Well, I'm back home, so no more traveling chaos... of course, that means back to work, which means my writing time might be a bit restricted. Still, plenty more planned, so let's keep things moving...
Thankfully, the rest of the night was free of unwarranted mind reading, and I felt pretty rested when I woke up in what I thought was the morning; an illusion that lasted all of about five seconds when Macku knocked on the door.
“Hey Lis! Are you up yet?”
“Yeah, yeah…” I made my way to the door.
“Great,” Macku continued. “We’re about to have lunch.” I stopped for a moment… lunch? Just what time was it? I opened the door to find the Ga-Matoran still standing there.
“Well, I tried to wake you for breakfast,” Macku explained, “but you were out cold. Then Gali said you’d woken up again in the middle of the night, so I figured it was better to leave you be.”
“Ah…” I followed Macku down the hallway. I noticed the door to the room in which we’d put Kopaka was closed. “Is she still watching over Kopaka?”
“No, Hahli is doing that now. Gali was pretty beat this morning,” Macku informed me. “She told me to wake her up for lunch, though. I figured I’d cook up that crab from yesterday, since dinner was kind of a bust.”
“Say, how about you go get Gali, and I’ll get the crab started?” Macku suggested.
“Sure.” We’d reached ground level, so Macku headed to the kitchen while I took the stairs to the basement. I headed straight for Gali’s ‘living room,’ but the telescreen was off and the Toa wasn’t there. I noticed a side door to the left, which as it turned out led to a small and quite decrepit looking bathroom. Still, no Gali… Back in the hallway, I tried the next door down; it led to another room roughly the size of the living room, which also featured a small, dirty window near the ceiling. The window shed some dim light onto the only piece of furniture in the room: a large bed that supported the bulbous, obese shape of the sleeping Toa. She looked like she’d collapsed face-first onto the bed. I knocked on the door.
“Uhm… huh?” Gali moaned, half conscious. “W-what is it?”
“It’s lunchtime,” I informed her.
“Yeah… Macku’s going to cook up the Hahnah crab that we were going to have for dinner yesterday,” I continued. “Want to join in?”
“Yeah, just… give me a minute,” she held up a finger.
“Okay.” I stepped back into the hallway and waited, leaning against the wall. After a few seconds, I heard a series of groans and ominous creaking sounds as the heavyweight Toa maneuvered herself from lying face-down on the bed to standing next to it. The struggle took a minute, and at one point she stopped for a bit to catch her breath. Eventually, though, she appeared in the doorway, and we proceeded down the hall to the bottom of the stairs. Now that Kopaka wasn’t occupying my attention, I actually saw just what a challenge even basic mobility was becoming for Gali; she didn’t walk, she waddled, swaying heavily from side to side with each step forward and swinging her arms to help shift the weight about.
“Uhm, are you okay?” I was honestly concerned just by how much of a struggle it apparently was for her just to get out of the bed and… walk.
“Well, I’ve managed so far, haven’t I?” Gali replied, sounding a bit agitated. “Go on,” she gestured up the stairs. I made my way up; she followed, taking one step at a time, hands on both railings to help pull herself up. When she reached the top of the stairs, she had to catch her breath again... even through her mask I was pretty sure her face was flushed. “Right,” she said, “lunch, then?”
Macku’d already thrown the crab into a boiling pot, so we made our way to the living room, where Gali occupied a couch while I took one of the chairs.
“So,” I began, “what’s the plan? We still need to close up Kopaka, right?”
“After the air exchangers are fixed up,” she reminded me, still a bit out of breath. “A lot of sowing work, mostly… and we need Jaller to actually close him up well.”
“When does he get home?”
“Sometime in the evening… of course there’s also the leg.”
“Hey, Lis!” Macku called from the kitchen.
“Can you go check on Hahli and Kopaka!? See if they want anything!?”
“Sure!” I got up.
“He’s probably awake, by the way,” Gali added as I made for the hallway. Awake? In his current state? “…and I think she’s already working on the sowing.” I couldn’t imagine that being all that comfortable for Kopaka, though he at least had Hahli to keep him company… As expected, I found Hahli sitting beside the bed, and she had indeed broken out the sowing kit and was working on one of the air exchangers, cleaning out filth and then sowing up the wounds. Kopaka was awake, and watched the whole thing rather intently.
“How’s it going?” I asked. Immediately, I noticed Kopaka was very surprised at my presence, though as I’d come to expect of him, he tried not to show it on the outside.
“Well, this one’s coming along,” Hahli said as she diligently used a small brush and water to clean out a particularly vicious cut, “but these things have taken a lot of hits. I’m going to be busy all afternoon at the least.”
“What did you run into up there that did that?” I asked Kopaka, pointing at the wound.
“Muaka,” the Toa of Ice answered. “…and a few other things, but mostly muaka.”
“Really, you shouldn’t go picking fights with those anymore,” Hahli pointed out.
“One muaka provides enough meat to last months,” Kopaka countered. “They are well worth the risk.”
“Risk of getting gored, or your leg chewed up?” I was rather skeptical. Kopaka merely grunted, then resumed his careful examination of Hahli’s working methods. “Anyway,” I continued, turning back to Hahli, “lunch is about to be served downstairs. Should I bring some up or do you want to come down?”
“If you could,” the Toa of Water began, but Kopaka cut her off.
“We will come down,” he decided.
“Na-ah! No way you’re going anywhere opened up like this,” Hahli said as she put her tools aside. “I can bring something up for you, but you’re staying here.” Kopaka didn’t reply immediately; instead he grabbed the opened mesh, folded it closed, and flash-froze some small orbs of ice around the edge to hold it in place.
“My chestplate,” he demanded.
“No. Not happening.” Hahli argued, but Kopaka didn’t need her cooperation; he’d just find the plate himself. Unsurprisingly, that didn’t take the Akaku-equipped Toa very long. He grabbed the chestplate from under the bed, packed his cut muscle strands together, and fitted it back on.
“You’re going to walk down there like this!?” Hahli couldn’t believe it.
“I will be fine,” Kopaka concluded, reaching for his cane. Hahli sighed while muttering something about a Kane-Ra mentality… Clearly, the Toa of Ice wasn’t going to take no for an answer, but his body thought otherwise; the cut muscle strands normally helped brace the shoulders, so their disconnection meant he couldn’t support a lot of weight with his arms. As he reached with his left arm, the right gave way, and he fell back onto the bed, grimacing from the pain in his chest.
“See?” Hahli quickly moved in and helped to return Kopaka to his position of lying down on the bed.
“Fine…” Kopaka grudgingly agreed.
“Lis, just bring some food up here for us,” Hahli suggested.
“Will do.” I was still concerned about Kopaka’s condition after his attempt to get up, but knowing Hahli would keep a close eye on him, I made my way back downstairs and informed Macku that Hahli and Kopaka would like their food brought up; she told me it would be ready in ten minutes, so I went back to the living room, where Gali’d turned on the telescreen, which was turned to some news channel.
“Only two days after the last time that Tahu, known as ‘Master of Fire’ gave another stunning performance in the Arena, his next challenger is already fast approaching,” an Ice Agori reporter explained, “and excitement is building as the world waits for what will certainly be an epic confrontation between the Toa veteran and the rookie: the Porcupine.” It went on to describe the Porcupine’s recent rise in the rankings. I shuddered, recalling the Iron Skakdi’s brutal fight against the Lady of the Frost; Gali’s expression had turned decidedly sour.
“I saw him, two days ago,” I told her. “The Porcupine, he’s… he’s brutal.”
“They all are,” Gali said dourly. “Those fights should have been banned long ago. They’re barbaric.”
“Of course. I mean, the Agori say it’s an important part of their history,” or so I’d heard, “but why can’t they just leave it as that… history?”
“It’s hard for people to let go of the past,” Gali sighed.
“Right…” I nodded. Her comment resonated more than I think she’d meant it to. “That’s why Tahu’s still in there too, right?” Gali looked at me curiously. “That’s his fantasy,” I continued, “that he’s still in the past, that he still needs to fight.”
“Perhaps…” Gali shrugged. “You could be right; some part of Tahu’s definitely stuck in the past… Kopaka, too,” she sighed. “You know he used to fight Muaka all the time on Mata Nui?”
“They sometimes attacked Ko-Matoran on the icy mountains,” the Toa of water explained. “Kopaka stopped them. He even saved Matoro a couple of times that way.”
“He did?” That shed a whole new light on his relationship with and reverence for the dead hero.
“Indeed,” Gali continued. “It seems my brothers really are living in the past.”
“And what about you?” I asked. “What did you do back then?”
Gali seemed a bit surprised to have the question turned on her. She thought for a moment. “Well, I watched over Ga-Koro,” she remembered, “fought some Tarakava, healed the Matoran when they were injured… You should have seen the ocean of Aqua Magna back then; it was beautiful.” She smiled, but it was a sad smile. “Of course, that’s all over now.”
“Isn’t that ocean out there still Aqua Magna?” I asked, gesturing towards the water to the east.
“It is,” Gali acknowledged, “but it’s not really the same… nothing is these days.” I wasn’t going to point it out straight to her face, but it was becoming clear to me that, while Gali wasn’t living the past, she certainly hadn’t moved on either. Rather, she just seemed to mourn what had been lost… I wasn’t sure which I preferred: her approach of lamenting what had been lost and just fading with it, or Tahu and Kopaka’s of trying to preserve it and soldier on at all costs. In the end, it hadn’t turned out very well for any of them.
We sat and silently watched the telescreen broadcast until Macku arrived and set a pot filled with cooked Hahnah meat on the table.
“Lunch is served,” she announced. “Hang on, let me grab you some plates.” She soon returned with plates and cutlery, divvying them up by giving a set to me and Gali and then setting the other three down on the table.
“Okay, let me just take some out for Hahli and Kopaka first,” she said as she produced a serving spoon and scooped a solid serving onto each plate.”
“I can carry them up for them, if you’d like,” I offered.
“It’s fine, I’ve got it covered,” she said as she grabbed the two plates. “I’ll be right back.” She vanished into the hallway. Gali gestured at the pot, and then at me.
“Enjoy,” she invited. I scooped up a few spoons’ worth of Hahnah meat before sitting back down in my chair. Then I noticed the pot was definitely out of Gali’s reach, and the Toa of water was preparing to get up to serve herself. Remembering that image of her trying with difficulty to get off the couch, I got up and set my plate aside.
“Here, I’ve got it.” I reached out for Gali to hand me her plate, but she instead put it aside.
“Don’t worry,” she assured me, placing her hands onto the couch beside her to help push herself up.
“No, here.” I picked up the pot and moved it to Gali’s side of the table, then handed her the spoon.
“Thanks…” She smiled for a moment, but I could sense a hint of… something. Not quite embarrassment, nor guilt, or shame… maybe a little combination of all three, a tacit acknowledgement that the help was appreciated, but not really needed, or perhaps it just shouldn’t have been needed even though it kind of was. I sat back down, then watched as Gali served herself a… uhm… very generous helping of crab, which she finished before I was even halfway done with my plate. Macku returned and took a small portion for herself, after which we continued watching the telescreen broadcast while Gali served herself seconds… and thirds. Macku noticed it too, but didn’t say anything. Out of politeness, I didn’t either, but all of the sudden Gali’s condition was making a lot more sense. Weird thing is, she didn’t bat an eye about it; she seemed keenly aware and ashamed of her size, but didn’t seem in at all motivated to do something about it. In spite of everything, was she still in denial, just like Kopaka about his injuries? Or was Macku right?
Had Gali really given up?
author's note: this is one of those chapters in which I wasn't sure what to do with the characters' time: a filler, much like the last one. Luckily, fillers do allow for plenty of meaningful, and some not so meaningful conversation to get more insight into how the characters think and why they do what they do; in particular, Lis begins to worry and wonder about what exactly let Gali to where she is.
I'll post more chapters as I finish them. Enjoy!