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Lightfall - Eclipsed

lightfall light shadow eclipsed part 4

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#1 Offline Maganar

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Posted Jul 06 2012 - 07:10 PM

The protagonists have gone on a long journey to reach their current place in this series. Just in case you missed out, their arduous task began here. It's time to put an end to this saga - and it's going to end with the longest Part to date. I hope you're ready for...Lightfall Part 4 - EclipsedPosted Image

Intro

Excerpt from the private log of Toa Helryx, recorded on Daxia 997 years after the Great Cataclysm

Last we determined, the Fire Toa vanished after a skirmish with the Light Ravager. His whereabouts are unknown and he is presumed dead by our agents. Interestingly, the team was able to force a retreat from the Ravager. Perhaps they will succeed. We shall see.

In the meantime, the survivors have taken some drastic actions in order to advance their cause. It appears the Air Toa volunteered as a test subject for an experiment to create a shadow warrior that could counter the Light Ravager. At first, I was skeptical about this group, but I am gaining respect for them. They understand sacrifice.

Regardless, I find their plan reckless. Reports indicate his intrinsic light was partially drained, and the leech was then removed, in the manner that allows the victim to retain their original traits as well as gain shadow powers, but this has the side-effect of causing a highly unstable cognitive state. The most recent Brotherhood prototypes seem to be much more focused on infection of beings that are naturally light-based, but this prototype should grant him shadow powers regardless of his affiliation with the air element. We have been trying to counter the effects of shadow infections for quite some time now and the best we have been able to determine in all this time is that the key lies in sonics. We have yet to revert a victim to sanity while preserving the ability to use elemental shadow, and each effort has represented an extensive investment of resources.

However, their plan may be just reckless enough to succeed. The Psionics Toa has an unprecedented control over her element. If we were to leak a small cache of information, perhaps just the fact that the reversion process is catalyzed by sonic energy, she may be able to successfully utilize it. She may revert him and preserve the elemental control over shadow that his body currently would possess.

But this is all pointless conjecture, right? It isn’t like we just go spurting out our secrets to the world at large! True…but my most recent conversation with codename Primordial put things in a new light. Oh, light. No pun intended.

He was the one to suggest an information feed to the team on the subject of shadow infection reversion processes. I responded with shock. This team is enough of a liability as it is, knowing of our existence and all. What sense was there in giving them further information? It would be begging for a disaster.

But I trust codename…why don’t I just use his real name? If my private quarters on Daxia are compromised, everything’s over anyway! No point in using codenames here. Now, where was I? Ah, yes. Divrok. I trust Divrok enough that I had to ask what his reasoning was. After all, he’s been fighting Makuta since the League of Six Kingdoms. Nowadays he is ashamed of the role he played fighting on behalf of the Barraki, but that’s why he’s here: to redeem himself for that and put his Makuta-fighting knowledge to good use now that the Brotherhood really is in the wrong.

Divrok looked at me. He said “Helryx, think back to your earliest days as a Toa. You were like most of the modern Toa, thinking that killing could never be justified, that things would work out no matter what, assuming the Great Beings actually knew what in the name of Karzahni they were doing – which they obviously didn’t.”

“But I changed.”

“Exactly. What makes you think you’re special?”

I was silent for a moment. He jumped on the opportunity.

“Toa have fought in wars before, Helryx. Toa can be taught to kill if that’s what worries you. Not that it’s a pretty fact, but they can.”

“Divrok, you’ve killed Mata Nui knows how many over the millennia. What is this now about you going soft on me?”

“Helryx, the only reason I kill in your name after seeing the devastation I wrought in the name of the Barraki is because your Order promises to protect others. It keeps the Matoran and other average citizens from needing to pick up arms and do what we are doing: killing. Killing isn’t a good thing no matter how you slice it Helryx, and I think you know that yourself. But everyone in the Order is here because we agree it is sometimes necessary.”

“Fine, I can agree on that. Are you still sure about this, though?”

“Helryx, don’t underestimate your own kind. While I was in the League, I saw Toa do things that shocked everyone. No offense, but I think the first requirement for being a Toa is a penchant for insanity. Toa have the potential to surprise all involved parties, themselves included, whenever they show up at the scene of an injustice.”

I considered what he said. After some time, I made up my mind and gave the order:

Leak the info.


Edited by Maganar, Jul 06 2012 - 07:11 PM.

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#2 Offline Maganar

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Posted Jul 16 2012 - 06:44 PM

Chapter 37

Northern Continent, 998 years after the Great Cataclysm

Darkness. It was everywhere. Hope and heroism, morality and friendship, humanity and tranquility – where they had once been was now consumed by darkness. Oppression and villainy, amorality and hatred, inhumanity and cacophony – those were the gifts of the darkness. He had memories of another time, a time when he had had a name, a time where he had teammates and a quest, and even further back, a time where he had a team of friends and a village to defend. But that had all ended in failure and it no longer mattered. That life had ended and it had ended in failure. All that mattered…was the darkness.

And then he heard it.

It was a pure sound and it began to fluctuate in pitch. That was not in accordance with the darkness. The darkness represented corruption and cacophony, not purity and unity. His primal mind fought against this foreign thing. At some pitches, the darkness masked it and destroyed it; at other pitches, the sound pierced through the darkness, uncovering a part of his that had remained dormant since the darkness had first arrived. Initially, his mind seemed to be largely successful in locking out this clean and untainted sound.

Then, something changed. Someone was invading his head and forcing him to become attuned to the sound. He had known this person once. She had had a name in that time on the edge of his mind - that time when he, too, had had a name. She sifted through his thoughts, finding the precise pitch at which the sound most successfully penetrated the darkness that lied within him.

Then she withdrew. Had the darkness driven her out, was it victorious? No, she had withdrawn simply because she had found all that she had needed.

The sound centered on a single pitch. It was the one pitch that nearly eradicated the darkness. For a short while, the darkness still seemed to be victorious. Then, the balance shifted. The darkness still fought back, but now his mind was actually hoping it would lose. The darkness and his mind were now fighting each other, not cooperating.

And then it was over.

The darkness was gone. Suddenly, he had a name again. He was Emeder and he had friends. His friends’ names were Guftivei and Imegna. The darkness no longer mattered. Guftivei and Imegna were what mattered. They were his friends and he could always trust them. No, nothing else mattered.

Then Imegna’s mind came back. He felt her realize she had been successful. A wave of joy shot through her, and, as a consequence of the psychic link, through Emeder as well.

I knew I could trust you.

Don’t ever do that to me again. It took almost two years for me to get you back.

…Imegna?

What?

It’s good to be back. Thanks for everything.

Don’t worry, it’s good to have you back, too. Look, I need to tell Guftivei.

OK. Wake me up soon.

Oh…just one last thing before I get Guftivei.

What’s that?

Let me make it official: Welcome back to the land of the living!

With that, Emeder’s mind joined his body in sleep.

Chapter 38

At sea, en route from the Northern Continent to Stelt, 999 years after the Great Cataclysm

A return to Stelt. That’s what was in order, Emeder thought as he watched the ocean’s salty spray blast over the bow of the boat. Its tang hung in the air that was rushing by.

After he’d awoken as the Toa Emeder for the first time in almost two years, rather than some nameless Shadow Toa, Imegna and Guftivei explained what they had done to resurrect him. After numerous fruitless attempts by Imegna to locate his former mind under the shadows that had obscured it, they took an alternate approach. It occurred to her that this Order of Mata Nui, fighting Makuta and all, might know a way to revert the process. So, she tried to hail the only Order member she knew that was both aware of their quest and liable to be sympathetic: Axxon.

This would have still been pointless, considering she had been unable to break Axxon’s mental shield in the past, if it were not for a lucky break. Apparently, Axxon’s superiors had been spying on the team and they were aware of the current plight the team was facing. After much deliberation, their leader had decided to divulge the findings of the Order’s most recent findings related to the subject. Axxon had been informed and had been asked to keep a mental eye out for Imegna’s psychic signature. Should he sense it, he had been ordered to inform the team. What did he have to say? Sonics. Sonics were the key, but the Order had yet to master the process. She would need to do some experimentation of her own if she planned to succeed.

She had then sent Guftivei on a wild adventure to track down a sonic device that could be used for the purpose. He eventually tracked down a fierce Dark Hunter known by a multisyllabic name that translated to “He-Who-Makes-Others-Feel-Miserable” in his native tongue. He eventually defeated said Dark Hunter and stole its weapon, a customized sonic device known as a Sonic Piledriver.

That was what Emeder heard in his head. The Sonic Piledriver had produced the pure sound that had eventually freed him when paired with Imegna’s analysis of its effect on his mind. His actual awakening had been less of a socially uncomfortable incident than anyone could have expected. Emeder was not surprised his new form, as he had been self-aware during his waking fits, just unable to overcome the darkness and insanity. The other two had also come to terms with his new appearance. It was simply an occasion of rejoicing as Emeder was finally reunited with Guftivei and Imegna.

Then, the moment of truth. Had Emeder’s plan been successful? He had been bitten by the leech, he had been partially infected with shadow energy, his mind had been reverted, but had this granted him the elemental control over shadow that Shadow Toa were rumored to possess? In the cave, he called upon his elemental powers, not entirely sure what to expect. This is what transpired.

“Alright, I’m going to give it a go.”

“Right, bring on the shadow!” Guftivei jokingly taunted.

Emeder seemed to concentrate for a second. Then his power swept through the room.

“Nice!” Imegna called out, reaching out directionlessly. “You blinded me. You’re a natural at mastering newfound powers! Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever fully mastered my psionic abilities.” Then she wistfully admitted "Of course, the Rift might have had something to do with that..."

“Yeah, good job. I can’t see anything either,” Guftivei added.

“Um…is it bad that I also blinded myself?”

“Oh…yeah, you might want to work on that,” Guftivei suggested. Then he continued “So, can you let us have our eyes back now?”

Emeder tried to undo his actions, but instead released a series of shadow bolts that threw everyone off of their feet. Needless to say, he was having some difficulties.

“I have no idea what I’m doing!” Emeder admitted as he and Imegna crashed headfirst into each other while blindly stumbling around.

Over time, he became accustomed to his new abilities. That was why they were headed to Stelt. They were about to enter him as a guest competitor in the gladiatorial arenas that provided entertainment for the high society of Stelt. It would be a little “test-run” of his elemental control before he took to the Rift and battled the Light Ravager. Just one last trial, and then they were going to finish this. The Ravager would fall soon now.

Chapter 39

Stelt, 999 years after the Great Cataclysm

“Alright, this is where we split up,” Guftivei announced. Members of Stelt’s elite were swarming around them in the open plaza, most of them hurriedly rushing to the arena stadium for the upcoming event. “Emeder, you head to the preparation room before your first event of the day. You’ve got three rounds overall, remember?”

“Right.”

Then Guftivei turned to address the hooded figure to their right. “You should probably start - ”

Don’t worry, I’ll be in the stands soon enough. Imegna had decided to wear an ornate black cloak made of an expensive textile in order to fit in better among the audience. The crowds in the arena were only comprised of society’s elitist tiers. A lone Toa of Psionics would draw attention, but with her mask concealed beneath the gold-trimmed hood that accented her armor, she could pass as a regal member of the upper class. It had been easy enough to steal the cloak. Guftivei had haggled over the price of something irrelevant and eventually stormed out, apparently discontent. Meanwhile, Imegna had simply walked in while using her elemental abilities to keep the owner fully focused on its conversation with Guftivei. Things rarely got much easier. Just one question: where are you headed, Guftivei?

“Oh, I got business to take care of. You know, I think I’ll hit the gambling table. Place some choice bets on the outcomes of the arena battles. I lifted a little bit of money off of that shop owner while I was haggling. Took advantage of your little ‘focusing spell’ that kept the fool interested in the argument.”

Try not to come back empty-handed.

“What, don’t trust my arena combat skills? All he’s got to do is bet on me, right?” Emeder asked.

Frankly, no. That’s part of the reason I’ll be watching: to project an illusion that you are horribly mangled if things turn against you, giving you a chance to slip out of the arena. Should work, those arena guards that are supposed to prevent escapees are pretty gullible.

“So, have you been envisioning any heroic ‘death illusions’ for me?”

No, mostly like the one I projected in the Makuta outpost to mimic my own death. Except the ones I’ve got planned right now are much more violent. Just for you!

“Oh.”

Just kidding.

“Well, I’m heading to the gambling table. Meet me there when it’s over.”

Good luck with your gambling. Try not to end up selling off your soul by accident.

“Nah, don’t worry. I’m good enough at it that I don’t even need luck on my side.”

I won’t even try to talk sense into you. It’s not worth the bother.

“Yay! You finally figured it out!”

That wasn’t a compliment.

“Didn’t say it was.”

As Emeder reported to the prep room, he started to get a bit nervous. The tournament bracket pitted each of the four contestants against a dangerous Rahi as a qualifier round. Then, the survivors faced off in the semi-finals with a duel of the two remaining contestants to end the day. The guard notified Emeder that the Rahi he would face in the first round were a pack of Gorrelian Hounds. Those just sounded bad. Maybe Imegna was right about him getting in over his head. He began to absentmindedly rub his hands together in a futile attempt to relieve his anxiety. Then a wave of calmness passed through him.

There, that should block out your nervousness, Imegna notified him.

Thanks. How would I make it without you?

You probably wouldn’t.

Good thing you don’t have an ego, Emeder sarcastically thought back.

I don’t.

You’re just as hopeless as Guftivei.

Yay! You finally figured it out!

…that wasn’t meant to be congratulatory.

Didn’t say it was.

At that point a horn blare heralded the beginning of the first event. Emeder settled down to wait until it was his turn to enter the arena.


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#3 Offline Maganar

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Posted Jul 23 2012 - 08:37 PM

Chapter 40

Stelt, 999 years after the Great Cataclysm

A purple-armored hulk lumbered through the crowds near the top of the stadium. He stood half-again as tall as most in the audience and his face was obscured underneath a helmet. Matter of fact, most of his body was buried under armor. A large modified Rhotuka spinner was strapped to his left forearm. He picked his way through the masses, working his way to a balcony with a cloth canopy. As he made it to the corner, he found a female of some unidentified species leaning over the railing. She didn’t look entirely dissimilar from a Vortixx, but drabber in coloration than the typical Xian. She seemed to be a shade of tan-gray. Additionally, her face was a little flatter than a native Xian’s, but she had the same snake-like eyes. Two needle-like blades, if you could call them blades considering they were more like shards of metal, were strapped to her back in an assemblage that qualified as her weapon. The two-bio-long shards were spaced apart a hands-breadth by a skeletal-looking structure. The lumbering hulk addressed her.

“You seem to be waiting for something to happen. Perhaps you could tell an old Primordial warrior what that may be?”

Her voice rasped “You should know better than to disturb a resting Viper, stranger.”

“So it is you, Semitra. Can’t be too careful these days.”

“No, you can’t. What’s Helryx want, Divrok?”

“Just more of the same. Keep an eye on the gambling table. The Xian target is running the tables there.”

She shook her head. “Does he want to end up broke? Those tables are rigged, everyone knows that. Of course, the compulsives always return…”

“Off the record, what’s your impression of the team? Helryx doesn’t need to hear your opinion unless you want her to. I know how to keep a secret.”

“Honestly, they’re not naïve. They know what they’re facing. I hope they make it through. Then again, Helryx has plans for them doesn’t she? I say leave them alone once they’ve played their part, but that’s not my call to make. Not even my place to say, but you asked and I trust you. We go back a long ways, right?”

“Long enough. Like I promised, no one will hear what you said. I can play the silent game.”

“I appreciate it.” She pushed away from the railing she’d been leaning on and rolled her shoulders. “I guess I better get back to work. See you on Daxia sometime soon.”

- - -

“‘Rogog,’ huh?” Guftivei said, glancing over the tournament bracket at the gambling tables. “Cool name. I think I’ll put all my money I got right now on him.” The staff member at the gambling table gave him an incredulous look, but still made sure to rapidly dump the money Guftivei had put on the table into the reserve. “You’re placing all your money on a bet on what is going to be the tensest fight of this entire tournament short of the final round based on…how impressive the competitor’s name is? You’re crazy.” “Well, this guy is ranked as the favorite, with…uh, Exo-killer coming in second according to this chart, right?” “Well, if he makes it out of the qualifier intact. He’s up against a giant chimera. It's going to be a battle of the titans. If the chimera wins this battle, it will replace him as the favorite. Until we see the end of the qualifiers, only non-Rahi competitors can be ranked. So, I guess you could say Exo-killer is ranked third. Either way, what you’re saying is that it’s because he’s the favorite that you put your money on him? That makes sense, just know the ratings aren’t foolproof. The competitors in this tournament are some of the best.” “Nope…I really did put my money on him because of that epic name. Rogog!” Guftivei exclaimed, gesticulating wildly. “You’re crazy.” He’s right you know. Guftivei looked out from under the cloth canopy above the gambling tables and across the stadium to where Imegna was standing. “Looking good out there. I’m digging that gold trim you got going,” he said aloud, still not accustomed to speaking in thoughts. Just because I’m disguised as one of these elitist buffoons does not mean I must play the part without style. I'm trying my best, considering that I'm trying to simultaneously hold an air of dignity while projecting a perception filter around the box I'm standing on. Otherwise I'd clearly be shorter... and I wouldn't be able to watch due to all these tall Steltians. I need to be able to keep an eye on Emeder. Guftivei tried to look at her feet, but he kept finding himself looking away. The perception filter forced his mind to reject the possibility of looking at that point in space. Normally, performing such an act in the middle of a crowd would require tremendous elemental reserves, but Imegna's extensive time on the Mental Rift had made her capable of accomplishing the task. Finally, Guftivei got annoyed. “Ah…stop it already. Keep outta my head.” The same gambling table staff member gave an unusual stare to Guftivei. “Are you talking to yourself?” “Uh yeah,” Guftivei lied rather than explain the truth. It was unlikely he would have been believed anyway. “Helps me pass the time.” “…psycho.” Touché. “Shut it, I said.” Suddenly, the massive main gate to the arena opened. The crowd when ballistic. Then the entire stadium began to shake. A massive entity pounded into arena on all fours. Rogog. “No way…” Guftivei trailed. It wasn’t possible! Don’t tell me you recognize this thing! “No way…” Guftivei repeated. Memories. Now. I need to know what you know. Guftivei obliged. He called upon a memory from a long time back. A memory of a raid on Xia that he and Emeder had performed. Once again, he could see that Steltian slave take the blow from the enlargement disk; once again it grew incredibly; once again it careened over the edge of the rail transport and fell that presumably fatal distance. Presumably fatal. “But it can’t be! That thing died.” Apparently not.There it was, all over again, but now covered in robotic additions. Obviously, the fall had gravely wounded it and it now needed these robotic parts to keep it alive. Guftivei was unfamiliar with Kanoka technology, but for some reason the effects of the enlargement disk had never worn off or been countered. Instead, they had been exaggerated in time. Horrifically, Rogog was even larger than the last time Guftivei had seen him last. His gorilla-like form was now as large as a four-story building. It was only due to the massive proportions of the arena that this monstrosity was even able to fit. Actually, it had quite a bit of room to maneuver regardless of its incredible stature.I’ll warn Emeder. I’m sure he’ll be able to handle it. Or not. But I’ll make sure to stage a believable defeat if he ends up in trouble. He won’t be fighting it on the back of a rail transport this time, though, so he might be fine. Cheer up, big guy. I got it under control!Well, Guftivei thought. At least Imegna's optimistic. She's good to have around.Of course I am! The foreign thought barged into his head.Guftivei's only response was one world, growled out and barely audible: "Imegna..."He was sure she was smirking under that hood. He was absolutely certain of the fact.Chapter 41Stelt, 999 years after the Great Cataclysm So this Rogog character was really the enemy he had faced on Xia and supposedly killed over a decade ago? Strange, Emeder thought. As the battle between Rogog and the Rahi chimera raged in the arena, Emeder could feel all his surroundings shake with every blow. These two were the competition’s heavyweights. Outside, Guftivei watched the skirmish. With a vicious jab from Rogog, the chimera fell to its back. Its multiple heads flailed as it tried to right itself, but Rogog straddled the titan of a chimera and pummeled each head into oblivion…one by one. When it ceased to thrash, he backed off and pumped his fist to the crazed crowd in the stadium. A work crew came in and began to haul the giant corpse from the arena. Cheers rang out as Rogog leapt around the arena in celebration of his success. These people are sick in the head. That Rahi suffered so much it almost physically hurt me…and I was trying to block its mental pain out! “Yeah, well, some people are intrinsically evil. Or just really, really psycho.” The word choice of ‘psycho’ was poorly-planned, considering he had already been called precisely that once today. Guftivei immediately heard the gambling table staff member murmur something about hypocrisy. Heh, heh. Need I say something about a “touché” again? “No.” Then Guftivei addressed the gambling table once more. “So I guess I won big on that ‘psycho’ bid, right?” Behind the table, they ruefully acknowledged that such was the case and then gave him his winnings. “All right! That’s more like it! Carnus versus a Terror-bird next…I’ll put all my winnings on the Terror-bird. I saw one of those Rahi once. Nasty thing.” As the table tender once again rapidly scooped in the cash, he warned Guftivei “You know that the Rahi are supposed to lose, right? They take out competitors once in a while, but that’s pretty rare. I’d say you just lost all those winnings you just made. Carnus isn’t a newbie like that ‘Shadow Assassin’ guy.” Shadow Assassin…that was Emeder’s alias for the arena. Guftivei was unpertubed. “Whatever. Those Terror-birds are pretty mean things.” He started to gesture crazily, moving his hands as if they were the bird’s beak devouring some hapless being. The table tender just shook his head. It was lunatics like this guy that made the gambling tables the biggest profits, but that didn’t make it any less pathetic to watch. To everyone’s shock, the Terror-bird came out on top. It spat its normally-harmless but mildy toxic spittle directly into Carnus’ eyes early in the fight. It was a one in a million occurrence. Carnus held out for a while despite this handicap, but it couldn’t last. Finally the Terror-bird took him down. A work crew came in to wrangle the bird with shock-poles and remove Carnus’ injured form. It was uncertain if he would survive to reenter the arena. “Pay up.” The tender reluctantly obeyed. Hey, you are pretty lucky at this. I take back the whole psycho thing I’d agreed with. “Not luck. Skill.” Gambling and skill have no correlation. But I still have to admit you sure are a lucky one. Now that you have secured a small fortune, it might be wisest to take the money and just walk away. “No chance.” He looked at the next competition. Exo-killer versus a mutant mauka. He put all the money on Exo-killer. It was a low payback bet because Exo-killer was expected to win, but due to the massive payback from the previous round it would still be a lot of money. Even a small percentage increase in the sum he had accumulated so far was a sizable reward. A lumbering suit of armor, decked out in a plethora of projectile weapons and piloted by a being that was invisible in the depths of the suit, constituted the warrior Exo-killer. As expected, Exo-killer riddled the mauka with holes and Guftivei swept in his latest earnings. “Shadow Assassin versus the Gorrelian Hounds? It’d be unsporting to bet against our friend…Hey, tender! Put all my money back down. Yeah, on Shadow Assassin. What do you mean he’s the least favorite and we’ve already seen one competitor fall in the qualifiers? I don’t care, Shadow Assassin is probably better than that Carnus guy anyway!” You sure are making a sensation at the gambling tables. Hold on, I need to give Emeder a couple of telepathic tips. Those Hounds look pretty brutal. He needs to know what he’s fighting. Meanwhile, Emeder was tossing his glaive from one hand to the other, getting a feel for it. He was about to be admitted to his first round. This was it. Emeder. What? There are three of these Gorrelian Hounds. I’ve never seen anything like them before, so they might be mutants- Like me? Emeder joked, trying to lighten things up and keep his head on straight. Not so much. As far as mutants go, you’re mostly recovered and you’re definitely a lot friendlier than these things. Continue. They look very fast and very agile. Try to debilitate them as much as possible so that they lose that advantage. You won’t be able to go for a killing blow right off the start, they’ll dodge it. As I said, try to debilitate them first. Also, expect them to charge you rather than hold back: they look like they’ve been starved for this occasion. Thanks plenty. Next, the gate leading into the arena lifted and Emeder stepped forward. As the crowd roared, the gate on the opposite end of the arena began lift…and out stormed the Hounds.

Edited by Maganar, Jul 24 2012 - 10:27 PM.

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#4 Offline Maganar

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Posted Jul 30 2012 - 05:46 PM

Chapter 42

Stelt, 999 years after the Great Cataclysm

The Gorrelian Hounds were quite a bit larger than Emeder. As the distance between the Hounds and Emeder closed, Emeder began to charge up a field of shadow energy around him. Just as the Rahi were nearly on top of him, he released it in a blast that threw back the unsuspecting foes. They were launched in different directions. The crowds screamed with exhilaration.

That’s it! Take advantage of the simple-mindedness the starvation caused.

One of the Hounds had already recovered from the blast. It had landed on its back, but it now twisted back onto all fours with a lithe maneuver. Yet again, it came pounding at Emeder. Before he could react, it slammed into him, casting his glaive aside and flinging him aground. A flurry of claws raked over his body and slavering jaws opened up in front of his face.

Get out from under it! It’ll savage you from on top!

I’m working on it! Emeder thought back, while trying to wrest the jaws away from his face. He had planted his hands inside its mouth, and was frantically trying to keep its jaws pried open. If his strength gave out, its jaws would snap shut over his head. He suddenly jerked to the right, pulling on the teeth he was holding. The starved Hound was only concerned with pushing downwards on the resisting force and was unprepared for the sideways tug. The downward force was now applied at a slant and the creature’s head smacked into the ground. Consequently, this impact cause it to lose its footing and it slipped off of Emeder just long enough for him to jump back to his feet.

Emeder backed away, snatching up his glaive in the process. The Hound’s gaze snapped back to Emeder as soon as it had recovered. It unleashed a feral snarl.

Debilitate it.

It pounced.

Emeder charged a blast of pure shadow energy over his fist. He discharged the blast directly at the creature’s face. In mid-leap, it was unable to dodge it. The creature took the blow and landed at Emeder feet, temporarily stunned. Emeder then slit its throat with his glaive.

Perfectly executed. Now watch out for the other two!

Emeder had nearly forgotten he was facing three of these Gorrelian Hounds. He whipped around to face the other two, both of which were pacing and snarling as they slowly circled him. Having seen the other one fall in its hungry zeal, these two had let their self-preservation win out over their frenzy of starvation.

They’re working together. They’re going to go for you…now!

The two leapt forward simultaneously, but from opposite directions, attempting to offer no escape route for Emeder.

So what did Emeder do?

He leapt straight at one of the Hounds.

Well, straight at the Hound, but lower. As the one Hound sailed clean over him, the pair found themselves on a trajectory directly facing one another. They collided headfirst and Emeder turned around to see the backside of the Hound he had just leapt under. He swung a wide arc with his glaive, striking its left hind leg. As the blade hit its mark, the animal let loose a pitiful whine. The creature would now possess a limp for the remainder of the battle.

Duck!

Emeder did as he had been commanded, placing all his trust in Imegna. She was all the help he had in getting through this. He immediately saw why she had given the order.

The second, uninjured Gorrelian Hound had been too impatient to wait for the other one to get out of the way…so, it simply chose to pounce straight overtop of the other one and directly at Emeder. Lethally-long claws struck the arena floor just in front of Emeder. They would have struck him in the middle of the chest had he not ducked as per Imegna’s instruction. With the other Hound obstructing his view, he wouldn’t have known the attack was coming without her help.

Emeder saw his opening. Having over-jumped Emeder, the uninjured Hound now had its back to him. He clambered atop the animal. The creature began to writhe and thrash in an attempt to dislodge him. He was straddling its back now, trying to both prepare his glaive for an attack and remain on top of the bucking animal at the same time. The crowd was in an absolute frenzy by now. As far as they were concerned, this was entertainment at its best. Finally, Emeder managed to get a proper grip on his glaive.

Go for it.

Emeder unleashed a torrent of stabs to the top of the Hound’s head. It began to wail and moan in agony as its head became repetitively perforated. When it finally lacked the strength to make any further attempts to dislodge Emeder from its back, Emeder lifted the glaive high above him and drove it deep into the creature’s head. It fell, dead, and Emeder tumbled off.

Just one more remaining and you’re clear of the qualifiers.

The last Rahi, salivating and mouth agape, charged Emeder, ready to consume him. As it approached, Emeder raised his glaive and drove it down the creature’s open mouth and into its throat, killing it. He had passed the qualifiers.

- - -

“Alright, I’m not saying it again. Pay up,” Guftivei commanded. He collected his now-tremendous winnings. “Now, who’s up for the next round of bets?”

Chapter 43

Stelt, 999 years after the Great Cataclysm

In the semi-finals, the gambling tables’ rules dictated that all bets must be placed in advance. Despite the very low return ratio, many gamblers put their money on Rogog. It was essentially a guarantee that Rogog would defeat the Terror-bird that would now replace Carnus after his failure in the qualifiers. Most gamblers held onto most of their money, though. They wanted to see where Guftivei placed his money, considering Guftivei had placed every bet correctly in the qualifiers. Arena fights were notoriously unpredictable, and even the ratings rarely gave a perfect reflection of the outcomes. Yet, this Guftivei always hit it right on. Some gamblers went so far as to claim Guftivei was psychic. When Guftivei placed all his money on “Shadow Assassin,” numerous others followed suit.

You appear to have started a cult of followers.

“So it seems.”

There was little surprise as Rogog devastated the hapless Terror-bird. As the tables distributed the winnings accordingly, a rumor began that the tables would be in danger of running out of money if the newcomer Shadow Assassin really did defeat the veteran Exo-Killer. The return ratios for a correct bet on Shadow Assassin were very high due to low predicted probability of a newcomer defeating a veteran.

Emeder arced his glaive around the prep room, practicing before he was admitted to face Exo-Killer. Imegna once again provided him with telepathic aid.

Exo-killer demolished the mutant mauka he faced in the qualifiers. He has more projectile weapons than I could ever hope to count. There wouldn’t really be a point in trying to disarm him, he’ll just fire at you with different weapon. If you can find a way to disable the suit, the battle’s over, but good luck with that.

How many different types of weapons does he have?

Think of how many projectile weapons you’ve seen during you raids on Xia.

That’s a lot. He had that many?

Hah…no such luck. Double the previous figure.

The gate opened, and Emeder stepped into the arena again. He immediately spied Exo-killer. It was difficult to miss someone with the appearance of a walking weapons platform. Emeder noticed something straight away: there were absolutely no melee weapons to balance the endless ranged weapons. Even the suit’s arms ended in Cordak blasters. If he could just get in close…That would be a good idea, Imegna confirmed.

The Cordak blasters he had taken note of opened fire, but they were far deadlier than even Guftivei’s custom creation. These were fed by one long belt each and capable of a very high rate of fully automatic fire.

Emeder ducked and rolled; there were no other options if he planned on avoiding instant defeat. Cordak ammunition zipped over his head and peppered the arena floor behind him. He ran towards his opponent and did so as erratically as possible. Due to the incredibly high rate of fire and an inability to reload from within the massive suit, Exo-killer ran out of Cordak ammunition. It was time to use a different approach.

Exo-killer began to fire from some Xian weapon while simultaneously launching Rhotuka spinners. Emeder zigzagged past the first volley of shots from the Xian weapon with…relative…ease, when compared to what was next. As the Rhotuka spinners struck the ground, it became apparent that Exo-killer’s Rhotuka power was something along the lines of “cause giant explosions.” One struck close to Emeder and threw him off of his feet. Fortunately, the dust clouds the explosions kicked up made it difficult for Exo-killer to make accurate shots with the Xian weapon. Even worse for Exo-killer, Emeder used his shadow powers to exaggerate the dimming of the light caused by the dust in the air. Emeder picked himself back up and continued to run forward. Exo-killer, taking full advantage of the armory at its hands, changed tactics once again.

Exo-killer began to fire explosive shells while lacing the area with blasts from a weapon that released pulses of energy. The energy pulses let off bright flashes and this gave Emeder the impression it might be light-based. He flexed out with his mind to negate the weapons mechanics with his elemental abilities over shadow. It suddenly ceased to fire. He dodged the last few explosive shells that were raining down from above. Exo-killer had run out of chances. Emeder was standing directly in front now.

As a last-ditch defense, Exo-killer swept an arm through the air, releasing a jet of fire from a flamethrower. At this point, it was a futile gesture. Emeder flanked around the suit of armor and began to jab it in the back. He hit something critical, and the suit slumped over. He had won.

Emeder pumped his fists to the energetic crowd. He turned around to were Exo-killer was hobbling off, and thought he saw a glimpse of its pilot for a fraction of a second. No, that couldn’t be right. The pilot couldn’t be –

Yep, that’s right. Under that suit of armor, Exo-killer is actually nothing more than a Ni-Matoran. And a very disgruntled one at that. Be glad you can’t hear the onslaught of profanities against you that are running through her head.

That’s not possible, though! Plus, you said Exo-killer was a “he.” I must have been mistaken right there.

I’m telling you, you weren’t. It’s a sad thing to see just how far some innocents can fall. I called Exo-killer a “he” to save you the embarrassment in case you got defeated.

Are you kidding me? How would I ever get defeated by a little girl!

I don’t know, but I just about saw it happen right now.

…point taken. Emeder ruefully admitted.

In the meantime, Guftivei and the gamblers that had chosen to follow in his footsteps were collecting their earnings. So far, the gambling table staff hadn’t run out of money…but they were exchanged some worried looks. Perhaps there was some substance to the rumor that Guftivei had caused a chain of events that was running the tables dry. Everyone began to get ready for the final round. The championship was about to be concluded.


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#5 Offline Maganar

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Posted Sep 02 2012 - 10:33 AM

Chapter 44

Stelt, 999 years after the Great Cataclysm

“All my money. Shadow Assassin.”

“Do you have any common sense!”

“No. Now take the money. Or are you just scared I might win?” Of course, that was the truth, wasn’t it? What if this newbie really did defeat Rogog? It would be a disaster for the gambling tables. Even those that had originally been skeptics of Guftivei now followed in his footsteps, placing their bets on what was clearly the least likely to survive of the two finalists. The payback would be huge if the bet was legitimate.

Back in the prep room, Emeder was coming to terms with the upcoming battle.

Looks like it’s coming down to just you and the big guy now.

Yeah.

…Emeder?

What?

I’m not sure I can save you if he gets an advantage. You might just get flattened. Don’t fail me now.

Sure. I won’t let you down. Not on my life.

That’s what worries me… Emeder…

Don’t worry. After this, we’re going straight for that stupid Light Ravager that started all this. Then we’re leaving this chapter of our lives behind. Maybe we can find some semblance of peace. Leave all the hate and evil of this world behind. Just get away from it all. You and Guftivei and I: just finding somewhere…quiet, if nothing else.

I’ll believe in that. If I don’t believe in a better tomorrow, I don’t know what to believe in.

Yeah.

Emeder felt the ground shake. The gate opened. Destiny awaited. He ran out to meet it.

Rogog stood tall, in all his twisted majesty. He seemed half-machine now. He let loose a roar that shook the stadium. Did he recognize Emeder? No. Emeder’s appearance was too greatly changed.

A titanic fist came raining down from above. Emeder barely leapt clear in time, an infinitesimal distance separating him from the fist that could spell instant death. Picking himself up off of the ground, Emeder did the unthinkable.

You’re insane!

Wouldn’t have it any other way.

Rogog couldn’t see anything on the ground when he raised his fist. Rogog could only think of one possible explanation: he had simply flattened his puny opponent into oblivion with one blow. He raised his fist in triumph.

The crowds cheered on the triumphant victor…

Guftivei gasped in horror…

The gambling table tenders breathed a sigh of relief…

And then everyone except Rogog saw it. Emeder, desperately hanging on to Rogog’s fingers. He had grabbed hold before Rogog had lifted his fist back up off the ground and was now clutching the side of Rogog’s raised fist. Rogog, with his hand far over his head, was oblivious.

“Woah…that whole thing I just saw was an illusion, right?”

No, it was far more brilliant than any clever illusion. And Emeder masterminded the entire thing. I had nothing to do with it.

As the crowd ceased to cheer, Rogog glanced up at his fist, too late. Emeder released his grip and fell downwards, directly onto Rogog’s face and blasting shadow energy into it. Rogog slapped his face, but Emeder had already scrambled over his head and was now hanging off the back of Rogog’s neck. As Emeder rappelled down electrical cables that ran from one robotic portion of Rogog to another, he reached a spot on Rogog’s back that Rogog was unable to reach. In frustration, the colossus shook himself violently. He didn’t dare to fall flat on his back in an attempt to crush Emeder, lest he also crush any vital robotic components keeping him alive.

At first, Emeder was too preoccupied with hanging on to do anything else. Eventually a tiny window of opportunity opened up as Rogog stilled for an instant. It was all Emeder needed to regrip his glaive and use it to slice several of the cables. Rogog wailed and shook with a renewed energy. Emeder was unable to hold on. He was launched through the air and violently crashed into the ground.

Emeder blacked out for a second as his mask became skewed, the eye-holes in the wrong locations. He quickly realigned it and stared to see Rogog towering over him…and then falling. Rogog toppled over, too weak to fight. He could not survive unless the cables Emeder had cut were repaired. The audience frenzied yet again. This was precisely what they had come to see:

Entertainment. At its very, very best.

Chapter 45

Stelt, 999 years after the Great Cataclysm

A repair crew rushed out to Rogog’s aid as soon as Emeder had left the scene of the fight. Rogog was a crowd pleaser, and it wouldn’t pay well to have his fans stop coming. The cold calculus of gladiatorial profiteering involved allowing just enough death to please the crowd as well as allowing just enough survivors to cause crazed fans to return every time their favorite warrior reentered the ring.

“This is a general announcement:” the table tender began. “Due to recent…uh, difficulties, we are reducing return rates.”

“Mata Nui above and Karzahni below, what are you saying?” a disgruntled gambler inquired.

“Uh…we’re out of cash. You will be compensated for your victories as soon as we are able to do so -” He suddenly found a knife held against his throat.

“You’re trying to swindle me, swamp scum?”

“Hey, get yer hands offa’im!”

“I’m making the demands no-” the gambler took a blow to the side of the head. This act catalyzed a full-scale riot. Everyone in the gambling booth removed any weapons they possessed and began to attack anything that moved.

Alright, you’ve had your fun. Before things over there turn any uglier, you need to get out. Meet us in the exterior plaza.

“Good call!” Guftivei acknowledged as he dodged a serrated blade that had been aimed at his neck. He vaulted over an upended table and towards the door, stumbling over two entangled brawlers on the floor. For a moment he thought he was clear, and then he saw someone blocking the door and loading a projectile weapon. Guftivei raised his already-loaded Cordak blaster at the enemy and screamed over the din. “Put that thing down!” The opponent glanced up to see he’d been beaten to the trigger and threw the armament down. Hardly a second later, a club struck the surrendered being in the head. The new foe ran on, ignoring Guftivei and striking blows at random. Guftivei stepped over the unconscious body and ran for the plaza, but he was cut off.

Hands reached out of an alley and threw Guftivei to the ground. He turned to see a figure rising over him, preparing to plunge his sword into Guftivei. There wasn’t much Guftivei could do to protect himself. Suddenly, he saw two metallic points pierce his opponent’s torso. Someone had just stabbed Guftivei’s attacker from behind with a brutal pointed weapon.

Guftivei jumped to his feet and looked at the fallen foe. Then his eyes traced their way from the dead body… to the weapon that taken the enemy down… to the face of his savior. To most she would have seemed to have been a Vortixx, but Guftivei could tell otherwise.

“Who are you? …and what? You’re not like me, not Vortixx, are you?”

“No. And that’s none of your business. Now get out of here,” she said with the slight rasp that was indicative of her speech.

“But you still haven’t –”

“I said get out of here. And unless I ever tell you that you can say otherwise, we’ve never met. Try to avoid causing so much trouble next time; I think your friends would rather you didn’t get yourself killed.”

“OK, I’m going! But how you do know all this?”

“That’s my job right now, Guftivei, until I am assigned to another task. Like I said, we’ve never met. Now, for crying out loud –” she added. “Get out of here already!”

With a last backward glance at the unfathomable female, Guftivei bolted onward. On the way, he saw an entire squadron of armed guards sprinting in the direction he’d just come from.

Next time you join in on the local festivities, try not to start a city-wide crisis.

Guftivei looked ahead to see a cloaked figure waiting on him and standing by the gladiatorial competitor everyone knew as Shadow Assassin. “What can I say? That’s just how I roll. Plus, I didn't even get paid in the end.”

“Come on,” Emeder said. “We’re ready to do this. To the Rift?”

“To the Rift!”

To the Rift!

No more trials. No more diversions. Just one team... and their ancient enemy.


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#6 Offline Maganar

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Posted Sep 11 2012 - 12:02 AM

Chapter 46

Metru Nui sea gate, 1,000 years after the Great Cataclysm

To most beings, it would have been unnoticeable. A sliver of energy, suspended in midair over the ocean just beyond the Sea Gate that led to Metru Nui. Metru Nui: a dead city, now long abandoned by its Matoran inhabitants that once called it home – 1,000 years ago to be precise. Yet, that was not where they were headed. Near the Sea Gate on the glassy and pacified protodermis sea was as far as they needed to go. Having been so close to the Ravager, they could feel its influence on the area.

“What do we do?” Guftivei asked, clutching the shadow bolt launcher. The sliver of energy seemed to be a dormant portal. It was hard to imagine it as the door to the Realm of Light and Shadow.

“I’m…not sure,” Imegna conceded.

“Stand back,” said Emeder. He walked forward to the bow of the ship. The sliver was just beyond that point, floating over open water. Emeder reached out with his mind. Within an instant, the sliver suddenly seemed tangible to him. He closed his eyes in concentration. He opened them when he heard Imegna gasp.

Where the sliver of energy had been, a swirling vortex of light and darkness hovered.

“Now… this ends.” It wasn’t just a hope or a dream. It was a declaration.

Emeder took a flying leap into the vortex and vanished from sight. Gufivei and Imegna looked at each other, then locked arms and replicated Emeder’s jump.

Nothingness. That’s what they were. It was true: light and shadow were the physical matter and substance to this dimension. They were floating idly through waves of alternating light and darkness, projected at random directions across a neutrally gray void. That which would be tangible in their Realm was simply energy here. Imegna looked down at her body. It seemed ghostly, transparent even. An ethereal thing. She waved her hands in front of herself…and then she noticed her hands had just passed through each other. That’s when she realized she was starting to…dissipate.

“Concentrate. You need to use your own psychic energy in order to hold together. Otherwise, your body will fade, turning to pure energy.” Emeder vocalized from…everywhere it seemed. His voice echoed off unseen surroundings. She stared ahead to where Emeder and Guftivei drifted through the void, equally translucent. She concentrated on everything that represented herself: her ideals, her friends, her attitude, her morals. Her body remained intact.

“Weird…just weird,” Guftivei said. The shadow bolt launcher he was holding was similarly composed of energy, but it had a rigid core: the shadow power that it focused.

“Imegna,” Emeder requested, “I don’t know where to find the Light Ravager. Find its location – if this Realm has anything analogous to a ‘place.’”

Careful to remain concentrating on her own form, Imegna began to search for the Ravager’s psionic signature. She found it with ease. She projected a mental snapshot of her discoveries into Emeder’s head, uncertain if they even made sense. This reality made little sense in general. Emeder, however, seemed able to make understand it.

“Now,” he announced, “we take a trip.” Tendrils of shadow reached out from Emeder, through the neutrally gray void, and grabbed Guftivei and Imegna. Then, Emeder, by using his shadow powers, began to propel himself through the fields of light and darkness.

And then they saw it. An orb of malevolent light, reaching out with luminescent tendrils. All surrounding fields of light or darkness were absorbed by it, making the surroundings a complete field of the neutral gray that served as nothingness here.

No one wasted a second. Not a word had to be said – they all knew their tasks and they didn’t need, or want, to discuss it. They wanted this over with.

Imegna masked all their psychic signatures. The Ravager was now blind as to their presence. Emeder grappled outward with shadowy tentacles, snaring the beast. Shadow blasts from Guftivei perforated it, and then tore on through. The shadow bolt launcher had done little the first time, but with the Ravager hopelessly trying to counter Emeder’s shadow energies, it was now devastating.

The Ravager started to become less of a sphere and more of a mesh. It was full of holes and losing. All the previous battles with the Light Ravager had been one-sided; nothing could hope to stand up against it. This battle was one-sided for the opposite reason; the Ravager was now the one without hope.

Finally, it gave out. Without ceremony or significance, the Ravager collapsed in on itself. A pulse of light burst out…and then the entire Realm seemed to become distorted. Everyone was being uncontrollably hurtled in an unknown direction.

Emeder! What’s happening?!

Don’t panic. Just concentrate on yourself and what it means to be you so that you don’t dissipate.

But what’s happening now?

The Ravager was the only thing holding open the portal to this Realm. The portal’s giving out, but everything foreign, like us, is being sucked out first, kind of like a whirlpool, with the portal at the bottom.

So we’re going to be alright?

Yeah. It’s over.

With that, they were hurtled out of the Realm and launched into the protodermis sea. They began to tread water, their boat in sight.

Finally, the Rift closed off, but it did so with a bang. A ray of pure light blasted out, seemingly straight up…

Chapter 47

Mata Nui, 1,000 years after the Great Cataclysm

[I suspect you're either going to love or hate this finisher. I'm just saying, I always figured that there was waaaaay too much energy coming from those little rocks. So here's my answer to that... in the form of the conclusion to an epic.]

The Kini-Nui. Alright, time to get it over with – get rid of these stupid rocks. Rocks, rocks, and more rocks. Well, six, to be exact. Hey, the Matoran thought, maybe they’ll even let me back into Ta-Koro again for getting this job done. How about this: he noticed, I’m going to do something important for once and each of the Turaga will be here to witness it.

There it was: the Kini Nui. Turaga Vakama had directed him to place these six…stony-thingamajiggers on the Kini Nui. He stepped forward, carefully trying to balance all six stones in his arms. Due to his intense focusing, he more or less ignored the gathered Turaga around him. Why did he get all the ridiculous jobs, again? Oh, wait, he actually knew the answer; he just didn’t want to admit it. He got all the ridiculous jobs because he’d been kicked out of Ta-Koro for day-dreaming. Of course, that wasn’t how they’d put it – laziness and neglect is what they had branded him with – but really, that’s what had gotten him kicked out.

Honestly, he thought to himself as he started to lay the stones down in the sacred temple, he just wanted to be part of something interesting. The work around the Koro was just so…boring! He wanted adventure. And now he was carrying around a bunch of rocks for Mata Nui knew what reason. Of course, it had been a bit of an adventure obtaining all these allegedly important rocks, but that didn’t count, did it? Had Vakama even told him what was the deal with these dumb rocks? It was something to do with those no-show saviors called Toa that the Matoran had been waiting on for a full millennium already, but would they even come? The Matoran couldn’t honestly guess, nor did he care to.

The stones were in place. The Matoran didn’t know it, but they began to do the specific task they had been made for: sending out a signal, a signal that had been awaited for an inconceivable length of time.

At sea, six Toa canisters turned to face the shore. It was time for six heroes to rise after a very, very long sleep.

Coincidentally, in the dome of the universe one level below, a beam of pure light energy released by a collapsing dimensional Rift shot upward…but at a slight angle. It homed in on a single point, attracted to the energies being released from that area. The six Toa stones sending out their signal to their respective canisters had served as a focusing point to attract the radiation released from the collapsing Rift just as metal is attracted to a magnetic field.

Far underground, the beam of light struck the upper dome of the giant robot upon which the island of Mata Nui rested. Travelling along crevices in the bedrock that lied above, the energy, dissipating from light into heat and from heat into kinetic energy, kept on moving toward its destination.

Finally, it struck the center of the Kini Nui.

The disguised Av-Matoran known as Takua had no time to react. The energy that struck the Toa stones he had just set in the Kini Nui blasted outward throwing him into the air.

He sailed far into the distance.

When he crashed into the ground, it was on the edge of the island, by a beach in Ta-Wahi. The impact instantly knocked him unconscious. He remained that way for several hours.

He awoke to find himself on the beach. He recalled that he had seen this island from far overhead in a dream, just before the sound of the waves washing upon the shore and the birds flying about the sky brought him to consciousness. Indeed, it felt as though he himself had fallen from the sky and landed there…

The journey to destroy the Light Ravager had finally ended…but it had just started the journey of Takua…


Edited by Maganar, Sep 11 2012 - 12:04 AM.

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