This one took a lot longer than previous chapters, mostly because real life had me distracted for a bit.
It wasn’t long before Daila showed up with our breakfast.
The gafna cubes were interesting; they were small, roasted pieces of gafna meat, colored and spiced according to the gafna type they came from. Turns out fire gafna is typically spicy, no surprise there, ice gafna are quite mild, and air gafna are… well, light. I wasn’t much a fan of the seaweed, but the pokawi was a good choice. Kopaka offered no comments on his food, though the dermis soup looked tasty from my side of the table. Meal finished, he paid Daila in his usual silent, no-nonsense way, I did the same, and we were off, heading south along New Atero’s shoreline.
Traffic was picking up already. Matoran and Agori were moving about, their day just beginning. Kopaka’s pace was slower than usual; another indication that he wasn’t really looking forward to what was coming. Were Tahu’s warnings causing him to doubt? I wasn’t sure, but in light of our breakfast conversation I didn’t want to read into him deeper to find out. Instead, as we continued past one block after the other, I was beginning to wonder just where exactly Kopaka hoped to find Hahli’s place.
“Tahu said ‘a few blocks south of the station,’ right? Any clue where we’re at now?” I asked.
“Level with the station.” Kopaka said dryly.
“So, it should be on the right here pretty soon…” I started looking that way, but how could one recognize the house of a Toa among those of Matoran? Was there some key difference to look for?
Turns out it was easy. In each street we passed, houses had been built together in rows, but Matoran and Agori had decorated them according to their own tastes. One that caught my eye, and certainly Kopaka’s, was a larger house that looked like someone had just joined two neighboring ones together. Next to the door, four small stone tiles with carvings of various Kanohi masks were fixed to the wall.
“Recognize the masks?” I asked Kopaka as we stood in the street, looking at the place.
“Great Arthron, great Faxon, great Garai, noble Huna.” Kopaka named them off one by one.
“Is Gali’s one of those?”
“She had a noble Huna, but it is not her usual mask. Hahli is the only living Toa I know of that wears a Faxon, though.” Kopaka stepped forward, making his way across the small front lawn to the door. He knocked and waited. No response.
“Try the doorbell,” I suggested. He did. Still no response. “No one home?”
“It appears not.”
”So now what?”
“Wait until they return.” Kopaka turned and headed across the street, where a small terrace and fountain were nestled among the houses.
“That’s it?” Sigh… I was not looking forward to another day spent waiting on what amounted to another park bench, but Kopaka took a seat facing the house and, surprise surprise, quickly entered his meditative state again. At least, I thought he did, but when I was about to take a seat, he turned to me:
“I can handle it from here. You can go”
“You came along because you wanted to make sure I got here, did you not?”
“Kind of…” What had caused me to follow him onto that train? Concern? Curiosity? A mix of both, I think.
“Well, I am here. All I need to do now is wait, which as you know is no issue for me; I will be here for hours, and I know you would rather be somewhere else during that time. So go.” I was kind of surprised by that… I technically could have left at any time, but here he was specifically telling me to go. “Thank you, goodbye,” he added.
I was amazed at the ‘thank you,’ but much as I was trying not to read into him too deeply in light of the morning’s conversation, I couldn’t help but still detect that anxiety in him, and I really wanted to figure out what that was all about. However, even with no plans to go anywhere else, I was pretty sure that I didn’t want to spend my day on this terrace just waiting for someone who probably wouldn’t show up until the late afternoon at the earliest, especially when the beach was literally yards away. But he still had to show me the final battle, and that wasn’t going to happen here, because… public place.
“Look,” I said to him, “you’re right that I’d rather be elsewhere right now, but I don’t want to just… leave. You still have to show me the final battle, for one.”
“Not here, not now.” Figured.
“Fine, but I’ll be right out there on the beach,” I gestured in the direction of the beach, “and I’ll be back in a few hours. You still owe me that one.”
“Of course. Go.” So I did. With the city settled into its daily routine, the beach was anything but busy. I spent some time strolling further south, looking at the various shops and stands set up along the coastal road along the way. The main harbor of the city loomed in the distance. Eventually, I found myself sitting at the end of an empty pier, enjoying the peace and silence.
I was still thinking about what Kopaka had said about my powers in the morning… he was right that I used them a lot, probably more often than was warranted given that no Matoran were actually in danger, but… was it really doing any harm? I mean, being a Toa of Psionics naturally comes with an innate, always active ability to read surface thoughts and feelings, which was most of what I’d been doing, and I think people more or less expected that. I couldn’t just turn it off, though come to think of it there were plenty of times when I’d wanted to. In a crowd, especially an excited one like the crowd at the arena fights, all the accumulated surface readings just become loud static, a jarring noise that’s exhausting to have to deal with; just being in a crowded city was sometimes annoying. Try wearing a Suletu at some point, and you’ll get a good idea of what it’s like. That silence I was enjoying at the end of the pier? It was mental silence; being far enough away from anyone else that I couldn’t hear them.
The silence was broken when I sensed someone approaching along the pier. I turned to see a Ga-Matoran standing there; she looked a little weathered and aged, but lively.
“Hi,” she smiled.
“I’m Macku,” she introduced herself with an outstretched hand. I shook it.
“Lis?” Macku thought for a moment. “Are you one of those new Toa from the south? The ones that fought the Skakdi?”
“Yes… yes, I am.” I was a bit surprised this Matoran knew of me and my fellow Toa… we hadn’t really done that much, had we? “Though, I wouldn’t say we fought them, per se.”
“Well, that was rumor,” Macku acknowledged, “but whatever you guys did, it worked. Or was that rumor too?” she joked.
“No, the Skakdi stepped down…” I was still rather perplexed by what exactly her interest in me was. “Sorry, is there something you want?”
“No, not really. I just like meeting new Toa, and I hadn’t seen you around before.”
“Well, guess I fit that criterion.”
“Toa always have interesting stories,” Macku continued, “that and you looked like you could use someone to talk to.”
I gave a half-hearted chuckle. “Yeah, I probably do… lots to think about.”
“Figures,” the Ga-Matoran smiled. “First time in the city? Trying to get away from the noise?”
“Yes and yes.” Okay…
“Exhausting to listen to, isn’t it?” She leant onto one of the bollards. “All the thoughts, the… what did they call it?.. mental noise, I think.” Wow… where’d this Ga-Matoran gotten the knowledge of that? Was she somehow a mind-reader too?
“Yes… how do you know?”
“Oh, a friend of mine used a Suletu for a while,” Macku explained. “Said it was exhausting.”
“Using a Suletu… was he a Toa as well?”
“Yeah, his name’s Kongu. Like I said, I know quite a few Toa. He’s got some stories too.”
“You happen to know a Toa by the name of Hahli?”
“You kidding?” Macku laughed. “I live with her! Okay, she’s gone most of the time for her job, but we’re really close. I mean, I played on our village’s kolhii team with her when she was still a Matoran!”
“Really?” Fancy that… Then I remembered one of the mask plates next to the door of Hahli’s place had shown a noble Huna; Macku wore a noble Huna.
“Of course! Just out of curiosity, why’d you ask?”
“Oh…” how much to tell… “I have a friend who’s looking for her, or rather for someone who is apparently living with her.” That was suitably vague, I think.
“Is it me?” Macku feigned surprise.
“No… Actually, I should probably let him explain.”
“Well, I’ve got time,” Macku said. “Who’s this friend of yours?”
“Uhm… I don’t think he’s too keen on me giving anything away. He’s a bit paranoid.” I didn’t think of Kopaka as paranoid, but describing him in any more accurate way probably would have alerted this Toa-savvy Matoran to his true identity. “But I know where he is.” I got up and started down the pier again, heading back to the terrace with Macku making conversation close behind.
“Correction. I know where he was.” We’d reached the terrace; it was empty. Kopaka had simply vanished.
“He was right here, sitting across the street?” Macku asked, surprised. “Why didn’t you guys knock?”
“We did, but no one answered,” I said bitterly. What made Kopaka think it was okay just to leave like that? Where’d he gone?
“Ah… Hewkii was probably already out, then,” Macku concluded. “Darn. Think your friend’ll come back?”
“He’ll have to.”
“Well, in that case, why don’t you come over?” Macku invited. “I was about to make lunch anyways. Maybe he’ll show up soon.”
“Yeah, okay, I guess…” my mind was a bit preoccupied. I’d told Kopaka I’d be back, and he’d told me he’d still be here, right? And he’d just left. I was right to feel betrayed, especially considering how much value Kopaka apparently placed on honesty and duty; didn’t making a promise make fulfilling that promise part of one’s duty? Screw it; next opportune moment, I was going to tell Macku.
I followed the excitable Ga-Matoran into the house, where I was somewhat surprised to find that everything, and I mean everything, was Toa-sized. All the chairs, tables, other furniture. Heck, Macku needed a step stool to comfortably prepare something on the Toa-height kitchen counters. Apparently lunch would consist of Ruki subs.
“So, you live here with Toa Hahli and Hewkii?” I asked.
“Yeah. Hewkii’s a Toa too; we go way back.” I could sense there was a bit more to her relationship with Hewkii than just ‘old friends.’ “Toa Jaller lives here too; he works with the police force now. Hewkii coaches the Po-Matoran Kolhii team and plays on the Toa Team with Jaller.”
“And they were all part of the Toa Mahri?”
“Still are,” Macku asserted. “Kongu and Nuparu occasionally drop by, and they all have a great time talking about all they’ve been through together. I like to listen along; we’ve all known each other since we were Matoran back on Mata Nui.”
“Sounds great.” They hadn’t broken up. This fascinated me; unlike the Toa Nuva, the Toa Mahri never broke up. Why? What did they have that the Toa Nuva didn’t?
There was another issue that I felt rather hesitant to mention: what about Gali? Wasn’t she supposed to be here too? As we talked over lunch, I increasingly got the impression that Macku was holding something back, though certainly not for any malicious reason. Still, it almost had to be related to Gali; that or Tahu had been completely wrong about her actually being here. Didn’t think so, though, because I sensed someone else in the building… or so I thought. It was extremely vague; a mere hint of a presence that could well have been that of someone passing by in the street except it was constantly here. I wanted to figure out more, but I couldn’t focus on it while keeping up conversation with Macku.
The Ga-Matoran kept up a lively conversation all the way through, quite a change from my company of over the last two days. She apparently gave boat tours that led past various islands comprised of remnants of the Makuta robot, including the ‘fingers’ that Kopaka’d pointed out to me in the morning. She hoped to one day start diving expeditions into the old universe itself, though the scale of such an undertaking meant that she’d have to organize it with Hahli’s help. Speaking of Hahli, I got to hear lots about how she and Macku had won the last great Kolhii tournament on Mata Nui, beating Jaller and Hewkii in the process.
“The only time I ever beat those guys in that game,” Macku joked.
Whenever she talked about Hewkii, I could sense an emotional spike that I couldn’t quite identify. Some kind of joy, but… more intense, and more focused on the other person. Macku felt that whenever she was with Hewkii, whenever she described him even. It felt great, yet so alien. I’d never sensed anything quite like it from a Matoran or Toa before. I’ll say this, though: the language she used to describe him sounded a lot more like how an Agori or Glatorian couple would describe each other than what any Matoran would ever use…
“Would you like anything else to eat?” Macku asked when we’d finished our lunch.
“No thanks, I’m good.” I wasn’t much a fan of Ruki fish, but Macku had managed to make it taste pretty good.
“Well, unfortunately, I do have another boat tour to give this afternoon, so I can’t stay and chat forever” the Ga-Matoran admitted as she collected the dishes, “but if you’d like to come along, I’d be happy to give you the ride.”
“I’d like that, actually.”
#####Another struggle with this chapter, for me, was figuring out exactly how I was going to move the story to the next plot point that I imagined, until I got the idea to give another G1 character a (slightly) more prominent role. From then on, everything just went smoothly. Hopefully I can continue that into next chapter.
I’ll post more chapters as I finish them. Enjoy!