396 Moonligh

    Nix walked into the turtle house at 1700 hours.  He whistled happily to himself, satisfied that he was able to complete everything on his list.  Hyai was cutting up vegetables on a cutting board while she chatted with Gil, Mina, and Nansu.  All four of them turned toward the door when he walked in.

    Gil's round face looked traumatized. "Nix... I want to buy this house from you.  It isn't right that you live in a turtle mansion while a Titan Turtle stays in a normal place."

    "Heh... Hyai must have given you the grand tour."  Nix patted him on the back.  "All because I found  your grandpa's shell."

    "That's right!  I helped you bring it out of the lake!  Let me stay in your old room!"  Gil's round face smiled at his own cleverness.  "I'm a very quiet turtle."

    "Denied!"  Nix walked past him, pausing long enough to kiss Hyai on the cheek before taking a look out the back door.

    Soup was basking on the shore of the new cove; her eyes popped open when Nix opened the backdoor.

    "Want to come on a trip? Change into your shadow sphinx form if you do."

    Soup disappeared from sight, and an instant later, a black streak scampered up Nix's leg and perched on his shoulder.

    Her soft black fur tickled the side of his neck; Nix could feel her tiny claws gripping him.  "You are so spoiled.  Let's go then."

    Nix returned a minute later with Soup riding shotgun.  "What's that I smell?"

    [Phase Shift]

    Soup appeared on Hyai's shoulder, pushing a soft black nose into her neck.

    The Innkeeper stroked Soup's soft fur.  "I baked some of the Chalet that you caught yesterday. Get ready for your trip, and I'll finish up."

    Nix nodded and headed toward the stairs; Mina gave him a quick hug when he walked by.  "Want to thank you two for staying with Hyai while I'm gone."  He paused at the stairs, noticing that Gil followed him.  "Just don't get too comfortable."

    Nansu shared a smile with Mina.  "Seems like there's plenty of room!"

    Nix shook his head vigorously and started up the stairs.  The double doors leading to the master bedroom was open.  "Have a seat, Gil.  Gotta grab a few things."

    While he was gone, Hyai had moved everything from the downstairs bedroom into the new one.  "I stopped by Nescari; the girls seem to be in high spirits."

    "I hear you fixed Yena up with that ranger Captain,"  Gil called from a comfortable chair by the window.

    "Jealous?  How about I fix you up with Chiba?"  Nix could hear his groan from the closet.

    "That ugly old man-woman?  I thought we were friends."

    Nix wore a smile when he exited the closet a minute later.  "You do know that's just a disguise?"

    Gil shuddered when he remembered her grabbing his wrist and shoving it into her crotch.  "Don't say anything else, I plan on eating after this."

    Nix clapped him hard on the shoulder when he walked by.  "Gotta be more adventurous, Gil."

    Gil frowned and leaned back with an exaggerated sigh.  "You're an animator.  Can't you just make me a girlfriend?  Green, maybe a few meters wide and likes to swim."

    "It's creepy when you fantasize about my turtle."  Nix stopped at the double doors.  "Coming?"

    Gil nodded.  "Yep."


    1900 Hours Haven

    After enjoying dinner with his friends, Nix spent some time with Hyai before porting directly to the Gemini Temple.  He exited and walked up the steep stairs that connected the Dragon Fir Tree apartments with each other.  The drakes from the core started on the top floor and built downward.  There was a large flat overlook at the top floor where the drakes liked to hang out.  He left the dragon puppet there.

    [Whisper: Nix to Fey] I left the dragon puppet on the top-floor platform where the drakes hang out. Make sure they know not to mess with it.

    [Whisper: Fey to Nix] I'll let them know.  They're probably too scared to go near it.  Even small dragons smell like dragons.

    Nix used Deep Blue to gate to the Fire Palace and entered Shae's Elemental world.  He found her right away, standing barefoot next to an entire pond full of dragon eggs.  "You trying to boil them?"

    Shae didn't answer; she just waited patiently for him, her lips curved in a smile.

    "Hey, Sunshine."  Nix wrapped her up in a hug and lifted her from the ground.

    "Sunshine?"  Shae's pretty face tilted upward for a kiss, which she lengthened until they were both breathless.

    "That's a nice greeting.  Been eating peppers again."  Nix didn't have to pose it as a question; his mouth was burning from the kiss.

    Shae nodded. "Just a few, Moonlight likes them too."

    "Moonlight is here?"  Nix scanned the immediate area, spotting her next to Shae's oversized pepper garden.

    "You haven't seen her in a while.  Come on."  Shae grabbed his hand and pulled him toward the garden.

    Nix nodded in approval at all the changes Shae made.  She brought in birds and a few smaller mammals to populate her world.  "Did Rhy bring the birds in for you?"

    Shae nodded. "I talked to her yesterday."

    Nix did a double-take when Moonlight trotted up.  As a cross between Flash and Nightmare, he expected the foal would grow fast.  "She's beautiful."

    The black filly nosed Shae's hand until the salamander produced a handful of ghost peppers.  Shae laughed and stroked its head until they were all gone.  "You remember, Nix?"

    Nix held his hand out cautiously; the filly had teeth like her mom.  She stepped forward unafraid and bumped him in the chest with her head.  "Wow.  She's really friendly."

    "Super fast too.  Is she big enough to ride yet?"

    Nix shook his head. "She needs to fill out a bit more.  At this rate, maybe four months."

    The estimate made her smile, Shae wanted to race her on the plateau where Nix kept his herd.  "Hot or cold?"

    Nix raised an eyebrow.  "Pardon?"

    "Hot pool?  Or Cold one?  Maybe something in the middle?'  Shae undid the back of her dress and let it slide to the ground.

    "Oh... Hot."

    An hour later, Moonlight approached the couple.  The brown flames made her curious, but she didn't approach until they extinguished.

    Shae watched her horse approached.  Her arms were wrapped around Nix from behind; her chin rested comfortably on his shoulder.  "Want to see something neat?"

    Nix nodded; the heat of the pool, coupled with Shae pressed against his back, made his eyes feel heavy. "I do."

    "Moonlight!  Flame up!"

    An instant later, Moonlight's yellow flame aura ignited.  The black horse stood calmly, bathed entirely in fire.

    "That is pretty neat," Nix admitted.  "You teach her that?"

    Shae smiled against the back of his neck, kissing his skin before answering.  "I did."


    0200 hours, Turtle House

    The double-doors leading to the master bedroom were open, only the moon shining in through the Skylights lit the interior of the room. Hyai, Mina, and Nansu talked for several hours after Nix left, chatting until midnight before deciding to turn in.

    Since Hyai didn't want to be by herself, and the bed was quite large, all three of them slept peacefully in the master bedroom.


    [Alert: Hyai, please wake up]

    Nansu was the first to wake; she shook the redhead gently.  "Your table is blinking."

    Hyai rubbed her eyes and sat up.  Across the room, she could see the black table was lit.  She hopped out of bed and touched the surface.  Immediately a 3-D image of the area hovered over the table.

    [Hyai, an unidentified predator approaches, distance 433 meters.]

    By this time, all three women were wide awake, the image highlighted the intruder, it was moving slowly down the ridge.

    Mina leaned closer. "What is that thing?"

    [Hyai, the Turtle House is currently in lockdown mode.  Do you wish to notify the City protection?]

    Nansu nodded and moved closer to Mina.  "Can your Vilas handle that?"

    "Probably, but it might run."  Mina looked at Hyai.  "Bali is City protection."

    "Yes. Notify City protection."  Hyai suppressed a shiver, there was something creepy about the way it moved.

    /Inferno: Automated Message: An unknown predator is approaching the Turtle House, please dispatch City Protection at once.

    /Inferno: Automated Message: An unknown predator is approaching the Turtle House, please dispatch City Protection at once.

    /Inferno: Bali: City Protection is on the way.  Stay inside.

    [Hyai, City Protection is on the way.  Please stay indoors.]

    Hyai looked at the table and then at Mina, an instant later they both started laughing.

    /Inferno: Semmi: Want some back-up?

    /Inferno: Bali: No thanks, we're almost there.

    Nansu frowned at the two women, as a lifestyle player she didn't have to deal with monsters.  "What's so funny?"

    Hyai grabbed a blanket from the bed and took a seat on the couch.  "Our house just sent a guild message.  It's kinda odd."

    Mina nodded in agreement and joined her on the couch.  All three women's eyes were glued to the projection.

    Nansu squeezed between the two of them and pulled the blanket under her chin.  "That's Bali!"

    A single person darted into the image, she was bent low, like she was studying the ground. After a moment she moved slowly down the ridge.

    Hyai checked the distances again.

    /Inferno: Hyai: It's still moving toward the house, 65 meters east of your position.

    /Inferno: Bali: Thanks.  Keep me posted.
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