23 Mina

    Nix brought the group to see their guest.  He stopped a few feet away and introduced everyone.  "Mina these are members of the Daybreakers.  "This is Sharl, Ronnie, Wind, and Pon." He turned to his friends and gestured to the woman dressed in black.  "This is Filamina of the Souza Accord."

    She pulled down her mask and slipped her hood back.  There was a sharp intake of breath.  It's one thing to be told someone is an Aquarion, but being up close and personal is a different story.  "I am glad that you have brought your friends to meet me."

    Pon stepped forward and extended his hand. "Never did I imagine that I would shake hands with an Aquarion, perhaps this is a good omen."

    She shook his hand,  she actually knew three of the four people Nix had brought.  The trio were known as the Silent Killer, Fire Hands, and Death Spear.  She suppressed a shiver, there were probably only ten humans that her people had given names to, and four of them were standing in front of her.  "You will have a lot of questions.  I will answer everything."

    "Come inside and have a seat, there's no need to stand out here."  Nix led them inside and made sure they were comfortable, before taking a seat in a chair next to the sofa.

    "This is super odd right?"  Ronnie had been staring at the Aquarion woman the entire time.  "Sitting down on a couch with us?"

    "Call me Mina, I'm getting used to it." She turned her pale blue eyes on Nix. "I was scared to death to meet him."

    Ronnie wrinkled her nose, "scared of Nix?"  She favored him with a smile, "It's those fire strands right?"

    "Ronnie..."  Sharl interrupted her younger sister before turning to Mina.  "I have a question."

    Mina understood the difference between the sisters instantly.  "Ask your questions."

    "Won't the Aquarions die away as a race if they don't continue to steal human girls?"  This was the sticking point with Sharl, any life form will fight when faced with their extinction.

    "It's true that our babies are inherently male. Eventually, we will die out." Mina was silent for a few moments before she continued, "I am only 25 years old, my life expectancy is about four hundred years.  If this baby stealing were to stop today, the last of us would die out in about four hundred and fifty years."

    The old fire mage had been watching her carefully, sometime during the conversation he had stopped thinking of her as the enemy. "How many people are in your faction?"

    "Not many, we are cast out and hunted down.  There are about six hundred of us left."  Mina glanced downward, "we are constantly moving from place to place."

    "You're trying to convince your people to walk a path that will lead to their extinction."  Sharl had decided that Mina was telling them the truth, but also that she was seriously misguided.  "They will not accept that.  What can Six hundred do against hundreds of thousands?"

    "We will do what we can. Build our strength, and build the strength of our allies.  There will be a day when we destroy the artifact that has taken so many human girls."

    Ronnies dark eyes shone with emotion, "I will join your cause."

    Sharl tried not to frown at her sister's words.  "Let's be clear, the artifact didn't take a single human girl, it is incapable of doing so.  That was done by your people."

    Mina locked her eyes on Sharl, "We can make you stronger.  Strong enough to fight your way into the temple where the artifact is kept."

    "It's on the twelfth floor isn't it?"  Pon spoke in a whisper, "lore says that a powerful artifact waits at the end of the Mermaid City raid."

    Mina nodded, "the god pathway that the humans walk to explore Mermaid City, eventually leads to the artifact."

    Wind whistled softly, the noise made Mina jump slightly.  "We are on the second floor of the fourth stage.  We had to cheat to get there."

    Sharl frowned at her scout, "the strongest human guild is also there."

    "We can help you get through the stages.  It will take some time, but we will work with you and present shortcuts whenever we can.  On the last floor, you will face the Elder Matriarchs.  If you defeat them, you will be able to complete the mission."

    Pon considered her words, "you should tell us why you are really here.  I believe you are sincere about this mission to destroy the artifact.  I also know that such a thing is years away, even with your help."

    "There's a serious threat to your race in the South.  A Beast-Master has arisen and grows stronger every day."

    Sharl leaned forward slightly, she too had heard the rumblings of someone called Alpha.  "What is a Beast-Master?"

    "She doesn't know any more about him than we do." Nix nodded slightly at Mina, "I will join you and the Souza Accord.  I give you leave to bring all of them here."

    Sharl looked at him in surprise, he had jumped in rather quickly.  "I think it's a bad idea to bring them here."

    Nix looked at her with an innocent smile.  "Do I tell you who to allow into your Guild Hall?"

    Ronnie covered a laugh when she saw her sister's expression, Nix had a point.

    Mina's pale face showed her shock, she hadn't expected that Nix would offer them sanctuary.  "Thank you, Nix, and I want to thank all of you for listening to my words."

    Sharl bowed slightly, "I will speak with my officers and consider this carefully."

    Nix brought them all back to Jenza and then immediately returned to The Sea-World.  When he returned he noticed Mina was kneeling on the sand studying his Manta eggs.  "They should hatch soon."

    Mina nodded, "very soon.  You stopped me from talking about the Beast-Master.  Why?"

    "From the sound of things the Beast-Master skills might be similar to the Sea-Beast Skills that your Matriarchs have."

    Mina touched the surface of the Aviante egg, "A skill that you also have."

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    "I wish to hide those skills as long as I can."  Nix held out a hand and helped her up.  "If the enemy is a Beast-Master, I don't want him to see me coming."

    "I'm going to start bringing in the members of the Souza Accord since I have your permission."

    She disappeared from the beach and Nix immediately brought up his Sea-Beast Menu.  "I'm going to need animals that can fight on land and sea, something vicious."

    He released all the animals in his stable, this included King Lubo.  The King and Wind had taken a liking to each other, it would be up to the scout to make it permanent.


    Nix was sitting on the couch of the luxury suite in the Kindled Spirit when Hyai walked in with his dinner and an unexpected guest, Cyan from the Temple of Shi.  Hyai would leave a dinner menu on his desk every day, later they would eat together in his room.  It was a comfortable thing that reminded Nix of his childhood.  The three of them sat down and starting eating their dinner.

    "I hadn't expected to see you here Cyan.  It's an unexpected surprise."

    The black-haired woman smiled at Nix, "I should have come by sooner to say thank you."

    Nix waved it off, "I only did my part."

    Hyai poured them all wine, "Cyan has another reason for visiting today."

    The temple priestess nodded in agreement.  "Something has happened to Shi, the Ice Spirit that inhabits our sanctuary.  She grows steadily weaker yet I can find no reason."

    Nix noticed that both women were watching him carefully.  "I'm not a healer. What can I do for an Ice Spirit?"

    Cyan shook her head, "the issue is in her Domaine.  Her presence in our Temple is only the smallest of seeds.  From our altar, I can send you directly to her."

    The Domaine of an Ice Spirit didn't sound like the most welcoming place to Nix.  "Let me guess, lots of Ice and freezing temperatures?"  The thought of it brought back the memory of his trip from the Gladis Hub.

    "Yes, however, you will have the blessing of the temple.  The cold will not bother you."   Cyan clasped her hands together, "I am already in your debt Nix, you will be rewarded handsomely for your service."


    Nix enjoyed a good night sleep and despite Cyan's assurances of the Temple's blessing, he packed several extreme cold-weather items that he had made especially for the trip.  At dawn he entered the Temple of Shi, Cyan was waiting for him.

    "I am ready."  Nix stepped onto the altar, dreading the feeling of biting cold.

    "Receive the Blessings of Shi and travel with her favor."  A white light enveloped Nix, comfortable and warm when it faded he found himself standing in a vast ice cavern.  As Cyan promised, he was quite comfortable.

    "She said I would be sent to where the problem lays."   Nix brought up his hud map and marked his location.  The cavern was several miles across, somewhere in here was Shi the Ice Spirit.

    He walked for several minutes before he found a clue, blood on the snow.  The tracks to two different groups were present, there were splatterings of blood everywhere, a running battle was being waged.  From the looks of it, at least one side was Aquarion.  Aquarion blood was a few shades lighter than human blood, it stood out on the cold white surface.

    Nix broke into a trot and followed the tracks.  A few minutes later the sounds of fighting reached his ears, he slowed down and readied himself.

    A half dozen Aquarions were surrounded by a dozen of their own people.  Nix noted that there were no Matriarchs present.  The three casters of the larger group were in the back, closest to him.  "Can I assume you are from the Souza Accord?  And that these others are your enemies sent to deal with you?"

    There had been a short pause in the battle as the larger group had moved in to surround them.  However, when he spoke, he received the attention of both groups.

    One of the Aquarion men from the surrounded group spoke, " I am Zhava from the Souza Accord, you should flee quickly and save yourself."

    "Since we are allies, I can't do that."

    A single male from the larger group turned to face him, he was one of the casters.  "Kill the rebels, I will deal with the human."

    Instantly three strands reached out and latched onto the speaker's throat, he screamed soundlessly and dropped to his knees.  Nix sent a strand at the other two casters arms since they were both holding weapons, their combined strength yanked him to his knees.  He struggled to get up while holding them at bay.

    Footsteps from the left of him warned of someone approaching.  Two Aquarions had broken off from the main group and were charging him with weapons held high.  He quickly dropped the single strands he had on the casters and put them on the charging melee, something slammed into his side a moment later.  He skidded across the ice for a few yards and rolled quickly to his feet.

    He had managed to kill one of the casters, but now he faced two casters and two more melees.  "I'm f*cked."

    He raised his hands and an instant later the two charging melees burst into flames, they collapsed on the ice, kicking and screaming.  "The hell..."

    "You're not allowed to touch him."  A voice spoke from the air behind him.  A red-haired girl bathed in flames hovered above the ground, she placed herself between Nix and the Aquarions.
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