As the sun rose higher and noon approached, I realized I was getting hungry, never mind bored, and decided to brave the ‘party car’ again and get a hold of a sandwich of my own. Making my way forward through the train, I noticed the beat of the music had changed. It was faster, rowdier, and before I even opened the door, I feared that the situation in the car would mirror the change in soundtrack. I was right; where previously the atmosphere has been energetic, it was now downright chaotic; the space around the bar resembled a mosh pit, crowned by a considerably drunker Lerome, leading the Matoran in a frenzied dance, if that was the right word, to the music blasting from behind the counter. I watched for a minute or so, wondering how exactly I was going to make my way through the densely packed crowd, but with the end of the song they dispersed somewhat, allowing me to move in. A couple of the Matoran greeted me enthusiastically; apparently several of Lerome’s tall tales had featured me after I left. For his part, the Toa of Air wasn’t paying much attention, not noticing me until I’d practically reached the bar. Of course, that was accompanied by an enthusiastic greeting.
“Lis, welcome back!” he exclaimed. “Where’d you go!?”
“Stayed in the back for a while,” I said dismissively before turning my attention to the Vo-Matoran behind the bar, who looked even more out of his depth than he had when I last saw him a few hours before.
“C-can I help you, ma’m?” he asked, periodically casting nervous glances in Lerome’s direction.
“I’d like something to eat,” I informed him. “They told me the sandwiches were pretty good.”
“Of course, of course,” the Vo-Matoran turned and disappeared behind the counter, only to reappear moments later with a pre-packaged sandwich.
“Two widgets, I believe?” I asked, remembering the price from my last trip, a few days before.
“Yes, ma’m,” the Vo-Matoran said. I handed him the two widgets and received my lunch in return.
“Hey, play another one,” Lerome told the bartender. “Let’s keep this party going!” The bartender rolled his eyes and fiddled with something under the bar, after which the next song started playing. It was another rowdy dance track, much to Lerome’s delight. “Now that’s what I’m talking about!” he merrily exclaimed, after which he swung around on his stool and stepped down onto the floor, intending to once again demonstrate his ‘mad skills’ even while significantly intoxicated. Unsurprisingly, his coordination had suffered, though he still put on a pretty good show, not that I was all that interested. Looking around, I noticed Kirall and her companion had vanished altogether, while Jahlpu had taken a seat in the corner, observing the fray but staying well away from it. I made my way across the impromptu dancefloor to join him at his table. The music volume made it all but impossible to make one’s voice heard, so he merely nodded in greeting as I took the other seat facing into the car, from which I watched the rave unfolding to the dark, angry tune of Kikanalo Stampede’s “Down in the Pit.” We both watched for a while, me making my way through the sandwich while Jahlpu watched with apparent amusement the spectacle unfolding in front of us.
With lunch finished, I decided to vacate the place again before I lost my hearing completely; instead, I went and checked what was on the telescreen a car or two back. Turned out it was some kind of Agori fashion show, followed by the afternoon weather, then a segment on great places to eat in New Atero; surprisingly, Daila’s Dermis Shack wasn’t featured. None of the programs really interested me much, but with little better to do I kept watching, my mind drifting over the events of the last few days. However, I drew the line at “Highlights of the Arena Magna.” By that point, it had been several hours and dusk was fast approaching. The noise from the party car had quietened considerably, but I decided to move back to the last car and bide my time there until Kopaka saw fit to show me the final battle at last. The Toa of Ice hadn’t moved, but he was thinking of something, and I decided not to disturb him for the time being. Unfortunately, not fifteen minutes after I entered the car, my teammates followed suit.
“That… was so worth it…” Lerome stumbled in first, followed closely behind by Jahlpu, who was doing his best to steady the Toa of Air. “Really, awesome… I wanna go back.”
“You need to rest,” Jahlpu asserted.
“Okay…” Lerome hazily replied, then collapsed onto several seats that lacked armrests.
“Look at him! Wasted!” Kirall exclaimed in an amazing feat of irony, considering that she was barely standing herself. Jahlpu merely rolled his eyes, then pointed at another set of empty seats, which Kirall stumbled towards and eventually came to rest upon. “Hey, Lis!” she exclaimed upon noticing me sitting three chairs away, “You ought ‘a try it sometime…”
“No thanks,” I said, rather dismayed at their appearance. Loud snoring from Lerome indicated the Toa of Air was already out cold.
“No, really,” Kirall continued, “he did, like, this fire thing… and there was light ‘n stuff…”
“No thanks,” I reiterated myself, not wanting to hear more of Kirall’s afternoon activities.
“Fine, be that way,” the Toa of Water shrugged, then lay down as well. “Man, I’m tired…” it wasn’t long before she was out too, at which point Jahlpu walked over and took the seat across from me.
“End of the party, huh?” I asked.
“Yup.” Jahlpu nodded. “For now.”
“No kidding…” I rolled my eyes. “And still it always ends like this.”
“You’d think they’d learn,” the Toa of Earth sighed.
“What are you still doing with them?” I asked. “I mean, you weren’t much enjoying the party, except for watching Lerome wipe out fifteen times.”
“Yeah, they’re entertaining,” Jahlpu acknowledged. “Besides, what else would I do? Someone’s got to look out for them; they certainly aren’t.”
“We should talk some sense into them at some point… Toa should be more dignified than that.” I gestured over at the two snoring figures draped over the chairs.
“Good luck with that.” Jahlpu shook his head. “They’re having fun, and it’s not like there’s something else for them to do either. Besides, you’re one to talk; you’d usually be right there with them.”
“True…” He was right; I may not have been as exuberant as Lerome or Kirall, perhaps, but I’d had my share of blackouts in the past, just like they were having now. Thing is, my conscience started to act up about it, whereas they had no such concerns, apparently.
“Something happen, sis?” Jahlpu asked, shaking me from my moment of self reflection.
“Uh? Like what?”
“You seem… different than before,” he continued. “More worried.”
“Nah, I’m fine… I’ve just seen a few things since the last time we were together,” I replied.
“You could say… nothing to worry about, really. Just… made me think, that’s all.” An understatement, sure, but I really didn’t want to explain everything to Jahlpu right now.
“I hope that’s all.”
“It is.” I nodded. We sat there for a bit. Jahlpu pulled out a paper and started to read it. He was right, as usual… a few months, no, weeks ago, I would’ve been right up there with our brother and sister. And where Lerome and Kirall were concerned, much as their behavior wasn’t very Toa-like, it wasn’t like they had much reason to do otherwise. Like the Toa Nuva and Mahri, we had no enemy to fight nor Matoran that needed protecting, yet enjoyed the status of those who had risked their lives to do so. So yeah, why not throw a party at every opportunity? My brother and sister were carefree, alive in the most visceral sense, living it up without any need for concern about the world around them or what the next day would bring, and I used to be the same way… now, though, I just wasn’t feeling it anymore, couldn’t share in their frivolity, not after what I’d seen of the interactions between Pohatu and Kopaka, and Gali, and all the other Toa whose work had in part made this all possible. They languished and faded while we, the next generation, had the time of our lives… If anything, I felt guilty about it. Jahlpu saw it as entertainment, and given his easy-going nature, I guess that wasn’t surprising. Looking right, I noticed Kopaka hadn’t moved an inch during the whole discussion, but I felt like he’d been paying attention, picking up on stuff like he always seemed to do. With Jahlpu present, though, I didn’t want to get up and ask him about it, never mind the final battle. My brother was suspicious enough as it was, and I feared Kopaka wouldn’t much appreciate his attention, which left me with but one option; to wait until, for one reason or another, my brother took himself out of the picture.
So I waited for a good hour while Jahlpu gradually made his way through the entire paper. After putting it back where he’d found it, he got up and walked over to where Lerome and Kirall were sleeping soundly, through in some of the most awkward positions I’d ever seen. Jahlpu fixed that, moving them until both were laying relatively flat across the couple of seats they occupied, ensuring that they wouldn’t wake up completely sore in addition to the splitting headaches they’d already resigned themselves to. Watching, I hoped that Jahlpu would leave afterwards, maybe to clean up the mess in the dining car, or use the bathroom, or find his own place to sleep… anything. But no, he returned to his spot across from me.
“They’re in for a rough morning,” he predicted.
“No kidding…” I sighed.
“So, what is it you saw?” Jahlpu wondered.
“What I saw?”
“You said you saw some things,” he continued, “things that made you think.”
“Oh, that…” Now I realized where he was coming from. What could I tell him, though? “Oh, just… that fight between Tahu and Stronius,” I replied. “Amazing power for a Toa, don’t you think?”
“Yeah, it was,” Jahlpu agreed. “That’s all?”
“No, it’s just…” I tried to come up with something else, but couldn’t. “I met some other Toa, that’s all.”
“Which Toa?” Jahlpu wondered.
“Older Toa. The Toa Mahri. Hahli, Jaller, Hewkii… saw Matoro’s statue, too.”
“You talked to them?” Jahlpu’s eyes grew wide.
“For a bit, yeah. They were busy with their stuff, obviously,” I replied.
“Wow…” Jahlpu nodded, then looked back to Lerome and Kirall for a moment. “You’d better not tell them,” he advised, “otherwise they’ll demand you introduce them.”
“That’s why I wasn’t too keen on talking about it,” I shrugged. “Besides, yeah, they’re great, but it’s not like they’ve got a lot of time on their hands, you know? I mean, Hahli does her reporting, Hewkii has Kolhii things to do…”
“Of course,” Jahlpu nodded. “But hey, you might get to add Nuparu to that list soon. Of Toa you met, I mean.”
“Hopefully. And you guys met Kongu, right?”
“Yeah, yeah… he told us a lot about Toa Lewa,” my brother recalled. “Officially, he trains Matoran and Agori in Kewa riding, but he was always very close to Lewa, and he answered some questions about him.”
“The volcano thing still bothers me,” I admitted. “I mean, from what Lerome said, Lewa doesn’t seem like the type who would’ve just done that, you know? I mean, it’s beyond reckless… it’s suicidal.”
“I got that vibe too, when Kongu told us about it,” Jahlpu agreed. “I think there’s more to it, but I wasn’t going to stay in Le-Koro-Nuva to find out… Those flimsy treetop huts had me pretty nervous.”
“No kidding, right?” I smiled; accustomed to the underground life, Jahlpu’s fear of heights was understandable.
“Yup… really, though,” Jahlpu continued, “do we know what really happened to the Toa Nuva? Tahu’s still very visibly around, and Lewa and Onua have statues, but all we really know are legends. I mean, what happened to Gali, you know? Or Pohatu? Or Kopaka?” I continued to smile, but now nervously; I knew exactly what had happened to them, but the pictures weren’t pretty.
“Kopaka has a statue, too,” I pointed out. “In Ko-Koro-Nuva.”
“So he died to, huh?”
“They think so,” I nodded, trying really hard not to hint in any way at the fact that the Toa Nuva of Ice was sitting not twenty feet away from us.
“But Gali and Pohatu don’t, so far as I know,” Jahlpu said. “They just… fell of the face of the planet, it seems. I mean, if they were dead, people would’ve put up memorials, and if they’re still around, maybe they could shed some light on what drove Lewa, you know?”
“I guess they might…” I realized. “What’s got you so interested, anyways? You were never much for the archives, right?”
“No, not really,” Jahlpu admitted, “but I’m sure there’s something to be learned from them… besides, knowing what older Toa ended up doing might help me figure something out for myself… right now, we’re all just kind of wandering, it seems, and I don’t intend to keep following those two from party to party forever.” He gestured over at Kirall and Lerome.
“Yeah, that’s kind of what I’ve been doing,” I agreed. “Trying to figure something out…” It was good to know I wasn’t the only one uncertain about my future, though Jahlpu’s concern about his own was something new. Something he’d picked up on his travels, I guess.
“Did the Toa Mahri give you any ideas on that at all?” he wondered.
“They’re doing okay for themselves,” I remembered, “but they had good jobs as Matoran; Hewkii was a Kolhii star long before he was a Toa, and Hahli was chronicler at one point. I don’t really have something like that to fall back on… I mean, imagine a Toa assistant weaver.” We chuckled in spite of ourselves.
“You could do that,” Jahlpu said, “but it’d kind of feel like a waste, I imagine.”
“Yes, it would…” I nodded.
“You know, that’s why I’m going to Onu-Koro-Nuva,” Jahlpu continued. “The mine’s great and all, but I’d like to know what other Toa of Earth have done. Something that, maybe, I could do.”
“Something to help the Matoran,” I finished.
“Exactly.” Jahlpu finished. “Like the Toa code thing that the Turaga talked about.” Oh boy, had I heard a lot about that over the last few days.
“Yeah, me too…” We sat quietly for a couple of seconds, ruminating on what we could do.
“We’ll find something eventually,” Jahlpu concluded. “There’s plenty of jobs for a Toa around, I’m sure.”
“I guess so,” I agreed. Jahlpu got up.
“Time to go clean up some of their mess,” he decided, gesturing towards our brother and sister again. “Best not to leave the dining car in the state they did.”
“Best of luck with that,” I said, well aware that he probably had a pretty big task ahead of him. “I’ll watch over them, make sure they don’t do something stupid… again.”
“Thanks,” Jahlpu began to move for the door. “They’ll probably throw up at some point, but other than that they should be out for a while.”
“I’ve got a bucket handy,” I smiled, gesturing towards a small trash can that was positioned beside the bench.
“See you in a bit, then,” Jahlpu waved, then vanished through the doorway.
“See ya.” As the door closed, I picked up the trash can, along with its counterpart from the other side of the car, and set one by the seats that Lerome was lying down on and the other by Kirall. Both were still out cold. Satisfied, I moved back through the car and sat down across from Kopaka.
“Well, he’s gone for now,” I informed him, “and the other two aren’t waking up any time soon.”
“He is looking for a purpose too, is he?” the Toa of Ice asked.
“Yeah, I guess we all are,” I nodded, somewhat surprised at his question. Usually, Kopaka took no interest in anyone else’s affairs. “Why? Do you have any ideas?”
“No,” he answered flatly, “but it is good that he is looking.”
“You know, he used to talk about the legends of Onua a lot,” I remembered, “and he’s definitely more interested in mining than the archives…”
“He has chosen a good role model,” Kopaka concluded.
“In Onua?” I asked.
“Yes. Especially compared to Lewa or Hahli.” Apparently, Kopaka had paid attention to the earlier conversation, and Lerome and Kirall’s role models. I was already well familiar with his disdain for Hahli, but Lewa?
“What was so bad about Lewa?” I wondered.
“As you suspected, Kongu did not tell them everything,” Kopaka continued. “Lewa was enthusiastic, yes, but far from without shortcomings.”
“Like his recklessness?”
“Among others. He was also under Makuta Teridax’s control for some time, he was infected by krana, and nearly became a shadow Toa in Karda Nui. He had a habit of charging into situations he could not make his way out of, something that a Toa cannot afford to do.”
“Shadow Toa?” I was immediately reminded of what I saw on the night of the surgery… Kopaka recognized it, too.
“Not like that. Those were illusions, phantoms,” he explained. “A Shadow Toa as in, a Toa drained of light and turned evil by a shadow leech.”
“That sounds awful,” I shuddered. “But this habit… do you think it was what drove him to try his luck with Mt. Valmai?”
“No.” Kopaka concluded. Though his expression was as stoic as ever, I noticed there was a hint of worry in his thoughts. “On Mata Nui, perhaps he would have, but not after Karda Nui.”
“What was it, then?” I asked, hoping to get at whatever troubling realization he’d come to.
“I do not know,” he said calmly, then waited for a moment, “and I have no intention of spreading rumors.”
“Maybe you should find out,” I suggested.
“There is no need for that,” Kopaka continued. “The Matoran have in Lewa what they need: a symbol. Whether it presents a complete picture of my brother or not is irrelevant.”
“That’s a bit strange, coming from the guy who’s never told anything but the harsh and full truth to anyone,” I pointed out. Immediately, Kopaka looked up at me, or rather through me, with that same piercing gaze that had made me so uncomfortable several times before.
“You know that is not the case,” he said solemnly. “The truth matters where it has the potential to help the Matoran; here, it likely would not.”
“I suppose…” I relented. Kopaka sighed, then looked down again. We sat in silence for a minute or so before he spoke up again.
“I believe I have one last promise to fulfill,” he said.
“The final battle, yes,” I nodded.
“What you call “the Final Battle” was the Battle for Bara Magna,” Kopaka explained. “That I will show you.”
“Wait, there was another one?” I asked, but Kopaka wasn’t inclined to answer.
“Focus on me,” he said. “Focus.”
author's note: A long chapter, this one, and more 'filler' material as Lis mostly bides her time until evening. Nevertheless, Jahlpu has some questions to ask, and little by little more of Lis' own history is revealed... along with little world details here and there. I actually had a lot of trouble coming up with a good way to tie this chapter together, but I'm quite satisfied with it in the end.
I'll post more chapters as I finish them. Enjoy!