Criterion Effect: Norok Chronicles - In Search of Titan's Wings

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Chapter 7

Sublocation – Divergence Wings/Apprentice Plain Boarder

Innerlocation – Toko River

It took the group six hours to get to the Toko River near the edge of Divergence Wings’ eastern border from LowTi Village. Due to it almost being noon by the time they reached the river and crossed it, they decided to take a much needed break and have lunch. An hour later, they continued on their journey. Since they were on the east side of the river, they were now in Apprentice Plain, which for the most part was desert and plateaus with wooden areas along the Toko and Okakua Rivers. Their goal for the day was to reach the Ruins of Mitzuk Castle.

Five odd hours later, the group arrived at their destination. Over the millions of years, a mini forest had grown in and around what was left of the castle. In some places, like the castle dojo, huge trees had grown. In other places, Vilacava Trees were growing to the point where they were spreading throughout the entire ruins. Even though there was still a couple of hours of daylight left, Kaz had decided it would be best to camp out at the ruins for the night. After they set up camp in what was left of the dojo, they used what little day light they had left to train and learn new techniques. The center of the dojo was replaced by a giant tree that had broken through the floor and roof. As night took hold, the two moons became visible and Kaz set up a campfire outside the dojo using a simple fire spell. While they were sitting around the fire and eating, the Genohuman sensei asked a general question. “Does anyone, besides Sunchina here, know what happened to Mitzuk?”

“Kinda,” Yoshio answered, savoring the taste of his food while Sunchina sighed, shaking her head.

“Not really,” Kurara said honestly.

“No surprise there,” Sunchina commented as a joke, but failed.

Ignoring her mean friend, Kurara asked, “Are you going to tell us or are you going to let Miss Overachiever here tell the story?”

Sunchina shot Kurara a look as Kaz answered, placing his plate down, and looking into the fire. “Sure, why not?” Closing his eyes, the Genohuman mumble something and when he opened his eyes, the flames of the fire came alive with images that interrupted what he was saying. “Well, as you guys know, Mitzuk and Divergence Wings used to be allied once upon a time ago but something got in the way and through the years, mainly in Shun Kura Ear or the Great Conspiracy, they became bitter rivals. Needless to say, it was only because of this rivalry that the Great War even started. For the first five years of the war, the fighting was solely between Divergence and Mitzuk. Mitzuk’s allied had declined to join them, citing this was a matter for them to settle themselves. When the sixth year rolled around and Mitzuk was on the losing end, then and only then did their allies agree to help them in their struggle. With the fight now three against one, Mitzuk managed to level the battlefield to even. What Mitzuk wasn’t counting on however, was Valkyrie Retribution betraying them and siding with Divergence. Being as powerful as Divergence, Valkyrie Retribution split its army in half, one to deal with the Kingdom of Blade in the north and the other to deal with the Kingdom of Shadow just south of them. Within two years, Shadow Kingdom was destroyed and three years later, Blade followed their fate. Now that Mitzuk’s allies were out of the picture, Divergence was free to focus all its resources on Mitzuk.”

Kurara raised her hand, interrupting her sensei’s history lesson. With a nod, Kurara asked her question, “I’m confused Sensei. Why do you keep calling Divergence Wings just Divergence?”

“That’s a good question,” Kaz admitted, expecting Sunchina to answer but when he turning to Sunchina, Kaz found her confused for once. “Well, since Sunchina looks confused, I’ll tell you the answer.”

“What a sec.,” Sunchina protested. “What makes you think I don’t know the answer to her question?”

Rather than play her little game, Kaz simple asked, “Ok. Do you know the answer?”

Sunchina was hesitant to answer at first, and then admitted, “No…”

“Thought so,” Kaz said, trying not to smile. Yoshio on the other hand didn’t bother to hide it. “The reason I keep calling Divergence Wings Divergence is because during that time period it was just Divergence. It wasn’t until the end of the war when Titan gave King Chaos the fifth legendary wings that Divergence changed its name to Divergence Wings. The same thing goes for Elemental Wings. It was done out of a sign of loyalty.”

“Ok,” Kurara said with a nod, understanding.

“So where was I?” Kaz asked rhetorically, already knowing where he left off.

“You were at the part where the war was back to just Divergence and Mitzuk,” Sunchina answered, obviously not getting the question was rhetorical.

“Anyways,” Kaz continued, ignoring the female Elvenkai's comment. “Six years later, the kingdoms nearly destroyed each other. Seeing an opportunity to finally destroy Mitzuk for good, Divergence asked for Elemental’s help but when Elemental sent troops to meet up with Divergence near Mitzuk, they were intercepted by troop from Valkyrie Retribution. After a short battle between Elemental and Valkyrie Retribution, the two kingdoms withdrew from the war. Fueled by raged by the betrayal of Valkyrie Retribution, Divergence destroyed Mitzuk but its king, King Woo Kei, managed to escape to their old allies, Valkyrie Retribution. At this point the war had been going on for about twenty-five years. For the next one hundred and thirty years, the war was fought solely between the two side’s natural force orders, Elite Order for Divergence and Elemental and the Shadow and Vector Orders for Valkyrie, in a sort of cold war style war. A year before the war officially ended, King Chaos and King Kei fought a duel to the death and moments after King Chaos killed the former King of Mitzuk, the Shykair Warrior, Titan Bane appeared and gave the medallion known as Titan’s Wings to King Baldur Chaos.”

“After nearly one hundred and fifty-five years of war, the end result was three powerful kingdoms were destroyed and laid in ruins with billions dead. The survivors of the three kingdoms became citizens of Valkyrie Retribution or the region that is now known as Apprentice Plain,” the Genohuman took a sip of his drink and concluded. “And the rest you already know. I may have forgotten a few events but there are things you guys aren’t supposed to know yet.”

“You know what I think?” Kurara asked as she placed her plate down. “I think we have a weird history.”

“Our history isn’t weird Kurara,” Sunchina protested and corrected. “It’s just full of fun events.”

“Speaking as someone who had taken part in some of the more resent historical events, it’s not all fun and games,” Kaz added.

“That and not everyone is as interested in history like you are,” Kurara poked.

“What are you trying to say Miss Hime?”

“Oh nothing,” Kurara replied, rolling her eyes.

Knowing full well where this was going, Kaz decided to stop them before things got out of hand, “That’s enough you two.” With a sigh and a shake of his head, Kaz asked, “On a different topic, are you guys ready for tomorrow?”

“Depends,” Kurara said, placing her cup on the ground. “What exactly are we doing tomorrow?”

“Our overall goal for tomorrow is to reach Diverray. We’ll take breaks when we need to but we will reach Diverray.”

“Right,” Kurara said, not really believing the goal was achievable, especially based on how long it took them to get here.

“I don’t mean to ask the obvious,” Yoshio started, knowing the physics of what Kaz said and the distance from where they were to Diverray, something didn’t add up. “But how exactly are we going to get there by tomorrow night? Last time I checked, that town was over four thousand miles away from here.”

Kaz smiled at the three before he answered. “That’s a very good question, however, you are going to have to wait to find that answer out.”

“Fine,” Yoshio grunted, not happy with the answer.

“Look, I don’t mean to be hard on you guys, you know that. But our mission is critical to ending this blasted war we’re in,” Kaz said, attempting to remind them of why they were out here in the first place.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the blue green fire, Soul was peeling an apple with one of his many hunting knives while at the same time, keeping his guard up for anything out of the ordinary. An hour later, everyone besides Soul was asleep, who was setting perimeter bells. Perimeter bells were small crystal bells that gave off a sound only the user could hear if something unfriendly crossed the established perimeter.

THE NEXT MORNING...

In Yoshio’s opinion, the following morning came all too soon. By 7:30 a.m., the group was packed up and a half hour later, the speeders were geared up. As the two Elvenkai mounted their speeders, Kurara approached them. “Enjoy your night in the tree you two?”

“It was better than your night on the ground,” Sunchina teased, smiling at Yoshio.

“You guys ready to go?” Kaz asked from behind Kurara.

“As ready as we’ll ever be,” Yoshio answered for the three. Kaz smiled and they continued their trek towards Diverray. In order to avoid being over heated, Kaz lead the group through the woods that surrounded the edge of Apprentice Plain.

Sublocation –Valkyrie Retribution Castle, Valkyrie Retribution

Innerlocation – Castle Briefing Room 3

Time – Seven Hours Later: 15:00 p.m.

Deep within the mountains of Valkyrie Retribution was Retribution Castle, the country’s main castle. Ever since Retribution betrayed Divergence in the Great War, it has been the arch nemesis of Divergence. In one of the main briefing rooms in the castle, a meeting between Fallen Wings, a district within Divergence Wings, and Retribution was taking place. Meets such as these were rare for Valkyrie Retribution however meeting between these two have been going on for nearly two years, ever since Divergence declared war on Retribution.

One time in its history, Fallen Wings had been a territory of its own outside of Divergence Wings. Throughout its history, they attacked Divergence and each time they were countered and defeated quite easily. Finally, Divergence lost patients and straight out conquered the annoying some territory, making them part of their territory. Needless to say, Fallen Wings didn’t take that too well, but it was cause and effect.

After nearly two years of secret negotiations, the two parties finally settled on terms and it was now time for Fallen Wings to give Retribution their allegiance and intelligence on Divergence Wings and in return, Retribution would give them the weapon they severely needed. “One final detail,” the representation of Retribution started, “What guarantee do we have that once we give you Titan’s Wings, you won’t simply give it back to King Ginta?”

“By the very fact that we have nothing to gain by doing that. It would be suicide on our part,” the delegate from Fallen Wings replied. The delegate from Fallen Wings was an elder Elvenkai with short grey and brown hair. “Not to mention we hate Divergence Wings with a passion and want nothing more than for their power to cease to exist. We have worked years to get to this point.”

“What then?”

“Once we eliminate Divergence and claim their territory, we become your permanent ally.”

The representative of Retribution smiled, “I see. I’ll be right back.” As he walked out of the room, the delegate and his assistant began to talk. A few minutes later, then other representative returned. Handing over a package to the delegate, the Elvenkai held his breath as he opened it. Happy with what he saw, the Elvenkai closed it up and smiled at the Retribution representative. “Thank you. We’ll do our best to up hold our end of our deal,” the delegate said, placing the package in his pouch. Taking a pad out of his pouch, he handed it to the representative of Retribution. “Here is all the info we have on Divergence Wings at this point. We will try to send more when we can.”

An evil smile came to the representative’s face, “You will either succeed or parish in this mission of yours. There is no try in this matter. Just remember that if you fail and you lose that, we won’t be forgiving,” the representative said, accepting the pad.

“Naturally,” the Elvenkai delegate said as he left the room with his assistant following him.

In a hushed tone, the delegate’s assistant, a relatively young Genohuman with a short brown hair and brown eyes, began to relay the change of plans he was given by Governor Arjo. “Plans have changed Sir.”

“Oh?”

“Governor Arjo wants us to meet him just outside Retribution’s boarder as soon as possible.”

He started to walk and wonder as he answered his assistant, “Let’s get going then. You know how Arjo gets when things don’t go his way.”

“Don’t remind me,” the assistant countered as they quickly walked towards the hanger of the castle.

As they entered their speeder and got underway, the delegate was still wondering what the Governor was up to. “Are you sure Arjo didn’t say why he wanted to see us?”

“He’s Arjo,” the assistant answered flatly. “It probably has something to do with the meeting we just had.”

“Maybe,” the delegate agreed as they continued towards the boarder.

Sublocation – Apprentice Plain

Innerlocation – Edge of the Plain

After over five hours of hard driving, the group finally arrived at the gateway Kaz had hinted at earlier that morning. The gateway itself was nothing impressive; it looked ancient and worn down, similar to the circular platform it sat on. The gateway was composed of two spires that extended twenty feet in the air. Behind the spires was a walk in dome like structure that went ten feet deep. Kaz got off his speeder and made his way to a circle post about four feet tall and placed his right hand on it. A violet spark appeared between the two spires and a second later, a semitransparent violet vortex appeared, connecting the two spires. “This Yoshio,” Kaz said as he made his way back to his speeder. “This is how we’re going to get to Diverray by the end of the day. Unfortunately, it can’t take us all the way to Diverray.”

“Let me guess,” Sunchina asked, playing a hunch. “We’re going to have to drive for a couple more hours on the other side?”

“What’s an adventure without a little work?” Soul answered for Kaz.

“A good time,” she answered as if she’d had this conversation before. “I thought the work was supposed to come later in the mission.”

“Can we get going before we completely get sidetracked and lose track of the mission at hand?” Kurara asked motioning to active gateway. Everyone turned to look at Kurara, surprised that she was the one to bring the group back to the mission.

“So how exactly does this thing work?” Yoshio asked, wondering how ancient the gateway actually was.

Sunchina looked at Yoshio then to Kaz, hoping she could tell the details for once on this mission. Kaz shook her off and answered, “It’s quite simple Yoshio. Through the use of ancient magic techniques and a strong connection with the high magical planes, this structure creates a very rare vortex that transports anyone or thing anywhere in our star system. There’s a catch though. At the time this was created, the only place you could go was a place with a structure similar to this one or a place with a vortex mark. This structure is called a Transport Gate and the type in this case is called a Field Gate.”

“How does one navigate these gates?” Yoshio asked, looking for a control panel. “I don’t see a panel or anything.”

“The same way you activate it,” Kaz answered simply. “You navigate the choices by... You know what? I’ll tell you guys anther time.”

“Oh come on,” Yoshio protested. Sunchina and Kurara laughed at the Elvenkai's misfortune.

“This one will take us several hours outside of Diverray. Back when the gateways were made, the one this leads to was once a major inland trading spot but like a lot of things during the Great Wars, the town was destroyed the gateway managed to stay intact,” Soul added as he moved his speeder to the foot of the steps that led to the mouth of the activated gateway.

Now far more interested in trying out the gateway than listening to his sensei, Yoshio moved his speeder in front of Soul’s and looked into the vortex as he asked, “Anything else we need to know about this Sensei?”

“Not that I can think of,” the Genohuman answered, looking at the Aeronok to see if he anything to add. The Archkei shook his head and Kaz said, “Nope.”

Rather than verbally responding, the young male Elvenkai smiled, revved his engine, and sped through the vortex. The group looked at each other and it was Sunchina this time to ask the obvious question, “Did anyone not see that coming?”

While the four shared a laugh, it dawned on Kaz that the danger they would face on this mission wasn’t always going to be from an enemy but by Yoshio pulling stunts like this or if the two Elvenkai decided to argue. “Well, we might as well go after him,” he said, shaking his head. One by one, they entered the vortex and when the last person when through, the violet vortex dissipated into a similar spark that created it.

Sublocation – Apprentice Plain

Innerlocation – Three Hours from Diverray

In the quiet scenery outside the ruins the blue Aeronok had mentioned before they crossed over, stood a gateway with a similar design to the one they entered. As a twin tailed bird flew past the structure, a spark ignited, causing a violet vortex to appear, and a speeder with a male Elvenkai flew out. Slowing down, the speeder turned around and the rider waited and watched the rest of his companions come out. Less than half a minutes later, a speeder with a female driver appeared, quickly followed by the rest of his group. After a quick lecture from his Genohuman sensei about making irresponsible decisions, the group continued its way to Diverray.

Sublocation - Apprentice Plain

Innerlocation - Diverray

After several more hours of driving and a few more of looking for Toati in the medium sized city town of Diverray, it was six p.m. and Yoshio was on the edge of losing it. At Soul’s suggestion, the group left their speeders at a garage structure at the edge of town.

“Man! Where is this guy?!” Yoshio shouted impatiently, finally cracking. Almost immediately after his comment, he felt pain on the back of his head. Turning around, he saw Sunchina with her arms folded with what appeared to be a folded fan in one of her hands.

“Will you stop being so childish Yoshio?” Sunchina asked with a smile.

“Look who’s talking,” Yoshio countered, rubbing the back of his head.

Kaz sighed and stepped in between the two Elvenkai. “Why don’t we find an inn to stay at before it becomes completely dark?”

“Why an inn?” Kurara asked.

“Because little Hime,” Soul said shaking his head. “At this rate, even if we found the informant, it is too late to go anywhere. Best to find somewhere to rest for the night.”

“No,” Kurara corrected. “I meant why don’t we stay at a hotel.

“That’s now a bad idea,” Kaz agreed, scratching his cheek. “Two problems with that. One, we need to keep a low profile and two, do you know where one is?” the two Elvenkai let out a small laugh. “And what may I ask is so funny you two?”

“Nothing,” Yoshio said with a straight face, at least as straight as he could get it. Which caused Kaz to turn to Sunchina.

“Kurara’s rich and isn’t going to settle for an inn,” Sunchina clarified.

“I see,” the Genohuman answered. He looked at the Aeronok to see if he was even a little surprised at what Sunchina just said. With Soul’s usual expression, Kaz couldn’t tell one way or another.

As they came up to an intersection, Kurara pointed to her right and answered her sensei’s second question. “There’s one right over there Sensei.”

Everyone turned to see what Kurara was pointing at and saw a huge, over the top hotel. “Works for me,” Kaz said as they made the five minute walk to the building. What surprised everyone more than the size was the name; Toroc’s NX Hotel. What else does this guy own? Kaz asked himself as he walked through the front door. He didn’t know what to expect but what he saw certainly wasn’t it. It seemed that no expense was spared in the interior design; fine paintings filled the walls, classic sculptures sat on every table, several sitting areas populated some of the free space. Reaching the counter, he was greeted by the receptionist, a pretty young Genohuman with long blond hair, green eyes, and a beautiful complexion. Kaz smiled politely in return, “Hi there. Can I get two of your biggest suites, preferably next to each other?”

“Let me check and see what we have available,” she said as she checked the computer logs.

While the receptionist did her thing, Kaz vaguely recalled Negi telling them about one of his establishments in this town, he pulled out a pad Negi gave him and offered it the receptionist. “If it helps any, Negi Toroc sends his regards.”

Upon hearing Toroc’s name, the female Genohuman looked up, took the pad, then typed in a special code that was on the pad and several exclusive rooms on the top floor appeared. “It appears we have our two biggest suites available on the top floor.”

“Great,” Kaz said relieved. “How much will that be for the next couple of night?”

“Free of charge,” the receptionist replied. “Mr. Toroc sent a message ahead of time to inform us your party would be coming and has taken care of all the arrangements.”

“Really?” Kaz asked in surprise. “Well then, I must thank him the next time I see him.”

The receptionist smiled she produced room keys for the two room. “Here you are Mr. Sanaya. You’ll be in room 303 and 304. Enjoy your stay.”

Kaz was about to ask how she knew his name but if Negi was behind this then the question was moot. “Thank you,” said as he accepted the keys and returned the receptionist’s bow.

Returning to the group, Kaz tossed a room key to each of his kas. “You, Sunchina, and Kurara are in room 303 while Soul and I are in room next to, 304.”

“Are you sure this is a wise idea?” Soul asked with concern. His military training was telling him this was not a good idea and that boundaries were being crossed.

“I’m not worried about it. After all Soul, they are responsible kas,” Kaz answered, looking at the three with confidence. “Anyways, you three go to your room and stay there. Soul and I have to take care of something.”

“Can’t we join you?” Sunchina asked, guessing they were about to do something mission related.

“No,” Kaz said flatly. “What we have to do doesn’t involve you.”

“Meaning something either too dangerous or adult related,” Yoshio interpreted.

“You are reading too much into this Yoshio,” Kaz answered. “It simply means that where we are going, you can’t come. Next time.”

“Fine,” Yoshio said, shaking his head. “Let’s go to the room.” As the Elvenkai male headed towards the stairs, the girls followed him, equally not as happy about being left behind.

“Why don’t we take the elevator Yosh?” Kurara asked, not at all interested in taking the stairs to the twentieth floor.

“I’m not stopping you two from using it, I just prefer to walk. After all, it’s only twenty flights.

“Tsk. Fair enough,” Kurara said, racing up the stairs after the two Elvenkai.

“So why don’t you want them to join us?” the blue Aeronok asked, a bit confused. “I thought you wanted them to learn as much as they could on this mission?”

“I need to look at a map really quick but I have a feeling the place where we’ll find our contact, it is no place for kids.” Kaz said, pulling out a digital pad and calling up a map to the town.

“I don’t follow.”

“That’s what I thought,” Kaz said, nodding at the results of his search. “Every town has its dark side right? Well, Diverray’s dark side just happens to be on the same side as its red light district. Now I don’t know about you but I don’t want to expose the kids to that at their age.”

“Ah.”

“Yeah,” the Genohuman replied, walking out of the hotel.

o0o

In their room, Yoshio looked out the window and saw their two leaders heading towards the east part of town. “So, where do you think they’re heading?”

“Who knows. Probably going to look in on an old friend or something,” Kurara suggested, vaguely interested. At this point, she was more interested in taking a nice shower and a relaxing dip in the hotel hot spring than anything else.

“What do you guys want to do in the mean time?” Sunchina asked, relaxing on one of the room’s reclining chairs.

“Well, I do happen to have my Seikai Shi deck on me,” Yoshio said, pulling out a modified deck from his pack.

“Sounds good Yosh,” Kurara admitted. “And as much as I would love to play and kick your butt, I need a shower after last night’s field exercise.”

“That’s not a bad idea,” Sunchina agreed, getting up. “We’ll play after Yosh.”

“Come on Sunchina,” Kurara said, grabbing her best friend’s hand and dragging her towards the door.

“Where are we going?” Sunchina asked confused. “We have a shower in the room.”

“I know but I saw an indoor hot spring on the hotel layout,” Kurara answered excitedly.

Before Yoshio could say anything, the girls were gone, leaving him alone.

Sublocation – Diverray, Apprentice Plain

Innerlocation – Eastern Diverray

It took the Genohuman and the Aeronok nearly an hour to reach their destination in the eastern part of Diverray, giving them only a few hours to find their informant before the local night life began. In the entire Apprentice Plain, Diverray was the biggest after hours party town. “So, where are we supposed to find this Toati guy?” Soul asked as he looked around at all the bars, noting that they all looked the same to him.

“Our friend Negi confirmed we could find him in a bar called “Fox” and he would only be there until tenish,” Kaz answered looking around for the right bar. “That means we have roughly a couple of hours to find him before he goes home.”

“If we know where to find him, why did we just spend the last couple of hours looking for him?” Soul asked as they stopped at a corner.

“Because I didn’t know it was located in this part of town.”

Turning the corner, they stopped again. “Well how about that, ‘Fox’, Soul commented as the bar’s neon sign stared them in the face.

Compared to the other bars in town, Fox was small, at least on the outside. Approaching the entrance, the doors slid open and they saw the opposite of what they expected to see. They expected to see the typical bar look; single level bar and a dance floor. Reaching a safety rail, they got a better look at the place. The main bar was located on the walk-in level, which was only half a floor, the back half. The railing led to a flight of stairs on either side of the walk-in level, which led both to the upper and lower dance floors. The main dance floor was located on the lower level while a smaller dance floor occupied the upper floor; both floors had mini bars. Impressed by the size of the place, soul and Kaz made their way to the main bar and got the attention of the bartender, a female Genohuman with tattoos on her arms. “Excuse me Miss.”

“We’re not open for another hour,” the female bartender said, turning around. Giving the two strangers a once over, she smiled, and asked, “How can I help you two?”

“We’re looking for a guy called Toati. We were told we could find him here,” Kaz answered. She took a moment to answer which told him she know him but was evaluating her choices.

“I think he’s down on the lower dance floor getting ready for tonight,” she finally said, with a bit of disappointment in her voice.

“Thank you Miss,” Kaz said with a bow. Turning around, he and Soul made their way to the lower level.

As they descended, the Aeronok couldn’t help but comment, “That bartender sure was cute.”

“Maybe, if you’re into red heads.”

“Maybe? What do you mean maybe? There are no women that hot back home,” Soul said, trying to figure out what was going on in his friend’s head.

“All I’m saying is I’m not into her. That’s all.” Reaching the lower floor, they looked around. Fortunately there was only one person on the floor, making it a whole lot easier than it could have been.

As they approached the bar, the guy behind it turned around and was surprised to see anyone. “Toati?” Kaz asked.

“Depends,” the male Genohuman answered carefully.

“We’re here about some information.”

The Genohuman looked at the two strangers, placed the box of booze in his arms on the counter, and thought for a moment. “Weaponless it slashes, voiceless it pierces, and formless it destroys.”

If Kaz was as confused, Soul couldn’t tell.

Smiling, Kaz answered, “Wind.”

The Genohuman took a moment before the made any sort of reaction. “Welcome my friends. I have been expecting you. How is Eagle these days?”

“He’s doing well,” Kaz replied. “He sends he regards.”

“You can’t be too careful around there. You know how it is,” Toati said as he sat down on a bar stool. “Please, have a seat.”

“Thank you, no,” Soul declined. “We’re good.”

“Suit yourselves,” Toati said, shaking his head. “A couple of days ago, a package came through here bound for the Retribution Castle. I’m told that delegates from Fallen Wings were sent to negotiate for the package. I just got this piece of info but apparently the delegates are meeting outside of Retribution’s boarders tonight.” Looking at the Genohuman and the Aeronok, Toati got up and began to resume his work.

“Is that all you know?” Soul asked, not convinced he was tell them everything.

“Yes. That’s all I know,” Toati replied without turning. “Except for the location is a couple miles off the boarder, really hard to miss with their small battalion of soldiers and all. That the meeting is set for nine tonight.”

“Well,” Kaz said as he got up. “Thanks for your time.”

“Just in case though,” Soul said as he got up, walked around the counter, and turned the Genohuman around. “Don’t leave town,” he added sternly, looking the Genohuman in the eyes. As the Toati nodded in response, Soul rejoined Kaz and they made their way to the stairs.

Reaching the top, Kaz began to walk faster. “Let’s get back to the hotel. We need to prep for the show tonight.” The Aeronok nodded in agreement and as they exited the bar, Kaz mumbled a few words and a moment later they disappeared and reappeared in from of the NX Hotel.

o0o

Back at the lower level of Fox Bar, Toati made sure he was alone. Satisfied that he was, he pulled out is mini communication unit and contacted his superior.

MEANWHILE…

In room 303 of the NX Hotel, Sunchina, Yoshio, and Kurara were still playing Seikai Shi. Although they were just messing around, Seikai Shi was known by another name to the three of them, Deadly Shi. The reason was simple, when there was a game with Yoshio playing seriously, he wins and he does it by a landslide. Even while they were just messing around, Yoshio managed to keep it fun and interesting. So even though, Kaz and Soul had been gone for over three hours, they were only on their fourth game. The game tended to have a life of its own, lasting anywhere from one hand to several decks.

Coming around to Yoshio again, he placed down a red 2 and shouted, “Shi!” while at the same time giving Kurara two of his cards, leaving him with one left.

“Again?! That’s what, the fifth time this game?” Kurara complained.

“Oh get over it,” Sunchina said as she placed down a red 6. “Oh, and shi.”

“This is so not fair,” Kurara wined, placing down a red draw two card. “Ha! So much for your win Yoshio.”

Yoshio drew two cards and looked at the female Genohuman, pretending to be concerned. “We’ll see.” Yoshio taunted as he slowly placed his card down.

“No! Don’t tell me.”

“Yes Kurara, it’s-“ Sunchina started.

“-a red 2,” Yoshio finished, tossing his two remaining cards into the pile. A second later he shot up and celebrated his victory.

Crushed once again, Kurara fell backwards, landing on her back in frustration.

“Hey, good game you guys,” Yoshio said, trying to be a good sport.

“It was a nice long game,” Sunchina commented in agreement. “Unlike our first game.” The two Elvenkai started to laugh and after a moment, Kurara joined in.

There laughing was interrupted by the door opening and Kaz and Soul walking in. “What’s up Kaz?”

“Our mission,” the Genohuman sensei answered, causing the laughter to completely stop. “We’ve got the location of our next objective.” Kaz pulled out a medium sized digital pad and after keying in a few commands a map of Apprentice Plain. As the map zoomed into the location of the next stage of the mission, Kaz continued. “According to our source, the package is just north of Retribution’s boarder, near the foothills of the nearby mountains.” Kaz pointed to the supposed location.

“Do we have real time images of the encampment?” Yoshio asked, looking at the terrain features.

“According to the source, this is a makeshift campsite belongs to a small battalion of Fallen Wings’ soldiers,” Kaz said, pulling up a real time image of the location.

“Ok so that’s what we have to deal with,” Soul said, studying the image. “That actually not bad. Six to eight hundred soldiers versus the five of us, no sweat.”

“Anything else we need to know?” Yoshio asked, eagerly.

“Not as at this junction.” Kaz replied. “We’ll assess the situation when we get there.”

“When do we leave?” Kurara asked, ready to test her new skills in a real world situation.

“Immediately,” the Genohuman answered without hesitation. “Get your gear together and meet us downstairs in five minutes.”

“See you guys downstairs,” Soul said as he and Kaz left the room.

Yoshio started to clean up the cards, “You guys can get ready, I’ll clean this mess up.”

Kurara was already getter her stuff together when Yoshio made the comment.

Sunchina leaned over the table and kissed Yoshio on the cheek, “Thanks Yosh.” Then got up and hot her stuff.

“No problem,” Yoshio answered, trying not to blush.

FIVE MINUTES LATER...

Kaz and Soul were sitting on one of the few lounge couches when the three kas came down and met them. “Are you guys ready?”

“Yep,” Kurara said cheerfully.

“Good. Then let’s get going,” Kaz said with enthusiasm.

As they exited the hotel, Yoshio asked, “What about the room?”

“Taken care of little one,” Soul answered as he started to follow Kaz to the south gate of the town.

“Any reason we’re not taking the speeders?” Kurara asked, noticing the garage was in the opposite direction.

“Where we’re going,” Kaz started. “We won’t need them. They’ll just get in the way.”

“So what are we doing exactly?” Yoshio asked, a bit confused. He got the general idea of the plan but was fussy on the details.

“Assault and recovery,” the Genohuman answered, looking back. “We’ve believe the package is a powerful bio weapon. The objective is to recover it at any and all cost. In this case, assault.”

“What level?” Yoshio asked, hoping for one of the dangerous ones.

“Level two.”

“Really? Cool!” the young Elvenkai exclaimed, throwing air punches and kicks. “I’ve always wanted to experience a level two assault.”

Once again, Sunchina smacked the male Elvenkai on the back of the head with one of her paper fans. “Why do you always have to act so childish in serious situations?”

“Why are you always hitting me over the head?” Yoshio shot back.

“Because you embarrass us!” Sunchina snapped, getting in Yoshio’s face.

“Embarrassing the group or embarrassing you?” Yoshio taunted. “And what’s so wrong about expressing a little joy, Aya?”

“Nothings wro- Why you little-“

“Now who’s embarrassing who?” Kurara interrupted.

Sunchina turned to look at Kurara and snapped again, “Stay out of this Missy.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Kurara asked in shock.

“Figure it out,” she replied as she turned back to Yoshio.

“UGOKANAI!” Kaz shouted, casting one of Eagle’s favorite spells. “Enough of this you guys! You’re supposed to be the best the academy has to offer. If this is how the best act, then maybe we chose wrong.”

“We have a mission to fulfill here. I thought you guys were best friends. Is this how best friends ask?” Soul added, just as offended as Kaz was.

“We are. Can we move now?” Yoshio asked impatiently.

“Look. For one reason or another I don’t think you three are grasping the seriousness of the situation. Even after the event with the assassins. We are going into a battle zone. These soldiers will try to kill you. This is life or death. I get that this is all new to you guys are you’re excited but take this seriously. Unlike the battle with the assassins, you’re going into this with your eyes open. You will kill someone. Don’t take that lightly.” Soul lectured, drawing on his memories from his first serious battle.

The three kas looked down in shame.

“Now, will you three behave?” Kaz asked, disappointed in the Elvenkai.

“Yes Sensei,” the three said together. Slowly, Kaz released the spell.

Being who Yoshio was, he was more interested in learning new things than staying quite, even after being lectured. “When do we get to learn that spell?”

“Not for a couple of years,” Kaz answered, somewhat messing with Yoshio’s head. “Let’s get going.” Within a minute, they were out of the gate and Kaz stopped them to mumble a transport spell. Unlike Eagle’s spell, the group was swallowed by sand instead of wind. As the dust settled, the group found themselves in a wooded area. To be on the safe side, they looked around to make sure they weren’t spotted and no one was around. Seeing how nothing happened, Kaz got them together and signaled them to kneel.

“Where are we exactly?” Yoshio asked keeping his voice low.

Kaz pulled out the digital pad and called up the map. The holo-image of a map of the Apprentice Plain and Valkyrie Retribution boarder. Pointing to the wooded area not far from where the Fallen Wings camp was. “We’re right here. About a quarter mile or so from our objective location. Turning off the pad, Kaz looked southwest and saw a big column of smoke.

Hope this is fun, Yoshio thought to himself, not wanting to get hit in the head again. He couldn’t quite keep thought off his face though and a few seconds later, he felt a pain on the back of his head. “Ow! What did you do that for?”

“You were getting that look on your face again,” Sunchina smirked.

“What look?” Yoshio asked confused.

“The look that says, ‘I’m going to do or thinking of something stupid.’”

“Oh, that look,” Yoshio said with a nod. “Hey. Wait a sec.”

“How is it you always have a fan on you?” Kurara asked, always wanting to ask that question.

Sunchina let out a small giggle. “I keep one on hand just to use on Yoshio. Ever since day one.”

“Let’s go guys,” Soul said appearing out of nowhere. Yoshio and Sunchina looked at each other as he caught up with the three kas. “What’s so funny?”

“Nothing,” Sunchina said trying not to laugh.


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