26 Fifth Stage

    Semmi and Zhava walked in together, the Salamander scout smiled in appreciation.  "This is quite the upgrade you've been hiding Nix."

    Nix didn't reply. "How is the Fourth Floor's 2nd stage looking?"

    Semmi sighed in frustration, "impossibly difficult."

    "This is Mina, a friend, and an ally of mine."

    Semmi greeted the Aquarion, her face showed none of the nervousness that other humans had shown when first introduced.  "So Mr. Nix.  You seem to be hiding a few things.  Shae Balefire, the rebel faction of Aquarions.  What else are you harboring in your secret Sea Lair?"

    "Turtles, Manta eggs and women's underwear."

    "That is curious.  Don't you make men's underwear also?"

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    "Just for myself."  Nix gestured toward Mina, "she's taking me to the fifth floor."

    Mina pursed her lips, "how's your level Nix?"

    "Locked at 50," Nix teased her with a smile, "I'll tell you what the fifth floor looks like when I see it."

    "You'll need a strong guild to take on Mermaid City."  Semmi returned his smile, "I can guild you right here."

    Nix opened the Guild hud interfaced and applied for a new guild.  He paid the 5 million credit fee and named it, 'Inferno.'   "No thanks."

    Semmi wasn't surprised to see him start his own guild.  Nix was hard to predict. "I can come as a guest player if you like."

    "Maybe next time."  Nix stood up and headed toward the door, "I'll be ready in a few minutes, just have to return everyone."

    Pon and Wind were still talking with Shae.  They both asked to remain at the Sea World for the time being.

    Nansu had to be pulled away from one of the Aquarion herbalists that were planting seeds.  "Can I come back?  That herbalist Fajii knows all about sea medicines."

    "This must be kept a secret Nansu."

    Nansu was standing next to Chael, they both nodded in reply.  After spending time with both of them, Nix realized they were an item.

    "We won't say anything Nix."  Nansu held up a bag she had received for Fajii, "I'm going home to plant these."

    [Nansu has sent you a friend request.]

    [Chael has sent you a friend request.]

    "Fine, I usually drop off items at Shana's Boutique in Jenzi every morning. If you are there I'll bring you in."

    [Nansu is now your friend.]

    [Chael is now your friend.]

    Semmi grabbed his hand, her face serious.  "I won't say anything to Junie, but you should."

    Nix shook his head, "this is enough for now."   He activated Deep Blue and chose Jenzi.  After dropping them off he immediately returned to the Sea-World.

    By the time Nix returned to the cottage, Mina had geared up.  She had removed the black outfit that she used to move around in human lands and was wearing the caster battle gear of Aquarions.

    "Tell me more about what we will face."

    "You don't wish to bring anyone in with us?"  Mina had been surprised to learn that he wouldn't be taking any of his friends.

    "It's not that I don't  want to bring my friends, the time isn't right."

    "I have several points in Mermaid City saved onto Deep Blue.  Since the slots were increased, I was able to add more."

    "Right, my Deep Blue came with a saved point that enabled both the Daybreakers and Salamander Guilds to move directly to the second floor."

    "We'll be jumping floors Nix, all the way to the end of the fifth.  A single Matriarch stands between us and advancement."

    Nix whistled. "Can the two of us defeat a Matriarch?"

    "It will be difficult, she'll have forty sea-beasts also.  However, the enhanced Vilas should give us an edge.

    "What's a Vila?"

    "It used to be a smaller version of the Salt-Water crocodile, however, an Elder Matriarch has enhanced them and purposefully set them loose on the God Path."

    Nix considered her words for a moment. "I thought there were strict rules regarding interference by the Elder Matriarchs?"

    "The God path is the human route that weaves in and out of Mermaid City.  The God Path only uses copies of us to fight human progress.  The Elders have managed to seed several areas with creatures that weren't supposed to be there."

    Nix sighed heavily. "I've always wondered why the top guild hasn't climbed higher."

    "This is why.  There are six stages on the fourth floor.  The sixth stage itself is nothing but a race. If we are able to win, you will advance to the Fifth floor which has seven stages."

    "The Cai-song Artifact is at the end of the 12th floor?"

    "Yes, your current strength is not enough to even consider it."

    Nix equipped his under armor and Malu Aquatic gear.  He released his stable into the Sea World.  It didn't much matter to him, the turtles were friendly with him no matter what.  He could always pick them up again later.  "Let's give it a try then."

    Mina nodded and held out her hand, then activated her Deep Blue and chose Mermaid City Slot three.  An instant later they disappeared from the Sea World and appeared over a platform in a large empty room.

    Nix glanced around, there were four hallways leading to the room they were in.  He summoned Soup.

    Mina pointed toward the North hall.  "Down that hall is the Matriarch and end of the fifth stage.  We want the South hall, those are where the Vilas are.

    Mina swam leisurely down the south corridor, to her surprise Nix had no problems keeping up, even though he wasn't riding Soup.  She pulled up just before they arrived at another room.

    Nix didn't have to pretend to be impressed.  If the Vila had been a small crocodile at some point, then it had undergone major changes.  Its legs were lengthened and ended in four webbed feet with terrifying claws. Its body and snout had been shortened quite a bit.  Rows of razor-sharp teeth in a mouth that was nearly as wide as it was long.  They were roughly the size of a large wolf, even the scaled body looked like it had been reinforced.

    Mina smiled at his reaction.  "The Elder Matriarch probably has something much more refined already, she trained these up and left them here."

    Nix returned her smile, "it's not even my birthday."

    "Go ahead Nix."

    [Scan Surrounding Areas?]


    [Scanning, Stand By...]

    [80 Sea Beasts have been located.]

    [Type 1: Enhanced Vila: 80]

    Nix looked at the menu. "There's eighty of them."

    "The Elder Matriarch would have emptied her stable here, just take your twenty, that will be enough to finish off this floor and take on the Beast Master."

    [Do you wish to Train the Available Sea-Beasts?]


    The wait patiently while the progress bar moved, retraining beasts that had been tamed once seemed to go a bit faster than the first time.

    "I only have twenty beasts in my stable at this time, the Matriarch we are about to face will have forty."

    Mina nodded, "they will be standard sea-beasts though, nothing enhanced.  There's no telling what type of creature she'll have."

    "Still, it will be forty against twenty, I don't want you to get hurt, Mina."

    Mina lips curved in a smile, "it's a necessary risk."

    [20 Sea-Beasts in the Area have been Tamed.]

    He chose the add to Stable option.

    [Level 1 Stable has 20/20 Occupants]

    "No."  Nix removed the Ricoli artifact from his wrist and handed it to her.  "Time for our side to have an Aquarion Sea-Beast Master."

    "Nix..."  Her pale eyes stared at him, her mouth opening and then closing in surprise.  He was giving her a charged Ricoli artifact, the kind that only Matriarchs had access to.  "Thank you."

    "We're allies, the stronger you are the better it is for me."  Nix waited while she went through the activation process and then started training Vila.

    Mina stared at the access bar that only Matriarchs of her kind usually watched.  "Whenever you want to use it to retrain beasts, you just need to ask me."  Unlike her, Nix didn't need to be wearing the Ricoli artifact to use the Sea-Beasts to fight.

    "Thanks, I will do that if this Matriarch we are about to fight doesn't have one."

    "Right!  Of course, she'll have one.  Thank you, Nix!"

    A few minutes later they returned to the room they had initially ported into.  They both summoned their stables.  Nix couldn't stop his heart from pounding, they were some scarey looking creatures.

    This time they headed down the North hall.

    "Together we have forty beasts, the Matriarch will also have that many.  What kind of tactic do you favor Nix?"

    "You stay out of the battle and have your beasts defend me.  I will also put mine in defense mode."

    Mina looked at him, her face showing concern.  "What about the Matriarch?"

    "Leave her to me, if it goes badly use Deep Blue to retreat and we'll regroup back there."

    Mina knew that some of the humans in Colonial were immortals,  so she went along with his plan.  "I've heard how terrifying your fire ropes are, I will be sure to watch carefully."

    "Um... right.  Let's go  then"

    [Command: Defend Nix]

    They stopped at the entrance to the room, the Matriarch was standing there by herself, none of her beasts had been summoned yet.

    Nix glanced at Mina, her face showed that she was also surprised.  He flashed toward the Matriarch, she looked up just as six fire strands landed on her, two around her neck and two around each arm.  She screamed soundlessly while her eyes reflected absolute horror.  With six strands on her, she couldn't move at all.  Mina decided to set her beasts on her and the water clouded light red with blood as twenty Vilas tore into the Matriarch.  It was over in less than a minute.

    Mina swam up to the Matriarch corpse and removed her Ricoli artifact, she handed it to Nix.  "You can handle a Matriarch by yourself."  Her face showed her shock, "you may even match up with an Elder if her beasts were stabled."

    Nix slipped on the artifact and then pulled it off again immediately.

    "What's the matter Nix?"  Mina moved closer and picked up the artifact he had dropped.

    "There are beasts stored in that one, I can't put it on until it's emptied."

    Mina smiled, "fortune favors us then.  We'll take them back with us.

    Nix walked to the platform that had risen up out of the floor, he opened the small black chest.

    He made a face at Mina, "all fire gear.  One katana, a pistol and a pair of boots."

    "Better change Mina, Salamander or the Daybreakers could be in the staging area."

    Mina nodded and quickly changed into her black gear with the hooded mask.  She followed Nix through the exit.

    Colonial Message System: Congratulations to Inferno for being the first guild to clear the fifth stage on the fourth floor in Mermaid City.  All members of the raid will receive the Ring of Fire.

    Ring of Fire

    Ring: Unique

    Description: The effectiveness

    of fire-based skills has been


    Mina refused to put the ring on, she tossed it to Nix. "Want to clear six now?"

    Nix shook his head, "if it's just a race, then I'll come back with allies so we can maximize the clearance rewards."

    Mina nodded and held out her hand.  "Head back now?"

    Nix grabbed her hand and activated Deep Blue, then chose Sea-World.  "Yes, good job today.  Let's head home."
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