Author’s Note and Warning: Make that warning then note^^;; This FANFIC/STORY contains violence, vulgarity, and may contain adult situations(I don’t know yet, unlikely though =P). You have been warned though ‘kay?
Full versions of the illustrations can be found in the art gallery, most will be labeled as an illustration of Emerald and Brass. If you have a sucky and/or slow modem/connection, and don’t wish to view the images then by all means don’t^^. There most likely won’t be that many NEways. And dun bug me ‘cuz you think I’m just jumping the Japanese anime train. I’m an Asian too ya know =P
All characters are (C) the [Zetallis Corporation] This story is (C) Nin’nako Foxie/Oni, need I really say that?^^ There’s a reason I call this a fanfic instead of just a story, many ideas are taken from other games and animes, etc. I don’t claim them as my own. It would be too much of a hassle (and ‘cuz I don’t remember all of them) to list them all and give copyright info or source. So those ideas are given respectively to those companies who claim them.

Emerald and Brass : Part 2
Chapter 3: Making Ends Meet
Documented by Nin’nako Foxie

        “There you are, sir,” Asia said, placing a cup of coffee along with an omelet on the table. “If you need anything else, just ask.” She then picked up her tray and went back to the counter to get the other orders.

        They had arrived in Point: Keynata several days ago and were now staying at the Golden Rim Inn and Tavern, named after it’s golden decorations that hung over the bar in an intricate pattern of vines and leaves. It was a very nice place, not very expensive, but not some trashy place either. And it had a good reputation among the locals. The main color was a rich brown wood color. It’s walls being oak, with wood paneled floors. The bar and counters were cherry wood. Round wooden tables were placed around the room with high backed chairs with cushions on the seat and back. Near the back was a stairwell that wound up to the second floor where the rooms were.
        When they met, then left Zetallis, Ark broke the news that they had no money other than what they carried, which wasn’t much. It would last them a bit but only a few days. Apparently NIGHTMARE had traced their aliases back to their accounts and wiped it clean.
        Fortunately, the inn needed a waitress, which Asia took; after Ark and Chaonen found out that the customers usually treated the waitresses with respect, unlike in most common pubs. Everyone else had to find some other form of income until they figured out where to go from there.
        Chaonen and Socara were able to find some odd jobs together. Coniau was off somewhere, but wasn’t staying with them so they didn’t really care. While Ark tried to confirm his few connections in Keynata. Oni wasn’t having much luck with that either.

        Oni sighed as she walked along a street she hadn’t been down before in the older section of Keynata, on the outskirts of downtown. She couldn’t find any jobs or bounty leads. Ark had managed to get two bounties that was paying for the room and food, combined with Chaonen, Socara, and Asia’s incomes too. She paused on the sidewalk for a moment, then caught site of an interesting little shop tucked away in the plaza she was in. It looked like a weapons shop, but nothing like the one in Zetallis that she frequented. Well, here was a way to make money, though she didn’t want to part with any of her weapons. But she had to pull her weight in the group. What would Socara think of her if she didn’t? Then she had to be at least the same level as Ark if not better. This last thought finalized it, and she walked in.
        A chime on the door announced her arrival. “I’ll be right with you!” called male voice from the back room. Oni looked around. It was a quaint place that looked like they specialized in the “old” weapons,
Swords, spears, knives, etc. But it was horribly messy and disorderly. An elderly Alpaca/eagle came out from the back room. He was beige in color with a fluffy white mustache and hair. His hands were eagle claws, a bit dull from age. A round cap topped his head and he wore a simple robe of green with yellow borders with matching pants. He looked up at Oni from his hunched position. “Good afternoon, madam. How may I help you?”
        “Wellz, mes wanna sell some weapons.” She hunched down behind the counter so he couldn’t see that she was pulling them from her sleeve.
        “Alright, let’s see what you’ve got.”
        Oni laid out three swords on the counter. One was rather ornate and half meant for show, even a small jewel was in the hilt. The other was a long, double-edged sword that resembled a Claymore, but slightly different. The last was a short blade with a antiqued hilt that resembled a dragon. The old shopkeeper hmmed as he looked over the weapons. “Oh my,” he said, looking more carefully at the Claymore lookalike. “Dare I say, is this what I think it is?”
        “One o’ da few made by da weaponmakers o’ da Skimhk village o’ Southern bought’nz 3000 yrs ago.”
        “And oh my, this one?” he asked, referring to the short blade.
        “Old relic fromz da people who maintain’d da temple protectin’ a Rift ta Dark Realm offa Atlantis’ barren region.”
        “Oh my, oh my. These should be in a museum, not this run down shop. I’m afraid I cannot pay you the value for these treasures.” He muttered over the weapons, lightly touching them with an expert hand. “Ah, were it the old days still.”
        “So ya’n na gonna buyz?” Oni asked, disappointed.
        “I cannot, madam. But my I be so bold as you ask why you wish to sell such treasures. You obviously know the true value.”
        “Rather be needin’z money,” Oni coughed, reaching to gather up the swords.
        “Wait…this shop doesn’t make the money it used to, but I grow older everyday. I could use an assistant. You would work morning and afternoon hours. Ending before the sun sets. The pay isn’t high but still considerable.”
        Oni looked down at him and quirked an eyebrow. So much for her odd sleeping hours.

        The market wasn’t as busy this time of day, while Ark, Oni, and Asia walked along the street with vendors on both sides. “Wai~!” Oni shouted, pointing then trotting off in the direction she had pointed to. Ark and Asia followed her to the place by the riverside where seafood was being sold. There were people everywhere. One of the attractions of this market was the way they sold fish. If you wanted fresh seafood, you came here. For it was fresh because it was all alive until you cooked it. What was great was that for a low price, the vendor could take your stuff to an associate resturant right there, with tables, that would prepare it for you for a low price.
        “Wow,” exclaimed Asia, looking around with Oni. They stopped in front of one of the vendors. He stood on the edge of the tank, scooping jumping shrimp into a bag for his customer. The way the tanks were situated were that they were in a staircase formation with water constantly running into the top tanks, which then would over flow through holes to the layer tanks, and so on and so on until it flowed into the gutter. They ended up getting a fish for dinner that they could cook in the inn’s kitchen.
        They walked around a while longer, looking for other items they needed to get until they ended up at the edge of the market. Ark and Oni sat in the shade while Asia bought some fruit. Oni glanced over to see what Ark was looking at. At first she couldn’t tell, but then realized that he was watching a particularly pretty antelope/cat. She scowled and looked elsewhere, scratching an itchy spot on her ear.
        A red snake with black hair walked into her line of vision. He looked familiar. Ark noticed him a moment after Oni. He got up slowly, heading for his direction. Oni followed a few steps behind. The snake was walking with a small watermelon sling over his back in a white strung net. He seemed a bit skiddish and was looking the other way when he accidently bumped into the antelope/cat Ark was admiring earlier. What was odd was that he yelped, leaped back a good distance, bowed quickly with apologizes then turned and bolted into Ark who was standing right behind him. Oni had retreated back into the shade from the hot sun.
His expression changed from fearful into anger in stages, while Ark just grinned at him. “Hey there!” Ark exclaimed, stepping to the side and slinging an arm around his shoulders. “How are ya doing?”
The snake adjusted his crooked sunglasses and glared at Ark. “Congrats, you managed to hunt me down!” Ark continued before the snake could say anything. The snake stood there for a moment with his mouth hanging open in mid-word. Oni thought it was so cute how his ears flopped to the side when he seemed confused or scared.
“What?! You want to die or something?” he exclaimed, pushing away from Ark.        
“Just want to see how good you are!” Ark shouted, punching him hard in the face. The snake stumbled backwards into the shade, dropping his watermelon onto Oni’s lap. Having not noticed he threw himself to the side to avoid Ark’s next attack and was immediately back on his feet, lunging at Ark. He got one hit in but the other was blocked, then ducked another kick was Ark.
        Ark shook a piece of table that he had just destroyed from his boot and swung at the snake. But the snake dodged it, flipping agilely backwards to a safer distance. Ark took note that he was very flexible by the looks of it. Swinging back, Ark shifted into a fighting stance as did the snake. Grinning, Ark gave a Bring-it-on motion. The snake was about to lunge forward when Oni suddenly tapped him on the shoulder. He stumbled and fell on his face. Grumbling he pushed himself off the ground into a squatting position, dusting his Keynatan style clothes, then turned around staring at Oni’s uh…thighs. Okay, black. Now more black with a very thin supple waist. He started to get nervous, afraid to look any higher. But he gulped and did.
        Even though he was already red, Oni could tell that he was blushing like mad. She tilted her head in confusion. “Wai, Ark. Wha’ ya doin’z fightin’ in market. Dat not be good,” she said, looking over to Ark. Ark just grinned, wiping sweat off his face with an eye that was starting to turn blue and purple.
        Back on the ground, the snake was sweating in nervousness and squeeked a “Yes?”
        “Mister dropped his watermelon,” said Oni, holding his watermelon out for him.
        “Thanks,” he squeeked, glancing veryvery quickly at her face before he bolted, with his watermelon.
        “Wow, he runs very fast,” commented Asia, from the edge of the crowd that had gathered.
        “Awwww, he such a cutie peep,” Oni grinned.
        “Pansy,” said Ark.

        Socara wiped the sweat off her face and looked at the job she had just completed. Placing the paintbrush down she stepped back and checked on how Chaonen was doing, who was muttering to himself with a mouth full of nails and trying to hammer them into the roof. Not having thumbs really sucked sometimes, nailing shingles to the roof was one of those times. The Shadow tried to help was much as it could but that just turned out to be holding the next nail for Chaonen. It didn’t seem too happy about the situation. The Raven simply sat on the edge of the roof watching them, not like it could help much anyways. Chaonen cursed through nails as he realized he had accidently hammered his shirt tail with the shingle. He cursed somemore as he tried to pry the nail back up so he wouldn’t have to rip his clothes too much.
        “Doing alright Chaonen?” Socara asked from below.
        “Absolutely,” he said back. “Mind handing me more shingles?”
        Socara grabbed a bundle of shingles and climbed the ladder to the roof of the one floor shop, then cut the rope binding them for him. “Thanks,” he said. “How’re you doing?”
        “Just finished the second coat of paint, it’s drying right now.”
        “Hopefully we can finish before the noon sun,” Chaonen said, hammering a shingle. “You checked about our payment right?”
        Socara nodded. “I should be done soon, then I can help you. We should be done by today, and collect our payment.”
        “Great,” said Chaonen, the Shadow handed him another nail.
        “Do you ever worry about what is going to happen to us, Chaonen?” Socara asked, getting the extra hammer.
        “What do you mean?”
        “I mean, we can’t stay here forever, living on odd jobs. What if NIGHTMARE is still after us?”
        “Don’t worry about such things. It’ll get us nowhere.”
        “Yeah, you’re right,” sighed Socara, hammering in a shingle. Chaonen paused and looked at her.
        No, I take that back. Worrying needs to be done, but not by you,” he said after a moment, causing Socara to look up at him. Then with a laugh he added, “I say we leave that to Ark.”
        “Aw, come on! That’s no fair,” Socara giggled, shoving playfully at Chaonen. “You know he’s been lieing,” she said, her voice more serious.
        “About what?”
        “That he just catches dinner or whatever while out. He hasn’t been eating for days at least. I think Oni’s been doing the same thing, but she just doesn’t say anything and she’s never around when we’re eating. I think the only thing they’ve eaten is that fish they brought back.”
        “It’s their way to save money I guess. Take it as a gift and don’t mention it to anyone,” sighed Chaonen. “Trust me.”

        Ark leveled his gun on the first target he’s had for a while. He pulled the trigger, then shouted in rage at a particular fellow who was doing the same. Down on the floor was a corpse with a bullet through his forehead, another through his heart.

        Oni sighed as Ark snarled bloody murder into Terrall’s face as they fought over a corpse that had been shot twice at the same time.

        Oni wondered why the authorities were always stingy when two people claimed the reward for a bounty at the same time, as she minded the counter at her job. She hadn’t told anyone that she had a steady job, and didn’t plan on it, oddly afraid of what might happen.
        She was taking a break from sorting weapons. This shop had a lot more then she thought. She even found a sword shoved behind the toilet in the bathroom. Then she found an unused toilet with a TV in it, but that was just random. Her first day on the job was completely taken up by flying weapons. That was her way of sorting a mess of stuff, which indeed what this shop was. How people ever found what they wanted was beyond her. But she started to find the most interesting things. Old old weapons of great significance and once of power, maybe even still. Even some objects that could almost rival relics. There was more to this shop then what met the eye, but it was not her job to care, so she didn’t and went about what her job did entitle.
        Rekig, her employer wasn’t around for most of the day. He stayed in the back rooms and workshops, usually coming up front when it was close to dawn. The shop also happened to be his home with the far back rooms being his living area. Sometimes during lunch hours, he come up and have tea with Oni.
        Most of her days went without incident, but also very few customers. Apparently this shop did have some regular customers, they were surprised to she her instead of Rekig, but did comment on the neatness and organization of the place. Oni had done a jig and hung off the ceiling light when she finally finished sorting, categorizing, cleaning, and displaying of every weapon in the place.
        Today however was a bit different. It was close to sunset, when two people came in. Rekig hadn’t showed up yet to take over so she stayed, asking the two if they needed help. One came up to her, a yellowed eyed and blonde haired man of a mix she couldn’t tell. He placed a slender sword on the counter. “I want 9000 credits for this,” he said in a rough commanding voice. Oni didn’t like him very much. He looked like a mean guy and seemed to be so as well with his movements and actions.
        “6000,” she said, after looking it over. It was a fine sword, but he had over priced it, now she was under pricing it.
        “8000 and you will take it, and don’t give me any crap about not having the money,” he commanded.
        “No,” said Oni, pushing the sword back to him. He glared at her, then suddenly grabbed her by the collar and lifted her off her feet, cutting off her air. Before she could choke back an answer, Rekig hurried in and pulled her down.
        “We will pay,” he said quickly. Then to Oni, “I will see you tomorrow morning.” He gave her a look, it wasn’t mean or commanding but more of a plead to leave without incident. She nodded and left through the back, noticing that it was will past sunset. Walking out around front, she saw someone slip into the shop, that now had it’s shades drawn and looked like it was closed. The person she had just saw a glimpse of had moved oddly, that and the fact the door was only open an inch as it had slipped in. Oni didn’t wonder. It wasn’t part of her job.
        As she walked back to the inn, she bumped into Ark who was also walking back. “What are you doing here?” they both asked at the same time, of course the way Oni said it was a bit different. “None of your business,” was the replies. Their stomaches also growled at the same time. They looked at each other sheepishly. “You too?” Sighing, they walked together. Too hungry and tired to argue even if it only was early evening.
        Behind them, crossing the street in the other direction, was that rude customer Oni had clashed with. He was still fuming at her insolence. Glaring at her, he caught sight of Ark’s face, but then they rounded the corner, out of sight. Revenge in mind, he walked on.

        A week later.

        Chaonen stared out the window as the rain fell. The spring rains had come a bit late this year. He assessed his situation, alone in the room except for the Shadow. Now, he knew what he wanted to do. He also knew that he’d need Oni and Ark’s help to do it, but all too likely they wouldn’t be willing at all. Speaking of Ark, he hadn’t come back for two days.
        The Shadow whirled around his head and settled on his shoulder, a paw resting on the side of his head. Chaonen stroked it, and it gave him a look. “So I’ll just have to manipulate them,” Chaonen said to the Shadow. He got up from his seat, he had someone to find.

        “Ya got weirdie peoplez at store at nightz,” Oni yawned, as she help Rekig open shop.
        “What do you mean?” he asked, looking surprised.
        “Like dat icky blonde demon!” Oni exclaimed, wiping a smudge off the window.
        Rekig hoped that what she meant by demon was a general jerk. “Sometimes a tough customer comes in. All we can do is be polite and hope they do not cause a ruckus.”
        “Guess so,” Oni said. Rekig went into his workshop and closed the door behind him. Oni spent most of the morning doing the usual polishing and dusting when that “icky blonde demon” and a buddy came in, slamming the door open rather hard. Even the bell on it seemed to protest.
        He leaned on the counter, his face just inches away from hers. “How’n may mes help u todai?” Oni asked politely, quite calm.
        “I just wanted to apologize for how rude I was a week ago,” he said, leaning back. “And I wanted to deliver this for you. I ran into a friend of yours, and he wanted me to give you this.” He fished something out of his pocket and handed it to Oni. She looked at the earring in her hand. A silver hoop with a round blue crystal bead. The blonde smirked, taking her silence as shock. Leaning close again, “Don’t cross me, girl or you’ll be the next one dead.”
        “He’s not dead,” she said, still not looking up.
        He reached over to lift her chin up so he could see her face when he said “No one could survive what we did to him.” His hand never made it. Oni grabbed it before he could touch her.
        “Mes am da onli one dat getz ta kill himz, demon,” she said, her voice flat. The blonde yelled outloud, trying to pull his hand out of her crushing grip. He never knew what hit him. Next thing he knew, he was on the floor, a foot slowly applying pressure to his neck, a blade purple with his blood. He looked up at her in surprise, then horror when he couldn’t move her with all his might and power. In a very low whisper, just loud enough for him to hear, a sadistic grin crossing her face, “Sometimes…mes wish datz demonz had soulz. Could make foolz like u suffer so much morez.” She aimed her free hand down at him.
        Rekig stepped in a moment later. “Did someone come in?” he asked, looking around but seeing no one. “I thought I had heard the door bell.”
        “Sorries,” Oni said, “mes lost ya a customer.” Oni looked out the window. It hadn’t stopped raining for two days. “Can mes take da rest o’ da dai offz?”
        “Of course,” said Rekig, puzzled, but not questioning as Oni went outside, opening her umbrella.

        Ark was in pain. A lot of pain. He wanted to scream in rage, but then he’d be much worse off. He probably couldn’t fill his lungs with that much air even if he tried. So he swore in his mind instead, like he’d been doing the last two days, when he was conscious at least.
        At least he took out most of them. Though he’d missed the one he really wanted. He stared blankly over the area where two days ago, 20 minor demons and their “leader” ganged up on him, for no reason he could tell. Even though they were minor demons, 20 is still a lot for someone off his guard. Good thing that lesser demons’ bodies disappeared when they died, or a lot of attention be attracted here. Ark didn’t need that.
        They had left him for dead, the two left alive. Leader and underling, thinking that he’d actually die from the wounds. Not likely. It took a lot more than this to kill him, but it still sucked all the same. Unfortunately in his weakened state from lack of food and sleep, he wasn’t healing so well. Most of his energy was focused on keeping him conscious. An added bonus was the demon poisons that now ran through his blood. Buggers had all laced their claws and weapons with different types of demon made poisons. Much harder to purge than normal poisons. Then there was all his broken bones, some can’t heal fully until he or someone sets them back in their places. Oh, and can’t forget the damn rain. So there he was. Bleeding still, barely conscious, in a hell load of pain, and freaking wet. He was sure he’d catch some disease like pneumonia and die from that or something. Can’t forget his urge to vomit everytime he moved even in the slightest. But that’d knock himself for a loop. It’d probably be all blood anyways, he didn’t have any food in his stomach to retch up.
        People didn’t come here much. It wasn’t in a very good part of the city either. He didn’t quite get why no one came here. It was a nice park. At least he’d been able to keep out of sight from under the overhanging he had crawled under after he woke up.
        Someone was walking towards him. All he could see was a black skirt moving back and forth with her stride. The feet stopped next to him. Oni bent down and looked under the overhanging. “Still wit mes?”

        Oni and Ark appeared in the room. The teleportation jarred Ark enough that he vomited blood onto the floor, just missing Oni. He went completely limp, with Oni still hanging on to him she maneuvered him to the couch and laid him there. No use in getting him to his bed, he’d soak it with his wet clothes and fur. That wouldn’t help. Grabbing a small piece of wood from the fireplace side, she stuck it in his mouth so he could bite on it. “Dis iz gonna hurt likez Hell,” she said, suddenly snapping his limp arm back into it’s socket. He gritted his teeth, biting back his yell of pain. Blood dripped from the side of his mouth. “Dis one tooz.” Snap. More pain. “Wow, diz one gonna be worse.” Ark collapsed as she suddenly literally snapped his leg bone back into it’s place from here it was slightly stucking out from his skin.
        “Mouth openz.” Two pills fell into his open mouth. “Swallow.” He did, not even caring what they were. They could kill him and he didn’t care right then. “Open againz.” He did, and she lifted his head slightly, putting a small bottle to his lips. “Drinkz.” That he did, and started to feel a bit better already. She had actually gone out and bought some potions for him. He started to feel groggy too and the pain dulled considerably. Pain killers, he thought before she cast the sleep spell on him.
Oni looked at the sleeping Ark. Now what? She wasn’t gonna be the one to undress him and get him in dry clothes.
        Chaonen found a fire in the fireplace when he returned in the evening, despite the fact that the room did have a heater. Point: Keynata was not some dark age city. Oni was roasting marshmallows on a stick she had gotten from somewhere. Ark was in bed, semi-ly covered in bandages in areas that Oni didn’t need to remove his clothes to do so.
        The saurian stumbled a step backwards when Oni launched herself at him, landing squarely with her feet planted on his chest and grabbing his collar. She was basically standing on him. “Finalliez! U go bandage him upz,” she said, shoving a roll of bandages in one of his hands. “Yeesh, wish u came sooner. Took mes forevz ta dry him outz…eww…malez anz dere icki…male partz.”
        “So…what happened here? And do you mind getting off, this is rather uncomfortable,” Chaonen said from his bent backwards position. Oni hmmed and hopped off, shoving him in Ark’s direction.
        “Whoa, he got thrashed pretty bad,” commented Chaonen, wrapping a bandage around Ark’s chest.
        “I did not…” muttered Ark, weakly supporting himself with the bedrail. “I’m so gonna pass out.”
        “Fevers made you feel that way,” said Chaonen.
        “I know that,” snapped Ark, breaking into a fit of coughing.
        “Pneumonia too.” They sat in silence as Chaonen bandaged the rest of Ark’s wounds. Oni ignored them, munching on her marshmallows that she tried to eat slowly so it seemed like they were more. First food she’s had in days and it’s fluffy white sugar. “You need to eat too.”
        “What are you? My keeper?” Ark snarled. He gritted his teeth when Chaonen pulled a bandage extra hard in response.
        “Want anything to eat, Oni?” asked Chaonen, heading for the door. “I’m going to go done and get something from Socara and Asia.
        “Oni’s good,” she said from her plopped position on the couch.
        “If you say so,” said Chaonen. To his Shadow, “You stay here and watch Ark.” Closing the door behind him, he jumped half the flight of stairs and sauntered down the rest. Asia was taking orders from a table, so Chaonen went to Socara who was washing dishes.
        “Hey, Chaonen,” Socara smiled, as he leaned on the counter and smiled back at her.
        “Ark and Oni are actually going to have dinner with us tonight,” he said.
        “That’s great. It’s been so long since we’ve ate together. All of us working so much and all.”
        “I agree. I’m sure Oni and Ark feel just the same way. Ark met with some mishap, by the way, so he’ll be staying at the inn for a few days or so. But nothing to worry about really.” Chaonen smiled again. “Have I mentioned how beautiful you look today?”
        “How can I look beautiful while washing dishes?” laughed Socara.
        Chaonen shrugged. “I find that you have many wonderful talents.” Socara paused for a moment, feeling a sudden chill, but then shook her head. “Ideas on dinner for tonight?”
        “Oh! How could I forget? Asia was speaking with the boss today and apparently his oldest daughter is getting married tomorrow. He was in such a good mood he said he’d let us have dinner for free tonight as long as we cooked and cleaned everything ourselves.”
        Chaonen whistled in surprise. “This is good news indeed. When do we get to do this?”
        “He’s closing early tonight so he can catch his flight, so around 8 I think.”
        “I’ll go get them, we’ll help you two clean up.” Chaonen went back to the room, easily jumping half the stairs. Which is quite a feat with stairwells. He found Ark asleep with the Shadow and Oni having a conversation next to him. The Shadow had gathered a bowl of cool water and washcloth that was now laying across Ark’s forehead as he slept. Oni was chatting with it as it floated in slow circles. Chaonen wondered what they were talking about. She batted playfully at it and it tugged on her hair.
        “Now what are you two chattering about?” he asked.
        “Oni has given me a nickname, Chaonen-daimyou,” the Shadow said, flipping backwards lazily.
        “What might that be?”
        “Eizou,” grinned Oni, pointing at the Shadow. “Eizou cutie. Is betta den “Hey u!”” The Shadow puffed itself up in pride as she said that.
        “Eizou, fitting,” Chaonen smiled. “Come on, we’re gonna go have dinner.” He offered a hand to Oni. The Shadow stayed behind to look after Ark.
        “Butz Oni dun really…” she weakly protested as Chaonen lead her down the stairs.
        “Look, you need to eat. I appreciate this and all, but it’s not good for you.” Chaonen grinned. “Besides, it’s all free.” He chuckled as Oni drooled.

        They had dinner in their room so Ark could eat with them as well. He sat on the couch, wrapped in a blanket eating with passion. Oni had tried to eat at a slow pace so she could keep up with the conversation, but hunger took over and she was rivaling Ark. The two finished off anything that the others hadn’t eaten.
        Ark went back to sleep, after a violent fit of coughing hit him and when Asia noticed that he had trouble keeping balance even when sitting, despite his protests that he was fine.
        “How have you been Oni,?” asked Socara, leaning lightly on her shoulder. “We’ve all been so busy we’ve barely had time to talk lately.” She looked over at Ark. Softly, “It was really good of you to help Ark out. I was beginning to worry when he didn’t come back. Had a bad feeling.”
        “If Soca wanna Oni ta be nice ta Ark, Oni’ll!” Oni said enthusiastically.
        “I’d like that. We can all be one big happy family.”
        “NEthin’ fer Soca!”
        Chaonen listened silently, gazing lovingly at Socara. The girl had a way with people, how she drew them to her without even trying or realizing it. He was one of those people, but he didn’t mind. Turning to Asia, he started a soft conversation with her as he poured the tea.

        Socara woke up around 3. Everyone else was still asleep. She wondered why she had woken up. Sound from Ark’s bed attracted her attention. Getting up with her blanket wrapped around her, she went over to check on him. The Shadow was having trouble keeping the cloth on Ark’s forehead as he tossed and turned in a fevered delirium. He was muttering incoherently in his sleep, but she caught a phrase or two. “No, no…there’s still Time…” Not understanding, she placed her hand on his forehead, to help the Shadow. Oddly, the mage calmed down a moment after she touched him, falling into a more restful sleep. “Sleep well, Ark,” she whispered, adjusting his blankets. Just about to get back into bed, she hesitated, going to Chaonen’s bedside. She kissed him gently, so as not to wake him, then returned to sleep herself.
        She woke up early in the morning, rubbing the sleep from her eyes and yawning. “Good morning. Socara,” said Asia from her seat on her side of the double bed, adjusting her waitress uniform.
        “Good morning, Asia,” she replied quickly, when Ark stirred but did not wake.
        “Are you going job-hunting with Chaonen again?” She also said this more quietly.
        Socara nodded, “No dishes for me today.” Asia giggled.
        “Good luck.” And Asia was out the door. Socara looked over at Oni’s empty bed, wondering where she went so early in the morning. Chaonen was adjusting his knee brace over his pants. He yawned, not having slept much. “Oh, I’ll check on Ark every so often as well, so don’t you two worry,” Asia said, popping back in, then back out. Socara felt relieved, and the Shadow would be with him too, so he should be alright.
        “Where to today?” she asked, grabbing her clothes to change.
        “Remember that shop we did the roof for and painted a while ago? I think I saw a help wanted sign near there the other day. Maybe we should check it out.” Chaonen left out the part that it looked like it was only a one person job that Socara could do and be safe. He still needed to find someone.

        Chaonen had had his own dreams that night. The first thing he could remember was the white figure in front of him with emerald green eyes. Eyes widening in shock, he fell to his knees. “But why-“ he stopped when he realized he had no voice. Everything was in a complete silence.
        The white figure stood gazing at him, then white dragonic wings flared from her back. No no, screamed Chaonen’s mind, that wasn’t right. He stumbled to his feet, pain shooting through his left knee. Limping badly he tried to get away. A battle torn field opened up before him, bodies and weapons littered the ground, but no blood. He found this very disturbing.
        The back of his mind murmered that this was a dream. But what if it’s a vision or something? Asked another part of it. The scene shifted to a castle that was slightly familiar. He then recognized it to be that castle he “woke” up in before he came back to Cephta. People with no concrete forms milled around him. There was a blue hedgehog and a brown squirrel thing in their mists. They too were blurred but their eyes were clear with despise and hate, towards him.
        His knee was really hurting now that he was forced to sit down. Then Socara was there, in the bed with him. She was screaming screams that he couldn’t hear, but could vividly see as he raped her. Half his mind loved the control he had over her and hungered for more. The other half could simply watch in horror.
        “It’s a dream, a dream….” He pleaded with himself to wake up because he knew what he was going to do next, and he couldn’t bare to see her hurt, especially like that.
        Chaonen woke up. But after his dreamself feasted on her blood. Feeling very disturbed from that last scene, he stumbled out of bed. He practically forced his knee brace back on. The Shadow floated up to him, concern in eyes that only Chaonen could see.
        “Chaonen-daimyou…” it murmured, wrapping itself around his neck. For it dreamed whatever Chaonen dreamed.
        Opening the door, they left for outside. Chaonen needed to clear his head and think things over.
        Despite the irratic rate, Ark’s contributions to the group were much needed. Him being still sick and healing from his wounds and poisons, left the group in a predicament.

        “Word is is that you have a new girl working for you,” said the serpentine woman who sat on the counter, her wispy see-through lower body swing idly back and forth. “So what’s she like?”
        “Well, she is a nice girl. I believe she may be a purebred. Dresses all in black. Has a strange speech impediment though,” said Rekig, polishing a half-axe that had just been shipped to him.
        “Oh, perhaps you can introduce me and I’ll teach her how to speak,” she grinned. “How old does she look?”
        “Around her late teens.”
        “A little too young for my tastes, but if she’s nice enough maybe I’ll make an exception.”
        “You do not even know if she prefers the company of woman,” said Rekig.
        The serpent/jaguar ghost grinned. Switching subjects. “Aicres been missing of late. Not like I like that minor demon or anything.”
        “I believe she killed him.” The ghost looked in surprise at the old shopkeeper. “I only think this because I came in right after she killed him. Barely any magic residue was left and it faded away almost immediately. She had had a bad run in with him before, he may have hade come back to torment her more since I would be in back during mornings.”
        “Well, old one! Why don’t you have her work nights?” she humphed. “Shards, for one thing she knows her weapon types and how to organize so much better than you, old one.”
        “Would you have me organizing more than fulfilling my customers’ orders?” replied Rekig. He had her on that one. With a loud laugh, she slid off the counter and went to chat with vampiric lesser-banshee.

        Head propped against her palm, Oni tried not to nod off. Mornings were boring as Hell, barely anyone ever came in. Afternoons were better, especially since now people had an easier time looking and browsing for what they wanted with things not in random piles anymore. She didn’t even have anything to read and mornings were not meant for doodling.
        “Oni,” called Rekig was back. “Would you help me with this new shipment?”
        “Comin’z.” She hopped off her stool and went back to help him out. Rekig was struggling with rather large, long crate. She immediately jumped in, grabbing what looked like the heavier end. They set it down on the work table and Oni pried it open with a crowbar. Inside, wrapped in layers and layers of cloth along with them styrophoam peanuts was a very deadly looking blade that shown in the light.
        “Ah, it is beautiful is it not?” Rekig carefully removed the blade from its protective wrappings. “An old friend of mine in Ciktwue crafted this.” Oni whistled in awe.
        “Can Oni work nightz too?” Oni suddenly asked out of nowhere.
        Rekig was caught off guard, switching subjects so fast. But Oni looked as if it was normal to do so. “What was that?”
        “Can Oni work nightz too?” she repeated exactly the same. “Ermmm..kinda be needin’ morez money…good cause realliez.”
        “May I ask this cause?”
        “Anz ermm…associate… o’ minez gotz alla thrash’d byz meanie demonz, can’t work Nemorez right nowz anz mine famili anz mes kinda uh runnin’ lowz wit da stuffz oh yeah food.”
        Rekig quirked an eyebrow. How odd events seemed to go. Glad he had already thought this through, he replied, “Yes you may. I have been getting more customers at night so perhaps it is wiser if you were to work Afternoons and nights instead.” Oni’s ears flopped down. “I think you deserve a raise as well, not too much mind you, but if would be as if you worked morning, afternoon, and night.” Rekig smiled. “My regulars have been saying good things on what you’ve done with the shop. And most certainly it’s taken a load of my own shoulders.”

        The screaming and angry berating echoed of the walls. Chaonen thought that people would be very glad indeed that the walls were soundproof if they knew of all the noise that was coming out of Coniau’s mouth at the moment. She stopped her berating of him, as did her puppets, and waited for his response. Glaring “I’m waiting” into his him. Silence fell over the lab as Chaonen waited for the ringing in his ears to stop.
        “That’s it?”
        “That and oh Silence my ears.”
        “Well that’s what you get for jumping me!(jumping jumping!)” humphed Coniau, crossing her arms and turning away.
        “I didn’t jump you. I was standing right here, quite calmly in fact.”
        “But how did you get in?! There’s security and stuff and my door chime didn’t even ring! So therefore you jumped me!”
        “I said good morning. How is that jumping you?”
        “But you appeared outta nowhere!”
        “I did not. Shadows could be a more correct term.”
        Coniau glared in rage at him. “Fine! What do you want?”
        “Just our little scientist to come home,” grinned Chaonen, leaning over her computer console to look at her.
        “I like it right here! Took me forever to be accepted. Of course it was easy after I showed them some of my great accomplishments but still! I don’t need you crazy people with Oni’s quirks, Ark’s messed up head, Asia’s cooking along with her lovely company and you and Socara’s(don’t need don’t need).”
        Chaonen smirked at her, looking directly into her eyes. She broke down. “Oh okay I lied. I miss you all! Take me back!”
        “I don’t know. You hurt us deeply when you just left us,” Chaonen teased.
        “You’re so mean!”
        “Maybe if you did me a little favor I’ll do the best I can.”
        “Hey, what sort of favor?”
        “An easy one for someone like you,” Chaonen said. Still playing with her. He handed her a piece of paper along with a photo. “I need to have a rather large bounty placed on this man. He needs to be brought in alive. That’s the easy part. The hard part is that I need the official approval and seal by The McAuthor Guild, a rather prodominate and secretive guild, or it won’t seem valid.”
        “Why this guy?” Coniau asked, looking at the photo.
        “I did some of my own research and think he’ll have some rather important information I need.”
        “Alright. This shouldn’t be hard at all.” Coniau cracked her knuckles and set to work.
        “Ah yes. I need the file on a display tablet. I only need our mages to see it, so make the bounty as enticing but realistic as you can.”
        “He’s kinda cute,” said Coniau, placing the photo and a denryu with pale green hair on her console.

        AAAAAAHHH!! That was the general sound of the scene. Ark pointed madly at Coniau who was pointing madly back at him. His vision was wavering again, having relapsed back into a high fever, but right now he was in a horrified shock.
        Chaonen sighed from his seat on the couch next to Oni. “If everyone will calm down,” Asia said slowly. This wasn’t going exactly as planned. Okay, Coniau bursting through the door in a “triumphant” return wasn’t such a good idea, but still.
        A banging on the wall from the person next door quieted them down a bit. “Glugh…”Ark wheezed, clutching at his chest. “What makes you think that you can just pop in and out on us and increase our bill!?”
        “Are you so cheap?!” Coniau snapped back. “And here I was, missing all you guys, when Chaonen begged me to come back, and this! Is all I get!” Chaonen made a weak protest of ‘hey…’ But Ark cut her off before she could say more.
        “Right right, we’re blessed by your damn presence. But if you haven’t noticed, we’re homeless and running out of money! We don’t need some freeloader!” Now he was coughing hard again.
        “Enough, Ark please,” Socara murmured, sitting on the edge of his bed, trying to keep him steady. “It’s really not that serious. I think both of you just got off on the wrong foot, again. And you will go to sleep. Now. You can’t even sit up on your own and I bet you’re vision is blurring.” She said the last few sentences quickly so only Ark could hear.
        Ark sighed, trying to calm down. “Fine…Yea…yea everything’s just fine.”
        “Temper is worse then ever,” commented Coniau, after Ark had gone to sleep with help from a sleep spell. “Umm…sorry.”
        “We’re all stressed,” said Asia. “Tempers tend to be short when stressed.”
        “Well, here is something that should help (help help).” Coniau pulled a digital display tablet from her pocket. “I caught sight of this and thought of your guys.” She handed it to Oni, who looked it over very quickly, then paused, and looked it over more slowly.
        “Guess someone piss’d off da McAuthor Guild againz,” she said, handing it to Chaonen, who looked it over before handing it to Socara and Asia. “A lot o’ money thoughz, howz like dat guild.”
        “We haven’t been able to find a large bounty in quite a while,” said Asia. “But the bounty isn’t local. What will we do if, all too likely, this man isn’t in Keynata?”
        “We’ll figure it out,” said Chaonen.

        Several days later, Ark slowly sat up from the bed. He felt his forehead. It was at its normal temp. All of his wounds were mostly healed now, and his immune system had purged all of the poisons. The only thing that had been bugging him still was his fever, and now that was gone. Sniffles he could deal with.
        It was early evening, when Ark got out of bed and dressed. Everyone else was out, of course. He sat down heavily on the couch, head in his hands. Ark was depressed, very depressed. “Damn it.”
        Actually, everyone was not out. Chaonen and Eizou had been sitting in the shadows, when Ark had awoken. Chaonen had been lost in thought, unconsciously fading into the shadows, so Ark hadn’t seen him. He watched Ark though half-open eyes.
Ark suddenly stood up, very angry with himself. Half-way to the door he stopped and punch the clock on the wall. His head was down and eyes shaded. Chaonen had trouble telling his exact emotions. Glass tinkled as they shattered even more so on the floor. Ark slowly lifted his head, face devoid of emotion, removing his hand from the shattered clock face. As he did so, the hands fell off. The saurian watched surprise, for Ark suddenly looked panicked.
“There’s still Time, there’s still Time…” he said, over and over, trying to place the clock hands back on the clock. When he managed to get the clock hands to stay, he backed away slowly, afraid they would fall off again. Then he ran out the door.
Chaonen got up and followed him. Ark wandered aimlessly in the streets, trying to clear his head and think straight, but he was having a hard time. If he wasn’t angry, he was depressed, even scared. That kept switching around. Too busy with his own emotions, he didn’t notice Chaonen at all, when he normally would have gotten at least an idea he was being followed.
        “Worthless fool,” said Ark’s depressed self. “Worthless and weak. Damn damn damn.” Of all the times he could have been sick or wounded he had to be both at the same time when they were on the brink of poverty. It was his job to provide for them, maybe even his duty. Running a hand through his hair in fustration, he found himself in a plaza that he had never been in before. He spotted a weapons shop tucked away in the back. Maybe he could sell some of his guns. He didn’t really carry any weapons other than guns and his staff. Getting closer, he saw that it was an “old” weapons shop. Then maybe he could get Oni to sell some of her stuff. She had tons. Much more than him, since she carried just about every type of weapon. He might as well check to make sure they bought weapons.
        The door chime rang as he entered the quaint shop. “How may’n mes help yaz?” asked the girl at the counter. She was putting something away under the counter, then looked up. Ark froze as soon as he heard her voice. Oni grew even paler then she already was.
        “Y-y-you…” Ark stuttered.
        “Dun tellz, dun tellz, dun tellz,” Oni repeated over and over, unable to take her eyes off of him, absolutely horrified. Ark slowly backed out, then ran, and didn’t stop running until he was out of sight from the shop. Chaonen had trouble keeping track of him, having lingered by the shop window to see if Oni was alright. She wasn’t though, as she slid down below the counter, shaking.
        Ark fell heavily onto the park bench. Fear slowly turned into a deeper depression. Even Oni was doing better then him. And she cared enough to risk his wrath to have a steady income for them. Oh god, he needed to get drunk.

        “S’ya see? I herv no idea wha’ ahrm doin’ anymoe. Ev’n dat damn biatch i’doinbetter ‘en me,” Ark slurred in his drunken state. “Alwrys freakin’ dere, takin’ it all aaaway ferm me.”
        “Taking what all away?”
        “’Time ta die’ is da sterpidest phrase I’ve evr heard!”
        “There is a time and place for everything under heaven.”
        “Yes yes! Alwrys Time, derez alwrys time…can’t lose it…can’t lose it, or wha’ am I anymoe?” Ark stared at his empty mug. “And here I am wastinmoneyongettinfreakindrunk.” He leaned over to Chaonen. “Take me home.”
        Chaonen slid off the stool, and helped Ark off his then out the door. He had to keep Ark from falling over, but they managed to stagger back to the inn.
        “I jus’…dern want ‘is wrath…bein’ so amongst mortals…”
        “Who’s wrath?” asked Chaonen. But Ark just shuddered and fell quiet.

        Rekig entered the room a few minutes after Ark had left. The first thing he noticed was the white wings curled up behind the counter, with Oni hidden under them. “Oni?” he asked, kneeling beside her and touching her on the wing.
        “Get away fromz mes!” she screamed, shrinking away from his touch. Then started to whimper. Rekig backed away, not knowing what to do. Instead, he went back into his work room and made some tea. He had a feeling she’d need it after she calmed down.
        It took a while but she did. Sipping the tea quietly with her, Rekig watched her sullen figure that was staring into her half empty cup. He wouldn’t press her about the matter. “Do you need to take the evening off?” he asked. Oni shook her head. “If that is how you feel.” Taking another sip, he added, “Your wings are very lovely. You ought to keep them like this more often.” Oni glanced up at him, but then slowly shifted her gaze back down to her tea.

        This was going much better than Chaonen could have hoped for. Everything was working for him to get Ark in a mind set of getting that fake bounty no matter what. The morning after, he had noticed the tablet was missing from its place beside Ark’s bed. No one else would have taken it other than Oni. If she was the one who took it, he’d have to get her to share it with Ark. And vice versa. But that wouldn’t be too hard, and if he had to, he’ll get Socara to ask them for him. They’d do anything she asked them to, he had noticed. The Shadow idly floated by his ear, its mouth open in a dragonic grin that matched its master’s.

        Rekig noticed a difference in Oni now that she didn’t have to work mornings. She had a lot more energy for one thing, but he got a general happier feeling when he looked at her. Of course, he didn’t know that this was mainly because she felt financially secure enough to start eating again. She had adjusted very well to the strange customers that he had at night, though she did not associate them more than she needed to.
        Demonic, strange, ghostly, creepy, slithering, especially dangerous creatures were all around her, browsing a shop full of deadly weapons or ordering specialized ones for personal purposes. No one suspected that the most dangerous of them all was the angel winged girl behind the counter.

        Oni did not actually smile a lot, Socara had noted as she went about learning her odd behavior patterns, if there were any patterns that is. She actually only smiled when addressed, laughing, or was being looked at, not constantly smiling despite her giddy personality. Of course that didn’t mean, she didn’t like to smile or didn’t like them. Socara also noticed that females did not like Oni, even ones they didn’t know. Females seemed to shy away or act coldly towards Oni for some unknown reasons. She had no idea why, she liked Oni very much. Maybe that was why Oni didn’t have any female friends other than her and Asia. Socara knew this because she had asked previously, when she asked what Oni’s other friends were like. Of course, it turned out that she really didn’t have any friends. Even Nikrith was really just a close associate. Maybe it was a Mazoku thing. “Oniiii.” Socara wrapped her arms around the girl and leaned her head against hers, one hand playing with a fluffy white wing. “Do you have any photos or anything? Like vacations, or exotic places, or people?”
        “ uh. Oni dun photograph wellz mes thinkz,” Oni said after a pause for thought. “Think mes had a portrait done o’ mes when was li’l mes thinkz.”
        “Oh when was that? How old are you anyways?” Socara asked, all smiles and light-heartedness.
        “Oni amz 16!”
        “Only 16? I thought you’ve been alive much longer than that.”
        “But Oni have beenz. Oni been alive fer erm…603 yrz~”
        “Then why’d you say just 16?”
        “’Cuz dat how old mes be, been in existence fer 603 yrz.”
        “So there’s a distinction between that?”
        “Hai hai, ‘cuz Oni be 16 time wise. Daddy thoughtz 16 was good age so stopp’d mine time at derez.”
        “I see. So how long has Ark been around? He’s 21, by the way, right?”
        “Uh…dun knowz, long’r den mes thoughz. Yeah, should be rightz.”
        “Oni, where do you go during the day?” Socara yawned, it was very late.
        “Soca should go ta sleep, Soca have ta work inz mornin’.” She patted Socara on the head.

        “Oh shards, no...” muttered Ark, staring at the computer screen. There must be some other way...he thought to himself. But he couldn’t think of anything else. Pushing the chair back, he stood up and disappeared, reappearing outside the police station. Well, that was another dead end. He tried everything that he could actually do himself. Contacted every info. source he had, tried file and net sources...heck, he didn’t usually break into police buildings to try finding their info. But there was nothing on this Era guy. Didn’t even know his full name or if that was an alias. All he had was the picture, and even that didn’t match any descriptions. Well, Oni was going to get into this eventually, so getting her help wasn’t so bad, but he had a horrible feeling he’d need to ask Coniau. She’d probably make me get on my knees and beg, he sighed.

To Be Continue