CAUTION: THERE IS MENTIONS OF SELF-HARMING IN THIS PROLOGUE. IF YOU ARE UNCOMFORTABLE WITH THIS, THEN PLEASE SKIP TO AFTER THE FIRST ITALICS. THE MENTIONS ATE NOT AS STRONG FROM THAT POINT ON.
THANK YOU FOR UNDERSTANDING.
The death of Zane took a toll on us all. No one could ever replace the smart, lovable nindroid who gave himself to the Overlord for Ninjago. And if you look upon robots, you don't normally see personality in them. But Zane, he was different. He cared for us all, and even Megan and Emily have to miss him.
I haven't even seen Pixal in the six months Zane's been gone. It's heartbreaking.
All that I've been doing was either training with Lloyd or fighting. Good or bad, it didn't matter. I had to fight someone. Just to keep my mind busy.
But the worst part? Kai won't talk to me anymore.
At first I thought it was just Zane. I never really had someone close to me die before, but I know Kai did. I guessed he just wasn't expecting Zane to sacrifice himself for us.
But he remained distant. He wouldn't ever answer my calls, my texts, and when I did find him in public, he acted like he didn't know me. Yet he talked to the others, sometimes.
When I found that out, I stopped training with Lloyd (though it was only one month), and went to find something else to do. Not much crime was attempted after the Overlord incident; only ever an alley robbery once a week or so. Easy.
But when that didn't happen, I needed to take out my stress on something. Anything.
And I turned to my final decision without really realising it at first.
I just ran a finger up and down my arm, the left one, with all the scars, and knew that I had to turn to it again. I hadn't ever done it after I first met the ninja, and only once before, when friend issues started to get to me.
That day came when I opened a drawer and pulled out a knife…
… pressed it to the skin on my left arm…
… and swiped.
Again. And again.
Until my blood started to drip onto the floor below, the beads making the peaceful sound of liquid on solid.
Then I switched hands. And did the same to the other arm, the warm red liquid surrounding it.
My eyes started to tear, but not from pain. From the thought that I was abandoned. By my friends. They don't want me anymore. No one talks to me. No one ever checks up on me. Not even Kai. Not even Emily.
And not even Lucas. You would think that he would be there for his friends, but not for me.
I was lonely in school. It's just how it is when you say you like math, think Harry Potter is its own genre and openly state that you have never watched or read Percy Jackson. I got used to it soon enough, that no one would want to be my friend.
Yet I never expected anything like this from Kai. Or anyone else.
I set the knife down on the counter, dripping blood onto it, and went off to fight again.
Maybe I'll see if anyone's stealing a BorgPod.
And now here I am, five months later, still in the same routine. It's sad, really, how no one was even worried about me.
I turned the next corner, and found another side alley fight, this time between a serpentine and a skulkin.
"Stop," was all I had to say before they turned and ran. They all knew me by now as someone not to be messed with, or else the darkness will take them. No one knew I was emotionally unstable.
As I walked away again, I heard a near silent thump behind me, from someone landing.
"Still landing hard. Loosen up." I said to the person behind me, as I turned around to face him.
"I still don't get how you hear me," Lloyd said. He removed his hood and smiled.
"Why are you here?" I asked while crossing my arms.
His smile vanished, to be replaced by an uncharacteristic serious expression. "The team needs you now more than ever. You missed the training you said you'd come to."
"What team? Did everyone suddenly come back?"
I smiled. "You need help. I'll always be there. I get Meg, Em and Lucas?"
He smiled back. "Cole and Jay?"
We looked into each others eyes. "And we both find Kai!" We said in unison.
I decided to wander around Ninjago until I either found one of them, or somewhere that they like to visit. I knew that Lucas checked out Zane's memorial every now and then. I started to walk across the rooftops there.
As I reached it, I saw I figure cleaning moss and such off of Zane's statue. I smiled, as I knew it was Lucas. I couldn't mistake that light brown hair.
Much like I can't mistake Megan's hair. And Em's. And…
I shook all of those thoughts out of my head and focused on a way to get Lucas to rejoin.
Eh, I'll just say, 'The team needs you now more than ever.' That'll have to work.
I jumped down from the building I was on and cushioned my fall using my magic. Gotta say, that stuff comes in handy from time to time.
I walked up behind the statue in desperate need of cleaning, and said to Lucas, "The team needs you now more than ever."
He looked around, startled at my voice, and checked behind the statue. He smiled at the sight of me.
"Hannah," He said, "it's been a while."
"Too long," I replied with a smile. "What've you been doing these past few months?"
"Not much. Fighting crime and such."
"Well, let's just say that sometimes I haven't been fighting crime, sometimes I haven't even been fighting at all." I said, thinking about how often that knife got pulled out of its drawer.
I shook my head and continued talking, "Anyway, we need you to come back and fight with us."
"You always know what my answer will be."
I grinned. "Great. You know where I'll be."
Next up was Megan.
I knew her, and I knew she loved to write. She would write whenever she had the chance. She can handle so many stories sometimes I wondered if she was magic.
And, I thought, she was.
She could either be at her place or the library. I chose the latter, giving that it was a perfect place to work. So quiet. I wished I could be there every second, absorbing all the information I could.
I headed off in that direction, ignoring all the people pointing in excitement at me. 'One of the saviours of Ninjago' they call me. We're just a team who work together, nothing more. At least, we were. Too many things have changed since then.
I arrived at the Ninjago National Library, the two-story building beautiful in its own way. The bottom floor was for the kids and nonfiction books; the top for adult and teen books and the computers.
I opened the doors and walked right up the stairs to my right. After the fourteen or so steps, the second floor came into view, the bookshelves almost reaching the ceiling. The computers were on the far wall, just visible through the aisles. I could see Megan at the center-most one, typing away. I remembered how I used to type like that as well, how ideas flowed into my mind at the strangest of times.
I smiled at all the memories that I still had of pre-Ninjago; the trips to Malta, my friends from school, and playing instruments because what else could I do? They all made me happy, free, like I could do whatever I want.
That time had gone. Now I'm stuck.
I shook my head again and walked up behind her. She was writing another chapter for her new project, Nature's Secrets. It sounds like a nonfiction, boring book, but it's actually about nature choosing people to guard it, and defend against evil. I found a way to read the chapters before the book came out, and her writing style has changed tremendously. I really like it.
I walked up behind her and said the same thing I said to Lucas, "The team needs you now more than ever."
She jumped a little and turned around to face me. She crossed her arms when she saw who I was. "What team?"
I smiled a little. "We're more alike than you know, aren't we?"
"What do you want?"
My smile vanished. "We need you to come back to the team. Six months apart has done things to us."
"Yeah, you never were good with the whole 'persuasion' thing. Look what I have here! I've done so much, I've grown so much. I've made myself known in a way other than fighting. I'm not turning away from this."
Well, it was worth a shot. "Well, have it your way. But, if you change your mind, you know where I'll be."
That didn't go as planned. Well, I guess that Megan and I haven't always been the best of friends. Sometimes we fought so much it seemed to others like we were enemies. Other times we laughed together.
It hurts me to know that we are probably now permanent enemies.
Time to go find Emily.
By this time, Lloyd should've found Jay right after his game show thing, and on his way to find Cole the lumberjack. He's probably having more luck than I am. One for one, versus one for two. Hundred percent versus fifty percent.
He has the persuasion skill that I lack.
Emily can't be that far from Ninjago City, though no one has heard from her. Not even Cole. Which surprises me. To her, Zane was the 'least valuable ninja', and would've done anything to get rid of him. I guess she wasn't as filled with hatred as we thought. And she took this thing as hard as the rest of us.
I walked around Ninjago City, checking all of her favourite places, and some others. But no matter where I looked, I couldn't find her. It was like she didn't want to be found.
After I gave up on searching, I decided to check out some of the smaller villages, first one being Jamanakai, the place of the supposed first meeting between the ninja and mini-Lloyd, back when he was a little troublemaker. I haven't yet met the Lloyd who let out the serpentine. And I hope I never do.
The long walk to Jamanakai gave me plenty of time to think about how I would greet her after six months apart. How about, 'I've missed you, ya know?' Yeah, that'll work. That problem, solved.
But what if she doesn't want to talk to me? What if she's mad at me for staying away all these months? What if she's stayed away too long, and now she won't ever come back?
All those what ifs and even more ran through my head all at once, filling my mind with all the worst possibilities, like it always did. My parents said it was a habit I had to break, but I find it braces myself for what was to come.
I arrived at Jamanakai Village, the cute little houses and shops illuminated by the still-shining sun. The small trickle of water that flows through the main road sparkled. The trees were whistling in the wind. The sounds of training could be heard in the distance…
I ran over to the sounds and I came upon an intense training session, were Emily was beating down homemade dummies like nobody's business.
I walked over behind her and said exactly what I thought, "I've missed you, ya know?"
She whipped around, startled at my voice, like the others were. She smiled when she saw who I was. "Hannah! I've missed you too!"
I pulled her into a hug, the moments fading away until time didn't have a meaning. I missed her too much to scale. She was one of the biggest parts in my life, aside from Kai, of course.
She broke off first, still smiling. "Why'd you come here?" She asked.
I had nearly forgot what I had come here for, but when I did, I grew serious. "The team needs you now more than ever," I repeated my words I had spoken to Lucas and Megan.
She continued smiling, as if nothing in the world could go wrong. "As long as I'm not lonely anymore, I'm in."
I smiled again. "That's great to hear," I said, my voice a little too cheerful. I pulled her into a hug again, this one lasting a little while longer.
God, I had missed her so much…
It was 4:15, the time we had agreed to go find Kai together. I was a bit nervous about how he would react to seeing me again. He took the death of Zane the hardest. They had a nice, strong, brotherly bond.
I felt someone land behind me, but I didn't hear it.
"Much better," I told Lloyd as I turned around, smiling.
Lloyd removed his hood again and smiled back. "Considering it was only a day, that's pretty good."
"I'd say," I laughed. "Now, about Kai? Any idea where he might be?"
He grew serious. "The Slither Pit."
What!? What the fuck was he doing there?! "Fuck," I whispered, as to avoid Lloyd's ten-year-old mind becoming corrupted with words.
"We gotta get him back," I said, this time at normal volume.
"I agree. Let's go."
We arrived at the Slither Pit to the sounds of cheering and announcing.
"Next up: Kruncha versus Kai, the Flaming Showgun!"
'Flaming Showgun', huh? Bad name for a ninja. I much prefer Kai, Master of Fire. It brings so many special memories. Like when he first met me, or whenever he finds time to talk to the enemy.
I heard spinjitzu and someone saying, "Didn't your momma ever tell you not to play with me?"
No! That's not my Kai! It can't be!
Can he change that much?
"Winner! Kai, the Flaming Showgun!"
"Red, Showgun! RED Showgun!"
I walked in to find a male with Kai's hair walking up to have some juice, but it wasn't my Kai. He couldn't be my Kai. He was too different.
I looked around the room, and found someone that looked identical to No-Eyed Pete from the original crew of Destiny's Bounty. Peg-leg and everything. Costume, probably. It had to be.
Lloyd was already talking, and he gave me my cue: "When are you ever going to start thinking about someone other than yourself?"
"Like me." I told Kai. He whipped around and looked shocked when he saw who I was. "I can't see you like this. It hurts me. We've been apart for so long, and this is how I find you? This isn't the Kai I remember. The Kai I remember will always stay by his friends side, will always fight for the greater good, and never come to a place like this."
My part was over, so Lloyd said, "If you change your mind, you know where we'll be."
And we left, leaving the Red Showgun behind.
The following morning, I got dressed casually as to avoid most of the attention; purple t-shirt, black leggings, black knee-high boots. I didn't really care if anyone saw my cuts or not. Today will be the day when we find out how many people the team now holds. Hopefully all, most likely five.
I grabbed my phone, now in a purple case, and walked out the door. I started walking to Chen's Noodle House, where Lloyd said we would meet. But all that we could do now is hope that people will change their minds.
I felt my phone vibrate, and I saw a text message on-screen: 'LLOYD – Where r u? Rocky and Zaptrap are here already.'
I tapped the message and unlocked my phone. I started typing in a sarcastic comment, but thought better of it. I sent something a little better instead, 'Just left. I'll be there soon though. Tell me when Lucas, Megan or Emily show up.'
I waited a second, leaning against a nearby building. His response was positive. 'Will do.'
I smiled, as that was one of the first things he said to me, when our dreams almost killed us. That was a little before the whole 'kids' dealio, and I'm surprised he didn't forget.
I continued walking, the morning light shining onto my face. I shielded my eyes, and the light got slightly darker. I lowered my hand and sighed. I haven't used my powers in so long, I almost forgot I had them. There really was no need to, considering how easy everything was.
I relaxed, letting the light be able to shine once more. I walked into the shadows where I felt more at home. And I continued onward to the Noodle House.
I arrived at the Noodle House, the automated arms of Mister Chen moving like a puppet's; forced, with no freedom. I always looked at things differently than the others. I guess that's what made me the outcast. Every time.
I stepped inside, and the bright neon lights blinked at me from every direction. I winced at the feeling of them. God, I hated them…
I saw Lloyd waving at me from a large table at the back. I smiled, and walked over.
"Took you long enough," He said with a smile, "The others still have yet to come."
I felt eyes glace down to my arms, stare in shock for a moment, and turn back to my face. I couldn't blame them. I'd be like that as well.
I glanced around the table, and only saw three others; Jay, hair combed to perfection, wearing a simple blue hoodie and jeans, Cole, his hair longer than I remember, black t-shirt and black jeans, and Megan, just as I remember her from yesterday, if anything her expression changed from 'leave me alone' to 'I don't wanna be here'. She was wearing a grey hoodie and blue jeans.
Lloyd was still in his Techno Suit, for reasons that could never be explained.
I took my seat beside Jay, who was trying to figure out what to say to Megan without her blowing up from social interaction. I was a little mad at Lloyd for not telling me, but it really wasn't a big deal.
We stayed there in an awkward silence until the others showed up.
Emily arrived next, her hair brushed thoroughly, and wearing a vibrant orange dress. Cole and I got up at the same time to say hello, but looked at each other and backed down. Emily giggled and sat beside him. Another awkward silence fell over the group, which included me swirling my finger in the air under the table, a small circle of darkness forming from the motion.
But that silence lasted less than a minute, as next Lucas came. He was also dressed pretty casual; grey shirt, dark jeans. We all nodded to him and he nodded back, understanding that this was not a silence he wanted to break. He sat down beside Emily and we fell back into boredom.
Kai, why does it always have to be Kai who's late? How come we can't all be on time?
At last, he came in, his hair messy as usual. He was wearing a half-zipped red hoodie and a red t-shirt with a gold flame underneath, with dark jeans as well. I noticed that the only people not wearing jeans were Emily, Lloyd and I. Not that it really mattered.
Not much was said; just arguing, declined attempt at a new ninja. The usual.
Then two thugs came in, walked up to the cashier, and demanded money.
We all got out of our seats, but only Cole, Lloyd, Jay and Kai started fighting. The rest of us let them have it. The only reason I didn't fight was because my boots wouldn't allow it. Sure, I could use magic, but I would probably kill someone, thug, civilian, or ninja. The others, I have no idea. Other than Em, of course.
We watched them fight, Cole sneaking bits of food off of plates. The three thugs ended up on the conveyor, one of them with a face of sushi.
"How could you walk away from this?" Lloyd asked with a smile.
I glanced back at the thugs and saw them just escaping through the back door. I ran after them, the others right behind me; I could hear them. I couldn't risk looking back if it meant losing the bad guys.
We came out to the back alley, but no one was in sight. I glanced around a little bit, until my eyes rested on a shrine thing in the middle of the wall. I walked closer, and saw writing I couldn't read, along with Zane's face on a piece of paper.
Zane … where'd you go? And why'd you wait this long?
Lloyd took down the paper and read it. "It says … Zane's … alive."
Alive? But how? He sacrificed himself for Ninjago! There was no going back from that!
"I don't think those studs were delivering a message to the Noodle House," Kai thought out loud, "I think they were delivering a message to us!"
My eyes fell upon a plate of fortune cookies below where the paper was. I tapped Lloyd's shoulder and gestured to them, still too shocked to speak.
"I think these were meant for us too," He said, pointing them out to the others. Everyone took one and opened it, except for Cole, who ate it as is.
Kai looked at him odd. "You do know there's a fortune inside the cookie, right?"
"Oh, so that's why they call them that."
One by one, they started reading their fortunes.
"Listen to this: Master Chen has personally invited you to participate in his 'Tournament of Elements.'" Lloyd read.
Cole looked shocked. "Wait a minute! Are you saying that Mister Chen, the same person that's filling my belly with delicious goodness, is actually Master Chen?!"
Kai read next. "Secrecy is of the upmost importance. Tell no one, or suffer the consequences."
Then Jay. "If you ever want to see your friend again, meet on the pier at midnight and leave your weapons behind..."
We looked at Megan, hoping for more clues. "Same as Jay."
Disappointing. Lucas was next. "Lloyd's."
"Kai's," Emily said.
I glanced down at mine, and saw that it was different. I didn't read it out loud. It would freak the others out. 'You are indeed special. I will watch out for you, and make sure you progress.'
"What does it say?" Emily asked.
"...It's the same as Lloyd's." I lied. I knew that Megan could read minds, which was creepy enough. But no one should know about this. I forced my thoughts about it into the back of my mind.
However, Megan knew something was off. She glanced at me, expecting me to break, but she got distracted by the fortune disappearing from her hand with a puff of smoke. Mine was next, then Emily's, Lucas', Kai's, Jay's and Lloyd's. We all stared at Cole for a few seconds, before he jumped and yelped at the same time.
He let out a burp, which I winced at. I can barely stand anything like that.
Cole shook his head. "At least I know that I was invited."
The group laughed together for the first time in months. It felt like no rift had ever formed between us. No mountains, lava seas or pits of infinite darkness. Yes my mind kept drifting back to one thought:
We're coming for you, Zane.
It was 11:15; time for me to go. Emily started living with me in my small, one bedroom apartment after I found her. There was no one else to hide secrets from.
I have a paper route, which covers for some of the rent. The rest comes in the fanletters I get, some have more money than others. Those two together let me keep my place.
I threw some pajamas into a duffel bag, alone with another change of clothes. I was wearing my first ninja gi, which still fit. It was deep purple, with a belt so dark it was almost black. It was fairly simple, but that's what I like about it. It should be easy to move in; you don't need fashion while fighting.
My eyes glanced over to my bedside table. It was always bare, except for two things. One was a phone charger, which I put into a side pocket of the duffel bag. The other was far more precious. It was a photo of me with my friends; Shayla, her red, curly hair done up in two high pigtails, Arian, wearing his favourite hoodie, and Becca, her crazy smile bringing together the whole picture. It was taken at school, in one of our classrooms. I remember the teacher being the person that kept everyone going through the whole year. The teacher that makes everything fun.
I walked to the table and picked it up. The simple stained black frame looked identical to the ones I had at home. Memories started to flow back to me, as this was the first time I looked at the picture this way.
"Shayla, get in closer. I only see half your head."
"Oh no, I've been cut in half!"
We all laughed, even though this was Shayla we were hearing. Shayla got in closer to me, heads resting against each others. In a not romantic way. I already had my eyes on someone, and Shayla already had a girlfriend.
Another Becca, a friend of all of us, was taking the picture. She asked everyone to smile, which wasn't hard as we were all great friends.
She gave us a thumbs-up to tell us that the picture was taken, when the doorknob started turning. The teacher was coming back, and we were supposed to be working.
We ran back to our seats, and mine was at the far end of the classroom. I slipped on a stray pencil and fell onto my side. Like every other day in this school. I laughed along with everyone as I got back up. You had to if you wanted to fit in.
I got into my seat and started working on my English speech again.
'I AM YOUR FATHER: Subject: no subject (Picture attachment)'
I looked at the photo my dad sent me, and couldn't believe that my siblings and I looked like that. My older sister was in the middle, her dyed black hair then was above her shoulders, though now it was halfway down her back. My younger sister was right in front, her light brown hair looking thinner and lighter, smiling distractedly at something in the background. My brother was in the very back, just looking younger in general. I was peeking out from behind my older sister's head, and I clearly just lost one of my front teeth. I was only smiling half-heartedly, like I really wasn't smiling.
'ME: Oh wow! When was that taken?'
'I AM YOUR FATHER: 7 years ago'
'ME: Oh my god! I was what, 5?'
'I AM YOUR FATHER: Yep'
I smiled. This was the only picture I know about that had all the siblings in it, as the older two were half-siblings to the other two. We saw our brother only on weekends, and our older sister sometimes once a month. It was nice to see us all together
I started crying. I couldn't ever go back to see them. Couldn't go back to see my family … my friends …
I heard a knock on my bedroom door, but I chose to ignore it. I only got pulled back to reality by Emily's voice. "Hannah, it's 11:25. We gotta go."
I zipped up my bag, wiped off my tears, hid my face with my hair, and came through the door.
The pier was packed with people when we got there: exactly 11:55. I could easily spot Kai's red gi among the mess. The others were huddled around him. We walked over to them, and we got smiles.
"Finally," Megan said, still smiling.
"Shut up, what we need to focus on now is what the hell this is about and how we're gonna go about this because if it's a trap we have to be ready so nothing surprises us and you can't catch anything I'm saying can you?" I said that all very fast.
Everyone except Jay shook their heads. I couldn't blame them. I tended to talk like that when something is bothering me. And this shady place was enough to set off multiple alarms.
At exactly midnight, a boat pulled up to the pier. It looked like it had lots of room. I looked over to Lucas, and saw that he was stating at it in disbelief, yet also hope. Did he know this boat?
A plank fell down to bridge the gap between the boat and pier, and people started flowing onto it one by one. I got in line behind Kai and in front of Emily.
Jay got stopped by a few people in front. They gave a sentence each, and one person pulled out nunchuks from Jay's bag.
We were all shocked that Jay had weapons, even though we knew it was for self defense. We barely hears him say, "Chopsticks. I'm a big eater."
Our line continued, but just as Lloyd was walking on, a voice could be heard from behind us.
"Lloyd! You can't trust that man!"
Garmadon ran up behind us, and started a heated argument with the man that pulled out Jay's nunchuks. It ended with the man saying, "I'm sorry, but there's no more room." Garmadon responded to that by knocking a man into the water and jumping onto the boat before it left. "Forgive me. There's room now," the man said.
The plank was pulled back and the boat started to move.
*collapses on the floor starting to die*
It's…done. It's finally…done.
This has been my project for the longest time, and it's done. I'm sorry for not writing this faster, but some parts were easy, and others I only got because I wrote shit on a typewriter. That works to cure writers block for me.
Anyway, now I can go back to making what really matters. The chapter where I find out the connection between Shade and I.