135 Zoey“s Promise
As the dust settled in the aftermath of Zoey's shot, she was busy deciding if she wanted to go and greet the Asurai warriors below, or wait until Max and Viridi showed up. In the end she decided to wait for her friends to arrive as they weren't far behind.
In a testament to the power from her Arbiter's Mark and DAAC working together, the corrupted creature had been completely destroyed, so that was no longer a concern. On the other hand, her drones showed her that the people she had marked leaving the area had grouped up with a fairly large contingent of mounted mercenaries that had been camped several kilometers away. Zoey knew from the information she had gathered that these were likely the troops that were placed here to keep the Asurai clan from escaping.
Apparently the spies that had been watching the canyon had been a little spooked by the appearance of the corrupted creature and had fled back to their protectors. Zoey assumed that before long they would be back to check if the Asurai clan survived, and to clean up the mess if they had. Zoey decided to keep an eye on them in the meantime in case they came back while she was here. She had already gotten enough attention and didn't need more.
It wasn't long before Max and Viridi arrived at Zoey's location, coming up behind her as she stood at the canyon's edge with a watchful eye on the scene below. Zoey was a little surprised when Max ran up to her and grabbed on to her clothing. She looked down at him wondering what was wrong, and saw that he had the slightest pout as he held onto her.
"What's wrong Max, are you alright?" she asked him with concern.
The boy griped her clothes tighter and looked up at her with upset eyes as he replied in his quiet voice, "Don't leave me behind like that."
Ah, Zoey understood now why he was upset. She had left him and Viridi behind rather abruptly back there. After all the suffering he had gone through in the last year, she had come into his life and saved him from that miserable existence. As a result he was a little attached to her now, and even separating for a short while had been upsetting for him.
Zoey patted his head to comfort him as she smiled to herself.
She dropped down to one knee and removed her mask so she was eye-to-eye with Max, then said, "Look, I can't promise you that you will always be able to be with me. There is a lot about me that you don't know yet, and the responsibilities that I have may interfere with us being together… But I can promise you that I will make every effort to let you stay with me if that is what you want."
The boy's earnest grey eyes looked into her emerald green ones for a long moment before he replied.
"If I get stronger, can I stay with you always?"
Zoey smiled at him and tousled his hair. "You can if you want, so you better work hard and get strong, OK?"
Max got a serious look on his face and nodded firmly in response, making Zoey chuckle as she got back to her feet and put her mask back on.
"Now, let's get down there and see why we are here," she said as she turned her attention back to the canyon.
The three of them easily made their way down the side of the canyon until they reached the bottom and looked around. After the corrupted creature had been smitten by Zoey's firepower, the beasts had been released from the aura that had suppressed them and had become able to move again. Luckily though, they had very little fight left, and had chosen to take off back down the canyon rather than keep attacking.
The Asurai warriors also were able to move again and were slowly climbing back to their feet and gathering their wits. Most had no idea what had happened aside from remembering that they had been very afraid of something and had collapsed on the ground. Only some of the veterans and stronger willed fighters had maintained enough presence of mind to see what had transpired.
When Zoey, Max, and Viridi got to the canyon floor, the two warriors that had been fighting the corrupted before Zoey arrived were the closest to where they were. The first one Zoey saw was a handsome young man with long black hair and blue eyes. He was wearing a layered set of heavily damaged armor and helmet that resembled armor worn by ancient samurai warriors back on Gaia. That, along with his sheathed katana made Zoey think about the parallels between this universe and her old one, but that was a thought for another time.
The warrior was still in a dazed state and seemed to be not fully aware of things around him as he stared at the still smoldering remains of the corrupted monster they had fought. The other warrior that was nearby was on his feet and gave Zoey pause when she first saw them.
They were a rather large bipedal reptilian with a head that resembled a raptor and a powerful body with a long, armored tail, all covered in reddish-brown scales. He was also wearing layered armor, but only on certain vulnerable areas. Zoey had not gotten a very good look at this warrior through her drones, so she had not noticed the considerable differences until now. She remembered that back when she had entered her first dungeon, she had seen a skeleton that had been from a reptilian creature among the dead. At the time she had not thought much of it, but now she realized that it had been an entirely new race that she was only now encountering.
The big reptilian had approached the dazed human and was trying to snap them out of their daze, so they had not noticed Zoey and her party as they reached the canyon floor. Only after Zoey's party started to approach them did he notice and jump to his feet and brandish his large axe defensively before the dazed Human.
"Who's there?" He bellowed at them as he whipped his thick tail on the ground threateningly.
Zoey's party was still in the darkness of the canyon away from the torches and were only distinguishable as three shadowy figures to the warrior, making him very wary about who was approaching them in the dark.
"Relax, we're not your enemies," Zoey called out as she slowly approached.
"Sounds like something an enemy would say," retorted the reptilian warrior. "Step into the light and show yourselves if you dare!"
The three of them complied, moving slowly until they were illuminated by the torchlight. When the big warrior saw them clearly for the first time he got a rather dumfounded look on his face, which was rather comical when combined with his fierce raptor-like head and features.
Out of the darkness had appeared a small girl, an even smaller boy, and a dangerous looking panther-dragon hybrid with wicked looking claws.
This sight left the warrior with one question in his mind…
Who the hell were these people!?