The numerous footsteps created a metallic symphony as they bounced around the brightly lit hall of the fortress. Five beings walked in unison down the blank corridor, silent save for the sounds of their footfalls. Shifting their weapons uncomfortably every few moments, the two guards at the back of the group carefully observed the being that they were escorting, watching for any changes in his stature that would indicate a surprise attack. Their efforts proved fruitless as the Sherif simply continued walking, focused only on his approaching meeting with the Order of Mata Nui’s leader.
Keeping his eyes forward, the being stayed silent, deep in thought as he ran a hand along the small bag lying against his thigh, in which lay a number of data pads containing information on recent happenings in the east. Though his black and silver armor was badly damaged in numerous places, his eyes shone with obvious fatigue, and the holsters on his back that normally held a pair of maces were empty, the Sherif still bore a proud and confident—albeit shaken—atmosphere about him. It was as if he no longer bore any doubts about himself—like some great storm had swept across him, threatening to consume him, and he had come out on top, proving once and for all that he would forever be unbreakable.
Zanth had reason to be. He had come face to face with the very embodiment of death itself, and he had survived the encounter. Granted, he had had a lot of help along the way—he did not deny that—but he had never assumed that he would face the obstacles of Kai-Nam by himself. Indeed, had it not been for the efforts of his friends and allies, then he would not have gotten a chance to return to Daxia, to do what he was about to do. And it was for this reason that the opinions, the attitudes, the theories of the guards now escorting Zanth did not matter to him: not a single one of them had seen or faced the kinds of things that he and the others had faced, and as such, they had no room to judge him.
The group arrived at the end of the hall, where a large door sat in the very center of the wall, flanked by two large, ornate statues of a Toa-like figure. Zanth paid little heed to them as the two front guards took position by the door, allowing him to enter. The other two followed him inside, watching him closely as he took two steps forward before coming to a stop. The office was large, containing numerous stairwells, bookshelves, and other assorted furniture. Roughly twenty feet in front of the door, an alcove dipped into the wall. The cave-like area’s own walls were lined with shelves, containing dozens, if not hundreds, of books, though this collection of paper paled in comparison to that which obscured virtually the entire ivory desk in front of the area.
Somewhere behind that mountain of reports, warnings, and memos, visible only by the shadow that blocked the light of a lamp behind the desk, sat Zanth’s boss: the Higher-Up.
“Take a seat, Agent.” The female Toa’s voice had once been enough to send Zanth into a panic, like numerous other Agents of the Order. His experiences on Exa-Nui and on Kai-Nam had shown the Sherif that there were worse things in life than her, though he couldn’t help but feel that old fear rise in his heart. Without a word, he walked forward again, taking a seat on the black couch that sat across from her desk. The two rear guards exited silently, leaving Zanth alone. “So . . . We’re still here.”
“Indeed, we are,” Zanth answered. “How’s the rest of the Order handling our near-death experience?”
“They don’t know about it.” Zanth frowned at this, though said nothing. Even so, she seemed to catch his displeasure. “I trusted you to get the job done, and you did. There was no point in making people worry—that would have only served to undermine other operations. Just be glad you succeeded.”
“Thanks?” he said. Zanth unclipped the strap across his chest, setting his satchel on the cushion next to him. “There is a reason you summoned me, right?”
“Aside from wanting to personally admire your accomplishments, you mean?”
“Do you want these reports or not?”
Zanth could virtually hear her smirk as she replied, “Of course. I already know the full details of what occurred on Kai-Nam, roughly ten days after the beginning of the Day Run’s last tournament; as I recall you delivered those reports even before dealing with your . . . botched fusion. I take it you've dealt with that fiasco by now?”
“I did,” Zanth confirmed. “It wasn’t easy—a lot of testing had to be done, and I had to spend almost two weeks in our experimental sector, which is why I still haven’t repaired my armor. But, Dr. Jezwin managed to remove Suya’s essence from mine.” He clenched his hand. “It was a . . . painful experience, not helped at all by the experimental nature of his methods.”
“But you are separated now, and obviously, you’re functional enough to have come here. What of Suya? What’s his current situation?”
“He’s recovering,” Zanth said. “Lyxek almost killed him; that was the main reason we merged to begin with, so that he wouldn’t die. He was hardly better upon resuming his actual form, but he’s alive. I’d expect a full recovery in a couple of weeks, at the latest.”
“That’s good,” the boss said, seeming to shuffle a set of documents behind her mountain of paper. “Another casualty for Team Zero would have been unfortunate, don’t you agree?” She seemed to be aware of his nod. “A real shame, what happened to the others—first Iglu, then Dreika, Dulain, Zaréna, and of course, poor Elyn. ‘Fate worse than death,’ indeed; one must wonder how Kai-Nam and the rest of the universe averted such a grisly fate in those last few hours.”
Picking up on her unspoken question, Zanth leaned back in his seat. “It was Lyxek, surprisingly,” he said simply. The Sherif’s mouth twitched into a smile as he heard the Higher-Up’s writing stop in its tracks. “The Garden was swarming with Guardians, and the Dark Hunter troop that Lyxek had hired to retrieve the Rose from Gynel brought the Feranaki—close cousins of the Guardians—to Kai-Nam’s surface. Needless to say, they overran City in hours, infecting the majority of the citizens there. But they weren’t part of Lyxek’s plan. I don’t know exactly what the purpose was behind those eleven mechs in the Garden, or how they did what they did, but they answered to Lyxek, and he was apparently impressed enough by our overcoming of Ruaki to use them as a Feranaki cleaning crew. He was even kind enough to create a tunnel directly into the Garden.”
Zanth’s eyes glossed over in thought. “You have to wonder . . . With that kind of power at his disposal, could Lyxek have actually succeeded in taking control of Ruaki? He could have killed him in seconds if our godly friend had ended up trying to destroy reality.”
“That is not a question either of us can answer,” the Higher-Up said firmly. Zanth shrugged in response. “It’s interesting that Lyxek would do such a thing, after putting his own goals above the safety of the island for over a decade. Perhaps he really had come to view Kai-Nam as his home by that point.”
“Maybe,” Zanth said. “I doubt he feels a strong enough connection to it to go back there, though, even with whatever is going on over there right now.”
“You refer to the situation with Endless Boundaries?”
“Yes, I do,” the Sherif said. “Shortly after Lyxek left, Older Brother sent in repair crews to begin rebuilding City. While that’s all well and good, he’s taken it a step further and has laid claim to several large swathes of land and numerous other buildings—including the KNPD’s headquarters. The remaining locals aren’t very happy about that.”
“Even with the company’s stainless public image?” the Higher-Up asked.
“Even with the company’s stainless public image,” Zanth affirmed, to which she merely replied with, “Hm . . .” The Sherif leaned forward. “Well, consider this. City’s problems—its corruption, the Skakdi Raid, and this most recent series of events—occurred almost entirely due to the staggering growth of the companies and groups there, primarily the KNPD and the Ring—which, remember, the majority of citizens did not know were related. As far as the survivors know, those kinds of companies are the single cause of the destruction that they’ve just encountered, especially outsiders like the Day Run and Endless Boundaries. They would rather restart, rebuild the city themselves, and try to find and fix whatever mistakes they made before.”
“I see,” she replied. “That does bring up a good point. Lyxek utilized technology from a number of large businesses—the biggest labs on the island and the Day Run included—and the result was City’s fall. That would certainly sour the feelings of anyone who lived there . . .”
“Exactly,” Zanth said. “It doesn’t help that Brother’s machines appeared literally right after Lyxek left, as if he had been waiting for something like that to happen. That or they all happened to be equipped with teleportation technology. Either way, a better approach would have been to wait until City had recovered somewhat before moving in and claiming property. That kind of move would have made people less suspicious.”
“I won’t comment on that,” the Order’s leader answered. “Speculation, after all, can only go so far, and we have other matters to discuss. Regardless, we will continue to keep an eye on the situation there, as well as deepen our investigation of Endless Boundaries—there must be a reason for their move on Kai-Nam, the events of Dreamland notwithstanding.”
Zanth nodded, both going silent for a moment to gather their thoughts, the boss continuing to write. The Sherif looked around, taking another look at the office. The aesthetics here reminded him somewhat of the Order’s bunker on Kai-Nam, from which he, Suya, Vertak, and Zaydan had operated during their time on the island. In the back of his mind, Zanth knew he had broken a few rules by revealing the hideout to the latter two beings, as well as others. Then again, considering what had been at stake, he held no regrets toward the decision, especially as steps had already been taken to rectify the issue—such as the dispatching of several agents to invite Zaydan and Vertak into the Order.
A strange mixture of emotion swirled in his head as he realized that in a few months—maybe even weeks—the ‘Zero Bunker’ would be cleared out and repurposed for another group of agents, who would take over the position and begin watching over the ‘Frozen Paradise.’ Zanth couldn’t decide if he was saddened or relieved by the change of hands.
After several minutes of silent pondering, the Higher-Up spoke again. “Any further word on Lyxek or the remnants of the Ring?”
“No leads,” Zanth said. “Lyxek’s mechs headed south after they cleaned out City, but we haven’t heard or seen anything since then. The Ringmaster’s band—as well as an additional Ring member of undetermined loyalty—was spotted going in the same direction aboard one of the Ring’s hover platforms. Vailian is somewhere in City, helping to rebuild although almost certainly looking to be imprisoned for his affiliation with Lyxek. The rest of the organization is either hiding out on Kai-Nam or has scattered to other islands. There are too many of them to know which ones are planning on meeting up with the Ringmaster, and where at, and as someone wiped the Ring’s computers clean, we have no way of gaining direct access to any of their back-up plans.”
“What about Dalmia and the Collector?”
“We’ve hit a blank spot there, as well,” the Sherif answered uncomfortably. “All we know for sure is that Dalmia absorbed both the Collector and the remaining portions of Ruaki’s soul and mind, on top of stealing the Coder from Vailian. Whether he was able to overcome their combined influence, where he disappeared to, or if he is still alive, we don’t know. The best any of us can hope to do is wait and see what happens. If he survived, then inevitably he’ll resurface—it’s his nature.”
“Hm . . .” she said again. “That could be problematic . . . If I recall correctly, you mentioned in an earlier report that Kerid and the Day Run were working to track him down. How is that going?”
“About as well as you would expect,” Zanth said. “They’ve shut down their tournament for the time being, so all of their resources are being poured into the effort, and it’s unlikely that it’ll reopen before they find and contain Dalmia—Kerid is too determined to stop him. A lot of people aren’t happy about that.”
“What do you think?”
“I agree with her judgment,” Zanth replied, his tone simple. “The Night and Day Run have both brought about more problems than they’ve solved—first on Gynel, and then on Kai-Nam. Regardless of how ‘fun’ it is, the game hasn’t yet done anything to earn anyone’s respect. Considering that Dalmia absorbed power from something made from Day Run nanobots, Kerid views this situation as partly her responsibility, and she couldn’t be more correct. I think this is the perfect chance for them to earn the praise they so often receive.”
“That tune is certainly different from the one you sang back on Kai-Nam,” she noted, though did not elaborate further. “How is the Guild of Tyis handling all of this?”
“Fairly well, considering . . .” Zanth counted with his fingers. “The destruction of City, the dismantling of almost their entire guild, and the deaths of most of their members and leadership, and whatever else has happened to them. Tyis himself has been helping to lead the remaining citizens of Kai-Nam, with help from Officer Sanshou, who has primarily worked to create a new, uncorrupted KNPD. Meanwhile, Kaorus—essentially Tyis’s right-hand man in the Guild at this point—is leading the reconstruction of the Tower of Tyis. Thus far, they’ve been at the forefront of the resistance against Endless Boundaries, at the urging of Elithes and Illuxio.”
“Ah, yes, our alternate dimensional friend, and his cyborg guardian,” the Higher-Up said, her voice taking on an interested, airy tone. She set down her pen; Zanth could picture her resting her chin on her hands in thought. “It doesn’t surprise me that Elithes is opposed to more outside influence, considering how deeply the Ring affected Kai-Nam. The destruction of one’s homeland can certainly create powerful emotional responses in an individual—as you know.”
She leaned back in her seat. “And Illuxio . . . A piece of work all on his own. To think that he was once exactly like Lyxek, and that his actions brought about the destruction of an entire universe. Yet now he seems so kind, so thoughtful, going so far as to adopt a new personality, a new body.” She chuckled. “Although I’m sure the destruction of your original body and several amnesiac years would have that effect on anyone.”
“Indeed,” Zanth said quietly. “I have little else to report on them. They’ve been helping with repairs, as well, although I expect them to continue moving in the near future. Chances are that they will return to bounty hunting soon, as Elithes tends to do.”
“Good, good,” the Higher-Up said. “I want watchers on them twenty-four-seven, especially once they leave Kai-Nam. Chances are that Illuxio bears memories of what he had planned to do in the event that everything turned out as they did here. If so, they will inevitably go after Lyxek, giving us an avenue through which to find him. Am I clear?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Zanth said. “Anything else?”
“I believe there’s one last group I have yet to hear about,” she said. Zanth frowned, realizing who she was talking about before she even continued speaking. “The Director and Lurinost both died when the former self-destructed. Officer Sensha is most likely part of Sanshou’s new KNPD. I won’t ask why you didn’t discuss them. However . . .” She leaned forward, still invisible behind her mountain of papers. “The Dark Hunters. You haven’t even glossed over them.”
Zanth fell silent for a moment. In the back of his head, he could tell that she was less interested in the Gynel group overall and more interested in what one particular Dark Hunter was up to—and for good reason, assuming he had gone on to do what he had implied . . . “You wouldn’t rather wait for a report from Ancient?”
“I’m asking you. You spoke to him before he returned to the Dark Hunters, and you knew him before he ever joined them; you have more insight into what was going through Kovian’s head than anyone else at their time of departure.”
The Sherif thought this over. “Kovian, Sepcret, and the remaining Dark Hunters left Kai-Nam a few days after the Ring’s defeat,” he said slowly. “Soon after returning to Odina, Kovian began organizing a rebellion against the Shadowed One, with the help of a number of other Dark Hunters—Server, Bombarder, and others who have gained the ire of their master. Even Arcane is involved.”
“Two months of planning, and already the Toa of Ice believes he can overthrow the leader of the Dark Hunters?” the Toa said. “Interesting. Either he is incredibly confident in his ability to lead others, or extremely foolish.”
“No one said anything about overthrowing the Shadowed One,” Zanth pointed out. “He’s smarter than you give him credit for. Kovian joined the Dark Hunters out of some misinformed assumption that Jaeda’s influence on Exa-Nui had rotted him from the inside-out, even after he had broken her hold on his mind. Killing her certainly didn’t help lighten his self-view. But . . .”
Zanth paused. “I think Kai-Nam showed him that he was wrong—that he is still capable of doing good. This fight against the Shadowed One isn’t about trying to take over his position—it’s about breaking away from a prison that he inadvertently forced himself into, to help free others from the suffering that they’ve endured underneath the Shadowed One.” The Sherif trailed off, staring distantly at a nearby wall. “And with Torith already searching for him . . . I think redemption is possible.”
The Order’s leader said nothing. Finally, she sighed, her chair scraping against the floor as she pushed herself away from her desk. She moved effortlessly around the large mountain of files, revealing herself to Zanth for the first time in ages. Silently, the blue-armored Toa approached an ornate bookcase, studying the tomes sorted on its numerous shelves.
“No one ever heard your real name on Kai-Nam. No one has since Exa-Nui fell,” she said quietly. “Not even Suya, your long-time partner and one of your closest friends, knows who you used to be. But you revealed yourself to Kovian.” She looked at Zanth, who had turned his head to stare at her. “Do you know what that tells me?”
“I broke the Order’s code of secrecy?” the Sherif guessed.
The Toa smiled slightly, shaking her head. “You’ve moved on. You’ve put aside your failure to save the Great Respite.” She turned around, grabbing a book from the third-highest shelf. The Toa of Water stared at its surface for several moments, before turning her gaze back to her visitor. She approached him, holding it out to the Sherif. “As such, I think it’s time you saw this. Study its contents, and then make a move.” Without waiting for a response, she grabbed the bag containing his reports, turning and heading back behind her desk. “That is all. You’re dismissed . . . Rodax.”
The Sherif nodded at her, pushing himself to his feet and quickly exiting the room, continuing to stare at the book in his hands as he walked. The hallway was empty when he emerged into it, the guards having returned to their posts. That left Rodax to contemplate. He started walking again, heading down the hall.
Pausing, Rodax looked back. In all of his visits to her office, he had always assumed that the large statues flanking the boss’s door had been made in honor of the Order’s leader, though had never understood why they bore so little resemblance to her. Now, however, he thought differently. These statues represented not one, but many—the true heroes of the universe. That was why it bore no similarities to typical Toa—it was meant to represent their courage, their dedication, and their honor.
This new realization in mind, Rodax headed out. Turning his attention back to the book, he noted its blank, black cover. He carefully opened it, frowning as he read the front page of the diary—for that was what it was, upon closer inspection. But this was not an ordinary diary. It bore the lightest musings, the deepest thoughts, the most horrible secrets of a being that Rodax had tried so hard to fight against—and in the end, had failed to defeat.
The Book of Jaeda.
Rodax saw only one light in the darkness as he felt years of suppressed anger and fear wash over him again: He would finally have answers to so many unchecked questions—what all had driven Makuta Jaeda; what had gone according to plan, and what had been improvised; what she had intended to do with Exa-Nui. Above all, here was something that could potentially reveal what connected those three islands—Kai-Nam, Gynel, and Exa-Nui, as well as Jaeda and Lyxek’s plans.
At last, he would know the truth.
Author's Notes: So yeah. In case you couldn't tell, this is a wrap-up of what happened to numerous characters and things following the conclusion of Day Run. Not much else to say about it, tbh--I know that there's a lot of dialogue, but that was generally the point of the story: an oral report.
Also, yes, Zanth is Rodax. Surprise! :o
Also also, yes, this Book of Jaeda will be followed up on in future works.
That's all. Thanks for reading--let me know what you think! ^_^
Edited by Parugi, Dec 14 2014 - 03:52 AM.