166 Olive Branch

    /Inferno: Nix: Fireteam... let her have it.

    Five shots rang out at the same time from the far end of the staging area.


    Darsi has scored a critical hit on Matriarch Ishna.


    Moka has scored a critical hit on Matriarch Ishna.


    Dalton has scored a critical hot on Matriarch Ishna.


    Chael has scored a critical hit on Matriarch Ishna.


    Ronnie has scored a critical hit on Matriarch Ishna.

    Ronnie has slain Matriarch Ishna.

    Ishna's riddled corpse floated slowly to the ground, her fighters froze for a moment, unsure how to react to her sudden death.

    Nix targeted the Aquarion fighters, who had been nice enough to crowd together.

    [Tides of Flame]

    By the time the first wave of flames hit them, Nix had jumped into the melee and was swinging the Gemini Infused Archon blade. The archers from the Scorched Earth Temple and the Mariners from the Colonial Knights opened fire as the rest of Inferno waded into the fight.  From start to finish it was over in less than a few minutes. The healers from Inferno all spammed their AE heals since the groups were so tightly packed.

    An eerie silence followed the end of the fight, the only sound was the muffled crying of Mina.  She had dropped to her knees and not taken part in the fight. When it was over, she looked up at Nix. "The Fireteam never went back to the Guildhall."

    "No," Nix admitted as he bent down and slid off the Matriarch's Ricoli artifact.  He also pulled the Black Hand disc off. Because of the death of the one who applied it, the small disc slipped off easily. "I gave you only one of these Mina.  Who did you give it to?"

    Mina looked up at him, her face a mask of pain.  "One of our artifact scholars thought it might be possible to make copies. His name is Yalta."

    Milat lay a hand on Nix's shoulder, unlike Mina his face showed anger. "Zhava and I will have Yalta waiting for you at the Guildhall."

    Jun Li walked up behind them.  Nix had told her that they might be ambushed today, he had deliberately said the time of the raid in guildchat the day before.  "We can't assume it's Yalta, even if the evidence points to him."

    Nix nodded and began to check Ishna's body for clues.  He didn't find anything, but he did notice that she had on a very odd-looking bracelet.

    Paragon Bracelet

    Description: Unavailable.

    "What's a Paragon Bracer?" Nix turned to Mina who leaped at him suddenly, grabbing his arm before he could remove it from her corpse.

    "Don't remove it Nix!"  Mina quickly released him but moved closer to look at the bracer. "They actually made one."

    "What is it, Mina?" Nix was suddenly very curious, the pain in her eyes had turned to hope.

    "The Aquarion's biggest disadvantage when facing human guilds is our mortality.  Inferno found a way around it with the introduction of human/Aquarion spirit companions."

    Nix examined the bracelet closer without taking it off her.  "I'm guessing this is some sort of fix?"

    Mina nodded. "Check the other fighters, some of them should have a similar bracelet."

    [Whisper Milat to Nix] We have Yalta and will hold him at the Guildhall.

    [Whisper Nix to Milat] Thanks.  We'll be there in a bit.

    Nix moved to the nearest Aquarion fighter and checked her wrist, she had a plain-looking bracelet around her wrist.

    Reliant Bracelet

    Description: Paired with

    the Paragon.

    Mina nodded, "that must be it.  Check the rest of them.  Please don't remove them."

    "Correct me if I'm wrong. These bracelets enable them to be resurrected?" Nix considered the possibilities.

    [Whisper: Jun Li to Nix]  What are we going to do Nix?

    /Guild Officer Nix: Opinions?

    /Guild Officer Semmi: We've been monitoring communications Nix. I'd recommend taking the bracelets and leaving the bodies here.

    /Guild Officer: Pon: Same here.  They came for Nix, you can bet they weren't going to invite him for dinner.

    /Guild Officer: Milat: Take the bracelets and leave them.

    /Guild Officer: Wind: I agree.

    /Guild Officer: Sharl: I have no problems with looting them and walking away.  They are already

    taken care of.

    /Guild Officer: Fajii: It makes no sense to release them and fight them again another day.

    /Guild Officer: Zhava: It seems like the smart move is to remove their bracelets and walk away.

    /Guild Officer: Ronnie: I'm not okay with this Nix. You can figure out something better, right?

    /Guild Officer: Mina: I don't feel qualified to vote on this, she is a good friend and my feelings have clouded my judgment.

    [Whisper: Nix to Darsi] Come look at this bracelet, I want to know if you can reproduce it.


    [4 hours later, Su'Dhassi Territory, 5 miles east of Phai City]

    /Alpha Team: Nix: Your BR can work outside of battle?

    /Alpha Team Fajii: Yes. There is no restriction in that regard.  Now?

    Nix pulled the large duffle bag from the back of his horse and let it slide to the ground. He carefully pulled out the body of Matriarch Ishna.

    /Alpha Team: Pon: Damn, you're a smart one Semmi.

    Semmi had come up with the option of bringing the corpses to Oasis.  They had left Ishna's under armor on, but she was stripped of everything else except the bracelet.

    /Alpha Team: Nix: Go ahead Fajii.

    Nix waited while Fajii resurrected Ishna.  The Aquarion sat up slowly and looked around.  "This is mercy you've been given because Mina is someone important to us."

    Ishna glanced around, she obviously didn't recognize the landmarks.  "My people?"

    "That depends on you."  Nix offered her a hand up, which she accepted after a short pause.

    "I cannot betray my race." Ishna's pale face was expressionless, but her voice carried the hint of despair.

    "You're in Oasis now, the corpses of your followers are still in Colonial with their bracelets.  You can hear my offer or face your death."  Nix watched as Ishna looked around again, she could sense the water close by, her features finally showed her fear.

    "Not in Colonial?" Ishna clenched her jaw to keep her teeth from chattering, for the first time in her life she was completely alone.  There were no Aquarions in Oasis.  Her people knew about Oasis, a scant few of the Elder Matriarchs even knew about the Upper Planes.

    "No."  Nix waited patiently, he understood it was a lot to take in.

    Ishna studied each of her captors, her eyes briefly looked at Fajii but didn't realize the dark Scorched Earth Mage was an Aquarion.  "What's your offer?"

    "We'll bring all of your people here and leave your gear nearby so that you may defend yourself." Nix paused for a moment before continuing.  "Colonial is lost to you, if you and your followers have a future, it will be here."

    Ishna blinked away tears, her long white hair was hanging loose for once. "In return for what?"

    "You will name the spies you have within the Souza Accord.  If you refuse or try to blame innocent people, you and your followers will perish forever."  Nix turned toward Semmi and nodded.

    Semmi took out his old Phelinomia bracer and pointed it at Ishna. "I will know if you lie, one misspoken word and everything ends for you."

    "My choices are... death for me and my people or permanent banishment from Colonial for me and my followers?" Ishna didn't have to fake the shaking of her knees, she couldn't remember a single moment in her life when she had been so scared.

    Semmi continued to point the bracer at her. "You are looking at it all wrong.  You are dead, and your followers are dead."

    "What does that mean?" Ishna's voice shook slightly and when she spoke it was barely a whisper. The blond human gave off a tremendous sense of danger, the entire group of them did.

    "You know me Ishna, I'm Fajii the Alchemist.  I healed one of your daughters once."  Fajii was steadily growing impatient with the Matriarch.  She had been one of the ones who had voted for no mercy.

    "You're Fajii?" Ishna stared at the Aquarion Alchemist, there was no sign of her bloodline on the outside. Her ears, face, and eyes were completely alien.

    "Yes.  What my friend means is, you and your followers are dead," she said the words slowly so they sunk in.  "You have the chance to start over here in Oasis. You should be thankful for the chance to save your followers."

    "You have 10 minutes to decide"  Nix summoned Mortimer and Ducky and had them watch her while Alpha Team gave her a bit of space.

    Alpha Team gave her 10 minutes and then returned. She watched them advance toward her, it had taken a few minutes but she regained a small portion of her composure.  "One favor first."

    [Aura Ignition]

    Nix shook his head.  "No."

    Ishna held up both hands in front of her.  "Please, I only wish to touch the water here. Can Aquarions even survive here?"

    /Alpha Team: Semmi: Not an unreasonable request Nix.

    Fajii motioned for Ishna to get up and follow her.  "We will test it together Ishna."

    After a few minutes of walking, Alpha Team watched as Fajii and Ishna walked into the surf of the sandy beach.  Ducky skipped around them, enjoying the water.

    Ishna walked slowly into the surf, stopping and kneeling when it came to her waist. She placed her hands in the water, it felt warm and inviting.  She slowly submerged herself, letting her body take in this New World's sea.  She couldn't stop the smile from coming, it felt pristine and pure.  Could she start over here?

    After a few minutes, she walked back toward Nix and his companions. "I agree.  Return my followers to me, with our equipment and I will tell you everything."

    Nix waited with Morty and Ducky while the rest of the group started moving back and forth from Haven.  After the raid, Inferno had brought all the corpses to the Gemini Temple.  The longest part of the journey was the ride from Phai City.

    "We will all die out in a few hundred years.  Without the Cai'Song artifact, none of the women in my group will have daughters."

    Nix stared at her from where he sat comfortably on the sand. She spoke quietly and he was unsure if she was talking to herself or him.  "So... They didn't tell you?"

    Ishna made eye contact for the first time in several minutes. "Tell me what."

    "Why do you think the Cai'Song Artifact can change the gender of an unborn male Aquarion into a female?"

    Ishna shrugged, she knew in her heart that she should find the whole thing disgusting and abhorrent. All Aquarion women were born from blood and violence. "I don't know."

    "It's because humans are the missing piece in the process of Aquarions having daughters."

    Ishna nodded, even though it felt like she was confessing to a horrible crime. "I know this Nix, the Cai'Song makes it possible."

    "Three Aquarion females from the Souza Accord are pregnant with daughters." Nix was certain that Ishna wasn't playing dumb.  "Humans are the missing piece, but we didn't need to kill an innocent human girl to make it happen."

    "What? Have you discovered another way?  What is it?"

    "Human fathers.  It seems like the alternate method requires humans and Aquarions to mate.  Apparently your Elders found that less acceptable than war and the killing of innocents."

    Ishna jumped to her feet.  "LIES!  Why would you say something like that?  Haven't I already agreed to your terms?

    Morti rumbled a warning at her from a few feet away.  The giant bear was covered in sand but it didn't seem to bother him at all.

    "What reason have I to lie?  We are the missing piece and the Elder Matriarchs know that."

    It took nearly two hours for all the members of Ishna's group to be carried to the beach.  At Nix's request, Fajii rezzed both of Ishna's daughters so that they could discuss what Nix had told them.  The rest of the Aquarions were laid gently on the beach, of the thirty followers, 19 of them were female.

    Nix gave Ishna and her daughters enough space to talk.  He wasn't worried about them escaping.  They were weaponless and without armor.  He had already summoned Soup, if they tried to escape he'd catch them.

    Ishna gave Semmi all the names of the spies hidden in the Souza Accord and then Nix let Fajii Rezz the dead Aquarions.  Each of them wore their under armor and the bracelet.  Ishna and her daughters quickly made them sit quietly on the beach while they explained their situation.  A few minutes later Ishna approached with a young Aquarion woman.

    Nix nodded politely at the two of them. "Time for us to go."

    "Wait, please. Our weapons and armor?" Ishna biggest concern was their immediate survival.

    Nix pointed to the north.  "We left them down the beach about one minute.  You can collect them after we're gone."

    Ishna nodded. "Could you give us a map? I only wish to make a good decision when choosing a place to settle."

    [Ishna has sent you a friend request]

    Nix nodded and accepted the request.  He sent an updated map directly to her hud.  "Anything else?"

    Ishna nodded.  "This is Panyu.  We wish to test your words."

    /Alpha Team: Wind: What words boss?

    /Alpha Team: Nix: I told them about our theory regarding female Aquarion babies.

    Nix didn't bother to hide the smile that crept onto his face.  "Say it plainly."

    "One of you will mate with Panyu." Ishna crossed her arms in front of her but she didn't seem at all embarrassed.

    /Alpha Team: Nix: I'm out.  Up to you two.

    /Alpha Team: Wind: She's pretty, but I require a bit more bonding.

    /Alpha Team: Pon: Gotta be me then.  Back in a bit.

    The old mage bowed toward the two Aquarion women. "The group has chosen me to help you out."

    /Alpha Team: Semmi: Hey Pon...

    Nix shook his head as Pon and the Aquarion female walked into the sand dunes.  He glanced at Ishna, the Aquarion female didn't seem bothered in the least.

    [Whisper: Wind to Nix]  That old bastard!

    [Whisper: Nix to Wind] Hey... You said no.

    The awkwardness lasted until Pon returned.  The Aquarion female parted ways with him at the top of the dune with a quick wave.  The old fire mage had a smile plastered on his face when he came back.

    Ishna gathered her people and had them start walking.  "Nix, would you tell Filamina that I'm sorry."

    Nix nodded.  "Sure."

    Alpha Team moved to the top of a nearby dune so they could watch the Aquarions reclaim their gear.

    Nix turned at the sound of someone getting hit.  Semmi punched Pon in the arm, her face red with anger.

    "Pon, you old bastard!"  Semmi punched him again.  "Why'd you do that?  Why?  Why?"

    "Why are you hitting me?"  Pon's wrinkled face showed his surprise, he hadn't expected the blond officer to assault him.

    "Y-You bastard!"  Semmi kicked him in the knee and then abruptly burst into tears before stomping off.  She stopped at the bottom of the dune and turned to face him.  "Don't think I want to go into business with a bastard like you!"

    The shocked group watched as Semmi mounted her horse and headed toward Phai City.  Fajii gave Pon an expressionless look before following her.

    "The hell was that?"  Pon was rubbing his knee, his face red with anger.

    Wind smacked the old mage on the back of the head. "You made Semmi cry!"

    Nix nodded.  "Old bastard, she should kick your ass properly."

    [Whisper: Wind to Nix] Super hot Semmi likes Pon?

    [Whisper: Nix to Wind] Look like it.
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