"Where are you goin’ wearing that, Cye?"
The auburn haired man adjusted the oversized beach towel draped over his body. "What do you think?"
"Skinny-dippin’? It’s almost evening!"
"Past sunset, actually. You’ve been reading that book all afternoon, Ro-chan," Cye said, giving him a peck on the nose.
The archer smirked. "You’ll get hypothermia. And don’t call me Ro-chan."
"It’ll be just right. Water holds onto heat quite nicely."
"I bet it does." Rowen licked his lips, watching the Brit saunter out the door, the towel not-quite concealing his shapely legs. "I have got to find those fishne--- Hey, Cye! You forgot your armor orb!" He scrambled off the couch, only to trip on his nerveless feet. "Stupid leg’s asleep... Cye!! Yo, Cye!!" Rowen hopped towards the front door. "Aw, damn, he’s gone. Well, he’s a big boy." He briefly contemplated sending a message down the armor link, but he figured Cye hadn’t planned on bringing it with him anyway.
The beach towel forgotten on the sand, Cye dived into the waves. He cut through the water, reveling in the shock of cool liquid caressing every part of his body. It was so peaceful that he literally forgot to breathe. A nice side benefit of the Torrent armor, though he’d yet to master being submerged for more than fifteen minutes. Finally he surfaced in the center of the lake. Sighing, he flopped onto his back and floated. Orange and red streaks painted the twilight sky. There was no moon tonight; the water was dark and calm. It was a little too eerie. He considered swimming for the secluded island near the opposite shore.
Instead Cye took a deep breath and kicked his way into the depths. Here the darkness was complete, but his other senses took over. He could feel the currents change as he swam deeper. Upwellings of colder water marked the underwater hills and valleys.
It was a little too quiet.
The night predators were supposed to be on their way, and the day feeders should have been seeking refuge in the shallows. Yet he couldn’t sense any fish nearby. He couldn’t sense if anything was wrong, either.
‘Time to surface.’ Then something brushed against his arm. It felt like a tail or a bit of a water plant. He flailed, trying to find it in the dark.
Sinking slowly, he traced the currents with his ki. It was as though whatever-it-was had disappeared completely.
Am I imagining things? Cye thought as he kicked to the surface.
Something coiled around his ankle. Cye froze, sensing what it was. A sea snake. Venomous. Its flattened tail wrapped his leg like a thick ribbon. Slowly he brought his leg up to try to dislodge it. He didn’t want it to bite out of fear.
Another brushed the back of his neck. Reflexively he jerked away, kicking wildly. Even in the numbing water the tiny maw clamping on his skin was unmistakable. Cye fought off a wave of panic; the teeth hadn’t broken skin.
Sea snakes don’t belong here! He tried to kick upwards with one leg, ignoring the rope-like bodies sliding against his chest and arms and face. They were coming at him from all sides in the darkness. Cye suddenly realized he was running out of air. A dozen snakes tangled his ankles together, another cluster clamped onto his shoulder and wrists.
I’m sinking. Oh God. Even as a strange light filled the darkness, his vision began to darken around the edges. As a ribbon of muscle locked around his neck, Cye closed his eyes and concentrated.
Rowen was in subarmor before his feet hit the floor. He whirled to face Sage and Ryo, who were standing at the top of the stairs, stunned.
With that he shot out the door, the others armoring up and on his heels.
Rowen could see the dock ahead of him, coming up too slowly for his taste even though his legs were pumping like mad. He was cursing at the top of his lungs.
Sage’s aura touched his mind and he skidded to a halt. The giant torii gate, halfway in the water, was just slamming shut.
It was cold. Not the caressing coolness of the lake, but the sting of chill air on wet skin. Cye felt his leg twitch. I’m alive. Part of him wondered if his armor would have let him drown, but then he remembered he’d left it at home. That would have been ironic.
His breath wheezed out of his throat. He tried to look up, but the movement dissolved into a coughing fit. It lasted for several minutes. Curled on the cold stone floor, he tried to orient himself to the dark. There didn’t seem to be anyone around, but then he had water in his ears. The room smelled... lived-in, he supposed. Animals, he thought, though the scent was nowhere near as pungent as that of White Blaze’s haunts.
Weakly he pulled himself up. His eyes still seemed fuzzed; his night vision wasn’t working. He shook the water out of his ears till they popped.
Now he heard the things moving in the darkness.
Alarmed, he stood up quickly. A mistake. He was still dizzy, for one. And for another, the whole room stirred in response. The walls weren’t moving... were they? All the sounds seemed to be coming from the far corners, though. Maybe he could still slip away.
He took a step forward.
A low, ominous whirr greeted him.
Another answered it, from behind him. Dozens more echoed through the darkness.
Cye was frozen in place, feeling the cold lump of fear grow in the pit of his stomach. Something long and smooth brushed his ankle. His whole body tensed, but he didn’t dare move.
His night vision came to him. He nearly sobbed. /Oh my God, Rowen, Sage, Kento, Ryo, wherever you are, please, please, please hurry./
"He left without his armor orb?"
"Why didn’t you stop him?"
Rowen slammed his fist into the coffee table. They all jumped. "You think I’d let him go out there if I thought he’d be taken out of our backyard?!"
Sage grabbed Rowen’s wrist. The archer glared at him. Sage just started picking out the wood splinters, his visible eye flashing. He said softly, "I know you’re tired of hearing this from me, but we need a plan."
Ryo nodded. "Yeah, for once I agree. We’ve been facing some bad dudes from the Dynasty, and we don’t even know if Talpa’s still alive. If Sekhmet’s still kicking around, then we may have all the Warlords to deal with. And no Inferno armor."
"If they were powered up like the last time..." Kento said.
"Damn it." Rowen yanked his hand away from Sage and covered his face. His voice was anguished. "Why’d I let him go?"
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