320 Instructor Bali

    The pleasant warmth of a soft bed clung to Nix, who slept peacefully until a weight set down on his knees and two small hands pressed on his abdomen.  He opened his eyes to see... demons in his bedroom.

    "NIX!"  Rabi smiled happily, his dark face bouncing up and down as he pushed on Nix.

    "I eat demons for breakfast."  Nix opened his eyes and then narrowed them evilly.  "I smell a second one.  Where is she?"

    Rabi pointed to the side of the bed.  Sasi was burrowed under the covers and had her small head on the pillow next to his, pretending she was asleep.  "Eat her first; I'm probably too stringy."

    Sasi opened one eye and pointed at her brother.  "That guy is way sweeter than me, Nix.  Eat him."

    Nix pulled himself into a seated position, the weight of Rabi not even slowing him down.  "What's the mission? Kidnap me?"

    Rabi nodded while Sasi shook her head, they glanced at each other for a moment and then Sasi nodded also.  She sat up next to Nix, her head below his shoulder.  "We're here to save you."

    Nix yawned sleepily while Rabi moved to the other side of him.  "How's Uta and the Rage course?"

    A frown suddenly covered rabi's sharp demon teeth.  "He's too serious.  Always scolding me for nothing."

    Sasi pulled on his arm, causing him to turn.  "I brought you something!  Nether Rats!  Tons of them.  I remember how much you liked them."

    Nix laughed at her expression.  "It was you who liked them, thank you, though.  I still need to make an Emperor."

    Sasi's dark eyes were excited.  "A rat emperor?  Will you make me one?"


    Rabi clapped his small hands together. "Me too, Nix?"

    Nix shook his head and then rolled out of bed, grabbing Rabi and picking him up in the process.  "Nope."

    "Unfair!"  Rabi squirmed until Nix tossed him on the bed.

    "She's my favorite Qi."  Nix laughed at Rabi's disappointed face and quickly exited into the closet.

    "Kidding, right, Nix?"  Rabi poked his head into the closet, his dark eyes curious about everything.

    "Yeah.  Kidding Rabi."  Nix patted his head and headed toward the kitchen.

    Wind, Semmi, Beta, and Fajii were all sitting around the island talking when Nix entered.  The pale albino stood to hug him.  "I see the Qi family accomplished the operation."

    Nix frowned at Beta. "Operation Wake Nix up?  Who did the planning?"

    Fajii smiled sweetly when all the fingers in the room pointed at her.  "It's nicer when you are awake, Nix."

    Nix ignored her and scowled at Beta.  "No flirting with Wind in my kitchen." He felt some level of vindication when the albino's face turned pink.  "Learned something pretty neat yesterday."

    Semmi, who had been quiet until now, leaned forward with interest.  "Spill it, Nix!"

    "Better if I show you."  Nix walked over to the couch and took a seat before accessing the coffee table's hud.

    Semmi plopped down beside him, watching while he accessed the Free Trader City Auction house. "You're buying 50k pelts of those cat thingies?"

    "They're called Orions."  Nix shook his head when Semmi didn't comment. "Don't know the story of the Orions?"

    Semmi shook her head.  "You've been here the longest, Nix."

    "They're a Polar feline that's been pushed out of their habitat by the sudden influxion of wolves."  Nix created a queue for Orions out of the best materials he had.

    Semmi leaned closer to him, her arm brushing his.  "Making you nervous?"

    Nix shook his head. "You can see all the specials Orion's have. It's why I"ve been buying them up for days. "

    Semmi read them off, "thermal vision, Ice Immunity, and enhanced speed."

    "Unfortunately, they haven't adapted their color to the new environment.  The white fur sticks out and has put a target on them."  Nix brought up the image of one on his hud.

    Semmi smiled happily.  "They look like albino jaguars. Gonna make me one?"

    "No."  Nix nudged her with his elbow.  "I'll do better than that."

    /Inferno: Nix: Bali, are you around?

    /Inferno: Bali: Yes!  Not for long, though, I'm going to accompany Ronnie on an urgent quest.

    /Inferno: Nix: I see.  How's the varmint problem?

    /Inferno: Bali: We've cleaned everything out, took care of the Bezos last night.

    /Inferno: Nix: Where are the Trams?

    /Inferno: Bali: I have them patrolling the woods with my team.

    /Inferno: Nix: Have them bring the Wolf puppets here, you come too.

    /Inferno: Bali: I'll be there in a bit.

    Semmi's pretty face looked disappointed when he closed his hud. "Change your mind?"

    Nix shook his head.  "The Queue won't finish for an hour, and that's just the first round.  A dozen or so Emperor level Orions are the goal."

    Semmi sighed heavily. "I'll have to wait until you get back to see it?"

    "Fraid so."  Nix left her sitting there and made his way to the front door; he stepped out just as Bali raced up on a brown horse, three Dire Wolves were chasing her.

    Bali pulled up suddenly, causing the horse's hooves to dig grooves into the soft grass.  "I win!"

    The three wolves circled her for a moment and then sat down, their tongues lolling out of their mouths.

    Nix approached them; he found it hard to talk to Bali without smiling.  "How are they shaping up Bali?"

    Bali glanced at the three wolves.  "They're good young-uns."

    "Going to need those three Dire Wolves guys, you won't need them when you begin your training."  Nix could already tell which Tram animated which wolf.

    Theo cocked his gray head to one side.  "Training?"

    Nix nodded.  "Ranger Instructor Bali is going to train you on how to be rangers."

    Bali made a choking sound and then covered it up with a cough.  "I am?"

    "Can you handle it?"

    The petite ranger nodded.  She had cut her hair close on the sides and was wearing a top-knot. "Of course, I can."  She lowered her voice a bit, "strictly speaking... they don't leave me alone with young-uns."

    Nix laughed at her serious expression.  "Really?  Hard to believe."

    Bali nodded in agreement.  "I know, right?"

    Nix turned back toward the Tram trio.  "Once the forest recovers from the curse, Ionova will be needed rangers to patrol the woods."

    Bali pursed her lips slightly.  "I need a few things from Loki.  Training will start tomorrow morning."

    Nix moved closer and patted each of their heads. "You can leave the Wolf puppets here and have the rest of the day off."

    "Thanks, Nix."  Theo's voice spoke the Dire Wolf before it dropped to the ground.

    After they left, Nix gathered all three puppets and then stowed them away. He walked around to the turtle pond and took a seat on the rocks.  "Let me see your armor."

    Bali stopped abruptly, nearly running into him when he stopped.  "My armor?"  She removed it quickly and handed it to him.

    Nix turned the armor over in his hands as he studied it.  "Nether Breaker Armor, it isn't bad.  Instructor Bali is going to need better."

    Bali nodded in agreement; her pale face lit up with excitement. "Yeah, I need better."

    Nether Breaker Armor: Leather

    +100 to all Stats

    +2000 to AC

    Immune to Nether Effects

    Immune to Control Effects

    "I'll start with a Camo-Overlay, then build from there."  Nix started the Queue while the small ranger paced back and forth.

    [Bali] [Camo-Overlay] [Camoflauge Fabric V] [ Nether Breaker Armor]

    Nix studied the Overlay queue.  "Three enhancements gotta go with dragon leather, of course."

    Bali hopped up and down excitedly. "Yes!  Put that in!"

    A door opening and shutting announced the arrival of Semmi and Jun Li.  Bali held a finger up to her lips to shush them.

    Semmi leaned over his shoulder to read the Queue.  "Camo-Overlay?  Can you do mine also?"

    Nix nodded.  "I will."

    [Bali] [Camo-Overlay] [Camoflauge Fabric V] [ Nether Breaker Armor] [Dragon Leather] [Lamia Leather] [Dire Wolf Puppet]

    "Holy crap, Nix."  Semmi pulled Jun Li closer so she could see.  "Is this what you wanted to show me?"

    Nix nodded and activated the crafting icon.

    [Critical Crafting]

    Apex Predator: Shape Shifter Set

    Description: This armor is the [Apex Predator]

    Shape-Shifting Set. [Custom: Bali only]

    All ambient sound

    within one meter of the wearer is

    completely suppressed.

    + 5000 to Armor Class

    + 200 to all Base Stats.

    +300 to Speed.

    + 200 Poison Resistance

    +200 to Lightning Resistance.

    Enhancement: Complete Camouflage

    is activated at will.

    Enhancement: A poison counter is added to

    each successful attack.

    Bonus: Wearer is Immune to Fire Damage

    Bonus: Wearer is Immune to Nether Damage

    Special Effect: [Wolf Whisperer]

    Jun Li stared at the armor and then watched as Bali equipped it. "You can make Shape Shifter armor with your puppets?"

    "Yes.  I can make Shape Shifter armor with my puppets."   Nix watched as Bali morphed into a giant gray Dire Wolf.  She was even bigger than the puppet.

    "Nix..."  Wolf Bali stared at him.  "This thing is really strong, really, really, strong."

    Nix nodded in agreement.  "Make sure you earn it by doing a good job with the Trams."

    Semmi ran a hand through her short blond hair while she admired his handiwork.  "Tonight, maybe?"

    Nix shrugged.  "Gotta head to Ever Flame, see you guys later."
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