453 Exi

    She sat quietly next to the black Orion; both hands were busy braiding her gold-colored hair.  For once, Chiba didn't say anything disgusting or strange; she bit softly on her lower lip while working at her task.  "Why are you staring at me?"

    Nix offered her a smile and sat down next to her.  "How did your wings cut through the top of that tent?"

    Chiba finished off the braid with a hairband before reaching for her ring.  "They are metallic, like blades. I'm a Quick-Silver Archon."  She slipped the ring back on, and instantly Chiba, the Goddess, returned to her preferred form.

    "Anything special about that dagger, our friend dropped?" Although Nix had his hands full in the tent, his sharp eyes noticed Chiba's initial engagement with the unknown fighter.

    The old woman shook her head slightly.  "No, I should have pressed hard enough to kill her.  Now we have an expert running around."  Chiba scooted closer to the black Orion curled up beside Nix's bedroll and started stroking its sleek black fur.  "There was something familiar about her, Apprentice... I can't place it."

    Nix waited to see if Del would bite her, but instead, she closed her eyes and shifted closer.  "I can."

    Chiba paused in mid-stroke.  "You can?"

    Nix nodded.  "Give us the tent, please."

    Pon glanced at Wind and motioned toward the door.  The Orion stretched its long body for a moment and then padded after them.

    Chiba watched her apprentice as he walked toward the tent's only table and picked up her sword belt.  The silver blade pulled free with a dangerous ring.  "Perhaps one day, I will give you that blade, not that you need it."

    Nix swiped the blade in the air and then stepped into the middle area.  He turned and pointed the silver sword at her.  With a flick of his wrist, he sent the tip of the blade down and raised the hilt to shoulder height while leaping backward.

    The old woman's face seemed to freeze for a moment before paling noticeably.  "The exit..."

    Nix nodded.  "You showed it to me when I became your apprentice."  There was nothing special or overpowering about the technique; it was simply one of many methods to disengage safely.  He assumed it was one of Chiba's moves since he'd only seen her use it.  "That expert used it today. Where did you learn it?"

    "Milamber,"  Chiba said the name quietly, her eyes staring off into the empty air as if watching a distant memory.

    Nix sheathed the sword and set it back on the table, Chiba hadn't spoken or moved.  "I don't know the name.  You don't have to talk about it."

    Chiba shrugged slightly and slipped her ring off again.  "Back when I was a young girl named Ellisand, a traveling expert named Milamber taught me the blade."

    Nix frowned at the pained tone of her voice.  Without speaking, he took a seat next to her and waited.

    "I was just a girl really, sixteen, and full of life."  Her blue eyes shone with emotion; she wiped a tear away with a beautiful slender hand.  "It's an age-old story, I guess.  Young, naive girl falls for a heartless rogue."

    Nix smiled slightly.  "How is it possible that you haven't hunted this guy down yet?"

    "Couldn't find him," Chiba answered honestly. "He took my money, broke my heart, and then killed my dog."

    "Ellisand is a pretty name, but I like Chiba better."  Nix stood up and offered her a hand up.

    "Me too."  Chiba pursed her full lips.  "You falling for me?"

    Nix shook his head slightly.  "Whenever I see you, I think of vomit and piss."

    Chiba grinned suddenly,  her beauty radiating outward.  "Our first meeting... You remembered."

    "Are you bent on personally avenging yourself on this person?  Or should I kill him for you?"

    Chiba handed Nix her ring, "Kill him.  A swordmaster like myself is above petty emotions like revenge."

    Nix stowed the ring away for safekeeping.  "Right, because you're so mature.


    The blue water wings flapped gently as she flew nap-of-the-earth, less than a meter from the rocky surface when the surface disappeared and plummeted straight down to the canyon below; she banked and dived parallel to the steep granite wall.  With effortless ease, she pulled out of the dive and landed lightly in front of the large cave.

    "Hello, boys."  The blue-hair woman's voice poured forth like sweet nectar; she walked past the guards without slowing down.

    The wings disappeared as she walked into the cave, her sharp eyes immediately found her target.  "Aledo!"  She smiled and waved to the recently promoted leader.

    "Ducky."  Aledo was surrounded by two of his advisors and a dozen of his elite guard. Unlike the men outside, they seemed alarmed by her presence.  "It's fine. She's an ally."

    Ducky smiled at his words; her all blue eyes seemed to glow in the torchlit room.  "Don't mind me. I'm here to protect Raya."  The water witch approached the table where several maps and scrolls were scattered.

    Aledo sighed heavily.  "Thank goodness.  I was worried for her safety."

    Ducky nodded in agreement.  "The ambush by Inferno took her by surprise."

    "She's overconfident because of Milamber and Pilate.  I don't get it."  Aldeo shook his head in disgust.  "If Khione is struggling to contain Inferno, how are a necromancer and a spellsword going to defeat them?'

    "She needs my help.  Take me to her."  Ducky leaned close and kissed the side of his face, her blue eyes staring at the advisors.

    Aledo handed her a small stone token.  "Tell her I want her to lay low for a few days."

    Ducky studied the token for a few moments and then walked back toward the entrance.

    [Summons: Fey]

    A thin mage with baggy white robes appeared in front of her a moment later, her pale eyes glancing around the room.  The teen clucked her tongue in dismay.  "Hiding in an oven?"

    [Whisper: Ducky to Nix] Summon me, please.

    Ducky waved, just as the mage's body started to change.  An instant later, she disappeared from sight.

    The peaceful atmosphere of the cavern changed to dread in an instant.  The silver drakon barely fit inside, its mouth opened wide, exposing rows of razor-sharp teeth.  Short-lived screams immediately died out as the inside of the cave filled with silver flames.  It went on for several moments until only ashes were left.

    Fey returned to her human form, a long staff held in one hand as she turned toward the entrance.

    /Inferno: Fey: Summon me, please.


    "You two..."  Nix had his arms crossed in front of his chest while he stared at his two spirit companions.  "Don't go rogue anymore."

    /Family: Duck: Sorry, we wanted to help.

    /Family: Fey: I'm sorry too.

    /Family: Nix: It wasn't the wrong move, but next time let me know first.  The two of you are too important.

    Ducky handed Nix the token she received from Aledo.

    Simple Return

    Description: Stone token that

    returns the holder to the binding point.

    Uses: 6/10

    Nix studied it for a moment and then tossed it to Pon.  "Seen this before?"

    The old man paused for a moment and then nodded.  "That's basically a single person port-stone. It's already bound to a location, but there is no way to tell where."

    /Alpha: Nix: Gear up and standby.  I'm going in.

    /Alpha: Pon: Seems a bit, dangerous boss.

    /Alpha: Wind: We jumped too quickly last time, look at what happened.

    Nix smiled and shooshed the Orion away from his bedroll before taking a seat.  Without speaking, he pulled out one of his Nether Rats and sat it next to him.  The rat's head popped up the moment Nix laid down.  Its yellow eyes stared at the group for a moment and then picked up the token from beside him.

    /Alpha: Pon: Return of the Rat King!

    /Alpha: Nix: I'll go in and scout around.  Be ready to breach in.
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