12 Mermaid City

    "That's better."  Nix slipped on the Aquatic suit, he left the rest of his gear in his inventory. Customizing the suit had increased the speed to +15. He had repeated the process in the morning with the Mage Water ring and had further raised that to +18. "I better let Sharl know that next time I see her."

    The dark blue aquatic suit felt like a second skin.  When examined close you could see the faint outline of fish scales. He activated Deep Blue and chose Lake Cavern.  The first thing he noticed was there were a few dozen baby turtles on the beach. They didn't run away when he approached them, so he knelt down next to a group of three that were crawling over each other.

    Their shells were still soft and gray, according to Ronnie, they would harden and turn black when they reached adulthood.  They were already the size of a dinner plate.  He touched the surface of one of the small shells causing the turtle to immediately scurry away.  "Damn... don't be such a baby."

    He tried it to another one, but instead of retreating, this one moved closer to him.  Nix chuckled to himself.  "You must be a female."  He repeated the action with his other hand, sighing to himself when it crawled away.  "Guess it's not my charm after all."  He looked at his hands holding them out in front of him.  "Is it the ring?"

    He walked to the lake's edge and placed his hand in the water.  Immediately the turtles made a bee-line toward him.  "Let's go swimming then."

    He dove into the water, immediately a bubble of air formed around his face enabling him to breathe and speak.  He swam a few strokes and then headed toward the bottom.  Although he had liked to swim when he was younger, nothing prepared him for how fast he moved with the aquatic suit on.

    He used his arms to stroke hard, his feet kicking as he banked and made circles faster than a human should be able to swim.  He felt the tiny brushes of flippers against him whenever he would turn suddenly, every turtle in the cavern was following him.

    He swam for a long time, until he was completely worn out, both his strength and endurance had improved during the swim.  The turtles followed him onshore and when he sat down they crowded in around him.    He recognized the first one who had come to him, its shell was a few shades lighter than the rest of them. It didn't panic when he picked it up.  "I should give you a name.  How about Soup?"

    He sat Soup back on the sand and stood up.  "Time to go."  He activated Deep Blue and chose Mermaid City."

    He found himself hovering over a seashell-shaped portal platform.  "Of course, I'm already underwater."  The platform was at the end of a dead-end hallway.  There was a high ceiling that glowed like fluorescent stones.  He swam easily down the hall, it came to 'T' after about a hundred meters.

    The sound of fighting came from the left side, while the right side was eerily quite. He went left and kept close to the floor.  The hallway ended in a steel gate, there was no obvious way to open it. There were bodies floating on the other side, five remaining humans were standing off against a dozen Aquarians.

    Two Aquarians in back were obviously casters, the space around their bodies glowed with a pale blue light.

    "Keep the tanks alive! How's your mana Mica?"  A slender woman with black hair and pale skin fired off shots from her rifle while trying to flank the Aquarions.

    "Twenty percent!"  A red-haired man with wide shoulders and big belly yelled out.  "Pull back Jun Li!"

    The slender woman shook her head, "it's too late.  The other two groups have already wiped."

    Not sure what possessed him, but Nix pushed both hands through the gate and hit each caster with a fire strand, one landed around the neck and the other hit the arm.  He braced himself with a foot against the gate and pulled.

    Both groups were surprised by the sudden interference.  They reacted vastly different.  The humans pushed forward to force the fight while the casters were distracted.  The Aquarians went into full retreat mode, leaving their casters to die.

    The two casters were quickly slain by humans.  Nix backed quickly away from the gate when they died.

    "Quick, open the gate!"  It was the woman they called Jun Li who spoke.

    Nix shook his head, "no idea how to do that."  He looked down the hall he had come from earlier, a group of Aquarians could be seen racing toward him.  "Sorry, gotta go."

    Jun Li grabbed the gate from the other side, shaking it in frustration.  "Shit!!"

    He activated Deep Blue and chose Lake Cavern.

    The woman's dark eyes stared, "what's your name?"

    Nix shrugged, "you first."

    "I'm Jun Li from the Salamander Guild!"  The man disappeared in mid-sentence leaving her staring down the hall at the Aquarians.

    Mica moved next to her, frowning at the approaching Aquarians. "What the hell were those fire ropes and how is he on that side of the gates Commander?"

    Jun Li shook her head.  "Both good questions."


    Nix appeared next to the hut on the beach, the turtles immediately scuttled toward him.  "Now we're friends?"  He picked up Soup and stroked her smooth shell, "still gonna eat you, but not just yet."

    He slipped armor on over his aquatic suit, while he considered his next actions. "I should have explored further, and not given myself away."  Nix kicked the sand in frustration and sat Soup down.  He activated Deep Blue and chose Jenza.

    Ronnie had mentioned that they would be doing a bit of shopping before heading out to grind levels.  The sister duo stood out among the vendors of the market square.

    Nix purchased a box lunch and then walked in their direction.  Ronnie spotted him almost right away.

    "Nix!"  She had her hair down for once, both hands were loaded with bags.

    Sharl watched him without saying anything, "do you have room for the swimming ability in your support skills?"

    "Maybe, how much does it cost?"  Nix was aware that you could only spend 10 points on support skills, he also knew that they could be reset.

    Ronnie leaned closer and handed him a bag.  "How much do those Flame things cost?"

    Nix kept his face expressionless, "they aren't too bad."

    "Quit pestering him Ronnie, swimming cost two points, the skill book is super cheap, so I picked one up for you."  Sharl handed him a copper-covered book.

    Nix grabbed the book with his free hand.  "Suppose that will add to our movement speed underwater?"

    Sharl nodded. "With swimming maxed and the boost from the Aquatic suits, we'll be super fast."

    "Follow me back to the boutique, I've got good news and bad news."

    There were still a half dozen shoppers in the boutique when the trio entered.  The underwear product line had been selling out in the first two hours every day.  Lela was helping a customer when they walked in.

    "Welcome to Shana's Boutique."  She said it before she looked up, a quick smile formed and she glanced toward the shop door.  "Mom is in the back."

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    Maye smiled at them when they entered.  "A bit early to see you Nix, but welcome anyway."

    "Tell me the news already!"  Sharl's dark face showed her impatience, "I'll take the good news first."

    "Sure, that's the way to go."  Nix took a seat at the workbench.  "I can improve the Aquatic suits to +18."

    Sharl smiled, "I'd call that fantastic news, every little bit makes a difference.  What's the bad news?"

    "I'll have to customize them to each person on the raid."

    "Oh, I see... I wouldn't say that is bad news.  I can figure out the raid list early."

    Nix glanced at Maye, she had understood immediately.

    Maye smiled at Sharl. "Of course, that will mean you will need to purchase them."

    Sharl tried not to grimace, Maye only looked like a sweet old lady.  "What kind of price are we looking at?"

    Maye patted her on the arm, "I'll give you a special discount, of course, let me do some figuring and we'll talk numbers tomorrow."

    A few minutes later Nix was walking Sharl and Ronnie back to the portal platform.  "Hey Sharl, do you know a person named Jun Li?"

    Sharl frowned at the name. "She's the Guild Leader of Salamander."

    "I heard some people mention her name and the Mermaid City."  Nix stopped before the platform, "I have a portal stone.  How do I figure out how many people I can bring when I travel?"

    Ronnie's dark eyes flashed at him, "I saw one for sale at the market, a return to Bind stone costs 200 million credits.  Don't tell me you bought one!"

    Nix shook his head, "one dropped off of a kill I made."

    Sharl considered his words, "you have good luck.  How many you can take depends on the quality.  Most carry only the holder."

    "Want to help me see?"  He held out both his hands.

    The two sisters smiled at each other, Ronnie grabbed his hand first.  "You aren't trying to whisk us away are you?"

    Nix nodded, "I just said I was."

    Sharl grabbed his extended hand and he activated Deep Blue and chose his  Binding point.  A moment later, the three of them appeared in Cyphix.

    "Damn it Nix."  Ronnie cursed him and huddled against her sister.  Neither was dressed for the cold weather of Cyphix.

    "Sorry."  He grabbed their hands and activated Deep Blue again, this time he chose Lake Cavern.

    The turtles seemed scared of the two women and kept their distance.  Sharl and Ronnie were stunned into silence.

    "You have an origin stone,"  Sharl said it in a whisper.

    Nix had decided that hiding it from Sharl would be too difficult.  She would know the best way to utilize it to their advantage.  He linked them the bracelet.  "This dropped off of an Aquarion that ambushed me."

    Deep Blue

    Bracelet: Heroic

    Description: This bracelet

    acts as a portal key.  You

    may store up to four locations

    for instant travel.

    Slot: Lake Cavern

    Slot: Binding point

    Slot: City of Mermaids

    Slot: Jenza

    Ronnie whistled softly.  "City of Mermaids was already on it?"

    "Yes, the Lake Cavern cannot be removed, I added Jenza for ease of traveling to the boutique."

    Sharl's dark eyes stared at him. "There's no telling where in Mermaid City you would end up, it's too dangerous to try.  What if you died and lost the bracelet?"

    Nix grinned, "yeah... I already tried it out."  He told them everything that had happened with the excursion, including the meeting with Jun Li.

    "Damn Nix."  Ronnie was alternating between frowning and smiling.  "You got lucky.  What if it had been the throne room?"

    Sharl nodded in agreement. "There's no telling where you ended up, but we may be able to figure it out.  Can you drop me off at the Jenza platform?  I want to gather everything we have on Mermaid City."

    "Yep."  He grabbed their hands and then activated Deep Blue.  "I'll take you back now."
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