The Folly of the Toa II - Chapter 37

This one came about quicker than I thought… and I’ve resolved the issues that I was facing before, so now it’s just a matter of sitting down and writing it (he said, knowing the writing schedule would still be erratic regardless :sweat_smile:).

Chapter 37

At last, having seen enough and feeling quite tired, I decided to head back to the hotel, expecting that my companions would sooner or later show up there. It was getting well past six by the time I’d made my way back up the city rings, through the main entrance tunnel, and up to the surface. It was there that I noticed something that had, somehow, escaped my eye the first time around; located to the right of the tunnel entrance, carved in the side of the mountain, was a large workshop. A sign overhead advertised it as belonging to Nuparu, a name that instantly caught my interest; so this was where the Toa Mahri of Earth had, quite literally, set up shop. Peering in through the large front entrance, whose double doors were still open, I noticed there were pieces of mining equipment in various states of disrepair scattered around the place, from small, single person drills to a giant motorized contraption whose purpose was utterly unclear to me. The whole place was lit rather dimly by yellow lightstones attached to the walls, and numerous workbenches were positioned around the room, indicating that there were normally more people at work here; their ■■■■■ had likely ended. A loud, metallic clanging sound emanating from deeper within the shop indicated at least one person was still at work, though. Maybe it was the Toa himself?

I hesitated for a moment; I really didn’t have much of a reason to be here, but at the same time it’d be nice to meet with Nuparu and get his… take on events, I guess, particularly his stance on Jaller and Hahli’s frequent arguments over Gali staying with them. Besides, even if an answer wouldn’t be forthcoming there, at least I could say “hi” on behalf of the other Toa Mahri. So I made my way across the shop, and soon arrived at another set of doors at the end that led into a part of the shop that was sectioned off by a line of shelves, cabinets, and one of a the stone pillars that had been left standing when this place was carved out, presumably to hold the roof up. Inside, with his back towards the entrance and repeatedly bringing a large hammer down on a red-hot piece of metal, was the Toa Mahri of Earth. He turned, bringing up the piece of metal with a pair of tongs, and dunked it into an oil tank. This set fire to some of the oil, which in turn lit up the room a lot more while the Toa of Earth looked away to protect his sensitive eyes… which fell right on me.

“Oh, hello,” I greeted. The surprised look on Nuparu’s face was quickly replaced by a welcoming smile.

“A fellow Toa,” he observed. “At this hour, no less. Hello to you too.” He turned back to the oil tank. “Just a moment,” he said. With that, he used the tongs to pull the metal object out of the oil tank. Now I saw that it was a blade, and to my great surprise it was in a shape that I recognized almost immediately: a thin cutting edge, straight right up until it curved around the tip, supported by a set of struts to a thicker ‘backbone’ that measured about half the length of the blade, tang not included. It looked exactly like one of Kopaka’s weapons.

“A sword…” I remarked, momentarily at a loss for words.

“Special order,” Nuparu explained while he waited for the oil to burn off of the blade.

“For whom?” I wondered.

“Err… a friend,” the Toa of Earth replied. “A collector.”

“Interesting hobby.”

“So it is…” Nuparu nodded, though not confidently. “Anyways,” he changed the subject as he took off his gloves and extended a hand towards me, “I’m Nuparu, though I’m sure you saw the sign out front.”

“Lis,” I shook it, but my attention was still on the blade. Who but Kopaka would request a sword like that? But Kopaka was gone, and yet here it was… then an idea popped into my head.

“Is there something I can help you with?” Nuparu asked.

“Perhaps…” I stalled as I got my thoughts together. “I have a question. I’m looking for someone, a fellow Toa, and I figured you might have some idea of his whereabouts.”

“Well, I don’t really keep contact with a lot of Toa besides the other Mahri,” Nuparu scratched his head, “but sure, why not? Who are you looking for?”

“The guy who that belongs to,” I gestured to the sword. “Toa Nuva Kopaka.”

“Y-you’re trying to track down Kopaka?” the Toa of Earth feigned surprise to hide a moment of panic, though rather unconvincingly.

“Yeah, I heard he was in town,” I pressed on.

“That would be some coincidence…” he admitted.

“Wouldn’t it?” I felt a certain smugness, like I’d cracked him in interrogation or something. Of course, I had a notable advantage in that department.

“Well, whether he’s back or not,” he continued, “I’m afraid that I hadn’t heard of it until now.”

“You’re sure?” I wondered.

“Quite sure,” he nodded. I was about to continue the line of questioning when his eyes suddenly widened as he noticed something behind me.

“That is enough,” an all too familiar voice suddenly said behind me. “She will not let up. Besides, she already knows.” I turned around to find Kopaka standing not ten feet behind me, and in spite of the fact that the possibility of him still being around had dawned on me the moment I saw Nuparu lift one of his swords out of that oil tank, I was still rather surprised at his sudden arrival.

“Kopaka!” I exclaimed louder than he could’ve been comfortable with, “you didn’t leave!?” He just stood there, not even bothering to point out the obvious. “What are you still doing here?” I demanded.

“Getting my sword fixed,” Kopaka said dryly.

“Oh, right… you need to make sure you’re well equipped for your suicidal ego-trip,” I chided. Kopaka gave me a death glare, but offered no verbal response. Nuparu, meanwhile, stood there with the most bewildered expression I’d ever seen.

“You… you two know each other?” he asked.

“I followed him around for a while,” I explained. “Got to see his trip back to New Atero, even helped to fix him up.”

“You went to New Atero?” Nuparu looked to Kopaka, who gave a slight nod. Judging by the Toa of Earth’s expression, it did little to dispel his confusion. “How does nobody know about this?” he questioned.

“Oh, he had a plan,” I replied before Kopaka got a word in. “Fooled everyone, even used me at one point. The only people who know about his trip are the other Toa. Oh, and Macku.”

“And they all kept quiet?” Nuparu looked to Kopaka.

“They understood,” the Toa of Ice answered, “unlike this one.” He glared at me.

“Hey, I never told anyone,” I countered. “I wasn’t even one of the ones who threatened to.”

“Not that,” Kopaka corrected me. “They understood my duty.”

“Your duty doesn’t exist,” I shot back, and after our last conversation I was certain of it. “It is only the delusion that you use to justify your need to get away from everyone.”

“My duty lies beyond your understanding…” he began to argue, but he was interrupted by Nuparu.

“Okay, okay!” the Toa of Earth stepped in. “Clearly there is some history between you two, and I’d love to hear all about it, but please quit the arguing. Seriously, if I wanted to hear more of that, I’d go visit my brothers and sister. Fair?” He looked back and forth between me and Kopaka. The Toa of Ice nodded slowly, then stepped back.

“Sure,” I shrugged.

“Good,” Nuparu concluded, after which he got back to working the blade. Kopaka vanished deeper into the shop, though I was certain that he hadn’t gone far. I watched as Nuparu made sure the blade was absolutely straight. Apparently satisfied, he took it across the room and stuck it into a deep hole in the wall from which an ominous orange-red glow emanated. “Tempering oven,” the he explained. “If he were to use that sword right now, it would break in two the moment he hit anything with it.”

“That would be a shame,” I said sarcastically.

“What’s the deal between you two anyways?” Nuparu asked as he took a seat on a stool next to the work bench that occupied the center of the room.

“Oh, uhm… he’s frustrating to be around, that’s all.” Yeah, I know ‘frustrating’ didn’t really cover it, but it was the best description that came to mind at the time.

“That’s nothing new,” Nuparu shrugged. “But, you traveled with him for how long?”

“I followed him for… five days,” I recalled. “Thought he was gone this morning, but apparently he got off the train, too.”

“Five days?” the Toa of Earth looked impressed. “He tolerated you for that long?”

“Mostly,” I shrugged. “I mean, he told me quite a bit about what it means to be a Toa, about duty and such… he tends to raise more questions than he answers. Still, we met a lot of other Toa along the way, so that was interesting enough.”

“Did you meet Jaller? And Hahli?” Nuparu asked.

“We did, actually,” I nodded. “Hewkii too, and Gali… Come to think of it, I probably should’ve stayed with them instead; didn’t really have much reason to follow Kopaka after that.”

“Hm… You’re one of the new ones, right?” Nuparu changed the subject. “From the south?”

“Yup, the great heroes who stood up to the Skakdi.” I gave a half-hearted chuckle. “Not much of a fight in the end, really.”

“So I heard.” Nuparu looked down at the table for a moment, then back at me. “Still, for all you know you might have prevented something pretty serious.”

“Yeah, we might have… I guess.” I found that a little hard to believe, but sure, why not? “Just… what do we do now, you know? I mean, I can’t really go back to being assistant weaver.” I smiled, again, half-heartedly, my humor undercut by anxiety over what exactly the future held for me.

“Yeah, we’ve all been there,” the Toa of Earth sympathized. “We all had to find our place in this world.”

“True,” I agreed. “Actually, one of my brothers is looking into getting a job here.”

“He is?”

“Yup. Jahlpu, Toa of Earth,” I explained. “I’m sure he’ll stop by here before long.”

“I don’t doubt it,” Nuparu smiled. “I’ll be sure to show him a thing or two… but what about you? Have you thought of anything yet?”

“Not really…” I admitted. “You know, Kopaka told me a lot about the history of the Toa Nuva… I guess I figured I’d find some clue in that.” I leant back against a set of cabinets that made up part of the wall dividing this section of the workshop from the rest. “He turned out a ■■■■■■ role model, though.”

“That’s why you fell out,” Nuparu hypothesized.

“Exactly,” I agreed. “I mean, it’s how he rationalizes everything. You know, I didn’t realize it until the end, but… it’s like he talks a big game about duty and the Toa Code, but it just doesn’t mesh with what he does. Not to anyone except him.”

“How so?”

“Well, he nearly started a fight when he met Tahu,” I began, “he insulted both Gali and Hahli after they worked their ■■■■■ off to help him recover from his injuries ‘cause he was in a pretty sorry state when he came down from that mountain, and he never apologized for it. He treats everyone as though they’re flawed and inferior compared to him while he’s deluded himself into thinking that everything he does is for the benefit of the Matoran.”

“It isn’t?”

“No, it isn’t!” I continued. “Especially not what he’s doing now; he says he’s going into those mountains to do astronomy, to chart stars and planets and whatnot, so one day the Matoran might be able to go there.”

“Sounds noble.”

“Yeah, except I’m pretty sure he doesn’t do astronomy up there,” I argued. “If he was really interested in doing that, he’d be in the knowledge towers of New Atero or Ko-Koro-Nuva right now. No, I saw a lot more of his personality than he’d like to admit, and from what I saw I know he’s going into those mountains because he can, and he believes, or wants to believe, that only he can. The duty thing just… rationalizes his megalomania. Worse, it’s gonna get him killed. I mean, good swords or not, you know he won’t last long in those mountains now, and his death will help no one.”

“So, he’s a pain to be around and he wants to be alone,” Nuparu concluded. “Sounds pretty much like the Kopaka we all knew.”

“Maybe so, but you didn’t see how he berated Gali,” I countered, “or the state he left her in. Or what he called Hahli, or Tahu, or me. He was vicious, and there was not even a hint of regret afterwards.”

“True, I haven’t,” Nuparu shook his head, “and I’m sure it wasn’t pretty, but that’s Kopaka. He’s unapologetically, brutally honest, regardless of how he justifies it. That’s just who he is.”

“Then where does he get the right to talk high and mighty about duty when he blatantly disregards his responsibilities to himself, and to those who were once his allies?” I asked. “That’s what I don’t get. Yes, duty is everything to a Toa, but how can he still think he’s got anything to say on it?” I was now standing across the work bench, hands on hips, looking across to the Toa of Earth and wondering what his explanation for that could be. Nuparu sighed and paused for a bit before replying.

“How many of the Toa Nuva have you met?” he asked, to my surprise.

“Ehm, four…” I replied. “The four that remain.”

“And could you call any of them flawless?” Nuparu continued.

“No,” I answered immediately. “If anything… they’re all in a pretty sorry state.”

“That’s right,” Nuparu crossed his arms and leant forward onto the table. “Like us, they all have their flaws; Kopaka’s is arrogance. And you know, unlike us they didn’t have a life to return to when this world was put back together; they never knew anything but war. War heroes don’t do well in peacetime.” He sighed again, and I could clearly tell that this resonated a lot more with him than he was willing to let on. “Look, it’s sad,” he continued, “but that’s the way they’ve ended up, but we can’t change or help them now. You can berate Kopaka all you want, but you’re not going to change him. Just… take him as an example of what not to do, what not to become.”

“Oh, I plan to,” I agreed. “Still, that doesn’t really change my predicament. Then again, I might just go back to New Atero and stay with Macku and the other Toa for a while…”

“I’m sure they’d love the company.”

“Yeah, they invited me already,” I remembered. “Hell, maybe I should inform my teammates of it. Two of them pretty much worship Hahli and Hewkii anyways. Then again, I probably shouldn’t let them loose on those two… and Jahlpu’s probably staying here. He’s more the Onua type.”

“Really? What does that mean?” Nuparu wondered.

“More… duty-focused, I guess,” I mused. “I actually spent a lot of time down by that statue today, read about what Onua did. Between everything he did before the Reformation, and founding the mine and city afterwards, he’d be a much better person to follow, you know? I mean, if duty is the sole guiding virtue now, no one seems to have nailed it on the head more than him.”

“Yeah, I suppose he did…” Nuparu nodded, though not as… enthusiastically as I’d expected him to.

“Something wrong?” I wondered. “I mean, it’s late, and if I’m taking too much of your time…”

“No, that’s not… that’s not it,” he assured me. “It’s just… duty isn’t everything.”

“It isn’t?” I questioned. “I mean, that’s like the one thing Kopaka told me that makes sense.”

“What exactly did he tell you?”

“Well, since Destiny was fulfilled years ago, duty is the one virtue left,” I recited. “Unity quickly falls away without destiny. He even had examples; people differ on how they should pursue their duty, which destroys unity, while only a common Destiny brings people together. That’s why, according to him, at least, the Toa fell apart after the Reformation. What do you think?” A moment or two passed before Nuparu offered a response.

“It’s right in the most pragmatic sense…” he began, “and I suppose that’s what matters to him. Still, duty isn’t everything, not in the way he would define it. We have a duty to the Matoran, yes, but don’t let that consume you… trust me, that doesn’t end well.”

“What do you mean by that?” I asked. It seemed Nuparu was showing his hand more than I imagined he intended to… or was he? Again, he didn’t reply immediately. In fact, it took a good thirty seconds of pondering on his part before he settled on an answer; long enough for me to seriously wonder whether he really was okay.

“You know… I think there’s something I should show you,” he decided. “Just… wait here for a minute.” He got up and proceeded out the entrance into the larger workshop, after which he turned left, the same direction Kopaka had taken. However, as I waited, I didn’t hear any conversation start up between the two; apparently, Nuparu was going to retrieve something else. But what was it? Something related to him or another Toa, a reminder of what happened when duty became all-consuming, what he had warned against? If so, what could that be? At this point, I could only say one thing for certain: based on how difficult it had been for him to decide, it had to be something personal.


#####author’s note: Well, we’re still introducing G1 characters, and this chapter gives Nuparu his chance to shine. The Toa Mahri of Earth is quite willing to give Lis some advice, and as is the Toa of Psionics’ habit, she ends up probing a lot deeper than she bargained for. I consider this one a “setup” chapter, since it’s basically setting the scene for a series of key events/revelations to follow… let’s just say I’m pretty excited about what is to come.

I’ll post more chapters as I finish them. As always, post any questions, comments, and/or observations below. Enjoy!