194 Mermaid City: 12th Floor, Stage 1

    The setting for Stage one of the 12th floor was a desert.  A large sand-colored pyramid structure loomed in front.  There were two arched entrances with long stairs leading to each one.  There was no water, nor were any Aquarions present.

    /Inferno: Ronnie: So... the first stage of the 12th floor seems to be a desert.

    There was a wolf-masked individual in front of each door. Nix muttered a curse under his breath.

    /Inferno: Nix: Darsi, how many of the Beast-Man bracers were unaccounted for?

    /Inferno: Darsi: Eight.  Did you find them?

    /Inferno: Nix: Maybe.

    /Inferno: Darsi: I am actually close to repurposing the recycled ones you gave me, just need a better base enhancement.

    /Inferno: Nix: Try Enhanced Merestone.  Do you have any tips, Mina?

    /Inferno: Mina: The entire 12th floor is controlled by the Grand Elders. They are able to make adjustments and changes but they still have to follow the set guidelines.

    /Inferno: Jun Li: They'll be testing us, to find our weaknesses.

    /Inferno: Sharl: So they can hire mercs?  Suddenly I'm glad that the Upper-Tiers left Colonial.

    /Inferno: Semmi:  Sorry to butt in, I'm monitoring from Parliament. It doesn't add up, why would they bother?

    /Inferno: Ronnie: It's obvious isn't it?  To attack our weakness later.

    /Inferno: Nix: No.  Semmi is right. We are missing a vital piece of information.

    Nix turned toward Mina, his yellow eyes staring intently.  She was hiding something, he could sense it now.  "They know we can change personnel and tactics.  We can regear for any occasion. Unless of course... We can't."

    /Inferno: Semmi: What?  Do you know something Nix?

    Inferno: Mina: I've been hiding something about the last stage of the 12th floor. There is no second chance.  If we wipe on the first attempt, we won't be able to challenge it again.

    /Inferno: Milat: Mina!  That's vital information.  Why keep it to yourself?

    /Inferno: Mina: At first it was so far away, I didn't think it was important.  In the last few raids, I've been scared.  Because... because.

    Nix placed a hand on her shoulder and squeezed gently.  He wanted to be mad, but her image faded in his mind and was replaced with a small Aquarion girl whose hands were covered in chalk. "I've earned more trust than that.  So have the rest of us."

    Mina stared at the ground, her pale eyes looked impossibly sad.  "I'm sorry," she whispered softly.

    /Inferno: Sharl: Well... That's good enough for me!  Let's knock this out.

    /Inferno: Ronnie: Yeah... Come on Min, no harm done.  You're allowed a mistake or two.

    [Whisper: Shae to Nix] Don't be mad Nix.  She carries tremendous weight on her shoulders.

    [Whisper: Nix to Shae] I'm not angry.  I just wonder what she will do when her life's work has been accomplished.

    [Whisper: Shae to Nix] I expect she'll stay with the person she cares about most.

    /Inferno: Jun Li: No worries Mina but we need complete transparency from here on out.

    /Inferno: Semmi: Right! You guys have to change tactics, and not wipe everything out so easily. Nix you need to Throttle the OP way back.

    /Inferno: Ronnie: I have a question before we start.

    /Inferno: Sharl: Not another theory.

    /Inferno: Ronnie: When the raid limit says 10, how come we can bring in Spirit Companions?  Shouldn't that violate the number requirement?

    /Inferno: Semmi: You only have to meet the requirement at the entrance.  Once inside, you can bring in your companions if you have that capability.

    /Inferno: Ronnie: I see.  Since we have only one chance at the last stage, our mission will be over no matter what the outcome. Right?

    /Inferno: Sharl: This going somewhere?

    /Inferno: Ronnie: I'm only saying, we could enter the last stage and then unbank our levels.

    /Inferno: Semmi: Damn...

    /Inferno: Jun Li: Nice Ronnie.

    /Inferno: Nix: Let's worry about that later. Let's head in.

    /Inferno: Jun Li: Group One will take the left door, scout it out for us Nix.

    [Summons: Ducky]

    "Follow me Ducky, don't be seen."

    [Dragon Eyes]

    Nix stealthed and headed up the stairs, a glance to his right told him Milat was doing the same thing for the other group.

    Qez Tilac has been charmed.

    Nix slipped the Beast-Master Bracer off of Qez's arm and then Ducky ordered him back to the group.

    /Inferno: Jun Li: Want us to keep this guy?

    /Inferno: Nix: Nope.

    Nix walked through the doorway and stepped into a dome-shaped room, there were a have dozen air creatures circling the room near the high ceilings.  He guessed the distance at about fifteen meters. They were shaped like snakes and were completely transparent,  Nix could feel the static electricity building up in the room.

    /Inferno: Nix: Air creatures in here, they might have a lightening element also.

    /Inferno: Rhylia: What do they look like?

    /Inferno: Nix: Twenty feet long and thick as a person's waist.  They resemble transparent snakes.

    /Inferno: Rhylia: Storm Breakers, they have air and water attacks.  You'll get a minor shock when you touch them.

    /Inferno: Jun Li: Switch to group channel so we can focus on our room.

    [You have joined Group Chat]

    /Group: Jun Li: They are all grouped up.  Suggestions?

    /Group: Nix: I can hold two.  Ducky can Charm one to fight another.

    /Group: Jun Li: Good enough, that leaves two for me to tank.

    "Now Ducky."  Nix raised both hands and targeted two Storm Breakers that were flying together.  A half dozen Ice Flame strands encircled each one.  Immediately Nix felt the jolt of a shock run up both arms.

    Ducky has charmed an Alpha Storm Breaker.

    [Gemini's Challenge]

    The Gemini Temple's Champion has issued a challenge, all hostile creatures within range must answer.

    Nix's entire body shook as electricity coursed through him, he gritted his teeth and cursed Rhy's 'minor shock' description.

    [First Strike]

    Jun Li has scored a critical hit on a Storm Breaker.

    Mina summoned four of her eel-gators and set them loose on the two air creatures.  The eel-gators weren't particularly maneuverable on land, but they had a natural affinity for electricity and made short work of the two Storm Breakers.

    By the time the group finished with the third Storm Breaker, both of Nix's arms had turned numb.  When Jun Li finally attacked one of his creatures, Nix dropped all the strands and attacked the other.

    [Advanced Balefire Burst: Gemini Flame]

    Green and Silver fire tore through the body of Nix's target.

    Nix has scored a critical hit.

    [Critical Chain]

    Jun Li has followed up on Nix's attack and scored a critical hit.


    Nix appeared next to the air creature and cut through its body, right behind the head.

    A Storm Breaker has been slain.


    Chael has mortally wounded a Storm Breaker.

    A Storm Breaker has been slain.

    /Group: Jun Li: Let's keep Ducky's pet with us until the end.  That thing is awesome.

    /Group: Nix: I'm not using strands on these anymore, my teeth are numb.

    /Inferno: Jun Li: Our first room is down, half dozen Storm Breakers.

    /Inferno: Sharl: We just finished two smaller rooms.  All earth type creatures.

    /Inferno: Semmi: You're being tested.

    Nix restealthed and exited the room by the far hallway.  The next room was square and had five glowing circles on the ground.

    /Group: Nix: Follow, please.

    Jun Li and the rest of the group entered a moment later, as soon as the last person entered a stone door slammed shut behind them.

    /Jun Li: F*ck...

    /Inferno: Sharl: Don't enter the room with the glowing circles on the floor.

    /Inferno: Nix: Too late.

    /Inferno: Semmi: Trouble?

    /Inferno: Ronnie: The door is sealed, the circles are the only object in the room that you can interact with.

    /Inferno: Nix: You guys wait, we'll step on the circles here.

    /Inferno: Sharl: Okay.

    Nix stepped onto one of the small circles, there was no change.  He turned and watched the rest of his group do the same thing.

    /Group: Jun Li: Nothing.  Stay in place while the other group does it also.

    /Inferno: Nix: We're on the circles.  No change, we'll wait while you do it.

    Nix took a moment to study the rest of the room, without any warning it vanished completely.  A quick glance around told him he was alone.

    [Messaging has been temporarily disabled]

    Nix was standing in a small square room with stone walls.  A loud grating sound was accompanied by the room rumbling.  Shortly after that, he noticed that two of the side walls were closing in on him.

    He moved to the nearer wall and pushed back against it, his feet slid across the floor while he tried to find something sturdy to brace himself on.  After a few minutes, the walls were close enough so that he could brace his feet properly.  Sweat ran down his face, his muscles burning while he struggled to stop the walls from closing in.  Nix was near his limit when it finally stopped.  A small entrance opened up and he slid through it before collapsing on the floor.  His breath coming in great gasps.

    He knelt on the floor for a few moments, he was in a short hallway with only one direction open to him.  He was about to continue when he pulled up short.  "Damn. Now they know my strength, I'm being measured."

    Nix slipped his armor off and stowed it away.  Better to die a few times then let them know his strengths.  He walked slowly toward the doorway, just before he arrived the floor tilted and he plummeted straight down.

    A few seconds of darkness and Nix landed with a loud splash that took his breath away.  He was in the water and the current was pushing him down the corridor.  He drifted for a few minutes, gradually the water-filled hall started to light up.  A loud chomping sound caused him to freeze for a moment.  The end of the hall had arrived, a contraption that resembled a large pair of steel jaws blocked the corridor.  The teeth slammed down with a loud bang that echoed in the water.

    Nix turned easily and started swimming the other way, he sensed it right away, the current increased when he started moving against it.  "Makes sense, the final fight will definitely be in the water.  They want to know my aquatic abilities.  F*ck..."

    He slowed down and let the currently gradually push him back to the steel jaws.  As he got closer, he sped up a few times like someone who was panicking.  Then he gave up and was sucked in.

    Instead of being cut in half, the jaws stopped and he slid through easily.  The water on the other side of the jaws wasn't all the way to the ceiling, a tunnel with a ladder leading upward was the only exit.

    Nix pulled himself out of the water and started climbing the ladder, he could see a dim light in the distance.  He willed himself to move slower.  His every moment in this instance might be recorded, climbing a ladder requires strength and agility, no need to go too fast.

    He hadn't moved more than 10 meters when the tunnel filled with flames.  It lasted for several seconds, allowing Nix to bask in the comfort of fire.  Nix continued to climb and a few rungs later the tunnel was filled with super-cooled air.  With a 2nd Tier Ice Blessing, he wasn't bothered by the cold, but he increased his speed.  What would they used as an indicator if they couldn't monitor his body?  How fast he started climbing once he was exposed?  He had definitely slowed down and enjoyed the flames.

    The distance to the light decreased and he was tested repeatedly.  By the third test, he figured it out.  It lasted exactly 10 rungs of the ladder.  Wind, Ice, Electricity, Fire, Water and Earth, each element was thrown at him a few times.  He forced himself to linger in the element he was weakest against, electricity.

    When he crawled out of the tunnel a few minutes later, the rest of the raid was waiting.

    [Messaging has been restored]

    /Inferno: Ronnie: Where's your amor Nix?

    /Inferno: Nix: Took it off.  This was a test of our strengths, weakness, and resistance.  They know more about us now, but not everything.

    /Inferno: Semmi: Smart boss.

    There were two halls leading out, but they didn't need to go any further.  A large ivory door loomed against the closest wall.

    /Inferno: Nix: We scout out the other halls?

    /Inferno: Milat: Yes, more Beast-Masters.  Are we going to take them?

    /Inferno: Nix: No, this is our shortcut to the 5th floor.  We've given them enough info for one day.

    /Inferno: Mina: They are going to prepare for us.

    /Inferno: Nix: We're going to counter that.

    /Inferno: Mina: How?

    /Inferno: Ronnie:  I know! Let me say it!

    /Inferno: Nix: Sure.

    /Inferno: Ronnie: Prey waits!

    /Inferno: Nix: Yep.

    /Inferno: Jun Li: Meaning?

    /Inferno: Nix: This door leads to 12.5.  Let's knock it out and run the tables.  The Cai'Song Artifact gets destroyed today!
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