Chapter 27... have I mentioned this story is turning out waaaaaaaaay longer than what I had originally expected? Yes? oh.... Well, enjoy!
“Kill you?” now Kopaka looked stunned.
“End my misery… something…” Pohatu elaborated hazily.
“Toa do not kill,” Kopaka said, clearly making an effort to maintain his calm demeanor. “The code is very clear about that.”
“Toa…” Pohatu sighed. “Toa!... we were Toa once, weren’t we? Were we?...”
Kopaka nodded. “We still are, brother.”
“So what!?” Pohatu exclaimed. “Who cares now?”
“I do, for one,” the Toa of Ice replied.
“But I’m asking you…”
“No,” Kopaka interrupted. “I will not help you desecrate the title like that; there must be something else that can be done. Gali could help you with the pain, and you would not suffer so many headaches or hallucinations if you did not drink so much.”
“Gali?” Pohatu gave him another blank stare, clueless as to who ‘Gali’ was.
“The Toa of Water, our sister,” Kopaka said. Ironic that now he was perfectly willing to call Gali a Toa again…
“Uh… the small one? From the telescreen? With the green?” Pohatu wondered.
“No, that is Hahli.” Now Kopaka was beginning to show signs of frustration.
“Err… the fat one?” Pohatu looked at him incredulously.
“She is an excellent healer,” Kopaka noted.
“She tried,” I pointed out. “She really did, believe me.”
“She did, I think…” Pohatu tenuously confirmed. “Do I look like it worked?”
“Let her try again,” Kopaka suggested.
“No… no!” Pohatu shook his head. “I’m just… I’m tired, Kopaka, I’m tired, I hurt, and I’m gone… I can’t go on like this… I’m begging you, help me end it.”
“I am sorry, brother,” Kopaka said more coldly than seemed appropriate for the words, “but I cannot kill you, and I cannot help you kill yourself.”
Pohatu sighed again. “You’re sure?”
“There has to be a better option,” Kopaka argued. “One that does not involve your death.”
“Everything ends with death…” Pohatu countered. “Nothing can be done about that…”
“You could throw that bottle aside before it drains what is left of you,” Kopaka suggested again.
“It numbs the pain.” Pohatu looked into the bottle.
“You could still have a life,” Kopaka continued. “You could have centuries left.”
“Centuries of what!?” Pohatu suddenly shouted to the ceiling. “Centuries of my body breaking down even further!?” He took another drink. “No thanks!”
“We are Toa, brother!” Kopaka switched tactics. “We have a duty to be there for the Matoran!”
“To do what?” Pohatu said sarcastically. “Tell them bedtime stories?”
“To protect them, to guide them, do what is best for them,” Kopaka replied.
“Protect them? Guide them? Me?” Pohatu grinned. “Look at me! Half my body doesn’t work, the other half is going to pieces! You can’t fix this, brother!”
“I cannot, but you cannot simply abandon it,” Kopaka said, “and I will not help you do so.”
“It’s not my choice anymore!” Pohatu countered. “I’m dying anyways! I’m sure of it!” He sighed again. “All I want… All I want is not to drag it out any longer.” An uncomfortable silence followed as Pohatu drank again while Kopaka stood completely still… he was trying to formulate something, compute some argument, but Pohatu didn’t care anymore. “I guess…” the Toa of Stone continued, “I guess you’re no use to me, then.”
“That would appear to be the case,” Kopaka said bitterly.
“Go, then! Go do whatever you do… I’ll probably forget you were here.” Pohatu’s expression mixed sadness with anger… there were tears in his eyes, and he deliberately avoided looking at his brother.
Kopaka paused for a moment before responding. “I will. Farewell, brother. Take care.” He turned and proceeded towards the front door.
I got up. “Wait!” I called. Kopaka stopped and looked back at me. “Can’t you… isn’t there something?” I couldn’t find the words I was looking for. Kopaka merely shook his head, then glumly continued on his way.
“Damned principles…” Pohatu cursed. “Can’t even help a friend…”
“You know, he saved you,” I turned and told him. “You would have drowned in your own vomit five times over last night if it wasn’t for him.”
“That cold bastard? Yeah right,” Pohatu grinned… the alcohol was taking hold. “He’d help no one… wouldn’t even try…”
“He sat by that bed all night, watching over you,” I said indignantly. “Don’t you dare say he didn’t try to help you!” Had someone told me the night before that, come morning, I’d be defending Kopaka's actions, I would have laughed at them. Now, I was doing exactly that.
“You know…” Pohatu slurred, “you’re pretty… You could help…”
“That’s it!” I’d had enough. I started around him, heading for the exit.
“What are you doing with that ■■■■■ anyways!?...” Pohatu called after me. I stopped for a moment, intending to make one thing very clear.
“Well, he may be a ■■■■■, but at least he cares about something,” I told him, after which I headed out too.
“Whatever…” Pohatu took to the bottle again. It was becoming clear to me why Hewkii’d given up on him; the moment that bottle took hold, Pohatu cared about nothing anymore… In retrospect, what did he have left to care about? Was this just his response to lacking a purpose… or was it the pain of two lives lived and lost that had driven him to drink? Gali’s response to the Toa’s loss of purpose had been depression… was Pohatu’s anger, or apathy? Whatever had driven them there, my opinion of Kopaka had changed again. Yes, he was a pain, a ■■■■■, and he wouldn’t hesitate to mention and explain in detail all the things he disliked even to the point of the hypocritical, but at least he had a set of principles that he tried to stick to. In a way, he really was the only remaining Toa Nuva.
I caught up with him as he made his way along the street, cloaked to conceal his identity from the fair number of Matoran and Agori milling about. Sunrise had passed, and things were warming up. For a while I followed the Toa of Ice in silence, unsure of what to say to him. As usual, Kopaka made no move to break the silence, but eventually I did: “So, where are we going?” I asked.
“The station’s that way,” I pointed out. Kopaka wasn’t following the route that we’d traveled from Station West to get here.
“The central station.”
“Ah… you’re leaving, huh?” I’d been expecting it, to be honest; if he’d had his way, Kopaka would’ve been in Onu-Koro-Nuva by now.
“I have done what Hewkii asked of me. There is nothing left to stay for,” Kopaka said, still sounding agitated as he spotted a billboard further up the road. It advertised the upcoming ‘Titanic Face-off’ between Tahu, the Master of Fire and the Porcupine, the latter now complete with his own fancy design of metal spikes flying out against Tahu’s fire in the background.
“I hope he survives. That Porcupine guy was rough…” I remembered, thinking of the brutal end the Lady of the Frost had met at the hands of the Iron Skakdi… Kopaka didn’t respond. “I’m sorry about Pohatu,” I finally said. “I didn’t know… really know what he meant to you. And to find him like that… and Gali, and Tahu…”
Kopaka stopped, sighed, and turned towards me, looking me square in the eyes with that gaze that I swear could see through them. “What is done is done, those who lost their way are lost forever,” he said coldly. “Their failures are none of my concern; we said our goodbyes long ago. I have my own mission to return to, and I do not need your reminders of what once was.” He turned back and continued on his way. Once again, he denied that the other Toa were any of his concern, but his attitude and everything I’d seen over the last few days told me differently.
“You were friends with Pohatu, though,” I followed. “Doesn’t that at least merit an attempt to help him?”
“He would have me break the Toa code,” Kopaka countered, “and will not accept help of the kind I would be willing to provide even if I did not have a greater duty to attend to. I have no purpose in staying with him, and plenty reason to leave.”
“So, you’re going to vanish again?”
“My presence is no longer required, therefore I will leave. That is and always was the plan,” Kopaka said as though it should have been obvious from the start.
“But your presence is required,” I argued. “Pohatu needs you. Gali needs you.”
“That does not matter,” Kopaka insisted.
“No, it matters,” I pointed out, “they matter. They matter to you; you just don’t want to admit it, ‘cause that’s… that's just not like you, is it?”
“If that is true, why are you arguing?” Kopaka questioned.
“Because you could be helping them if you did,” I explained, “and especially for Pohatu, you may be the one person capable of doing so. With your help, they might just get out of the situations they’re in.”
“I don’t get it!” I exclaimed. “How can you get it over your conscience to just walk away from everyone like that!? If a Toa’s duty is to others, there’s an awful lot you could help to fix right here, right now!”
“My duty is to the Matoran first and foremost, not to the other Toa,” Kopaka argued. “Also, keep it down.”
“Duty, yes, duty…” Interesting that he kept going back to that… was that truly his belief, or just the virtue that, to him, was convenient to explain his actions to himself and others? “Duty is everything to you, isn’t it?”
“As I have already told you, it is the one virtue left,” Kopaka reminded me. “Destiny was fulfilled, and unity crumbled in its absence, but duty is unchanging.”
“Ever think that unity can come from duty as well?” I asked. “Like, all the Toa have the same duty to protect and serve the Matoran. That’s a unifying purpose, isn’t it? Doesn’t that come with a responsibility to watch over each other?”
“Duty is nonspecific and open-ended,” Kopaka argued. “Every Toa goes about duty differently, and aims to benefit the Matoran in a different way. We argue about its interpretation, even fight over it, and therefore duty alone does not produce unity. Destiny does because it is specific, and it is now fulfilled. Hence, unity was lost.”
“Uh-huh…” He had a point, and looking back at the Toa I’d met over the last few days, it kind of held up. Plus, he’d probably had a lot of time to think this stuff over while he was wandering up in those mountains. Still, his cold rationale left a lot to be desired. “And unity isn’t worth fighting for in its own right?” I asked him. “It is still a virtue, after all.”
“In the absence of destiny, unity is fought for merely for sentimental reasons,” Kopaka added. “Such reasons produce no practical benefit for the Matoran.”
“Why do there have to be practical benefits?” I wondered. “It’s about being a good person, a good friend, code or not.”
“Entirely subjective,” Kopaka countered. “I would be a far better person for bringing greater benefits the Matoran, rather than preferring two bygone Toa.”
“That depends…” I mused. “I mean, who really needs your help right now? The Matoran living their happy lives, or the two Toa in despair who you once called your allies?” Kopaka stopped and thought for a moment before turning to me.
“Why are you still here?” he asked, changing the subject.
“Because I’m curious, I guess…” I was somewhat flustered by how suddenly he’d broken off the discussion. “Besides, where else would I go?”
Kopaka sighed. “I have been willing to entertain you thus far,” he continued, “but let me make this clear: what you think of my actions or motivations is none of my concern, and I will not tolerate your persistent questioning on the matter. If you are following me purely to criticize my behavior, I suggest you leave now.”
“I might,” I replied, “but you still have a promise to keep: you were going to show me that final battle, remember?”
“That I promised, and that promise I will keep,” the Toa of Ice said, “but I expect you to leave afterwards. Can we agree on that?”
“Deal.” I agreed. I mean, he probably would’ve tried to shake me some other way if I hadn’t, and this way I at least still had some time to formulate what questions I had left… and possibly to convince him not to leave. With him planning on going back to those mountains soon, something was beginning to dawn on me; most likely, once he went back up there, he wouldn’t come back again, and unless he’d sneak in another unlikely visit in at some point I could be the last person to see him alive. I mean, even now that his body was by and large working again, nothing could disguise the fact that he simply couldn’t last long up there anymore, and I wasn’t sure whether or not he realized that, or if he cared. Also, I was still having a hard time believing that his astronomical research was so important in its benefits to the Matoran that Kopaka was willing to go and die for it… especially since he could do a better job at it working in a knowledge tower right here, in New Atero, as Gali had pointed out. Before I left, I wanted to ask him to explain that; the whole thing just felt like an elaborate excuse for him to leave everything else behind otherwise, and worse, it was an excuse that would kill him.
We reached the station after a good hour and a half of navigating the city streets; now I understood why Hewkii had favored taking the underground train. It was mid-morning on a sunny day as we crossed the busy central square. The scene from our arrival repeated itself; Kopaka passed silently through the shorter crowd gathering many stares but no recognition, exactly as he planned, while I got a lot of respectful head nods, waves, and an occasional “good morning, Toa.” One young Agori even asked if I could sign my autograph on a piece of paper for him… I got the distinct feeling that my reputation as a ‘new Toa’ preceded me, though I hardly felt deserving of it. I signed his paper, of course, smiled, then quickly caught up with Kopaka as he proceeded up the stairs into the station’s foyer, where numerous ticket booths were set up. Kopaka approached the closest that was open.
“Fair morning, Toa,” the cashier inside greeted both of us. “Where to today?”
“Ko-Koro-Nuva,” Kopaka said in a surprisingly raspy voice. “One way, one ticket.”
“Okay, that’ll be fifty widgets in total,” the cashier noted as he pulled a ticket up from what I assumed was a rack or drawer setup of some kind below his desk. Kopaka pulled out the required widgets and laid them on the counter. The cashier proceeded to count them, then handed over the ticket.
“I’ll have the same,” I told him, producing fifty widgets of my own. By the time I got my ticket and made it up to the actual platform, Kopaka had already found a relatively isolated bench on its far side and was awaiting the train’s arrival. I joined him, and noted from the ticket that the train was supposed to depart within half an hour. There were a few Matoran and Agori waiting, but the platform was far from full. The train arrived within ten minutes, packed with travelers from Onu-Koro-Nuva, who departed in a steady stream onto the platform and down the stairs to the foyer. Once the train had emptied, we joined the waiting travelers and boarded. Kopaka turned left towards the back of the train, and proceeded through one car after another until he entered the last one, where he took one seat and I the one across from him, just as it had been on the train that we’d arrived on three days earlier.
“So, the final battle,” I hinted as we waited for the train to depart.
“Wait until we are moving,” Kopaka decided. Fair enough, I guess… until the train departed, there was always a chance that someone would make their way to the back car and join us. So we waited in silence, Kopaka still with his hood up, just in case someone turned up. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before someone did.
“I told you, it’s her!” a voice called, accompanying the sound of footfalls and the door of the car opening. I recognized it immediately.
“Hey, Lis! Where’ve you been!?”
author's note: and we have Kopaka's reaction. While writing this chapter, I ended up musing a lot about how exactly Kopaka defines the Toa code, given that he seems to stick to it so rigidly. Lis is questioning the same thing in the chapter, but proceedings are interrupted by new arrivals... arrivals who Lis is all too familiar with.
I'll post more chapters as I finish them. Enjoy!