322 The Oracle

    Nix sent Ducky away to hide until the Intrepid was dealt with, he leaned back against a small sapling and waited patiently.

    Lu Ban notched an arrow and covered Circa while he gathered the horses together and tied them a few meters away." What's the plan?

    Nix watched calmly as his group moved into position. "We have to fight it out.  This valley is a dead end.

    Circa had both of his knives out and looked relaxed. "So, a straight-up melee fight?

    Nix nodded. "Lu should still be able to use his bow. The rest of us will be melee."

    Mollie took out her staff and leaned on it while she watched the scanned the forest. "Maybe you should retreat into the woods a bit, Lu?  Take them by surprise once they get in range."

    Lu nodded. "You two work together and follow Nix's lead."  He retreated into the woods without speaking further.

    [You are now in a dead zone.  No enhanced items, artifacts, or magic-related skills are useable at this time.]

    The pursuit rode their horses casually out of the woods to the edge of the clearing where Nix and his team had taken their break.  As Nix guessed, each of them was a huge melee fighter with bulging muscles and sharp weapons.  The Inferno leader applauded the choice; if you were going to pick a team to fight a completely unenhanced fight, this was the group you'd bring.

    In the middle of the group rode a black-haired woman dressed in white; even from a distance, her beauty was evident.  She rode her horse side-saddle, her arms and legs were shackled with a golden chain.  Her tanned skin seemed to glow with health and vigor; she wore a wreath of yellow flowers around her head.

    The bandits dismounted, except for the Intrepid who stayed in her saddle.  As soon as they did, Nix gripped the sapling he had been leaning against and pulled it out of the ground.  With dirt and rocks still clinging to the roots, he propped it on one shoulder and walked toward the enemy.

    /Spire: Mollie: Um... Is that Intrepid thing working on you?

    /Spire: Nix: Yep.

    Nix stopped a few meters away from the bandits at what he estimated Lu Ban's maximum range to be.  "You're following us.  Why?"

    The bandit leader was a younger man with long brown hair that hung loosely under his metal helm.  The man's muscular shoulders seemed to skip his neck and connect directly to his head.  "I follow orders; that's why.  I bring you in, and suddenly I'm no longer just Captain Faex."

    Nix nodded knowingly.  "I doubt it; there are probably other reasons you're just a Captain."

    /Spire: Mollie: I'm ready, Nix, but is this a fight we can win?

    /Spire: Nix: Easy fight actually, they've misjudged something.

    /Spire: Circa: What?

    /Spire: Nix: How big of a bastard I can be.

    Nix shrugged, causing chunks of dirt and rock to fall from the roots of the sapling he carried.  "Mostly, I'm guessing its bec..."

    Nix darted in, dropping the sapling low; he swung hard at Faex's legs.  The Captain was ready and lowered his ax to block when Nix spun and jumped upward, the bandit leader cussed loudly.  Too late, he realized that he wasn't the target.

    The 10-inch sapling struck the Intrepid right where the crown of flowers sat, crushing her down onto the saddle.  When the horse bolted away, the corpse of Delia the Beautiful fell limply to the ground.

    Delia, the Beautiful has been slain.

    [All previous limiters on gear, skills, and artifacts have been lifted]

    White fire enveloped Nix an instant later as he pushed flames into Wrath and targeted the bandit group.

    [Tides of Flame]

    Faex charged toward Nix, his ax swinging toward him.

    [Daisy Chains]

    Lightning erupted from Nix's outstretched hands, branching off into several different directions.

    Rendel has been stunned.

    Bone Cracker has been stunned.

    Hyatt has been stunned.

    Krensi has been stunned.

    Yathiz has been stunned.

    [Trueshot: Burst]

    Lu Ban has landed a strike on Yathiz

    Lu Ban has landed a critical hit on Yathis.

    Lu Ban has landed a critical hit on Yathis.


    Circa has landed a mortal strike on Yathis

    Yathis has been slain.

    Nix raised his hands and a dozen strands of Fury Flames wrapped around Faex, he pulled back with all his strength and then tossed the Captain toward the river.

    [Thorned Feet]

    Hundreds of barbed vines erupted outward from the ground; in an instant, they completely encompassed Mollie's target.

    Orman has been rooted in place.

    [Clear Shot]

    Lu Ban has landed a critical shot on Orman.

    [First Strike]

    Circa has landed a critical hit on Orman.

    [Nature's Wrath]

    Thorns erupt out of the ground and impale Mollie's targets. [AoE]

    Orman has been slain.

    Mollie has landed a strike on Rendel.

    Mollie has landed a strike on Bone Cracker.

    Mollie has landed a strike on Hyatt.

    Mollie has landed a strike on Krensi.

    [Meteor Storm: Incinerate: Fire Burst]

    Triple Combination Attempt Successful.

    Rendel has been slain.

    Bone Cracker has been slain.

    Hyatt has been slain.

    Krensi has been slain.

    Nix scanned the area, verifying that Ducky had Faex and that everyone else was down.  He rejoined Mollie and Circa, who was standing in front of the charred corpse of the Intrepid.

    Mollie's pale green eyes were visibly upset. "Nix... This seemed a bit ruthless."

    Circa nodded in agreement, "I didn't want to die here, but attacking their hostage..."

    Ducky led Faex back to the group, her blue eyes not bothering to look at the Intrepid.  "We don't know everything.  Why would they be willing to use such a valuable asset?"

    Lu Ban nodded his head in agreement.  "She's right.  They wouldn't unless they were ordered to."

    Ducky faced Faex, who was calmly staring at her with a smile on his face. "Who is running things in this region?"

    "Vega," Faex answered calmly and without hesitation.

    Ducky's soothing voice continued to ask questions. "Are there any more Intrepids?"

    "Not that I know of, she was brought to our main camp last night."

    Ducky glanced at Nix. "Anything else we need to ask?"

    Nix nodded. "The location of HQ and how big their force is."

    Faex listened to the questions and immediately looked to the Water Witch for permission to answer. "We moved our HQ to the Mountain Pass; they aren't taking any chances that Nix will slip through. At this point, we number around ten thousand, although that number will climb higher once reinforcements from the Four Corners arrive."

    Nix nodded and knelt next to the intrepid; the golden chains still bound her charred corpse.  He gripped them in his hands and ignited his aura, causing them to fall away like liquid.

    "Where are you taking her?"  Mollie wrinkled her nose at the stench of charred flesh; Nix walked toward the river carrying the body in his arms.

    Instead of answering, he set her down gently.  "We don't need Faex anymore, Ducky."

    Ducky nodded and led the bandit captain away.

    Nix activated his Spirit Ring; a moment later, Mina appeared with one of her Vilas.  Her pale eyes fell to the corpse and then to Nix. "You okay, Nix?"

    "Yes. I'll need you to do something for me in a moment."

    Mina nodded without hesitating. "Anything you want."

    Nix pulled an object out of his inventory and targeted the Intrepid.

    Ressurection Stone

    This Stone will resurrect

    any corpse, even if the timer has expired

    [Ressurection: Delia the Beautiful]

    A moment later, the young woman's eyes blinked open, they showed surprise and then confusion before she slowly moved to a sitting position.  "I'm no longer bound."

    Nix shook his head. 'Nope."

    Delia's eyes were light brown orbs filled with warmth. "You killed me."

    "I did," Nix admitted.

    She accepted Nix's hand and stood up slowly, maintaining a grip on his arm. "Why am I here?  My kind cannot be resurrected."

    Nix shrugged. "Some rules can be broken."

    Delia has requested a spirit bond with you.

    "No... sorry."

    Delia has requested a spirit bond with you.

    Nix scratched his face awkwardly. "I already have four companions."

    Mina placed a hand on her arm and gently pulled her away from Nix before she could request again. "That's enough of that."

    Nix stared at her for a moment before speaking. "Inferno offers you sanctuary."

    /Inferno: Mina: I'm here as transport?

    /Inferno: Nix: Yes. Take her to HQ in Ionova; I want Semmi to debrief her.

    "You make interesting choices, Nix."  A soothing voice spoke from behind them. An older woman dressed in a long blue robe walked barefoot from the edge of the woods.

    "Bor Na, the Oracle?" Nix said it as a question, even though he already knew the answer.

    Bor Na nodded. "That is me."  She walked gracefully toward them, not stopping until she was directly in front of him.

    "I'm Nix, but since you're an Oracle, you probably already know that." Nix managed to say it with a straight face."

    "What choice would you have made if you hadn't possessed the Ressurection Stone?"

    "The same one," Nix replied honestly. "Since our enemy is using their trump cards, this isn't a fight we could afford to lose."

    Bor Na's wrinkled face was expressionless, her bright blue eyes staring at Nix for several moments before speaking.  "You have my support. Seek out, Enu Bak, the Water Sprite."

    Mina grabbed Delia's hand in hers. "I'm going to take you somewhere safe."

    Delia seemed more curious than afraid. "I can't stay with him?"

    Mina frowned slightly.  "Definitely not."   She was about to activate Deep Blue when the Oracle held up a hand to stop her.

    The old woman's lips curved in a warm smile.  "You carry your worries like a weight around your neck.  There is no need."

    Mina's pale blue eyes glanced from Nix then back to Bor Na.  "I'm not sure what you mean."

    "Your daughter will be born in the spring of next year."  Bor Na placed a hand on the Aquarion's shoulder and stood there a moment before walking back toward the woods.

    Nix didn't speak until she vanished into the woods.  "Take her back to HQ, we'll.." He trailed off and stopped talking.  Mina's beautiful face radiated happiness; tears dripped slowly down her face.

    After a moment, she activated Deep Blue and disappeared with Delia.

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