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Year 20


About Emzee

  • Birthday 09/01/1989

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  1. OOC: Special thanks to @Void Emissary for this jam session! IC: “We don’t need any chairs,” Wokiya said with assurance, “What matters is that you’re comfortable!” Indeed, Wokiya and her team prided themselves on being able to interview anywhere and in any position. She hunched down on one knee and faced the two Dashi (Dashi? Wokiya hoped her scarce sources were credible), appearing true to her word: perfectly at ease. She really had done this a lot. “I appreciate you both taking the time to speak with me,” Wokiya said, while Vera continued to sketch. Scryne had also resumed his scribbling, knowing the Ga-Matoran’s cues like muscle memory. “How are you both doing…” Wokiya asked. She tilted her head slightly to her right as she said, “For real?” Neither responded for a moment, until Daijuno pointedly looked over to Zyla, a cocked eyebrow and tilted head an indication for her executive assistant to begin the line of answers. In truth, Daijuno had only the vaguest sense of how Zyla was doing; she had ever-been somewhat enigmatic to her employer, even in the best of circumstances — which a months’-long sea journey most certainly did not constitute. Far be it from her to put words into Zyla’s mouth. But Zyla’s sudden pallor and imperceptible shake of the head turned the tables back onto Dai and, with a shrug, she turned back to Wokiya and smiled. “We’re doing great, Wokiya, thanks for asking,” she said. Her voice slowed fractionally and pitched down just a touch, the way that she would with a client. “Mata-Nui is a wonderful island with wonderful people, really wonderful, just so inviting. And it’s a real relief to be reunited with Zyla once again, after so long apart — although I wish that it had been under better circumstances.” “Yes,” Zyla chimed in, her voice cracking in the middle, so that her ‘yes’ came out in two fractured syllables. Wokiya gave a warm and affirming smile – with no ounce of trite pity or condescension. It was easy to put strangers in a corner of helplessness, to paint them as nothing but victims because that sells more stories. But doing so often infringed upon the agency and resiliency of the people being interviewed; if the Dastana were so hapless, they would not have made it to the shores of Ga-Wahi. “I’m happy to hear that. I can’t imagine making such a long and perilous journey myself,” Wokiya “Even just crossing the Motara desert nearly killed me once time” Wokiya continued, “You arrived here from the Kentoku Archipelgo, am I correct?” “Yes,” Zyla squeaked out again. Once she received affirmation, Wokiya continued. “Many of our readers are not familiar with that land, or any lands in the Endless Ocean besides this one. Can you tell me a little about your home village on Kentoku? Is it similar in any way to Ga-Koro… or any other settlements on Mata Nui?” Wokiya looked at Daijuno when saying that last part, remembering that the Dastana woman had been well-traveled. “Village, I think,” Daijuno replied, “isn’t maybe the word I’d use. Kentoku is set up a bit differently from what I understand Mata-Nui to look like. We’re rather more split up along clan-land lines— bits and pieces of property owned by various ruling families and worked by their vassals. Those families reside in their castles and compounds, and their vassals live and work in relation to them— mostly in whatever configuration best suits the resident toroshu— er, hereditary akiri.” Daijuno cleared her throat— the saltwater nearby wasn’t making all this talking easy. “Sado is probably the most comparable place on Kentoku to one of your Koro,” she continued. “It’s our capital city, built into the island itself — hard to say where one ends and the other begins. It’s, ah… Zyla, how would you describe it? I’m not sure I’d do it justice.” Zyla nodded, swallowing hard — she knew what her employer meant. She meant that she was liable to say something inflammatory if she talked about where the royalty lived for too long. “O-oh, yes,” she stumbled out. “It’s a glorious city. Its towers rise high above the ground, until you have to crane your neck to even begin to see the top of some of them. And they are built of purest crystal, mined by Clan Mamoru, shaped by Clan Mashtet, raised by Clan Roku. Each district is more beautiful than the last: the Markets and the Wards, the Gardens and the Towers of Knowledge. And in the centre of all is the imperial palace, as fine and beautiful as the rora herself!” At that, Daijuno could barely contain a snort of disbelief. She immediately prayed that Wokiya hadn’t caught that; but she knew that Zyla had, and Zyla immediately blushed, looking away and down at her knees, mumbling, “But I’ve always preferred to walk along the beaches of Sado….” Huh. Daijuno hadn’t known that before. Wokiya had noticed Daijuno’s expression, but in handling the deluge of new names, places, and facts, the journalist had to compartmentalize and give priority to the most important points of her story. The history between these two Dashi was deeper than Naho Bay, that much she could tell. So what to expand on? Wokiya thought for a moment and then proceeded. “That’s amazing; it sounds like such an arrangement allows for a lot of integration and understanding between your, er, clans,” Wokiya said, “If only Po-Koro, Ta-Koro, and Ga-Koro were as federated… though we are making progress here, thankfully” “I wanted to dive deeper into the leader of your people, the one you call the Rora. Such a concept is a bit foreign to us. We have our Akiri, and beyond them is the Great Spirit himself,” Wokiya continued, “How do your people decide who is the Rora? Are they born into the role? Or is more like our Akiri where they are chosen by the people?” Wokiya decided to leave it at that and let the Dastana women talk. She knew readers would be intrigued by such an arrangement – and more importantly – how Daijuno and Zyla felt about it. Daijuno felt her teeth begin to grind. “The Rora is a—” “Woman of the highest esteem in all of Kentoku,” Zyla interjected, practically tripping over her words. “She is our empress, and the grand ruler of the Dasakan Empire. We are currently under the reign of the rora Yumiwa of Clan Umbraline, who is daughter of our previous rora, Yusanora of Clan Umbraline.” “It’s a hereditary title,” Daijuno added, crossing her arms. “Although it doesn’t have to be an Umbraline. Just that no one’s been able to kick them off the throne yet— er, can that last sentence be off the record?” “If you really want to,” Wokiya said, her face implying a restrained laugh, “Personally, I have a lot of regard for those willing to speak truth to power. However, I can imagine if it’s hereditary… I don’t know. Leaders that aren’t elected by the people… well…l” For the first time in the interview, Wokiya had briefly stumbled on her words. She was tempted to agree heartily with Daijuno’s assertion, but she contained herself with two facts: one, Wokiya was not a Dasakan, and had far from any right to give an esteemed figure the criticism that a native could give. Two, it wasn’t even half a decade before that the villages were “ruled” by the Turaga; no elections. But to Wokiya, it never felt like they were being ruled. And the Turaga certainly weren’t universally loved when they were alive. Perhaps the Rora was a similar kind of figure? “Let’s just say, with our Akiri, it is easy for us to forget that we had our benevolent Turaga guiding us. I still miss Turaga Nuju, myself,” Wokiya said. She would not forget about their feelings on the Rora, but Wokiya decided to pivot; letting them build themselves up would (hopefully) make a more interesting case against such hereditary rule without directly challenging Yumina (note to self: get an interview with Umbraline Yumiwa). “You have mentioned many clans: from the ruling Umbralines to the mining Mamorus and the well-cultured Dastana clan,” Wokiya said looking at both of the Dashi, “Tell me about your clan. I’d love to know how you all came to be, well, Clan Dastana. And do you have guiding principles or things that make your clan truly unique among Dasakans?” “The Dastana are the coffers of the Empire,” Daijuno said, leaning back in her makeshift with just a touch too much smugness for Zyla’s comfort. “We’re the merchants and the artisans, the moneychangers and the inventors. Sure, Mamoru might mine and Ageru might farm, but we’re the ones making sure that those products are getting out of the storehouse and into the hands of the people.” Stirred, suddenly, by her own answer, Daijuno leaned back forward, jabbing at her open palm with a finger. “The Dastana, well, we’re less of a family than a movement, you see? Cultural shift. A band of saihoko, lowest of the low, who bought their way into nobility with just their brains and their business acumen. Not another one of these royal dynasties who just had to be born to have a silver spoon in their mouth. Real grit, you see? From real people.” Wokiya nodded, a knowing smile making its way across her face. So the Dastana people were not like the other clans in the Kentoku archipelago. They rose above their station and charted out their own destiny. Now that was a story. “Tell me more about that,” Wokiya prodded. “Surely there was… resistance to such unconventional means of rising through your society, even with money and wits. People in power tend to be infamously protective of it. How did you win the people – and its rulers – over?” Zyla tried to open her mouth to head her employer off at the proverbial pass, but Daijuno was on a roll. “Well, the benefit of coming from the mercantile and manufacturing castes is that you control the largest share of currency flowing through the Archipelago,” she said, barely suppressing a smile. “Whatever the other clans may think of us — and they think of us, let me assure you, miss — they can’t move against us without causing an economic disaster for the empire.” Scryne and Vera were scribbling feverishly, while Wokiya’s expression remained placid and welcoming. “So you realized your worth and used it to become a keystone of Dasakan society. Brilliant,” Wokiya said. “The Matoran of Mata Nui could learn from your grit and guile. And that leads me to my final question” The Ga-Matoran had spoken at a measured rate, giving her two colleagues ample time to journal everything that they could. Once Wokiya had sensed that the scribbling had slowed, she continued. “What are your plans now that you’re here on Mata Nui? You’ve worked for so much on the Archipelago, and it seems you left a lot behind. Do you plan to rebuild anew? Or perhaps use your experience to enrich the Mata Nuiian culture?” That was a new thought, for Zyla and Daijuno both. For Zyla, between running from a burning home and trying to survive on no food and little water for nearly two months, she had not had a chance to consider what it meant for the Archipelago to be gone, gone forever. And for Daijuno, who had always assumed those hated islands would last into perpetuity, with ever-faithful Zyla keeping the torches lit at home, a life exclusive to Mata Nui hadn’t seemed likely. But Sado burned, and demons had arisen from Karz, and now the whole world balanced on this little island paradise. And Daijuno still needed to answer this journalist. “That’s… an excellent question,” Daijuno said, her bravado fading, her smirk melting into a thoughtful look. “And while you, or your readers, might take this as some sort of cynical wordsmithing, I certainly consider Mata Nui a home. It’s a good place, with good people, and it’s been more than generous to every Dasaka who has come to its shores. To repay that generosity somehow….” She stroked her chin, looking at Zyla, and then to Wokiya, and then to the Ryuu moored in the distance. She thought about Zafin Umbraline, and her empress’ alleged maturation, and Zafin’s stories of her maturation, unsubstantiated… And Zyla thought about the power of presses— and who would wield it first. “Of course I will,” she said firmly. “Of course I will repay that generosity. Whatever I can do to assist Ga-Koro, and Mata Nui as a whole, I will. You have my word as a Dastana— and as a Ga-Koronan.” Wokiya raised an eyebrow as she smiled. For whatever reason, Daijuno’s ardent response surprised her and lifted her spirits sky-high. But she did not forget that the Dastana were also clearly ambitious, skillfully climbing the social and economic ladders and willing to do almost anything to continue their rise. An intrusive thought broke past Wokiya’s defenses, and for a moment, the twifaced chill of the Cultured Gentry ran through her spine. She hoped that the Dastana were earnest in their declaration of solidarity and that they would become a sorely needed force for good against Makuta’s worshipers and benefactors. “I couldn’t be happier to hear that,” Wokiya said. “Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me. I truly hope we meet again – and in much happier circumstances!” * * * Ga-Koro – Public Library The cool breeze focused Wokiya’s mind as she arranged the manuscripts and illustrations and prepared them for her supervisor, Catarix. She knew in her heart that this was one of her best interviews yet. Catarix could sometimes be shrewd with his plaudits, but the Akiri’s office would be the ultimate say: Wokiya was still aiming for that grant which would enrich the independent press and free Wokiya from the corporate whims of the Mata Nui Daily. This interview would be a crucial step towards that goal. “Wokiya, it’s almost noon!” Vera whispered, her voice barely louder than the ocean waves, “Ready to meet Mr. Vint-Rasque?” Wordlessly, Wokiya wrapped up the papers with twine and lifted the manuscripts. She nodded, and the group made their way back to the town square.
  2. IC: Luka — Streets of Tajun The Glatorian couldn’t help smiling at Avinus’ honesty. There was wisdom behind her combat skill — something that could only be gained by actively applying the lessons from her experiences. Not everyone could do that. I certainly can’t do that well, Luka thought as he bitterly remembered the short list of technical errors that always seemed to make no matter how many drills he did. Luka felt like a slow learner many times throughout his training. “That might be the best advice I’ve received yet,” Luka said, trying his hardest to sound measured and not gushy. “I try to keep my abilities fresh, so I’ve been working on this technical slashing move—” Luka was about to show an empty-handed example, but then thought better of it. “Hmm, I should probably save its public debut for the tournament…” OOC: @Nato G
  3. IC: Ra’lhen — Onu-Koro, Sulov Maru’s Trail Mix and Hookah Bar “I would personally be honored to fight alongside you and the Onu-Koronans,” Ra’lhen finally said, reminding the two Maru of his presence. “No doubt you know just how dire things could get if our mutual enemy manages to reclaim any of the Dark Walks” “Makuta… cannot be allowed any ground,” Ra’lhen said emphatically, “I have the deep-seated fear that he will try to take as much as he can as soon as he is strong enough — and if nothing else, this mission to the Dark Walk will send a decisive message. With that said: what would you and your people need for this joint-expedition to be worthwhile?” OOC: @EmperorWhenua @Void Emissary
  4. IC: Luka — Streets of Tajun The young Glatorian reflexively rubbed the back of his neck. “Yeah. I’m still new to a lot of this,” Luka replied, “But I’ve been training daily for at least a year now. Just practicing moves and trying to discover new ones” Luka was starting to calm down. For someone so experienced and athletic, Avinus was chill to talk to. It was a reminder that, at the end of the day, she was just another warrior growing her skills. The young Glatorian still wished he was a better conversationalist, though. He now began to fear that would come across as boring. “So Avinus, uh, you got any advice new folks?” That was a good question to ask, right? Sounds humble. Hopefully doesn’t sound needy. Right? OOC: @Nato G
  5. IC: Luka — Streets of Tajun “Yeah, it’s incredi-” The last syllable caught in Luka’s throat as he turned to look at the newcomer, and he nearly stumbled. In a bid to keep his cool, he gulped down a breath of air. He recognized the Tajun Glatorian: it was the Rooftop Lady herself! Of course, Luka had been so green that he never even learned the warrior’s name. But he remembered many of the visits though Tajun’s many neighborhoods. It was common for Luka to see rookies and veterans training outside—he had even picked up parts of certain moves simply by inconspicuously analyzing them as he strolled down the streets of Tajun. Out of all the warriors, the Rooftop Lady had stood out to him the most—her elevation almost seeming like a pedestal whenever Luka saw her train. Luka quickly tried to regain his nerve. He prayed that he was not making some dumb face right now. “I’ve looked up to you! I mean, I’ve looked up at you—on the rooftop, uh, while passing by. I mean—”, the words tumbled out like a toppled water barrel that would definitely get some poor Tajun worker fired (or worse). Luka inexplicably persisted, “It’s good to see a fellow warrior. I’m, uh, Luka!” There. His name was out there. Was that so hard? OOC: Sorry that took so long! @Nato G
  6. IC: Luka — Humble Abode in Outer Tajun The air sang as Luka’s titanic blade shot left-to-right, and up-to-down. He was almost through with his drills, and he made an effort to finish off strong. He pictured an opponent at the arena: one who was older and smug, dodging attacks and patiently waiting for an opening that Luka planned to never give. It was a less common tactic to use his sword to overwhelm the rival Glatorian with a flurry of attacks. Usually, an experience warrior waited for the inevitable sloppiness. But in this imaginary sparring session, Luka had already drawn any many foolish attacks. He had used defensive to disarm and disorient multiple times. It was never a bad idea to practice a good finishing flurry. Afterward, Luka used the last of his strength to plunge the great sword into the sandy ground, a ritualistic sign that his training was complete for the day. This would be Luka’s first tournament, and he tried to block out any apprehension with methodical drills. He would need the muscle memory. — Streets of Tajun — After resting and recovering, Luka hiked his way made his into the town square, sword strapped to his back. He had expected things to be more lively than normal because of the tournament, but Luka had still taken aback by all the unfamiliar faces. Not wanting to just stand and stare, Luka began to stroll down the streets, people-watching as he did so. OOC: Open for interaction
  7. IC: Makua — Ta-Wahi Beach, Deck of the Fowadi No quips emerged from Makua as he continued to listen; a rarity for Makua by any measure. He slowly looked to the side and noticed Skyra Daring in the throes of some sort of stretching exercise. I suppose she can never stop moving for too long, Makua thought. The Ko-Toa wasn’t all that surprised—it seemed like all Toa of Air were like that. Wokapu was jumpy too. Makua who had been more or less stock-still for the last few minutes, took a few steps back and to lean comfortably against the ship’s railing. OOC: @Snelly @Krayzikk @otter @a goose @Void Emissary
  8. IC: Tailua — Ostia, The Dancing Crab The Ta-Toa took in the replies of his new drinking buddies. “I suppose that’s one way of lookin' at it,” Tailua replied to Lohkar. “I guess I was one of those fools who drank up the teachings of Turaga like a thirsty Mahi. Freedom, true freedom… maybe that’s just what I need” He then looked to the other two: the Lesterin and the Skakdi. “What makes you two so sure where we’re goin’ will be so much worse?” Tailua asked. “As someone who was just nearly run down by—I still don’t know, actually—ya think Zakaz is gonna be full of cloak and daggers there as well?” “No don’t get me wrong. I ain’t smooth-brained enough to expect sunshine and rainbows,” Tailua continued, “But at least if a Zakazian wants a game of strife, they’ll use their own force and wits instead of these Karzahni-danged intrigues, sending agents into the night... right?” OOC: @Ghosthands @ARROW404 @BULiK Sorry for the wait!
  9. IC: Ra’lhen — Onu-Koro, Sulov Maru’s Trail Mix and Hookah Bar Oh right! Ra’lhen had momentarily forgotten about Sulov’s appendage, his muscle memory once again being too quick. It seemed like the Toa Maru of Earth was accustomed to this, and responded with a powerfully-gripped handshake. Ra’lhen expected nothing less from the Mountain. “We're here on business, brother: The first is to discuss my gorp subscription,” Stannis said as he wandered to a corner booth. “The truth is I'm thinking of cancelling, but I was wondering what sort of retention offers you have. Ra'lhen is here as my backup in case 'customer support' had a bad day.” Ra’lhen slid into the booth beside Stannis. He had a modest grin in response to the Toa Maru’s wry joke, but remained silent. The Vo-Toa did not have much the say just yet, and preferred to relish in the colloquy of two titanic Toa. OOC: @EmperorWhenua @Void Emissary Sorry for the wait!
  10. IC: Ra’lhen — Onu-Koro, Sulov Maru’s Trail Mix and Hookah Bar Time seemed to stand still as Ra'lhen silently glanced at the restrained reactions of Stannis and Sulov. While the Vo-Toa was utterly clueless to their recent history (especially Sulov’s), it was blatantly obvious that they were both weighed down by their recent challenges. Being Toa of Earth and Stone, weren’t they weighed down enough? Finally, Stannis seemed to have cracked slightly. He raised a hand, gesturing a “three”. “Sorry, we didn't reserve. A table for three... if there's availability,” Stannis said, his voice almost cracking under the emotional burden. There was more silence. In a strange way, the tension was almost a relief for Ra’lhen. As a besmirched Toa rarely on good terms with his Sentinel colleagues, tension was a familiar feeling. It was also something few others found relatable. Despite the friction of the situation, Ra’lhen kept confidence in the Onu-Toa’s character. Ra’lhen remained silent. “Hm,” Sulov finally said. “I guess can push some bookings around.” There was another moment of tense silence. “Thank you, Mr. Sulov,” Ra’lhen finally spoke up and extending his right hand, “I’m Ra’lhen Kodin; it's a pleasure to meet you” OOC: @Void Emissary @EmperorWhenua
  11. Luka Gender: Male Pronouns: He/him Species: Glatorian Tribe: Water Wiki Page: Luka Appearance: Yellow and blue armor, with bright yellow eyes. He is tall and has an average athletic build. The relative lack of scratches and dents in his armor suggest that he is newer to the Arena than others. He has a confident and optimistic demeanor. Approximate Age: 24ish Traits: Projecting a type of heroism commonly found in old myths and stories. He genuinely wants to help people in need and does not want to beg for permission from alliances or government bodies to do so. Weapon: Cyan Sword: One wavy longsword common to Tajun that normally is deep blue. However, this is a slight green tint to this one, hence the name. It is extremely sharp but also pristine-looking, giving a clue to the relative lack of experience of its user. Biography: Luka was born in an unknown, tiny settlement that once existed to the southeast of Tajun — between the home of the Water tribe and the imposing Vulcanus. However, Bone Hunters raided the settlement when he was just a child, and he was one of few who escape to tell the tale. He was adopted by two Agori workers in Tajun and began working as a water-gatherer from then on. Only in the last six months did his Agori caretakers give him their blessing to train to become a fighter for Tajun. His passion is personal freedom, and dispises the slave trades that go on in the north. Cybernetics (approved by a goose): Return to Me: There is a beacon and magnetic apparatus inside the hilt of Luka’s Cyan Sword that is paired with cybernetics in his head and right hand. Once he raises and opens his right palm, the sword with fly to him — spinning and slicing anything in its path from anywhere within the radius the size of Arena Tajun. This sword does not need to be visible for this to work, but a strong enough being or machine could prevent it from moving if held in place. Smasher: Tubes and wires extend from Luka’s spine to different spots on his arms. When activated, Luka’s arms grow and get super strength. This allows him to carry heavier objects or use his Cyan Sword with more lethality. Weakness: Luka is naive and inexperienced in the real-world. He is prone to a black-white view of Bara Magna and morality, and there are facts about the land that he was not taught in his upbringing. Once such example is his cybernetics — he has not yet connected his battle prowess with the very forced labor that he seeks to abolish. While Luka is very strong and intuitive in his combat, he has not mastered the more advance fighting techniques. However, once Luka is supposed to an unfamilar move, he picks it up quickly.
  12. IC: Tailua — Ostia, The Dancing Crab The Toa of Fire leaned back in his seat, gobsmacked. For the majority of Tailua’s life (as much as he could remember, anyway), one of Mata Nui’s greatest mysteries was the origin of the grinning, spiny beings known as the Skakdi. They, along with Lesterin, Vortixx, and Mata-Nui-knows how many other species, were always left out of the legends of the Bionicle (a.k.a., the legend of Mata Nui and his downfall at the hands of the Makuta). It was said that these other beings were summoned to Mata Nui by his shadowy brother after the fall of the First Toa — a fact that was somewhat recalled by Tailua’s early memories as a Ta-Matoran lava farmer. No one had ever mentioned where the Skakdi had come from, and now this Lesterin somehow magically recalled it recently. “Memory sure is a funny thing,” Tailua echoed, more grounded now that he was able to process this new fact about his world. “I’ll be honest with ya, Captain. I was once an adventurin’ type — a looong time ago. I actually even buh-lieved in heroics,” said Tailua, “But not anymore. You’re given some hyped-up speech about destiny, and then the dude joins the Makuta and does this to ya” Tailua then (irresponsibly — take gun safety seriously, folks!) raised his gun arm for emphasis and pointed it to the sky. He used his left hand to point at where his limb once was. “Heroics are a lie on this land. I know that even more now, with these rumors I heard on my way to Ostia. So **** it. Let the Makuta take this land, and we’ll make a new life on this ‘Zakaz’ place you suddenly remembered” OOC: @Ghosthands @BULiK @Void Emissary
  13. IC: Tailua — Ostia, The Dancing Crab The red Toa was still very much in his head, to the point that he barely responded for a second after the handshake. Instead, he began to reattach the firearm. Predictably, it was much easier to put on than to take off, which worked out great for Tailua: he felt strangely vulnerable without his protection at the ready. He was just glad he had the instinct to detach the launcher when he did. The Le-Toa and Skakdi didn’t seem the most at ease with the apparatus, and the goal was — at this moment — to not die. The Captain, however, had a “seen-it-all” demeanor about him. Maybe the tales were true? However, Tailua was instantly confused when his began processing what Captain Lohkar had said about their intended destination. “What in Mangaia is a ‘Zakaz’?” IC: ??? — Ostia, Rooftop of the building near The Dancing Crab The Waif was growing a little impatient, but she decided to use that energy to start devising attack points. The failed assassin still laid dead in the streets, and more of a crowd was starting to gather. If enough time passed, one might even get the Sentinels to show up. That was an extremely unlikely scenario, though. Even those stationed here tended to be very hands-off… but sometimes they would get strangely hot-blooded about a murder not done by someone from their squad. She continued to wait. The other Reaper would not want to give up, even if the operation was somewhat compromised. Eventually, someone — the other owner maybe — would have to throw him out. OOC: @Ghosthands @BULiK @Void Emissary
  14. OOC: Part 2 IC: Aqi (NPC) — Ko-Wahi Drifts, Unknown Guild Lab, Sector 2C The Ko-Toa’s face was neutral as an old, robed man paced around the barren hall of the underground chamber. Two hooded Vortixx stood at attention, keeping piercing blue eyes on both the Good Doctor and his geriatric-looking accomplice. The aura in this room should have been tense; this morning, a specimen tied to years of lost research was revealed to be just under their noses by the affluent dame herself — Aqi’s longtime friend. While it was irritating that Niici wouldn't share her source, the Good Doctor had already hired two elite teams to take care of the ones responsible for the smash-and-grab. So at the risk of enmity, Aqi revealed his discovery to his colleague-turned-superior, and was now praying for his understanding. After a long, tense moment, the old man stopped his pacing. The dim lightstone suspended from the ceiling flickered in the presence of the shadowy Turaga. It was the only light given in this bunker room under the snows and the afternoon sun. Its flickering added another layer of fright projecting from the old man’s visage as he slowly turned his head to look at the Good Doctor. “And you sent her away?” the Elder finally asked as he turned to fully face Aqi. Somehow, the Turaga’s midnight blue cape billowed as he brought forth his walking stick — a weathered staff of scorched wood that commanded attention. Between his stance and his voice, the Elder proved a frightful colleague. Aqi straightened up in an attempt to channel his icy, Ko-Wahi demeanor. But his beating heart spoke the truth, and both he and the Elder knew it. “Yes,” Aqi said. There was another moment of tense silence. The Elder gazed into the eyes of the Good Doctor while remaining virtually unreadable. Meanwhile, the Elder easily picked up on the fear in the Toa’s eyes, despite his best efforts at stoicism. “Good,” the Elder’s voice was sharp and brisk. Despite the affirmation, the old man’s fatherly visage did not assuage Aqi’s fears. “You’re not upset that I didn’t bargain for Specimen V3R’s return?” the Ko-Toa asked. “Quite the opposite,” replied the Elder, his cape inexplicably billowing once again, “I have not forgotten your words about this girl. I especially have not forgotten how you once cared for her” As the old man spoke, he took a few steps closer to the Good Doctor, his walking stick pinging off the icy underground floor and reverberating within the empty room. His voice also softened ever-so-slightly — a rarity for the dark Turaga. “The best way to both keep Niici safe and protect our operation is to reject her offer until she can prove that she is a worthy emissary,” the Elder said, “And while keeping that quasi-brained Toa in her dwelling is hardly a sensible definition of ‘safe’, it would be more dangerous to invest in her wild pursuits without confidence in her success” “So you also doubt that Antidermis would help her,” Aqi said. “I never said that,” the Elder’s voice grew sharp once again, prompting an audible gulp from the Good Doctor. “Anything is possible. Were we not close to restoring the voids of S-V3R’s nervous system?” the Elder said, “For little miss Niici, the best could come for her, or the worst could take her” With that, the Elder turned on his heel, and slowly made his back to the grey room’s entrance. “I must, again, be frank: I harbor little faith in a Toa who was bested at the seat of affluent power by someone so fallible as Ambages. I really do appreciate you not simply handing her what she sought,” the Elder said as he departed, “And yet, if she wins her crusade, I hope I may get to award her my absolution in person” And with that, the Elder was gone, the hooded Vortixx following him. Only then did the Good Doctor permit himself to shiver. OOC: Thanks to @Vezok's Friend for letting me include the Elder!
  15. OOC: Ended up having to split this into two posts. Time to get ducks in row IC: Niici — Ko-Koro With clockwork indifference, snowflakes continued to fall upon Niici. The familiar howls of the biting winds nipped against her neck and hands — the few spots unprotected by Toa armor and thick Muaka furs. As Niici’s raised heels crunched through the snow, the Toa’s face remained unmoving. Snowflakes cascaded down and off her Great Matatu, melting into raindrops before falling away from the bottom ridges of her mask. The crystal-tipped staff slung across her back also appeared eerily still to a would-be observer — not that anyone was paying Niici any attention. True to the village’s principle, the ice queen was given peace; she could be alone with her thoughts as she trudged through the snow. “You have flown above your station and increased your lifespan many times over,” was the Good Doctor’s sullen monition. Still, Niici’s smile had not wavered, despite her spirit plummeting. She wanted to interject, but she would let Aqi finish his statement. The enterprising genius was not to be condescended to. “And still, you seek increasingly narrow, recessed avenues,” the Good Doctor continued, “You’ve won, sweetheart. You’re in the best health you could be—” At that point, Niici couldn’t take it. She held a deep respect for the Good Doctor, but in this instant, he was acting more like a doctor than normal. In the pits of her memory and soul, Niici was gracious for the world-changing breakthroughs that Doctor Aqi made so that she could live: “defeating” a rare condition with a 70% prenatal mortality rate, and virtually 100% infant mortality rate. “How can you say that?” Niici lambasted. As she reached the apex of her question, a raw vocal transient blemished the vain-rapturous and self-assured tone that the Chairwoman of the Cultured Gentry was known for. Aqi took a momentary glance down at his desk before meeting Niici’s gaze. He, too, noticed the voice crack; a rarity from Niici even when with someone she knew for so long. “You. Are. Healthy,” Aqi said softly, “You’ll get no joy looking to your Toa peers for equivalence. You should compare the present with your past as a Matoran, or as an infant” The people of Ko-Koro flowed around Niici like a river of ghosts careening aimlessly. In a rare bout of self-awareness, the ice queen took comfort in her own participation in the ritual. She wandered — a rare act that was a needful refreshment after her meeting with the Good Doctor. It wasn’t often that she acted outwardly in alliance with her inner notions. Eventually, her sauntering brought her to the heavy doors of the new Memorial Garden. She walked inside. Niici shook her head defiantly. “This life… the daily rituals to which I’m consigned, they can’t be where this ends. What if Antidermis is the final step?” “And what if it undoes all of what I achieved: reverses your condition... or kills you?” Niici merely clicked her tongue and crossed her arms over her chest. Her narrowed gaze veered to the side before returning to form and brightening as Niici forcibly injected her optimism back into the conversation. “This isn’t even about me,” Niici continued, half-whispering, “What about Vidar? Imagine what we could make of him?” “A more fruitful proposition, but not a wiser one,” Aqi countered, “Where did you even find the fugitive anyway?” “Sources,” Niici replied coyly. It was now the Good Doctor’s turn to shake his head, this time in exasperation. “And Vidar wouldn’t be the end. Antidermis, if properly researched, could bring forth a new wave of cures and enhancements that would elevate the esteemed patrons of Mata Nui,” Niici said, uncrossing her arms, “With the Akiri governments now sharing more of their arts and technology, the fruits of our most prosperous class would become less pronounced.” “The merchant class needs something new; let's synergize it with healthcare, with Antidermis as the new differentiator,” Niici continued, no longer whispering, “Sure, the substance could be useless or possess no redeeming qualities, but we won’t know unless—” Niici leaned forward, now fully whispering. “—unless the Unknown Guild gets involved” Aqi lurched back and answered with a curt shake of his head, “Absolutely not” The warmth and vibrancy of the greenhouse reminded Niici of her sauna. The Memorial Garden was a worthy addition to the village, improving Niici’s mood despite her frosty affinity. She smiled and felt a sense of peace descend upon her as she strolled past benches and ponds, finally pausing for a moment to admire a beautiful orchid in full bloom, and it reminded her of the days she spent in Ga-Koro, despite the painful memories of her schooling there. Her adolescent years had been like paradise until the flare-ups returned. Whispers flooded the classrooms and hallways regarding her true heritage. Her climb to the peak of popularity was crushed by the reigning Ga-Koronan queen bee, and Niici’s remaining time there became a quagmire of endless derision. As she sat down on one of the few vacant benches, Niici pondered her next steps. “How come?” “Have you learned nothing from your previous campaigns with the Gentry?” Aqi lectured, “The Unknown’s purpose is well-established and stoneclad. I will not put my life’s work — my own company — at risk by letting you manage it” Niici’s dusky-lined eyes flitted as she sat, flabbergasted. Never in the century-plus of their friendship had the Good Doctor been this harsh. “You want to pursue this enterprise? Then you must start the venture yourself,” Aqi said coolly, “If you can do it. And further, only if you can get more to sign on with you, then I shall invest” “You will?” Niici’s eyes lit up with hope. “Prove to me that you can actually pursue this. It won’t be easy. You need to learn more about this 'Antidermis'. Understand the market viability. Explain to me at least one problem that you have scientifically and economically proven that this substance will solve,” the Good Doctor explained, “Return to me with that — a business plan — and I will invest” Aqi crossed his arms, the disarming smile exposing the whitest, most luminous teeth Niici had seen. She couldn’t help but remember how her penchant towards her daily primping was somewhat influenced by the Good Doctor’s shining visage. Aqi may have principally been a father figure and financial guide, but he was also — in the male-dominated Ko-Wahi region at least — a consistent romantic rival. “Then I look forward to our partnership,” Niici said. Gentle buzzing and murmuring provided a soundscape allowing Niici to focus. How was she supposed to learn more about Antidermis? She had only heard of its existence yesterday. The ice queen knew that Aqi was playing hardball. This concerned her, since the Good Doctor was supposed to be the easiest of the three partners she already had in mind. She would need to find out more about the mysterious substance. The Toa Kalta knew some, but were sensitive to the topic. Pursuing too much with them could sour a useful relationship. But that assumes they’re all of the same mind, Niici thought. She needed to get in touch with another Kalta, but learn the truth she sought with grace. A meeting with Aelied was already planned, but she wasn’t too optimistic about getting the info she needed from the leader of the Toa Kalta. Niici would need more leads, but building relationships wouldn't hurt in the meantime. The tranquility of the garden provided the foundation she needed for a plan. Confident in her next steps, she remained in the Memorial Garden, taking in the thriving greenery.
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