Turns out topic posts are limited to 32000 characters, so I couldn't fit this chapter in the post with the previous ones. Until I find a solution to that problem, I'll just give each chapter its own post.
For about fifteen minutes, neither of us said anything. I was still trying to process what had happened; sure, I’d known beforehand that the breakup hadn’t been pretty, but it’d turned out to be beyond anything I could’ve imagined. Kopaka sat in silence, but was different than before; not his usual, antisocial self-isolation. No, he was in pain, and not just physically. I could sense it; he was fighting it, determined not to let too much show on the outside, regardless of whether or not I could see in. I still remember that, even now, even through the tragedy I had witnessed right beforehand; the way he would fight himself to keep up appearances. It wasn’t vanity, at least I don’t think so. In his mind, Kopaka saw himself a certain way, and he tried to project that at all times. To anyone else, he would have appeared a stoic, steadfast Toa, a fixed point unmoved by excess emotion, rational to a fault. That’s who he was to himself, and who he was determined to be to others. But there were feelings in there; very strong ones, and he fought them constantly. It must have been exhausting for him.
But he did regain his composure. “So, now you know what happened,” he said calmly.
“That’s how it ended?”
“That was the end. I have not seen any of them since.”
“And, you just left Gali there like that? That was a full-fledged breakdown happening behind you.”
Toa of Ice’s eyes narrowed. “Gali,” he said with a hint of contempt, “was the one who drove the split. She was the one who kept insisting that Tahu find something else to do, something more in line with the morals of a Toa.”
“Was there something wrong with that?” I asked.
“It re-ignited that argument every time we met,” Kopaka explained. “Everyone would take a side, and soon they were arguing about every little thing and nothing ever got done. We all grew tired of it, even Onua.”
“I remember that… He told Gali that she’d driven the team part.”
“No, you destroyed us,” Kopaka said, doing a surprisingly good imitation of Onua’s voice. “He was right. We all agreed on that. Gali could not come to terms with the fact that we were not needed as Toa anymore, so she desperately clung on to what we had been when the rest of us had long let go.”
“But still… She mentioned the history, everything you all went through together. Surely, you all owed your lives to each other, her included. Was it really necessary for him to just… put her down like that?”
“History is for the scholars to study and the Turaga to tell tales of around a campfire,” Kopaka said coldly. He was back to his harsh, calculating self. “We could not live our lives like her, purely for history’s sake. Time changes, we change with it. Unwilling to do so, she got left behind, and nearly took the rest of us down with her. Onua just had the guts to say it out loud.”
“So it seems.” I said curtly. But I couldn’t get that image of Gali out of my head. Collapsed on the floor, mentally shattered… It was harrowing. I felt angry, angry with Kopaka and angry with the other Toa. They’d been frustrated with Gali and with each other, sure, but nothing could excuse how cruelly they’d left her; not even an apology, a hint of ‘sorry, but this is how it is…’ They’d just walked out on her and on each other. It was a disgrace.
Again, we were silent for a while. Kopaka slept; I tried to do the same, to clear my head, but the light streaming in through the windows and my frustration kept me up, so I looked at the passing landscape outside instead. Spherus Magna truly was a paradise; the area we were passing through now had once been a barren sea of sand dunes. Now, looking out I could see rolling green hills, with large herds of grazing rahi. The track was elevated on pillars, allowing me to see the landscape for miles around. We had left the mountains behind for the time being. Rivers crisscrossed the landscape, and sparse trees and bushes were littered throughout. Sometimes, I spotted a hut in the distance; Matoran and Agori herders. By noon, we were traveling through a forest, whose canopy provided enough shade for me to actually fall asleep. When I awoke a few hours later, Kopaka had returned to his silent contemplation.
“So,” I began, “you’re planning to just walk into the capital of the planet, get yourself fixed up, and then disappear again?”
“Yes.” He seemed perplexed as to why that was even in question.
“And you expect no one to recognize you?”
“I will be invisible until I need to be seen.”
“How?” This was rather curious to me. Rather than answering verbally, the Toa of Ice reached behind him and pulled out a mask. I couldn’t name its design off of the top of my head, but he switched it with his Akaku, then instantly vanished. The bench in front of me was empty, except… the cushion was still depressed, as though someone was still sitting there, and there was a shadow. Kopaka reappeared.
I was trying to figure out exactly where I had seen that mask’s design before. Then I got it: “Turaga Vakama wore a mask like that!”
“Indeed. It is a Kanohi Huna. The mask of concealment. It is a noble version, but it will do. I obtained it from Turaga Nuju before I left. Figured it might come in handy someday.” Kopaka switched the Huna back for his Akaku Nuva and stored it.
“To use if your disguise fails?”
“And how do you expect this ‘fixing up’ to work? Whoever does that will see who you are. It’s inevitable.” I was having a difficult time seeing how this plan of his could actually succeed.
“I will find someone I can trust.”
“What!?” I couldn’t believe this. “After split, after the way you left her, you still expect her to help you!? That’s crazy!”
“Gali is an excellent healer,” he argued, “and she is strong. She will have recovered and found her feet.”
“And you think she’ll jump at the chance to fix your busted leg?”
“No. But her sense of duty is stronger than her anger towards me.”
“So, let me get this straight; her duty is to take care of you?” Again, I increasingly found myself disliking Kopaka’s attitude. How did he think that that was even remotely reasonable?
“No.” He sighed. “She has the ability to heal terrible wounds, so that becomes part of her duty. Or rather, she made it part of her duty when she showed herself willing to exercise that ability. Unity, Duty, Destiny, remember? We may have abandoned unity, but duty remains; our duty to others. Hers is to heal others.”
“What about destiny?”
“We reached destiny when Mata Nui reformed this planet,” Kopaka explained. “From that point on, we were to make our own path on this world, based on our duty.”
“Uh-huh…” there was something incongruent about his thinking that I was trying to pin down. “So, what’s your duty, then? What ability are you using up there in those mountains to fulfill your duty to others?” That was the ‘gotcha’ question; if he could justify Gali having to heal him because it was her ‘duty,’ what duty was he fulfilling by wandering off, never to be heard of again?
“Discovery. At the top of those mountains, I always have an unobstructed view of the stars,” Kopaka explained. “I study them, I chart them, and through that figure out the ways of this universe. When I decipher them, Matoran and Agori will be able to reach up to the stars and find new worlds to settle.”
“And... are you close to figuring that out?”
“There is a ways to go. But I have already made progress beyond current understanding. You saw it, you did not understand. That is why I work alone.”
“Right…” I didn’t agree, but I felt like nothing would be gained by pushing this line of inquiry further. This was the side of Kopaka that I didn’t like; he acted as though he was above everyone else, and perhaps intellectually he was, but he blatantly disregarded how the way in which he behaved or what he said affected others. He never considered how the Ko-Matoran felt about him vanishing the way he had; they believed he was dead, they grieved for him even though he was still alive, and he had no qualms about it. Nor did he see anything wrong with just marching up to Gali and ordering her to ‘heal him’ because it was her ‘duty’ to do so, in spite of the way he had left her when he at the very least could have offered some support. There wasn’t a question in his mind; he believed what he did was right, in spite of the pain it caused others. I hate to use the old cliché, but Kopaka was openly, frustratingly cold.
So I went back to asking about his plans instead. Surely, he’d forgotten about something, something that I could use to show him that he didn’t know everything as well as he thought he did?
“What if Gali isn’t around anymore?” I asked.
“Then I will have to find someone else.”
“How do you expect to find anyone else? Or Gali herself, for that matter?”
“Talk to other Toa. There will be some around. They should understand my situation, and at least one of them has to know of a healer somewhere who would be able to help.”
“And it’s their ‘duty’ to point that person out to you?”
“No. But few would not, as you say: ‘jump at the chance’ to help a fellow Toa.”
“Are you sure about that? It’s not like you’ve done anything for them that they know of.”
Kopaka looked me straight in the eyes. “You are a Toa. You are here, are you not? Did I force you to come with me? Did I tell you it was your duty to accompany me? No. I did not. Did you have any reason of your own to be here, on this train, right now?”
“And yet you are here.” Again, he was staring right through me. Those lenses had found the right alignment.
“Yeah… Yeah I guess I am.” Well, he had me there. I was really coming to hate the way in which he could just detach himself, to analyze me and others like pawns a game. But he was right; I was here because I thought he needed help, needed someone to talk to, and I’d been more than willing to help him, to be that person. Increasingly, I was coming to the conclusion that he didn’t need anything from me. He had everything all sorted out. Were it not for that busted leg, he’d probably not even have come down from those mountains at all. Frustrated but beaten, I didn’t question his plan any further. Besides, even if I’d found a serious shortcoming, it’s not like he would have changed it for my sake. Honestly, as night began to settle in, signaling that we were on the final part of our journey, I had half the mind to just leave him and head off on my own in New Atero.
So, want to know why I stuck with him? At this point, it might have seem like I was wasting my time, like I was just tagging along with no reason. Well, thing is, I didn’t have anything better to do. I was in the same boat as Kopaka had been; a ‘hero’ in a world that didn’t need one. And, much as his cold demeanor and detached view of others annoyed me, and made him seem more and more like a massive jerk, I wanted to see how the other Toa would react to seeing him again; especially Gali when he told her he’d come back just to get his leg fixed. For better or worse, I was along for the ride.
I had no idea how hard the next few days would be for both of us.
author's note: This chapter was actually quite tough in terms of dialogue, as Lis begins to question Kopaka's thinking, which required me to explore the Toa Nuva of Ice's mindset a lot more. Since he's always been a rather taciturn character in canon, that was difficult to do; there just wasn't a lot revealed below the surface to go on. Not as loaded as the last chapter, therefore, but an important one nonetheless.
I'll post more chapters as I finish them. Enjoy!