371 A Quiet Afternoon
Author's Reminder: A few characters that haven't been seen in a while are in this chapter. Halla, Boomer, and Yuli. Halla and his son are both Che (Ferret-men from the Core), Yuli is the Drahk cousin of Beta.
1300 hours the following day. Goralpri City
Nix should have been surprised when Beta and Commander Mtui stepped through a newly created breach in Goralpri, but he wasn't. The albino rogue seemed to have no difficulty keeping tabs on him. Nix greeted the pair with a smile. "You're trespassing."
Mtui nodded in agreement. "Seems like you have some work to do here."
Beta looked around at the overgrown city, Nix had joined it to the others, but the gating platform was not yet active. "What a mess. Was this placed in a jungle?"
"Yep." Nix already knew why they were there. Tai had told him in no uncertain terms, once he started connecting the cities together, he would be approached. There wasn't enough space to go around in the Sky Kingdom. "Let me guess; you want to buy the city."
Mtui didn't deny it, his face growing serious. "Not the entire thing."
"No." Nix glanced around for his friends. After Alpha team had left, he brought in a second team to help him clear the city. He spent the last few hours burning large piles of foliage that the group was pulling from the buildings.
"Cousin!" A slim, white-haired girl emerged from a large pile of vines. Yuli had been a scout in Core'dium. She was nearly identical to her cousin, Beta.
Beta offered her cousin a reserved smile. "Official business, Yuli."
"Hmm..." Yuli was curious by nature; she heard stories about her cousin's boss. "You must be Commander Mtui?"
Unexpectedly the Commander's face creased into a wide smile. He shook the small hand that Yuli presented him. "Yes. It's nice to meet Beta's cousin finally."
Yuli nodded in agreement. Beta was spending a lot of time with other Drahk; her demeanor was slowly changing. "Same here, Commander. Beta mentions you all the time."
Mtui glanced at his operative, in the last few months she had been reunited with her best friend, found family she didn't know she had and started seeing a rogue from Inferno. "After we talk with Nix, you can stay if you wish."
Although Nix liked Mtui, he was on a deadline since he was supposed to meet Morti at the Nescari Fortress in Titania. "I'm in a hurry. What's your offer?"
"An Arena." Mtui stared a the few buildings the clearing team uncovered. All the wood was rotting away, leaving only the stone foundations. "Each of the Dragon Cities has smaller arenas. Since no one lives here yet, we could build something much bigger."
Nix considered the proposal for a moment. It was a good idea, something that would generate additional income for Inferno. "Inferno isn't going to sell. However, we aren't equipped or prepared to undertake that sort of construction project."
"A partnership?" Mtui glanced at Beta; she told him earlier that Nix would say no.
Nix nodded. "Jun Li will handle the details."
Beta noticed that Nix's naturally yellow eyes were deep orange, a sign that he was using Dragon Eyes. "Finding a lot of friends in the city?"
Yuli laughed at the question. Nix had been attacked by different predators all morning. All sorts of jungle dwellers decided to make their home in the abandoned city. His thermal vision was the key to finding them. "Ask him about the goat."
1600 hours, Nescari Fortress Grounds.
A dozen Titan cubs occupied the bright glade. Half of them were sleeping in the late afternoon sun while the rest played. Most of them were different shades of brown or reddish-brown.
"Morti? Are you even listening?" A light brown male cub sat next to the Inferno tank, although they were the same age the giant black cub was near twice his size and already as strong as most adults.
Morti huffed his nose once and continued to stare. "Hey, Toc... Who is that cub?"
Toca turned slightly so he could see the object of Morti's interest. "I forget her name. She's too small and kinda weak."
Morti tried hard to remember what his mother had said. A new Titan family had moved into the area; they were from the far edge of Titania, the polar region. They were the only white bears in Nescari. "Is my helmet straight?"
Toca glanced up at the tiny helmet that was strapped to Morti's head. "I think so. Why? Are you gonna pick a fight with her?"
"Nope. I'm gonna go talk to her." Morti stood up and started waddling toward her. "You stay here."
A low rumbling voice caused the smaller bear to jump slightly. Up close, the white bear wasn't as small as she looked. Her fur glistened like snow, she was the color of winter, except for her nose, eyes, and wickedly curved claws; they were as black as coal. "Hello," she replied quietly, her dark eyes curious.
"I'm Mortimer, but everyone calls me Morti."
The white bear stood up, her black nose huffing. "Snow Lili, but you can call me Snow."
"That's pretty." Morti flopped down on his large butt, his head still higher than the standing bear.
"Hmm... Thank you." Snow moved a few steps away, so she didn't have to cock her head to look up. "You're very handsome."
Morti nodded in agreement. "It's my helmet."
Snow's laugh caught him by surprise. It was light and pleasant to listen to. "I don't think so. It's too shiny and much too small for your head."
An indignant Morti stood suddenly, "you're too small!"
"Hey... Where are you going? There's no need to get angry." Snow called after waddling black bear, but he didn't slow down. The white bear sighed loudly. "Great job Snow, you've made him mad."
"It's okay to eat Nix." The auburn-haired Clan Leader smiled pleasantly and sat across from him at the table. There were several plates of meats stacked in front of them.
Nix reached for one of the plates and pulled it in front of him with one hand while grabbing a fork with the other. Scarlett had asked to meet with him when he had some free time. He left Goralpri in the capable hands of Halla and had used his Steward medallion to travel to Nescari. "I am hungry."
They ate in silence for a few minutes; Nix stifled a yawn while he ate. He woke early that morning to say goodbye to Fajii. She was heading to the Burrow, the home of the Spirit Fox race.
"What do you think of my son?"
"Morti? He's awesome." Nix gave her an uncertain look. "Is there something I should know?"
Scarlett paused for a moment to consider her words. "What do you know about the War Leader position?"
"War Leader? It's passed down, isn't it? From father to son?"
Scarlett shook her head. "No. The Clan Leader position is passed down from mother to daughter, but the War Leader of the clan is a challenged position."
"Oh. Meaning that if you want it, you have to fight for it?"
Scarlett nodded slowly. "Yes. You're his Chevalier; it's your responsibility to ensure he's ready when Mortimus decides to step down."
Nix gave her a deadpan look, not sure if she was serious. "Why are you worried about that? Is Mortimus stepping down soon?"
"No, not for four or five years, probably."
Nix had spent quite a bit of time with the Ground Pounders and had a relatively good idea of their strength. "You needn't worry. If Mortimus stepped down today, Morti could assume leadership, and there isn't anyone who could take it from him."
"But, he's just a cub."
Nix didn't comment further. Morti was battle-tested, a Titan tank that would hold his ground against anything. "Scar.." His words trailed off when he noticed the stealthed form silently making their way along the back wall.
Scarlett's nose twitched suddenly. Her acute sense of smell, picking up the scent of blood. A hand on her arm caused her to look up.
"Assassin. Sound the alarm." Nix's voice whispered right before he activated his stealth package and disappeared from sight.