The second night that Nikrith was suppose to come for dinner; it was 7:00 and he wasn’t there yet. The weather was fine, a fresh layer of snow on the ground, so that wasn’t the reason. The air wasn’t that cold either. 7:30, still no Nikrith.
        “...on a totally unrelated subject. Golin Yertque was arrested after a brief struggle. He is charged for murder, theft, and practicing sorcery,” said the news anchor. “It is believed that he had an acomplice who has not yet been identified...”
        “Oh my, oh my,” murmered Asia. “You don’t think that something has happened to Nikrith do you?”
        “He’s probably just late,” said Ark.
        “Chaonen, are you alright?” Socara asked, sitting on the sofa nex to him.
        “Sorcery is now a crime...?” he murmered, mostly to himself. He suddenly, whirled at the balcony just as a figure collapsed onto it. “Shards, it’s Nikrith.”
        He and Ark dragged Nikrith in a laid him on the floor in front of the fire place. He was bruised badly and had a few lasers burns and cuts, ice crusted the edges of his left wing and most of his ear and bits of his face.
        “Maaan, I gave up the snitch life ‘cause of stuff like this,” he gasped, barely able to open his eyes because of the frost and ice.
        “What happened?” asked Socara, laying a pillow beneath his head.
        “Wrong place at the wrong time...seem to have a knack for that,” he said in a bare whisper. “Someone get this ice off, it’s freezing.”
        “Wah, Niki get all hurt,” Oni frowned. As she put a blanket over him, Asia came back with bandages and warm water. The warm water soon melted the ice.
        “Hey man, Ark. You want a job?” Nikrith grinned, but is was a dark one. Ark tilted his head, then nodded. “Guy who did this...Sorceror, working...with an illegal shipping ring. Nightmare employee, low ranking...but still. They spotted me and freaked. Police got in a fight. They got out some better, same worse then me... Lots of scientific equipment there...Nin’nako samples too, I think.” He sighed and closed his eyes. After a few moments, he fell asleep.

        Snow was falling again on sector Wasahi, but that didn’t matter. It was the port sector. Transport after transport landed, were loaded, and took off again. Warehouses covered much of the area and ports jutted off from the city. Hovercrafts pulling cargo zoomed threw the open areas between warehouses. As night falls, business keeps right on going, but the farther warehouses fall silent.
        A figure dressed in dark clothes, slipped into the side door of a large warehouse. He closed the door, and pulled down the scarf covering his face. Though the warehouse conserved heat, he could still see his breath as he breathed. Adjusting the heftly pack on his back, he trotted past several walls of crates, turned the corner and came into a well-lit area. A few other people were there as well, some in lab coats, including one in a suit who was supervising. Beakers, bottles, burners, and more were lining the tables. Behind that was something big, but it was covered with a tarp.
        “Bring it here,” the one in the suit said, snapping his fingers at him. He brought my pack over and laid it on the table. With care, he pulled out a metal canister, several disks, and a laptop. Attaching a cord from the laptop to the canister, who typed in a password. It confirmed; three legs unfolded from the canister to keep it steady. The top twisted and opened, letting out a cold mist. “Good,” said suit guy, a siamese-ferret. He reached in and lifted out a metal wire casing with several test tubes with a blue liquid in them. The liquid glowed an aura of blue light, casting its light on the man and the things around him; as if defying the other lights. “This will do nicely.”
        Ark pulled the hat securely onto Ivy’s head and buttoned her coat the following morning. “Ivy go see mommy now?” she asked, holding the hat on with both her hands.
        “Yep,” nodded Ark. “But you have to put on some mittens and boots. It’s cold outside, dear.” Ivy squealed happily, and stuffed the mittens on. Ark had to take them off again and put them on the right hands. “Besides, your mom said she’d kill me if you caught a cold or anything else.”
        “Oh Ark, you ought to dress like this more often. You look so handsome,” teased Asia, tugging lightly on his Chinese styled robe with several layers and a sash hanging around his shoulders to his waist. His hair was even combed neatly and tied back in a ponytail.
        “Knock it off,” snapped Ark. “I’m only dressing like this so Ivy’s mom doesn’t get the idea that we’re some bums, which would lead to some unpleasant questions...gotta stay in the favor of those in high positions...” Ark shuddered, wrapping a scarf around Ivy’s neck. “Hurry up, Oni!”
        “Whatever...” grumbled Oni, walking into the living room. She was wearing a kimono-like robe with layers of purple, lots of black, and baby blue with bamboo leaf designs that she kept adjusting the cloth wrapped around her waist. “Why mes have ta wear dis part? Is all tight anz bulki!”
        “Shut up and comb your hair! You know how impressionable she is,” Ark shouted at her. Oni grumbled but straightened her hair into a bun anyways. “Everyone else ready?”
  “Yep,” said Socara. Asia nodded as well.
        “I have some business to attend to,” said Chaonen.
        “Chaonen-daimyou will be back a little while after nightfall,” the Shadow continued.
        “You’re leaving me?!” exclaimed a voice from the hallway. Nikrith hopped ackwardly into the living room, covered in bandages. “What about that sorceror, man? Dude’s gonna be worth tons of credits!”
        “Be glad I’m letting you crash here,” said Ark. “Besides, that guy that guy probably already bailed to a new spot and police will have already blocked the place off.”
        “Good point,” muttered Nikrith, plopping down on the floor, then wincing in pain.
        “You need to rest, Nikrith,” said Asia, with a reassuring smile. “Don’t worry, we’ll be back. Without us all here, you can have some peace and quiet.”

        They took a public transport to the other side of Sector Nanika. It was dim in most areas despite it being day. The upper level really blocked out the sun, but the residents had managed to make due. Scrap heaps were great places for construction material. The poor and unfortunate had made there homes there. Crime was rampant, gangs were many, and the black market thrived.
        South Market Street was a great place for things both legal and illegal. The market was large enough to overlap into Runei as well where the more fortunate shopped. There were vendors of all types, from fruits to gun silencers. Shops of all kinds as well. Even a nice inn or two. A brothel over there, a casino over here.
        The train stopped at the station and they got off. The platform was pretty desolate with trash scattered around. A lone janitor swepted up litter amongst the few people there. Not many people left the sector.
        Ark held Ivy’s hand and his staff with his other hand as they headed in the direction of the market. “Oni wanna show u da kewliest shop, Soca,” Oni said happily, trotting along excitedly.
        “It’s coming out of your own pocket,” Ark frowned over his shoulder at her.
        “Wha’ eva,” Oni said making a face at him, then turning back to Soca, “Is right on north side o’ da market, so we be passin’ derez when wes come back.”
        “What kind of shop is it?” Socara asked.
        “Ooooh, dey gotz lots o’ stuff, video games, mangas, animes, anz all dem stuffz!”
        “What’s a manga and anime?”
        “U don’t knowz?! Oh Oni show Soca anz Asia tooz. Veri kewlie fun stuffz!”
        As the came into the deeper part of the market area, Oni said she’d be right back and ran into a shop that looked like it was made from pieces of a large metal wall. The writing was in Cephtan so Socara couldn’t read it. She rejoined them a few minutes later, saying she had ta drop off a few things to get sharpened and cleaned when asked where did she go.
        The shops were lit by various things, lanterns to neon lights. Outside a place drapped with clothes and bright lights, Ivy wanted to go in and listen to the music coming out from the door, but Ark said that there were monsters in there. Ivy squeaked and clung harder to his hand. Apparently it was a tavern for the ‘older people.’
        They soon entered an residental area. All the homes were made of scrap metal and pieces of wood. The residents had tried to make it look nice with drapery and a few flowers in the patches of sunlight. Finally, the came to a home that looked larger than the others and tucked away in a corner. By the look of the outside and several hovercycles and a bike in the shelter told that a few people or families lived here together.
        “Okay ya’ll,” said Ark, kicking the snow from his shoes and straightening his clothes. “Do be on your best behavior? I really want to make a good impression.” Socara and Asia looked at each other in doubt, then nodded. “I especially mean you, Oni.”
        “Haihai,” Oni muttered, but she too was straightening herself up.
        Taking a deep breath, Ark knocked on the door. No one answered at first, so Ark tried the door and shouted, “Ohayo! Excuse me, if anyone home?”
        A minute later, the sound of locks and bolts being opened could be heard and the door was opened by a Salamander/otter. “Yes?” he asked, then seeing Ivy he exclaimed, “Ivy-chan! Oh come in come in!” He gestured for them to stop out of the cold and into the house. Inside was completely different. It was well furnished, warm and cozy. They took off their shoes and followed the salamander/otter down the carpeted hallway to the living room. He gestured for them to sit on the couch and chair, then he left the room.
        “What a pretty home,” Socara commented, looking around. The room looked and felt warm. There was a bamboo plant in the corner, lamps lighting the room, a fuzzy rug on the floor, red draped windows, bookshelves, a painting and a tv on the wall.
        “Thank you very much,” came a female voice from the stairway. A tall gryphon descended into the living room. Her lustrous, dark brown hair was tied behind simply behind her neck with ribbons weaving in and out of her hair. A gold ring shined from her scaled hands everytime it caught the light. The clothing she wore was old and worn, but hinted that it had once been even more splendid than it was now. Her eyes were a sharp black, focused and clear. She had somewhat of a regal bearing.
        Ark and Oni both stood up and bowed. “Madam Yoshiko,” greeted Ark, while Oni stayed in her bowed position, a little lower than Ark.
        “Mommy!” shouted Ivy, bounding off the couch and into Yoshiko’s arms. “Mommy mommy mommy!”
        “Oh bless Lady Silence, Ivy my treasure!” Yoshiko laughed, hugging and kissing Ivy. “Ivy, I’ve missed you so.” Tears streamed down her face as she held her. When Yoshiko recovered she turned to Ark and Oni. “I must thank you for watching my treasure.” She turned to Ivy, who was playing with her ribbons now, “Did you have fun? Did they take good care of you?”
        “Ivy have fun, mommy!” she squealed. “They let me have ice cream and play games with Ivy.” She leaned her head against her mother’s for a moment, mindspeaking the rest.
        “That’s wonderful,” smiled Yoshiko, placing her on the floor. “Why don’t you go play upstairs while mommy chats with these people?” She gently gave Ivy a pushed towards the stairs. Yoshiko then turned her eyes toward Ark and Oni. Looking them over carefully, her eyes narrowed slightly.
        “Do tell me, have you taken good care of Ivy?”
        “Of course, madam,” Ark said calmly.
        “And you,” she whirled at Oni. “What have you been doing?”
        “Oni watch Ivy, dun let NEthin’ happen ta Ivy,” she said quickly.
        Yoshiko glared at them for a full minute. “You seem to be telling the truth.” She paced back and forth infront of them, looking them up and down every few rounds. “But I don’t trust your kind.”
        She whirled at Asia and Socara, “Who are these people?”
        “Pardon my rudeness for not introducing our friends, madam,” Ark said, quickly standing by them. He offered Socara his hand to stand up. “This is Socara, and this is Asia.” He gestured for Asia to stand up as well.
        “Have you known them long?” Yoshiko asked Socara, leaning close to her face, her beak almost touching Socara’s nose.
        “Not really,” she said, feeling a little uncomfortable.
        “Then what do you think of them?” She looked at Asia as well, indicating that she was to answer as well.
        “Oh, Ark and Oni are very nice people. They have taken good care of Ivy,” Asia said bowing. “They don’t always get along and their jobs a little strange but other than that...”
        “What is their occupation?” Yoshiko asked, interupting her. Behind her Ark and Oni were frantically waving their arms trying to get Asia to stop talking. Asia hesitated and Yoshiko shot a glare at Ark and Oni.
        “I believe they are mercenaries.”
        Ark and Oni smiled nervously as Yoshiko was suddenly bearing down on them. “Did you expose my precious Ivy to blood, killing and violence?!”
        “No no noooo, madam,” Ark laughed nervously. “Oh course not. In fact, she may have learned something interesting and educational from Coniau. Coniau is a scientist that’s rooming with us right now...eheh.”
        “Ark and Oni are perfectly fine people, who took care of Ivy just fine!” Socara exclaimed. “Must you give them such a hard time? I understand that you must of been terribly worried about your daughter but isn’t this a bit overdoing it? I mean, Ivy is back safe and sound isn’t she? Do you know what they had to go through to keep her safe?”
        Yoshiko looked at Socara for a moment. Ivy came bounding back down the stairs at that time, and attempted to leap into her mother’s arms, but failed miserably. The salamander/otter came down too and offered to make some tea for everyone. Yoshiko then smiled as she picked up Ivy, “Perhaps I have been too hard. I apologize, like Ms. Socara has said, you have taken care of Ivy and even have saved her life. Mind you, that I don’t really approve of you two. But you do have some degree of my respect.”
        “Thank you madam,” Ark said, bowing as Oni did too.
        Yoshiko, slapped Ark on the back, with a good natured laugh. “Teenagers these days.” But Ark had doubled over from the knock on the back with a muffled gasp of pain. “Ark, are you alright?” He tried to indicate that he was fine but coughed harshly into his hand instead.
        “Ark okays?” Ivy asked, tugging at his sash and looking worriedly at him.
        “I’m fine, Ivy,” Ark tried to smile at her, but had to support himself with his bloodless hand against the wall. “I just had a little accident much early.”
        “Kuritsu,” Yoshiko called in the kitchen. “Do bring a wet clothe.”
        “Oh my,” murmer Asia, helping Ark support himself, she helped him to the couch, where he heavily collapsed into it. When Kuritsu, the salamander/otter came with the wet cloth, Socara wiped the blood from his hand and around his mouth. Asia placed her hands on his chest, despite the objections; a soft white glow formed around her hands. It took a while, but the pain slowly eased.
        “I’m sorry, I wasn’t aware...”said Yoshiko. “We unfortunately don’t have any healing potion or herbs...” Ivy jumped down and patted him on the knee.
        “Whatev- uh, that’s alright, madam,” Ark muttered, though he was enjoying the attention from Socara and Asia.
        As this went on, Oni stood silently to the side, watching Socara.

        “Why was Ivy in our world?” asked Asia, as she sipped her tea.
        Yoshiko sighed, then placed her cup down. “Simply put, I wanted her to be safe. When NIGHTMARE was taking over, [Zetallis Corporation] employees started to rapidly disappear. Some turned up dead. I knew that I was one of the main targets, but was just out of their reach. One day, I got a tip that they were going to go after Ivy to get to me...I couldn’t risk her life, so I sent her to where I didn’t think they could reach her. To another realm. It tore my heart. I had sent her to a group of people that I believed could take care of her. Before that, I cast a spell on Ivy, to make it seem like she was aging at the same rate as those people so they wouldn’t suspect anything.”
        “So you knew Ark and asked him to take care of her?” asked Socara.
        “Actually, no. I didn’t know him. In my..” she paused, taking a deep breathe, “..desperation, I found a magik book in the main library, actually the Head Librarian had been keeping it in a glass case in the far back, that contained a spell to summon someone that could jump dimensions easily...a Mazoku. I knew that they were very dangerous but I didn’t care. I HAD to know that Ivy was alright. She’s everything to me...
        “Ark had answered the summon, being of a lower status and all, saying that he was pretty bored at the time. He agreed to do it with a price.” She looked Ark up and down again. “I must say, your other form is much more impressive.”
        “Hey, I am not some low class flunkly! I’m only allowing this because of who YOU are!” objected Ark. “And I think I’m rather handsome just like this. Now about that payment...” He grinned somewhat evilly.
        Undaunted, on the outside only, Yoshiko replied calmly, “I cannot right now. We have not been able to find what you want. You must understand that.”
        To her surprise, Ark remained grinning. “Then you are in my debt...” he said simply, “Good day to you, Madam President.” He stood up with his staff, offering a hand to Socara. Bowing to Yoshiko, they left.

        He stood by the large glass windows over looking the city. Below him, people did as they did. A smile slowly spread over his face. “Welcome back, my friend.”

        Chaonen stood in the plaza at the base of the Caitorin Tower. It looked the same, but that was about the only thing. His Shadow was half hidden by his collar, it was wrapped lightly around his neck. He wasn’t exactly sure what he was going to do, but he needed answers. How was he going to get them though? He certainly couldn’t just stroll in and demand them. Finally, he walked inside to the main lobby.
        The lobby was immense. It was well lit and had hallways going in all directions, along with stairs to other levels and elevators on the far end. The floor resembled marble, only smoother looking and almost with a metallic hint. A domed ceiling far above their heads. A reception desk was the only thing in the lobby other than people. Avoiding the reception desk completely, he entered one of the hallways that didn’t seem to be used as much, keeping an eye out for security cameras. He knew the Tower had many and where they were...but that was years ago, before NIGHTMARE. Things could have changed since then and probably have. Making his way farther into the Tower, he went past many people in suits and formal looking kimono-like garments, like his own. This eased his mind a little, at least he looked like some of the other people and didn’t stand out.
        “Hey, an older style?” one of the employees he passed suddenly spoke up. Chaonen glanced over his shoulder and say that he was talking to him. The employee gestured to Chaonen’s clothes, when Chaonen paused.
        “Yeah,” Chaonen replied, noting that the employee was dressed somewhat similar to him. He started walking again before the employee could continue.
        He pulled several sheets of paper from his pocket and pretended to flip through them, muttering to himself whenever he passed a security camera that he couldn’t avoid.
Finally he came to an empty computer terminal. Letting the door slide close behind him, he slipped into a chair and activated the screen.
        “I will keep lookout, Chaonen-daimyou,” the Shadow said, unwrapping itself from around his neck. Chaonen nodded to it, then brought up the mainscreen. It asked for a login and password, but he bypassed that with a private code.
        Screen, windows and files flew passed the screen as he searched for any information that would help him. So far nothing...but then something came up that was unusual. He tried to access it but it was locked from the general users. His password didn’t work either, to his surprise. Other methods were futile as well.
        After a pause, he contacted Coniau with the small communication device he found lieing on the kitchen table. He had meant to give it back to her, but hadn’t had the chance yet. No one should be able to trace the line if they caught on to him.
        “Chaonen?” came Coniau’s voice, then a projection of her. “ did you get this?”
        “You left it on the table this morning,” he replied. “I need your help. Can you access NIGHTMARE’s database?”
        “No problem,” she laughed, immediately tapping away on her console. “Why?”
        “I’m having problems getting at some info. that I need. It’s locked me out.”
        “Okay, I’m in the main database. What do you need?”
        He told her, exciting her interest even more. After a few minutes, she grew a little fustrated. A half hour passed. “Hmm...they really don’t want anyone getting into this stuff,” she said, mostly to herself. “Here, try using the procedure on your console.” It appeared over her projection. “I’ll work from this end.”
        “Alright!” she exclaimed when they finally got in. “Hey, you’re not bad at this stuff.”
        Chaonen nodded to her, but he was already reading quickly through the documents. “Nin’nako exports...experiments...tranfers? What is all this?” questioned Coniau, as she looked over it as well.
        “That’s what I want to know...”Chaonen murmered. He then type: SCION on the keyboard. It was easier this time. But only one file was found. Suddenly, a wave of dizziness hit him like a tidal wave and...
i will cleanse this world

End of Chapter 1