149 A Clear Path

    A week passed quietly, the Inferno Guild marched steadily forward in the tower and Mermaid City but were suspiciously quiet on the Oasis front.

    [Officer Meeting: Guildhall on Glory Island]

    /Guild Officer: Nix: We have two tough challenges to finish the week. The 79th floor and 7.9 in Mermaid City.  Preferences?

    /Guild Officer: Jun Li: I prefer to head up the Mermaid City team.

    /Guild Officer: Semmi: Same here.

    /Guild Officer: Nix: Those who want to take on the Mermaid Tower raise your hand.

    /Guild Officer: Jun Li: That means Pon, Wind, Banzi, Nix, and Chael will take floor 79.

    /Guild Officer: Tess: With no heals?  There's a five-person limit, so if you want me to go someone will have to swap out.

    /Guild Officer: Sharl: Let Banzi come with the Mermaid City group, Morti can tank that floor.

    /Guild Officer: Tess: Yes!  I'm in!

    /Guild Officer: Nix: Okay, I'm sending everyone a short letter from a group called the Cabal.  Please read and then we'll discuss.


    We would like to congratulate you and the members of Inferno for your incomparable work in Colonial, the Embassy and Oasis.  We've been observing the progress you have made these past few months, we feel that Inferno has all the parts necessary to become an Ascendant Guild.  You're only a mid-tier Guild now, yet you wield more power than any of the Upper-Tier Guilds.  Oasis is an important part of that journey, however, the Embassy is an equally vital piece.  The Embassy was built to put the pieces in place for an Upper-Tier Guild to advance to the next level. We did not foresee that it would be Inferno that took the prize.

    Continue to advance and weigh your options carefully.  At this time we can't offer you anything other than encouragement.

    Regards, TC

    /Guild Officer: Pon: That's some vague ** right there.

    /Guild Officer: Semmi:  The 70th floor is key in progressing passed the Upper-Tier level?

    /Guild Officer: Wind: That would mean that the strongest Upper-Tier Guilds should have been battling to finish the 69th raid rather than the Escalades Bridge?

    /Guild Officer: Nix: I've been studying this a few days.  Beating the 69th floor gives us the ability to cross the Escalade and come back through the Parliament.  That must be the key to this higher tier.

    /Guild Officer: Semmi: I get it.  There must be something on the Embassy Upper levels.  Something really big.

    /Guild Officer: Pon: Resolute was trying desperately to beat the 69th floor, Caza told me that Sulane was pushing them every day, wipe after wipe.

    /Guild Officer: Jun Li: We made choices that no one else thought of.  The Aquarion Spirit companions and the Nemesis Allies, we were able to step pass Resolute and take their prize.

    /Guild Officer: Semmi: Look at the chain reaction of some of our steps.  The battle of Espana Bay, the Faction Event, even Nix uncovering the Cai'Song Artifact conspiracy.  All of these together brought us to a key place.

    /Guild Officer: Nix: Nope... you lost me, Sem.

    /Guild Officer: Pon: Same here.

    /Guild Officer: Semmi: What would you say was the biggest single factor in beating the 69th floor.

    /Guild Officer: Nix: There were several factors, but when it comes down to it... I'd have to say, Mortimer.

    /Guild Officer: Jun Li: The key place was Shangri?

    /Guild Officer: Sharl: A bear cub, that can stand off a Salamander Nemesis and Ced' Far... None of the tanks could have done it.  At least not at the mid-tier level.

    /Guild Officer: Semmi: That's why it should have been an Upper-Tier Guild that grabbed the prize.  We are strong, but we aren't there yet.

    /Guild Officer: Ronnie: Shangri was where Nix found him.

    /Guild Officer: Nix: I wonder if Sulane received a letter like this one.  Perhaps that's why Resolute remained behind while the other Upper-Tier pushed forward into Oasis.

    /Guild Officer: Ronnie: That's a good theory Nix!  I'm so jealous.

    /Guild Officer: Nix: Something to think about anyway.  Next item...Have all the members of Inferno reserved homestead plots?

    /Guild Officer: Semmi: Yes, thankfully there aren't any disputes over land.

    /Guild Officer: Nix:  Let's go ahead and let everyone use their Homestead Tokens on the plots they've reserved.

    /Guild Officer: Semmi: Sounds good. I'm going with a nice farm.  Golden fields of Wheat.

    /Guild Officer: Jun Li: Going to build a Vineyard.

    /Guild Officer: Wind: Cattle ranch.

    /Guild Officer: Nix: Horse Ranch.

    /Guild Officer: Ronnie: Water Park.

    /Guild Officer: Sharl: Oh god...

    /Guild Officer: Nix: Nice Ronnie, I'm backing you up.

    /Guild Officer: Pon: A Toma Brewery.

    /Guild Officer: Wind: F*ck... That's a good one.

    /Guild Officer: Sharl: I should have thought of that.

    /Guild Officer: Jun Li: Oi... Is that why you set up so close to Semmi?  You two are going into business?

    /Guild Officer: Semmi: Yes.

    /Guild Officer: Pon: Yep.

    /Guild Officer: Nix: Let's take the day off from raiding so everyone can start their builds.


    /Go Fish/ Jun Li: Start the build and then hit the spot?

    /Go Fish/ Semmi: I'm in.

    /Go Fish/ Nix: Me too.

    Nix whistled as he walked through the woods.  He had found the place a few days earlier, a small clearing right at the base of a two hundred foot cliff.  Nix placed his hand on the smooth granite wall. When Shae eventually returned, she could make as many caves as she liked.

    The Homestead Token pulsed with power when Nix activated it. A large menu of different types of buildings became available and he scrolled down the list until he arrived at Horse Ranch.  The main house would be a traditional ranch style.  He chose a sprawling two-story ranch house with a large kitchen and dining area.  There were six bedrooms and a balcony that wrapped around the front of the home.  There were three other buildings that accompanied the ranch.  A large barn with a corral. A horse stable for a dozen horses and a bunkhouse for ranch hands to stay in. Nix envisioned a place teeming with workers and horses.

    Nix adjusted the locations of the bunkhouse, he wanted it closer to the grazing area and he moved the barn a bit further away from the Main house.  He definitely didn't want to smell fresh manure when he was eating or sleeping.  When he was satisfied he activated the build Icon and walked away.  His countdown said 14 hours.

    Flash came down to visit him as Nix walked toward the fishing spot. There were five mares following him.  "Must be nice to be King.  I expect some production from you guys sooner or later."  He took out an apple from his inventory and fed it to the black stallion.  It was a habit he had started and it made Flash more approachable.  He gave one to each of the Mares as well, no need to play favorites.

    Semmi and Jun Li were already waiting when he arrived at the river.  Their fishing hole had evolved a bit in recent days.  Each of them had their own chair and their rods had been upgraded.  Nix's fishing skill stood at 52 while both Semmi and Jun Li were at 46.  Even though Jun Li's skill was lower than his, she seemed to have the best luck fishing.

    /Go Fish: Semmi: Welcome Nix, we were waiting for you.

    /Go Fish: Jun Li: What's the cook time on your ranch?

    /Go Fish: Nix: 14 hours. You guys?

    /Go Fish: Semmi: 8 hours.

    /Go Fish: Jun Li: 10 hours.

    /Go Fish: Nix: How does it work with production type builds?

    /Go Fish: Semmi: With grain fields, it clears the area I chose for fields and then auto-plants the first-year crop.  I'll have to do the harvesting and planting after this.

    /Go Fish: Jun Li: It's the same for my vineyard.  I'll probably have to find some hands to help with the harvest.

    /Go Fish: Nix: Got a label name for your wine?

    /Go Fish: Jun Li: Junie.

    /Go Fish: Nix: I like it.

    Nix baited his hook and cast his line into the river. The space they had chosen was sheltered from the wind, he leaned back and let the mid-morning sun shine on his face. "Either of you been to the Guild Office in Parliament lately?"

    "Nope," Jun Li replied.

    Semmi smiled at her two fishing buddies.  Jun Li didn't like politics and Nix had been spending his Oasis time in Haven.

    "I go every morning for a few hours," Semmi admitted.  She loved paging through the dockets and reading the different arguments.  "There are two important votes coming up, make sure you read them Nix."

    "I will."

    The trio sat quietly most of the time, fishing was steady enough to keep Nix from falling asleep in the sun.  A few hours passed by, the sound of Nix's horses approached caused all three of them to turn around.

    Semmi liked the look of the black stallion.  "Is he as fast as he looks?"

    Nix nodded.  "I've ridden him a few times, he's like the wind."

    /Inferno: Hyai: You around Nix?

    /Inferno: Nix: Sure.  Need something?

    /Inferno: Hyai: Can you come to the Inn?

    /Inferno: Nix: Sure.  On my way.

    Nix reeled his line in and then stowed his fishing gear.  "Sorry, gotta cut it short."

    Semmi smiled, "I like Hyai."

    Jun Li nodded, "if you need help with anything just ask."


    A few minutes later Nix walked into the Kindled Spirit.  He waved at Hyai from the door, but then stopped short when he noticed her companions.  A slender woman with dark hair and serious face stood motionless while staring at him.  There was a man with her,  he was about the same age and had the same black hair.

    "Stixx?"  The dark-haired woman ran toward him and hugged him tightly. "It's really you."

    "Hey Frog legs." Nix smiled at his older sister.  She would call him Stixx whenever she was mad at him when they were kids.  He would respond with the dreaded 'frog legs' nickname.

    "Nicky."  The young man spoke his name quietly, his eyes were shining with emotion.

    Nix cocked his head to one side.  "The hell... Why are you so young?"  He embraced his father, squeezing him tightly for a moment before letting him go.

    His dad shrugged slightly.  "Why not?"

    Nix nodded in agreement, suddenly curious as to why Pon had chosen to make his character old as f*ck.  "Welcome to Glory Island." He turned toward his sister.  "What are your names?  I want to introduce you to someone special."

    "Bev, of course.  I thought there would be less confusion that way."

    "I'm Ry," his dad introduced himself.  His dad's actual name was Ryan.

    "Right... Now I know where my creativity comes from."  Nix stepped away from them for a moment and grabbed Hyai's hand.  "This is Hyai, she's Innkeeper here and someone I care about."

    Hyai understood that the people who came to Colonial from other worlds lived vastly different lives then what they experienced here. She wasn't the least bit surprised that Nix's father looked the same age as him.  "Nice to  meet both of you."

    "This is Bev of course, my older sister.  The young-looking guy there is my dad.  Seriously... Were you that good looking at my age."

    His dad nodded.  "Yes."

    Bev grabbed his hand. "We can't stay Nicky, we bought a couple of six-hour passes, most of that was spent trying to navigate our way through Jenzi."

    "Follow me. Back in a bit Hyai."  Nix led them upstairs to his room and motioned for them to have a seat on the couch. "So a day pass?  Would you like to stay longer?"

    Bev nodded, "I'd like to, but I just can't afford it, Nicky."

    "I can set both of you up Bev."  Nix opened up the Vasai Virtual menu on his hud.  "I'm what they call a Deep-Stay.  That means I'm in stasis for an extended period, in my case, it's ten years."

    His dad listened quietly.  He had sold his tailor shop and moved out west with his daughter. He did some alterations on the side too keep busy, he was living an old man's life and he was not even fifty. "I know nothing about VR gaming Nicky.  What would I even do here?"

    "There's about a million things for you to do every day." Nix accessed his sister's hud.  "Fresno Virtual Center? You are both logged in there?"

    "Yes. I took two weeks off from work and planned to visit longer, we didn't realize how expensive it is."  Bev squeezed his hand tightly.

    "I got this Frog Legs.  I'll set up a 10-day stay for both of you at Vasai Virtual in Canada.  If you can manage to get your things in order in a few days."

    "Nicky?"  His father stared at him, "can you afford that?"

    "I can.  This time I'll have a lifestyle player meet you and everything will be smooth sailing." Nix leaned back slightly and smiled at both of them.  "All you have to do is say yes and then show up."

    Bev nodded. "Okay, Nicky."

    The Phire family sat on the couch and talked right up until the day-pass expired, his father and sister logged off with the promise that they'd make the trip to Vasai.  Nix used the hud menu to access Vasai Virtual and took a few minutes to set up a 10-day in each of their names, he paid the charges directly so they wouldn't be bothered.

    [Whisper: Nix to Nansu] Going to need you to do me a special favor.  My RL family will be coming to Colonial for a 10-day stay in 3 days.  Neither one of them has any VR experience."

    [Whisper: Nansu to Nix] I will take care of everything.  Will they be staying in Glory or Haven?

    [Whisper: Nix to Nansu] Haven, I'll be taking 10 days off from raiding when they arrive.

    [Whisper: Nansu to Nix] I'll meet them and then escort them personally.

    Nansu was an expert lifestyle player and extremely knowledgeable about Colonial in general.

    [Whisper: Nix to Nasu] Thanks, that's a load off my mind.

    Nix leaned back on the couch and closed his eyes, perhaps there was a chance for the broken Phire family.  A soft knock at the door caused him to open his eyes.  "Come in"

    Hyai opened the door slightly and looked in.  "Everything okay?"

    Nix nodded, "I think so.  They'll be back in a few days."

    Hyai walked in a closed the door before taking a seat next to him.  "So... Nicky?  That's really cute."
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