Asia hummed to herself as she cut the cucumbers into thin slices. She lifted the cutting board and slid the cucumbers into the hot pan. Cutting a piece of ginger, she tossed that in too. She liked to wake up early in the morning and cook a nice breakfast for herself and everyone. There was something about cooking for a group of people that she enjoyed. Back at the hotsprings resort, it was mostly only her and her grandfather. She wondered how he was doing now. “Good Morning, Socara,” she said over her shoulder as Socara sat down at the table, yawning, the raven yawning as well.
        “G’morning, Asia,” she replied. “Anyone else up yet, except for Oni?”
        Asia shook her head. “I need to go to the market today. There are some things I need to buy. Would you like to come as well, Socara?”
        “Sure,” said Socara, rubbing the last bit of sleep from her eyes. “Who else is coming?”
        “Now that you mentioned him, I’m surprised that he isn’t awake yet. He usually gets up at dawn doesn’t he?”
        “How odd, prehaps he is tired from last night?”

        A few hours later, Oni staggered from her room, just in time for lunch. She plopped onto the couch and looked like she was about to fall asleep again. The burned fur and most of her feathers seemed to have regrown.
        “Oni, come get something to eat. It’ll wake you up,” called Asia. Oni muttered “butz am sleepiiiii...” but slowly staggered her way to the table and almost fell asleep in her cereal.

        The echos of footsteps penetrated the silent office. He stood by the desk for a moment, then laid a stack of papers on it, bowed, and turned to leave.
        The one sitting in the chair at the desk did not move.

        Ark slowly walked into the living room, leaning heavily on the wall. Breakfast had already been cleaned up and the femmes had left for the market. He made his way into the kitchen and with a shaking hand, reached into the cupboards for a bottle of pills. He popped several into his mouth and gulped them down without water. Still shaking, Ark slid to the floor, leaning on the cabinets. He wished someone would come home, even Oni...he didn’t want to be alone right then.

        Chaonen gazed at the Caitiorn Tower from his seat at a cafe across the plaza from the tower. The Shadow balanced on the brim of Chaonen’s coffee cup, peering at the liquid inside. Behind him a small portable tv was on the counter inside the cafe. It suddenly switched to a news update, catching the attention of the people around, including Chaonen.
        A tall gyarados in a suit was standing at a podium. He cleared his throat and began to speak. “This addresses the citizens of Cephta under the NIGHTMARE order. Particularly to those of the Point: Atlantic region. Concerning the explosions in Point: Zetallis last night and the explosion earlier this morning in Point: Atlantis. These were both investigated and have been concluded to be terrorist attacks. They do not, as rumors have said, have anything to do with demons of the Dark Realm. The culprits will be caught and questioned, but until then, citizens are advised to keep out of the warehouse districts or any other large unpopulated areas during off hours. That is all.”
        The picture switch over to a reporter. “That concludes this special update, we now return you to your regular program.”
        “Chaonen-daimyou,”started the Shadow.
        “I know,” Chaonen replied. “His earring...” He turned his gaze back the Caitiorn Tower, towards the tallest tower. “I need some answers.”
        “But what will we do then, Chaonen-daimyou?”
        “I haven’t figured that part out yet.” Chaonen admitted with a sheepish grin. “Or even what I need to know for that matter...but if I get up there...what’s to prevent it all from happening again...?”
        “Chaonen-daimyou...this time you have the scion and need not protect it.”
        “That’s true...”Chaonen unbutton then slipped his hand into his pocket. “What the?! It’s not here...” He quickly searched the rest of his pockets. “I know I wouldn’t have lost it...” The Shadow popped its head out of the pocket it as looking it and peered at Chaonen. “It...he must have taken it...”

        Nikrith landed on the balcony of the apartment and knock on the window. “Anoo...anyone home? Hello?” He looked around but saw no one. He wondered if the closet lady was home, but he didn’t think he could shout loud enough for someone in there to hear him. Giving up, he hopped onto the railing and flew off to get some sleep.
        After awhile, Ark stood up from behind the kitchen counter, and looked out at the balcony. A package was lieing outside that Nikrith had left. He opened the door and picked it up. His shaking had stopped. Inside was a small handheld computer tablet. He went back inside and sat down on the couch. Turning it on, a map appeared with a circle around an area in what appeared to be the smaller docking area in Zetallis. There were also copies of news stories, all dealing with the recent explosions, one of which Ark had caused. Then there was the added note. “Sources tell me that a weird scientist guy was seen wondering around there a few times. Also unmarked transports have increased.”
        Ark tilted his head at this, out of slight curiousity. Though he didn’t really care, right now NIGHTMARE was a nuisance. He was about to toss it when he noticed a certain news article that included a photograph. In the background was a transport with a familiar emblem. Looking more closely, he recognized it. He flicked his ears, now much more interested. How lucky he was that the vehicle ID number was visible too.

        “Come in,” called Coniau from her lab at the sound of a knock. The bells on her door rattled as Chaonen stepped in. “What brings you to my magnificant lab today?”
        “Did you find anything on that laptop?” Chaonen asked, walking up to Coniau and standing to the side of her consul. He picked the laptop and opened it as she spoke.
        “Depends on what you’re looking for,” she said. “But I’m sure this is exactly what you’re looking for. A rather lowish level personel on orders some a higher office. He was just supervising. This is kind of like what we downloaded at the Tower. There are several blueprints, but only for minor parts of the whole.” She bought up the files as she spoke. “I found a pick up schedule, but all those dates are now past. The most recent one was at a Lesser Dock a 3 days ago, from what I can get it was from Keynata.” Leaning back, she added. “So it looks like our guy was not important or trusted enough to be given more than this. Nothing horribly important and explaining much. But now we do know that they’re developing weapons run on Nin’nako. And have a working prototype. Still several bugs from what I can see.” Her puppets popped up and repeat “bug bug” then popped away again.
        “Well, thanks,” said Chaonen. He left taking the laptop with him so he could look over it himself later. Coniau had conviently hacked into all the security it had already. Though he thought he might have been able to do it himself. It would have given him something to do, that is until Ark returned. That reminded him. “Coniau, one more question. Do you know when Ark will be back?”

        Everyone was back by sundown. Chaonen and the Shadow, well it tried to, helped Asia cook dinner, as Socara and Oni helped put away everything they had bought, then playing their new video game until dinner was ready. Ark stayed in the study until dinner.
        Ark ate dinner quickly, then went back to the study. Everyone else took it slower, telling each other what they did during the day. Chaonen thought about casually asking if they knew where the Scion piece was, but decided against it.
        Later that evening. “Alright, bye,” said Ark, closing his cellphone.
        “Who was that,” asked Asia.
        “Nikrith,” Ark replied. “Okay, I’m headed for Keynata for a week or so.”
        “What? Just like that?” ask Socara.
        “Have a nice lead, gonna follow it,” he said, plopping down on the couch next to Socara. “Would you and Lady Asia like to join me? There is a well-known opera that’s going to be performed, I can get some tickets. And Keynata’s a lovely city, quite different from here.”
        “That would be so cool to see an opera here!” exclaimed Socara with Asia agreeing. “What about Oni, can she come too?”
        Ark gave her a funny look for a moment, then sighed, “Yeah, I guess.”
        In the darken hallway, Oni sat against the wall, out of everyone’s sight. She smiled to herself when Socara asked if she could come too. “Tankies, Soca,” she whispered.

        Chaonen watched Socara pack the key items she would need for the trip. “You know he’s after a dangerous criminal right?” Chaonen said from his seat on the bed.
        “Yes, but we won’t be involved. He said we’d be seeing the opera before he did anything, then we can get out quickly if something comes up. Don’t worry so much, Chaonen or you’ll end up like it,” Soca said, pointing at the Shadow. It flipped backwards in surprise, then somehow managed to express sulking. “Oh I’m just teasing!” The raven made a sound that sounded like a laugh.
        “No, no, you’ve got a point there,” Chaonen laughed, knudging the drooping Shadow. He got up and stretched his left leg, then walked up the steps to Oni’s part of the room. It was a rather interesting room, bigger than Ark’s. There was a lower sections now with Asia’s and Socara’s beds, along with a throw rug, a desk, and a long mirror. White curtains flowed in the slight breeze that came from the open window that had a window seat below it. The view was very nice and faced West. A small flight of stairs led to the semi-second floor, which was a small floor overlapping the rest of the room, much like a shallow balcony. Up there was Oni’s bed, a shelf, and her private desk. Another torch lamp was up there too along with a bedside lamp.
        As to be expected of Oni, it was pretty messy. The bed wasn’t made, books and magazines were stacked on the floor around the desk. The desk itself, was nearly completely covered with papers and pencils along with an old soda can. Anime figurines occupied each corner and there was a blue crystal dragon hanging from the upper shelf. A computer took up most of the space though. One item of particular interest was a small note that was stuck to the computer, by the looks of it, it had been there for a while. “Never be like him.” A length of black silk ribbon was looped with it. At first he didn’t notice, but a closer look revealed it was heavily blood stained. By now it was part of the cloth. Chaonen looked at it for a while, but then headed back down. It wasn’t his business.
        “There, all done,” Socara said from below. “Nope, not going to change my mind,” she added when Chaonen was about to protest again.
        “Fine, I’ll come too then. Besides, an opera would be entertaining,” he said. “Hey, how would Ark obtain tickets in such short notice for a prestigious opera? Have you thought about that?”
        “Enough, Chaonen,” Socara grinned. “It’s not going to change my mind. I trust Ark. Everything will be fine.”
        When they entered the living room, Ark was there waiting for them, so was Oni. The two seemed to be just ending an argument with Ark throwing a pack roughly at Oni who just caught it and stuffed it into her sleeve, clearly not happy. “Soca all done packin’?” she asked, instantly cheerful towards the echidna. “We still wait fer Asia den goin’ down atz Transport station go ta’n Keynata.”
        “Can’t wait,” smiled Socara.

        The transport eased out into the air and started a slow accention until they were at the right level. “Good day, ladies and gentlemen. We will be arriving at Point: Keynata in 4 hours, 6:30 PM. We are still within their time zone, so there will be no change in time. Please enjoy you ride.”
        Socara shifted her bag under the seat, then settled back in the chair. Placing her arm on the armrest, she touched Oni’s robe since she was next to her. She looked down in surprise. The cloth had felt different than normal cloth, but she couldn’t put her finger on how. That and the fact that it didn’t seem to reflect any light, instead it was absolutely pure black. Even the physical edges seemed fuzzy when she looked at it more closely, it hurt her eyes to look at it for long. She looked up at Oni, but Oni was gazing out the window, her eyes half closed and CDplayer on. “Hai, Soca?” she breathed, sounding a bit sleepy.
        “What kind of cloth is this?” Socara asked, fingering the sleeve. “It’s very nice, but unusual.”
        “Mine fav. robe,” Oni replied, watching Socara through the window’s reflection. “Daddy made fer Oni, he wears same kind too. He say woven fromz darkness.”
        “Wow,” Socara replied. “How cool. Say Oni, you’ve never said anything about your family. What are they like?”
        “Oni luvz Daddy.”
        “Just your father? I’m sorry.”
        “Oni gotz Daddy anz Soca anz Asia anz Chaonen now Oni does, hai? So Oni have happi famili.” After a moment, she dug out a pack of cards from her sleeve. “Soca wanna play cards? Mes teach Soca fun game.” They ended up playing cards with Asia as well for the next 2 hours then sleeping and watching the scenary for the rest.

        Socara and Asia gazed out the window as Point: Keynata came into view. The land surrounding the city was a lush green, being in there Spring season while Zetallis was in a winter sector. The usual skyscapers of a large city pointed up from the city in what would be the main business sector of the city. Large parks could be seen along with a sparkling lake with a river at the edge of the city. There were some large areas that looks like the buildings were made out of stone even. Most noticable of all was the huge volcano the city was built in a half circle around. From their altitude they could see into the volcano. It was mostly hardened magma but with a spot of red showing from under the crest.
        “Welcome to Point: Keynata, girls,” said Ark from across the aisle.

        They grabbed their bags and got away from the busy and crowded main docking area as quickly as they could. “Okay, let’s see here,” said Ark, looking at a map that he had brung. “The inn we’ll be staying at is a few miles from here. Better call a taxi. After we get everything settled we can go see some of sights. Sound good?” Ark grinned and offered Socara his arm, and led the way to find a taxi.
        The group arrived at the inn shortly. It was located close to the large park they had seen from the air, the river docks, and a street market. A quaint place, not too busy, not too empty. They tossed their bags into the room, then gathered downstairs in the lobby. “We should go take a look downtown,” Ark suggested.
        “Wei! Rather fun be downtown! Soca anz Asia should go see Old Town Keynata anz dat big park too~ Zetallis Park no gotz lake likez Keynata,” Oni put in.
        “Sounds good,” said Chaonen.

        A light breeze flirted through the air through the Downtown Walking Mall right by Old Town. Young trees that had been planted when the mall was built were now providing ample shade to shoppers and pedestrians. Colorful banners swayed in the breeze. Occasionally a flower petal from a blooming tree elsewhere would find it way here. People milled around and the air was filled with a pleasant, happy noise.
        Oni sat down on a wooden bench in the shade of a tree, licking her ice cream. On her head was now a pair of black antennas, a toy from one of her favorite shows. “You! Obey the fist!” she yelled at Ark when he came under the tree, shaking a fist at him and laughing manically.
        “Stupid waste of money,” he growled. Turning to Socara as she, Asia and Chaonen walked up, “Having fun?”
        “It’s so pretty here,” grinned Socara, with her own icecream. “Can’t wait till we reach Old Town. That’s the area with the stone buildings still right?”
        “Yep, just a few blocks down that way,” Ark nodded. “The castle is a great place to visit, so I’ve heard. Most of it still remains and they’ve kept up the courtyard and gardens.”
        “The ruling family that built it were, a bit odd, you could say. The architecture is somewhat Gothic, but more twisted. It was, and still believed by some, to be haunted, since the family supposedly had connections with demons. This was all before the [Zetallis Corporation], of course,” said Chaonen. “The last time it was occupied was about 1500 years ago.”
        “How’d you know that?” asked Ark, lifting an eyebrow.
        “Found a pamphlet,” Chaonen replied smoothly. “They also have tours daily. The next one is in a hour.”

        An hour later, they were all on the tour. The guide was very informative, though somewhat boring. As they passed a closed hallway, while heading for the main throne room, Chaonen paused looking down that hallway. “Do you sense something, Chaonen-daimyou?” asked the Shadow from where it was wrapped around his neck.
        “Come on, Chaonen. We’re falling behind,” said Socara. “Everyone else is waiting.”
        “Alright,” said Chaonen, turning around. “Wait where’s Ark and Oni?”
        “Ark said he’d catch up with us,” said Asia. “When we were viewing the large painting of the ruling family, he stayed behind to look at it longer. Yes, where did Oni go? Oh there she is.”
        “Where did you go Oni?” Socara asked as Oni trotted up to them.
        “Lookin’ rounds,” Oni replied. “Ark said he was gonna meet us at end o’ tour.”
        “Why’d he leave?”
        “Dun knowz, he got all weird afta he lookin’ at da main painting fer a bitz.”
        “What do you mean “main” painting?” asked Chaonen, raising an “eyebrow.”
        “Dere’z lots o’ paintin’s ‘round.”
        “Which one is the main painting then? The one in the grandhallway?”
        Oni nodded. “Dun see wha’ so special ‘bout itz,” she said when they went back to see the painting again. “Da one in da private family wing much more interestin’z.”
        “But that’s not on the tour,” said Asia.
        “Er...Oni went ta take looks when no one lookin’z,” Oni grinned. “Wes betta go catch up wit group nowz.”
        The girls went off with Chaonen a step behind. He got the same weird feeling when he passed that one hallway again, but he couldn’t place his finger on what it was. It felt almost...demon. Maybe this family were connected to demons and they had left a feeling behind, which was a bit common. Ark might have felt it too, and had left.
        Later, “Oni, what was so interesting about that other painting?”
        “Ya could see demz in itz, main one too but demz be hidden in background.”
        “What was?”
        “Demons, Hell class onez.”
        “You can tell they were Hell class?”
        “Am mazoku, kinda can tell dese thin’z”
        “I see.”
Privately with Chaonen, the Shadow later said, “The mage is right, Chaonen-daimyou.”
        “I know, that worries me. What are those two?...I don’t think they’re as low class as the seem to act...”
        They spent the rest of the afternoon, looking around Old Town. By evening they had dinner in a nice outdoor restaurant. The air was refreshing, and everything was very pleasant.

        A crash woke everyone up a few nights later. Chaonen was immediately on his feet, clicking on the light. At the far side of the room was now a shattered table that had been previously connected to the wall on the other side, next to where Oni was standing.
She was facing away from them, but they could tell she was mad, extremely mad. Her robes even seemed to flow with her rage in some unfelt breeze.
        “What’s wrong, Oni?” Socara asked, she flinched back when Oni whirled towards her. This seemed to settled Oni out of ripping more things out of the wall, but she was still mad.
        Oni pointed angrily at the empty bed. “He left witout mes,” she hissed, her eyes seemed to glow in the dim light. “Anz da dock he said it was gonna be atz iz fake.”
        “Why does it matter if he lied? He gets the guy and you both get the money,” said Chaonen.
        “Not how’n it goez,” Oni sighed angrily. “Whoever getz da peep getz da money. Bwah, idiot...” She glanced around for a second, then headed for the door.
        “Where are you going?” asked Socara.
        “Whereeva dat jerk be.” She grinned and softly to herself, “can find anyone, anywhere.”
        Down at the docks, at the right pier. Ark was crouched in the shadows, rifle loaded, and leaning against his shoulder as he waited. After while, a lone man walked into view, standing under one of the lights. He wore a long trenchcoat, then was unbuttoned, with a simple gray shirt and pants. He waited a few more minutes, with nothing moving except his tail, until another showed up by car. Out stepped a large man, along with a body guard.
        Ark grinned. He recognized that man immediately. So this must be very important if Mariuc Ivoln was appearing in person. As the exchange went on, Ark quietly moved the sniper rifle and aimed at the body guard, then waited for the one in the trenchcoat to leave. He’d shoot the body guard, then Ivoln in the leg. The driver of the car would surely come out, then be shot, leaving Ivoln alone and injured. After all, he was worth more alive.
        Something made him look up. He swore under his breath, then looked back down at the victims. Oni was mad, but smart enough to know not to make any noises. She lightly landed next her Ark, folding her wings on her back, and looked over his shoulder. “Mes get half da money, or mes ‘ill blow dis fer u,” she whispered into his ear. She look Ark’s hiss as a “yes.” Seeing the one in the trenchcoat about to leave, she snuck down to ground level, then through a stack of empty crates towards the car’s driver.
        Now there was only Ivoln and his people left. Suddenly the body guard went down, blood splattered all over the ground. But the shot hadn’t come from Ark.
        Ark was just as surprised as Oni, but quickly recovered, aimed, and shot Ivoln in the leg. At the same time, the one in the trenchcoat was shot and killed. there was a faint shattering sound as he hit the ground. Ivoln roared in both rage and pain, and stumbled for the car, pulling a gun out of his jacket. Another shot from somewhere killed the driver as he stepped out, even though he was crouched behind the door. Ark shot the tires to the car, then immediately tried to spot the other gunman, but he couldn’t see anyone. Well, whoever it was, he had Oni down there to get Ivoln.
        No one moved for a while except Ivoln, but he wasn’t going to get anywhere. Ark shifted his position to get a better look around. At the same time, a shadow shifted across from him. “There he is,” Ark muttered to himself. He moved back, and jumped to ground level, going around to avoid the other gunman.
        Unfortunately, the other gunman thought of the same thing too. Ark scowled at him. He scowled back. “He’s MINE!” they both yelled at the same time, pointing at Ivoln. “WHAT?! I was here first!”
        Oni sighed from her seat on a crate. She looked at the other gunman. He apparently was a red snake with ear fins and yellow scales the front of his neck leading down to the bottom of his lashing tail. Black gloves covered the palms of his hands, though one was torn. He had a black jacket on and dark gray pants. Black sunglasses covered most of his eyes. Oni looked at him, he had black hair, she looked at Ark, he did too. And they both had red eyes, at the moment at least. They both even had sniper rifles slung over their shoulders. They also had the same enraged expression too. That is until Ark pulled out two semi-automatics from behind his back.
        The other gunman yelped and dove behind a stack of crates, just as Ark opened fire on him. Oni sighed again, disappeared, then reappeared behind Ivoln knocking him unconscious, then sat back to watch the fight. Eventually, the other gunman fired back, but it was apparent that he wasn’t carrying nearly as much as Ark. If he got even close, Oni’d be very surprised. Most people don’t tend to realize that like Oni’s sleeve, Ark had a dimensional pocket in the area by his lower back. And he has a lot of guns, all loaded.
        Sirens could be heard faintly in the distance. Apparently their gunfire had attracted the attention of a patrolman, who had notified the police. “Damn it!” Ark growled in fustration, from his crouch behind a bullet ridden crate too.
        “Take Ivoln with you and I’ll freaking hunt you down!” yelled the other gunman, behind his bullet ridden crate.
        “Got ‘im,” called Oni, dragging Ivoln towards Ark, but keeping near things she could take shelter behind. She looked over to the other gunman, and was surprised that his earfins were now flopped to the side of head and he was staring at her with a look of shock as he saw her for the first time. He suddenly ducked back, then was gone in the darkness. She blinked, then took her leave with Ark.

        Oni quietly slipped back into the inn room, but she didn’t need to. Chaonen, Socara, and Asia were all still awake. She couldn’t hold it in any longer and slipped to the floor with her back against the door, laughing hysterically and kicking her feet. Everyone else thought she had gone insane, more so than usual.

        “Say one word,” was the first thing that Ark hissed to Oni in the morning after he showed up around 8.
        “Wha’? Is na likez we’ve neva had run inz w/ ada mercenaries afta same thin’ beforez,” teased Oni.
        “Argh! I’ll kill him if I ever see him again!” Ark fumed. “No wait....he said if we took Ivoln, which we did, he’d hunt us down. And when he does I can kill him!”
        The rest of the gang watched a giddy Ark from across the table. Oni just had an odd look on her face, and was just glad they were sitting in the corner where Ark was attracting less attention.
        “You both lead...interesting lives,” laughed Chaonen, shaking his head. “So what’s the plan for today? Unless you have another target and we have to stay here again.”
        “Is na,” laughed Oni. “Sorry ‘bout datz.”
        “I thought we’d go look around the theatre district before coming back and changing for the opera tonight. I actually need to go the Auction House there this afternoon. They have an item or two that I’m interested in,” Ark finally managed to say, after a weird fit of laughter. “You guys can go where ever during that time.”
        “I think watching an auction for a little while would be fun,” said Asia.
        “You guys are free to come along too if you want of course,” smiled Ark, looking at Socara, who nodded. “Perfect then.” Finishing his breakfast, they paid and left.

        The Auction House was a very elaborately furnished place with an old Victorian style. Inside, the floor was white marble with four pillars in each corner of the room. There was a lounge area to the sides, but the center floor was covered with chairs in rows for the coming potencial customers. A center stage would be where the items would be displayed.
        They got there just as the auction was starting, so sat in the back. They stood out a bit, compared to the other patrons who were more finely dressed.
        “Greetings ladies and gentlemen. Let us begin. Our first item is this exquisite collection of antique books from Ancient Atlantis origins,” began the Auctioneer. Several people bid for it, going to a very high price until a high bidder was proclaimed. The next item was an old crown meant for “casual” wear of a prince. It still had some of its luster left and a jewel. After that was two paintings, an rare uncarved gem, then a jeweled bracelet before the item Ark was interested in came up. “Our next item is this archaic rifle.” The steward held up a long leather case that was very weather worn. He leaned it forward and opened it carefully so all could see the item. Some patrons motioned him to come closer so they could get a better look. “This is a rifle of unknown origins, but is believed to come from an old kingdom on the Southern continent. As you can see, it is still in good condition, though whether it is functional is not known. Also, it mostly likely was meant mostly for display. Three bullets come with it that are actually older than the gun itself. These aren’t ordinary bullets, but the exact composition is unknown. Shall we begin the bidding at 2,000 credits?”
        “2,000,” said an elderly lady, raising her bidding sign.
        “3,000,” said a man to the side.
        “I have 3,000. Do I hear 4,000?” asked the Auctioneer.
        “4,000,” this one from the front. The bidding went up to 12,000 before things started to settle down. Ark sighed, having said nothing so far.
        “I have 12,000. Do I hear 13,000?” asked the Auctioneer. No one replied or raised their sign. “Going once.”
        “13,000” Ark finally said.
        “I have 13, is there a 14?”
        The gentleman that Ark had upped paused, the said “14.”
        “17,” said Ark.
        “I hear 17,000. An 18?” asked the Auctioneer after another moment of silence. “Going once...twice...sold to the gentleman in the back! Congratulations. Now on to our next item...”
        Ark got up and motioned for the others to come to. Outside, he breathed a huge sigh of relief. “Shards, that went much better than I thought it’d go.”
        “Pricey for a gun, even an antique gun,” said Chaonen.
        “It’s not that gun that’s worth alot. It makes for an ornate display, and possible small usage, but it’s the bullets. I think the other guy had an idea, but not too much,” said Ark, following the wide path that lead to the garden on the side of the house. On the patio were the items that had been bidded for waiting to be picked up.
        “Here you are, sir,” said the steward, handing Ark the case. “Will you need packaging for that?”
        Ark shook his head, walking out farther into the garden where some other patrons were lounging and sipping assorted drinks, Ark from an empty spot under a large flowering tree. Carefully opening the case, he lifted up the gun, turning it over a few times, then placed it back. The bullets he inspected more closely. Closing the case, he strapped it to his back.
        “What a beautiful place,” said Asia, as they walked back to the inn, after looking around the district more.
        “I prefered Point: Zetallis myself,” said Chaonen. “But it is nice here.” In his pocket, he carried a small package containing a gift for Socara that he’d present to her later. The Shadow was sitting on top of it, with its paws on the edge of the pocket and head poking out.
        Arriving back at the inn a bit after dusk, after dinner, they got into there clothes for the opera. They had had to scrounge a bit to find formal clothes for Socara, Asia and also Chaonen.
        “You look lovely, Socara,” said Chaonen, offering her his arm as she stepped out of the room wearing a flowing gown of white that had the hint many other pastel colors with white lace sleeves. A silvery shawl hung around her bare shoulders, and a single jeweled hair ornament decorated her hair that she was wearing down. The raven sat on her shoulder and cawed its agreement.
        “And you look very handsome,” smiled Socara, blushing slightly, taking his arm. Chaonen was wearing the other outfit that he was bought much earlier, much like a fancy version of the older Zetallis fashion, consisting of long robes. Oni took longer, having helped Socara and Asia get into their dresses. Asia, following her background, wore a dress kimono with several layers of silk and laced with black thread in a fashionable way. It consisted mostly of shades of blue, purple and white that matched her multicolored hair. Her hair was up in a bun but with strands hanging down and two black sticks stuck through it.
        While Ark changed in the main room, Oni changed in the bathroom. She didn’t take long, but her personal gown was much more detailed and complicated. It was nearly completely black with close to black blues and purples. It was sleeveless and the bodice was layered lace over black silks that had the hint of feathers embroidered delicately into it. There were several petticoats under the top layer. The rest of the gown was similar with the end trailing a bit. Black thread woven back and forth down her back and hang in two long strands to the floor. A heavy shawl was wrapped lightly over her shoulders. Her hair was layered in a bun with a small jeweled pin. A simple single diamond necklace touched her neck. She also wore her usual earrings.
        Socara smiled and complimented Oni, but she thought she looked almost like a dark angel with the black dress and her white wings. Her dark makeup only heightened the effect. But she did look beautiful in a dark way. Ark stepped out after her. He was simply wearing an elegant black tuxedo, still with his single earring.
        “I took the liberty of calling carriage that should be here in 5 minutes. Socara, Asia, my ladies look exquisite,” Ark smiled.
        Chaonen glanced at Oni, “You look enchanting.” But he wondered what was going on in her mind as she nodded in acknowledgment. Her gaze was high, but distant, and looking straight past Ark. Ark gave her an odd look before they went downstairs, but they said nothing to each other.
        “So, Ark. Tell me. How were you able to obtain such tickets so late?” asked Chaonen as they got into the nonanthro horse-drawn carriage.
        “Didn’t I tell you that it’s a secret a while ago? Well it still is,” grinned Ark, leaning back with his arm over the edge.

        Many other people were arriving at the theatre as they were. Some in limos, taxis, and carriages. Finely dressed stewards opened doors for people as others collected tickets inside the doors. Being one of the newer theatres, the front was actually facing across a small plaza, not the street. The entire front was glass so that you could see all 4 floors and with balconeys. Drinks and programs were being sold and passed out inside with more stewards directing people to their seats. The first floor was all a reception area with musicians playing pleasant music. The floor was covered with a rick red carpet with crystal chandeliers hanging from the cathedral ceiling. An wide, elegant stairway with golden railings lead up to the next floor with another stairway to the next. Each floor had a small bar that would be serving drinks during intermission.
        Ark handed the steward their tickets as they walked in. The steward looked at them then motioned for another steward to come lead them to their seats. The accended the stairs to the third floor, then down a hallway lit by lights on the wall that imitated candle lamps. He opened a door for them that opened to one of the box seats. This one the second from the stage on the left. “Here you are ladies and gentlemen. Would you prehaps like a drink? A bottle of wine perhaps?”
        “One bottle of wine will do,” said Ark.
        “Yes, sir. I will return with your wine and glasses, then again to close your curtains as the opera begins.” He bowed then left, closing the door behind him.
        “Ooooooo~ pretti chairs,” exclaimed Oni, patting one of the fine-back, velvet seated chairs before sitting down on it. There were now 5 chairs in the box, the steward having taken the 6th one and placing it out of the way by the door. A small round table was for whatever the patrons ordered.
        “Box seats, I am very impressed, Ark,” smiled Asia, looking over the railing to the people below. Ark just laughed and sat down in a chair. The steward returned shortly with their wine, pouring out 5 glasses. He returned 10 minutes later to draw the right curtain part way, then the back ones completely. A hush fell over the theatre as the lights dimmed and the opera began.
        The opera was about a prince that fell in love with a peasant girl, but the prince’s betrothed became jealous and proclaimed the girl to be a witch. The rest was about the prince’s daring escape with his true love to the Emperor’s kingdom for sanctuary, but to only die as they reach the borders of their goal. The lead male was played by a semi-handsome ferret/gazelle, while the lead female was a lovely otter/mouse. As it turned out the lead male wasn’t very good and the lead female easily outshown him, though an expert could tell that she was trying to even the field and bring them both up.
        There was an intermission just as the prince proclaimed his love to the girl and deciding for them to run away together. During the intermission, they milled around, then ended up the balconey. Ark, Chaonen, and Oni had bought another drink of their choice.
        “Soca anz Asia like?” Oni asked, replacing a strand of hair that the breeze had loosened.
        “I’m having trouble understanding them, but I like it so far. But the lead male is rather annoying,” said Socara.
        “That’s because they’re singing in Olden Cephtan, and yeah I agree about that guy,” said Ark, sipping his drink. “The girl’s good though, not to mention fine.”
        “Dat all u eva think ‘boutz?” scowled Oni, biting the cherry that was in her drink.
        “No, they think about me, ‘cause I’m too handsome to resist,” said Ark with a pompous look, winking to Socara who giggled. A 2 minute warning was called, so they went back to their box. On the way back, Ark accidently bumped into a Denryu(ampharos) with pale green hair. They apologized to each other then went so their way.
        The rest of the opera went a little better than the beginning. At the end there was a huge applause, especially for the lead female. Some of the secondary roles and extras get much applause too. And apparently others agreed that the lead male wasn’t very good, but somewhat exceptable.
        The carriage was out front to take them back to the inn when they stepped outside. “We’ll meet you guys back at the inn,” said Ark when Socara, Asia, and Chaonen were already seated.
        “What, why?” asked Socara.
        “We have something we need to do real quick before we head back.”
        “We could wait,” said Chaonen.
        “Na dat quickz,” giggled Oni. “Off u guys go~ Is late sleep ‘till mornin’ hai.”

        The lead male, Rurik, yawned and stretched his stiff neck. “Good show, Rurik! Sleep well!” called the lead female as he walked backstage towards the exit. He waved back over his head without looking back. “Back at you!”
        Her door clicked close, and all he could hear was his own footsteps clicking on the floor in the dim lighting coming from far back. As he got closer to the exit door, he could see that was someone was standing a few feet from it. He assumed it was some maintenance personel, but as he got closer and the figure hadn’t moved, he started to wonder. “Who’s there?” he called out. As he got even closer, he could tell that it definitely wasn’t a maintenance personel, maintenance don’t usual wear tuxedos. “Who are you? What are you doing backstage?”
        The person grinned, then took out a piece of paper from his pocket. “Mr. DiSano wished for me to read this to you. Lovely of him to give us tickets by the way. ‘Rurik. I know you have slipped drugs into Marco’s drink so that he’d lose his voice and you’d get his role. You were only the understudy for a reason. This and other grievances that I will not list have disturbed me greatly. I warned you not to cross me again.’”
        Rurik stepped back. “What are you talking about?! I haven’t done anything!”
        “I believe Mr. DiSano also mentioned drug dealings and you taking vast amounts of money from his funds.”
        “Humph, whatever he thinks I have done doesn’t matter. Any theatre production would beg me to play a role for them,” snorted Rurik.
        “You think you’re just being fired?” Ark grinned. “Ya know, if you hadn’t sucked today I just might have felt bad for doing this.”
        Rurik gave Ark a hateful look then turned around to leave another way. He saw a movement in the darkness just before the flash of blade.
        Several days later, the lead male of the recent opera production “Ai Shreng” in Point: Keynata was proclaimed missing.

        Back in Point: Zetallis.
        “Ivoln was captured by mercenaries and his contact was killed.”
        “What of the item?”
        “It was destroyed.”
        “By who?”
        “There two mercenaries. Here, they go under the alias of Malik and Shinra Eldritch by our documents. We don’t know their true identities.”
        “It does not matter who they are. I want them eliminated. That item was essential to our operations.
        “Yes, sir.” He bowed and left.

        Nikrith flittered up to a beam in the only shaft of light around. He thrust that cellphone back into his pouch, cursing that he didn’t know Ark’s cellphone number, only his apartment one. “Ah man, hope you don’t get caught...”

        Oni pressed the button on the answering machine, having just arrived home again. “Ark or Oni or whoever! Call me as soon as you get this message!” said Nikrith’s voice. Oni blinked then dialed his number.
        “’tis be Oni~ wha’s up?”
        “Thank Silence, you have to get out, now! NIGHTMARE’s after you guys and they’ve found out your aliases. A sting is suppose to happen at 3, that’s 1 hour!”
        “Wha’?! Are u sure?!”
        “Would I kid about this?! Now hang up and get out, away somewhere!” Nikrith hung up abruptly, but Oni had already dropped the phone.
        “Ark!” she screamed, then quickly explained everything.
        “Shit...” Ark said, taking a moment for it to sink it. “Uh uh...okay...can’t leave anything behind!” He yelled for everyone else, ripping a temporary dimensional pocket in the air. “Everything, toss in, fast!”
        “What’s going on?” asked Chaonen as he helped Oni shove the couch into the rip.
        “NIGHTMARE found uz outz somehow, gotta get out way before 3, datz when dey suppose ta come, waiii, liked dis place.”
        Chaonen shoved the rest of the couch in, inwardly hoping that he hadn’t lead NIGHTMARE to them, but he couldn’t think of anything else. Oni and Ark didn’t seem like they did anything that would attract NIGHTMARE specifically to them.
        As Asia, Ark, Socara and Chaonen go the larger items, Oni was shoving all the small enough items into her sleeves. The first to go were the magik texts and everyelse in the study. When no one was looking, Ark grabbed the Scion from its hiding place, then tossed the picture into the rip, glad that the magik behind the pockets kept things apart yet together at the same time so nothing was going to break.
        In the middle of all this, Coniau stepped in the door. “What’s going on here?!” She got the explaination yelled at her. “That’s easy.” The puppets popped up and repeated “Easy easy.” As casually brought up her console, typed a few things, putting her entire lab in “storage” like tha pockets, but then got dragged into helping out.
        Asia glanced at the clock, it read 2:13. Later after clearing out the living room, study, and bathroom, she looked at it again. It read 2:13.

        Ark headed down for the garage for his cycle. Everyone else had packs of essentials as well. “Alright, follow Oni and you should be fine,” he said, reving it up. “I’m going to go clear out our accounts. Know where the rendevous point is still?”
        “Bwah, o’ course,” scowled Oni.
        “Well, say goodbye to this place, ‘cause I have no idea what we’re doing from here on.”

End of Chapter 2