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Pahrak Model ZX

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  1. "Introducing BATTLE BABY BACKPACK! Can't find a sitter? Take your kid to war with you!" Kopaka: "Who designed this...?"
  2. Chapter 26 Geo took a few steps, scanning the surrounding Astro Wave for any sign of trouble. Once he was sure, he returned to the warp that led him to where the others waited, and said, “Looks clear. Let’s go.” After one more trip through the warp, he looked around again and advanced towards where the large platform gave way to a smaller path. Pat and Rey came next, with Hyde bringing up the rear, each of them exercising an equal degree of caution. “This is absurd!” Phantom complained. “Clearly the better idea is to make haste to our destination, making it impossible for our enemies to intercept us!” “Shut up already!” Rey said. “Haven’t you figured out by now that no one gives a what you have to say? I’m sick of hearing your voice!” “It’s okay, Rey,” Pat said, setting a hand on his brother’s shoulder. “We’re almost done. Let’s just keep going.” Mostly to himself, Phantom grumbled, “Feh. Still, I am not given a single shred of respect.” “Oh?” Hyde said. “Did you do something respectable, Phantom? I must’ve missed that scene.” To his surprise, Phantom actually didn’t respond, apparently having finally had his fill of arguing. Instead, Gemini spoke up, “So this is how humans treat their beloved ‘partners’. Now I see what I’ve been missing.” “It’s a two way street, Gemini,” Pat said. “You’ve got to be willing to respect other people if you want other people to respect you. If you would just give it a try…” Geo motioned suddenly, and they all stopped. There was a flash at the warp point up ahead, as if something had just come through and immediately retreated. “I’ll check it out,” he said. He activated an Invisible Battle Card before warping. Soon he was back, and reported, “Yeah, we’ve got company. I see one Mal Wizard, some Acid Copies and Noise Beasts—it’s not a huge group, but it looks like they spotted us and are waiting to spring an ambush.” “If only we’d been a bit faster,” Phantom grumbled. “How do you want to handle it, Geo?” Pat asked. Geo turned aside, scanning the stars in the distance as he weighed his options. “…They…probably don’t want to talk. And we really can’t afford to draw this out any longer than we have to.” “Then shall we simply demolish the lot of them?” Hyde asked. Geo shook his head. “No, not exactly. How about this…I’ll sneak in again, cause a distraction to break up the ranks.” He faced Pat and Rey. “After about 15 seconds, you two come in and take advantage of the chaos to delete as many of the viruses as you can.” Finally turning to Hyde, he finished, “You wait another 15 seconds—try not to get noticed, and see if you can restrain the Wizard. Maybe once he sees his forces losing, we’ll be able to reason with him. Everyone alright with that?” “Am I permitted to voice my opinion?” Gemini asked. “No,” Rey said. “We’re doing this. Get moving, Geo!” He nodded and faced the warp again. He first took a moment to initiate a Noise Change, his armor taking the shape of Libra Noise and the color of Cygnus Noise, and then turned Invisible again. Once through the warp, Geo quietly walked to the center of the platform and, after getting close as he could to the Wizard and a few of his minions, used a Hurricane Dance Battle Card, rapidly spinning to generate a spiraling air wave that scattered everything in range like dust. “What the heck?!” the Wizard said, bouncing when he hit the Road. “Hey, get that guy!” The viruses advanced. Geo dropped a small device with a timer and teleported to the edge of the platform—the object exploded with tremendous force, swallowing up several of the weakened enemies. Wasting no time, Geo summoned a penguin-like virus that shot out to bounce around the field, knocking more of the enemies off their feet. It was then he faced the Wizard. “You think you’re tough or something?” the Wizard asked, summoning a lightning whip. “You’re outnumbered, pal! Prepare to get deleted!” The warp flashed just as the whip hit Geo’s shield. Pat went in one direction, firing a bolt of lightning that lanced through a line of enemies in sequence, meanwhile Rey transformed his weapon arm into a drill before firing it, letting it bore its way through a small cluster of foes before exploding. As they continued their work, Geo teleported in front of the Wizard and forced him back with a sword. After dodging a second swipe, the Wizard touched the Road and corrupted a portion of it, but Geo’s third swipe reached far enough to hit him anyway. He glanced back to see Hyde make his entrance—the Wizard seemed too stunned to notice. “Alright,” Geo said, opening his palm and aiming it at the corrupted Road. “Panel Format!” Instantly, the surface was back to normal. Geo had another card ready before the shocked Wizard could even respond. “Panic Cloud!” A dark mist quickly rippled out from him. As it snaked its way around the Wizard and his viruses, they all began to behave erratically, moving in random directions and attacking when no one was in front of them; Pat and Rey made the most of the opportunity with a Gemini Thunder, blasting away most of the remaining enemies with the intense beam of intertwined lightning. The Wizard recovered faster than the others, and rushed forward to punch Geo in the jaw. “Darn kid!” the Wizard said. “I’m gonna make you pa—“ He stopped abruptly as a large, shadowy hand clamped around him. Hyde stepped out from behind the appendage and said, “Come now, at least take your loss with some dignity.” Geo nodded to him, and then went to help Pat and Rey. Hyde faced the Wizard, who squirmed relentlessly. “Oh give it up. Can’t we simply talk about this, like civilized—“ What happened next surprised him. With a tremendous crack, a portion of the Wizard’s neck burst, and Noise came spewing out of it; Hyde stepped back, grimacing, and said, “My, what a grotesque display…” The Noise cloud increased in size, consuming the Wizard and tearing him free of Hyde’s grasp. Geo looked back to see a Club symbol take shape in front of the mass. “Darn,” he muttered. “Heads up, guys! We’re about to have bigger problems!” Everyone shifted position, keeping an eye on the remaining few viruses while also sizing up the new foe who was emerging from the Noise. His form was massive and bulky, not unlike what had happened to Strong, covered in spiky purple and black metal and with the same scowling face as every Mal Wizard. In his hand he carried an oversized bat with dozens of nails stuck into the surface—he immediately raised it overhead and, giving a shout, slammed it back down. The force of the blow was so intense that the Wave Road shattered on impact. “You’ve had your fun!” shouted the Wizard, now standing on a tiny raft of waves as the other bits of Road floated around, above, and below him. “Now we’re gonna do things my way!” As the pieces settled, Geo aimed his buster to see how his foe would react. The Wizard pulled back his bat, a bomb spawning in midair before him, and hit the explosive towards Geo faster than he was expecting. Geo managed to teleport to another shred of Wave Road, but the force of the explosion set all the fragments into motion again. “It took a lot of effort to spring this trap on you lot,” the Wizard said. “Don’t think I’m gonna give up that easily!” One of Hyde’s shadow hands clawed at the Wizard’s back, but it did little more than anger him. He grabbed the hand and ripped it off, glancing in Hyde’s direction; he snorted and spat at the man, hacking up an energy bullet that launched him into another platform. A shout from Rey caught his attention. He turned to see the boy fire the fingers of his weapon arm individually, each taking a different path as they homed in on him. The Wizard swung his bat, destroying most of them, and then raised his hand to keep the remaining few from detonating in his face. This distraction proved enough for Pat to get a clean shot at him. Still sparking from the lightning attack, the Wizard generated a few dozen more bombs and began to hit them towards his foes, filling the area with explosion after explosion. Geo teleported over to Pat, grabbed him, and teleported them both away just before the platform he stood on was engulfed in a blast; they regrouped with Rey, and Geo looked to Hyde, giving a nod. Hyde nodded back. “You’re not going to win this!” Geo shouted at the Wizard. “If you leave now—“ The Wizard spat at him, so he stopped to teleport Pat and Rey to safety. The twins began to charge energy while Geo kept watch on their foe. A trio of bombs were sent their way, but Geo swung a fan-like weapon just as they were about to land, sending them back in the Wizard’s face. He teleported away as Rey and Pat unleashed Gemini Thunder on the stunned Wizard, and then opened fire with a stream of bullets from a Mad Vulcan Battle Card. “Obnoxious little brats!” the Wizard shouted, spinning around and using the backside of his hand to slam Geo back into a portion of Wave Road. As he pulled back his bat, Pat and Rey both launched their weapon arms: when they came in range, the hands opened and grabbed onto the bat before it had the chance to move too far, with the arms’ rockets still firing to hold the weapon back. “Thanks guys!” Geo said as he picked himself up. “Get ready!” He lobbed a large bomb at the Wizard. His enemy pulled his arm around to brace for the explosion, but it just landed harmlessly at his feet. Staring down at it in confusion, he was too preoccupied to stop Geo from teleporting closer and focusing a flamethrower upon the bomb, causing it to go up in one tremendous blast. The Wizard swung his bat blindly as he waved the smoke away, and Geo got behind him. With a swing of his fist, a row of bubbles shot out at the Wizard, joining together to encase him in a massive ball of water. He struggled to free himself, but it was no use—and Pat and Rey were ready to blast him free with a Gemini Thunder. “Darn it,” the Wizard said, still standing but looking a tiny bit weary. “You’re all dead!” He began to hit dozens of explosives towards the boys, spitting out the occasional energy blast to close any openings he left. The onslaught was too much for them to counterattack through, so they instead focused on dodging, though even that was proving troublesome. Suddenly the Wizard felt something bounce off the back of his head—he turned to see Hyde’s hat flying back to his hand, and took a moment to sneer before turning back to his task. “I’ll get to you later,” the Wizard said. “Heh, heh, heh,” Hyde chuckled, taking a step off the Wave Road. “By all means, take your time.” Hyde appeared to walk through the empty space between the fragmented waves. The Wizard turned to make sure that was what he was seeing, and sure enough it was. Before he could figure this out, however, a powerful shock swept through his system, and he felt a devastating uppercut connect with his jaw. The Wizard was dislodged from the waves he stood on, and as he spun around to try to find more footing, he looked around angrily—but no one was there. “Huh?” More attacks from nowhere began to pepper him. Hyde laughed as the Wizard grunted in pain and confusion, saying, “Ah, perhaps I should have given you more of a warning? Then again, why would I? Heh, heh, heh.” The Wizard threw apart his arms and yelled. Explosive energy pulsed outward from his body, which he guessed would buy him time, and he reached down to create a small hunk of corrupted Wave Road to stand on. More unseen hits connected as he tried to gain his balance. “What the heck is this?” he muttered. “Heh, heh,” Hyde laughed, a spotlight focusing upon him as he walked in front of the Wizard. “You’ve been cast in one of my productions, good fellow. Consider yourself lucky—I usually have quite the rigorous audition process. I trust you’ll do a simply phenomenal job…so why don’t you simply follow the script? And lay down in defeat!” The Wizard managed to brace himself against the next attacks. “You ain’t my boss! I’ll get out of whatever this is!” Hyde turned, shrugging one shoulder. “Oh, have at it then, stubborn oaf. You will succumb eventually. It’s so disappointing when a character’s struggle amounts to nothing in the end.” The Wizard created something in his hand: another bomb, but this one looked different than the others, having the same glow as the corrupted Road he stood upon. He hit it with his bat and it seemed to disappear. Outside the illusion, however, it exploded upon contact with a tiny piece of waves; almost immediately, the platform was corrupted, and the same effect began to slowly seep into the nearby pieces of Road as well. Hyde raised an eyebrow. “Ah, beg pardon, Mega Man and the Gemini Sparks, but I believe it best we skip the second act and put this foe out of commission at once.” “The heck you think we’re trying to do?!” Rey shouted, blasting a weapon arm with spiked knuckles straight into the Wizard’s face. “That stupid card gave him insane defenses—there’s no telling how much more it’s gonna take!” Undaunted by his tainted perception, the Wizard continued launching corruption bombs, and the poison continued to spread over all the available platforms. Geo, Pat, and Rey continued to hammer away at their foe, taking an occasional glance back to make sure they were still safe, and Hyde cleared his throat and prepared to continue his act. “Come now, sir, isn’t this quite enough?” he asked. “If you continue to be so rowdy I’m afraid I may simply have to throw you out.” The Wizard grinned hideously. Gray sparks began to dance all around his body, and he said, “I’d like to see you try!” The energy rippled out from him, slamming into everyone and sending them flying. Intense, burning pain shot through each of them, intensifying when they hit the corrupted Road before bouncing off to float in open space. It slowly began to die down then, but the Wizard was raising his bat already. The illusion was broken. “There you are,” he said, taking aim at Pat. “Take this!” The boy froze. Rey twisted around, muttering a quick “Darn it,” and looked around quickly. He kicked a corrupted platform, and the repelling shock sent him flying in Pat’s direction. There was just enough time for him to push Pat out of the way, but then the bat connected, sending Rey flying off into the distance—out into the open abyss of space. “Rey!” Pat yelled, reaching after him. “No, Rey, come back! I—“ His words were cut short as he bumped into more corrupted Road, receiving a painful shock. When he opened his eyes, however, he could see Geo utilizing his short-range teleport in rapid succession, heading off to collect Rey before he could be lost. “Geo…” Gemini spoke up, “Don’t celebrate already.” Any relief he had was quickly sapped away. The Wizard was rearing back, preparing to launch another horde of bombs at the pair while their backs were turned. “Oh no!” “Do something, boy. You don’t want your precious friends getting hurt, do you?” Pat looked around frantically: Hyde was still stunned, and he couldn’t find a single wave that hadn’t been corrupted by the Wizard’s power. “I-I…can’t…” “Don’t you understand? It’s up to you.” “But…I’m…” The Wizard swung. Pat reached out desperately, and without thinking, called upon the power at his disposal. Lightning sprang forward, and he did the only thing he could think to do with it: he willed the bolts to converge in front of the Wizard, wrapping around to form a net that caught the bombs and contained the explosions. The Wizard sneered, and Pat exhaled heavily. “Hm,” Gemini said. “Not bad.” Pat perked up. “Huh? Really?” “You still need to pay attention!” An energy bullet was flying towards Pat. He twisted around, managing to narrowly dodge it, and blasted electricity back at the Wizard to little effect. However, Hyde was up now, and he quickly assessed the situation; teleporting forward, he jabbed his cane into the Wizard’s eye, and then retreated as he waved his arm in retaliation. “Apologies, I seem to have dozed off there,” Hyde said. “This is what happens when an amateur ad-libs!” The Wizard pulled back his bat. Hyde willed a shadow hand to erupt behind him and grab the weapon, keeping him from slamming it down. Seeing this, Pat sent a continuous bolt of lightning at their enemy, pouring all his power into it to make it strong enough to punch through the Wizard’s resilience. “We cannot continue this, you are aware?” Gemini said. “Just a bit more!” Pat panted. “I can…do just a bit…more…!” Slowly, the Wizard moved, gradually forcing his way through the pain Pat’s attack caused him. He raised his hand to attack, but suddenly Rey came flying in, his weapon arm in the shape of a hammer, and bashed the Wizard over the head with it. Pat lost his hold and let his body go limp as his brother came back over to him. “Pat! Are you alright?” “Heh…shouldn’t I ask you?” “Just answer me, darn it!” “I’m fine. And it looks like you’re fine too.” He smiled. “I’m glad!” Geo rocketed back in, his arm sharpened to a point, and cut across the Wizard’s chest, taking a moment to glance down at Pat. They both nodded, and then Geo turned back to the Wizard as he began to build up more energy. “Screw you all!” he said, his voice sounding rough and distorted. “I’m gonna delete each and every one of you!” Hyde was too busy focusing on holding the bat back to be of much help, and Geo realized this. “We’ve gotta stop him now!” “Do we have a card that can do the job?” Mega asked. Before Geo could answer, Rey shouted, “Geo! Get ready!” He didn’t have time to think. Trusting Rey, he teleported right above the Wizard’s head and held one arm out to side. Something was in his grasp a second later—Rey’s weapon arm, transformed into a massive blade. Geo spun around and raised the sword high, and he heard Pat give a shout. A bolt of lightning struck the blade, infusing it with even greater power, just as the Wizard began to move. With a bellow, Geo swung down with all his might. The blade pierced its target’s armor, slashing deep and blasting a hole clean through his body with the additional current it had been given; the energy the Wizard had built up exploded up at an angle, narrowly missing Geo, and soon became a torrent of Noise. The Wizard’s form shrunk, returning to normal as all his power seeped out of him, and he floated there with a look of disbelief on his face. “We did it,” Geo said, out of breath. “Hey…you’d better get out of here!” The Wizard scowled. “Yeah right…like Dealer would take me back after this!” His body began to glow. Before anyone could react, he exploded, the force not as intense as his previous attacks but enough to send everyone reeling. Geo blinked—he could see the Noise left over from the fight flying away, but he couldn’t get steady, and there was nothing he could do to stop it. The Wizard was nowhere to be found. “Well, least it’s over,” Mega said. “You did good, kid.” Geo stared at the empty space where their foe had been. “…Did we even get his name?” There was a pause. Eventually, Mega said, “Let’s round everyone up. We’ve still got a job to do.” Geo looked around. Pat, Rey, and Hyde were all fairly close. Pulling himself upright, he went to collect them, trying to stay focused on the task at hand. *** Sonia sat in the lobby of AMAKEN, silently staring at the holographic screen floating before her. Solo was on the opposite side of the room—he had only just returned from Whazzap, and upon hearing that the doctors were at work on a possible lead in locating Dealer’s base, had decided to wait and see what came of it. Neither so much as glanced at the other. Part of Sonia felt like she should make an effort, but that was something she just wasn’t feeling up to at the moment. Her eyes wandered to the corner of her screen. Lyra floated there, her back turned as she occupied herself with something. Sonia still hadn’t made sense of what she was feeling—she was at a complete loss as to how she should even approach it. She tried to think of something, desperately going over the issue again to try to find some sort of foothold, but no matter how hard she looked it just wasn’t there. Maybe…I just need to… A notification drew Sonia away. She tapped it, bringing up a new message from Luna: “Still stuck at AMAKEN?” She was a bit slow in typing her reply. “Yeah. It’s stayed quiet, thank God, and Geo’s team should be setting up the connection soon. Here’s hoping we can go this last stretch without incident.” “For once! It’s about time you had an easy shift.” That got a smile out of Sonia. “Hey, I still need to take you out somewhere to celebrate your reelection. Thought of anything yet?” “I’ve got a few ideas, but we can talk that out in person. Something to look forward to.” “I’m always looking forward to seeing you!” Luna’s response wasn’t quick. While she waited for that, Sonia glanced around the lobby, verifying that Solo stood with his arms crossed in the exact spot she had last seen him. She began to tap her fingers. “…Hey—“ An alarm cut her off. She glanced upward in surprise, stumbling to her feet and making her way to Dubius’s office. Several Satella Officers passed her on the way; with each one she felt a new knot of anxiety tie itself around her heart. Boreal stepped out of the office just as she was about to reach it. “What’s happening?” she asked, hoping that somehow the obvious answer was incorrect. “We’re under attack,” he confirmed. “And not just us: Geo and his team have been intercepted in the Astro Wave.” The anxiety wrung Sonia’s heart even tighter. “It sounds like they have the situation under control. But we don’t have a lot of manpower left here, and I’ve got reports coming in from everywhere—Dealer’s launching simultaneous attacks all over the country, and our officers are scrambling to respond.” “Oh no…” Boreal went past her, eventually stopping to look back. “Sonia? Aren’t you coming?” “Um, right,” she said, turning awkwardly. Boreal was off again, and after a moment, Sonia slowly went after him. Do I have to do this? Solo was right where she had left him. He glanced up at Boreal as he entered, asking, “Anything on the base?” “Not yet, no,” Boreal sighed. “Tch.” “We’ve actually got a situation here, and we’d really appreciate it if you could help us.” Solo gave it some thought, and then lazily pushed himself off the wall. “I suppose if anything happened to the facility, your researchers wouldn’t be able to finish locating the base.” He made his way outside. Eventually, Sonia made it there as well—a Noise Wave was open in the distance, and through it came a steady stream of Noise Beasts and other viruses. The Satella Officers, though few in number, seemed to be doing a good enough job holding them back, and she took a step off to the side as she observed this. They might not even need me. The Noise Wave flashed. Sonia wasn’t exactly surprised, and she was already distraught, but there was certainly a new layer of frustration coming over her as Joker stepped onto the battlefield. Beside her, Solo’s scowl darkened considerably. “Finally.” He transformed and called Laplace to his hand. Bounding forward, he cut down a swath of viruses to make room, and then stared directly at Joker, who looked back with an equally hateful glare. “Child of Mu,” Joker said. “I see you and your pathetic weapon survived our last encounter. I would very much like to rectify that, if you have the courage to stand and fight this time.” The flames around Solo’s fist flashed. He pulled Laplace back and punched, sending out a flurry of blasts, but Joker simply walked straight through them. Solo leapt forward and made an overhead swing, only for Joker to clap his hands together on either side of the blade and bring it to a halt inches from his face. Joker’s knee aimed for Solo’s chin, but the boy was ready: as Laplace shifted back to their Wizard form, escaping Joker’s hold in the process, Solo twisted in midair to block Joker’s knee with his hand, using it to brace himself as he continued to spin and kicked Joker in the side of the head. Joker was more surprised than damaged, and still quickly moved to swat at Solo. Laplace darted past him, grabbing Solo and pulling him away—Solo landed in a crouch and slid back a few feet, while Laplace formed back into a sword. With a snort of contempt, Joker began to gather energy in one hand. “Sonia,” Lyra said, making the girl flinch. “I think he could use our help.” Sonia swallowed hard. “…I…doubt that he wants it. It’s Solo, after all.” Lyra paused. “Perhaps we could at least help clear the viruses? Once they’re gone, the officers can retreat—so long as they’re out here, there’s a chance they could get caught in the crossfire.” …Yeah, Sonia thought. I can’t…just leave them to fend for themselves. That wouldn’t be right. Sonia raised her guitar, glancing at it warily for a few long moments. Taking a deep breath, she Wave Changed, and then connected to the Noise Server to give her armor the shape of Ophiuca Noise and the colors of Taurus Noise. She shuddered as she saw Joker fire an energy beam: Solo dodged to the side, letting it hit a Noise Beast, which immediately burst apart into a dozen fragments of data. Unconsciously, she ground her teeth. “…We…need to get to work,” she said quietly, facing the horde of viruses instead. “Yes,” Lyra said just as quietly, “let’s.” Her foes weren’t particularly strong, and she had faced larger numbers than this. But there was still something difficult about it for her. In all the time she had spent fighting in wave form, even including the early days when she was first getting the hang of it and learning what the FM-ians were like, Sonia had never felt as deeply unnerved by the power she was using as she did now. (Review)
  3. -Wild Area sounds awesome -Dreadnaw and Corviknight look rad -Wooloo looks cute, the grass types are good designs just not really my thing -The legendaries…like, they for sure look goofy, but that’s not necessarily bad. Neither is going to be my new favorite design. I’m leaning Sword right now. -I hate Dynamax. “Hey, we need an obligatory gimmick for this generation! Let’s just combine Mega Evolution and Z-Moves but make it as bland as possible!” I hate it. And they’re going to force me to use it in Gym Battles. Not jazzed about Raid Battles (and potentially Raid Battle-exclusive Pokemon) either. -I AM jazzed about Rotom Phone! And water bike! -The characters all make a good first impression. At first I thought it was weird that they’d reveal the Champion right away, but in a region where the Pokemon League is sports it only makes sense. Also he has brand logos on the back of his cape and that is hilarious to me. Kind of hate that his ace seems to be a Charizard as opposed to, you know…an actual new Pokemon… -I’m actually going to pre-order now, just need to find that gift card I misplaced.
  4. Vezok: "You wanna dance, punk?" Nuparu: "I thought you'd never ask." *orchestra starting up*
  5. This movie wasn't supposed to have any genuinely wholesome frames but okay I guess
  6. I think the best way to grow this scenario out of where we left off would be to tie it into the defeat of one of the major threats left in place--Marendar, the Gold-Skinned Being, and Velika are the ones that spring to mind for me. -For Marendar, since it specifically seeks out Toa, maybe the existing Toa all create Toa Stones and become Turaga to get it to shut down, and then after dismantling it they use the stones to create the next generation of Toa -For the Gold-Skinned Being, I can definitely see the Skakdi dreaming of "a world without Toa", while the Toa could probably influence the GBS's power enough to twist that to turn them into Turaga rather than killing them or something -For Velika...uh, hard to say on that one, think I'm actually going to pass Point being, there are definitely ways to make it work. And if all else fails you can always play the alternate timeline card.
  7. Listen, I love Typhlosion and the Sword and Shield reveal left me feeling underwhelmed, and though I’ll probably end up seeing Detective Pikachu eventually I’d rather not spend money on it because what the what, so…this was the best way to feel like I actually still like Pokemon. I wanted to see if I could beat Pokemon Gold Version (the 3DS Virtual Console version specifically) only using Typhlosion. I restarted the game, picked Cyndaquil, named him Blaze VI, and never used another Pokemon in battle. The only Pokemon I caught were ones I needed for HM usage, and even then there were a good amount of gift Pokemon who could use HMs so I didn’t need to do much of that. After 12 hours and 15 minutes of game time, Blaze VI is level 84 and has beaten Red. And it’s a rather satisfying achievement. Honestly, I think this was easier than using a full team. I didn’t have any particularly big problems, per se, but here are the hiccups/close calls: -The second rival fight, since his Feraligatr knew Water Gun and Blaze didn’t have an effective way of dealing with him at that point -The freaking Ice Path, my eternal nemesis -Bruno’s Machamp probably would have been a problem if its Rock Slide hadn’t missed -Karen’s Umbreon, which is tanky and knows Sand Attack AND Confuse Ray -Lance got off a Thunder Wave so Blaze had to tank a few Hyper Beams, but he did, like a champ -The first thing to put up an actual fight in Kanto was the dang Snorlax in front of Diglett’s Cave -Blue did get a lot of damage on Blaze, but aside from one Extreme Speed it was all Sandstorm damage -And obviously Red is no pushover By going everywhere I could before challenging each gym and fighting everyone I saw, I was able to get Blaze to a Typhlosion before even the fourth gym. At that point he can learn Thunder Punch and Fire Punch via TM, and those (plus Dig for coverage and Quick Attack for fodder) will carry you pretty dang far—you’ll outspeed and oneshot just about everything. Definitely get Return ASAP, plus the Pink Bow held item to boost it, and be sure to pick up Earthquake in Victory Road. Obviously replace Fire Punch with Flamethrower once you get it. I barely used any items at all, either. It was a fun side project for a week. I’d kind of like to do this sort of thing again, but I think Moon is too hard for me to do a solo run…
  8. Thank you so much! I'm so glad to hear you enjoy it! I'm hoping the hiatus won't be too long--work is progressing on the other project I'm focusing on. Rest assured I've still got plenty in store for this one!
  9. Malum: "You say I'm not in this movie? Well...that really BUGS me!"
  10. Mata Nui: "Hm?" Ackar: "Mm-hm." Mata Nui: "Hm?!" Ackar: "Mmm!" Mata Nui and Ackar: "HMMMMMMMMM..."
  11. They absolutely would want to show off first, but every Toa team started out petty and grew out of it through their experiences (except the Inika, who broke the trend by starting as functional adults), and I’d like to think these idiots would get there too. You know, barring Ahkmou. If we want to get super technical about how the plot would change if this was the only element altered, then…I predict a 100% chance of Bad Ending. I think it’d go alright through the whole Great Disks/Morbuzakh thing: these Toa already know where the Great Disks are and can gather them up faster, the only real snag is not having the Matoran Nui to bail them out but if Tehutti knows about that he probably also knows about Toa Kaita. But Krahka would gain Ahkmou’s memories as soon as she transformed into him and probably tell the others he’s planning to betray them. Supposing they get through that and back to Dume, he’s probably been getting more information on the team since Ahkmou’s still reporting to Nidhiki (who reports to Dume), and he can manipulate these glory-seekers by just inviting them inside, killing everyone but Ahkmou, and telling the people that with the crisis solved the others have gone to help other islands while Toa Ahkmou remains to keep order here. Even if it doesn’t go that way, Ahkmou undoubtedly betrays the group here, which means Makuta can’t be sealed away, so either the Toa lose or Makuta and Ahkmou retreat…only to return alongside the Visorak Horde when that all goes down, and, yeah, I don’t see how five extra-vain Hordika are going to come out on top then. But that’d be depressing! There are definitely ways to spin this into an interesting story if we take some more liberties. For starters, I think the team would go and visit Turaga Dume right away so they can get their glory; Ahkmou would get his orders from Nidhiki and/or Makuta, and then the team would be formally tasked with destroying the Morbuzakh. But, someone requests some Matoran be brought along to chronicle their deeds. Dume accepts, and the Toa each drag along their respective nemesis to really rub in their faces how great they are now. This is of course accompanied with some general showing off, though I don’t think it’d be so bad with Orkham (who I think primarily wants order and now, as a Toa, gets to actively keep it) and Tehutti (who just wanted general recognition and immediately has that just by becoming a Toa). These two picking their respective Matoran might also need some extra justification, but…somehow it gets done. The hunt for the Great Disks still happens a bit faster than in the original, and while it mainly goes the same, the atmosphere is way, way more hostile due to the new Toa constantly gloating and lording their new power over their rivals’ heads. But there are moments. Despite feeling frustrated, Nokama still tries to patiently work with Vhisola, and impress upon her that she needs to think more about others. Orkham has to, uh, “think fast”, and it causes him and Matau to start developing a certain respect for each other. Nuju tells Ehrye that even if he’s a Toa now, he’s still the same irresponsible oaf, dulling his enthusiasm but still getting him thinking about changing on a deeper level, and Tehutti begins to feel the same way. Nuhrii doesn’t get the satisfaction he wants out of Vakama’s inferiority. Of course, for Ahkmou, having to still endure Onewa’s scorn just makes him more vindictive, but they manage to get the job done and kill the King Root. The Matoran run in to help the Toa when they get trapped, and in order to save them, they put aside their differences and form Toa Kaita to get them to safety and open the way forward. The Toa would want to report back to Dume, and they probably let him keep the Great Disks and everyone returns home. Maybe Tehutti still hears about the leak in the Archives and goes to do something about it, leading to a Krahka arc, and Ahkmou doesn’t get found out somehow and goes on to help the Vahki capture Matoran. Eventually one of the more responsible Toa realizes something is amiss, possibly at the prompting of a Matoran friend, and the team mobilizes. Stuff happens, and at the end of the ordeal, Ahkmou either still doesn’t get found out, or says he was getting inside info from Makuta so they could stop him, or says he has a change of heart—whatever the case he plays along with the rest of the team sealing Makuta to stay on the winning side. Things happen normally until the team become Hordika. Ahkmou Hordika immediately goes to work with the bad guys, and in the end Makuta is still released, and takes both Roodaka and Ahkmou with him. Neither is loyal…but both are useful. The rest of the team are healed and take the Matoran to Mata Nui, though Po-Koro lacks a proper Turaga and one of the Matoran (probably Onewa) gets appointed to the position. This successfully gets us back to 01, just with a few changes. Since those are mostly minor changes, I’m not gonna work them all out, aside from the Turaga thing the only other big ones are: -The Kanohi Vahi never got made, but it didn’t matter in canon anyway so WHO CARES -Ahkmou will eventually return as a Brotherhood servant during the Ignition Saga. I doubt the Brotherhood would heal him of his mutation (even supposing they could), but they might find a way to stabilize it so he doesn’t become a complete animal. Where this goes is…up in the air. Unless we bring along the Great Disk Turaga then Ahkmou won’t be interacting with anyone he has direct history with, so we’d need to put a lot of thought into what his new arc would be. Maybe jealousy at seeing the Inika/Mahri/Nuva all get along with each other, and realizing that’s what he could have had? I don’t see him ever redeeming himself, but there’s definitely some interesting stuff that could be done with him. (Sorry that’s so long, I’m stopping.)
  12. Not Evil is one of the greatest songs that's ever been in a movie tbh
  13. Raanu: "Look at all those chickens!" Vastus: "u wot m8" Tarix: "rude"
  14. Gresh: "So...are we allowed to make a joke about a fire-themed image running during a particular date, or...?"
  15. Chapter 25 Walking down the halls of AMAKEN was nostalgic for Sonia. She just wished it could’ve been under better circumstances. It had taken a long time to get in touch with WAZA, which she then found out was due to a Dealer spy crippling their network—even once that was dealt with, everyone had been so busy evacuating the damaged headquarters that it had taken even longer for someone to arrive on-scene to retrieve Ace and Acid. She and Geo were given some instructions on how to stabilize them both, and luckily it had worked well enough. Ace had been taken to a hospital nearby, meanwhile the majority of WAZA’s personnel regrouped here at AMAKEN, save a select team who stayed behind to guard equipment and data that hadn’t been safely moved yet, and Acid had been brought in to be repaired by Goodall and Vega. Sonia entered a lab to find the both of them, as well as Boreal and Dubius, gathered around a computer screen. After a small pause, she came over to join them. “How’s Acid?” she asked. “He’ll be alright,” Goodall said. “There wasn’t really all that much damage done to him. I’ve got him straightened out—he just needs a bit more time to rest.” Sonia nodded. Turning to Dubius, she said, “Thanks for letting us come here, Mr. Dubius. I really appreciate it.” Nodding, he said, “No problem at all. I’m more than happy to help out.” Then facing Boreal, Sonia asked, “…Any word on Ace?” “He’s stable,” Boreal said. “They say he should wake up soon, and then it’s just a matter of getting him to rest until he’s fully healed. That’s probably what’s going to be the hard part.” Sonia hummed to herself. “Sonia, can you go over what happened again? Just in case we missed something.” “Uh, sure. When the Noise Wave opened, it spat out a bunch of those Noise Beasts, so we had to focus on fighting those first. We tried to get into the Wave when we had a chance, but then…Joker showed up…” She clenched and unclenched her fist. “We tried…well, really, he was trying to talk to Acid. He was saying that Dealer would give them the freedom they wanted, and that he wouldn’t have to…be denied his purpose, or something like that? I wasn’t really sure what he was talking about. Ace charged at him, but his attack did nothing. Joker just grabbed him and started pumping Noise into him. Then he left, and…Ace just went berserk. He didn’t say anything—I don’t think he could even understand us. He just kept attacking, until the limiter activated and broke his Wave Change.” Vega put a hand to her chin. “And you said his armor turned black? It sounds as though Joker was trying to force him to Finalize…” “Yeah, I think he did say that.” “Goodness…I didn’t think our restrictions would cause that to happen…” “He shouldn’t have been able to hack the Ace Program to begin with,” Goodall said. “King must’ve made some nasty adjustments to the Joker Program.” “Sonia, you’ll need to be extra careful,” Boreal said. “Both you and Geo: the second generation Noise Control Programs should have better security, but Joker might still try to hack them and overwhelm you with Noise.” Sonia shuddered. “So…we could go berserk too?” Boreal glanced to Vega. She answered, “…Only if you aren’t able to retain control over the Finalization process. Acid has been modified explicitly to make that impossible, which is most likely why he became temporarily corrupted by the Noise.” “Okay, but…what is Finalization?” “It’s a type of Noise Change,” Goodall said. “A very powerful, very dangerous one that calls upon files from deep inside the Meteor Server to supercharge its user. Acid used to be able to do it, but after…after Joker left…” She trailed off. Boreal picked up, “When Joker left, concerns arose over the possibility of Acid doing the same thing. So I ordered Acid’s abilities to be limited. That way, if he did betray us—“ “He wouldn’t betray us,” Vega interrupted. “He’s not capable of being lured away with false promises, not without emotions. It was unnecessary, and it was those very modifications that led to this fiasco.” Boreal narrowed his eyes a bit. “Might I remind you, doctor, Acid always had trouble controlling himself when Finalized. If he hadn’t been modified, and Joker had forced him to Finalize, he may have still gone berserk…and a properly Finalized Acid would have done much, much more damage.” Vega looked away. Sonia glanced at Goodall, who sat staring at the floor with a sad, distant look in her eyes. Clearing her throat, Sonia said, “Dr. Goodall…I’d hate to pry, but I’ve been wondering something.” Looking up, the doctor said, “Oh? What is it, Sonia?” She hesitated a bit. “…Are you…Joker’s mother?” Goodall stared at her for a moment. Then, the sad look came back to her eyes, and she chuckled once. “Well…in a way. He certainly always thought of me as such.” She turned around, facing the screen again. “…There’s no reason to be coy about it now. Sonia, the truth is that Joker is not a human. He is a Wizard. One that I was responsible for programming.” Sonia blinked, wondering if she had misheard the doctor. “…What? But…he…” “Looks human? Yes, that was the intention.” Goodall tapped her fingers against the desk. “You might have already heard—when we were creating Wizards, there was some disagreement over whether to give them emotions or not. Veggie here was dead set against it, but me, I was all for it. We could never quite agree, so when the time came to create Wave Change-capable Wizards to use the Noise Control Programs, we compromised: Veggie could program Acid however she liked, while I took the lead in programming Joker.” Sonia furrowed her brow as she tried to make sense of it. “Okay, but…emotions are one thing. Why make him look just like a human?” Goodall gazed up at the ceiling. “I wanted Wizards to be able to integrate into society as seamlessly as possible, to be treated just the same as people. It wouldn’t be enough to make them the same underneath—humans can be so petty when it comes to appearances, surface differences. So I thought the best way for Joker to be treated like a human was to make him indistinguishable from one.” She shook her head. “Hah! Or, maybe I got a little carried away and just wanted to play God? Lord knows it wouldn’t be the first time…” Sonia glanced over the doctors. “…Okay. Whatever the reason…why am I only being told this now? Geo and I both hesitated out there because we didn’t want to hurt an unarmed human! If we’d known he was a Wizard—that he was capable of taking a few hits—then we might’ve been able to stop him from screwing up Ace and Acid!” “To be fair, dear,” Lyra said, “Mega did point out he defeated Solo. We already knew he could take a few hits.” Sonia looked off into a distant corner of the room. Goodall glanced over her shoulder and said, “Well, regardless…the main reason we don’t talk much about Joker is just down to the fact that I’m embarrassed over the whole ordeal, and no one wants to remind me of it. Even I’ve done what I can to try not to talk about him. I know it’s not a good enough reason, not by a long shot…but what’s done is done. I’m sorry, Sonia.” Sonia stared at her. Eventually, she took a deep breath, put both hands over her face, and just laughed. “Okay! So!” Counting on her fingers, she went on, “Ace was raised by Dealer before defecting to our side, there’s a gigantic meteor made entirely of Noise headed for Planet Earth, and Joker is actually a Wizard made at WAZA. While we’re here, is there anything else I should know?! Anything at all that could be helpful?! Because to be honest, I’m getting really tired of surprises!” Boreal quietly said, “I can’t think of anything.” “Well if you do, please let me know!” And with that, she stormed out. She made her way through the lobby, ignoring everyone she passed, and out onto the grounds to find some place where she could be alone. When she finally sat down on a nearby hill, she buried her face in her arms and screamed. “This revelation explains a few things,” commented Lyra, who materialized next to her. “We should have a much better understanding of Joker now.” Sonia glared at her. “Who cares?! All that’s important is that I beat him, and you were right: I already knew everything I needed to do that! Next time, I’m not going to let him get away!” Lyra stared at her. “…Sonia…are you listening to yourself?” With a sigh, Sonia faced forward. “Dear, this isn’t like you at all. Normally you’d be doing whatever you could to understand your opponent, trying to find some way to talk them out of what they’re doing. We finally have a real chance to do that with Joker. Don’t you want to take it?” Sonia leaned into her arms again. “…No. I don’t think I do.” “…My,” Lyra said. “You really hate Joker, don’t you?” Sonia just hid her face. “Is it because of what he did to Luna?” “Of course!” Sonia said. “He tried to kill her, Lyra! I thought he did! And he had no reason at all!” “He had his own reason, it—“ “No good reason! And even if it hadn’t been Luna, even if he had only killed Strong, I’d still hate him! You know how I feel about killing, Lyra. Why…” She took a moment to breathe, and then, more quietly, finished, “Why shouldn’t I hate a killer?” A very long pause followed. Eventually, Lyra looked at the ground and sighed. “Sonia…there’s a conversation I’ve long dreaded having with you. I’d hoped to avoid it, but now I think perhaps we need to have it.” She shifted a little. “…What’s that?” “The FM-ians, for the longest time, were a warrior race. We thrived by attacking and destroying other planets.” Lyra paused. “Dear…do you really think that none of us have killed people?” Sonia slowly looked up. “I had my suspicions you hadn’t thought about it, and I suppose I was too afraid to ask. But, Sonia…we have. I have.” The girl remained frozen in place. “I wouldn’t now, of course. I realize that it was wrong, and I regret it. All of it. I think that’s how a lot of us feel now, because we’ve been able to change for the better. We were able to do that because you were willing to show us compassion, and believe that we could change—you said you wanted to help us to do it, if you could. And you did.” Lyra’s gaze fell. “And of course…that doesn’t make my mistakes any less terrible. If there is something in this universe that will judge me, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find out I’ve already been condemned.” Looking back up, she went on, “Still…even still, I truly want to behave differently going forward, simply for the sake of doing so. And that’s not something I ever expected to feel.” She turned back to Sonia. She wouldn’t face her. “I won’t tell you how to feel towards Joker, dear. I find his actions quite deplorable myself. But you have been able to change those who have killed, and prevented them from killing more. So I suppose the real question is…do you still believe that all people have the ability to change?” Sonia said nothing. “…You don’t have to answer now. I just felt this was something you should consider. I’m worried about you, Sonia. I’ve never seen you like this, and I’ve no idea how it might change you. But, if you’re content with that, then I won’t pretend it’s my place to stop you. It’s your decision. But please…all I ask is that you take some more time to think before you make it. That’s all.” Lyra dematerialized, and Sonia remained frozen in place, still not saying a word. *** From his hospital bed, Ace reached out to take the folder from Boreal, inspecting the papers within quickly but thoroughly. His superior asked, “Do these look alright to you?” Ace nodded. “Yeah—no complaints here, Chief. I trust all these people.” Boreal took the folder back and tucked it away. “Good. The sooner we get this team over to Whazzap, the sooner we can get Solo back. I have a feeling we’re going to need him.” Turning to Dubius, Ace said, “I bet you’ll be relieved to have a few less people crashing at AMAKEN.” “It’s no trouble, really,” Dubius said with a smile. Ace turned to the other side of his bed, where Acid floated, saying, “And thanks for your help in getting Acid back on his feet…so to speak. I was really worried Joker might’ve corrupted his systems for good.” “There was no cause for alarm, Ace,” Acid said. “My program is fairly resistant to Noise. Additionally, even if I should sustain irreparable damage, WAZA still possesses my backup data and could recreate me quite swiftly.” “What? Don’t say it like that—just because they can make a new you doesn’t make it okay if something happens to this you!” Acid cocked his head. “…I fail to see the distinction. Nothing would be lost, barring perhaps a short period of memory.” “You would be lost. And I don’t want to see that happen.” Not sure how to respond, Acid faced Boreal instead. “Chief Boreal, I wish to apologize for losing control of myself. I have been working on potential ways to upgrade my Ace Program’s security so that this will not happen again, and will share them with you as soon as I am satisfied with the results.” “Good,” Boreal said. “I look forward to it.” “Why don’t we just disable his limiters?” Ace said. “Then he’ll be able to maintain full control over the Finalization.” Boreal ran a hand over his face. Acid said, “That is not guaranteed, Ace. You will recall that I—“ “Yeah, you used to have problems, but you’ve grown so much since then! I’m sure you could stay in control now! We should at least give him a chance, right Chief?” “It’s a dangerous thing to consider,” Boreal said, “especially in the wake of this latest development. Right now I think it’s better to keep Acid restricted, and just have the rest of our team focus on keeping him from begin hacked again.” Ace got a thoughtful look, muttering, “So we should focus on the team…” A glint came to his eye, and he turned to Dubius. “…Hey, while I have you here: I don’t suppose there’s any chance you know where Cyg—“ “Stop it,” Boreal said. “What? I’m just asking. When will we get another chance?” Boreal shook his head sternly, and Dubius glanced between the two of them. “Um,” he said, “are you asking about Cygnus? I know where he is.” Ace and Boreal both turned to him, the former asking, “Really?!” “W-Well, sort of. I know he’s…around.” “Has he been bothering you?” Boreal asked. “No, nothing like that!” Dubius said, waving his hands. “I’ve just…I’ve seen him. I’ve been keeping an eye out for any EM wave bodies, with the scanners and the security cameras, and a while back I noticed that Cygnus had come by the facility. He didn’t do anything, he just kind of…stopped by. I didn’t know what to make of it. But, then he started to do it more and more—I’ve never actually approached him face to face, just seen the recordings. I’m not really sure why he’s been doing it.” Ace grinned at Boreal, saying, “This could be our chance!” “Hold on,” Boreal said. “We don’t have any idea what his intentions are. For all we know, he’s still sees us as enemies.” Dubius fidgeted. “…Well…actually, I, um…” Boreal faced Dubius, waiting patiently for him to speak. “…I guess you could say…I left him a peace offering? On one of the more recent recordings, I noticed he was having some kind of spasm, and I figured it was probably due to Noise. So, um…I left out a data packet containing a Noise Filter…” Boreal’s eyes widened. “You left a Filter sitting out in the open?!” “W-Well, it was on the Wave Road, so most people wouldn’t even be able to get to it, and it was encoded so that a virus wouldn’t be able to open it. Plus, I was keeping watch! Cygnus came back, and…he seemed hesitant, but he took it. It was a while before he came back, but he did, and he seems fine now.” Dubius glanced at the wall. “It just…seemed like the right thing to do…b-besides, it’d be really dangerous for everyone if he ended up corrupted, right?” After a moment, Boreal nodded. “No, you’re right. Good call, Tom.” Dubius gave a relieved smile. Ace said, “So we can approach him! This’ll be perfect! Mr. Shepar already said he was interested in helping us out, and who knows, maybe Cygnus can even lead us to Libra! We’ll be able to—“ “Ace,” Boreal said. “Slow down. I’m still not convinced Cygnus would join us if we asked him.” “I’m sure we can swing it. Especially if we let Sonia do the talking!” Looking down, Boreal said, “I…don’t think that’s going to work right now…” Ace frowned. “…Oh. Is she not…?” Boreal shook his head. “Oh. That’s too bad…I was hoping she’d be ready to talk some sense into Jack and Tia once we track them back down.” He paused. “Any word on them?” Again, Boreal shook his head. “Shouldn’t be surprised. Tia’s been honing her plan to escape Dealer for as long as I can remember. If she can avoid them, she can surely avoid us too.” “Did she ever tell you anything that might give us a clue?” Ace shrugged. “I used what I remembered when I escaped, and even that wasn’t perfect. I wouldn’t have made it if not for…” He cut himself off. “Right,” Boreal said, quickly moving the conversation along, “but at the very least, you still know them. What do you think they’re planning to do now?” Ace leaned back as he thought, eventually saying, “Tia’s main goal is always Jack’s safety. But...I think she’s considering more than just his physical well-being? I remember her talking a lot about revenge, saying that as long as the people who made them suffer were still around, Jack would never truly be okay. I think…I think she wants to erase anything that could remind her or Jack about what happened to them. And King has definitely done a lot to them. So, as long as we keep fighting Dealer, I’m positive we’ll bump into them again.” Boreal nodded, saying, “We’ll keep our guards up, then.” Ace looked out the window. “…If Sonia won’t be up to talking sense into them…then are we going to have to capture them again? Even if I was as good at this as her, Tia’s never going to listen to me, which also means Jack won’t. I’m beginning to wonder…if we’ll ever really be able to help them…” He didn’t get a response, as Boreal simply tugged on the brim of his cap. “I wish they’d been the ones who managed to escape. They deserve freedom so much more than I do.” “You aren’t helping anyone by beating yourself up, Ace. Everyone makes mistakes, and your circumstances were pretty extreme to boot.” Ace looked at him. “Back when the FM-ians invaded…Sonia more or less had to kill some of them, didn’t she? She must have hated it, but she seems fine now. How did she cope?” “…I’m not sure she did,” Boreal said. “I didn’t really have many chances to catch up with her while it was going on, but she seemed to just be pushing it out of her mind as much as she could—and eventually, of course, the FM-ians were all reconstructed by the FM King. So at that point, I guess she didn’t really need to deal with it.” Ace’s gaze fell, and then he turned it back towards the window. “...I’m glad, for her sake. Because the people I’ve killed never got to come back…and I don’t think I’m ever going to be okay with that…” A long silence followed. Eventually, Dubius received a call and left the room, and Boreal also got up to leave. “Sorry for almost spilling the beans, Chief,” Ace said. “Don’t sweat it,” Boreal said. “I trust Tom, so it wouldn’t be a problem if he knew. It’s just…you never know who else might be listening.” “Right. I won’t bring her up again.” “Get some rest, Ace. Acid, I’m trusting you to keep him confined to this room by any means necessary.” “Understood,” Acid said. Ace finally cracked a smile. “Don’t be so dramatic, Chief. I’ll be up in no time! Besides, won’t you need my help transporting whatever’s still in HQ?” “We’ve got that covered,” Boreal said. “I’ve been in talks to get it transferred ASAP, and I’ve already asked Geo to take the lead. You rest. That’s an order.” “…Well, he can definitely handle it. Maybe I should take it easy for just a bit.” “Good. I’ll stay in touch with the guards, so if you need anything just let them know. Get well soon, Ace.” Boreal left, and Acid dematerialized. Ace stared back out the window, his smile gone at once. Please save them, Sonia. I don’t think that anyone else can. (Review)
  16. Ankylosaurus is best dinosaur tbh
  17. 1000 DEGREE KNIFE VS MASK CONTAINING THE SOUL OF AN ARTIFICIAL GOD
  18. Section XV is live!

  19. Section XV has just been posted! Sorry this one took so long. I talked about this over on Twitter, but I decided that since I had three ongoing fanfics, it might be better to put all my focus on finishing one of them to give myself a little less to worry about. But now, I’ve completed my Mega Man ZX fic, so here’s a new chapter of Right of Law to prove that it’s not dead! …Unfortunately…that’s about all it is… Y’see, while my plans for where Law is headed aren’t entirely set in stone, there is a lot that I still want to do. On the other hand, Shooting Star Sonia 3 has a more concrete outline and I can actually roughly estimate how many more chapters it might need. So…now I’m going to put all my focus on finishing that one. Apologies if this bums anyone out, but I feel like this approach is better for all stories involved and this is the best way to go about it right now. I’m hoping it won’t take too long, although even after that, I do find myself kicking around the idea of attempting NaNoWriMo in November, so that only further complicates things for Law. Man, I really need to get better organized with these things in the future… I will finish Right of Law. It just won’t happen super quickly, and I am sorry for that. But for now, I hope you enjoy Section XV!
  20. SECTION XV Carna’s eyes darted back and forth at ferocious speeds as she was led through the outpost. Next to her, Krika quietly said, “Be at ease, Carna. There’s no need to act so wary.” “Easier said than done,” Carna mumbled, adjusting the bag full of paintings on her back. “This still feels like walking into enemy territory.” “I’d be more than happy to help you along with my Peace powers.” Carna immediately stepped away from him, eyes wide. “Alright, simply an offer. Nevermind, then.” Eventually they reached the watchtower, and Krika gently swung the door open. Antroz, Bitil, and Zaekura all stood discussing something, with Kapura still held in stasis off in the corner, and the three of them all turned at the sound. Zaekura’s jaw dropped. “Mom?!” Carna dropped her bag, breathlessly saying, “Zaekura!” They both ran forward, locking each other in a tight embrace. Carna began to sob into her daughter’s shoulder. “Oh, I’m so glad you’re alright!” she said. “I was so worried about you!” “I’m sorry!” Zaekura said, squeezing her even more tightly. “There was so much happening, I didn’t think…what are you doing here? Didn’t you evacuate with everyone else?” Carna pulled back, keeping her hands firmly on Zaekura’s shoulders. “I did, but no one was telling me anything! I went to Civitas Magna to try to find out what was going on, and then I ran into this joke…” Krika made a short wave. “Yes, that would be me. Nice to see you again. Also, who’s the new centerpiece? I don’t believe we’ve met.” “One of the Odinans,” Antroz answered. Krika immediately abandoned all semblance of mirth. “A pair of them attacked while you were gone. The other has been dealt with, but this one is tricky: he possesses some manner of short-range teleportation, meaning he’ll flee if we let him out of this field for even a second. We’ve yet to decide how to proceed.” Krika nodded. Taking a step to the side, he pointed two fingers at Kapura. He lowered one, exerting his own stasis field powers to open the tiniest gap in front of the Toa’s heartlight, and at the same time he extended his other finger into a spike that reached across the room and pierced it. “Krika!” Antroz said. “What are you—“ “I’m dealing with him,” Krika answered. To his surprise, Zaekura reached out suddenly and grabbed hold of the spike, glaring straight at him as she tried to snap the appendage. “What is wrong with you?! Stop!” “…It’s done, Zaekura. And it was the only choice we had.” “We? Then why the karz did you make it yourself?! You think we didn’t already consider killing him? We wanted to see if there was another way! What makes you think you can walk in here and do whatever you want?!” Krika stared back at her in silence. After a moment, he slowly retracted his spike, saying, “Alright. My apologies. I shall behave less rashly in the future.” He didn’t get an answer. Zaekura turned back to Carna, who pulled her in again and took up glaring at Krika in her place. “Well, we should probably remove him now. Antroz, Bitil, care to help me?” Bitil shrugged. “What, you don’t think you can handle it yourself?” Antroz gestured to Zaekura and Carna. “…Oh. Um, yes. Yes, we should accompany you, to…make sure you don’t ruin anything else! Of course.” Krika hummed quietly as he went over to the stasis field. He and the other Makuta carried it outside, shutting the door behind them, and then the two Glatorian finally sat down. “He said you decided to fight a war?” Carna asked. Zaekura nodded. “I know it sounds weird. But, they’re going to come after me regardless. I want to fight back.” “That’s not…!” Carna cut herself off, clenching her fists as she stopped to think. “…It’s not…safe. You’re going to go put yourself right in harm’s way? Why would you do that? We just need to find some place to hide, some place the Great Beings won’t be able to find you, and—“ “Mom, I’m—I’m tired of doing that! I’ve spent almost my whole life just hiding away, keeping my head down, being afraid of everyone around me…and I’m sick of it! I can’t take it anymore, alright?” “I’m not saying it’s right, Zae. I wish more than anything that you could have a better life than this, believe me, but these are the circumstances we’ve been given. You just need to stay alive. Please. I need you to stay alive, especially now that…” She hesitated. Zaekura bit her lip. “…I know about Dad.” Carna shut her eyes tight, hanging her head. “They didn’t tell me at first, but now I know…” Carna immediately looked back up. “What?! They didn’t…rrgh, those—!” She started to get up, but Zaekura grabbed her arm. “Mom, stop.” “But they—“ “I know! I’ve already gone over it, I…I don’t think I can do it again.” Reluctantly, Carna sat back down. “I know, Mom. It’s just us now. And I’m just as scared as you.” Placing a hand on her daughter’s cheek, Carna said, “Then you understand? We need to escape! If you go out there and fight the Great Beings, nothing’s going to change—you’re only going to get killed!” Zaekura shook her head. “I already fought them, Mom. And I won. I managed to make a difference, I actually got to do what I felt like I needed to, and it worked! It felt so good to finally win, to feel like for once I was really…” She struggled to find the words. “…I dunno, real! Complete! I was thinking, and working, and building, and it all just felt right—I can’t just go back! Hiding was already miserable, but now it’d be torture! I wouldn’t be able to take it!” “Zae…” “And more than that…people have already…Dad, and others, have already died because of me.” Carna leaned forward. “That’s not your fault!” “Mom, I—“ “You didn’t kill any of them, it isn’t your fault!” “I need to do this! Okay? My fault or not, I have to risk the same thing they risked! I know I can do something, so I feel like I need to. I can’t bring them back, but I can…I just, I feel like it would be…dishonoring them, or something. And I…” She sighed. Carna looked down, taking Zaekura’s hands in hers, and said, “You don’t sound so sure.” Zaekura gave a harsh chuckle. “…Yeah, I don’t. I mean, I don’t know how good my chances are, and I don’t want to die. I’m overwhelmed, Mom, I’m…maybe I am a little confused.” She looked up into her mother’s eyes. “But I know this is what I want to do. Maybe I don’t know how to articulate it right, but that’s one thing I’m definitely not confused on. I know you want to keep me safe…I know this isn’t what you want to hear, especially now, and I’m sorry. But I need to do this. Okay? Please, just…forgive me for that. That’s all I’ll ask you to do.” Carna stared back at her sadly for what felt like forever. Then she pulled Zaekura in, hugged her, and said, “I love you, Zae. Do you know that?” “Of course, Mom. I love you too.” Carna sighed heavily. “I can tell when you’ve made up your mind. I wish this wasn’t what you wanted, but if it is…I’ll do whatever I can to help. I’m not going to abandon you now. Okay?” Zaekura sniffed. “…Okay. Thank you. Thank you…” Eventually they separated again. Taking a moment to wipe her eyes, Carna said, “Well…I guess it’s a good thing I let that disgrace much around in Civitas Magna. He said he’s trying to build support for you, and it sounded like he got off to a decent start.” She turned to wipe away Zaekura’s tears now. Zaekura said, “Yeah, that’s what he was saying when he left. He sounded like he was onto something.” “Just a heads-up: on the way back, he was saying he wanted to talk you into going to Ga-Koro, doing some kind of interview with someone from Civitas Magna.” Zaekura frowned. “An interview?” “Yeah. I don’t know all the details, but if you want my opinion…it does sound like it could be a good opportunity.” She clenched her teeth. “And you know I’d never want to say that about anything Krika thinks up.” “Right. Uh, okay then…I’ll think about it.” “And if you do, you’re going to need to sound sure. Polish up some of those answers.” Zaekura smiled. “Okay, Mom, I get it. Thanks.” Glancing back towards the door, she asked, “Did you bring paintings?” “Oh, right.” Carna went to retrieve the bag. “Figured I wouldn’t stick out in Civitas as much if I was selling these. Course, that ended up being how the law enforcement found me…” “The what?” “Ah, don’t worry, we got it settled.” She sat back down and drew out a painting. “I needed to make these quick, so they’re all recreations of things I’ve made before, just worse. Don’t know if you remember this one?” Zaekura took the piece: it depicted a single flower alone in the desert, half-wilted and in the process of being ripped apart by a white vulture. “…This is…one you made after Grandpa…” Carna blinked. “…Oh. I guess it is, isn’t it?” She returned to the bag with a more tense expression. Gently setting the piece down, Zaekura said, “Hey, why don’t I show you around? I mean, there’s not much to see, but I can introduce you to some of the Rahkshi at least.” Carna scowled. “Hrm, Rahkshi…” Zaekura scowled back. “Yes, Rahkshi. I know what you might be thinking, but I should remind you the ones here are sentient?” “They’re part Makuta—how can you trust them?” “Mom. They’re people—they deserve as much respect as any of the rest of us. Besides, they’ve been nothing but kind to me, and they’re really helped me out in a lot of ways.” Carna clumsily closed her bag. “…Well…guess I should start getting used to this now…” Zaekura stood and offered a hand, saying, “Be nice. And I don’t just mean what you say, think nice thoughts: if you stay so on-edge, Charla’s going to get a real bad impression of you.” “Who’s Charla?” “You’ll see! Just be nice, okay?” Carna accepted the hand as she stood, saying, “Fine, fine…” “I’m serious, alright? They just lost someone too.” Carna looked up. “What?” Zaekura sighed. “During that last battle…one of the Rahkshi was killed. One of their brothers. It’s the first time they’ve had to experience that, and it’s still fresh in their minds. So please, please, be nice?” Carna stood still for a moment. With a nod, she said, “…Okay. I get it.” Zaekura hesitated a bit, but she still led her mother outside to see who was around. Sure enough, Charla was poking around nearby, and she figured she might be the best person to start with. She waved to the Rahkshi as they approached. “I’d heard that Krika brought someone back with him,” Charla said. “Someone you know, Zaekura?” “Yeah, this is my mom, actually,” Zaekura said. “Apparently she bumped into Krika in Civitas Magna and…well, I still haven’t gotten the whole story…” Charla perked up. “Oh, your mother! That’s wonderful! It’s so nice to meet you, miss—my name is Charla, and I…” She trailed off, so Zaekura glanced at Carna. Her mother had a somewhat vacant expression as she took in the sight before her. Discreetly bumping her ribs, Zaekura whispered, “Mom, don’t be rude!” Carna snapped out of it. “Er, sorry, sorry, I just…first time I’ve met a talking Rahkshi. Sorry.” Charla chuckled. “That’s quite alright. I remember you having a pretty similar reaction, Zaekura.” “Uh…I guess I did,” Zaekura said, rubbing her neck. “I’m sorry about that.” “So, Charla, you said?” Carna asked. “My name’s Carna. Zaekura says you all have been taking pretty good care of her, so…thank you for that. It’s nice to know she’s had people watching out for her.” Charla nodded. “Of course. We’ve all enjoyed Lady Zaekura’s company a great deal, so think nothing of it.” Carna smirked. “Oh, Lady Zaekura? Zae, you didn’t tell me—“ “It’s not…it’s not a big deal, Mom,” Zaekura said. “What’s wrong, milady, you look a bit flustered?” “Can you not? They’re gonna start calling you ‘Lady Carna’, you know!” Carna laughed. “Well, sounds like she’s been behaving herself too. That’s good to hear.” Charla nodded to her before turning to Zaekura. “If you’re showing her around, I’d be happy to assist you. It’ll certainly make introductions easier.” “Ah, I don’t want to bother you if you’re doing something,” Zaekura said. “Nothing at all! Shall we?” As they continued on their way, Zaekura sighed to herself, and then looked up to see Carna and Charla conversing with each other. She couldn’t help but smile. *** Kodan kept his eyes peeled as he wandered the streets of Ga-Koro. Behind him, Gaaki and Tarduk were fumbling for notepads and recording equipment, trying to coordinate how best to cover all of the Nynrans fast enough to still have time for compiling the information into an article, but he was looking for someone far more specific. “Sound good to you, boss?” Gaaki asked. “Yeah, you two do that,” Kodan said. “I’ll go see if I can talk to Makuta Kojol, get her opinion on the situation.” “Good thinking. We’ll meet back here at sundown.” As soon as he was out of sight of his coworkers, Kodan came to a halt. He still had no idea where to go, so after a bit of thought, he decided Kojol’s cathedral was as good a place to start as any. Making his way there was no easy task given how crowded the streets were, but eventually he pushed open the double doors and spotted the Makuta. “Makuta Kojol!” he said, walking across the floor. “Hello there—my name is Kodan, and I represent the Civitas Chronicle. If it’s not too much trouble, would you mind if I…” He trailed off as more of the room came into view. Sitting amidst the pews were Antroz, Krika, Carna, and Zaekura. Kodan stared at them blankly, frozen in place. “So nice to see you again, reporter,” Krika said with a cordial wave. “Thank you so much for agreeing to meet us like this.” “Uh…yeah,” Kodan said, still a bit dumbstruck. “So, um…which of you is Zaekura?” Zaekura stood and cleared her throat. “Th-That’s me. I’m, uh, told you were interested in learning more about my…situation?” “Yes, I am. Since you’re here, would you be willing to answer some questions? It would really help us clear the air around this whole story, let the people of Civitas Magna know what’s been going on.” “Sure. I mean, yes, I would be delighted to have a chance to…do that. Of course.” “Great!” Kodan turned to Kojol to add, “Well, if you’re alright with it, Makuta. I don’t want to get in your way.” “Think nothing of it,” Kojol said. “There is a conference room upstairs—setting up there would be the better idea, I would think.” “Oh, that would be perfect! Thank you!” Kojol nodded. “This way, then.” The room in question was smaller than anticipated, with only a single short table and maybe half a dozen chairs. Kodan sat down at one end and rummaged through his bag while Zaekura sat at the other. Antroz, Krika, and Kojol waited at the door. “Perhaps one of you should stay,” Kojol suggested. “Yes, perhaps,” Krika said. “Do you have a preference, Zaekura?” “Slim pickings,” Zaekura grumbled. She thought for a moment, and then asked, “Fangs?” Antroz stepped inside the room and to the side. Kojol closed the door, and she and Krika headed back downstairs. “Is it alright if I record the audio?” Kodan said. “Yeah, that’s fine,” Zaekura said. The Toa produced a small crystal held length-wise in a metal base. He set it down on the table, and after drawing out a stone tablet, he asked, “Ready?” Zaekura nodded. Kodan squeezed the crystal from both sides, and it lit up with red light. “Civitas Chronicle interview with Zaekura,” he said, and then rattled off the date and a few other things Zaekura guessed were for organizational purposes. “Begin transcript. Well, Miss Zaekura, it’s fortunate that I encountered you here today. There has been a great deal of confusion surrounding the events at Nynrah, as well as what’s transpired since then, so thank you very much for agreeing to speak with me on the subject.” Eyeing the crystal, Zaekura said, “My pleasure…um…” “Oh, Kodan.” “Kodan.” The Toa leaned back in his chair. “So, to get us started…what we have been told is that Makuta Krika, the Guardian of Nynrah, went rogue and drove out his own citizens, and that you are his accomplice. Would you say that is an accurate portrayal of what happened?” Zaekura ground her teeth. “…I would say…that is a slanted portrayal of what happened.” Kodan nodded, waving his hand over the tablet to copy down notes. “Depending on how technical you want to get, I don’t know that I can exactly say that portrayal is ‘false’. However, I feel it misrepresents the situation—things are a good deal more complex than that.” “I see. Then how would you describe what occurred?” Zaekura wrung her hands. “Well…it’s true that I was detained by Krika under order of the Great Beings. But I’ll wager little if anything has been officially stated as to what my ‘crime’ was, right Kodan?” Kodan lifted his note tablet to glance over another, completed one underneath it. “Let me see…it’s been said that you want to take power away from the Great Beings, though nothing more specific than that.” “Hmph. That’s not why I was arrested. They could’ve kept their power for all I cared, I was just minding my own business.” “Alright…then what?” Zaekura leaned forward. “Nothing. I had done nothing wrong.” Kodan tapped his fingers against his tablet. “…If you’d done nothing wrong, then why would the Great Beings order Krika to detain you?” “Because they were afraid of what I might do. Somehow—and I don’t know how, not yet—they found out that I have the potential to be like them. And they didn’t want that to happen.” Kodan’s fingers stopped. “…What do you mean…’like them’?” “The Great Beings are Glatorian, right?” Zaekura explained. “It’s still possible for other Glatorian to become new Great Beings. You just need to have a certain quirk in your DNA, and I have it.” Tentatively, Kodan waved his hand to put down the notes. “That’s…an intriguing claim. So you’re saying you have the same level of ability as the Great Beings?” “Not quite, but I’ve got the potential. I just need to figure out how to unlock it, and…” She trailed off, putting a hand to her head as a sharp pain erupted. “Ah, sorry, I’ve been having some migraines lately…” Kodan waited until she put her hand down before continuing, “Alright. So, the Great Beings had Krika detain you because you possess the same potential they do. But you convinced Krika to join you instead?” Zaekura shifted. “…I didn’t do much convincing. Krika wasn’t willing to turn me over to the Great Beings. That’s why they sent Antroz to retrieve me instead—she took some convincing. But at that point, honestly all I cared about was staying alive.” “Alive? You think that the Great Beings were going to kill you?” “Yes. My grandfather had the same potential. He was hauled off years ago, never to be seen again.” Seeing Kodan glance aside, she added, “And if that sounds too much like an assumption, Antroz confronted Angonce about the issue and he said about as much.” Kodan turned to Antroz. The Makuta said, “I told Lord Angonce that I did not think it would be right to kill Zaekura for such a thing. He said that it was, for the simple fact that he had ordered it.” The Toa stared at her for a time. “…That is…” As he struggled to find the words, Zaekura went on, “Angonce then proceeded to send an army of drones upon Nynrah. Krika told the citizens to flee to Ga-Koro while he and his Rahkshi held them off. A few of them tried to join the fight, and the drones killed as many as they could—Krika couldn’t save all of them on his own. Meanwhile, Antroz and I were…waiting to see how the situation would develop…and eventually escaped Nynrah ourselves. I think that covers everything on that particular incident.” Kodan’s wide-eyed gaze was aimed at the floor. “That is…quite a lot to take in…” “Tell me about it,” Zaekura mumbled. The Toa set about recomposing himself. “Well, um…yes, I think that’s a fairly comprehensive explanation. I can’t think of any further questions regarding Nynrah at the moment. Ah, other than that, all we’ve heard has been rumors…perhaps you could simply tell us what you’ve been doing since then, and what it is you plan to do now?” “Well, I don’t want to give away too much. It’s not that I don’t trust you, Kodan, but I don’t know who’s going to hear this or what ideas they might get.” “Oh, of course, I understand.” “Suffice to say, I’ve found some more allies and had a few other encounters we’ve needed to defend ourselves against. We’ve lost more good people. And, frankly…” Her hands curled into fists. “I’m furious. I did nothing to the Great Beings, and they sent things after me that kill indiscriminately, and I can’t stand it. So now, I’ve changed my mind. I am going to take away their power.” Kodan swallowed hard. “…You’re going to fight against the Great Beings?” “I’m going to fight back against them,” Zaekura corrected. “Do you…well, do you really think that’s the best thing to do?” Zaekura averted her eyes. “…No. Ideally, there would be a way to settle this peacefully. We’ve tried that. But the Great Beings have made it clear that the only ‘peaceful’ resolution they’ll accept is killing me, along with anyone else who might be born with this potential. So if my choices are let that happen, or try to stop it, I’d rather try.” Kodan nodded thoughtfully as he copied her words down. “But we’re not going to get careless,” Zaekura said as she looked back up. “Even if we have to fight, we’re going to be as careful about it as we possibly can. We don’t want to see anyone else die. We’ll fight just as hard as we need to in order to win, no more.” “Interesting,” Kodan said. “I would imagine you’re already at something of a disadvantage. Adding another restriction like that…” Zaekura shook her head. “Like I said: we don’t want anyone else to die. That’s what our victory looks like. If we have to kill to win, then winning isn’t worth it.” Kodan found himself smiling at this. Turning to Antroz, he said, “Makuta Antroz, since you’re here, is there anything you would like to add?” Antroz inclined her head. “I believe Zaekura has covered everything necessary.” “I have to admit, hearing that you in particular have decided to stop following the Great Beings is something of a shock.” “I understand. I have always strove to be as loyal as I could be to my creators. But, more importantly…I have always strove to do what is right. And now I can see that what they are doing is not right, no matter how they try to justify it. It is my belief that following Zaekura is the best course of action available to me now.” Kodan copied those words to his tablet. “Alright. Well, I believe that’s all, unless you have anything to add?” With a shake of her head, Zaekura said, “No. Ah, thank you, for asking my side of the story. I wasn’t sure anyone was going to.” “Don’t mention it. Reporting the truth is my job, after all! And thank you for your time.” Zaekura gave a nod, and then Kodan tapped the top of the crystal, causing its glow to shut off. As he put his material away, Zaekura asked, “So, you believe me?” His movements slowed. “…Well…I know what a liar sounds like it, and you don’t sound like one. But to be honest, I think I’m going to need some time to absorb what you’ve told me. It just…doesn’t really mesh with what I thought I knew.” “...Yeah, that’s fair,” Zaekura said. “Okay then. Guess I’ll be going.” She stood, and Antroz opened the door. Kodan said, “Hold on. If I wanted to do a follow-up, is there some way I could get in contact with you?” Zaekura thought for a moment. “For now, let’s just say I’ll get ahold of you if I have something to say. But, depending on how this interview goes down, who knows, that could change.” Kodan gave a small sigh. “Alright. I won’t keep you any longer.” In a few seconds he was alone, closing up his bag and throwing it back over his shoulder. He leaned to look out the window and over the sea. New Great Beings…the old ones killing citizens just for getting in the way…it’s crazy. Could that kind of stuff really be true? He blinked. Oh, he realized. Sounds like I don’t want it to be true. Shaking his head, Kodan readjusted his grip on his bag and headed for the stairs. Shame on me. We don’t get to pick what the truth is. ADDENDUM: -Well, it’s been a while, hasn’t it! Sorry about that. I went into detail over on Twitter, and though I maybe should’ve made another chapter to have a chance to explain the situation here first, that ran a bit counter to what I was trying to do. Since juggling three/four ongoing stories at once was…not going very well for me, I decided to focus entirely upon the one that I felt was closest to completion and knock it out, and I’ve done just that! I have one entire story off my plate! But, here’s the thing: while I do want to continue to focus on one story at a time right now, my other ongoing fic is far closer to completion than Right of Law…and has been open a while longer…so, all things considered, knocking out that one just seems like the better idea. I didn’t want to leave you all hanging for too too long, though, so I wanted to make just one quick update before I totally shift gears. This fic is not dead. I will finish it. It’s the “when” that’s going to be a problem. I’ll do all I can to finish this next fic in as speedy a fashion as possible, but even after that, I’m actually giving serious consideration to attempting NaNoWriMo again in November, and even if I get back to Law in just a few months I know I won’t have it completed by that time. There’s so much I want to do with this story…I wish I could just get it all out for you immediately, but sadly such a thing just isn’t possible. (At least, not in any particularly engaging way. I could infodump my plans but that feels even worse than just letting it die.) So for now, I’m afraid I have to ask more patience of you—I assure you these decisions are being made with the intention of making all of my stories, most certainly including this one, as high a quality as I possibly can make them. Further updates will be posted to my Twitter (ExoPahrak) as they are decided upon. If you came back after such a long, unexpected break, then thank you. Again, I’m sorry. And again, I will finish this fic. -Reviews to be submitted here
  21. Aw, poor Lewa still can’t catch a break. D: But this is an interesting development! While I think a little more hesitation from the Skrall to surrender might’ve been nice, Takanuva’s displeasure with their methods still sells that no matter how badly they need this, it’s still a bit counter to everything they’ve known up to now. That the one who diffuses the situation is one of the younger recruits who hasn’t had a “proper Skrall training” is an excellent touch. Also Seeker was a great pick—having him mention the Mask of Light helped me remember that hunting the mask is his whole backstory, so it only makes sense he’d be sent to handle its wearer!
  22. Right of Law Section XV is on its way!

  23. Well that was a pleasant surprise to come home to! (I will be sad if this turns out to be an April Fools joke ;_; )
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