461 Back to Haven

    Nix frowned at the black Orion sleeping comfortably on his bedroll.  He kicked the side of his pillow.  "Didn't I say to stay off my bed?"

    The black cat's ice-blue eyes blinked at him.  "Maybe... You could have taken me with you to this Tembai place."

    The Inferno leader nudged the cat to one side and sat down heavily.  Chiba had taken Una and the ornate chests to Haven, while Fey accompanied the rescued prisoners back to Belatora.  Pon and Wind were briefing Cathor, starting immediately, Sinfaya's people would be the ruling force in the area.

    "Next time, Del."  Nix stowed his armor and slipped out of his shirt, he noticed whenever he used the Emerald Fury flames, he would feel lousy afterward.

    The Orion watched as he quickly changed clothes, slowly it licked the bottom of one paw.  "Should you be undressing in front of me? You haven't forgotten that I'm a woman, right?"

    Nix shook his head, a crooked smile on his face.  "No... If it bothers you, get the ** out."

    Del nudged him with her black nose, she was starting to understand him more.  Surprisingly, he was more forthcoming with her since she started inhabiting the Orion puppet.  "I don't mind at all.  When did you get the runes?"

    "Runes?"  Nix gave her a blank stare.  "Hey... Where did Raine go?"

    "She's hunting,"  Del's voice seemed like it was coated with ice.  "There are runes on your back."

    "Huh?"  Nix slid his shirt off and peered over one shoulder.  He could barely see the edge of a black mark, it resembled a small tattoo.  "The ** is that?  Can you read it?"

    "No."  The Orion raised a paw and touched two other spots on his back, neither of which he could see.  "There are three different ones."

    "Shit..."  Nix suddenly wished Shae was here, she would know.

    [Direct Contact: Shae]

    A moment later, a life-sized holo of Shae appeared in the center of the tent.  The Salamander greeted him with a warm smile.  "Going shirtless now?  I approve."

    Nix returned her smile and climbed to his feet.  "Can you tell me what these are?"  He turned his back toward the Salamander's image.

    Shae studied his back for a moment.  "Where did you get those?"

    Nix shrugged.  "That seems to be a mystery. I didn't put them there. Although now that I think about it, I can guess."

    The redhead nodded in agreement but held a finger up to her lips indicating he shouldn't say it out loud.  "Coming back tonight?"

    "Yep.  Turning things over to Cathor as we speak.  It shouldn't be more than a few hours."  Nix could hear other voices talking behind the Salamander so he assumed at least one of the dragons should be visiting.

    Shae nodded. "How's Raine?"

    Nix didn't bother to answer.  Fajii was supposed to straighten things out with the Xai Clan leader but he had the feeling something else had happened.  "See you soon."

    The Salamander favored him with a smile.  "Don't be too long."

    Nix closed comm and moved back toward his bedroll.  "Move it, Del."

    The  Orion moved to the edge of the bedroll.  "What was that about?"

    "Dragons I think.  Recently, I went through a bit of strength enhancement with them.  Seems to be a few hours that I can't account for."  Nix took a seat next to her and reclined against the stacked pillows.  "I'll clear it up when I get back."

    "Going to sleep?"  Without asking, the black cat moved closer and yawned lazily.  "I'm tired too."

    Nix scratched the Orion's head, his eyelids suddenly feeling heavy.  He could feel the vibration from the big cat purring.  "Just a quick nap."


    The smell of roasting meat woke Nix up a few hours later.  The Orion was curled up in a ball still sleeping, besides her purring, the tent was completely quiet.  Sliding out of the bedroll, he checked the time on his hud.  It was already 1700 hours.

    "Hungry?"  Raine looked up from the campfire when Nix exited the tent.  "Everyone already headed back to Haven.  Pon said not to bother you."

    Nix nodded.  Two long pieces of wood hung horizontally over the flames.  Long strips of meat were wrapped spirally around the wood.  The meat looked like it had been tenderized and then seasoned.  "That smells good."

    Raine offered him a tentative smile.  She was wearing the black underarmor that Nix had made for her.  It was form-fitting and flexible.  "It's ready if you'd like to eat."

    He answered with a  nod and took a seat on one of the larger rocks that someone had moved close to the fire.  "Did Fajii talk to you before you came here?"

    "Fajii?  She's so sweet.  It's hard to believe she's a water person."  Raine produced a plate from somewhere and started stacking it up.  "I only have one plate, so we'll have to share."

    Nix scooted over on the rock.  "I agree.  Did she mention anything about you and me?"  A small twig was visible in her hair, without thinking he reached out and removed it.

    "She said I should be myself."  Raine unfastened the cap on a familiar-looking silver flask and was about to take a drink with Nix grabbed her arm.

    "Is that Chiba's"

    Raine nodded.  "She gave it to me as a present."

    Nix pursed his lips slightly.  "I see.  Did you try any of that yet?"

    "No, I was just about to."  Raine's brown eyes showed humor.  "I know its alcohol, Nix."

    Nix chuckled and released her arm.  "That's not alcohol.  That's straight-up hooch."

    "Hooch?"  Raine took a quick drink, almost instantly her face changed.  To her credit, she didn't spit it out.  She offered no resistance when Nix grabbed it from her and took a long swig.

    "I know a Titan Alchemist that makes this stuff.  It's a bit on the strong side."  He tipped it a second time before handing it back to Raine.  "You should take it easy if you're not used to it."

    "Worried about me?"  Raine took another drink, her pretty face grimacing slightly.  "I'll pace myself accordingly."

    "Don't say I didn't warn you.  I might have to carry you to bed."  Nix helped himself to one of the strips of meat.  It was tender and spicey, exactly the way he liked it.  "What is this..."  The question filtered off when he noticed how red her face was.  "Everything okay?"

    Raine stared at him for a moment, before a slight smile showed on her lips.  "Carry me to bed?"

    "Well... That came out the wrong way."  Nix chuckled at himself and shrugged.  "Still...  It's not like it hasn't crossed my mind."

    Her smile widened as she helped herself to the meal she prepared.  "You always say what you are thinking?"

    Nix nodded.  "Less confusion that way.  What kind of meat is this?"

    She slowly slid an arm through his while reaching for the flask.  "It's a mountain goat.  It must have strayed close to camp, I don't think they are indigenous to this area."

    Nix shot her a blank stare while he took another bite.  "Mountain goat?"

    Raine nodded.  "It was probably chased here by a predator, looked like something had bitten its ear off."


    "Looks like they are back,"  Fajii called over her shoulder to the small group sitting at the dining room table.

    A breach opened on the outside deck and a moment later a black Orion padded softly through.  The large predator was followed closely by Nix, who was carrying an unconscious Raine.

    Fajii slid the door open.  "What happened?"

    "Apparently, the Xai Clan leader is a bit of a lightweight when it comes to booze."  Nix chuckled at the Aquarion's surprised expression and gave her a quick kiss before walking by.

    "Stixx!"  Bev's voice caused him to pause when he entered the living room.  His sister was staring at him with her arms crossed in front of her chest.  "Did you get her drunk?"

    "Um... No."  Nix smiled innocently and headed for the downstairs guestroom.  "She got herself drunk."

    /Inferno: Pon: Well said!

    /Inferno: Chiba: You guys have fun?

    /Inferno: Nix: Yep, thanks for the hooch.

    Since she was already wearing under armor, Nix pulled back the covers on the bed and slid her inside.  Shaking his head slightly, he patted her head and pulled the covers up.  "Night, Raine."

    Shae was standing in the doorway when he exit, without saying anything she grabbed his hand and pulled him toward the kitchen.

    Bev, Pon, Chiba, Semmi, Wind, Fajii, Jun Li, and Hyai were already seated around the table.  Nix smiled at the group.  "This a party?"

    Bev nodded.  "It's a 'kick your butt' party."

    Nix chuckled at the reference, she used to say the same thing to him when they were kids.  "Good luck with that."

    "Nix..."  Shae's pretty face looked serious.  "The agreement was that we were taking it easy for a few days."

    "I know, sorry."  Nix sighed and quickly apologized.  The events of Ionova had impacted everyone.  "I wanted to wrap up Belatora so that we could focus on the Harvest festival without worries."

    Chiba had her ring off, her golden hair was pulled back and braided.  "Find me a date for the festival yet?"

    Nix nodded.  "Didn't I say I would?"
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