In the capital city Sassoon there are many Guilds. These Guilds protect the cities throughout the country of Carcanas. As well as fulfilling everyday jobs for the citizens. Some make all their revenue through providing safe travel between cities or venturing into the large, mostly unknown world. Thanks to a magical energy known as Ux, a gigantic array of jobs can be preformed. Krux, the crystallization of this energy through different kinds of materials, is the driving force for all of the world's technological advances.
These crystals can be fitted to a housing called a Matrix, which bring forth the Ux sealed within. When exposed to large amounts of Ux, a person can go through a physiologic change, but their minds remain intact. Their forms can become like that of animals, or the various Monsters that inhabit the world. These Monsters, unlike animals and humans, can directly control the flow of Ux in their bodies. Due to this, it is believed that Ux originally gave birth to the Monsters of the world.
However, a darker form of Ux can twist the minds and bodies of animals and the like, even machines have no protection from the transformation. Very little of this type of Ux exists normally, but a badly managed Matrix can gather and hold it the more it is used. Even with the dangers and complications of Monsters, Changed humans, and the ones Possessed by the dark Ux, the world's population continues to rise at a steady pace, with Krux and Ux a significant part of its culture.
With businesses depending on these technologies, it's only natural for repairs to be needed occasionally and lead to steady income for those skilled in managing Matrixes and Krux. With this in mind, a young man sets out to start his own repair shop in the capital city. Across from a large park, and set up on the long main street of the city, business was promised to be a sure thing. Sadly however, twenty five years in its existence, a recent depression pushes the shop to the edge.
Run down and empty, the now middle aged man sets a help wanted sign in his window, with the hopes of finding someone who he thinks can handle the shop better than he could. As he steps behind the counter, a young child knocks at the door. Surprised, the man goes to answer it. He looks down at the young boy. He had a dirty head of grey hair and a deep sadness in his eyes. He speaks a few words and hands the man an envelope. The man reads the letter inside and a look of great sadness arises on his face. He moves aside to let the boy in. The limp help wanted sign falls from the window and onto the dusty floor.
Eleven years past then, a recent economic boom sends the shop back into great business. The days were hot and long for the now grown up grey-haired boy as the expert Kruxsetter of the shop.
"Crios! Where's the heating pad?!" The grey-haired shop owner known as Mr. Prickett called to the back room.
A nineteen year old man walked out of the back room with a large, thick, folded blanket in his arms. A cord dangled over the floor. He had a blue headband on his sweaty forehead and had a thin grey tank top that barely covered his shoulders. The edge of a scar could be seen on the left side of his chest. With a pair of navy blue shorts, with a red stripe down the right side, and a pair of multicolored sneakers, he looked ridiculous.
"This is your best repair man?" A man in a clean cut suit asked.
Crios set the blanket down on the counter. He pulled out a small cube from a grey satchel hanging from his side.
"You'll need this to get it to work." Crios said as dropped in into the man's hand.
"This is a new Matrix." The man said as he looked it over.
"No shit." Crios replied with a snort. "The other one is irreparable."
Mr. Prickett smacked Crios on the back of his head. "Be polite." He said angrily.
"I'm not going to pay for this." The man said as he dropped the cube on the blanket.
Crios leaned across the counter on one arm. "That one won't break when you try to put a vibrating Krux in it." Crios said with a raised eyebrow.
The man quickly snatched up the blanket and cube, dropping the money on the counter and scurried out the door.
"Tell your friends!" Crios called as he gathered the money. He pulled out a few bills and handed the rest to Mr. Prickett.
"I thought it only had a heating Krux when it came in?" Mr. Prickett asked curiously.
Crios gave him a sly smile before strutting into the back room. Mr. Prickett looked down at the money and grumbled to himself. He pulled the amount for the parts out and put it in the safe under the counter. The rest he slid into his wallet. Grabbing a brown coat off a rack by the door, he walked out.
"Watch the store Crios! I'm going out early today!" Mr. Prickett called back into the store.
"Aye!" Crios cried in reply.
A screeching sound of metal on stone filled the store as Crios dragged a metal chair to the front room. He set his grey bag on the counter and went back to gather his work for the day. He set down a few odds and ends; a small handheld game, a ten inch T.V, a hair dryer, and a radio from a train. Crios immediately began working on the T.V. Separating the 'meat' from its plastic shell; he ran his fingers through the chaotic wiring.
"These people really need to buy new stuff after a while." Crios grumbled as he began cutting wires with an L-shaped knife.
After cutting the wires, he pulled a metal square about an inch thick and the size of the monitor from the bag. From the remaining tangle of wire, Crios pulled a metal cube about the size of his fist. He then pulled out a screwdriver and dismantled the cube. Inside was an iridescent stone set in a shaped frame and surrounded by small circuit boards.
Crios popped the stone out with the tip of his L-tool and while he eyed the stone and circuit boards, pulled a small monitor attached to a three inch metal ring by eight differently colored wires. Crios placed the stone in the ring and detached several of the wires. He turned it on and scanned the stone.
"Point O' three impurity, two percent variance in decrystallization… Hmmm…" Crios said, tapping the monitor."Not bad for ten years old." Crios continued with a pleased look. "Must be in the wiring."
Upon further investigation in the jumble of cut wires, Crios found the problem. A section of wires were fused together and what looked like soda stains on the corresponding spot on the shell.
"Of course." Crios grumbled to himself as he clipped he wires and cut out the fried circuits.
There was a quiet jingle at the door as someone opened it. Crios didn't look up.
"Repair forms are next to the register on the counter. Feel free to look around. Any questions will have to wait." Crios said as he cut the cube apart and laid it out on the metal square.
He soldered the pieces in place and set to work rewiring what he needed to. Crios could hear footsteps going down the counter and back again. Detaching the T.V screen from its tubes, Crios set to work turning it into a casual scratch of pen on paper could be heard as Crios set an array of smaller cubes and stones around in the empty spaces of the flat square of metal.
Crios soldered the wires in a neat spiral from the newly set objects and the center stone. Grafting the monitor to the plate of metal, Crios plugged it into an outlet under the counter. The screen flickered to life and all that could be heard and seen was static. Turning the stones on the plate, Crios managed to get the fuzzy outline of a news reporter.
"Ah!" Crios exclaimed quietly. "I almost forgot the antenna."
Peering into the empty shell, Crios located a black metal bar about six inches long and attached it to the top of the Franken T.V. Instantly, the image cleared up. Bundling up the excess wire, Crios tossed it into a red bin by the doorway to the back room. He tossed anything else he could use into a large trash can next to the red bin.
Everything else was thrown in a long bin at Crios' feet. He set the Franken T.V on a desk behind the register. Crios was about to start on the radio when he remembered he had a customer. Looking across the counter, Crios found a man about his age digging through a giant crate of Krux they had in the middle of the store. He was rather short, somewhere around five feet based on the crate. From what Crios could see, he didn't have much muscle mass, but he didn't seem weak as he dug furiously into the crate.
His black hair covered most of his face as he leaned over the crate. Level with his chin, it grew in an odd crossing pattern at the back. A pair of colorful headphones was hung on his neck. He had a pair of dark blue, almost black jeans with rectangular strips cut out and hemmed across the length of both legs. His boots ranged from blue at the toe, to a charcoal black at the heel. His jacket was a black that matched his hair with a red lightning bolt spiraling around his right sleeve.
The back of the jacket was three inches longer than the front. A short chain of metal rings hung from his left pocket.
"What cha' lookin' for?" Crios asked as he slid over the counter.
He glanced over at Crios. He was wearing a pair of blue sunglasses. He pulled off his head phones and held them out as he walked forward.
"I need these repaired." He spoke clearly and with a voice that Crios found pleasing to hear.
"What's wrong with it?" Crios asked as he looked it over.
"They were tampered with and no longer work properly." He replied.
"That's a little vague." Crios said as he turned back to the counter. No cords were attached to the sides, but one side was heavier than the other.
"I've got some other things I've got to finish first, I'll call you when I've finished." Crios said as he set the headphones next to the other things on the counter.
"I need them now." He said as he held out the folded form he filled out earlier. Opening it, Crios' jaw dropped.
"Three hundred!?" Crios exclaimed. The only thing filled out was the price, five times the normal.
The man pulled out a wad of cash. "It's important." He said as he held out the money.
Crios held up a hand. "Not until I'm done. Store policy." Crios said as he vaulted over the counter and set to work fixing the headphones. "So who are you anyway? Your voice sounds familiar." Crios asked as he quickly took the case apart with a screw driver.
"Hunter Wasteland." He replied.
"Ah, thought so. The name's Crios, Crios Myshcell." Crios replied as he pulled a small metal disk from the headphones.
Three stones sat in an equilateral triangle, with a fourth crudely welded in the center. "The fuck!?" Crios exclaimed. "Who the hell did this?" He demanded.
"Vladd. He likes to 'fix' peoples things for them." Hunter replied.
Crios grabbed his L-tool. "You'll have to introduce me to this Vladd. We'll have some things to discuss." Crios said with a devilish grin. He popped the center stone out and placed it on the counter.
"As long as you don't have trouble with Changed, I will." Hunter replied with a small smile.
Crios stopped, before switching tools and changing to a passive face. Hunter noticed this change and went silent. Grinding the plate smooth, Crios put it back in the headphones.
"Can I tell you something?" Crios asked as he slowly screwed the headphones back together.
"What, may I ask?" Hunter asked.
Crios looked up. "First of all, don't let Vladd touch these again. Second, I am utterly terrified of the Changed."
Hunter nodded. "I see."
"The thing is, I lost my parents due to a monster attack, I was eight at the time and I watched in terror as my parents were viciously mauled and turned into possessed. My fear of Possessed stems from this as well. Shortly afterwards I was stabbed through the heart. Some passerby from a Guild rescued me and I ended up with an artificial heart." Crios said, stabbing his chest with his thumb. "From then on I've been terrified of it becoming Possessed and bursting from my chest, or Changing and it becoming defunct. Ha!" Crios laughed suddenly. "I only met you a few minutes ago and I've told you my life story." Crios as he finished screwing the headphones back together.
He handed them back to Hunter. "Let me know if they work." Crios said as Hunter slipped them on.
He turned them on and stood with his eyes closed as he listened. He nodded at Crios.
"You're better than I thought." Hunter said as he paid Crios.
"It wasn't that hard really." Crios tossed the Krux he removed to Hunter. He caught it and looked at it in his palm.
Barely a centimeter wide and a dark yellow, it wiggled slightly as Hunter shifted his weight. "That little bugger is an equalizer. It increases the volume of the quiet parts and decreased the volume of the loud parts. Especially turns your music into a crappy monotone." Crios explained as he put the cash in his bag and went back to work.
"You're really just going to sit here and work?" Hunter asked, still listening to his music.
"Yeah, why not?" Crios asked, tool in hand.
"A Battle Tournament will be starting this afternoon. The Battle Bar down the street from here is having an event with all food and drinks half off." Hunter explained.
"I lost interest in those tournaments a long time ago." Crios replied as he returned to his work. "Besides, my uncle doesn't want me betting on anything."
"Why is that?" Hunter asked.
"Because I would clean the place out." Crios replied with a sly smile.
"Prove it." Hunter said, returning the smile.
Crios set down what he was working on. "You're not going to let this drop are you?" Crios asked, standing up. "I guess I'll have to take a day off sooner or later. Could you wait outside? I need to lock up." Crios said as he organized what was still on the counter.
Hunter nodded and stepped out the door. Hunter leaned against the store window, his foot up on the lip of the frame. His hands in his pockets, he waited until Crios came out. No longer wearing his headband; Crios had his bag at his waist. Locking the door, he slid the key into his bag.
"Let's go then." Crios said as he started down the street.
As they walked, Hunter attracted people's gaze, and Crios made them frown. "What's with these people?" Crios asked.
"Have you ever considered buying different clothes?" Hunter replied.
"I rarely leave the shop; after a bad run in with a fire breathing vacuum, I don't wear what I don't have to." Crios replied.
Hunter raised an eyebrow. "Fire breathing vacuum?" He asked.
Crios laughed. "You'll be surprised what people bring in and try to get fixed. What we deal with is property not covered by a warranty, or refurbishment." Crios explained.
"But a fire breathing vacuum?" Hunter asked, hung up on the idea.
"That one was from the police. Some pyromaniac of a kid combined a propane tank, a vacuum, a few fire Krux, and a few feet of piping into a makeshift flamethrower. Oddly enough, he was able to suck up and store the fire. That was until it exploded as I was working on it." Crios explained.
Crios patted the bag at his side. "I got a pair of inferno Krux, and the credit for the discovery that Krux can absorb their element directly, out of it. Firefighters use that idea to help save people."
"Inferno Krux? I thought you said Fire?" Hunter asked.
"I did, the four Fire Krux fused in the explosion to the two I have now. They're too unstable to sell to anyone so I've been keeping them for an emergency." Crios said.
"Shouldn't a blast like that kill you?" Hunter asked.
Crios tapped his chest. "My heart had a built in emergency force field. A relic from the Great Wars."
"Ah. Axis right?" Hunter asked.
"Yep. My clothes weren't as lucky though. They were still burning when the field went down." Crios replied.
The corner of the street could be seen. Across the road a large blue brick building was quaking as the roar of a large crowd erupted from it.
"Let's go then. Don't want to keep my friends waiting." Hunter said as he hurried across the empty street.
Crios followed close behind. Pushing the door open, they entered the bar. Chairs and tables rocked on raised floors to either side. The bar was straight ahead from the door. The bartender was leaning against the counter with a bored look. A third floor was built above it and went to the unseen back wall. A sign read "Guild members only" across the top.
Hunter walked past the bar and went to a staircase that leads to the third floor. "Are you sure it's okay for me to come up here?"Crios asked.
"Don't worry. I know the owner and I'm sure they'll let you in." Hunter replied.
A large man in dark jeans and a black tee shirt blocked the way onto the floor. A similar man blocked the other staircase.
"Hey Hunter, who do you think will win the cup?" he asked as he stepped out of Hunter's way.
"Fisher for sure; I can't argue with stats like that!" Hunter replied with a smile.
Crios cautiously slipped by. A heavy hand on his shoulder made him jump. "Sorry, I'll need to see an I.D." The bouncer said, holding out his hand.
"It's okay Francis, he's with me." Hunter said as he turned back around.
The bouncer sighed. "Friend or not any new visitors need to prove they're in a Guild." Francis said as he pulled Crios back past the gate.
A large shower of sparks burst suddenly from the large plasma at the far wall. There were cries of outrage as it was the only T.V on the floor. "Damn it!" A young man yelled as he stormed up the stairs. A waiter walked up and said a few quick words. The young man sighed and announced to the floor. "I'm sorry, but there's no way we can get it fixed before the tournament."
"Things will get violent if we don't get it working." Francis said, uncertain if he should start crowd control.
Crios gave Hunter a wide grin. Hunter was confused at first, but then grinned back. "What's with you two?" Francis asked.
With a twirl, Crios pulled his L-tool from his bag, along with a screwdriver. "I'll make that T.V work better than when it came out of the box in less than three minutes." Crios said as he walked past Francis.
Francis looked at Hunter as Crios passed him. "It's unlike you to make a new friend." He commented.
Crios pushed through a group almost ready to hit each other on his way to the T.V. Crios grabbed a chair as he passed and hopped up to reach the back of the giant plasma T.V. In a matter of seconds, he had the back off and was messing with the wires. The floor looked at him with confused looks. As he replaced the final wire, the T.V burst into life, the image clear and sharp. Crios was drowned in cheers as he worked his way back to Hunter.
"It was a pleasure, I'll be going now!" Crios said with a bow as he turned to the stairs.
Francis' large arm grabbed him and brought him in for a noogie. "You're not going anywhere!" He exclaimed.
"I take it I can stay?" Crios asked from under his arm.
Francis pushed him forward. "Just don't start anything you can't handle!" Francis called as Hunter and Crios walked to their table. It was at the far right and a group of four people were already sitting there.
A good looking young man with short blonde hair that faded to a longer white; He was wearing a dark blue track suit. A woman that seemed older than she looked with a great rack and long red hair pushed behind her shoulders. She was wearing a doctor's coat of all things. A younger woman who was sat closer to Crios was wearing a short blue skirt and a light blue tank top. Her aqua blue hair flowed well past her shoulders.
A blue cat-face bag was at her waist. Crios noticed she had a large number of rings hung on a necklace dangling half hidden in her shirt. The final member of the group was a young man what was younger than the one in the track suit. His orange hair casually floated around in an untamed mess. He had an odd pair of shorts that had a longer front and a skintight back below his knee, creating little flaps. A hole was cut at the back of the knee.
His jacket was a light blue that darkened to a jet black at the sleeves. Four belts were at the end of each arm muscle. What made him seem even stranger was that his right eye was the same orange as his hair, but his left was a darkish blue that matched the shoulders of his jacket. Hunter introduced them. In order they were; Matt, Jennifer, Clair, and Aerel.
"Guys, this is Crios." Hunter said, patting Crios on the back.
"Ahoy hoy!" Aerel exclaimed, raising a welcoming hand.
'And like that, any hope he'll be a normal person flies out the window.' Crios thought, trying to fake a smile.
"So Hunter, you still going for Fisher?" Matt asked. Hunter nodded.
Clair reached around Crios and poked Hunter's headphones. "I see you got them fixed." She said when he glanced at her. He nodded, pointing to Crios. She raised her eyebrows in his direction.
"You fixed them?" She asked.
There was something about her purple eyes Crios found enchanting.
Crios nodded. "You know, he's never seen without them. If he was willing to let you fix them, you must be good." Aerel said as he pushed between Clair and Crios.
Crios scooted away from him a little. "Not really. He probably just noticed it on his way here." Crios replied.
A waitress walked up. "Would any of you care to make some bets?" She asked, holding up a tablet.
"Twenty five on the first person with the letter Z in their name!" Aerel exclaimed.
Clair leaned behind him and whispered to Crios. "He's gone through the entire alphabet at least three times, and tried the total number of letters in their name. He's never won." Clair said with a half smile.
The waitress took his money and tapped a few things into the tablet. A piece of paper printed out the bottom. She handed it to him. "Twenty five on Zanmeter Xter. Anyone else?" She asked.
"Ten on Fisher." Hunter said as he handed her a single bill.
"Thirty five on Lucifer." Jenifer said as the waitress handed Hunter another slip of paper.
Clair glanced over to Crios as Jenifer got hers. "Can I see their stats?" Crios asked.
"Okay…" The waitress said as she handed him the tablet.
Crios did a quick search and a short list of contestants popped up. Crios scrolled, no one popping up who's worth a second glance. He stopped when he recognized one of their faces. The last one on the list, Alexander Soum. Crios knew it had to have been him. He looked at a more detailed summary. A smile popped up on his face when he looked at the minute details of his Krux and Exo-Suits.
"Six hundred and fifty on Alexander Soum." Crios said as he passed the money and tablet back to the waitress.
"S-six hundred and fifty?" She stammered.
"Fifty from me as well." Clair said, with a smile in Crios' direction.
"So seven hundred on Alexander Soum." The waitress said as she passed the slips back to Crios and Clair. The waitress shook her head as she left to store the money.
"Are you sure you should be betting so high?" Aerel asked.
"That man once saved my life, besides, he's capable of a level three overheat." Crios replied.
"Only three?" Aerel asked.
"Only three?!" Crios snapped. "The explosion that leveled my old shop was considered a level one!"
"Calm down!" Jenifer exclaimed.
"What Scale are you using?" Hunter asked.
"Larson's." Crios replied grumpily.
"WHAT?!" They cried in unison.
"Larson's is meant for people Ranked past G!" Clair exclaimed.
"You're telling us you survived a Level one explosion on Larson's scale?" Hunter demanded.
"What's with you people?" Crios asked.
"Let me put it this way," Matt began. "Heartson's scale is based off the amount of energy used up or released. A level one is like a sharp punch from a professional boxer. With Larson's however, it's measured in the amount of weight it can push. A ton to level ratio, so a level three is equal to three tons of weight that can be moved. At least you aren't using Exson's; a level is the square mileage of area affected. A level one on that scale would destroy over half the city." Matt explained.
He frowned. "Why would someone G ranked be after you anyway?" He asked.
"It was an explosion involving Krux fusion. A complete accident and I survived thanks to my artificial Axis heart. Any other one and I would be dead." Crios replied.
"Really?" Jenifer asked as she pulled out a pair of glasses.
She put them on and stared hard at Crios for over a minute, her finder on one of the arms.
"Um…" Crios said.
She pulled them off and put them back into her pocket. "I've never seen an artificial heart do what it has to him, but it's defiantly Axis." Jenifer said.
Even knowing that, she didn't seem to treat him any differently. Crios smiled at that fact. There was a loud crash. A tall man with a large coat draped on his shoulders and no shirt was standing up, a spilt drink on his lap.
"Watch it bitch!" He yelled at the waitress.
Hunter and the others glared silently over at him. A waiter scurried over.
"I'm sorry sir; we'll have this cleaned up soon!" He said nervously.
The man stepped on the glass on the floor and lifted the waiter by the collar. "That's not going to be enough." He growled as he brought his fist back.
"Drop him." Crios said as he walked forward. The waiter glanced at Crios with a terrified look.
The man looked over to him. He dropped the waiter and walked to meet Crios. His boots stepped with heavy thuds as he walked over. The waitress ran up to the waiter.
"Who the hell are you to tell me what to do?" He demanded.
"As long as I'm here, I'm not going to let you hurt anybody. But it doesn't matter does it? You still obeyed." Crios replied with a snarky grin.
The man brought down a heavy fist on Crios' face in reply, knocking him to the floor. "Chh. He didn't even use his powers." He said as he turned back to the waiter.
Crios spoke. "Powers?" Crios asked as he struggled to his feet. He raised his bleeding head and looked the man straight in the eye. "My only power is my fists." Crios said as he raised his fists.
"Eh?" The man asked with a raised eyebrow.
"So why not come over here and get a feel for true 'power'?" Crios asked.
The man cracked his knuckles, sparks flashing around his shoulders. "I'll just have to show you a bit of divine punishment." He said as he ran forward.
Taking a tight right hook, the man aimed for Crios' head. Crios dropped down, driving a fist as hard as he could into the man's stomach. The man flew back a good six feet. Crios got a sharp shock in reply.
"That's some impressive strength for a civilian." Aerel commented.
The man quickly got back to his feet. "Too bad without a proper Exo-suit he won't last long." Matt said bluntly.
The man charged at Crios again, this time fully cloaked in electricity. "You're not going to survive this one!" He yelled.
Crios ran at him. He grabbed a chair as he passed a table and used it to pin the man to the ground as he vaulted over him. Crios brought his leg down on the chair and shattered it into the man.
"Rubber soles." Crios said smugly as he tapped his shoes.
"They aren't made of anything else." Matt said, unamused.
The man was now crackling with energy. The T.V flickered as he interfered with the signal. "I'm not pulling any more punches." The man said as he pulled off his coat.
A pair of circular pads were attached to either shoulder. They distributed the electricity through a network of cables that ran across his chest and arms. Dashing forward with incredible speed, he prepared to punch Crios. With speed that far surpassed the man's, Hunter caught his punch with a single hand. He was unfazed by the electricity that was flowing into his body.
The man backed up with a look of surprise. "It's Hunter Wasteland!" people in the crowd whispered.
"Why is he helping?" Another asked.
"You should know that using that level of power on a civilian is against the rules." Hunter said as he tightened his grip.
The man fell to his knees. "Stop! You're going to break my hand!" He screamed with tears in his eyes. Hunter tightened it further.
It came to the point when his bones began snapping when Matt stepped it. "Enough Hunter." Matt growled.
Hunter released the man's hand. He ran out of the bar, holding his hand and leaving his coat behind. The two walked silently back to their table. Crios followed a good distance back.
Jenifer began treating Crios' wounds. "Ow! Watch it will ya?!" Crios exclaimed.
"I wasn't the one who charged into something they can't handle." Jenifer replied.
"I have my reasons." Crios grumbled.
"Reasons or not, you shouldn't confront people like that." Aerel chided as he drunk something dark red.
"Look who's talking." Clair muttered.
The tension between Matt and Hunter was palpable.
The waitress from before came running up, She was very excited. "I take it you weren't watching the tournament?" She asked Crios.
"That would be a no." Crios said as Jenifer wrapped his head.
"Well…" She said slowly. "Alexander was given a technical victory while you were busy." She handed a silver and gold card to Crios.
"What's this?" Crios asked.
"How much exactly did he win?" Aerel asked.
"The judges decided that in order to protect people, they gave Alexander the trophy, but not any of the extra prizes, and due to how our betting is run, it is worth as if he won every fight he would have participated in. You have over three hundred thousand in credits." The waitress said with a smile.
Crios was gaping, mouth wide open. Aerel was frozen mid drink, Jenifer was half tying Crios' bandages. Slowly, a smile crept onto Crios' face. Growing ever larger, he began to laugh.
"Hehehe...Hahahaha…Gwahahahahahaha! What did I tell you Hunter!?" Crios exclaimed, smacking Hunter on the back. "I told you I would clean you out!"
Still laughing, he turned to the waitress. "Do you think I could use it for a few more bets?" Crios asked, holding up the card.
The look on her face was only surpassed by the other's reactions.
"Enough!" Matt cried with a horrified look. "There comes a point when you're practically cheating and they won't pay any of your rewards!"
"Fine then! I'll just us it to buy my own place." Crios replied grumpily.
"I said Credits, not Ere." The waitress said with a frown.
"Oh…" Matt said. Instantly, the group calmed down, except for Crios.
"What's the difference?" Crios asked.
"You have 3,900 Ere worth of credits." The waitress replied before turning to Clair and handing her a black card.
"Oh…" Crios said, disheartened.
"Don't worry about it that much!" Aerel said cheerfully. "You won thirty times what she did"
"That's because I bet thirty times what she did." Crios replied.
"Did the money really mean that much to you?" Clair asked.
"Let me put it this way; I'm nineteen years old, living in the back of my uncle's shop with nowhere else to go. That money would have gone to getting my own place and setting up my own kind of shop. House hold repairs get really boring really quickly." Crios replied.
The group glanced around at each other.
"That money I bet was from the last six months. In a single job, Hunter doubled the amount I had previously." He continued.
"The answer to your problems is simple." The waitress said.
Crios blinked. "If Hunter is the one with the money, then why not do what he does?" She suggested.
"Yeah!" Aerel exclaimed. "You should join our Guild!"
"You can't really argue with that can you…" Matt said.
"I'm sure Rucher has a few extra Exo-suits lying around, and Jacob can make anything Crios needs." Jenifer said.
"So what do you think Hunter?" Clair asked.
Crios could see Hunter's eyes over the top of his sunglasses. "I don't see why not." Hunter said after a long pause.
"Well then Crios, how about it? Care to party, fight, and live with us?" Aerel asked excitedly.
Crios gave him a reassuring smile. "Alrighty then, I'll need a few hours to pack and finish my work though." Crios replied as he chugged the remaining liquid in Aerel's glass.
"Let's go now!" Aerel said, dragging Crios by the arm behind him.
"See you there!" Aerel called back as they left.
"That guy has a hell of a challenge ahead of him." Matt said as he ordered more drinks.
"Something about him doesn't sit well with me." Hunter said.
"You were the one who brought him." Clair retorted.
"I didn't notice it till he started to fight, I don't care who you are; you just don't shrug off a punch like that and stand up." Hunter replied.
"What I learned shortly afterwards will make this easier to understand." Jenifer began. "Not only is his artificial heart 100% Adamtinium, his head was healing as I put on those bandages."
"WHAT?" Matt said, jaw dropping.
"There's no doubt about it, Crios might be the guinea pig of a new age Axis experiment. Old habits like that die hard." Jenifer said.
"Then we have to ask ourselves, is it worth the risk of possible Guild war to protect him?" Clair asked. "I don't know about what you guys think, but I think he's been though too much hell already to deal with what Axis might put him through."
"I don't care what the cost is. He said it was a Great War remnant, but I didn't think it would be a possible cause of one of them. An army of people who can take that kind of abuse untrained would be almost unstoppable. We have to protect him." Hunter said.
"Who are you to decide such things?" Clair demanded.
Francis, the bouncer, sat down where Crios was. "It's my break, what are you discussing?" He asked.
"Fighting Axis to prevent possible war and further experiments on Crios." Hunter replied.
"Jesus Christ that's dark." Francis exclaimed.
A man draped in shadow appeared from behind Hunter. Only their table seemed to notice him. "Zed!" Matt exclaimed with a horrified look.
"Make sure he uses this somehow." He said as he set a stone into Hunter's hands and disappeared.
Hunter looked down at it. It was a grey that matched Crios' hair. Around where Hunter made contact with it, orange webbing appeared in the stone.
"Let's keep this to ourselves okay? I'll tell Aerel later." Hunter said as he slipped the stone into his pocket.
The five of them each held out consecutive fingers in a circle, with Clair placing her whole hand on top of the circle to make five. They broke the circle and scattered. Matt stayed for his drinks with Jenifer, Clair left, and Francis returned to work. Hunter walked out of the bar to get to his own business.
"You really live here?" Aerel asked, looking around the back room of Mr. Prickett's shop.
"More or less." Crios replied as he packed his belongings into his bag. "We turn on the crystallizer and grind up trash we collect from our work to heat up the place in winter."
"That explains the boxes of trash and the logic of a crate of Krux." Aerel as he began playing with a rolling chair.
Crios tossed his filled bag at Aerel along with a military grade duffel bag as he rolled by. "I don't have much else, but we'll have to wait for my uncle." Crios said as he retrieved a second rolling chair.
"Have you tried the surfing position?" Aerel asked as he placed one foot on the top of the back of the chair, pushing it down and bending it backwards. A gentle breeze pushed him around the room. Leaning in as he took a corner, two of the wheels of raised into the air.
"Sorry, but I can't do that." Crios said as he pushed off of the wall. As he rolled across the room, he spun a few times.
"That's too bad; then again, it's hard to control it this way." Aerel say as he and the breeze passed Crios.
Crios turned to the doorway when the bell on the door ringed. "Uncle?" Crios called to the front room.
Mr. Prickett was hanging his coat by the door. "Crios? Why was the door locked?" He asked.
"I was out for a bit." Crios replied as he hopped over the counter.
"Okay then." He said, glancing at Crios' bandaged head.
Aerel, with Crios' stuff in hand, rolled through the doorway at a quick speed. The wheels caught on the lip of the uneven floors between the two rooms and Aerel was sent flying. Colliding with Crios, the pair was sent sprawling onto the shop floor.
"Are you leaving?" Mr. Prickett asked when he saw Crios' bags.
"Yup!" Aerel exclaimed as he jumped up.
Mr. Prickett raised an eyebrow. "BluZeph?" He said.
Aerel quickly pulled out a pair of large orange sunglasses that looked like a pair of two obtuse triangles joined at a single point. His eyes both turned to dark orange as the sunglasses tinted.
"Ow!" Crios exclaimed as he stood up. "Next time watch where you're going Aerel!" Crios exclaimed as he picked up his stuff.
"Crios, where did you meet a BluZeph?" Mr. Prickett asked.
"BluZeph?" Crios asked slowly.
"It's my family name." Aerel replied before Mr. Prickett could open his mouth.
"Oh. I met him down the street at the Battle Bar." Crios explained.
"I take it you're in a Guild?" Mr. Prickett asked. Aerel didn't reply. "It doesn't matter." He said with a dismissive wave of his hand. "Crios, I have something for you before you leave." Mr. Prickett said as he walked up a staircase at the end of the store.
"What's with those?" Crios asked, pointing at Aerel's sunglasses.
"Something you wouldn't understand." Aerel replied. Crios frowned.
Mr. Prickett came back down the stairs before he could ask about it again. He was holding a brown leather satchel filled to about the size of Crios' fist. "Throughout my time in this city, I managed to obtain a large amount of rare items. I think you could use them better than I could." He said as he gave it to Crios. "Good luck Crios. You're going to need it to handle whatever Guild could interest a BluZeph."
Crios placed the bulging satchel into his already stuffed bag.
"I suggest you get going before I make more work for you." Mr. Prickett said with a crooked smile.
"Aye!" Crios exclaimed as they hurried out the door.
Aerel had Crios' bag slung over his shoulder. "I take it you have a problem with your eyes?" Crios asked as they walked back towards the Battle Bar.
Aerel didn't reply.
Crios confronted Aerel. "We're not going anywhere until you tell me." Crios said.
"Crios, I'd rather not talk about it." Aerel replied.
Crios snatched Aerel's sunglasses off his face. The sunlight blinded him briefly. "Give those back!" Aerel yelled angrily.
"Tell me why your eyes and family name make you so upset!" Crios replied.
"Because they shun me!" Aerel exclaimed angrily. "Because of this orange eye, I don't have the eyesight the rest of my family does. They cast me out as weak and don't include me in the family business unless they have to. I got tired of people recognizing my odd eyes so I hid them with those sunglasses." Aerel grabbed the sunglasses back and put them on his face.
"If your orange eye is a mutation, then how did my uncle recognize you?" Crios asked.
Aerel paused. "That's a good point. This mutation is a closely guarded secret. How did he know?" Aerel said aloud to himself.
"He didn't care who you were anyway. I don't see how you should worry about how people treat you for your oddity. It's not like it changes how you think or behave." Crios said.
"How would you know that?" Aerel asked.
"The way you behave and look. Even now, you attract people's attention with how you look. It would be easier to get a contact then wear those sunglasses." Crios replied.
"Look who's talking." Aerel snorted as he brushed past Crios.
"Do you know what my family name is?" Crios asked. Aerel stopped and looked back. "Myshcell. I personally don't know much about them. I looked them up, but not much was listed. You're lucky enough to know your family. All I have is my memories and a list of family member names." Crios said. Aerel blinked.
"Myshcell? I haven't heard anything about them myself. But I don't see your point." Aerel replied.
"My point is: get over it. You have a family who has a history; I have literally nothing to tell me about who I come from. I might a high risk to a disease or like your family, a genetic trait that gives me an advantage, or enemies who do know my family and might come after me. I have no idea. If your family can't get over a difference of eye color, then they aren't your true family. Accept that they're a bunch of shallow assholes and don't let them make you worry about your image." Crios replied.
Aerel shook his head. "Let's drop this and move on. If it makes you leave me alone, I'll talk to my younger sister to get an update on the family matters." He said as he walked down the street.
"So what is your Guild called anyway?" Crios asked after a short silence.
"Dragon's Den. It's not that big and isn't very well known. We might get a mention somewhere, but it's usually brushed aside for more interesting news." Aerel replied. "Our ride should be here shortly." He said as they crossed the street to the Battle Bar.
"Ride?" Crios asked.
The loud squealing of tires could be heard as a car flew around the corner. As the driver accelerated out of the turn, yellow smoke billowed from the tires. After a brief shredding of the pavement, the car came within a hundred feet of Crios and Aerel. The driver wiggled the car and slid to a halt by the side walk. It was very sharp in design with numerous flat edges.
The car body was slivery white, with a blue line that cut across the length of the car, bursting towards the back. A pair of acute angles created an arrow towards the front. It was a two door built like a rally car. The mud flaps swung back and forth from the fast driving and sudden stop. It appeared to have 'hips' as the frame bent around the doubled up tires in the front and back. The door popped open. A man about Crios' age and a little taller than him stepped out. He had short brown hair and reddish brown eyes.
"So this is the new recruit eh?" He asked, glancing at Aerel as he looked at Crios.
He was dressed head to toe in blue. A dark blue jacket with a grey shield set on a red dragon with its wings spread to either side was stitched across his chest. And one his right shoulder. Crios noticed the same symbol on different parts of the car as he walked around it. He also had a pair of matching gloves and a pair of blue jeans ripped at the knees. His neon, electric blue sneakers stuck out from the rest of his outfit. A pair of blue, faceted goggles were on his forehead.
"The name's Rusty Johnson." He said as Crios rounded the car. He held out his hand.
"Crios Myshcell." Crios replied.
"Are you sure this one can handle the pressure you put on it?" Aerel asked, looking at the car.
"Unlike the last four, this one operates solely on Krux. I got a gas back up if that ever fails." Rusty replied.
"Is it electric?" Crios asked.
"Of course not! This baby's built with a modified Drive." Rusty replied.
"Drive?" Crios asked, intrigued.
"Let me show you." Rusty said as he raised the hood.
A large octagonal box frame was anchored to the middle of the engine housing. A small gasoline engine was tucked in the corner. Set in the metal box were five Krux, four set in a metal ring that rotated freely and a fifth in the middle. The mechanics to the device were hidden behind a thin layer of metal.
"The four in the outer ring is what controls all the attributes of the wheels; speed and brake intensity among other things. The one in the center acts like computer that delivers my input from the buttons on the steering wheel and dashboard to each outer Krux individually. This allows me to control every aspect of my vehicle. The design of it uses the natural flow of Ux from the Krux to make its power, which is delivered straight to each wheel which has even smaller Drives to make them spin. The torque I get from it is amazing." Rusty explained.
Crios reached down and touched one of the Krux. It spun in its socket along with the ring it was set in. "I see… So the loose socket allows the Krux to shift polarity as it wants. This reacts with the field generated by the spinning ring passing over an alloy of Uxium coating a Fluxitite crystal's field. The contradiction of these fields makes them push each other away, and then as they pass, an admantinium plate negates the field's affects, letting the next Krux pass over it before the fields collide again. The central Krux controls when the plate covers the alloy coated crystal, preventing the fields from twisting too much and binding up the engine. It's kind of like a turbine." Crios said with little pause for breath.
Rusty was speechless. Aerel was looking at him like he was crazy. "It took me a week to figure that out! And another to get the assembly right! In less than thirty seconds you figured that out and act like its child's experiment! That technology is state of the art, you have no idea the hell I went through to get the blueprints needed to make it!" Rusty exclaimed.
"And I can make it work better." Crios replied, tapping the Krux. Rusty was shocked again.
"Who the fuck are you!?" He demanded.
"A shut in Master Kruxsetter. And I'm not bragging about that title. Give me five minutes and not only will you get maximum output, you would be able push it to its limit to your heart's desire." Crios replied.
"Go ahead; just tell me how you know you can do that!" Rusty replied.
"As you know, a large number of variables attribute to a Krux's unique Ux field. Purity, Size, shape, and so one. " Crios explained.
"Yeah yeah." Rusty said.
"But did you know that your computing Enhancement Krux has a different set of variables? Purity and the like are the basic set of variables. Rules that all Krux follow. Enhancement Krux however, are different. They have unique variables unseen in others. These variables are what give the user abilities. Like Aerel's sunglasses, and your goggles. Enhancement Krux is what increases your vision, or automatically tint when you put them on. They can interact with the Ux flowing in your body.
"Users of these Krux don't realize that these Enhancement Krux can be affected by your Ux flow as well. Certain feelings or visions of colors can affect the Krux. Even flavors or certain rhythms can trigger a change in the Krux. And reversely as well. They can make you taste or hear things that aren't there or you normally can't." Crios explained as he scanned each Krux in the Drive. "If I can make your Enhancement Krux tune to the color blue, whenever you wear those goggles and all that blue clothing, the strength of the fields of both the crystals and Krux will triple."
"Good lord Crios. I don't think anyone can retain that kind of information." Aerel said from the backseat of the car.
"Well you should at least remember the important part. Dressing according to a theme or color that matches the Krux you use will make it even stronger than before. Alexander knew this. I could tell from his clothes and the minute details the tournament people get from his Krux. That's how I knew he could do such a powerful overheat while being Ranked so low." Crios explained.
In exactly four minutes and forty five seconds, Crios had finished his work. "You ready to unleash this beast?" Crios asked.
"As ready as I'll ever be!" Rusty replied.
Crios climbed into the back seat, sitting on the left side. The car could seat a total of four. One up front for Rusty set in the middle of the car; three could sit in the backseat.
Rusty climbed up front. "You ready for this Zeph?" Rusty asked Aerel.
"Get on with it already!" Aerel replied.
Pulling down his goggles, Rusty turned on the radio to hard rock and started the engine. All that could be heard of the engine was the spinning ring sliding against the metal it rested on. The car frame however, was shivering from the rapidly rotating Drive. "It seems a little unbalanced. I'll fix that when I get it back to the shop." Rusty said as he pushed down on the accelerator. From zero to sixty in the blink of an eye, the car shot forward like a rocket.
"HOLY SHIT!" Aerel exclaimed as they rounded a corner at seventy miles an hour.
Rusty twisted a knob a dozen times to up the resistance of the accelerator. After rounding a few corners, they reached an on ramp to the gigantic highway system that ran over most of the city. Rusty immediately changed to a road meant only for high speed vehicles. Crios could see other cars on the lower roadways.
"Let's see how fast we can go." Rusty said as he pushed down on the accelerator. A bright orange rally car flashed by them as it sped on its way.
"Why is it so empty?" Crios asked as Rusty drove faster.
"This is meant for Guild vehicles that can drive at insane speeds. Races are held every so often, most of them illegal but no cops would be able to do anything about it." Rusty explained as he pulled slowly past the orange rally car.
About five people were crammed inside. A yellow fox was painted in flames on the side of the car. "Thermal Ignition. A Guild that races cars for a living." Aerel explained.
The driver glanced over at Rusty. He gave him a look of disgust and pushed something on his dashboard. The grill of the car slid open slightly to let in more air. They quickly pulled past Rusty.
"Rusty, I think now would be the time to cut loose." Crios said as he watched the car drive past.
Rusty grinned. "Alrighty, hold onto your stomachs!" Rusty exclaimed as he turned the accelerator's resistance all the way down and put the pedal to the floor board.
All eight wheels let out a screech as they started to spin out. Rusty twisted something on his steering wheel and they shot forward so quickly they ignited the trail of rubber they left behind them. The driver of the orange rally car watched with a loose jaw as Rusty shot past them.
"Two hundred and sixty!" Rusty called out as he started to turn.
"If the Drive was balanced and we had higher quality Krux, it would be even faster." Crios added.
"What about a larger Drive?" Rusty asked.
"Or adding weight and drag reducing Krux." Crios said with an evil smile.
Rusty shivered. "Don't do that! It's hard enough controlling it now at this speed!" Rusty exclaimed as he glanced up at the mirror on the windshield.
"RUSTY! Look out!" Aerel yelled suddenly.
Glancing back at the road, a dog had somehow made its way onto the road. Rusty turned as hard as he could to the right, since he wouldn't be able to brake at the speed he was at. Aerel kicked open his door and held it open with the power of the wind he could control. The car turned a full ninety degrees. The people in the orange rally car could see the car shoot over the railing as if it was a ramp and out over the city.
Aerel was shot back into Crios during the sharp right turn. As the three flew over a large skate park, the people managed to take videos of the second part of the car's arc through the sky. The hair on Aerel's head shimmered as he placed his hands on the floor of the car. A different sector of the highway was directly in front of them. The last few feet seemed to be impossible, but they landed on the other side. The car rolled a few times and skidded to a halt in the middle of the lane.
Aerel was passed out on the floor and Rusty and Crios were breathing heavy from the massive amount of adrenaline pumping through their system. It took five minutes for them to regain their breath. "You guys okay back there?" Rusty asked.
"That's yet to be determined." Crios replied as he pushed the unconscious Aerel off of him. Somehow, no one managed to break any bones during the rough landing.
Rusty started driving again. "I take it he was the reason we made it across?" Crios asked, glancing over at Aerel.
"Yeah. It's a thing about the BluZeph's to be able to control the wind. Aerel over there was born with a certain mutation as you probably know. His eyesight isn't as good as his families as well as their wind control. He may not be able to control it as accurately, but he still can give it enormous power. Holding a car like this in the air is no easy feat." Rusty replied as he turned down the radio.
Another car passed them. "So what's this Dragon's Den like?" Crios asked.
"It's nothing fancy. We're stationed towards the south end of the city in an old high-rise. We've got a few well known members, but nothing widespread." Rusty replied.
"You act like it's nothing special." Crios said.
"True enough. Most of us don't actively try to become famous. Most Guilds have a larger amount of members and a wider range of jobs. Even though most of our members have a high Rank, we still get the small jobs. Most of us get jobs outside requests since they don't give that much money as a reward." Rusty explained.
"Well, we just jumped the equivalent of three blocks. Maybe this Drive technology is what your Guild needs to get more members." Crios suggested.
"Heh. I can only imagine you using a Drive in a weapon." Rusty replied.
The idea intrigued Crios. "The only problem with that is the design. At a smaller scale, weaker Krux would have to be used, but a tweaking of the design would let me use even stronger Krux…" Crios muttered.
Rusty turned onto an off ramp. Crios was absorbed in a notebook he had pulled from his bag. He was busy scribbling in it when Aerel let out a low moan.
"I see you're up." Rusty said as Aerel sat up slowly.
"What's with him?" Aerel asked with a thumb towards Crios.
"He's working on a theory for his weapon I guess." Rusty replied.
"We're almost there." Aerel commented as he glanced out the window. After a brief silence Rusty turned the radio back up. A voice interrupted the music.
"Sorry to interrupt folks, but a recent stunt by those crazy S.O.B's from Dragon's Den has become a hit on the Nexus. According to the videos, they launched a car across the gap between the sector one highway and sector five. That's three city blocks folks! I've got the best video attached to the studio's page, and if you crazy bastards are listening, here's a song just for you."
The voice cut out and a loud heavy metal song started. Rusty turned it down a little. "It seems like we got a story on our hands." Rusty said as he rounded the final corner.
"There it is Crios." Aerel said as a crumbling high-rise came into view. The top floors were ripped off, leaving only the bottom half of the building intact. Ropes were hung down from one side and people were struggling to climb up them.
"There's enough empty rooms for everyone, but the elevator can only reach the first five floors, past the first three that collapsed." Rusty explained as he pulled up next to the crowd below the ropes.
All of them recognized the car and started to swarm towards them before some people pushed them back into the crowd. "They must be here because of the video." Aerel said. A man with a black Mohawk and various piercings throughout his face walked around the car.
He was dressed completely in black leather coated in metal studs. His eyes were a very dark grey. "You got a special mention on the radio today." He remarked as Rusty got out.
"Chh, it's not like we tried to make that jump." Rusty replied as Aerel threw Crios' stuffed duffel bag out at him. Aerel came out shortly afterwards. Rusty tossed him Crios' bag. Crios crawled out shortly afterwards, his face still in his notebook.
"Who's that?" The man asked, pointing at Crios.
"Crios Myshcell." Rusty replied.
"Crios." Aerel said as he poked Crios. Crios twitched.
"Busy." Crios said as he busily scribbled something in his notebook.
"What's he doing?" The man asked as he glanced over Crios' shoulder. He couldn't make out the writing, but he did recognize the formulas. "So he's a Krux specialist?" He asked.
Rusty laughed. "He's more than a specialist. From what I've seen, he's the best." Rusty replied.
"Hey newbie! You plan on standing there forever?" A large man asked as he and a large group of teens smelling of alcohol and cigarettes walked over. He was a good head taller than Crios.
"The boss asked you a question." One of the teens said as he flipped open a pocket knife. Crios whipped around, elbowing the man with the knife in the face and locking eyes with the large man.
"Fuck off before I beat you to a bloody pulp." Crios growled.
The man blinked.
"Crios!" Clair called out as she ran from the crowd.
Hunter followed, giving the tall man a harsh look. The tall man slinked off with the rest of his crew.
"Before anything else, we need to get you a room." Clair said as he grabbed his arm. Crios slipped his notebook back into his bag. Clair led him to where the ends of the ropes were. "Once you reach the room you want, place this on the wall. The higher floors offer larger rooms." Clair said as she put a large metal plate with his name engraved on it. "You won't need this." She said as she took his bag and pushed him forward. "Good luck!" She called out as Crios stared up at the wall.
Numerous windows and ledges stuck out from the wall, offering footholds. Crios bent down to the dry soil. He collected a few chunks of broken concrete and grinded them in his hands, coating them in white powder. Clenching the metal plate in his teeth, Crios began climbing up the wall using the windows and ledges. Crios was climbing faster than the people using the ropes. "He's like a freaking spider." Matt commented as he popped out of the crowd beside Clair.
They watched as Hunter and the others joined them. Crios flowed from handhold to handhold, not stopping for a break. "I'm surprised no one has tried that yet. He should be able to reach some of the top floors like that." Hunter commented.
Crios soon passed the windows which the ropes were hung from. "From there up are the completely vacant floors." Aerel said as Crios climbed further.
Crios was soon stopped by a problem. The top floors were solid concrete; he wouldn't be able to climb up them. Crios crept to the north side of the building and peeked around. Like the rest of the building, the top floors were still smooth. However, an antenna hung from a wire close to where Crios was. He reached around to grab it. His hand that was resting between his chest and the corner crunched a thin metal in the corner.
It was the rain gutter that would have drained the water from the roof. Snagging the antenna, Crios pulled off the largest two prongs. Stuffing the metal plate into the back of his pants, Crios used the metal prongs to climb up the rest of the floors. 'Good thing I'm so light. Otherwise it would have collapsed.' Crios thought as he pulled himself onto the roof of the building.
He looked back down at Clair and the others and waved. "That's it then." Rusty said as Crios disappeared down the roof. "Crios has passed the unknown."
"Let's go check it out." Aerel said as he ran towards the building with the others. Crios looked around the roof. The other side of the roof had the remainder of the next floor, creating a small shelter. He walked in and waited for his eyes to adjust to the darkness.
The floor was filled with a few rocks and the walls were bare. "That's odd. Aerel said that there was an elevator. There should be a shaft somewhere." Crios said as he kicked at the rocks. The rocks clinked on something beneath the layer of metal. Sifting through it, Crios found a black metal trapdoor. There was a rusted metal ring at one side. Crios pulled it open. A ladder led down into a dark shaft.
Crios hopped onto it and slid down. He guessed it was about five floors long when his feet touched on the bottom. The floor was bare concrete. Crios noticed a slight glow around a switch on the wall. He flipped it on. The room was suddenly lit by four tube-like Krux that sat in pairs at either side of the ladder. A door stood to his left. Crios walked up to it and pushed it open.
Crios walked into a humongous loft. Everything was bright and clean. A large living space with an equally large T.V was to Crios' right. An oak path led to a kitchen area past the living room. A large stairway was to his left that led to an upper floor. Crios estimated it at about three stories tall. He could hear a *whump!* coming from the second floor. Crios crept up the stairway as quietly as he could.
Crios slowly raised his head over the floor of the second floor. Unlike the first, this one was only two stories tall. It was separated into three parts, a bedroom, a gym and a bathroom. The sound was coming from a man striking a punching bag with his palms. A black cloak was hanged on the wall past him. He was shirtless, with sweat beading down his back. His gym shorts billowed with every strike.
Crios tapped the metal railing of the stairway. He jerked to a stop. The shockwave continued and collided with the punching bag with a quiet *whump.* He slowly turned to Crios. "How did you make it up here?" He asked, his lips barely moving.
"Stabbed holes into the gutter with prongs of an antenna." Crios replied.
He dropped from his stance. "Someone as crazy as you belongs in this Guild." He said, waving Crios up.
"Who are you?" Crios asked as he slowly walked up the stairs.
"Zed Fifer." He replied, collecting his cloak from the wall. Hidden behind the cloak was a sword as long as Zed was tall. It curved in a long crescent that thickened to the barbed tip. A pattern of symbols repeated twice along the blade. Three black disks scattered to both ends and the center with moonstone disks cut to resemble the phases of the moon set between them. The blade was like white glass, unbroken and without a seam; it was sharper than a razor.
As Zed pulled on his cloak, Crios stared at the sword. "Moon's Sonata…" Crios said slowly. Zed turned to face Crios. Three long scars ran across his face. Where they crossed his eyes, they created a streak of bright blue inside his white colored eyes. His white hair was also streaked with blue in a similar fashion.
"That's right." Zed replied as he reached for the blade. The crescent shaped guard shimmered as he pointed the sword at Crios. "I'm sure you know just how important it is not to mention this sword to anyone." Zed said as he brought it over his head and slid it into a sheath hidden in his cloak. He silently stepped up to Crios. "I may be a member of Dragon's Den, but don't mention my sword to anyone. If a time comes when you need to tell someone about me, avoid mentioning it." He stepped around Crios. "I hope the place serves you well. It's my only safe house that truly feels like home.
"Dream on and rock the world." Zed said as he held up a hand. His pointer, middle and thumb were held loosely open. Crios bumped his wrist against Zed's as he held out held fingers in the same fashion.
"You've still got to tell me about my father." Crios replied with a sly smile. A half smile crept onto Zed's covered face.
"I knew you still remembered it." Zed said before rapidly spinning around clockwise.
Crios spun counter clockwise and caught Zed's hand after the 360. "I don't want you dying on me now!" Crios exclaimed with a wide grin.
Zed had a similar grin on his face as the blue in his eyes swirled like a whirlpool. The air around the two shimmered briefly before they lowered their hands. Zed gave Crios a short salute before heading down the stairs with his hood covering his face. Crios turned back to the wall that Zed had hung his cloak on. He pulled the metal plate from his pants and hung it on the hook. It hung slightly tilted.
Crios looked around his new home. Suddenly a huge explosion rocked the building. Crios bolted down the stairs. Zed couldn't be seen, but a trapdoor in the kitchen floor was left open. A slip of paper was left with the combination to the safe door that locked the outside from entering from the lower floor. Crios slipped it into his pocket and jumped down to an exposed wood beam that was all that consisted of the floor below his new home.
The beam was covered in numerous scorch marks. Crios assumed they were old since the room didn't smell of gunpowder or fire. He dropped down into the next floor that still had a fully intact floor. He hurried down the hallway and into a room with a window. Pushing his face against it, he looked down at the ground. A large plume of smoke was rising from where the crowd used to be standing.
Due to the smoke, Crios couldn't get a clear view of the activity, but he saw Jenifer tending to numerous seriously injured people. Crios could hear someone shuffle into the room behind him. Turning around, Aerel was leaning against the door frame clutching a clear strip of plastic against his bleeding side. He had Crios's bag at his side.
"Aerel!" Crios exclaimed as he ran to help.
"Be careful, you don't want anyone hearing us up here." Aerel said between forced breaths.
Crios pulled off his shirt. "What are you-" Aerel started before clenching his teeth and pushing the plastic closer to his side. Crios helped him to the floor, taking a look at his injury. A large piece of metal was embedded in his side. It looked like a piece of shrapnel from whatever exploded. Crios gently pulled it out and ripped his shirt into a long string of material.
He used it to tie the plastic patch to Aerel. "I'm going to need your gloves." Crios said as she secured the makeshift bandage.
"What…? Why…?" Aerel asked weakly. He tried to focus on Crios' bare, scarred chest. It was hideous and took up most of his chest.
"You're barely conscious and I need to get you help." Crios replied as he pulled Aerel's gloves off.
"Wait." He said as Crios stood up. "Take these, Matt and Hunter have probably set up a radio channel by now. Use these to talk to them." Aerel said as he held out his sunglasses.
Crios grabbed them as Aerel began to pass out. Crios put them on and pulled on Aerel's gloves. Matt's voice came on. "Aerel, have you found Crios yet?"
"Aerel's down and needs medical attention. He's right below the room with the safe door." Crios replied. Crios kicked the window from its rotting frame.
"Crios?!" Matt exclaimed.
"Don't worry, I'll be joining you shortly!" Crios exclaimed as he climbed into the window sill. He climbed onto the long ledge that sat in front of it.
Sticking his pinkies into his mouth, he whistled loudly. As the sound echoed across the field, people glanced up. "You mother fuckers are in for the fight of a lifetime!" Crios shouted before jumping from the ledge.
"What the fuck!?" Some of them shouted in surprise. As he fell, Crios prepared to grab one of the ropes still hanging from the building. Inches before he could reach it, a giant mecha burst from the wall.
"Woo-Hoo!" Matt yelled from inside the mecha. "Here I come you sons of bitches!"
Crios landed on his feet on the top of the mecha. The mecha landed on the ground on one knee. The sudden impact sent Crios flying and flipping off. Crios landed on his feet and slid until his back bumped into Hunter's. Most of the battlefield was in shock. Matt had his jaw dropped inside the mecha.
A man in a bright green neon uniform was standing nearby Crios. A complex tattoo was on the side of his face. He was raising an eyebrow at Crios. A quick glance around confirmed that the green uniformed people were the enemy. Crios sent him flying across the field with a swift punch and a violent blast of wind. "That was for Aerel." Crios said as he rolled his shoulder.
"It was nice for you to join us." Hunter said from behind him.
"You really belong in this Guild you crazy bastard." Matt said over the radio.
"I was planning on using the ropes, but I guess that was better." Crios replied. A large eruption of flame sent the field back into chaos. "Time to have a little fun!" Crios said as he started shadow boxing.
Crios ducked down as Hunter whipped around and kicked a man sneaking up on Crios. Hunter gave him a thumbs up before calmly walking towards an upcoming mob of green uniformed people. "Matt, think you could give me a hand?" Crios asked as he hopped into the mecha's open palm.
"Why of course!" Matt replied as he catapulted Crios into an upcoming platoon of green uniformed men.
Crios leveled half of them with a sharp kick. He cleaned up the rest with a quick flurry of punches. "So who are they?" Crios asked
. "Neon Shadow. They're a Guild that steals technology from others. They heard about Rusty's Drive and tried to steal it. Right now he's out running their helicopters in his car, headed for backup." Matt explained.
"Crios! Look out!" Clair exclaimed. A large spiked hammer was coming down over Crios's head.
Something incredibly large and fast flashed by, picking up Crios. Clair grabbed the man around the neck with her whip and sent the man spinning into the ground. A large wolf was holding Crios in its mouth. Its ears were covered in a thick, hard substance, along with the front of its fore and back legs. With three tails and V shaped pupils, it was obviously one of the monsters that roamed the land.
Its thick tongue and sharp teeth felt odd on Crios's back. "Drop him." Clair ordered from in front of the beast. On command, the wolf opened its mouth and dropped Crios on the ground. "Thank you!" Clair said with a smile, petting its muzzle.
"Twas a pleasure my dear." The wolf replied. "What?" Crios said from the ground.
"Hmm?" The wolf and Clair asked.
"He can talk?" Crios asked with a surprised look.
"No!" I have a special earring that lets me understand the monsters I bonded with." Clair explained.
The wolf bent down to Crios and sniffed. "You surely are not a Beastmaster." The wolf said.
"Then how can he hear you?" Clair asked. Crios got to his feet.
"I think his eyes will answer that question." The wolf replied.
"What does that mean?" Crios asked.
Clair tilted his face towards her. She took a step back. "Crios…Your eyes… They're golden." Clair said with a shocked look.
The wolf turned to Clair. "It seems the Ux inside my body has an effect on his eye color." The wolf said.
A man came running up with a large hand gun. The wolf flashed forward and sent him flying with his tails. "My name is Oragè. I'm one of Clair's friends." The wolf said, introducing himself. He then proceeded to romp around and wreak havoc on Neon Shadow.
"How long are you just going to sit there?" Clair asked as she took out a man with her whip.
"Huh?" Crios asked.
"Get going!" She exclaimed, pointing to the crowd of reinforcements across the field. Reluctantly, Crios ran towards them. Hunter showed up beside him.
"Matt, enemy reinforcements are moving in." Hunter said through a mike on his headphones. "Rodger that. I've got my own worries about the ones coming from the west." Matt replied.
"Shit. Any news about Rusty?" Hunter asked.
"No, but Vladd's group should be arriving soon." Matt replied.
There was a deafening explosion. Crios cringed and covered his ears. "All this for just a Drive?" Crios asked once the ringing stopped.
"It's also a show of power." Hunter replied. Something exploded next to Crios.
"I suggest we take them down as soon as possible." Hunter said as he charged through right before a carpet bomb of explosions went off.
"Fuck that shit!" Crios exclaimed as he picked up a large rock. He threw it as hard as he could at the line of Neon Shadow members. It bounced off the skulls of two men before colliding with someone's chest. Crios threw a never-ending flurry of rocks at the advancing Neon Shadow. Soon they began hiding behind large chunks of concrete to avoid Crios' rocks.
Hunter glanced around to check on him and when he spotted him, said "So lame." With a disappointed started to walk in his direction when someone knocked him unconscious from behind.
"This is so boring." Crios said as he waited for his foes to look out from behind their cover.
"Let me fix that for you." A man said from behind him. A large boot clipped Crios across the chin and sent him flying back. Rubbing the red mark on his face, Crios sat up to face his opponent. Standing six foot six with wide shoulders and heavy limbs was what looked like a man with a boar's head.
He snorted. "Dragon's Den must be desperate if they were willing to take you in." He said with a laugh. Crios didn't reply; he was busy fighting the urge to piss himself. "What's with you? No snide remark?" He asked, tapping Crios's leg with a boot. Crios flinched and started to crawl away frantically. "You're a bloody coward!" He exclaimed when he saw the fear in Crios' eyes. As he lifted a foot to follow, Crios scrambled to his feet and sprinted in the other direction.
"Chh… Waste of time." He grumbled as he turned away from Crios' shameful display.
"Crios!" Matt called through the radio. "Crios what's wrong!?" Matt repeated as Crios continued to the Guild's building.
In his haste, he ran into Rusty, who was running in the opposite direction. "Hold it turbo!" He exclaimed as he grabbed Crios around the shoulders. "What's wrong?" He asked. When Crios didn't reply, Rusty handed him off to the man with the Mohawk.
Rusty pulled out a hand radio. "Matt, what the hell is going on? Crios isn't saying anything." Rusty asked.
"I don't know! The last thing I heard was Hunter and him charging off." Matt replied.
There was a long string of curses and something bumped a microphone. "I have a guess." Hunter said as he got to his feet. "Crios said he is mortally terrified of Changed and Possessed."
"He must have met one in the field." Matt suggested.
"Watch him Cris. I gotta go take care of something." Rusty said to the man with the Mohawk. Cris nodded.
Rusty ran back to his car. Cris pulled Crios aside to the wall next to the doorway of the building. "Can you talk yet?" Cris asked. Crios brought his knees up to his chest and hugged them. "I guess that would be a no." Cris said. After a few moments of awkward silence, Cris spoke again.
"You do know that you're not the only one afraid of Changing right? I was scared myself for most of my life, until Axis came up with a serum that can prevent it."Cris said as he looked towards Crios.
Crios glanced over at Cris. "And what about Possesion?" Crios asked.
"That only applies to things with a Matrix. It's the only way the corrupted Ux can build up. " Cris replied.
Crios glanced down at his chest, placing a hand over his heart. "But I do." Crios whispered.
"That's a common misconception. Artificial organs and the like aren't built with Matrices."Cris said.
"Mine's a special case. It was from the time of the last Great War. The Matrix built around it is what causes the discoloration of my eyes and my hair; it constantly drains my body's Ux to fuel itself. " Crios explained.
"Then you should be fine. The serum will protect you from changing, and because of your heart, you can never be Possessed. The constant drain would suck out the stagnant Ux before it can do any damage." Cris explained.
Cris handed Crios a set of five vials full of a thick orange substance. "They're orange flavored. A vial will last you about 40 hours." Cris stood up. "I better go help them. Come join me when you're ready." Cris said as Crios downed one of the vials.
A loud siren blasted across the field. A heavily armored helicopter passed over their heads. A ring of heavily armored vans and a few riot tanks created a tight net around the field.
"Are any of you seriously injured?" A man in full riot gear with the letters SNSD stitched onto his chest asked. They shook their heads. "Alright then, stand back." He said as he continued forward to help round up the Neon Shadow members.
"Who are they?" Crios asked.
"Sassoon's guardian force. Their Guild is known as Silver Napalm. This would be the entire Sentential Division. Hence the initials, SNSD." Cris explained.
"I would never expect such a kind description from you." A man said as he walked up. Unlike the others, his face wasn't covered by a mask. The letters SNSD were stitched in silver instead of the yellow that all the others were.
"That's right, Scevin, I forgot you got that promotion. I guess it wasn't important enough for me to remember." Cris replied.
Scevin twitched. "I guess you're too ignorant to read the paper often enough."
"Watch it private, you wouldn't want your stuff to go missing while you're busy up on that horse." Cris replied snicker.
"I'll be going now before you two children begin to slap each other." Crios said as he ran off to find Hunter.
"The new guy is going to get himself in trouble." Scevin said. Cris nodded with crossed arms.
Crios turned the radio on. "Yo Hunter! Where are you!?" Crios asked. He got static as the only reply.
Matt came running up in his mecha. "The radio was shut off. Hunter said he had to take care of some business and ran off once SNSD showed up. You know who they are right?" Matt asked.
Crios nodded. "Yeah, Cris told me." Crios replied.
"I've got to help clean up this mess. Clair said she'll take care of your tour when she's ready." Matt said quickly.
"How will I know when that is?" Crios asked.
"Crios." Oragè said from behind him. As Crios turned, Matt went running to help clear some rubble.
"Oh." Crios said when he saw the wolf. Oragè bent low to the ground.
"The Mistress is waiting for us." He said as Crios climbed on. Oragè spun around and ran towards the front of the Den building.
"How did you and Oragè meet?" Crios asked.
Clair had just told him who he was going to see the most often in the Guild, twenty out a measly total of thirty eight. "I met him a few years ago while I was wandering in the Great Stone Plains." Clair replied. "That was before I became a desk girl and one of the member managers." Clair lifted a part of the round counter at the center of the first floor of the Den building.
"Where are we going now?" Crios asked as he followed Clair.
She opened a door in the large pillar the counter was built around. "Where you're going to spend the first four months of your time here." Clair replied as she started down a large spiral staircase. The staircase curved sharply before opening into a massive underground complex. It was a large dome that was centered around the large pillar that the staircase spiraled around.
Gigantic Light Krux were attached to the ceiling of the dome. Their intensity was matched to the sun's location so people below could tell what time it was. A small city was built around the pillar. The street was a continuous spiral outward from the bottom of the pillar. Seven main streets cut through the spiraling street to seven sets of holes around the edges of the dome. Numerous street lamps were set up with weak Light Krux. Thick wires stretched out into the city from the very top of the dome and a few feet down from where Crios and Clair were standing.
"Welcome to the Nest; carved from an old subway station and with new railroads added, it contains everything a Guild member would need. This is what Dragon's Den is really known for. All the Guilds in the city use this as a main hub for supplies and transport. It is also the only reason our Guild can still function with as few members as we have. Here we will find you a weapon and some new clothes." Clair explained.
An artificial wind blew and shifted her hair. She glanced over at Crios, who was still looking at the city. "Why do you carry that bag everywhere? Most men usually go with a backpack or lots of pockets hidden in their jackets." Clair asked.
"I like to keep my stuff close at hand. A backpack is harder to organize and a jacket would get in the way of my work." Crios replied as he tugged at a wire that ran over his head.
"Careful, those used to supply electricity before we could set up generators throughout the city. It took a lot of time and workers before we finished the dome and made the new railways." Clair said.
"Do they go where we're going?" Crios asked.
"No. You are not sliding down these wires, ever." Clair replied sharply, recognizing the look in Crios' eyes.
"Fine fine!" Crios said as he raised his hands defensively.
"Let's get going." Clair said as she walked down the stairs. Crios followed close by. A soft, cute voice filled the air.
"Blue Blue!" It called out. A white, fluffy dragon floated around the corner. Its wings twitched occasionally, keeping it in flight. Unlike normal dragons, it had a coat of fluffy, white fur covering almost all its body, the exception being the grey webbing of it wings.
Its wing span was about twice its height, with a few long, fingerlike ribs supporting the webbing. They too were covered in the white fur, ending a few centimeters after the webbing. It had a tail with a line of grey fur that looked like a Mohawk running up from the tip and up the spine, disappearing under the red mail cap it had on its head. It had a pair of fox-like fur covered ears were perked up around the sides of the hat.
It was around three feet tall, with foot long stubby arms with four fingered hands. Its torso was about a foot long, a grey spiral of fur was on its belly. It had large, three toed feet that connected to its body by two massive thighs. They were by far the most muscular out of any of his other body parts. When it saw Crios and Clair, it hurried over. Its tail waved back and forth as it floated over to Clair.
"Blue Blue!" It cried triumphantly.
"It's nice to see you Cloud." Clair replied.
"You have some mail!" It said cheerfully as it pulled a bundle of envelopes from its bag.
"So can he talk?" Crios asked.
Cloud tilted his head. "Yeah, it's not just us." Clair replied as she looked through her mail.
Cloud floated sideways over to Crios, his head still tilted.
"It's mostly letters about yesterday's member influx as well as resignation from all of them because of the attack from Neon Shadow." Clair said as she shuffled through each one, reading the first few lines of the letters.
Cloud scratched his head and stared hard at Crios. After a few seconds of thinking it over, he tackled Crios.
"Ack! What the hell!?" Crios exclaimed.
Cloud was perched on Crios' shoulders with his legs resting around Crios' head. Cloud's tail thumped gently on Crios' back and he whistled cheerfully. Clair was laughing.
"Care to explain this?" Crios asked grumpily.
Cloud bent over Crios' head to face him. "We need to get you a hat!" He exclaimed cheerfully.
"I think he likes how you look." Clair said as Cloud dropped his hat onto Crios' head. Crios couldn't see it, but Cloud's hair matched Crios' in both color and style. Clair stifled a laugh.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah, let's get going." Crios said grumpily as he brushed past Clair. Clair laughed under her breath as they walked down the staircase. From there, Clair led Crios to a dilapidated shed in an empty dirt field at the edge of the city.
"So what is this place?" Crios asked. A clash of metal on metal reverberated in the air.
"What the hell was that!?" Crios exclaimed as he ran towards the shed.
Crios lost contact with the ground as Cloud lifted him into the air. "You're rather light." Cloud said as they passed over the shed.
"Yeah, do I look like I would be heavy?" Crios grumbled.
On the other side of the shed a group of about five people were watching two sparring with large swords. Cloud set Crios gently on the ground and hovered at his side. As the two clashed once more, their blades shattered and sent chunks of metal flying in all directions. The last two feet of one of the blades was headed straight for Cloud and Crios. Acting on instinct, Crios pushed Cloud down and kicked the flat of the blade as hard as he could.
It embedded itself in a rock a few feet to their right. "That was a little too close for comfort." Crios said as he released the pressure on Cloud's head.
"You okay over there?" One of the men who were sparring called.
"Aye!" Crios called back with a wave. As they walked over, Clair rounded the corner. Crios walked over to the sword embedded into the rock. He tapped it with his knuckle. "Stainless steel? No wonder it exploded." Crios said.
"What?" The one who called out asked. He turned to the other man he had sparred with. "You made those out of stainless steel?" He asked.
"Yeah." The man replied.
Crios shook his head. "Stainless steel is good for kitchen utensils and knives, but a high impact weapon like a sword is not a good idea. The blade will explode violently once it wears down enough." Crios explained. "InpaktSteel would work well if it's for practicing and standard or Krux infused steel if you want a functional blade." He added.
"Everything okay over here Jacob?" Clair asked.
"Yeah, just a poor choice of metal from Svevek." The man who called out replied.
"I take it this is the new guy?" Clair nodded, stealing Cloud's hat from Crios' head. Jacob stifled a laugh when he saw Cloud and Crios side by side. Cloud snatched his hat back from Clair with a grumpy look and replaced it onto Crios' head.
"So what kind of weapon do you want?" Jacob asked after the other people left. "Long range, close combat, or something in between?"
Crios pulled out his notebook and turned to the page he was working on previously. He held it out to Jacob.
"What's this?" Jacob asked as he bent down to look at it.
The longer Jacob stared, the more intense the look on his face became. Finally, he looked up at Crios. "Are these calculations correct?" He asked.
Crios nodded. "And I've got the materials for the Krux."
"Clair, I need you and Mr. Fluff to wait out here while we work." Jacob said as he and Crios disappeared into the shed
. "Are you sure you can hang out like this?" Clair asked Cloud.
"I don't have any more deliveries to make today." Cloud replied as he sat on Clair's shoulders like he did with Crios.
After a few minutes, Clair sat down. "It's been a long day." Clair said with a yawn.
Cloud crawled down into her lap and curled up. "I'm taking a nap." Cloud said as he shut his eyes.
A few hours later, Clair was shaken awake by Hunter.
"Mmmph." Clair said as she sat up from the ground. Her head was resting on Cloud's chest, his tail and wings wrapped around her. "Hunter? Is Crios still in there?" Clair asked as she rubbed her eyes in the faint light.
A small lantern was at Hunter feet. The only other source of light was from the various cracks in the shed's walls and a blue-white Krux wrapped around the support pillar at the center of the dome.
"It would seem so. Finding him a weapon shouldn't take so long." Hunter said as he helped Clair to her feet.
"I think they're making a weapon." Cloud said as he sat up.
Hunter walked over to the shed's crooked door. He knocked twice. "Crios! I need to talk to you!" He called out.
The door creaked open and a sweat soaked Crios popped his head out. "We're almost done. The final piece is in the works." Crios said before shutting the door.
"Crios! It's important!" Hunter yelled as he banged on the door. A garbled shout came from within.
"Code Red! It's gonna blow!" Jacob shouted.
Hunter backed from the door and raised an eyebrow. Crios kicked the door down with his foot and ran out carrying a large metal box that was hissing extremely hot steam.
"Get down!" Crios shouted as he threw the metal box as far as he could and sprinted back.
Jacob jumped onto Clair and Cloud, shielding them with his body. Seconds before an explosion, Crios dived to the ground and covered his head. The explosion shook the ground like an earthquake, sending bits of metal and dirt through the air.
The hot shrapnel rained down on Crios' naked back. "Ow-ow-ow-ow-ow-ow!" Crios exclaimed as he scraped the bits of metal from his back.
"What the hell was that?!" Clair exclaimed as she raised her head.
"The condenser exploded." Jacob said as he got to his feet and shook off the dirt that covered his body.
"I'm going to go check out the blast site." Crios said as he ran to the charred crater in the bedrock.
A series of cracks laced around the edge of the crater. Bits of metal were melted to the ground and a pile of white ash was all that was at the center of the explosion.
'White ash? Those materials were extremely low in calcium…' Crios thought as he crouched next to the pile of ash. The other thing Crios found odd was the ashes lack of heat. He poked the pile cautiously, and immediately pulled it out. "That's fucking freezing!" Crios exclaimed as he put his finger under his arm.
Hunter walked up beside him. "I need to talk to you." He said in a low voice.
"Hold on." Crios replied without looking up as he dug in the ashes with his L-tool.
"Now." Hunter growled. Crios was taken aback, standing to face Hunter. "You may have skills as a Kruxsetter and Craftsman, as well as being more gutsy and strong minded then most people, but I don't think this Guild is the right place for you. I can help you find a more relaxed and Changed free workers Guild if you want."
"Hunter-" Clair started.
"No Clair." Hunter snapped. Clair blinked. "I saw him during the fight, flashy entrance aside, he didn't do much. Borrowing power from Aerel and wimping out when a more capable opponent showed up who wasn't scared of him throwing rocks. I don't care if you ride into battle on the wings of a jet fighter, Crios. We don't need cowards to ruin our already tarnished reputation."
"Do you really believe that?" Crios asked quietly, locking eyes with Hunter.
"Yes." Hunter replied with a harsh look in his eyes.
"Fine. I'll gather my stuff and try to find a ride." Crios said as he turned to the pillar and started to walk. "
You're not going anywhere Grey Heart." Cloud said with a tone of authority as he waddled into Crios' path.
"Grey Heart?" Jacob said with a raised eyebrow.
Cloud placed a hand over Crios' heart. "As a monster, I can sense the flow of Ux in a person's body. I noticed right away that his heart was artificial. What wasn't as obvious was what it was made of. I knew as soon as Crios burst from the shed with the condenser. That Ux filled steam should have left horrible burn marks on his skin as well as interfere with his Ux flow.
"However, none of that occurred. He absorbed the Ux in the steam and his body used it to shield his arms. In the hundredths of a second before explosion, all the Ux was drained into the ground. So when the pieces were shot outward, Crios had nothing with which to protect himself. My only conclusion could be that his heart was made of Grey Adamtinium that had bonded to the Ux that flowed inside his body." Cloud explained.
Jacob was shocked, but Clair and Hunter remained silent. "I know. There's no point arguing it, I have a lot of work to start tomorrow." Crios replied as he walked around Cloud, tossing his hat to him. "Unyielding heart or not, there's no point staying where you're not wanted."
"Crios, wait." Aerel said as he walked out from the shadows with Matt and a large group of people Crios didn't know.
"Aerel, as your superior, you have no power to repeal my decision." Hunter said.
"Shut it Hunter." Matt snapped.
"Ranks don't mean jack shit right now."
"Crios, don't go." Aerel said.
"Why should I stay?!" Crios exclaimed. "He says I'm not 'Dragon's Den material!'" Crios' finger pointed in Hunter's direction.
"Dude, you jumped from a fifty story building with a rope that only goes to the twentieth as a survival plan! Hunter can go screw himself if he thinks you're not good enough." A man said from the crowd.
"Yeah!" Many people yelled in reply.
"This Guild isn't about being 'material' or not." Jenifer said as she walked out from the crowd.
"Crios, you are the spark we need to get this Guild going again." Cris said, his hair glowing in the light.
"Enough!" Hunter yelled, silencing the crowd. "Right now it's between me and him. He's not a hero here to save us!" Crios stopped breathing at the mention of 'hero'.
A little girl's voice flashed in his head. 'A hero? In that case, if I'm ever in big trouble and need to be rescued, you come and rescue me okay? And don't forget to put all your heart and courage into saving me!'
Hunter continued. "He may have a heart that gives him an advantage, but he doesn't have the courage to use that power and put himself on the line!" Crios tightened his fist and clenched his teeth in anger "He couldn't begin to protect himself, let alone this Guild!"
Crios snapped. Something deep inside his chest roared into a mighty flame and filled his limbs with its fiery passion. Crios spun around, dropping his bag. Before his bag even the ground, Crios' fist was flying past Hunter's cheek. Hunter was too fast for Crios to hit, so he was dodging each of Crios' fury filled punches. Hunter jumped back, watching Crios taking massive breaths.
"Hmph, so a few words can get you going more than an injury to a friend." Hunter said with a glance to Aerel.
"It's not the words that piss me off; it's that you talk like you know everything about me. I didn't tell you everything back at the shop." Crios replied. Hunter just stared back through his sunglasses. "The day I lost my heart I lost more than just my parents. I lost my little sister."
The field was filled with only the sound of Crios' heavy breathing. "When we were attacked by the monster, my parents tried to protect us. When they failed, I tried to protect my little sister. The beast split my chest open with a single blow, but I still stood steady for the sake of my sister. A spike from its mouth pierced my heart and continued into my sister." Crios explained quietly.
"Somehow, I was still conscious. I was able to watch the corpse of my dead sister turn into a Possessed along with my parents. The monster watched as they tried to kill me. I can't remember what happened afterwards very clearly, but Alexander found me with my hand deep in my sister's chest, her still beating heart in my hands. I was barely eight. You can mock my fears all you want, but don't you fucking dare call me anything but a hero. I literally fought with all my heart to protect her."
A faint, unnatural wind brushed though Crios' hair. Everyone was stunned. While most didn't hear Crios' original story, this one held great weight. Cloud waddled over to the crying Crios and placed his hat onto Crios' head. Crios pulled it down and gave Cloud a grateful look. Hunter turned away, throwing Zed's Krux to Crios and walking into the darkness. Crios returned to digging through the ashes while Clair and Jacob explained what the explosion was from.
Many people left. Cloud sat next to Crios and watched him work. "What are you looking for?" Cloud asked, his usually cheerful tone mellowed.
"You said the ground absorbed the Ux, but I think there might be a Krux that sucked up all the extra Ux." Crios replied.
"Does that theory explain why it's cold?" Cloud asked.
Crios nodded. After digging through the first layer, a second layer of grey, congealed ash was underneath. Crios grabbed it. It had the consistency of putty. Deep inside it was a circular Krux with an indent in the center. When he warmed it in his hands, a rainbow spider webbed inside became visible, along with a lace-like swirl of gold and silver.
"Pretty." Cloud commented as Crios slid it into his bag, next to Zed's. Crios scooped the white ash and the ashen putty into two separate bags and placed them in his bag.
"I'm going to get some sleep." Crios said as he walked towards the pillar in the distance.
"I'll fly you home." Cloud said as he lifted Crios.
"Thanks." Crios replied, suddenly realizing how tired he really was. They floated towards the pillar with the hopes of a fresh and brand new day.
Crios woke up with a sharp snort. He was lying in Zed's old bedroom, sprawled out on Zed's old extra large king sized bed. Whenever he was exhausted, Crios would snore loudly in his sleep. Rolling out of bed in only his boxers, Crios wandered into the bathroom. Climbing into the shower, Crios started his daily routine. He let out a long sigh as the hot water ran over his stiff muscles.
Once he ran out of hot water, Crios climbed out and dried himself. He began looking for his bag of clothes. 'That's right. I left it by the door.' Crios thought as he walked down the stairs only wearing a towel. Cloud was out cold on the couch. Carrying Crios everywhere had exhausted him. Crios looked over at the door. 'Where the hell is it?!' Crios thought as he looked around.
He noticed a pile of clothes neatly folded on the coffee table. Cloud's bag and hat were nearby. A hat that looked just like Clouds, only a grey that matched Crios' hair was on top of the pile. Crios picked it up. A note was folded inside it.
'Crios, I'm sorry for what I said last night. I had other things on my mind at the time and I took out my frustration on you. I know a letter doesn't serve an apology very well, but I cannot apologize in person at the moment. I got the hat and the gloves that are at the bottom of the pile specially made. The hat isn't anything too special, but the gloves will protect you from anything, as well as insure your grip when climbing; they're also water proofed.
I put your old clothes in the dresser under your bed. It took me a while to find it. I mean seriously! Who puts a dresser under a bed? The clothes here are from Clair. I also managed to gather us some old stuff that I thought you would like. I suggest wearing anything but your old stuff. Clair will be waiting downstairs with your first assignment. Good luck.
Signed, Hunter Wasteland
Crios grabbed the gloves from the bottom, a pair of blue jean shorts and a black tee-shirt. Retrieving a pair of his underwear, Crios got dressed. Upon dressing, Crios noticed two things that were off. The first was that the shorts were cut at an odd angle, making the inner thigh shorter than the outside. The second was the shirt had an odd circle with a spiral he didn't notice before.
Sliding down the stairs, Crios woke up Cloud. "It's time to get up. Want anything for breakfast?" Crios asked.
"Egg and cheese sandwich with a pinch of paprika and pepper, the eggs slightly runny and cooked with something salty." Cloud replied groggily.
"I'll make myself some pecan and blueberry waffles and pour us some…Moonfruit juice it seems." Crios said as he opened the fridge.
As Crios worked on breakfast, Cloud floated drunkenly up the stairs to the bathroom. Cloud's sandwich was hot and ready when he came back down the stairs. Plopping down at the counter, Cloud dug in with a grin.
"Mmm. This is good." Cloud said as he chewed.
"Thanks; odd as your request was, it was rather easy to cook." Crios replied as he started on his waffle, sitting next to Cloud. Crios poured him and Cloud a glass of Moonfruit juice as he chewed his first bite.
"So who was living here before you?" Cloud asked after he chugged half his juice.
"Can't tell you. He asked me not to." Crios replied.
Cloud nodded. "I hope my wife isn't angry at me for staying out late." Cloud said as he continued to devour his sandwich.
"You're married?" Crios asked with a surprised look.
"Not in the same sense, but it's essentially the same." Cloud replied.
"Does the rest of your kind talk like you do? And do they have a name they call themselves?" Crios asked.
"Some can talk, but we usually stick to our own language. Your second question is harder, but the common term is Flox." Cloud replied.
"Heh, Flox. Sounds a little silly." Crios said.
"Oh really, Human?" Cloud countered.
Crios finished his food and placed the dirty dishes in the automatic dishwasher. "Clair has some work for me, hang out for as long as you like." Crios said as he got his bag from beside the door and walked out.
Cloud finished his juice when Crios stepped back it. "Wrong door." He said when he opened the trapdoor.
Cloud finished his food and placed the dishes in the dishwasher. He closed the trap door with his foot. Crios jumped down into the hall way he had been in before. He walked into the room he had jumped from. Aerel's blood still stained the carpet.
Crios poked his head out the window. The sun was rising out over the skyscrapers. Down below, workers in bright yellow hard hats were working on building a lip out of the wall Matt had burst through. A floor board behind Crios squeaked. Looking back, a dark figure shrouded in a cloak filled the doorway.
"Where's Zed?" The man asked.
Crios turned to face him. "Who are you?" Crios demanded.
A large dark blue scythe flashed out from the cloak. Four notches were in the last 2/3 of the blade. A fin topped the shaft and a large hole was in the spine halfway down the blade.
"Aquaporus…"Crios said under his breath.
The man brought the tip of the fin to Crios' chest. "Yes, now where is Zed?!" He asked again.
"I don't know who you're talking about." Crios lied.
The man brought the scythe back and cut through the walls of the room. "Don't bother lying, I'll find out where he is even without your help. Too bad you still have to die." The man said as he swung the scythe around at Crios.
Even at a full swing, the blade would have never reached Crios. Crios' good luck would be brought to an end when a massive blast of water from the hole on the scythe knocked him backwards mid swing. The force of the water sent Crios flying through the window, knocking the entire wall off the building. Crios dropped like a stone.
Stunned and unable to breath, Crios watched the ground quickly fly towards him. The workers in yellow hats quickly looked down the edge when Crios past, they looked away in unison when Crios hit the ground with a sickening crackle.
On the ground in the Guild, they flinched in unison when Crios hit the ground. The rushed outside to find the cause of the noise. "Over here!" Someone called out when they found Crios.
He landed in a depression in the ground, soaked to the bone in water. "What happened?" Clair asked as she pushed through the crowd. When she saw Crios, her heart skipped a beat. Before she could utter a word, Crios slowly sat up.
"Fuckin' hell…" Crios grumbled as he struggled to his feet.
His hat slowly drifted down from the sky, landing next to him. He bent down and put it back on his head.
"His safeguard must have kicked in." Cris said from beside Clair. Clair quickly wiped a tear from her cheek. Knowing this, Cris continued. "But why is he wet?"
"Clair, we need to talk." Crios said as the crowd dispersed.
"What about?" Clair asked.
"Someone attacked me up there." Crios replied. Cris raised an eyebrow. "With Aquaporus."
Clair's jaw dropped. Cris simply tilted his head. "This isn't good." Clair said as she began to pace. "Cris, I need you to get the guys together."
"Matt's still busy fixing stuff and Aerel's having his patch replaced-"
"Not them." Clair cut in. "We need to get the S Ranked members together. Possibly even the Master."
Cris gulped. "A-are you sure?" He stuttered.
"Cris, if things get bad, we may need to get Faulken involved." Clair said.
Cris turned white. "I'll get on it." Cris said before sprinting back to into the building, shoving Rusty aside.
"What's going on?" Rusty asked.
"Celestial Rim is on the move." Clair replied.
A dark look shrouded Rusty's face. "They asked about Zed right?" Clair asked, turning to Crios.
"Yes." Crios replied with a surprised look.
"Damn it." Clair cursed as she pulled a gold ring from her necklace.
She slid it on and turned three times. The air crackled. Oragè shot out of a portal created by the ring.
"What's the matter? You usually don't Rush me here." Oragè asked.
"Someone attacked Crios. I need you to track him down." Clair replied.
Oragè turned to Crios and sniffed. "This scent is… unusual." Oragè said with a snort.
"I don't think you can track him." Crios said.
Clair glanced over. "Why not?" She demanded.
"I met Zed in what is now my room. The man had the same cloak that Zed did. If you didn't notice Zed leaving, I don't think you will be able to track my attacker with just his scent." Crios explained.
"Damn it!" Clair exclaimed.
"I can at least try milady." Oragè said assuredly.
"Go ahead. Report to me when you're done." Clair è disappeared in a sharp gust of wind. "It'll take a few days to get everybody together. Until then we'll continue as normal."
"Sooo, Hunter said I had work?" Crios asked, hoping to clear the awkward air.
"Jacob has your weapon done. He worked the rest of the night on it and wants to talk to you. He's in the lobby right now. Afterwards I want you and Rusty going on a request with someone else. Let me know what you choose." Clair said with a glance towards the stone faced Rusty.
He nodded without a word or a second glance. "I'll get going then." Crios said as he ran back to the building.
Rusty walked after him. "Good luck." Clair said to Rusty as he passed.
He only raised his hand in reply. Crios scanned the lobby. He saw Jacob sitting at a bar towards the left of the lobby. He was sitting next to a man with spiked red hair and a thick leather jacket with metal spikes and studs covering the shoulders. Something about four and a half feet long rested on the counter, wrapped in brown paper.
Crios quickly walked up. When Jacob saw him, he tapped the shoulder of the man next to him and pointed towards Crios. The man turned around to face Crios. He had a long, narrow chin and pointed ears. He glared at Crios with a pair of golden eyes. Crios choked on his breath. The man spat at Crios' feet and walked away.
"That's Vladd. He doesn't like other Kruxsetters or those with poor feelings towards Changed, so he doesn't hold much respect for you." Jacob explained. "Anyway, out little project is done." Jacob said as he lifted the brown wrapped object.
Crios took it from Jacob and pulled off the paper with a single stroke of his hand. It was a large sword with two blades set parallel, with a two inch gap in between them. Rectangular strips of metal held the two together on either side. The second blade was sharpened only at where it rested above the lower blade.
They were set in a cubic base; a right triangular sleeve covered the sides of the first few inches of the blades. An octagonal indent was set in one side of the base. A silver Drive was built inside; with four square Krux set inside. Each was a different color: crimson red, deep ocean blue, forest green, and electric yellow. A large circular slot was waiting to be filled in the middle.
Crios held it up with two hands. He brought it down with a quick stroke. He then took multiple defensive and offensive stances with the blade; he even held it in his teeth. Crios was satisfied with the craftsmanship of the sword.
"It's only missing one thing." Crios said as he set the blade down and pulled out his scanner and the two Krux he received last night.
"You still haven't scanned them yet?"Jacob asked.
"Are you kidding?! I barely made it into my bed last night!" Crios exclaimed as he set up Zed's Krux in the scanner. He smiled at the results. "It's an Amplifier; A little power infuser coupled with something called ID23." Crios said.
"That's for a Safeguard…" Jacob said, intrigued. "Oh! And Ux absorption it seems!" Crios exclaimed.
Moving onto the next one, Crios had to scan it multiple times before he put all the wires onto the metal ring and actually got some data. Leaning in, Jacob check the monitor along with Crios. At first he was shocked, and then he smiled.
"It's your lucky day!" Jacob exclaimed. "A True Safeguard! Axis will pay a fortune to get their hand on one of these!"
"Are you crazy!?" Crios shouted.
"With a True Safeguard I never have to worry about Changing or Possession at all! I could turn this into more than just a fortune!" Crios exclaimed excitedly.
"So you're going to replace that condenser?" Jacob asked.
Crios pulled the gold card he got at the battle bar out of his bag and gave it to Jacob. "3,900 Ere. Consider it a down payment to hold you over till I can get you a Maxim Vulcanus."Crios said.
Jacob was taken aback. "A Maxim Vulcanus? Those are multi-million Ere machines capable of performing all the necessary steps of Krux creation, it can even make Krux with the shape and abilities of your choosing!" Jacob exclaimed.
"I plan on starting a company. How else would I do it? That is, if you're up for it."Crios said.
Jacob snatched Crios' hand and gave him a hefty handshake. "You're on! This will at least cover the replacement." Jacob replied.
With great confidence, Crios placed Zed's Krux into the True Safeguard. They fit together perfectly. Putting it into the Drive proved difficult, but it snapped in with a satisfying click. Rusty watched from a nearby table as Crios stood up with his new weapon. Grabbing the small cap at the end, Crios pulled it out and revved it like a chainsaw. Slowly, the ring in the Drive began to turn.
As the Drive revved into a higher gear, Crios and the sword gained a white aura. From somewhere in the room, a metal folding chair flew at Crios. As Crios turned to face it, his eyes left streaks of white light like that of a long exposure photo. With the twitch of his hand, the RPM of the Drive spiked and Crios brought blade of the sword straight up, cutting the chair directly in half.
The pieces of the chair bounced off the white aura bubble that surrounded Crios. As the pieces slid across the stone floor, Aerel slowly clapped his hands.
"That's one hell of a weapon for a newbie. What cha' gonna call it?"Aerel asked.
Crios tossed it up and as it made a single flip, he caught it and held it up. "I'm going to call it the Dragon Drive." Crios replied.
"So what do you suggest?" Crios asked as he and Rusty stared at a large cork board plastered in pieces of paper.
"Something between two and eight. Remember, the higher numbers are harder requests." Rusty replied.
Crios began looking through the layers of requests. The board was located at the main subway station in the Nest. Other boards stretched down the wall to the ticket station at the far end. Each consecutive board had fewer and fewer requests; the last one only had a single request.
"Delivery, delivery, ditch digging, weeding, digging for worms, acting, babysitting… Wow you really do have everything." Crios said as he pulled up the requests layer by layer on the board.
"Yep, we have almost all the low Ranked requests. Some people even bring their new members here for their first few requests. They don't get a Ere of the reward however." Rusty replied.
'Hmm… What's that?' Crios thought as he reached for the corner of an old piece of paper that was under a mass of requests. Crios tried pulling at it. Half the board shifted slightly. Pulling with all his might, Crios tore the request off the board, along with half of the others. A women in a flamboyant orange skirt marched up.
"Watch what you're doing!" She yelled at Crios. Crios laughed nervously.
"Sorry, it didn't want to budge." He replied.
She snatched the paper from Crios' hands. "This is ancient! The client may not even be alive!" She exclaimed with an angry look at Crios.
"Well if you insist, I can choose another one."Crios said as he half turned to the board.
"Hmph!" She replied, stamping the paper and shoving it into Crios' hands. "I don't want to see you back here till you have dealt with this." She leaned in close to Crios' face. "Understand?" Crios nodded rapidly and backed away.
"Good. Dave!" She shouted at a red-haired man scrubbing the walls. "Clean this up!"
"Y-yes." He stuttered as he scurried to gather the requests.
"And I want it organized!" Crios heard her yell as he and Rusty walked away.
"That would be Panzer. She's a little rough around the edges." Rusty said. Crios glanced down at the paper as they walked down the station.
Requesting four exterminators, pay and details to be discussed upon arrival with Mr. Dickerson.
Part of the page was torn off the top. "Where we headed kid?" Rusty asked as he pulled out his cell phone.
"Youkaki mountains, It says we need four people." Crios replied after turning over the paper.
He walked headfirst into a passerby, both of them falling on their ass. "Ow! Sorry!" Crios exclaimed as he looked over at who he knocked back. He was a good deal taller than Crios, and built heavier.
He had a light shade of brown for his hair and a darkened tone to his skin. His eyes were a peculiar shade of light lavender. A large buster was strapped to his back. It had a large spike to the front and numerous battle scars littered the blade. He was wearing a hybrid of chain mail and leather, with matching pairs of scaled gloves and boots.
"No worries! The name's Wake Landcaster!" He replied cheerfully.
A slender hand snatched the request Crios dropped. "I see you still need two more members for your little troop." A man with wild black hair said.
His hair seemed to shift like a flame. His skin was extremely pale, almost transparent. He had a dark mantle covering most of his long, slender body. Next to even the tall Wake, he stood well over three heads taller. As he turned to Rusty, Crios could see a six foot long double bladed katana at his waist.
"What the hell are you!?" Crios exclaimed, dwarfed by his massive height.
"My name is Nojeski, but who are you with such light hair?" He asked, bending down to Crios' level.
"Crios Myshcell, I'm Dragon's Den's new Kruxsetter." Crios replied.
"As it should be with the Myshcells." Nojeski replied.
"What!?" Crios exclaimed.
"Would you accept out assistance?" Nojeski asked.
Rusty nodded. "I'm fine with it, but what Guild are you two in?" Rusty asked.
"We hail from The Hallows of Nojorn Woods. Or put simply, The Hallows." Nojeski replied.
"K, I just need to make a few calls. Platform Nine, Track Four." Rusty said as he pointed across the rails.
"I'll meet you there." Nojeski said as he stepped across each set of tracks till he reached the far end.
"Does he do that often?" Crios asked, raising an eyebrow. Wake nodded with crossed arms.
"An Eight extermination. With two others from The Hallows of Nojorn woods. Yeah, I don't get it myself. Should be quick and simple anyway." Rusty said into his phone. Crios assumed it was Clair. There was a short pause. "Send the Cold Steam to Platform Nine, Track Four." Rusty hung up.
"Let's go you two; our train will be here shortly." Rusty said as he walked down the station to a bridge that would bring them over the rails and platforms all the way to where Nojeski was waiting.
"What Rank are you?" Wake asked Crios as they walked on the bridge. I've almost gotten past E."
"He's fresher than an unpicked cucumber. This is his first job." Rusty replied for Crios.
"Oh really? I guess that makes me your superior." Wake said with a grin.
"I'm not afraid of fighting you right now if you try to make me call you sir!" Crios replied.
"Fair enough!" Wake said, holding up his hands defensively. "Dragon's Den really does have the crazies."
"People only say that because we don't restrict most behaviors, as long as you don't kill or maim anyone. That and how we thrive mostly on trust. If someone's in trouble, we show up with guns blazing." Rusty explained.
"So you guys don't have to have tattoos?" Wake asked.
"Only the S Ranked members get tattoos. It's been a while since someone last got one." Rusty replied.
"What tattoo do you have?" Crios asked Wake.
Wake lifted up his armor on his left arm. A green holographic tattoo of three trees was on his shoulder. A black ribbon wrapped itself around each tree and hung lose at either end.
"Huh. I think I might have seen it before." Crios said as they three of them walked onto Platform Nine.
Nojeski was waiting at Track Four. "They're coming." Nojeski said as Rusty and the others walked up.
He was staring down a long black tunnel that Track Four was connected to. "It should be here soon." Rusty said with a nod. A high pitched squeal came out from the tunnel. A loud bell sounded, and the track coming from the tunnel tilted horizontally. A hidden mechanism under the ground could be heard.
A few seconds later, a rugged train engine shot out of the tunnel. It rode the sideways track and was soon grinded to a halt. A short buzzer went off and the track returned to normal, the train fixed in place.
"What the hell was that?!" Wake exclaimed.
"All aboard the Cold Steam!" A man in goggles and thick gloves called out as he popped out of a hatch at the top of the train engine.
The engine used to be powered by steam before being modified. It looked like it went to hell and back. Its right light was missing and the left one was cracked. Numerous cracks and stress marks were evident throughout it. A passenger car was grafted to the rear of the engine.
"Hey Tawny! What have I told you about doing that at those speeds? Youkaki Mountains is where we're headed." Rusty called to the man.
"Sorry! I just thought you were in a hurry!" He called back.
"Another one of your projects?" Crios asked Rusty.
Rusty nodded. "A hybrid of a prototype Drive and a normal Matrix. It led to the current Drive in Guang Blau." Rusty replied.
"Guang Blau? That's quite a mouthful." Crios said.
One of the doors in the rear opened. The four of them quickly climbed in. The passenger car was mostly empty, with metal loops on the walls and looped cotton straps hanging from the ceiling.
Nojeski crawled through the door like a spider and sat on the empty floor. "Now listen you three." Rusty started. "Platform Nine Track Four is a set of the straightest tracks you will ever encounter. They were built for this train only and are built separately from the rest of the tracks. It's the only line above ground within twenty miles and the only one built six feet off the ground." Rusty explained.
"Why is this important?" Wake asked.
"Is it anything like your car?" Crios asked.
"Faster than what you made it." Rusty replied.
"Dear God." Crios said as he hastily strapped himself to the wall.
"Don't worry, we won't go full power." Rusty said.
"Full power?" Tawny called back. "Okay here we go!" Rusty's eyes bulged when he heard Tawny's words. Nojeski and Wake were thrown to the back of the car as it blasted forward.
Rusty was clinging to the floor with the magnets hidden in his gloves. As he began to crawl up to the engine, Tawny let out a cheer as the train picked up speed. Light flooded the train through portholes as it surfaced over the plains to the West of Sassoon.
"Tawny!" Rusty called ahead. "Slow down!" Immediately, the painful tug on Crios' body lessened to a tolerable level.
"What did I tell you!?" Rusty yelled as he got to his feet.
"Full power only on double confirmation…" Tawny replied.
"Yes! Now take us to the mountains in one piece!" Rusty ordered.
"We'll be there in four minutes…" Tawny said, disheartened.
"You people really are insane." Wake said as Nojeski helped him from the tangle of straps he had gotten into.
Crios unstrapped himself from the wall. "Crazy motherfucking speed demon! I can only imagine what this could do if I tuned it!" Crios exclaimed.
"Tawny," Rusty called ahead. "Just turn it off. We'll run just on the inertial energy."
"Yes sir!" Tawny called back.
"So what's your Guild like?" Crios asked Wake once he calmed down.
"I don't know. I was recruited by Nojeski after it was destroyed." Wake replied.
"Oh. What happened?" Crios asked Nojeski.
"I'd rather not talk about it." Nojeski said solemnly. Crios glanced over at Wake. He shook his head.
"Crios, could you come over here?" Rusty called from the front of the train. Crios walked over.
"What's up?" He asked. Rusty gave him a sharp smack on the back of the head. "Ow!" Crios exclaimed.
"You don't watch the news do you?" Rusty asked. Crios shook his head as he rubbed the back of it. Rusty lowered his voice. "If you did, you would know that the entire Nojorn Woods was burned to a cinder. Their Guild was wiped off the face of the planet; all that's left are Sol Weedfruit plants. It's just a field of one after another."
"How?" Crios asked.
"I don't know how! As far as I know, those two are the only survivors that actually still say they're in the Guild." Rusty replied.
"The sad part is they're not the only ones to suffer like this. Hidden Cove; washed into the ocean and turned into a reef. The Mechanical Artisans of the Fire Plains; pulverized into dust by a massive earthquake. Hawken's Plateau; melted by the massive volcano that popped up where the actual plateau was. The important part comes up next; rumors have spread that an underground Guild demanded a large sum of their profits and resources, and they refused to accept." Rusty explained quietly.
"Let's find out if that's true." Crios said with a dark look in his eyes.
Rusty was puzzled by it; so he didn't stop Crios. Crios walked up to Nojeski and pulled out an ancient, leather bound book. "Did someone have this?" Crios asked, turning to a page in the middle of the book and holding it up to Nojeski. He glanced at it half heartedly, and then he caught his breath. Nojeski's hair quivered as he stared at the faded page of the book. He nodded slowly and Crios shut the book. Crios turned back to Rusty.
"Does this Celestial Rim have more than just Aquaporus?" Crios asked.
Rusty twitched. "We only know of the wielder of that weapon, as far as we know, Celestial Rim could be a made up name." Rusty replied with a dark tone.
"We're almost at Youkaki station! I'll be braking pretty hard, prepare yourselves!" Tawny called out.
As the train lurched to a halt, Rusty opened a side door. "Let's go." He said as he jumped out onto a broken stone platform.
Crios followed along with Wake and Nojeski. Tawny appeared at the door.
"I've got to go turn around. I'll be a few minutes." He said before shutting the door and disappearing down the tracks in a storm of sparks.
The platform was carved into the side of the mountain, with a small path leading around a large stone spire in the distance. The train tracks cut straight into the mountain, curving up slightly as it passed over the mountain. The platform was carved at the base of the mountain, right before the tracks started to head upwards.
"Tercka Village should be just over this first mountain. The request says to look for a house of 'great color.'" Nojeski said, looking at the paper.
"Well, let's get trekkin'!" Crios exclaimed as he started down the path.
"He's right, we don't have all day." Wake said as he followed Crios.
"They really are energetic aren't they?" Nojeski asked.
"Yeah." Rusty nodded, his mind on other things.
The walk to an around the spire was relatively quiet. A light mist was in the air as the four of them walked around the large spire. Arms behind his back, Crios walked ahead of the rest with half closed eyes. Wake hung back with Rusty and Nojeski.
"So why where you two wandering about in the Nest?" Rusty asked, finally breaking the silence.
"We were looking for work. Dragon's Den is best known for its low Ranked requests." Wake replied.
Rusty seemed a little disappointed. "Yeah, but it's not like we try to be." Rusty said.
A full ten minutes passed before Crios asked a question. "Have any of you heard of the seven legendary weapons?" Crios asked, stopping in the middle of the path. The mist thickened to a thick fog around them.
"Yeah, my parents used to tell me stories about them. Made of the purist Krux and the cause of the first Great War. Let's see; there was: Fire, Water, Earth, Air, Sun, Moon, and Death if I'm remembering it correctly." Wake replied.
Rusty cast a dark look over at Crios. Nojeski noticed it, but said nothing. "Aye, my dad told me that, but he had told the full story and not the fairy tale it turned into. They forgot about the eighth, one capable of countering even the Death weapon. It also protected the wielder from any and all kinds of harmful Ux. He believed the first step in its creation was a True Safeguard." Crios explained.
"A True Safeguard hasn't existed since the fifth and final Great war." Wake commented.
"Which is why my father was so interested in it. 'How could such a powerful technology not be rediscovered in such a long time?' He would ask himself often. He dug around for many decades, before discovering the first part needed for its creation. He never kept any notes, but I believe the day he died, he made a breakthrough." Crios said.
"Why do you bring us such a dark subject?" Rusty asked.
Crios drew the Dragon Drive from a leather sheathe on his back. "Because I successfully made one." Crios said, holding up the Matrix so they could see.
"So you're worried about a sixth Great War?" Nojeski asked.
Crios laughed. "I don't think the fifth ever ended." Crios replied.
"But it was such a long time ago, it's impossible to believe such a thing!" Rusty exclaimed.
Crios sheathed his blade. "We should go." He said as he turned.
Nojeski reached out and grabbed Crios' shoulder. "Crios, you may not be the cause of another Great War, but something else is building up around you. The more I learn about you the stronger the felling gets." Nojeski said.
"Things were building up before I stepped out of my shop it seems." Crios replied.
"What do you mean?" Rusty asked.
"The destruction of Nojorn Woods, the loss of The Mechanical Artisans, Hawken's Plateau and Hidden Cove were all from one of the legendary weapons. All of them probably have a specific type of fruit growing abundantly there am I right?" Crios asked.
Rusty paused as he opened his mouth.
"The massive amount of pure Ux in those weapons and their ability to call it out of ordinary objects leaves a very obvious trail. You were about to say Sol Weedfruit, Rock Watermelon, Inferno Plum, and Misty Orange weren't you?" Crios asked.
"How did you know that?" Rusty asked, clearly shaken up.
"Inferno Plum, Misty Orange, Rock Watermelon, Heaven's Ambrosia, Sol Weedfruit, Moonfruit, and The Elderberry of Ending. Seven fruit rich in the Ux of each type. They were originally how the legendary weapons were made, so it's only fitting they thrive where the weapons powers are unleashed." Crios explained.
"If there are only seven on those kinds of fruit, then how can you believe that there could be an eighth weapon?" Wake asked.
"Because the elements can exist without Ux in them. Ux is something unique to the earth itself. It's life energy. We don't have fire burning in our bodies, or wind in our lungs that sustains us. And what is created by Ux when it is absorbed in large amounts?" Crios asked.
"Krux." Nojeski said.
"Exactly. We just have no way of processing Ux in that fashion." Crios said.
"Let's get going already. I have no idea how you think people can retain that much information at once Crios." Rusty said as he walked into the fog.
A few minutes passed and the fog only got thicker. "How are we supposed to find it in this fog?" Wake asked as he stumbled into a rock.
"We're getting close." Crios replied.
"How can you tell?" Wake asked.
"Feel the path. It's getting smoother." Nojeski said. A swift wind began to blow. The fog slowly cleared to reveal a narrow passage between two tall rocks.
Two separate watch towers were built around the sides of each of the tall rocks.
"Ey-o!" Wake called up. "Is anyone up there!?"
The wind whistled between the rocks, but no one called back.
"There should be Rangers up there Crios. If they're not there, things may not be safe. Go check it out." Rusty ordered.
With a quick nod, Crios ran to the craggy side of one of the rocks.
"I don't think he can get up there." Wake said.
"Just watch." Rusty replied.
Crios rubbed his hands together. Reaching up, he grabbed one of the ledges on the rocks. In a short few seconds, Crios climbed up the rock.
"It's almost disturbing how well he can climb." Nojeski said. Crios disappeared from view around the rock, before popping up over the top. He waved down to Rusty and gave a thumbs up.
"Alrighty, let's go." Rusty said as he continued down the path.
Crios joined them on them on the other side. The village was within sight from the watch towers. It was surrounded by large pillars of stone tightly wedged together. The large wooden gate at the front was half hanging off of its hinges. Crios and the others hurried down the path till they reached the gate.
Once at the gate, the true damage to the gate could be realized. Deep claw marks ran across almost every inch of the wood. Inch thick holes were pierced across the center of each door, making the wooden beam that would have held the gate shut weak enough to break through. Rusty ran his hands across the claw marks. Bits of the gate broke off at the lightest touch.
"It's rotting. These marks must be at least ten years old for the wood to get like this." Rusty said.
"I take it this is Tercka Village?" Crios asked as he kicked a rock down the empty streets.
Like the gate, the houses were scarred by an unknown battle. Even being made of stone and hardened mud, the claw marks were just as deep as in the gate. A fairly straight street ran across the village, headed to a cliff with a castle-like building carved from it. It loomed over the tiny village houses.
Tattered and faded flags were hung from almost every window of the castle. A second, smaller wall was built around the castle's courtyard.
"I take it that's the 'House of Great Color.'" Rusty said as he gazed up at it.
They started walking down the street. As they passed a half broken house, something scraped against the sandy ground.
The front wall was half broken, with the left completely missing. A hole stretched from the top left corner to what used to be the wooden frame of a window. Wake peeked around the frame of the missing wall. A group of children were hiding in the shadow of the remains of the house. When they saw Wake's face, they scrambled to jump over the ledge to the front of the house.
The first boy over bumped into Nojeski, falling backwards. At first he was shocked, and then confused as he had to bend all the way back to see Nojeski's face.
"Billy!" The tallest kid yelled as he lunged over the ledge. Billy spun around and hid behind the taller kid. "Who are you?" He demanded. He stared back defiantly, but he was just as scared as Billy behind him.
Nojeski sat down on the ground. "We're here because of this." Nojeski replied as he held out the request.
Rusty and Wake stood back, looking curiously at the children pouring out of the old house. Crios was uninterested in them and looked around. The tall boy snatched it, reading it quickly. He paused and his eyes widened.
"Drae?" One of the little girls asked quietly.
"This is my father's handwriting." Drae said quietly.
Crios continued to look around, the hairs on his neck rising. He could swear that something was lurking nearby. A slight shift in the dirt, the air hotter than it should be. Something would move in the corner of his eye, but when he turned to look, nothing would be there. He found himself staring at the shadow of a house. Nojeski and the other's voices faded as he concentrated on the shadow. A small puff of dirt flew into the air by the shadow. It was slowly creeping closer, leaving a very slight trail.
"Rusty…" Crios said quietly, not looking away. More of the puffs and trails became obvious, since Crios knew what to look for.
"Can we trust them?" Billy asked, looking up at Drae. He barely acknowledged his question as he continued to interrogate Rusty and the others.
"RUSTY!" Crios hissed.
Drae and his troop of children glanced over at Crios. He was starting to breathe faster; sweat began to drip down his face. When Drae noticed the puffs of dirt, he snapped to attention.
"We need to go now!" Drae whispered to his group of kids. Nojeski and the others were too focused on Crios to notice them leaving.
"What!?" Rusty snapped.
As if waiting for that word, one of the puffs moved quickly before disappearing. Crios barely had the time to start the Dragon Drive when something collided with his aura shield. A snarling, lizard-like face flashed before quickly disappearing again.
"What the hell was that!?" Rusty exclaimed.
Crios took a wide swing at the ground in front of his feet, sending a spray of hot blood across the street. A pool of the blood soon formed, along with the body of a dead green lizard. The size of a large dog, it had razor sharp teeth and coated in thin, shimmering green scales. Its feet were wide and flat, with pads like that of a gecko. A long tail covered in sharp spines stretched out of the pool of blood. Something jumped on top of it and began ripping off chunks of its flesh.
As the lizards cannibalized their dead comrade, Crios and the others ran the other way. They soon caught up to the children. Nojeski and Wake scooped up all of the smaller children, letting the others run at full speed without leaving anyone behind. Drae ran alongside Rusty. Crios sheathed the still running Drive and brought up the rear.
"Are those things what we need to exterminate?" Rusty asked.
"Now is not the time!" Drae yelled back.
"That castle is the only safe place; the damp stone makes it impossible for them to climb it." Drae pointed to the castle at the far end of the street.
"You pretty sharp for a kid." Rusty said.
"And you four are pretty dull for Guild members!" Drae snapped back.
"But he was the first to notice them." Billy said, pointing at Crios from Wake's shoulders.
"Then tell me why he let its blood on his skin?" Drae retorted.
"What's wrong with that?" Nojeski asked.
"Their blood makes even grown men cry out from its horrific pain." Drae replied darkly. He glanced back at Crios. "How he isn't affected I haven't the slightest idea."
"Trust me." Crios said with heavy breath. "It's affecting me."
"You're suffering from such a pain and you don't even flinch?" Nojeski said with an impressed look.
"I had my heart ripped out. This is nothing compared to that level of pain." Crios replied.
Drae turned forward. "We're almost there!" Rusty called out.
A rope ladder was hung from the wall, invisible from far away. Drae jumped onto the ladder without pause and hurried up it with speed that rivaled Crios'. Nojeski and Wake followed, the children clinging close to them as they went over the wall.
"Crios!" Rusty yelled.
"You first Rusty, I'll be right behind you." Crios replied as he drew the Dragon Drive.
"You better be right behind me!" Rusty yelled as he started up the ladder.
A loud whistle pierced the air. Two thick armed men pushed through Wake and Nojeski, pulling up the ladder with Rusty still on it. "What about Crios?" Wake asked the men.
"I'm sorry about your friend, but we can risk one of those things getting past the wall." One of them replied with a sad look.
"Damn it Crios!" Rusty yelled before Nojeski helped him over the wall.
"Shut it!" Crios snapped back, now surrounded. Crios swung at waist level and cleaved three of the lizards in two. Crios was now coated in their burning blood. "You know I'm very hard to kill!" Crios yelled as the white shell around him was pounded by the lizards.
"Can either of you use long ranged attacks?" Rusty asked Nojeski and Wake. They shook their heads. "This is not a difficulty eight request." Rusty said as he watched Crios fight.
His shield was losing its integrity very quickly. 'I won't be able to keep this up' Crios thought. 'C'mon… I need it to work.' Crios tried to break out of the circle he was trapped in.
The lizards were getting more and more aggressive as the scent of blood from their brethren filled the air. Crios' shield fizzled out as he forced his way from the circle of lizards. His back to the wall, Crios had no way out. Just as one of the lizards readied to pounce on Crios, the aura surrounding him changed to a deep purple. Crios leaped over the lizard, driving the tip of his sword deep into the ground.
He gripped the hilt with only his right hand. "Overheat Release Level One!" He called out, pulling back his left hand. As he dug his palm into the center of the spinning Krux, he called out again. "OVERCLOCK!" A metallic click echoed and the Drive quickly increased speed, as well as sinking to a deeper level into the base. Crios' dark purple aura shifted to a dark blue. Crios kicked the blade from the ground, sending a chunk of the stony street into one of the lizards.
The sword cart wheeled high into the air. Crios caught it in his left hand; spinning counter-clockwise, Crios grabbed it mid swing with his right hand and continued on, cutting through seven lizards mid-air. Sliding his foot out, Crios stopped, facing the mass of lizards. Without a second thought, Crios charged into it. As Crios danced in the rain of blood he created, he left an electric blue trail of light from his eyes.
With each strike of his sword, blue electricity sparked from the blade, through the Drive, and into Crios. Crios spun to a stop. He was surrounded by a pool of blood. No trace of the lizard's flesh was left. A small number of the lizards stalked Crios from outside the red pool he stood in. In his chest, Crios' heart was pumping incredibly fast, and felt extremely heavy to him.
The lizards hesitated, sniffing the air with their tongues. A strange whispering filled the air, heard only by Crios. As the whispering got louder, the lizards slowly began to back up, retreating into the shadows. Crios was paralyzed, his heart now felt like a lead weight in his chest. Just as he passed over the edge of passing out, a voice called his name in his head. 'Crios…'
Crios smiled. 'I can't believe it worked.' He thought as his consciousness was shrouded in darkness.
Crios woke up in a large poster bed. His head and most of exposed skin was wrapped in white bandages. Rusty and Nojeski were talking quietly on the corner. Crios sat up, the back of his head throbbing.
"You're awake!" Rusty said with a surprised look. Crios held his head in his hands.
"What happened?" Crios asked.
"When you passed out, you hit your head pretty hard. You've only been here about an hour." Nojeski explained.
"I called Clair and she said those lizards are slightly outside a Rank eight, but you didn't have any problems clearing most of them out. She says we can finish up here if you wanted to." Rusty said, walking over the Dragon Drive, which was set against the wall.
He picked it up. "This thing has an incredible amount of power, but what exactly is Overclock? I've never heard of that kind of Overheat." Rusty asked.
"It's not quite a normal type of Overheat. It's based off a mechanical design, so it's technically not an Overheat. I had to install limiters since the power created by both the Drive and what it can absorb is beyond insane. There are four; Overclock lets the Dive spin at full speed, the change in my aura's color is just to show that the second limiter has engaged.
"Five Pillar is the second. Four Mithril rods pop out from each corner of the Drive, each blessed by a single element; Fire, Water, Earth, and Air. A fifth rod tipped with grey Adamtinium sets itself into the bottom of the Drive. These rods stabilize the Krux inside the spinning ring. The Adamtinium rod changes the gear ratio, allowing the blade to absorb more Ux.
"Next is Supercavitation. It coats the blade in high density Ux, with each swing the air is filled with it, eventually allowing you to send a powerful shockwave through it by swinging at lightning speed." Crios explained as he inched off the bed.
Nojeski caught him as he stumbled. "And the fourth?" Rusty asked.
"Limit Break. It disengages each one of the limits put on the Drive. With how Overclock preformed, Limit Break will be utterly devastating." Crios replied.
"I can see why you and Jacob spent so much time on it." Rusty said as he casually spun the metal ring of the Drive.
He suddenly collapsed onto one knee. "What the hell was that!?" He exclaimed as he breathed heavily.
"You said it can absorb Ux right? Nojeski asked.
"Yeah, but it shouldn't-" Crios stopped. "If you switch the polarity of the Krux, then it could drain the user's Ux. But that's only if you spin the Drive the wrong way." Crios said.
"I take it counter-clockwise is the 'wrong way'."Rusty said as he got back to his feet.
"We need to go now. The king is waiting for us." Nojeski said as Crios stood up on his own. He took his sword and followed Rusty out the door
. A woman in an elegant dress was waiting outside the door. "Great Knight Crios, our King wishes to speak with you." She said.
"Show me the way!" Crios replied.
"Are you sure you are well enough?" She asked, looking at the bandages covering most of his body.
"This is nothing to losing a heart. Now let's get going. We don't have time to waste." Crios replied.
She led them down the hall and a spiral staircase into a large, dome shaped room. Wake was in the corner, playing with the kids they met before. The walls and ceiling of the room were covered in a colorful mosaic, depicting each part of the known world differently. An old man was sitting in a wooden throne at the other side of a large circular table.
"King Phille the fourth, I present you Crios, the man who fought off the lizards." The woman said, kneeling in front of him.
"It was more like liquefying than fighting off." Crios commented.
The woman glanced back at Crios, a surprised look on her face. "So help has finally arrived." The king said as he looked over Crios and the others.
"What can you tell us about those lizards?"Rusty asked.
The king shook his head. "The lizards are unimportant. Our people have dealt with them for years. They aren't why you were called here." He replied. Crios glanced back at Rusty. He shrugged. Wake stopped playing with the children and focused his attention to the king. "It's something bigger, something that destroyed our village eleven years ago. It devoured our village's treasure and disappeared into the mountains." The king explained.
"Bigger? We can't handle something bigger." Nojeski said.
"Please, we need your help." Drae said from a nearby doorway.
"Drae…" The king started.
Drae held up the request. "They think it's just difficulty eight, part of the paper was ripped." Drae said as he brought a second piece of paper up to Rusty.
Rusty took the two and looked at them side by side. He only took a second before dropping them on the table and pulling out his phone.
"Thirty eight…" Nojeski said quietly.
Rusty repeatedly held down the third speed dial. "C'mon..." He said as he only got static. "God damn it! No signal!" Rusty growled as he moved the phone back and forth.
"What's wrong? Crios asked.
"This request is meant for high C or low B, both me and Rusty are mid D and Wake still hasn't past E. You're still a zero F!" Nojeski replied.
"What can you tell us about it?" Rusty asked as he tried to make a call again.
"We don't know. No one -" The king replied.
"I do." Drae cut in.
"Shit…" Rusty said as he put away his phone. "I need to get somewhere out of this place. Drae, come with us and tell us what you know." Rusty said as he disappeared into the staircase.
Crios and the others quickly followed him. Drae began describing it. "It's about seventeen feet tall at the shoulder. It has thick white fur and a face like a wolf. It has two sets of serrated teeth and a flat tongue. Its claws can cut through rock and its large ears curl backwards."
"So it's like a wolf." Wake said.
"Except it can fly." Drae replied.
They stepped out into the hallway they were in previously. "How did the gate get such narrow holes in them? With its large size, it shouldn't be able to do that with its claws." Nojeski asked.
"Oh! That's right! I forgot that it can shoot spikes from its mouth." Drae exclaimed.
Crios stopped. "Let me guess," Crios started. "Its voice is that of nightmares."
Drae blinked. "How did you know that?" Drae asked.
"Crios?" Rusty said, turning back.
A dark chuckle filled the hallway. Drae's eyes bulged; Crios was already drawing the Dragon Drive. "KING!" Crios shouted out at the top of his lungs. A white wolf burst through the roof at the far end of the hallway. Its red eyes pierced through the dust it created.
"It's nice to see you again Crios." Its voice enticed the darkest fears of one's mind, beckoning them into a world of terror.
Wake and Rusty were surprised, taking their fighting stances. Drae retreated down the stairs. Nojeski stared blankly at the monster.
"You've got some friends it seems." King said as his gazed passed over Wake and Rusty. He paused on Nojeski.
"Now you are a rare sight. One of the last of the Shadow Clan?"
"You're one to talk, Pendragon." Nojeski replied as he drew his double bladed katana.
"Pendragon!?" Rusty exclaimed.
"Don't worry, I won't fight you here, there's a coliseum on the other side of this castle. It's perfect for a fight like this." King said. Two blood red wings sprouted from King's back, made of pure Ux. Crios ran down the hall.
"Crios!" Rusty yelled, chasing after him. King disappeared out the hole in the roof.
"Wake, protect the people here and prepare to fight those lizards." Nojeski said to Wake before running after Crios and Hunter.
Crios had swung out onto the other walls of the castle and was making his way up them. "Crios! What the hell are you doing?!" Rusty yelled as he leaned out the broken wall. Nojeski climbed out beside Crios.
"Nojeski." Rusty said, surprised.
"Rusty, this is important. If Crios knows this Pendragon, he has to fight alongside me and only me." Nojeski said as he tried to follow Crios up the wall.
"Shit… I guess I'll just have to call Clair and join you on the other side." Rusty said as he disappeared into the castle.
Crios helped Nojeski up onto the castle roof. "Thanks." Nojeski said as Crios pulled him up. The two quickly turned to the short mountain top that separated them from the other side.
"How do you know the Pendragon?" Nojeski asked as they ran down the roof.
"He's the one who killed my parents and my little sister." Crios replied. "Why does it matter?"
"Because Pendragons have a unique ability that prevents death from anyone except those who share a strong connection to it." Nojeski replied. "The connections strength depends on how heavily the event affects their lives."
"How do you know so much about Pendragons?" Crios asked.
"I used to be a Beastmaster." Nojeski replied solemnly.
"You don't have to tell me if you don't want to." Crios said.
"No, I need to get this out. I was foolish in my early years and tried to tame a Pendragon. It went wild and destroyed half my village before I could kill it. What I didn't know was that Pendragons have to be near death by your hand before they would respect your orders." Nojeski replied.
"Hmm…" Crios said quietly.
"I know what you're thinking and no, it wasn't the cause of the disappearance of the Shadow Clan."
Nojeski said. "Then what was?" King asked from behind them. The two whipped around, weapons in hand. "Relax, I said I'll fight you in the coliseum. I only want to talk before we end this." King said, walking in the direction of the coliseum.
Nojeski lowered his weapon. He placed a hand on Crios' shoulder. Crios slowly lowered the Dragon Drive. "What do you want?" Crios asked.
"There is a connection to the disappearances of the Shadow Clan and the Pendragons." King replied.
"What?" Nojeski said.
"This involves you as well Crios, and I'm sorry about what happened that day. I only wanted to take you and leave the rest of your family alone." King said, looking to Crios.
Crios twitched but didn't reply. "As you know, Axis has had numerous controversies throughout its existence; scandals, deaths, and mysterious disappearances. Eleven years ago I learned something horrid. Axis had been experimenting in combining humans and monsters in twisted experiments. Crios, your father was working on a way to mix the two without death or Changing." King explained.
Crios stopped. "I don't care if what you say is true or not, but I want you to say it all right now, and never mention my parents again." Crios said darkly.
King stopped and sat down. "Very well then, get comfortable." King replied. Nojeski sat down. Crios continued to stand. "You were born very sick, and died shortly after birth. Your father had just joined Axis on the project and when you died, he lost control. He placed you in stasis and worked tirelessly for the next three days, before the stasis chamber failed.
"As a last ditch effort, he mixed all the Ux of a Pendragon with your own. Lo and behold, you came back healthy as ever. Eight years later I learned of this. I wouldn't have acted so rashly if it wasn't my brother your father sacrificed to save you. I decided to spirit you away and become your guardian.
"The idea was possible as long as I could erase your memory before your ninth birthday. It wasn't that simple however. Your parents never wanted to lose you again so they trained to fight off anything that might cause you harm. After that I tried to knock you out with my attack, but you stood steadfast. Celestial Rim, who I know you know, were the hunters of Pendragons under Axis' control. So when they detected me, I had only a short time to act before they would reach me.
"A panicked and tried to end it quickly, in my haste I almost killed you, and made a grave mistake by killing your parents and little sister. Around then, Zed showed up. He was a young and promising newbie hoping to find the right Guild. I tried to explain things before he would act, but he would have nothing of it. We were both surprised when his attacks almost killed me.
"I managed to scar his face before your sister awakened as a Possessed along with your parents. My Ux would be unable to do such a thing in my weakened state, so it had to have been yours. Zed and I defeated your parents, and then watched as a heartless child fought and killed his sister. I told Zed to look into Celestial Rim before Alexander showed up and attacked me.
"Now that I think about it, it's funny how two unrelated people could hurt me so much. I then escaped into these mountains. I stole and devoured the Krux they had in their treasury and hid in the many valleys surrounding this place to recuperate and avoid Celestial Rim." King explained.
"You expect me to believe that? It sounds like something from a soap opera, a bad soap opera. Next you'll be telling me it was my evil twin brother who killed my sister, or that your sister is somehow pregnant with my child." Crios said
"I don't think-" King started.
"No! I will have no more of your bullshit!" Crios exclaimed as he continued walking to the coliseum.
"It'll prove itself soon enough." King said as he watched Crios leave.
"I may not fully believe your story, but Crios may find truths do lie in what you say. They may prove too sharp if he doesn't accept the possibility when they sink their teeth into him." Nojeski said as he followed Crios.
'A soap opera? That's such a weird way to describe it. I was half expecting him to demand we fight right here.' King thought to himself as he took to the skies.
Thanks to King's long winded discussion, Rusty had reached the coliseum first and was calling Clair from the stands. "Clair!" Rusty exclaimed when the call went through.
"What!?"Clair yelled back.
"I need you to listen carefully." Rusty hastily described all what had happened so far. "We are going to need back up." Rusty said finally.
Clair groaned. It was hard enough bringing all the S Ranked members together without this sudden development. "I can't spare anyone right now. I guess you'll have to deal with what you've got." As Clair said this, a man walked through the lobby's doors.
He had a pair of charcoal black sneakers with metal plates surrounding the soles. A pair of black Kevlar socks would prevent damage to his feet if anything could pierce the sneakers. His black shorts were decorated by numerous chains that hung down and fed through metal loops in the shorts and small straps on the outer sides of his shorts.
A black tee shirt was under a puffy navy blue vest was all that was on his torso. Dragon's Den's symbol was stitched into the back of the vest in black. His hands were half tucked into his vest, the left having the same Guild symbol tattooed in dark blue. He had light brown eyes. His brown hair was cut short, covered by a red baseball cap twisted backwards on his head. A goatee made of light brown stubble covered his face. DUKE was spelt down the side of his right arm in bright red letters.
"Hold on, I think I do have someone to spare." Clair said when she noticed the man walking up to her.
She quickly hung up of Rusty. "What can The Duke do for you today?" He asked Clair.
"Rusty needs help in the Youkaki Mountains. A Pendragon has shown up and has a history with Crios." Clair replied.
"Who's Crios?" Duke asked.
"The new guy, now get going." Clair replied.
"Blue Blue!" Cloud called out as he flew through the doors.
"More mail?" Clair asked.
"Yep, something from Isaac believe it or not." Cloud said as he pulled out a large tan package from his bag.
"Isaac? Are you sure?" Clair asked as she took it. She quickly tore the paper off and opened the box. A light blue dress was surrounded by dark green tissue paper.
The dress was made from a very fine mesh of scales. Underneath it was a chestnut box with a cat carved into it and with Semi-fine jewels embedded around the edge of the bottom. Cloud lifted it out so Clair could place the dress back into the box. Clair took the box and opened it. A dark blue felt lined the inside of the box. The bottom had places where you could place an enormous amount of rings. In the center were a light grey ring and a letter.
'Dear Clair, I'm sorry that I couldn't see you on your birthdays for the last few years. I've been working on these for a while. I hope you like them. The dress cannot be cut by any normal means and it can reduce the amount of Ux you use when you call your monster friends.
That ring box should provide a safe place for you your rings for however long you choose to be an active member of this Guild. Now onto that grey ring; it's made from pure Grey Admantinium. It was the hardest to get and make out of the three. It isn't bonded to anything, so use it as you choose.
Hope to see you soon,
Clair shook her head. "He still doesn't get it." Clair said as she placed the ring box next to the package on the table.
"I'll be going now." Duke said as he turned back to the doorway. "
Cloud, go with Duke. Crios could use some help." Clair said.
"I can't, I'm on duty." Cloud replied.
Clair rolled her eyes. Grabbing the grey ring from the box, she gave it to Cloud. "Take this then. First class priority." Clair said grumpily.
"Alight, I'll bill you later." Cloud said as he placed the ring in his bag.
"Go, go go, go!" Clair said as she pushed Cloud towards the door.
"Alright!" Cloud exclaimed as he quickly flew out the door.
Clair turned to her gifts. "At least he's improved." Clair said as she ran her hand over the box.
Crios dropped down onto the coliseum floor. "Crios!" Rusty called down. Crios waved to him. "Clair is sending backup, they'll be here in a few minutes!" Rusty yelled.
"Aye!" Crios called back.
Nojeski and King dropped in shortly afterwards. "If you two are ready, we can begin." King said.
Crios and Nojeski drew their swords. They remained silent as they strafed around either side of King. Nojeski's footsteps were completely silent as he moved around King. Crios on the other hand made a racket as his untrained feet stumbled as he moved around. His Drive filled the coliseum with noise as it picked up speed. It topped out and purred like a sports car. Crios' aura was a light shade of violet. King flashed forward, diving at Crios with his jaws open wide.
Crios rolled to the left, cutting up with his sword, aiming for King's side. With the quick flap of his wing, King forced Crios to the ground and hopped away. He spun around to face them again. Nojeski ran forward. In a flurry of strokes that Crios couldn't follow, Nojeski forced King to the wall. King opened his mouth and a spike an inch in diameter shot out from the back of his throat. Nojeski pulled his katana up as he stepped to the left, cutting it down the side.
Before the pieces could hit the ground, King leaped away from the wall and charged. Once he picked up speed, white flames coated his limbs and his feet lost all traction. Drifting around the arena, King used his wings to control where he was going. As he drifted around Crios and Nojeski, he released a volley of spikes from his mouth. Crios' shield knocked them aside as he charged at King.
King's fire disappeared and he ran to face Crios. As King brought his head down to bite Crios, Crios tried to jump over him, but ended up running into King's back. A thunderous crash filled the coliseum as Crios' shield collided with King's wing. The shape of the wing collapsed as the Ux it was made of swirled around Crios' shield. Crios tried to bring his sword down on King's back, but a massive discharge of Ux knocked him across the coliseum.
Crios hit the wall with a loud crack. His shield created a crater in the wall before collapsing under the pressure. Crios' back struck the wall shortly after. Bruised but not broken, Crios got to his feet. King's red Ux still surrounded Crios, but was sucked up by the Dragon Drive before it could do any harm to him. It created a small whirlpool as the Drive pulled it all in.
King's wing was crippled. A large chuck was missing out of it. They both phased in and out as King tried to hold their shape. 'Damn it. The shield will take a while to recharge. Guess I have no choice' Crios thought as he drove his sword into the ground. "Overheat Release Level One." Crios said as he brought his hand over the Drive. "Overclock!" Like before, Crios drove his palm into the spinning Drive.
The Drive began to spin faster, soon after Crios' aura changed to a dark blue. A hazy blue aura also coated the blades. King started for Crios, but Nojeski seemed to pop out of nowhere as he drove his katana deep between King's ribs. The path he took across the ground had a faint shadow clinging to it. King let out a roar that cracked the earth around him. Nojeski released his grip on his katana as King whipped around to counter attack.
Crios shot across the coliseum at King. His sword left a line of blue as he dragged it across the ground in one hand. King glanced at his wounds. A steady stream of blood oozed from the holes in his side. Crios let out a roar of his own as he swung his sword back handed at King's left forearm. It struck bone and reverberated as it bounced off. Crios turned around, his back passing in front of King's face.
He stepped around King and grabbed Nojeski's katana with his free hand. He dragged it along King's side as he ran. He was about to drive both weapons into King's side when a massive flare of Ux pushed him back. Nojeski gathered his weapon from Crios. The red Ux surrounded King as a fiery aura. As King struggled to his feet, the Dragon Drive began to sputter. Crios glared down at his misbehaving Drive.
King's fur suddenly turned a blood red and bristled outwards. It sharpened and grew a deeper hue of red with each wave of Ux that passed across his body.
"This is bad Crios; I was hoping to finish him before he reached this stage." Nojeski said as King let out a roar.
"You ready for this?" Crios asked as he brought up his sword. A wide smile ran across Crios' face as King turned to them, his eyes blazing.
King dashed at them, pounding the earth with his feet. In the corner of Crios' eye, something flew by at an insane speed. King was sent like a rocket to the other side of the coliseum, cracking the wall all the way past the stands. A man was standing where King was, wearing a dark blue vest and his feet coated in a mud-like aura.
"The Duke as arrived." He said when he glanced in Crios' direction.
"Duke!?" Rusty exclaimed from the stands.
King coughed, his blood spattering the ground. "Even with a weak connection that kick hurt like hell." King said. An imprint of Dragon's Den's symbol was embedded where Duke kicked King. Duke walked over to Crios and Nojeski.
"Who are you?" Crios asked.
"The name's Duke, It's nice to meet you Crios." Duke said as he held out his hand to Nojeski.
Nojeski pointed in Crios' direction and shook his head. "That's Crios." He said.
"Really?" Duke said, tilting his head, looking Crios over.
Crios raised his malfunctioning blade. "I don't have time to waste like this; I have a fight to finish." Crios said as he turned to King.
Duke stepped into Crios' path. "Can't let you do that. You may not know this, but a Pendragon is a G ranked monster. I'm S Rank So I can handle it. I can't let you fight him." Duke said.
Crios threw a punch at Duke. He easily stepped around it, but he didn't notice Crios' leg. When he stumbled briefly, Crios knocked him on his back and held his sword up to his neck. "Trust me; I'm at least Double S at this point." Crios said as he glared down at Duke.
"Only double? I guess you won't be able to handle me then." A voice that embodied a darkness that devoured all light echoed across the coliseum, as if it came from the corners of one's mind. King had a terrified look on his face.
"Ace." He said quietly. A black Pendragon was standing at the center of the arena.
Its fur burned a pitch black that put Nojeski's to shame. A pair of electric blue eyes flashed as it glanced around. The earth trembled under its feet as it slowly stalked across the coliseum. Rusty, Nojeski, and Duke stared at the black Pendragon with complete terror in their eyes. Crios slowly walked forward. It stopped and tilted its head.
"You're a strange one." It whispered as Crios circled around till no one was directly behind it.
"I take it your name is Ace?" Crios asked.
"Yes; and too many others that have been stuck to my image." Ace replied.
Rusty pulled out his phone and held down the first speed dial. Crios held his sword in front of him, the Drive spinning at eye level. He spoke. "Overheat Release Level Two." He lowered the point to face Ace. Holding his hand over the Drive, Crios spoke again.
"Five pillars." Crios growled as he slammed his hand down on the erratic Drive. The Drive stopped for a few seconds, before two rapid clicks sent it spinning to the point where all you could see of the outer Krux was a blended ring of color. As it topped out at over 300,000 rotations a minute, Crios' shield burst into life in a bright lime green.
Crios' eyes shifted from the darkest emerald to the brightest sea-foam. Crios ran forward, his eyes leaving a trail of green as he swung his sword at Ace's surprised face. Ace quickly bit down on the first blade, shattering it into a thousand pieces.
"That was too easy." Ace said with a smirk. Crios let a half smile creep on his face.
"Tell that to the blood from your mouth." Crios replied.
A steady stream of blood poured from Ace's mouth. Ace glanced down at the growing puddle of blood under his mouth. Crios kicked Ace in the side of the face, driving a piece of metal in his mouth into a nerve. Ace let out a howl. Crios ran to King. A look of shock flashed across his face as Crios drove the tip of his sword deep into King.
"You know something?" Crios said as King began to bleed. "If I was the one who caused my parents and sister to become Possessed, how could I carry so much dark Ux in my body if my heart, now made of grey Adamtinium, turn into a Possessed as soon as they put it in my body?" Crios asked. King stared up with half closed eyes. "When Ace showed up, my memories of that day returned. A dark laughter from my sister in a voice that sounds all too familiar right now.
"Now tell me Ace, who's voice do you think it was?" Crios asked.
"No…" Ace said slowly.
"That's right, next time remember that a Possesed's eyes change to that of the Ux that infects them." Crios said as he stopped the Drive with a hand brake on the handle. Taking his free hand, Crios gave it a quick spin counter clockwise. Crios' aura disappeared and his eyes returned to their natural color.
King's heart skipped a few beats from the sudden inflow of Ux, but then he immediately converted it into his own. Crios pulled his half broken sword from King's side. The hole was closed and healed a few seconds later. An aura flashed around King briefly before disappearing. He quickly got to his feet. Crios leaned against his sword and breathed heavily.
"Crios! What the hell!?" Rusty yelled.
"I've made my peace with King. Neither he nor I was the cause of my parent's Possession. I don't think he was even the one who killed them in the first place." Crios replied with a glance at Ace.
King's side bumped into Crios. "I take it you believe what I said then?" King asked.
"More or less. Now then. You guys ready to take this bastard down?" Crios asked, looking across the field at Nojeski and Duke.
They glanced at each other. Ace let out a long laugh. "You really know how to turn things against people." Ace said with a half smile.
"It will only get worse for you at this point." Oragè said from behind Ace.
Ace whipped around. "You see Ace, this time I've got some friends." Crios said.
Clair was sitting comfortably on Oragè's back. The loud roar of a Drive engine filled the station as Rusty's freshly painted car shot up over the stands.
It landed with a screech next to Clair. Hunter, Matthew, Cris, Jenifer, and Vladd stepped out. From the sky, a small one person aircraft hovered in and landed on Clair's other side. It was about the size of a small glider with an engine attached to the rear. Aerel stepped out, one foot on the top of the cockpit windshield.
"Bring as many people as you like, it won't help you win." Ace said.
"DRAGON'S DEN!" Someone shouted from behind Rusty. A man in a crushed velvet suit and his almost yellow hair greased back was standing on the edge of the stands. He held up a fist. "We are all here to fight alongside you!" He called out as a large number of people flooded the stands.
Two large helicopters passed overhead the letters SNSD painted on the sides. "We've got at least six Guilds worth of people here." Rusty said as he stood up. "People are tired of your rampages. We are putting an end to the Black Demon here and now."
Crios looked around. "It's a bit overkill." He said.
"Better overkill than letting him escape." King said.
Crios tapped King's side. "We'll finish our business later." Crios said as he revved up his Drive.
There was a loud pop as Crios' Drive reset to the highest level. "I brought my own back up as well you know." Ace said.
"It doesn't matter." Crios replied as he walked forward.
"I think it does." Ace said as the loud call of a whale filled the air.
Descending from far above, hidden in the clouds was a gigantic flying whale. "Say hello to a leviathan." Ace said before a heavy rain poured from the sky.
Crios didn't glance away. "You're my target; now stop trying to distract me." Crios said as he charged at Ace. Ace tried to jump up, but King jumped on top of him and held him down.
Crios brought the full force of his remaining blade on Ace's right foreleg. It landed with a crunch, cutting halfway through the bone even though it was unsharpened. Ace let out a loud yelp and catapulted King off with a pair of blue Ux wings. Something spun past Crios, striking Ace's wounded leg. It snapped off along with a chunk of muscle and sinew.
Duke stepped back. "Like it or not, we're going to help." Duke said as Nojeski drove his katana between Ace's ribs, like he had with King.
"I guess becoming infamous and causing so much trouble has finally come back to haunt you." Crios said before bringing his sword down on Ace's head. It skittered off his skull to one side, lopping off an ear.
"So you can all hurt me, but you forgot something." Ace said as a ring of light surrounded Crios.
From above, the leviathan was casting it down from its mouth. "She'll take you all to hell with me." Ace said as the circle suddenly encompassed the entire coliseum. A shrill whining filled the air as the light intensified.
"The Light of Judgment." Nojeski said as he gazed skyward. There was the quiet rumble of a small engine.
A large black motorcycle jumped over the stands of the coliseum. It pushed people aside as it drove down the stands. It landed with a sharp turn on the coliseum floor. A peach-haired man pulled out a long barreled hand gun. He pointed it up at the leviathan. A single shot rang out and the light sputtered. The leviathan let out a pain filled cry and fell from the sky into a nearby valley.
The peach-haired man holstered his gun and hopped off his bike. A pair of red goggles that resembled Rusty's covered his eyes. A light coat of peach stubble covered most of his chin. He had a light blue jacket zipped up halfway. A red shirt could be seen under it. His blue jeans were ripped at the edges and his knees. He had a black belt looped through them.
Two other belts held his gun and a sword at either hip. The sword was only the outer edge; it was missing all of its inner metal, only having the spine and blade of the sword. A pair of black steel toes stepped across the dirt as the man looked around. Everyone but Crios stared in awe at the man, even King and Ace. Cloud slowly drifted down from the sky with heavy breath.
Clair gave him a dark look as he landed next to Crios. He gave Crios the grey ring before passing out onto Crios' feet. Crios slipped it onto his left hand. "Who's that?" Crios whispered to Duke. Duke looked like it was going to explode from the look he gave Crios. The peach haired man walked towards Crios. He pulled off his goggles to reveal two-color eyes.
A red left and a blue right. He put his goggles in his jacket. "Everything alright here?" He asked Crios.
"Just peachy." Crios replied.
The man paused briefly before letting out a burst of laughter. "It's not quite the idea of 'peach fuzz'."Crios said with a chuckle.
He let out a brief snort before smiling. "You're cool! You're the only one not worried about who I am." He replied.
"Why should I? You're only a man." Crios held out his hand. "Crios Myshcell."
"Faulken Miachet." He replied, shaking Crios' hand furiously.
"Now if you don't mind, I have something to finish." Crios said as he turned to Ace.
"Hold on!" Faulken said as he pulled out his gun. He tossed it to Crios.
"That will at least end it quickly for the both of you." He said as Crios looked at it.
"It's better than a broken sword." Crios said as he sheathed the Dragon Drive. He spun it in his hands a few times. "I really like your setup. Simple and yet effective. The Krux really have quite a lot of Experience." Crios said as he popped open the chamber.
"You're a Kruxsetter? Think you could explain the Experience thing a bit?" Duke asked.
"It's quite simple; the use of the Krux gets more efficient the more you use it. And trust me, It can really compound with this kind of setup." Crios said as he pointed the gun at Ace.
"Seems a fitting end." Ace said as Crios pulled the trigger. A shot of white light spiraled out the end of the barrel. It literally erased Ace's body from the earth. Severed limb and all, leaving only a spot of charred earth.
Crios stared down at the gun. Faulken slowly took it from his hand. "Yeah, I'll make sure to never let you use it again." Faulken said as he put it back into his holster.
"So now what?" Nojeski asked as he sheathed his katana.
"Rebuild the village then head home." Duke replied.
"Nope. Not me. I'll be finishing something with King after I take a nice long nap." Crios replied as he laid down next to Cloud on the ground.
"Uh, Crios?" Duke started.
"Nope. As of right now I'm dead to the world." Crios replied as she shut his eyes.
Something heavy stepped on Crios' chest. Oragè had placed a paw onto Crios. Clair jumped off his back. "Why are you here?" She asked Faulken.
"Leviathan." Faulken replied.
"Fine; we need to talk later." Clair said, returning her attention to Crios. "You do know what you did here today will forever put you in the history books right? Clair asked. Crios waved a hand.
"Eh, I don't care. The more famous people will attract more attention. I'll just be forgotten in the hustle and bustle." Crios replied a he tried to push Oragè off.
Oragè held firm. Clair glanced over at King, who was sitting patiently. "So what about you? It's not like you can just sit and wait." Clair asked King.
"I can wait as long as it takes for this to end." King replied.
"What does that mean?" Crios asked, looking over.
"I've done horrible things Crios, to you and the people of this village. It's time for it to end." King replied.
"So you're going to help rebuild the village?" Crios asked.
King blinked. "I think he meant to die by your hand." Oragè said.
"Well that's stupid! If he wants to make up for what he did, he should help those he caused pain to, not die and take the easy way out." Crios said as he pushed Oragè off.
"It's harder than you think earning that level of forgiveness." King said solemnly.
"Then face it with all you've got! Hell, without your help, I wouldn't have been able to face Ace." Crios said.
"Crios, we can't have a Pendragon that has done what he's done running around Dragon's Den." Clair said.
"Clair, we've all done things in our life that we regret. Move past that. Besides, if he gets out of line I'll kick his ass!" Crios replied.
"Then there's only one thing you can do." Nojeski said. "Crios needs to prove he can take on King in any circumstance."
"So only hand to hand?" Crios asked as he cracked his knuckles.
"Sounds good to me." Faulken said.
"Are you crazy!?" Clair exclaimed.
"Let's go King." Crios said as he walked to the only place that wasn't damaged or full of people. Crios tossed his hat and bag back at Clair. He threw his half broken sword to the wall. "Let's do this!" Crios exclaimed as he started shadow boxing. "Bring it on!" Crios shouted as he taunted King.
The shadow of a smile passed across his face before he charged at Crios. Crios dived to the side, rolling and charging at King. King slid slightly as he turned around, before pouncing at Crios. Crios rolled between King's forearms, punching King in the soft spot of his belly. Surprisingly, King was lifted off the ground slightly. Crios ducked as King hopped away.
King turned back to Crios, who was swaying back and forth slightly, his fists up in front of his face. His eyes glowed the same color as King's. "
You're just as dangerous without the sword." King said.
"You did say I was part Pendragon." Crios replied before charging again. King jumped back as Crios brought a leg down where King used to be.
The ground cracked under the impact. 'I'm not going to hit him with these.' Crios thought as he continued to attack King. Crios stopped. King watched from a few yards away. Crios brought his leg down as hard as he could. A large chunk of rock shot into the air. Crios whipped his leg around and sent the rock flying at King's head. It struck King in the center of his skull. He shook his head. A stream of blood stained the fur where it struck.
King tried to run at Crios, but he curled to the left and fell over. "I take it I win!" Crios said with a grin.
"Yeah, giving a concussion tends to do that." King retorted from the ground.
"Satisfied?" Crios asked, glancing over at Clair. She nodded with a grumpy look on her face. "Now to sleep!" Crios said as he fell forward.
-Hustle and Bustle-
Crios let out a loud snore. As usual, he was sleeping in his bed, spread eagle. He had only woken up to eat or relieve himself. Jenifer said it was from the multiple shifts in his Ux when he was in the mountains. No one minded it until he did it for a week straight. Clair and Hunter were watching him sleep from the foot of his bed. Aerel walked up with a broom stick. He poked Crios' face with it.
"Stop that!" Clair snapped, grabbing the broom stick from Aerel's hands. Crios snorted.
"A little lower…" Crios mumbled as he rolled over. Clair raised an eyebrow. She poked the middle of his back. "No, lower." Crios said as a grin spread across his sleeping face. Hunter took the broom stick from Clair. He brought it down as hard as he could on Crios' ass.
"AHH!" Crios shouted as he shot up. Rubbing the sore spot, he looked over at the three standing at the foot of his bed. "What The hell are you doing?" Crios asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Get dressed. You have some work to do." Clair said as she dragged Aerel down the stairs.
Hunter poked Crios' bare chest before running after Clair. "Okay. That was weird." Crios said as he rolled out of bed.
He showered, got dressed and ate breakfast. He was wearing the same clothes from before, only except for the black shirt, an orange one with a red circle. 'Where does he find these?' Crios thought as he glanced down at his shirt. Like before, the red circle eluded him till he pulled the shirt on.
"Remind me to call you when I need a place to party." Faulken said as he popped out of the trapdoor.
"To bad I don't have a phone." Crios replied.
"Have you checked the news yet?" Faulken asked as he plopped down on Crios' couch. "Nope." Crios replied.
"Why?" "Because you're on it." Faulken replied as he turned the T.V on.
[… He was seen taking on two different Pendragons. One of which was The Black Monster. From eye witness accounts, they are named King and Ace, the latter being that of The Black Monster, who was eradicated by Dragon's Den's newest member, Crios. The power of the attack came from Faulken's weapon, though in all truth, he didn't need it.
[The other Guild members were upset they were unable to fight them themselves. Rusty, the member of Dragon's Den who made the emergency call, stated that he had no idea how well Crios could handle The Black Monster. When pressed for more interviews, Clair, one of the well know counter girls, had this to say:
["As much as I would like Crios to provide on this, he is currently unable to do so because of complications from that day. I however can answer questions as well as others involved in the incident."
[Shortly after a brief interview, Nojeski of the Shadow Clan, from the Guild known as The Hallows of Nojorn, disappeared with his apprentice. King, the remaining Pendragon has been put to work repairing the village that he inadvertently destroyed. Duke, an S Ranked member of Dragon's Den was assigned to watch him until the work was finished.
[Oh? … Well, it seems we have breaking news. Draken Faukue has a few words to say about this story. …
["Due to the nature of his accomplishment, I would personally like to meet Crios; to award him the Title of Shadow Hunter and bump his Rank up to C. If his skills are more than Pendragon hunting, his Rank should be increasing soon. I look forward to it Crios."] He saluted with a limp three fingers.
[In other new…]
"Who is Draken?" Crios asked.
Faulken threw the T.V remote at Crios' head. "The head of the coalition of Guilds. He's the one who says how many members we can have, as well as whether or not we remain a Guild." Faulken replied angrily.
"If you don't even know that, I guess I'll have to give you a crash course as of now."
"What can you tell me about Crios? How long has he been in your Guild?" King asked as he dragged the final block of stone across a valley.
"His trip here was his second day. Other than that, I don't know much." Duke replied from his back.
King let out a chuckle. "That's a Myshcell all the way."
"What about you? How do you know so much about his family?" Duke asked.
"I'm over nine hundred years old. I've met a few of them throughout my time." King replied as he started up the sheer cliff that led to village.
Duke grabbed King's fur as he climbed straight up. "So you were there for the last Great War." Duke said.
"Yes, and it was the bloodiest of them all. The century of different species killing each other ended when they all clashed over Myayutio." King replied darkly.
"Myayutio?" Duke asked.
"The homeland of the dragons. Let's just say, they do not like our petty squabbles." King replied.
"I didn't know dragons actually existed. But you know, I have an ancestor that was a Great General. We still have his uniform from the fall of Kakan." Duke said.
"I was there. I watched as the city was burned and listened to its citizen's cry out before their death." King replied.
Duke tightened his grip. "This is the last block. After we're done here we'll head to Dragon's Den." Duke said.
King picked up his pace. 'I can't believe I have to live like this. Under the thumb of a human who barely even realizes his potential. Regardless of how he feels, I shouldn't still be alive. How long will he make me live with this guilt?' King thought as he climbed over the cliff's edge.
The village needed to cut the final block into pieces in order to repair the damage to the castle. With a quick swipe of his razor sharp claws, King cut the block more than three fourths of the way though. The villagers easily cut what King's claws couldn't reach. King was soon unharnessed and he and Duke left the villagers to their work.
King and Duke quickly made their way down the mountain. "Are you sure you don't want to rest a bit before we head out?" Duke asked from alongside King.
"I can rest when we get there." King replied.
"Where the hell have you been!?" Clair exclaimed as Crios and Faulken exited the elevator.
"I was explaining some things to Crios." Faulken replied.
"For almost two hours!? Draken has been waiting for you two!" Clair exclaimed. Her face was noticeably flustered.
Crios shuffled over to the bar. He dropped his head on the counter and let his arms fall slack. "At this point I don't really care. You can only cram so much when your heart's not in it." Crios grumbled.
"You can mope later; right now you have somewhere to go." Clair said as she dragged Crios to his feet.
"God damn it." Crios grumbled as Clair drug him down into the Nest. "You seriously need to find a faster way to get down there." Crios said as he followed Clair.
"Shut up." Clair snapped, spinning around. "I'm not in the mood for your lip." Faulken made sure to follow Clair from far behind.
When they stepped out from the pillar, Crios' jaw dropped. The streets of the city were jam-packed with a massive crowd. When they saw Crios and Clair emerge from the staircase, they let out a loud cheer. "You're fuckin' kidding me. I am not dealing with that." Crios said.
"Grey Heart!" Cloud called out as he flew around the building.
Crios raised a hand, but slowly lowered it when he saw the flock of Floxes following behind him. Each one had a unique size and fur markings. "Some of my friends wanted a chance to see you." Cloud explained as he landed on Crios' shoulders.
"Hey Cloud, any chance of getting a lift over that headache down there?" Crios asked.
"Are you crazy? PR like this only comes a once in a lifetime." Clair said as she grabbed Crios' arm.
"No! I don't like this kind of attention!" Crios exclaimed as he pulled back from her. Cloud slipped of Crios' shoulders when he jerked back. He hovered slightly outside the railing. "If I'm well known, that should be enough. Besides, a long walk down a staircase isn't our Guild's style." Crios continued before climbing up onto the railing.
"What the hell are you doing!?" Clair exclaimed.
Crios pulled a strip of white cloth from his bag. "You shouldn't yell so much; you'll wrinkle that pretty face." Crios said as he tied the cloth around his forehead. He turned back to Clair and gave a short salute. "See ya at the bottom!" Crios called out as he leapt from the railing." Clair and Faulken rushed to look over the railing. "Woo hoo!" Crios yelled out as he landed on one of the old electrical wires.
Thanks to a slick clear coating, he quickly picked up speed as he slid down it. "He's going to get himself killed!" Clair yelled. As she did so, Cloud's friends followed Crios closely on the surrounding wires.
Faulken jumped over the railing. "I can't stay out of this!" He shouted as he landed on a wire next to Crios'.
"Faulken!" Clair shouted as she watched him slide down.
"Clair! Stop being such an angry Mistress and have some fun for a change!" Crios yelled up.
Clair glared down at him. Cloud let out a quiet chuckle. Clair snatched out at Cloud, but he flew back out of her reach. "Are you really too dull to notice that he likes you?" Cloud asked.
"He does not!" Clair replied, rolling her eyes.
"I think that look he has says something different." Cloud said as he looked back at Crios.
Clair glanced down as well. Crios was looking back at them with a smile. Faulken beside him had a grin that stretched from ear to ear. "As much as Crios tends to act like one, he isn't an adrenaline junkie. I think he jumped off with the thought of you chasing after him." Cloud said.
"What makes you say that?" Clair asked.
"The fact that neither he nor Faulken knows where the gathering point is." Cloud replied with a snarky half-smile. Clair sighed.
"You better catch me if I fall." Clair said as she climbed up onto the railing. 'I can't believe I'm actually doing this.' Clair thought as she stared down at the wire.
"C'mon Clair! I know you're not the kind of person to chicken out!" Crios faintly yelled as he slid farther away. Clair jumped down onto the wire. She slid down slowly at first, before quickly picking up speed.
As the wind picked up enough to blow back her hair, a smile crept onto Clair's face. "Here I come!" She called out as she leaned forward. She drastically picked up speed. Cloud was following close behind. Clair soon passed up Crios and the others.
"That's more like it!" Crios yelled to her as he hopped over to the wire she was on.
"Don't think you're going to get away!" She spun around to face him; sliding backwards.
"Who's chasing who?" Clair asked with an evil smile. Cloud gave the confused Crios a wink as he dived by, trying to catch up to Clair. Clair giggled to herself when she saw the grin that spread across Crios' face. She turned forward when he began to lean forward like she had. He hopped over to a wire across from Clair before he pulled up alongside her.
"Oh? How nice for you to join me, slowpoke." Clair said as she looked over at Crios.
"Last one to the bottom buys the other a drink?" Crios offered.
"Are you asking me out?" Clair asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Sure, you could call it that." Crios said as he put his hat on Clair's head. Crios' wire came to an abrupt halt as it bent down at a junction with a nearby wire.
Crios managed to get one foot on the space of wire between Clair's feet when his wire curved straight down from the junction. Clair's hand flashed out, catching Crios by the collar as she leaned back, rocking the wire slightly from the force she put on it. For a brief second, they were balanced over each end of the wire before Crios got his other leg on the wire and they pulled each other up.
"You're quite strong for being so small." Crios said with and impressed look.
"Pbbbt!" Clair scoffed. "It was easy with a lightweight like you."
"Hey love birds! I suggest you watch where you're going!" Faulken called up from below.
"How'd you get down there?" Clair called back.
"I don't think pink is really your color." Faulken said as he held his chin.
There was a slight pause. "I'll FUCKING KILL YOU!" She screamed as she dived at him.
"Uh, okay…" Crios said as Clair tackled Faulken. They were caught shortly afterwards by Cloud's friends.
Crios jumped onto a nearby roof. 'But she isn't wearing any pi-Ooooh.' Crios thought as Cloud's friends managed to separate Clair and Faulken and fly them over to Crios. Clair was stretching out at Faulken with the intent to strangle.
"Clair, you can kill him later."Crios said when Clair touched down on the roof. "Thanks for the help!" Crios said to the Floxes with a short salute. They saluted in return and flew back towards the pillar.
"Fine." Clair growled as she stomped in the direction of a roof access door. Crios turned to Faulken.
"I suggest you follow from up here." He said before following Clair.
Once they left the building, Clair led Crios through various alleys to avoid the crowd of people in the surrounding streets. Soon they were across the street from a four story building. A line of SNSD members left the entire front of the building free of people all the way across down both sides of the street. Clair handed Crios back his hat as he replaced the headband into his bag. Faulken dropped down nearby.
"How did I manage to get so many people to show up?" Crios asked as they crossed the street.
"It's Draken's announcement that made all the people show up." Faulken explained from behind them.
Clair quickly walked through the open doors, held open by a sweating bell boy. He quickly shut them once they passed through. "Fourth floor. Faulken, take the stairs." Clair said as she and Crios walked into the elevator.
'Crap!' Faulken thought as the doors shut in front of him. Faulken hurried up the three flights of stairs, bursting through the last door just as Clair and Crios stepped out of the elevator. "I'll- just- need- a- second." Faulken said between heavy breaths.
"I see your cardio is as bad as ever." Clair said as she walked past him and into the only door of the floor.
It was a gigantic meeting room, so large that each person had a set of speakers and a microphone in front of them. A single half donut shaped table curved around the entirety of the room. Twenty-two people sat at the table; The S-Ranked members and the people Crios already knew from the Guild, including Cris and Vladd. Two seats were open, one to the far side and one directly in the middle.
Many of them were uninterested in the people around them and found various ways to entertain themselves. A few were sleeping, another was reading, and one of them was cranking out quick sketches of the room. Clair sat in the far seat and Faulken hopped over the desk to his place in the middle. For what seemed like an eternity, Crios stood awkwardly in the center of the room. Clair was whispering something with Matt.
Back in the hall, the elevator dinged. A man in a black scale suit with matching black shoes and a blood red tie walked out of the elevator. Everyone in the room stood up, saluted and said
"Sir!" in unison. He had snowflake white hair and dazzling emerald eyes. When he spoke, Crios knew it was him.
"Sit, such formality is unneeded." They sat in with an eerie unison.
"Sorry to keep you all waiting. The traffic was rather dense today." He said to the room before tossing something to Crios as he walked up next to him in the center. Catching it, Crios looked at the small metal pin in his hands. The words "Shadow Hunter" were set in black Armormorite, on the back Crios' name was engraved with a short sentence. "Good Luck Hunting." What Crios assumed was his father's name was in italics underneath. "Strike Myshcell"
Crios glanced over at him. He gave a quick wink. Crios pinned it at the center of his hat. As Crios placed it back on his head, a man beside Faulken spoke out. "Now can someone explain why I was called here?" Draken turned to Clair. She seemed unsteady under his gaze.
"Well, uh." She started, slowly getting to her feet.
"About a week ago I was attacked." Crios cut in, stepping forward.
Clair had a look of relief mixed with confusion and awe.
"I wasn't talking to you, now shut it." The man from before snapped.
Crios stepped forward so he was eye to eye with him. The man stood to face him. "I. AM. SPEAKING. I am not getting a big head because I was handed a piece of metal from a man I only knew existed this morning! Regardless of Rank or any other bullshit, I will be heard." As Crios said this, he stared the man back down into his seat.
Draken raised his eyebrows. Crios now had the full attention of the room. "As I was saying, I was attacked. By a man with a cloak that resembled Zed's and who wielded Aquaporus." Crios continued. Whispers broke out.
"C'mon! I don't thi-" The man beside Faulken started.
"Arking, SHUT UP!" Clair yelled nervously, slamming her hands on the table. He looked at her with a shocked face.
"From what I've seen him do with Krux, he wouldn't mistake a weapon he was attacked with. His Dragon Drive is practically at the same level as them." Clair said quietly.
"Thank you Clair. I'm not going to pretend to know everything about Celestial Rim, but based on what Zed indirectly gave me, and how he's so doggedly chased; something big is going down soon. People I have never heard of know more about my family than I do. The fact that what he was trying to create ultimately ended up in my hands is not just a coincidence.
"Especially since Axis is or was involved closely with Celestial Rim. Based on how people closely linked to my past seem to have some idea of what's been going on, I think that Alexander Soum should be watched." Crios turned to Draken. "And you, how do you know my father?" He asked him quietly.
The grin on Draken face widened. "I think you should worry more about your own well being then that man's past. It won't help you now." He replied quiet enough so only Crios could hear him.
Crios gritted his teeth. 'He's not budging. Maybe King could elaborate when he comes back…With Duke…' A strange thought occurred to Crios. As Crios thought to himself, the S-Ranked in the room discussed their point on the situation.
'Faulken said that the sixteen S Ranked that could show up will, he also said the Master wouldn't. So based on the eight non S Ranked here and thirty eight other members, minus the sixteen that should be here, and since Duke is off with King, the head count should be only twenty-one. But I counted twenty-two…' Crios exited from his internal monologue and looked at each of the members sitting at the table closely.
He almost skipped over someone in a dark cloak sitting farther back from the table than the others. A familiar sword poked out from the cloak. "ZED!?" Crios shouted out.
The man immediately shot up, his eyes flashing as his hood fell. The shocked look on his face was almost hilarious. Everyone turned to look where he had, but shook their heads, as if trying to clear them. Zed pulled off the cloak. That's when the other gasped in surprise.
"How did you see him!?" Faulken shouted. "
No-one can see through the Perception Cloak." Draken said, with a look towards Crios.
"Except Pendragons." Zed replied, locking eyes with Crios.
Crios opened his mouth but stopped. 'So King really did know the truth.' Crios thought, contemplating the implications of what it might mean.
"Zed Fifer. It kind of ironic how Crios, as a Shadow Hunter, could see the elusive Shadow of the Moon." Aerel said jokingly.
Zed quickly pulled his cloak back on and rushed up to Crios. "Alexander will be in the 116th annual Hunter tournament tomorrow." Zed said quickly.
"That title was given to you for a reason." Draken said as Zed slipped out the door.
"Where'd he go?" Aerel asked, looking around.
"Hunter tournament. I'm in and need to know about it." Crios said with a quick glance at Draken.
"What?" Faulken said, surprised.
"Trust him." Was all that Draken said.
Faulken shook his head. "I guess I have no choice. I'll bring this meeting to an end. I'll be pulling a few of you aside to guard the Nest and the Den until we get a grip on what's about to go down. The rest of you can return to your work." Faulken said as he pulled out a sheet of paper. "S Ring One: Ferrous, Isaac, Merchalice, and Duke since he's gone.
"From S Ring Two: Genifir, Sokeyes, Kancan, and Pike. That's it for now. Clair will notify you if anything goes wrong. I'll see you all at the Dragon Barbecue. Nice seeing you all again, now get lost." Once Faulken quit talking, the room soon emptied. Only Faulken, a few of the seven he called out, Draken, Crios and his little band of eight remained.
"Was it nessicary to keep Isaac around?" Clair asked Faulken in a low whisper.
"I picked the first four prime numbers based on an alphabetical arrangement of their names." Faulken replied.
"You know Duke's real name?" Clair asked with a genuinely surprised look.
"I don't have the time for this. You've got a bird to love on." Faulken said before scurrying away.
The remaining of his seven followed him out. "I'll kill him." Clair growled to herself.
"So, you owe me a drink." Crios said as he poked Clair's arm gently.
She sighed. "I guess so." She replied with a half smile.
"Meet me in the Den floor at eight. I know a great place." She said before heading out the door, waving Jenifer to follow.
Hunter and the others swarmed Crios. "What 'cha two talking about?" Aerel asked as he leaned one elbow on the table.
Hunter casually pushed over and took his spot, leaning against the table. "Well?" Matt asked from the other side of the table.
"Nothing. Just a drink." Crios said as he turned to leave.
Rusty and Hunter blocked his path. "Just a drink?" Rusty asked with a raised eyebrow.
Aerel's head slid under Crios' legs. "And pink underwear?" Aerel asked with a mischievous smile. Crios stepped on his face in reply. "Ow!" He yelled as she scurried back.
"Stay out of it. I may tell you about it, but I do not want to see you following us." Crios said as he walked between Hunter and Rusty and out the door.
Duke met him at the lobby door. Faulken and his crew were still in the lobby. "King's waiting outside. He seems a little depressed. I need to talk to Faulken; we can chat later." He said quickly before running over to Faulken.
When Crios walked out the doors, King was sitting patiently in the middle of the street. When he saw Crios, he stood up. "I can't stand this Crios. Living is too much for me at this point." King said sadly.
Crios chopped his head with a hand. "Celestial Rim and the like have gotten interesting. As of now, I believe what you said. Right now we need to figure out how to get you to the Den." Crios said as he looked over King's massive frame.
"For starters, that ring of yours is for Beastmasters!" Cloud called out as he floated out of the sky.
"Where have you been?" Crios asked.
Cloud looked back at the support pillar. "You seem to have created a sport. My friends and I have been taking advantage of it by catching them if they fall, and charging them beforehand." Cloud explained as he pulled out a massive wad of Ere.
Crios raised an eyebrow. "Keep doing it. You should be able to make even more than that." Crios said.
"Well anyway, about that ring. You both have to agree to the partnership and touch it with each other's Ux." Cloud explained. "Then you can call each other at will."
"Well?" Crios asked, looking up at King. He lowered a wing. Crios reached out and touched it with his left hand. There was a loud zing and then a pop.
A three millimeter blood red star cut diamond was now on the ring. "Cool." Crios said before hopping onto King. "I can't really hang out; I've got to get ready for something." Crios said to Cloud before riding King in the direction of the pillar. Unknown to Crios, Isaac was watching when he used the ring. He had an unhappy look on his face.
Crios spent some of his free time on the Wire-running, as it ended up being called. He made some quick money by signing autographs and making quick Matrix repairs. The hour before eight, he and Jacob repaired the Dragon Drive, and retuned the mechanisms that malfunctioned in the mountains. He showered and got dressed twenty minutes before eight.
A pair of blue slacks and a rainbow striped collared short sleeved shirt. A black long sleeve dress shirt was pulled over it. Since most of the upper buttons were missing, Crios had to cut them out and wear it half buttoned. He had no other pair of shoes, so he had to wear his sneakers. He quickly combed his hair as he rushed down the building.
Clair was waiting at the counter. She regretted having to put on the dress Isaac gave her, but nothing else seemed appropriate. A light blue ribbon tied her hair back in a ponytail. Unlike Crios, she had the shoes for the occasion; short platform heels.
"Good thing we both thought semi-formal. Otherwise this might be a bit more awkward." Crios said as he walked up to her.
She glanced down at Crios' shoes. "I have nothing else." He said nervously.
"Let's go then." Clair said as she started to the door. "It's a place called the Frozen Shamrock; it's got the best Irish stew I've ever had in this city." Hunter and the rest of the troop were peeking over the counter, watching them walk away. "Have you got us a ride?" Clair asked as they stepped out the door. Crios smiled and whistled loudly.
In a small blast of air, King dropped from the sky. Crios raised his eyebrows. King's old bandages had been removed. His fur was washed and brushed. If he was human, his hair would be combed and greased back. The Dragon Drive was sheathed along his side in an elegant saddle.
"Woah." Crios said as he looked him over. Someone whistled behind them. A blonde and a redheaded women were giving a thumbs up, before being yelled at by the women that approved Crios' request.
"Huh. I guess you can thank them later." Clair said as she nudged Crios in King's direction.
Crios hopped on, holding a hand down to Clair. She ignored it and jumped on directly in front of Crios. "South Sassoon please." Clair said to King.
King spread his wings. The Ux went straight through the saddle and curled around Crios' legs. "Hold tight you two, this'll be fast." King said before rocketing into the sky.
After a quick flight, King dropped them off at a small restaurant directly at the edge of the south side of Sassoon. It overlooked the massive rolling green hills that stretched beyond their sight.
"Thanks for the lift." Clair said as she slid off King's back. Crios gave him thumbs up behind his back as he walked into the restaurant with Clair. King shot off into the hills by himself.
Clair and Crios were quickly seated in the almost empty restaurant. They ordered their food and quickly got settled. "So tell me Shadow Hunter Myshcell, how was it you ended up as a shut in working for your uncle?" Clair asked.
"He was the only living relative on my mom's side. Naturally, no one could get a hold of someone from my dad's side, so I ended up being sent there from the hospital." Crios replied.
"How did you decide to become a Beastmaster?" Crios asked.
"My parents own a ranch and I spent most of my childhood playing with the animals. When they began turning larger and larger profits, they expanded into monster ranching. I guess I've always felt closer to animals and monsters than humans." Clair replied.
A waiter dropped off their drinks. Clair got a simple fruit cocktail and Crios got what was called a Tigre Megabomb. It was almost 100% alcohol spiked with the venom of a Sky Snake and the meat of a sub-arctic Tiger Whale. The waiter watched nervously as Crios sniffed the frothing concoction.
"Bottoms up!" Crios cheered before downing the half gallon of alcohol. Crios slammed the mug on the counter and shook his head. "Is that the best you got?" Crios asked the waiter. He shook his head. "Then bring me some uncooked potatoes. The fresher the better." Crios replied with a disappointed look.
By now his face was thoroughly flushed. "Please tell me you're not a drunk." Clair said; her drink still untouched.
"Nope. I'm too much of a lightweight to be a drunk." Crios replied.
"So what about the 190 proof alcohol slowly killing your liver?" Clair asked.
"You don't need to worry about that. The doctors say my liver regenerates at like 10 times normal." Crios replied.
"Seriously?" Clair asked, skeptical.
"Yeah. I'm guessing it's from the Pendragon part of me, or maybe even a genetic thing from my parents." Crios replied.
The waiter walked up with a full potato plant, presumably pulled from a garden in the back. Crios snatched it and waved the waiter away. "How are we supposed to price that?" The waiter asked his boss as Crios devoured the entire potato plant. "We have no choice to make it free. That's the deal about drinking the Tigre Megabomb. The question is does he know the potato plant's leaves and stems are poisonous?" His boss replied.
"Part Pendragon? What?" Clair asked. Crios explained all of what King had told him. As the time went by, Crios' face soon returned to its normal color. Their stew arrived when Crios explained that sometimes he can see things that others couldn't.
"I guess that's how you saw Zed back there." Clair said as she scooped a chunk of potato into her mouth.
"I got to talk to King about it shortly after the meeting ended. He said that I shouldn't worry too much about it as long as the frequency of it happening doesn't increase. Something about the Pendragon taking over and driving me insane, flooding my body with toxins works as a distraction to use up the excess Pendragon Ux so its concentration doesn't reach that level." Crios explained.
"Sounds like a load of crap, but it's not like we can prove him right or wrong." Clair said as she ate more of her stew.
Crios nodded and tried the stew. "Mmm! This is good." Crios exclaimed as he chewed a piece of lamb.
"Nope!" Clair exclaimed, pressing a finger on Crios' lips. "Chew first; then speak."
Crios swallowed. "Carmply flakes right?" Crios asked before taking a second spoonful.
"Yeah! I'm surprised you can tell." Clair replied.
"I kinda fancy myself a cook of some sorts." Crios said with a roll of his hand.
"You're a cook?" Clair asked excitedly. "You've got to cook for me sometime."
"Is that a second date?" Crios asked with a raised eyebrow.
"Maybe." Clair replied.
The rest of the dinner flew by and they soon found themselves under the light of the moon. "This seems like a good place just to run." Crios said as he gazed out at the hills.
"Well come on then!" Clair exclaimed before stealing Crios' hat. Crios chased her up one of the nearby hills. She made it to the top before Crios tackled her.
"Gotcha!" Crios exclaimed as they rolled down the far side of hill a few feet. They rolled onto their backs. Clair rested her head on Crios' chest.
"Isn't it great to be able to see the stars so close to the city?" Crios asked as he gazed up at the stars slowly filling in the darkening sky.
"Yeah." Clair replied softly. "They're a little different, but they remind me of home."
The full moon shined brightly from above. As the last fingers of light from the setting sun faded, a swirling swath of stars came into view. "You know, this Guild has been a good thing for me. As bizarre as it is, it's been a lot of fun." A light flashed lazily on a nearby hill. "Oh?" Crios said, looking over. A different one flashed from a different hill.
Soon the air was full of fireflies and their soft light. "It's been a long time since I last saw fireflies." Crios said as he watched them fly about.
"You really were a shut in." Clair said as she snuggled closer to Crios' chest. She could hear the strong and steady beating of his artificial heart. Crios began to hum quietly. The fireflies swayed slightly to the tune.
"The song of words long lost." Clair said quietly. Crios let the last note drift into the breeze before speaking.
"But not forgotten to the hearts of the world."
"Even for those who may have lost their hearts." Clair said as she glanced up at Crios' face.
"A person can never truly lose their heart if they have someone to share it with." Crios said as he looked down at her. Clair sat up a little and looked down at Crios. And with a single soft kiss, the night drifted by under the light of the moon, stars, and fireflies.
"Well?" Aerel asked as he leaned over the small table in Dragon's Den's lobby.
Crios was eating his breakfast before he would be leaving for the tournament. "We kissed. That's all you're getting." Crios replied as he quietly ate his food.
"C'mon." Matt said, trying to persuade him. The rest of the troop were surrounded Crios, picking him for information about his date.
"Under the full moon? In the firefly hills? There has to be more." Aerel said, poking Crios' forehead. Crios left his fork in Aerel's shoulder as he returned the dishes to the counter. "What the hell man!?" Aerel exclaimed as Crios walked away. Hunter pulled the fork from Aerel.
"Maybe you shouldn't push it. He's already turned you into the comic relief." Hunter said as he tossed the fork onto the table.
Aerel rubbed his shoulder. "It's not like I wasn't before he showed up." Aerel retorted with a snort.
Crios walked over to the side of the lobby where Clair was busy with a computer. "You're in. First fight's in an hour." Clair said as Crios walked up behind her.
"Cool. Up for dinner at my place?" Crios asked.
"Sure, but Jenifer and her brother will have to come. They've recently have had some personal trouble and need some help with something like that." Clair replied.
"Alrighty. I just need to go shopping beforehand." Crios replied.
"Is it just me, or do they seem a little distant?" Matt whispered as they watched them.
"I have a spare fork." Crios said as he held it out to Clair.
"No, I have my own." Clair replied as she stood up. She quickly tossed it in Matt's direction. It embedded itself in the steel chair, directly between his legs. They scrambled to run away, knocking over the table and chairs.
"Think they'll learn?" Crios asked.
"I don't think so." Clair replied.
"Clair! Crios!" Duke called out. "The car's here!"
Clair and Crios hurried out the door. Rusty, Aerel, and Hunter followed them out the door. They had tickets and were going to take Rusty's car. Matt and Cris had to stay behind to watch it on the T.V. A black, heavily armored van was waiting outside the lobby doors. The letters SNAC were painted on the side.
"The Assault Core? Are we really that important?" Clair asked as she, Duke and Crios climbed inside with a group of five people in riot gear.
Rusty made sure to tell the driver that he would be following close behind. The five SNAC members were glaring at Crios through their visors. "Think I could get an explanation?" Crios asked; confused about the dark looks he was receiving.
A man in red riot gear, instead of the usual black, crawled in and shut the door. "We were assigned to guard you during the tournament." He replied with a gravelly voice. "And we do not like it."
"Too proud for guard duty?" Duke asked with a disapproving look.
"We are the Assault Core, the toughest fighters in Silver Napalm. None of us went though that insane training to guard some kid." The man replied.
"I agree. I don't need guards for simple travel. I could understand if we were at war or something, but this level of protection is ridiculous." Crios said.
"That's not the point. We do not babysit." He said through his tinted visor. Crios punched the wall of the van besides the man's head. The metal crunched in around his fist. Blood ran down from his knuckles.
"I am not a child. You can be as angry about this as you want, but do not treat me like I am defenseless." Crios growled.
Clair and Duke had looks of terror on their face. "Crios, that's Armormorite. It should be impossible for you to even scratch." Clair said quietly.
The man sighed. "Very well. I apologize if I offended you." He replied. Crios retracted his hand. A nearby SNAC bandaged up his knuckles.
The man leaned forward slightly and pulled off his helmet. Clair's eyes widened when she saw it was the head of a grey wolf. His eyes were as black as the van's metal. Crios twitched, but did nothing else. "Wesken Saunder." He said as he offered a hand. Crios shook it with his newly bandaged hand.
"They sent the Captain's squad for this?" Duke asked; a very surprised look on his face.
"Why do you think we're so irritated?" The driver asked. He had a seemly common male voice that sounded a little young.
"That's Tenken, clockwise it's; Glock the weapons expert, Clancer, the close combat expert, Ceaser the medic and long range support, Zern the recon expert and marksmen, and finally Casandre, the wild rookie pushing to replace me." Wesken said, gesturing to each person.
Casandre didn't even twitch when her name was called. "How long till we get there?" Clair asked Tenken.
"Ten minutes. They said we can drive straight into the building." He replied.
"What?" Crios asked.
"VIP premium parking." Duke explained.
"Oh. Do you think we could get some music in here?" Crios asked.
"Sorry, the radio's busted. We haven't got it repaired due to budget cuts." Tenken replied.
"You people are hopeless." Crios muttered as he worked his way to the front.
"What are you…?" Tenken started. C
rios pulled the entire radio out of the dashboard. Without even unplugging it, Crios disassembled it. "Shorted wires, capacitors, and resistors? What did you do? Drive though a lake?" Crios grumbled as he quickly replace the parts.
"Holy hell…" Wesken said as he watched him work at an amazing speed. Suddenly, the speakers squealed.
"Car commercial." Crios said happily as he turned the volume down. "Now let's see…"Crios said as he switched through the channels. "Spanish pop, classical, polka?" A familiar guitar riff made Crios pause. "Fernweh!" Crios exclaimed.
"What?" Duke asked.
"It's German. Literally translates as the ache for faraway places." Crios explained.
"Kind of like wanderlust?" Zern suggested. Crios nodded.
"OH!" Clair exclaimed. "This is Hunter's band! I forgot what it was called!"
"Yep. Now let's stop talking and enjoy the music." Crios said as he replaced the radio and hopped into the empty front seat. The time flew by and they were soon looking for the way in. The VIP parking had a lift to take the van to the highest parking area. "What kind of VIPs park here?" Crios asked as they slowly rose past the normal parking.
"The kind that get their own room." Duke replied. The lift light turned green and Tenken turned into the nearest empty space. It was long enough to fit multiple limousines.
Crios and his group quickly walked though the lot of expensive luxury cars and limousines. They all walked through the open doors into a small lobby with a bar that overlooked the stadium. Crios ran up to the window.
"Wow. It's much bigger than I thought." Crios said as he pressed his face against the glass.
"Doesn't he know who he's standing next to?" Wesken asked Clair and Duke.
"No." The replied flatly.
"First time here?" A man in an emerald suit asked.
"Yep. I'll be participating as well." Crios replied.
"What are you doing up her then?" He asked.
"No idea, ask back there." Crios replied, thumbing to Clair and Duke.
He waved them over. "Is he like your younger brother or something?" The man asked.
"N-no sir. He's a rookie member of our Guild that recently got a massive amount of media attention." Clair replied.
"Oh, Oh! So this is that Crios?" He asked, looking over at Crios.
"Aye, and who are you?" Crios asked, glancing back.
The man had his black hair pushed to one side and a ruggedly handsome face. He had a pair of soft blue eyes that looked at Crios with modest contemplation.
"Crios!" Clair hissed though her teeth.
"No, no. It's okay. I'm one of the highest Ranked Guild members in the world. Since I hit Y, I don't really get my face in the news anymore." He said.
"You don't need to worry about that when it comes to him. He didn't even know who Draken was and couldn't care less if you were Z Ranked." Duke said.
"Really?" The man asked.
"And it's not a prideful ignorance. I just don't remember people who don't have an effect on my daily life." Crios said.
"Anyway, my name is Richard Griffin. It was nice meeting you in person." He said before ordering a second drink.
A man in a black suit cam running up. "Stop that!" He exclaimed as he pushed Crios back from the window. "You'll get you oily skin everywhere!" He wiped the spot Crios had his head against with a cloth.
A woman in a tight red dress came walking up. "You must be from Dragon's Den. I apologize for the delay; someone will be with you shortly to show you to your room. Crios, could you come with me?" She said with a curt bow.
"Alright! It's time to rock!" Crios exclaimed as he jogged after to women.
"Good luck!" Clair called as they left.
A different woman walked up to show the group to their room. "It comes with a full selection of drinks and food. If you need anything, call us with one of the control panels. They can also be used to adjust the tilt, zoom, and tint of the window. As well as turn on or off the announcements."She explained before disappearing out the door.
Wesken and his squad took off most of their bulky armor while Duke fiddled with the control panel. Clair hurried to the reclining sofa. The window shimmered as Duke zoomed in on the battlefield. Soon the announcer's voice filled the room. He was energetic, but not obnoxious.
"Hey ya'll out there! We've got quite a setup today. Two sets, a high and low Ranked, will clash for the grand prize! 120,000 Ere plus an exclusive interview in Guild Ruled; the world's leading exclusively Guild magazine. First up we have the Pendragon hunting rookie Crios pitted against someone who has had experience with the Zneh Challenge, For those out there who don't know, that's a seven day grueling survival challenge, Seth Masters!
"Crios is getting filled in on the rules and receiving some help from one of the support teams. We should be starting soo-" He stopped as Crios ran out onto the battle field. "It would seem Crios doesn't need any help. His support team seems irritated. They say that while his bag doesn't contain anything dangerous or illegal, they still want him to leave it with them.
Crios began doing some quick stretches.
"I take it he doesn't agree with that."
Clair shook her head with an amused smile. Seth Masters walked out across from Crios.
"Seth has chosen his trusty Hamshaw, a combination of a hammer, saw, axe, and shovel. Sturdy, sharp and heavy, it will prove a lethal weapon in his experienced hands. Crios seems to be going with a bare handed method. We can only guess what he's thinking. As a quick reminder, no bypass Krux or any other lethal weapon that can break Exo-suit emergency shields.
"Each contender has a set of bracelets and anklets that will prevent permanent damage, but do not reduce the pain inflicted. A single strike will activate a full body scan that can give us an idea of their stats. Their limit is determined by these stats and when a fighter reaches it, they lose the match. Our referee will start things off."
A man with a large neon green aura stepped onto the field. He spoke a few words to Seth and Crios before starting the fight. "You sure you don' wanna use a weapon?" Seth asked with a thick country accent.
Crios raised his fists. "Less talkin' and more blockin'" Crios replied. Their voices could be heard through headsets and a series of speakers throughout the stadium.
"Blockin'? That doesn't-" Seth was cut off by a spinning roundhouse to the face.
A solid crack echoed as a neon blue aura blocked Crios' foot inches from Seth's face. Seth fell backwards from the force of the impact. "Learned that one from The Dance of The Tiger. It's one of the few movies I actually watch." Crios said as he let Seth get to his feet.
"Let's see Seth's stats. 320 Endurance, 6 Defense, and an Attack of 21; not exactly legendary, but should still prove difficult for the unarmed Crios."
Seth charged foreword, swinging his Hamshaw from the right. Crios hopped to the right, ducking under Seth's attacks before charging himself. Seth dropped his Hamshaw, grabbing Crios' left hook and twisting his arm around his back.
He delivered seven quick jabs at Crios' ribs before hopping back. Crios gently tapped his ribs. It hurt and that's all it did.
"Now let's see… 830 Endurance, 17 Defense and 7 attack. This is one Hardy dude! Too bad he's so inexperienced compared to Seth."
Crios frowned, and then grinned widely.
"What's he planning?" Wesken asked as they watched closely from above.
Crios pulled out his L-tool and a pair of small scissors. Seth retrieved his Hamshaw, amused at Crios' tiny pieces of metal. Seth threw his Hamshaw as hard as he could at Crios. Crios rushed past it, letting the blade brush past his grinning face. Crios then threw his hat into Seth's face. As he stepped back, Crios snagged his right hand and quickly fidgeted with the bracelet. Seth quickly pushed him off.
Crios collected his hat as he retreated. Seth glanced at the bracelet, it seemed undamaged. He only glanced at Crios as he retrieved his Hamshaw.
"Oooh! He's clever!"
Seth charged again. Crios snagged a rock from the ground. He pelted Seth's right shoulder. He fell to his knees, crying out.
"Crios increased Seth's pain receptors to the max. No wonder he's considered a Master Kruxsetter."
Seth grunted. "I suggest you give up." Crios said as Seth got to his feet.
Seth replied by charging once again. Crios feinted at Seth's right, making him flinch and flex. Instead, he knocked him back and sat on his chest. "Game's over." Crios said before twisting his thumb up into Seth's armpit. Seth screamed out as loud as he could before passing out. Crios stood up and brushed himself off. The crowd was going wild. Seth's Endurance went from 320 to zero in an instant.
"Ouch! Crios used his skills as a Kruxsetter to paralyze Seth. Too bad that won't work in the future. Up next is Dyeth vs. Gartt."
Crios walked off the field to his side as Seth was unceremoniously scraped from the arena floor. As Crios neared the edge, he saw Hunter and the other's from the Guild cheering wildly.
Crios gave them a quick salute in reply. "Is it true you went on a date with Crios?" Duke asked Clair.
"Yeah." Clair said slowly.
"What are the chances of a second?" Duke asked.
"Why are you asking? You're never going to date me." Clair replied.
"Crashed and burned." Wesken said as Duke frowned.
The rest of the seven fights ended quickly. Alex won his and moved up in the High Ranked section. Crios' second fight was against Dyeth, a martial artist. The fight was mostly silent except grunts from the fighters and the crack of Crios' shield. Crios was being beaten hard. ¾ of his Endurance was whittled away while he could only get ¼ of Dyeth's 210.
"Crios is on his last legs. I guess he's not up to snuff to beat Dyeth."
"Fuck this!" Crios exclaimed as he turned to where the announcer was seated.
"Shut the fuck up already! I don't need your input!" Dyeth lunged forward at the opportunity to win the fight.
Before Dyeth's back attack could land, Crios knocked him back with his heel. Crios quickly spun around. Before Dyeth could hit the ground, Crios threw a fist sized rock at Dyeth's head. It shattered on impact with the shield, before Dyeth landed on a sharp rock. His Endurance plummeted to zero.
"Too easy. Hopefully someone won't fall for these tricks." Crios said as he turned back to his side.
Crios waved a hand.
"Dyeth's downfall would be a back of glass it seems. Crios concentrated Dyeth's shield strength at his head so when he landed on the rock, the system overloaded as it tried to protect him. Crios has yet to beat someone without a trick of the Krux."
"Why doesn't he use his Dragon Drive some other weapon of his?" Glock asked.
"I think he's trying to prove a point. Many people say that using any Krux that increases a person's strength or any other attribute is a sign of weakness. I think he's trying to prove that he can hold his ground without any of that kind of support, and that's he's just not some lucky rookie that acquired a super weapon." Wesken replied.
"Hmph!" Casandre grunted.
Soon the semi-finals would be starting. Crios was waiting in the arena for five minutes before there was an announcement.
"Octavius has forfeited. Crios moves on to the finals."
He sounded like he was confused about the circumstances of the forfeit. Something about it unsettled Crios and he hurried back to his side. Alex's fight was over with a single strike. He too was going barehanded.
"That was the quickest semi-finals I've ever seen! A fight between Crios and the returning champion Alexander should be interesting."
Crios and Alex soon found themselves staring each other down. "Long time huh?" Crios said.
"Yeah, you grew up pretty fast." Alex had a blue cape that split towards the end, creating a whale-like tail. A dark blue dress shirt was on his chest, a few crossing pieces of string tying it down to him.
The sleeves went halfway down his forearm before spreading out into frilly cuffs. He had a pair of blue pants that matched his shirt. His knee high boots were a light blue, with square plating along the edge of the sole. He had a pair of dark purple gloves that didn't cover his ring or pinky finger on either hand. The palms curved outward slightly with a spiral of a hard material set on top.
"That's quite a get up. I swear you Guild people have the weirdest taste in clothing." Crios said as he looked him over.
"Yeah." Alex laughed. "We get bored of it eventually, but there's always something stranger than the last." Alex replied.
"There's no point dragging this out." Crios said as he twisted the ring on his left hand once. It heated up slightly and Crios' hand felt a little weak afterwards.
"I wouldn't take you as a Beastmaster." Alex said when he saw the ring.
"I couldn't master this beast if I wanted to." Crios replied as a shadow flashed overhead and King landed beside Crios. Alex jumped back, a dark look flashing across his face as he reached behind his cape. A telescopic, spring loaded handle shout out as Alex drew a scythe. Crios' face darkened when he recognized it. King's fur bristled and he let out a low growl. "Aquaporus huh?" Crios asked in a low voice.
He tossed his bag and hat onto King's back. Crios grabbed the handle of the Dragon Drive, and with a single smooth motion, ripped it from its sheath, the Drive roaring to life. Alex cursed to himself when it clicked in his head.
"I never would have expected you to team up with a Pendragon." Alex said.
"I never thought you would have tried to kill me." Crios replied as he charged forward. Alex swung his scythe down, the blade inches from Crios' face.
A jet of water shot out as it passed. Crios charged straight through the crescent of heavy water thrown at him. The water skimmed over Crios' shield. Alex's eyes narrowed. As Crios brought his sword down at Alex, Alex sidestepped at an incredible speed and delivered a palm strike straight into Crios' ribs. Even Alex's neon shield crackled as he sent Crios flying across the field. Crios' Endurance dropped past zero.
"That's it ladies and gentlemen, Alexand-"
The announcer stopped as Crios ripped off the now defunct bracelets and anklets. Crios' ribs were broken from Alex's attack. He coughed blood as he got to his feet. Alex' bracelets and anklets were cut by an unseen force. "It's not over." Crios growled as he wiped the blood from his mouth.
"I'm triple S Ranked Crios; you don't stand a chance against me." Alex said as he popped his scythe from the earth.
"Overclock." Crios growled as he brought his palm down on his Drive. His aura turned a dark blue, but his eyes remained metallic silver.
"You'll never learn." Alex said as he halved the length of his scythe.
Crios charged again. Swinging wildly, Crios aimed for Alex's head. Alex danced around them, before bringing his scythe down on Crios' head. The Dragon Drive's shield struggled to keep the blade back, inching closer and closer to Crios' neck. Alex pushed down with both hands.
Crios instantly snapped to the ground, the blade of the scythe cutting the back of his neck. King took a step forward. "Don't." Alex said as he brought the blade into contact with Crios neck.
King let out a low growl. There was a loud shattering of glass as Duke kicked out the window of their room. He and Clair hopped down into the crowd.
"Let him go." A man said from behind Alex. He was dressed in a full suite of red armor. A shield with a large sun was on his left arm. The cone shaped guard to a sword was visible at his left hip.
"Aubade Escutcheon and the Sunrise Falchion." Crios said, naming the shield and sword.
Alex brought up his scythe "His heart is what's creating his odd powers. The Mark of The Grey is from it as well. He poses no threat to our goals." The armored man continued. His face was hidden behind a grilled red visor.
Alex turned to walk away. Crios struggled to his feet. "Still trying to fight." Alex said with a shake of his head.
"Limit… BREAK!" Crios shouted as he brought his right fist down onto the Drive. Three rapid-fire clicks echoed across the stadium speakers and Crios' aura shifted to a bright red. As the Drive sped up to an impossible speed, Crios' aura spread out to as far as he could reach with his sword. A steady resonance from the Drive shook Crios' body.
Alex paused and looked back. A pair of blood-red eyes glared back with the rage of a dying star. The armored man had only the time to turn his head back before Crios had already swung past his head. Crios cut through the man's helmet and continued on into Aquaporus. The man's blood arced through the air before an explosion of water droplets drenched a ten foot radius around the three.
Alex quickly glanced down at Aquaporus. A half inch gash ran across the blade. The remainder of the man's helmet slipped off his head. A pair of grey eyes stared back at Crios with fear. He had white hair.
"My powers are my own." Crios growled. Behind him, the field was filled with Crios' friends running to help. Even some of the other contestants were running out to assist. Though he was in expensive cloths, Richard Griffin was the first to Crios' side when he collapsed. Alex and the armored man were gone well before then.
A week and a half later, Crios woke up in a hospital bed. "He's up!" Clair exclaimed as she ran over to Crios' side. Hunter and the group of people waiting quickly scrambled into the room.
Crios sat up and looked at his heavily bandaged right hand. "God fucking damn it!" Crios yelled as he punched the bed. His teeth were clenched tightly as tears streamed down his face. The happy smiles of Crios' friends faded as they watched him.
"Crios…" Clair said quietly as she placed a hand on his back.
"He acts like my life is just something he can just play with however he likes! Like whether I deserve to live or die is up to him!" Crios cried.
Clair waved the others from the room. "It's not going not happen again. Next time I'll prove just how strong I am." Crios growled as he tightened his fists.
"Crios, it'll be okay." Clair said gently.
"You tell that to my sister." Crios replied.
"Crios that's unfair; both to you and me. You were eight. You did more than anyone else could do." Clair said as she wrapped her arms around him.
"You say you want to become strong, but can you prove it?" Richard asked from the corner. Clair and Crios glanced over. He was dressed in a plain black suit.
"You have the strength and noticeable talent. All you need is the right teacher." He continued.
"What do you mean?" Crios asked.
"I think he wants to train you." Clair suggested.
Richard nodded. "Just me and you for four months; It'll be a crash course, but you'll be able fight with a stronger strategy than charging and then passing out." Richard said as he walked up to Crios.
"Why only four months?" Crios asked.
"I have my own business to worry about. If I disappear for more than four months, people start to freak out. Especially if the press decides to make assumptions." Richard explained.
"Give me a few weeks. I need to sort some stuff out first." Crios said as he held out his unbandaged hand.
Richard shook it. "I'll see you then."
Crios spent the next few days recovering in the hospital. The doctor said that the Ux manipulation the Dragon Drive could perform disturbed the inorganic Ux of its surroundings. The pure Ux damaged the cells in his hand and distorted the flow of Ux in his body. "Or something like that." As Crios told his friends. Soon enough he was headed back to Dragon's Den in Rusty's car, the whole gang crammed in together.
"Things have gotten crazy since the tournament!" Aerel said from beside Rusty, facing the back.
"Since they were unable to interview you, Guild Ruled decided to do a multi-page article on Dragon's Den. They even went as far as tracking down Nojeski and Wake to clarify some things about King." Rusty said.
"We've also gotten a few new recruits, most of whom want to meet you." Hunter said from Rusty's other side.
"How many?" Crios asked.
"Twenty-four." Hunter replied.
"Twenty-four!? That's almost twice as many members that we already have!" Crios exclaimed.
"We'll weed out a few of them soon enough. Panzer is in charge of training them." Hunter said.
"She's the crazy macho request women right?" Crios asked.
"I see you finally know someone by name." Clair said from beside Crios. Jenifer and Matt were next to them in the cramped back seat.
"I've spent a lot of time in that bed. Not much to do besides fixing anything and everything within reach." Crios replied.
Everyone leaned to the left as Rusty took a sharp right turn. "We're here!" Rusty called out. The car was emptied as everyone finally got some space to move. The hospital Crios was in was an hour drive from Dragon's Den.
"I see you've cleaned up a little." Crios said as he looked up at the building.
All the previous damage was gone and it was remolded to look like a normal building instead of something abandoned. Matt lit a cigarette. "Panzer's in the back. I think meeting your fans would be important right now." Matt said.
"Here goes nothing." Crios said as he headed around the building. Clair followed at his side, and the others followed a few feet back.
As Crios rounded the first corner, he was surprised at the lack of rubble in the fields surrounding Dragon's Den. Grass was even growing in spots and patches. He could hear a rhythmic cry coming from farther on. Crios was impressed yet again as a grid of people came into view as he rounded the second corner. They were paired off into 12 groups and were following Panzer's strict instructions.
"Upper chest!" She called out. Half of each group aimed a punch at their partner's chest. They quickly brought their arms up to block. "Legs!" Panzer called out. The blocking of the pairs swept their legs at their opponent. They all jumped back, but one wasn't fast enough and fell back.
"Oh! I'm sorry!" The young women exclaimed as she bent down to help her partner up.
"You two!" Panzer yelled at the boy-girl pair.
"Six laps after practice!" She ordered.
"Yo Hellsworth!" Aerel called with a wave.
"Crios!" Most of them yelled excitedly when they saw him.
"Hello!" Crios called back. They then glanced nervously at Panzer.
"Chh!" She tutted before walking away. "I gotta go!" Aerel said before running after her.
"Are they…?" Crios asked.
"He is, but not her." Clair replied.
"That doesn't make any sense." Crios said with a shake of his head.
Crios was soon surrounded by excited fans. "Hold it!" Crios exclaimed, making a T with his hands. "I'll answer one question per person, and then two second chances if I don't want to answer it."
A large huddle soon took place. Fourteen people remained in the field, looking at Crios with disapproving faces. They whispered quietly to each other before breaking the circle and pushing a teenage boy with thick glasses forward.
"Well, are you and Clair together? He asked nervously. Clair and Crios glanced at each other before nodding. He looked relived and stepped aside.
[Q2] "Do you plan on tracking down the two from the tournament?"
[A2] "Yes, once I get some things organized first."
[Q3] "Do you plan on taking an apprentice in Kruxsetting?"
[A3] "When I'm older. Nineteen is a little young for that."
[Q4] "How did you manage taming a Pendragon?"
[A4] "Kicking his ass."
[Q5] "Are you someone hired to bring Dragon's Den out of the dark?"
[A5] "I joined because I wanted to. I didn't really have my eyes set on becoming famous."
[Q6] "Do you plan on entering any other tournaments or other event?"
[A6] "I'm not sure. I'll probably shoot for high reward in order to pay a debt."
[Q7] "What level of Dragon's Den did you climb to?"
[A7] "All the way to the top without using the ropes."
[Q8] "Why do you carry that bag?"
[A8] "It contains most of my Kruxsetting tools and other necessities. Mock me for having a 'purse' all you want. It doesn't remove from its usefulness."
[Q9] "What can you tell us about your family?"
[A9] "I'd like to pass on that one."
[Q92] "Well, what went through your mind during your fight with The Black Monster?"
[A92] "To tell you the truth, I didn't really think about it like that. It was more of think less and fight more."
[Q10] "Could you show us the Dragon Drive?"
[A10] "Well let's see." Crios twisted his ring. King instantly dropped from the sky. "How's the Drive been?" Crios asked as he pulled at the handle. It came out by itself.
"Kind of fucked up and turned to shit." King replied.
Crios dumped the shattered remains of his sword from its sheathe. The blade and Matrix were intact, but the mechanisms were stripped and twisted into a mess.
"You guys could have told me sooner!" Crios exclaimed as he picked through the pile of metal.
"You would have insisted on fixing it and would have never recovered." Clair replied.
"True enough. Most of this can't be salvaged, but I do have an idea of what went wrong. The whole thing slowly unbalanced itself. I'll need to find some high quality metal to replace the parts. And I mean high quality." Crios said as he picked out the important parts.
"What are you going to do with the rest of it?" Hunter asked as he picked up a bolt. "Hmm?" He held it with his hand flat. It inched slowly towards Crios before catching on Hunter's hand.
"It's moved towards you Crios." Hunter said with an amazed look.
Crios waved his hand over it. It jumped in the air after him before falling into the pile. "
They've absorbed enough of your Ux to Polarize to it. They're like little needles of a compass." King explained.
"Luthuraininium right?" The man who asked if Crios took apprentices asked.
"Yeah." Crios replied.
"There have been studies involving Luthuraininium from old war zones that reacted more to Ux than the mineral would usually." He explained.
"Huh. Geographical Metallurgy isn't one of my strengths." Crios said as he gathered the bolts.
"Is that even a thing?" Clair whispered to Hunter. He shrugged.
"It holds very little value as scrap." Crios said as he looked down at it.
"You could sell it as souvenirs." Jennifer suggested. "Some people would pay an enormous amount to have a part of history. The Black Monster touched a lot of people."
"Fair enough. Just make sure to make each piece the same size." Crios said as he hopped onto King.
Hunter snatched up the blades. "No way in hell you're breaking this. I'm going to get a model made to hang in the lobby." Hunter said.
"Whatever." Crios replied with a wave of his hand.
"Grey Heart!" Cloud called out as King started to step away from the pile.
"Oh, hey!" Crios called back as Cloud floated down from the sky.
"I have a favor to ask." Cloud said quietly.
"Why are you whispering?" Crios asked.
"Because it isn't something most people would agree with." Cloud replied.
"Well?" Crios asked.
"I want to join the Guild." Cloud replied. "I promise I'll work hard and serve as best as I can. Things have gotten kind of rocky with my old job and my wife and I are tight on money-"
Crios silenced him with a wave. "I thought your job included membership in a Guild." Crios said with crossed arms.
"No. My job operates through a Guild, but I can never be a member. No Monster ever gets membership except when given as an honor." Cloud replied.
"Clair handles that kind of stuff. Why not ask her? As a Beastmaster she should sympathize with you." Crios asked.
"He's terrified of rejection." Clair explained from behind him.
"Clair!?" Cloud exclaimed, a shiver going down his tail.
"He went to you because you are one of his friends that would have influence on me and are the least likely to reject it." Clair continued.
Crios poked her. "Am I influencing you yet?" He asked.
"Why yes you are, and I agree that he should be allowed in. Think we should ask some others?" Clair asked.
"Hell no!" Crios exclaimed.
"Yeah, yeah I got your point." Cloud said as he started to float away. Crios threw his hat at him.
"Get back over here!" Crios said with a playful smile when Cloud turned around. Clair was rapidly filling out a form. Passing it to Crios, he signed his name under 'references'.
"Take it to Panzer. She'll be in charge of your training." Clair said as Crios handed the paper to Cloud.
"Good luck!" Crios called out as he replaced his hat and King took to the air. Cloud waved with tears in his eyes.
King quickly dropped them off on the roof. A shade was built from the remaining wall so King had a place to rest on hot days. Clair and Crios quickly made their way into Crios' room. Crios was surprised to find Richard relaxing on his sofa.
"Ought to lock the door." Richard said before Crios could ask.
"I see you got my message." Clair said as she sat in a nearby recliner.
"Yep. Crios will be starting his training today." Richard replied.
"What?!" Crios exclaimed.
"I think it's best if you start as soon as possible. I don't want you to break down like that again." Clair explained.
Crios sighed. "I don't even have a weapon put together."
Richard tapped his head. "As of right now, this is your weapon. But don't worry; gathering materials is a key thing we will be working on."
Clair's phone rang. "Hello?" She said curiously.
Crios could hear Panzer yelling, but it was unintelligible. "Alright! Alright! I'll find someone else to train him." Clair replied.
"Cloud?" Crios asked. Clair nodded.
"The little mailman Monster?" Richard asked.
"Yeah, I guess Panzer doesn't want to train him. We just approved him of joining the Guild." Crios replied. There was a brief silence as Clair tried to reason with the raging Panzer.
Crios and Richard glanced at each other. They grinned as they came upon the same answer. "Clair, have Panzer send Cloud up here." Richard said.
"Why?" Clair asked.
"Because he's coming with us." Crios replied. She paused briefly before telling using this to Panzer. Crios could hear her pause in her rant and ask "Really?" Clair hung up. Cloud came waddling through the doorway thirty seconds later.
"Seems we're together on this." Crios said.
"Are you seriously going to train me?" Cloud asked.
"If you think you can handle it." Richard replied. "We're leaving in a few hours. Meet me at the Harbor. Dock ten; many colored sails."
"Now?" Cloud asked.
Cloud hurried back out the door. "You too. Meet me at the harbor." Richard said before heading out the door.
"Um?" Crios said when Richard didn't come back through the door.
"Want to help me pack?" Crios asked Clair when it was clear Richard wasn't coming back.
"Already packed." Clair replied as she stood up.
"And since all of your other stuff is in this little bag, we've got the next two and a half hours to ourselves."
Crios raised an eyebrow, tossing his bag and hat next to the door. "Well what do you want to do?" Crios asked.
Clair replied by tackling him. "Oh I think you know." Clair replied before kissing him.
The First Step
King dropped Clair and Crios off at the entrance to Dock Ten. "Keep an eye on her alright?" Crios said to him as they started down the dock.
A soft chuckle came from King. Clair whistled loudly. A nearby ship blasted its horn. In quick succession, every ship in the harbor was blowing some kind of horn.
"I think our newest hero needs a proper farewell." Clair replied when Crios turned to her in his confusion.
"Crios!" Aerel called out from above.
Crios looked up. Aerel was straddling the wings of the aircraft he had at the mountains. Cloud's friends and family were hovering behind him, some waving frantically. Crios gave him a salute. Hunter and the others stepped up to Crios' side from behind him. Aerel jumped down and lined up alongside them, shoulder to shoulder.
"Care for a race?" He asked as he bumped Crios.
"Bring it." Crios replied.
Clair stepped out in front. "Ready…Set…GO!" She called out as she pointed down the dock.
Crios took a single step forward. By the time his foot touched down, everyone else was far past Clair. "C'mon slowpoke!" Aerel called back. Crios ran as fast as he could up to Clair, grabbing her hand.
"Yeah! C'mon!" He exclaimed as he pulled the startled Clair behind him. She smiled.
Aerel was the first to the ship; all the way at the far side of the dock, followed by Hunter and Matt. Clair and Crios arrived about a minute later. They took a moment to catch their breath. Crios looked over at the ship he would be boarding. King had just dropped off Crios' stuffed bag. Which he apparently forgot was still on his back.
The ship was a thirty passenger vessel. About thirty yards long and with a rust free white metallic hull. It had a set of sails ranging from red to violet. Crios assumed they were purely decoration since they were simply netting.
"It was great guys, maybe when we get back; we can all go out to dinner or something." Crios said with a wave as he started up the gang plank.
"Hold on! You've forgotten something." Matt said as Jenifer walked forward.
She held out a grey cell phone. "It's got all our numbers. Speed dial one will put you straight through to Draken, or the next highest authority." She explained as Crios took it.
"And one last thing!" Cloud called out as he floated out of the sky. A light green Flox was flying beside him. She had light red eyes and matching hair. Crios assumed it was a girl since her oddly 'inflated' chest didn't seem masculine.
She was holding an old style of camera. One that didn't use any kind of Matrix or Krux; just simple film. "Care for a group photo?" She asked as Cloud jumped onto Crios' shoulders. They all crammed into the photo in front of the ship. Cloud's friends sat along the railing of the ship. "Everyone smile!" She called out before taking the picture.
Shortly afterwards, Aerel fell back into the water. Laughing, Crios hopped up onto the ship. Cloud went to give a hug to the green Flox before rejoining him. "There's not much more to say than good bye." Crios said with a wave.
"Good luck!" Aerel called out as he pulled the others in for a wet group hug. Crios gave a final wave before disappearing onto the ship.
A pair of sailors untied the ship from the dock and pulled the gang plank back up. The ship began to pull away slowly. The captain opened the mainsail. It fell open like a gigantic paper fan. It was attached to the sides of the main mast; A brilliant psychedelic rainbow membrane that pulled taunt in the wind. The ship quickly picked up speed. Cloud's friends followed for a bit before flying back to the dock.
The group watched the ship as it headed for the horizon. Hunter, Matt, Jenifer, Cris, Clair, Aerel, Rusty, and Jacob. From the far edge of the harbor, on top of a lighthouse, Duke and Faulken watched as well. As Crios' ship turned past the horizon, they all turned their backs on it and walked away. For four months, Crios had some severe training to go though before he would return.
End of Prototype