you know. Her name is Mackenzie so call her Mackie. Now, I am not going anywhere without her. She goes with me anywhere. We are kind of a two for one deal. We are the twin beasts after all.”

Mackie snarled at Tyler as she gripped his chest and held him there. Baring her sharp canines, the strong Paxxian growled with anger as Tyler struggled against her might. With a gasp, he gripped her wrists and grunted with discomfort as she dug into his chest. Ash coolly stared at Tyler as she trailed her finger between the muscle line down Mackie’s other muscled arm.

The beast replied, “You listen to me, Ty. You want me? I can’t join unless she comes. It’s either the two of us or you are going to have to find another fighter to cover your vacant spot. What say you?”

Mackie growled as her open mouth quivered from the vibration of her jaw. She scowled at him with anger. Tyler gulped and responded, “Ah-okay Sa-uhh I mean Mackie, right? Mackie can come too. All you had to do was ask. No need for this kind of punishment. It’s rude.”

Satisfied, Ash offered an affirmative nod at him. Turning to her twin beast, she stroked her arm and lowered it slightly as she responded cooling her down, “You hear this Mackie? We’re going together. Now put him down. Do not damage him further. He still needs to be able to walk.”

Slowly, the angry Paxxian released as she lowered Tyler to the ground. Baring her teeth, Mackie snarled. Tyler gulped brushing himself off. Turning to Ash, he responded showing them the way, “Right. Come along you two. It’s this way. I already took the advantage of entering your contract into the Strykers. All you two have to do is to sign your names and it’s a done deal.”

Turning to her twin beast, Ash slapped her on the waist and motioned with her head. They walked side by side following Tyler along the corridor. They took a different path down the Underground and stopped at the end before a large room. It was the Strykers’ clubhouse. It was a huge building with several adjoining rooms specifically for the Strykers that included a personal gym, dining area, lockers, a lounge, a sparring room and a sleeping area all in one big building. Ash looked around curiously with wide eyed wonder.

Clapping Ash on the back, Tyler responded as they reached the small circle of his team members. There were three males and one female in total. They were all of the twenties to mid twenties age range as they were all older than Tyler himself. He spoke starting the introductions, “Guys, this is Ash and Mackie. They are our two newest recruits. Since they come in a pair, I am sure we can squeeze them both in. Make them feel welcome.”

Part 15.5 of 5.9: Making the introductions

The four members faced the twin beasts. They offered their nod as they listened to Tyler’s introductions. Tyler faced the beasts and pointed at the four members. He spoke, “The big one is Tra Lyth Vol of the Sauveterre Colony. He lived in the harsh wasteland of ice and hailstorms. Have you wondered how he got his size and strength right? It is because of the mountains. He hiked across the harsh hailstorms through jagged paths and moved mountains. Sauveterre is one of many Earth’s colonies beyond the stars. It used to be a Red-zone planet because of the hazardous and constant harsh storms, but now the people live there in several colonies across the ice world.”

Moving his hand, he pointed at the second man and resumed, “Tay Olmec Toshie. He hails from a region on the Terria Orient formally known as Asia. He is from Mongolia. One of the smartest fighters alive, he outwits and outlasts his opponents which makes him also the riskiest fighter as well. I am proud to have one of the best fighters in my team. The Strykers is nothing without him. He is also my second in command. If you have any problems, go to him and he will help if I am not here.”

Pointing his hand again at the last two, he finished, “And here we have the Xaverius twins name Pax and Amara. When they are not working with their father, they hang out with me and fight. They make most of their death matches just because they like killing and they are almost never without each other. Not once will you see them apart. They are inseparable like Siamese twins. They are good at what they do and will not take no for an answer because they can rip you apart like knives shredding plastic. Th-”

Tyler was rudely interrupted when Pax started rumbling in his mouth making cheering noises. He danced around on the floor. Raising his fists, he jabbed a few toward Ash speaking, “And the crowd goes wild as Pax stared down at the fallen fighter. Turning to his right, he nudged a few light punches toward the champion of the ring that is the Beast! As he lets in the new member into his wing, he shouts his name Pax Romania!”

Tyler glared at Pax angrily. Ash and Mackie stared at him curiously. The two other male fighters jostled each other while sniggering at him. However, Amara turned to her brother and rolled her eyes as she lightly rapped his shoulder. She responded, “That again? I let you pick the names and you pick the ones that make completely no sense!”

Pax turned to his sister and protested, “Buh-but Pax is my name and Romania is where we are from-“

Amara shook her head and smacked him on the head. She responded, “Yes-yes I know where we are from as our father enforced the location into our heads. We cannot forget it or we would be disowned.”

Not liking the head smack, Pax glowered his eyes and growled. He rammed his fist at his sister. Amara ducked taking a few steps back bouncing. She raised her fist and taunted him responding, “Come on! Come on big brother! You can’t catch me even if you tried.”

Pax chased her across the room. Amara flipped back and turned as she clambered onto the sparring circle. Pax grabbed the rope and bounded after his sister. They resumed their round around the mat hitting and blocking each other swiftly and skillfully. Their size and weight were the same as fraternal twins as their muscles were average. Not only were they strong, their agility and skill were on par.

Tyler glared at them. Finally he exhaled a sigh and responded to the group, “Well, there you have it. Ash and Mackie, if you have any questions be sure to ask. We’ll help you with anything.”

The other two fighter fist bumped both Ash and Mackie’s fists before they dispersed to do their thing. Tyler turned to the girls and gasped adding, “Oh wait! I forgot in the locker room are the new fight gear, the Stryker uniform and some new gloves. Remember the fingerless gloves I showed you before couple years ago? Well they finally arrived early and I already brought them for my team. It should be in your lockers. The gloves and the uniform commemorate your welcome into the team!”

Part 15.6 of 6.9: Meeting the Xaverius twins

Tyler waved at them with a smile and walked away. Turning to Mackie, Ash offered a brief nod and walked toward the ring where the twins were. Mackie followed. As they made their way to the ring, they climbed up onto the ropes. The cross on Ash’s torso swung in the air hanging from the metal chain around her neck as she climbed over. Her twin beast followed suit.

The twins finished their sparring and approached them. Amara responded beckoning them, “Come on in Ash and Mackie! Don’t be nervous, loves. We won’t bite-”

Turning to Pax, she winked and whispered, “Yet.”

Pax smirked and joked with her. He raised his fists and responded, “Yes come on in. We won’t bite.”

The twin beasts entered through the ropes. Amara approached Ash and responded touching her shoulder, “Ash? I heard a lot about you from my father actually. He said he met you once and was impressed with your form and your strength. I gotta say I am impressed as well. No one can go as far as you did. Stick with us, love. We can help you train and get stronger. Welcome to the team!”

Grasping the beast’s hand, Amara moved her arm toward her touching her bicep. Stroking it, she offered her smile. Turning to her brother, she spoke, “Pax, make her feel welcome.”

Pax shrugged his shoulders. He responded with anger, “Why should I? I know why she joined. Marc was a childhood friend of mine. I even introduced him to Tyler and got him started. He did not deserve that end. I hold a grudge, but whatever. It is Tyler I am upset at. He is the reason Saint Mark is dead. It was such a waste of talent for nothing. If Ash picks up her dead weight, then I will officially welcome her but until then she will have to prove herself first before I decide she’s worth my time.”

“Pax!” Amara shouted angrily at her brother. She watched him leave the ring in the opposite direction and step off the ring. Ash scowled at Pax as she started breathing heavily. Mackie felt her rage and copied her with a scowl at the retreating back of Pax.

Amara groaned exhaling a sigh and rubbed her forehead. Taking Ash’s arm, the other Xaverius twin looked up and replied to the beast apologetically, “I am so sorry, love. My brother means well. He is just angry. Saint Mark de Ryac was a true friend to us all and Tyler tore him away from us. However, we cannot afford to be angry at him. He is the son of the admiral. Besides, Pax is right. You need to prove yourselves first before you receive your official welcome. The introductory session was the start but you need to start the action of proving yourself next by fighting for the team. I know you will do well and so does Pax. We saw your matches. It will not be long before you and Mackie become one of us and one of the best.”

Grasping her hand, Amara led Ash across the mat. With a finger, she turned to the twin beast and smiled beckoning her, “Now come with me you two. It is time for your first official tour of this place. There is a lot to see before your next fight, loves.”

As Amara led them down from the mat across the ropes, Ash inquired, “Fight? Already?”

Amara nodded leading them across the room. She replied, “Yes. We are not the only people who were friends with the Saint Mark. Marc had a lot of friends in his circle. Some were his most trusted folks. None of them enjoyed his death just like that and they hate you now. One person came up to Tyler after the match. He demanded a fight with you. His name is Suiken Zhidao. Hailing from the western region of the Sands south of Terria Orient, he is a much tougher opponent. He will be quite the match to you, love. However, I believe in you. You will beat him. Now-“

Amara changed her subject as she led the twin beasts on their tour around the facility. She talked to them explaining a few things. With the name Suiken Zhidao fresh on her mind, Ash wondered a bit on her new opponent. This would be her first official fight for the Strykers.

Part 15.7 of 7.9: Returning to the fight and get several more tattoos later...

Thirty minutes passed. Ash was soaked in blood from her last match. Her fangs dripped with the blood of her opponent. It soaked the metal of the cross on her torso. She brutalized him dealing another killing blow. It was a hard fight. However, she prevailed through blood, sweat and tears. She and Mackie walked through the promenade.

Stopping before the door into the tattoo parlor, Ash hesitated. Sensing her hesitation, Mackie touched her shoulder and inquired, “What is it Ash?”

Turning to her twin beast, she responded shaking her head, “I don’t know if I want to enter. I still have questions but I do not want to appear weak.”

Offering a slight smile, Mackie responded with assurance, “It is fine if you don’t want to. I can come in first and ask him the questions you want to ask. I don’t mind as I am at your service. Tell me what to do. Ask me the questions and I will talk to him. Let me be your messenger.”

Ash stared at her twin beast. Blood trickle down her cheek. Wiping the blood away, she shook her head and responded coldly, “No Mack. It is okay. It has to come from me. Stay by my side. That is all I need from you now. I can handle this. Stand guard. I must speak to him alone.”

Mackie nodded silently. The order was understood. Turning around, she stood guard outside the parlor while Ash twisted the knob and opened the door. She entered through as the tattooist turned around. He exclaimed waving her in, “Ah Ash! I was wondering when you will be stopping by! Come in! What can I do for you today?”

Ash scowled at the dark eyed tattooist. Curling her left lips into a snarl, she bared her fangs and growled, “You saw the match?”

The humanoid tattooist exclaimed opening his arms. Seeing the cross hanging around her neck, he responded, “Yes! An excellent match! Let me guess! You want a tattoo of a cross over your right shoulder? Come sit!”

Ash nodded and approached the bench. Sitting down, she rested her bulky arms over her muscled legs. Her back was hunched over and she scowled through her curled dark hair into the mirror before her. She watched the large man prepare the tattoo machine and felt him rubbing her right shoulder. As he prepared to draw the tattoo, Ash spoke, “Hey.”

Part 15.8 of 8.9: Do you know your tattooist well?

Placing his hand on her shoulder, the tattooist burned the laser into Ash’s skin forming a line down. Ash grunted with a slight discomfort from the burning sensation. Without looking up, he inquired, “What is it?”

Ash grunted silently. With a snarl, she pondered on finding the correct words for her question. Finally as she turned her head ninety degrees to her left, she stared at him and inquired, “What are you?”

The man coughed clearing his throat. He ceased designing her tattoo as his laser turned off. Looking at Ash with his beast like eyes, he responded showing his sharp canines, “I am a Siriian. You don’t see many of us around here because we tend to stick to our area of space. A hundred years ago I ventured out on my own. Ever since the treaty between the Terrian Alliance and my people a hundred and thirty years ago, I have become curious about the humans. I was only a child then, wide eyed and eager to explore. I have been living here ever since as the only Siriian living on Earth.”

Ash nodded with curiosity and asked, “What are you called?”

A low growl uttered from below the tattooist as he snorted with disdain. Shaking his head, he scowled at her furiously and responded with frustration in his tone, “Ah! You ask for a name or a title to call one in order to make one different from others in a unique, special way? I am a Siriian. We are a proud race of people who keep our secrets. However, I have many names. People call me many things. Some call me disrespectful names. They call me friend, brother, Red, or dude. For past hundreds of years, they all call me with different human name without asking for my real name. I implore you, beast, ask again. I will provide the answer to the riddle behind my true name.”

Ash stared at him. Her expression was of confusion as she gazed into his dark eyes. She opened her mouth and inquired carefully, “What is your birth name?”

Her tattooist exhaled a breath. He was tired. Staring into the beast’s eyes, the man studied her for a few seconds. Moving closer to her ear, he whispered, “Malek.”

Ash stared at him and formed words in her mouth. She inquired curiously, “Malek?”

He blinked once with a singular nod and stared at her responding, “Yes. I am not yet ready to give you my true Siriian name as I only share it with my trusted confidants. Any more questions or can I continue giving you the tattoo you desire?”

Ash turned away from him and scowled at his reflection on the mirror. Refocusing his attention back onto her shoulder, the tattooist reactivated his laser and resumed burning the tattoo finishing the cross design on her muscle. The smoke rose from the edges of her tattoo as he rubbed the surface of her muscle. When he finished, he placed the device aside and replied, “I’m done. Is there anything else?”

Part 15.9 of 9.9: Tattoo done with one last question...

Ash turned to him and touched her shoulder. She moved her muscle and inspected her new cross. Satisfied, she looked at him and nodded responding, “That’s it. I have one last question.”

Malek replied with a tired expression, “Shoot.”

Forming the words in her head, the beast inquired, “You speak English well?”

The Siriian scoffed as he snorted with disrespect. Shaking his head, Malek replied, “Ah yes. It is a required language to learn even before living here. With the treaty made between the Terrian Alliance and the Siriian, we requested our language not to be added to the Database of Universal Knowledge in Metropolis. As we are a secretive race of people, we declined to comment. So I had to painstakingly learn the English language but it was hard because of the way the English language was formed or even spoken. Even after a hundred years, I still mess up on a few words.”

Ash nodded listening as Malek finished, “The Siriian language wasn’t the only one. Several other distinct languages including the Mekoiian dialect was not included because of the sensitivity of the words and the difficulty of translation. Only a true Siriian like myself can truly comprehend and speak the language. However, it does not mean that a Human cannot learn it. There have been non-Siri historians who visit the homeworld to learn the language and the people living there. Only a few have succeeded but it is through heavy studying and a patient but open mind they were able to do this.”

Malek finished talking as he stared at Ash with a cold tired expression. Ash stood and nodded without responding. He stared back. Suddenly, he stood holding his hand up speaking, “Wait! Let me see your cross.”

Ash inquired him with a curious expression with a snarl. Approaching him, she removed the chain around her neck and handed him the cross. Taking it, he inspected it. Turning it over, he noted the family name. Exhaling a sigh, he gazed at her and replied, “I can’t let you keep this. See the family crest? It belongs to the de la Cruz family.”

The beast stared at him with a confused expression. She listened as Malek resumed, “If they see you wearing this without permission, it is an insult to them. Unless it was a gift which in that case fine, you can wear it. However, you just stole it from their son’s corpse. It insults them. Fortunately for you, I know this family. As they are a big family, I will return it to them.

Ash nodded without responding. The beast understood what he meant. Malek watched her leave his parlor through the open doorway. The door closed shut. Taking the cross on his hand, Malek walked over to his desk. Opening the drawer, he pulled out a locked metal box. Taking the key from the bottom of his desk, he placed it through the keyhole. It unlocked automatically.

Opening the box, the tattooist inspected the contents. It was filled with all sorts of metal crosses, pendants, brooches and everything else that he found over the years. It was his treasure box. Adding the cross to the collection, he closed the box and locked it.

Outside the tattoo parlor, Ash faced Mackie and inquired, “Any trouble?”

Mackie stared at her and shook her head. She responded, “None. It is quiet around here.”

Touching her twin beast on the shoulder, Ash replied, “Good. Tell me the truth. Were you listening?”

Mackie offered her cold stare and pondered. She responded once, “Yes.”

Ash offered a cold smile. Slapping her arm muscle, she spoke, “Good. It is as you should be. A guardian must rely on her senses. Since you are under my service, you are required to hear everything and react in order to deal with it. You are not Paxxian without this sense, you understand?”

Her twin beast offered her silent affirmative nod. Ash replied as they walked across the large promenade side by side, “Excellent. Let’s get out of here.”

The people walked about in the promenade along the shops. They formed around the twin beasts as they recognized who they were. They were the two solitary beasts who would make people pay for crossing them. Even though they were young as they were only fifteen, they still made the impact in the Underground as two dominate champions who walked in stride side by side.

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