Elisa smiles and leads Ryoden into a small, smoky basement. A mellow sound, low and rich, drifts through the air as they find a table. The music is different to anything Ryoden has heard and strangely relaxing, seeming to be as much part of this night as the smoky room or the Purplesky outside.

Ryoden's eyes dart, not in fear, but in stimulation-- she looks at everything. The lights, the smoke, the people. She listens to the music, humming softly, trying to memorize it. "What is this place?"

Elisa smiles and replies "Great, isn't it? It's called 'The Edge', one of the few places that actively encourages demons and Chaosians to mix. It's owner is someone called Ishmaela. Don't really anything about her though."

Ryoden's eyes go wide as she snaps her gaze to her sister's face. "Demons? Where?" She returns to looking about the room, trying to locate one.

Elisa replies "Everywhere, the band on the stage for a start. Mostly in human form though." As Ryoden looks, she sees the band, a collection of young men playing various musical instruments. They all look slightly rough around the edges, but no less human than herself.

Ryoden looks disappointed. "You know, Amberites look like us, demons look like us... Isn't anyone different?" She sighs. "They look nice enough, though. So why is them mixing with us such a big deal?"

Elisa quietly replies "The differences are that the demons' human form is not their natural form. We have a choice as to what our preferred form is, and Amberites have human form only for the most part. The big deal is that many demons live in slavery. It's legal to enslave a demon if one can and treat them as appallingly as one wishes. It's not legal to do so to a Lord of Chaos."

Ryoden looks around, then looks confused. "That's not a very good reason to enslave somethi- someone. You don't _make_ them or anything." Ryoden cups her chin in her hand. "Not much makes sense out here."

Kieran nods and replies quietly "No, Ryoden, it's not a good reason at all. A lot of people agree with you. Our House for one."

Ryoden finishes the statement. "And some people don't." She sighs. "I smell conflict."

Elisa shakes her head "It's been like this for a while. Slowly, more and more Houses are coming across to the anti-slavery view."

Ryoden looks skeptical. "Is there a war coming or something?" Almost unconciously she reaches for the tiny spheres in her pockets, and pats them.

Kieran shakes his head "Not over this. Such wars are more hidden, the casualties in the shadows of everyday life. Remember, here politics and profit are the prime motivators, not ideals."

Ryoden nods. "No bombs then? Guess you won't be needing me." She thinks back to her lab, and her little robots that litter the place. "Why don't they just make servants? That's what I do. I have tons, all over the place."

Sieran replies quietly "Robots can't do everything demons can do and they cost more. Simple economics."

Ryoden shifts uncomfortably in her seat. Once again human nature puzzles her. Why couldn't the houses just ahve someone like her make robots. Ryoden loves to make robots. She has robots that she doesn't even need, but made just to run around and make noise, or play games. They can do almost anything...

"The only thing I can't make a robot do is have a good conversation, and that's only because we know all the same stuff." She crosses her arms and frowns.

Elisa says quietly "It goes deeper than that, Ryoden. Some people like having power over others."

Ryoden shifts again, and she looks down. This trip out is taking a bad turn. She's discovering a dark side to human nature that she's not sure she wants to see.

Quietly, she asks, "Is there anything to drink here?"

Elisa nods and with a grin replies "Of course there is. What would you like or would you like to be surprised by your sister? "

Ryoden lets out a breath of relief. Maybe the topic has been tabled. "Surprise me," she smiles. "Sweet though. Nothing bitter." She sticks out her tounge in disgust.

From behind Ryoden, a deep voice says "Careful, you'll catch something sticking your tongue out like that."

Ryoden sees her siblings grin in delight as a tall, broad shouldered man walks round and joins them at the table.

He smiles at Ryoden "Good evening. I am Rax of Clan Agraff. How are you enjoying the club?"

Ryoden covers her mouth, embarrassed. She eyes the man, taking her time to drink him in.

"Yes. What's a clan?" she finally asks.

Rax is blonde haired with twinkling dark red eyes and a slow smile. He says "A clan is an extended family, akin to a House if you like." Gently, he takes her hand away from her mouth and signals to a waiter. "I would like something sweet for the young ladies and whisky for myself and the twins here."

The waiter nods and heads off. Rax smiles and looks at Kieran, saying "Shame on you, Kieran, to not bring your youngest sister sooner."

Kieran shrugs, a friendly expression on his features as he replies "Well, we are all here now."

Rax smiles and turns back to Ryoden, his eyes dancing with mischief "What do you think we should do with this most neglectful of brothers?"

Ryoden eyes Kieran. "So eeeeeverybody knew I was your sister before me? Hmph." She sits back and considers. She points to the stage. "You could make him sing." She smiles sweetly at Kieran.

Rax looks to consider it, then shakes his head and says regretfully "No, maybe not. I've heard him sing and I don't want to drive away all my customers."

Ryoden pouts. "Well, fine. I'll think of something later." She gives Kieran a meaningful look. "Something real good."

She wrings her hands and looks up at Rax. "Do you work here? Is this your place? I live at Minobeeways-- have my own lab, too."

Rax smiles "I run the place for a friend. What do you work on in your lab?"

Ryoden grins and starts digging through her pockets. She procurs a small car, a butterfly bomb, and a data-storage unit she made to track her sample collection. She lays them out on the table carefully, making sure the bomb doesn't run anywhere, and that the car simply idles.

"All sorts of stuff. Who's the friend?"

Rax looks over the three items and says "Very nice indeed. And a very interesting lady called Ishmaela."

She looks at him. "Another interesting person? I've met so many today- - my parents, my siblings, the Count Anthony... Must be something in the air. So what's she like?"

Rax is quiet for a moment. When he speaks again, his tone is almost reverential. He says "Ishmaela is probably one of the bravest, most cunning and compassionate women it has been my pleasure to know." He grins and adds "And never play her at poker or try to outdrink her. You'll lose. Trust me."

Ryoden looks at the faces around her, perplexed. An emotional lot, it would seem-- Demons and mysterious people and-- There's much to the world. She can't think of anything that might make her face show the things that were so apparent on Rax's.

She shakes her head. "I don't really drink. And I've never heard of poker."

Rax grins "It's a game, played with cards. Would you like to learn how to play?"

The waiter reappears and hands out the drinks. Ryoden's drink is red and smells a little of strawberries. It smells sweet too.

She sniffs the drink, carefully tastes it, then takes an eager gulp. She smiles approvingly. "Good." She sets the drink down. "Cards... like trumps? Because I only have a few of those."

Rax smiles, shakes his head and replies "No, just ordinary playing cards. have you ever seen any? They have four sets of symbols."

Ryoden shakes her head, her eyes wide and innocent. "A game then. You know chess?" She takes some more of her drink, and wonders after a few deep gulps if there might be more than fruit in there.

Rax nods "I know chess." Belatedly, Ryoden notices that her siblings are leaving the table to join the dance floor. Rax gently says "You may want to slow down a little with your drink. It has a trace of alcohol."

Ryoden watches her departing siblings, and decided to stay firmly planted at the table. No dancing. She's had enough new things for one day.

She looks at her drink, then at Rax. "So you can drink it..." she muses. "I usually just study it for combustion properties." She regards him seriously. "This stuff explodes, you know."

Rax nods "I know. It does also make a range of very pleasant beverages of various tastes." He smiles "So how are you enjoying your night out, as it would seem to be?"

Ryoden looks about and says slowly, "It's a lot to digest. i'm wondering what's going to happen next. I keep waiting for the anvil to hit me on the head." She holds up her drink. "So how many of these are safe to drink? What happens?"

Rax shrugs "It depends on the concentration of alchohol and that determines how many you should drink. As to what happens then? Some people get argumentative. Most just relax and feel less inhibited."

Ryoden turns her attention inward for a moment. "No effect," she reports, and takes another sip.

"So these clans. If houses have Chaosites, what do clans have? How do you know my siblings?" She nervously spins her glass around. Relaxes, hell.

Rax shrugs and replies "Clans have demons. Different clans, different demons. I know your siblings because they are regular customers here."

The wheels click in Ryoden's head. "You're a demon," she states matter-of-factly. She looks him up and down. "I don't know any demons."

Rax grins "Well, now you do. And you probably already do. We work with Minobee quite a bit."

She laughs. "Unless Kieran's a demon, then it's still true. I don't know any demons, at least by name." She considers him seriously. "Can you do anything... special because you're a demon?"

Rax chuckles "It depends on the type of demon, Ryoden. We all have unique talents and abilities. I, for example, am very good at fighting." He smiles "And occasional bouts of jazz."

Ryoden sips at her drink. "I don't fight. I duck. Actually, I'm prety good at ducking. It's been a long time since I've lost anything too major." She cups her chin in her hand. "No music, though. Most days I just prefer noise."

Rax leans back in his chair "Just noise? Why so, if I may ask?" He looks at her near-empty glass and asks "Would you like another of those?"

Ryoden nods eagerly. "Still sweet, okay?" She thinks, rolling the butterfly bomb around the table. "Noise-- well, I hate silence, but I don't have any music just lying around, so I made machines to make noises while I was about working. The fuzz helps focus me."

She watches the demon. Her stomach churns uncomfortably. Her siblings had been talking about demons being mistreated. She wondered about Rax's past, but couldn't bring herself to ask.

Rax smiles "Try some music as you work too. It can focus the mind very well." He nods to a passing waiter and indicates the drinks on the table. The waiter nods and retreats.

Rax looks at her for a moment and then says quietly "You seem nervous about something?"

Ryoden shakes her head. "No. No new things. I only get distracted and want to play with them first." She plays with her empty glass. "And it's nothing. Just had a disturbing conversation with my brothers and sisters. I've been put away my whole life-- don't really know why, just was. I've been out when they needed a good mind or quick fingers but that's about it." she stops playing with the glass. "So just about anything new and not interesting or nice is pretty disturbing."

The waiter reappears, places full glasses and takes away the empty ones. Rax smiles and says "Then we must find you something new and nice. Do you like singing?"

Ryoden takes a drink. "I'm not that uninhibited. Let's assume the 'not-singing' gene runs in the family." She looks around. "What else is there here?"

Rax laughs softly "No, I meant do you like to listen to singing? This is a jazz club. We have music, alchohol, dancing and some singing."

She nods. "Singing is nice. Hard to understand though. They drag the words out and pronounce them wrong and give them different notes-- But still, it's pretty to listen to." She stirs her drink a bit, then, playing, decided to make it green. As she does so, she continues. "What do you like?"

Rax smiles and answers "Jazz preferably. It depends on my mood as to what I listen to and what I drink. I like running this club too. We will be having a singer later, if you are interested."

Ryoden looks at her now green drink, pleased. "What's the singer's name?"

Rax replies "Natasha Agraff. She has quite a lovely voice. You may find it most pleasant indeed."

She nods. "You mentioned someone named Ishmaela, but we got sidetracked somehow... That seems to happen quite a bit in conversations..." She notes suddenly that she feels a bit drowsy, but energetic too-- the drink?

Rax smiles "That does indeed happen in conversations. They flow like water, sometimes running over topics, sometimes around them, but always onwards. What do you want to know about Ishmaela?"

She taps her feet idly under the table. "Oh, it just seemed like a good thing to talk about-- you seem to think quite a bit of her. And if she owns the place, I guess it's only manners to know about her."

Rax nods "Well said. Alright, Ishmaela is a swordswoman and an acquirer of rare items par excellence. She is also very tolerant and a good friend of mine as with many others."

He looks consideringly at Ryoden "Would you be interested in meeting her?"

Ryoden considers him back, her eyes a bit bleary and dazed. She conjures a tiny plastic sword (pink) and gives it to him importantly. "Sure."

Rax smiles and takes the sword. Ryoden is aware of some people sitting back down at the table. Kieran seems to be worried over something. Sieran's face shows mild amusement. Elisa sits beside her sister and says gently "Ryoden dear, how are you feeling?"

She grins widely (although a bit unevenly) and replies, "I feel great. If only my eyes weren't so heavy." She taps her drink, almost tipping it. "These are good. I like these. Right now, I think I like these more than tater tots." She takes another big gulp.

Spying her butterfly bomb, she lets out a small squeak of excitement and grabs it. "I never showed you what these do!" She clicks it and turns it, setting the timer for 10 seconds. Satisfied, she sits the ball in the middle of the table and waits.

Kieran gestures and a small globe of glittering light surrounds the tiny mini-bomb, like a miniature rainbow sphere with the mini-bomb at its centre.

On cue, the bomb explodes...

Into a multi-coloured cloud of butterflies. Rax nods to Kieran and the rainbow sphere disappears, releasing the beautiful insects into the club.

Elisa says "That's lovely, Ryoden. Would you make one for me later?"

She nods haphazardly. "Yes-- I hef plenty. I like those. They don't hurt anyone. People like butterflies." Ryodens face suddenly becomes meloncholy as she takes another sip. "They don't hurt anyone, not those," she reiterates.

Elisa smiles and answers gently "No they don't, Ryoden. They make people happy. The butterflies are lovely."

With a nod to the twins, Elisa adds "Would you like to go home now, Ryoden? See where the rest of us live?"

Ryoden puts her head on the table. "I thought I was going to meet someone? I have something for her." She holds up another conjured plastic sword (purple). "And I know where we live. Minobee ways. I hope they haven't lost my lab. I don't wanna to make a new one."

Rax takes the purple sword as well and says "I have to contact the lady first, Lady Ryoden, so a meeting later is much more likely. And I'm sure your House hasn't lost your lab."

Ryoden looks at him, eyes wide. "The lost ME! The lost the KITCHEN!" She puts her head in her hands. "My lab is gone... all gone..." she laments. Sighing, she studies her quickly disappearing drink. "How long will it take? I don't have much drink left..."

Ryoden sees her siblings opposite her look behind her just as she hears a low, almost husky, female voice say "Now, that's a crime and a half. Nobody runs dry in this club."

She turns and shows the mysterious owner of the voice her glass. "There's something wrong with my glass. There's a big hole on the top, and all my drink keeps getting out." She giggles maniacally at her own joke.

The owner of the voice is a tall woman with long black hair, black eyes and an athletic build, dressed in a combination of red, black and white. Her look reminds Ryoden of mischief and daring all wrapped up together. A black rapier hangs at her side.

The woman smiles down, eyes dancing with humour, and says "Good evening, Ryoden Minobee. We must fix that glass of yours."

Ryoden solemnly finishes off her drink and hands the woman her glass. "How do you know my name? Everybody knows my name, and I don't know anybody's. I don't think this is very fair. I'm a little bitter." She thumbs her siblings. "They knew everything about me before me. It's getting absurd."

The woman chuckles as she hands the glass to a passing waiter "I understand how you feel. Some relatives of mine knew all about me before I did too. And my name is Ishmaela. Now you know another name."

Ryoden goes for her pockets, the curses. She had forgotten to invent the Name Remembering Machine. Curses. She would have to remember the old way.

Ryoden sticks out her hand. "Nice to meet you Ishmaela? You aren't related to me, are you? Almost everyone I've met today is related to me, you know."

Ishmaela laughs, a soft, husky sound, and takes Ryoden's hand then says "Nice to meet you too, Ryoden. No, I'm not related to you. I've just heard about your inventions."

"Oh, you have! I've made lots of them, and people have always been interested, it seems. Sometimes the reasons aren't so good, but hey, what can you do." She frowns. "As a matter of fact, the reasons are almost never good."

She shakes her head, as if warding off some distrubng thought. She thinks a moment, and conjures a chair. "Sit, please."

Ishmaela sits in the chair with a smile "I particularly like your inventions that help people, such as the improved medical scanners. Invention can be used for the good of others too. You've shown that."

"Yes, there are those." She rocks back and forth on her chair a bit. "But most of the things I do don't do one or the other. They just sit there and do neat things." She studies Ishmaela, and wills her body to start purging some of the alcohol she's drank. She wants her mind clear. "Are you interesting in hiring me? Because I could always work by correspondance..."

Ishmaela smiles, black eyes warm as a velvet sky "I'll talk to you about that tomorrow. If you would like to come back here tomorrow, at Whitesky, that is?"

Ryoden looks nervously at Kieran. Did he arrange this?

"Um... okay. If that's okay with Kieran. He deals with exports."

What could she want... All this talk about demons and mistreatment and such... Is this a rebellion?

Kieran nods "Sure thing, but I'd recommend you get some sleep Ryoden. We have a lot to do before you leave."

Ryoden shakes her head. "Nono! I'm not tired! I'm still awake!" She straightens her drooping posture and blinks, trying to widen her eyes. "Really! I want to know what this is about..."

Ishmaela smiles "Tomorrow will be soon enough, Ryoden. I must leave shortly anyway."...

Next: Back at 'The Edge'