The Folly of the Toa II - Chapter 51

The show still goes on…

Chapter 51

The rain forecast that morning had already begun to fall when we stepped outside, and it wasn’t just a small drizzle either; this was a heavy downpour, complete with a dark sky and sounds of thunder in the distance. It was certainly appropriate weather given our collective mood. Having lead the way with at least a modicum of enthusiasm, Lerome immediately stopped under the porch and uttered some expletive at the sight of it.

“So, you guys got any place in mind?” I asked, then added: “someplace close, I hope.”

“Through this?” Lerome incredulously gestured out and down the road. The rain was dense enough to reduce the entrance to the underground city to a dark blur in a veil of water.

“Little place down the road is closest,” Jahlpu decided unceremoniously. “Come on.” He stepped out and led the way; I followed right behind, while Lerome hesitated for a moment before doing the same and then immediately complaining in a rather colorful manner that the rain was cold, prompting Jahlpu to tell him to grow up. The little place down the road, thankfully, had a pretty sizable porch with some tables set up under cover from the elements. It wasn’t far, but nonetheless we were pretty drenched by the time we got there.

“Not worth it,” Lerome muttered. “So not worth it…” The comments earned him another glare from Jahlpu, after which the Toa of Earth approached the large windowed opening in the façade of the building. Apparently, the place was called Kalmok’s, and the menu amounted to cheap travelers’ food; various kinds of fried rahi and sandwiches, that kind of thing. We each placed an order, then took seats around one of the tables on the porch. Kalmok’s was located almost exactly halfway between the entrance to the rail station and the tunnel to underground Onu-Koro-Nuva, offering an excellent view all the way down the main street, not that there was anything going on outside. Looking around for a while, my eyes eventually fell on the tunnel entrance, where I noticed that the doors to Nuparu’s workshop were closed.

“So, did you meet Nuparu yet?” I asked Jahlpu.

“Briefly, yesterday” he answered. “He was preparing to go back to New Atero this morning to help with the upcoming ceremony.”

“Hm…” I wondered for a moment what exactly Nuparu’s role in planning the event could be. “He was probably asked to help with designing a statue, I bet.”

“Pohatu’s statue? Probably,” Jahlpu agreed.

“I bet they’ll put it somewhere watching over a Kolhii field,” Lerome added. “It’d be appropriate.”

“…and they’ll probably name the field after him, and a street or two, and a park, and a building…” Jahlpu listed off in a somewhat sarcastic tone. “The whole kit and caboodle, I’m sure.”

“Kit and caboodle?” I questioned.

“Well, anything to get people to remember him again,” Jahlpu explained. “I mean, look how quickly they managed to start throwing up a four-part special about him on the telescreen. Guy’s not even been dead for two days yet.”

“Well, he was important,” I pointed out. “I mean, with all he did he deserves a decent memory.”

“Yeah, sure, I guess…” Jahlpu kind of shrugged, which to me seemed a bit of a lackluster reaction considering the Toa Nuva of Stone’s list of accomplishments. I was about to question him on it when we were interrupted by Lerome.

“Food’s here,” he called out as three plates appeared on the counter. We retrieved the plates and ate in silence for a while; well, silence if you don’t count the sound of constant, heavy rain. We were just about finishing up when, glancing towards the tunnel entrance, I noticed some movement close to the entrance, right around where the side entrance of Nuparu’s shop was. A door opened, and just through the rain I could make out two figures exiting the shop… Toa-sized figures. It took me a moment to realize who they were; there were only thee Toa besides us in town that I knew of, and one was probably lying on an operating table. That left only two: Nuparu, unless he’d already left, and… Kopaka.

“See something?” Jahlpu asked, then turned to look where my eyes were already pointed. By that point, however, the two Toa had already turned and headed into the tunnel, disappearing from view.

“Eh… I thought so,” I answered, unsure of whether I really wanted Jahlpu to know about it. He was curious enough as it was.

“Probably some Matoran checking on the weather, then,” Lerome dismissed. Jahlpu looked at him questioningly. “Well, it’s not like you can tell what’s up, down, or coming down from deeper in there,” the Toa of Air explained mockingly. “Only weather you get in the underground city is darkness with a chance of falling rocks. Who knows? Maybe they’ve never seen rain before.” Jahlpu took a deep breath, likely resisting the urge to make some harsh remark regarding Lerome’s own disdain for rain in return. He managed it, but that was the end of the meal as far as he was concerned. He got up and turned to me:

“Ready to go?” he asked.

“Yeah, sure.” I replied, trying to mask the fact that I was actually rather eager to get going in hopes of catching a glimpse of where Nuparu and Kopaka were headed.

“Well, see you two later then,” Lerome mockingly feigned disappointment, earning another death glare from Jahlpu. He got up as I did, but while I followed the Toa of Earth in the direction of the tunnel Lerome opted to make a beeline back to the hotel, no doubt wanting to avoid getting utterly drenched again, not that that was in any way avoidable in rain this thick. Jahlpu kept up a quick pace, too; I had to jog to catch up to him. He slowed down somewhat when he reached the tunnel.

“He’s more petulant than ever,” the Toa of Earth complained as we started on our way down.

“No disagreement here…” I’d never really thought highly of Lerome’s behavior, sure, but boredom did really seem to make him insufferable. Not that I cared much at this point; my attention was focused ahead of us, trying to see if I could catch a glimpse of two Toa as the underground city came into view. Unfortunately, no glimpse was forthcoming, even when I paused to look around as we reached the tunnel’s staging area on the outer ring. The city was as busy as it had been last time, with many more Matoran and Agori moving about than before. “■■■■■ change,” Jahlpu explained. “Lotta traffic around this time.”

“So, where’s your place?” I wondered.

“Second ring, north-east,” Jahlpu answered. He lead the way as we proceeded across the outer ring to the stairs leading to the one below. About ten minutes later, we arrived on the second ring from the center. This was the one on which most minecart tracks breached the surface, joining a series of elevated lines that ran most of the way around the ring and then upwards, parallel to the road we’d taken down here from the surface. Underneath this industrial network, densely spaced huts not unlike those that made up the poorer regions of New Atero (i.e. where Pohatu’d lived) played host to a sizable and at first glance largely Agori population. The ring’s central road was narrow compared to those of the others; workshops and piles of scrap metal occasionally broke up the otherwise monotonous blocks, and areas where the minecart tracks surfaced were fenced off. We got a lot of curious looks as we went along; stares from haggard-looking Agori and the occasional Matoran who no doubt found it strange to see two Toa wandering about in what certainly wasn’t that great a neighborhood. After give or take another five minutes or so, Jahlpu turned left off of the ring road and led me through some winding, narrow streets until we reached a dead end on the ring’s inner edge, where a fence kept us from going further. Looking through, I could see the innermost ring about fifty or sixty feet below; it was a steep drop-off. To my right, Jahlpu opened the front door leading into a two-story hut built right against the edge.

“Well, here it is,” he stepped aside, motioning for me to enter.

“Looks okay so far, if a bit precarious,” I noted. The hut appeared to have been made from large, hewn gray blocks, so no doubt it was solid, though definitely designed more for Agori or Matoran than a full-size Toa; I had to lean forward slightly to make it through the door, and inside my head just about touched the ceiling. Jahlpu’s larger frame would’ve caused him even more trouble were it not for the fact that he also possessed some of the hunchback posture typical of his tribe; he could walk about quite comfortably, even if the door was so narrow that he almost had to turn sideways to fit his bulky shoulder assembly through. “A bit small, isn’t it?”

“Not really made for Toa, no…” Jahlpu agreed, “but it’ll do just fine once I move some sizable furniture in, and the rent’s pretty cheap.”

“No doubt…” looking around, the place honestly reminded me a lot of where Pohatu’d spent his waning years. The only furniture present at the time was a cupboard with a small, old telescreen in one side of what clearly was the living room, plus a complete if ‘lived-in’ looking kitchen set in the attached kitchen.

“Best part’s upstairs,” Jahlpu continued, climbing up a ladder set up in the corner of the room to get to the second floor. “This way.” I followed up to what turned out to be an upstairs bedroom, no doubt the only one the house had given how small a footprint it appeared to occupy; seriously, if Lerome and Kirall’d been there with us, the living room would’ve been overcrowded. Upstairs, though, things looked better. The bed dominated the room inside, but a large opening on the side facing towards the center of the city led to what no doubt was this place’s selling point: its terrace. “Not a bad view, hm?” Jahlpu beckoned for me to follow him onto the terrace, where he’d already set up a chair for himself.

“No kidding.” Stepping through the opening, I found myself presented with a commanding view of the entire city center below and the statue of Onua rising above it.

“Imagine waking up to this,” Jahlpu smiled. “Yeah, the rest of the place isn’t much, but who cares when I’ll probably be spending most of my time at home up here?”

“Fair point,” I conceded. We watched for a bit, him sitting in that chair and me leaning up against the wall on the side of the terrace. Looking at Onua’s statue, I found myself wondering what Pohatu’s would end up looking like. Something representing one of his signature kolhii moves would’ve been my choice. “Well, looks like you’ve got it all pretty well sorted,” I concluded.

“Found my place, I think,” he agreed. “You know, you should do the same.”

“Well, I have found something promising…” I mused, but didn’t really want to elaborate too much. Also, while we’d been watching, another worry’d crept into my mind. “Actually, I do have a question.”

“Shoot,” Jahlpu invited.

“When I left the first time,” I recalled, “you know, when we were talking about it, about me not feeling all that great about what we were doing ever since the Skakdi drew back… you mentioned you felt the same. You wanted to come with me, remember?”

“I did,” he confirmed.

“Back then, the only reason that you didn’t was that you felt responsible for what Lerome and Kirall were up to,” I continued. “You wanted to watch over them. Make sure they were okay.”

“I did,” he confirmed again.

“Well…” I paused a moment to figure out how to word things, “what’s changed? I mean, our brother and sister haven’t, and they’re clearly not staying here with you…”

“I found a place where I actually feel I belong,” he interrupted. “I didn’t have that before.”

“Right, but… you used to talk a lot about that responsibility,” I remembered. “You wanted to make sure that they didn’t make fools out of themselves, out of Toa, even if that required some sacrifices on your part. What happened to that?” Jahlpu’s expression soured considerably.

“Why do you want to know?” he wondered.

“I guess… what they talked about on Pohatu’s special today, about how he kept the team together in spite of their issues, their failings…” I attempted to connect what I was worried about with what I’d seen before, with limited success. “I mean, Onua did the same thing, but they all ended up breaking apart anyways. Is our team officially headed the same direction?”

“You’re saying I gave up on them?” Jahlpu questioned. “Sounds a bit rich coming from you; you were the first to leave.”

“Fair point,” I admitted. My misgivings about him staying here and in effect breaking up the team were rather hypocritical given our history… but then again, I was a different person then, too.

“Look… regardless of all that, you’re right,” Jahlpu sighed and backed off. “Honestly, a big part of this is that I’m done picking up after them, and done with them in general.”

“Can’t blame you for that,” I agreed, though if he was only done with them now he must’ve had a ridiculously high threshold for how much he could put up with. “I guess we’ll have see where they end up on their own.” Hopefully, a better place than where the Toa I’d learned so much about over the past week had found themselves post-breakup. Still, my brothers’ particular devotion to two of those Toa didn’t give me much hope.

“I figured: let them fall and learn to pick themselves up,” Jahlpu explained. “Besides, they’re not as clueless as you’d like to believe… well, one of them isn’t.”

“Really?” that somewhat surprised me, particularly given Jahlpu’s thinly disguised feelings regarding our teammates.

“Kirall does actually have a plan,” Jahlpu explained, albeit somewhat dismissively. “I don’t like it, obviously, but turns out she’s thought this out a lot more than I believed.”

“Kirall? No way.” I’d never have listed planning among my sister’s virtues.

“No, really,” Jahlpu went on, clearly about something that profoundly agitated him. “There was this one night when she and Lerome were drunk out of their minds and for some reason they were talking about when we first became Toa. Get this: she actually campaigned for it.”

“Campaigned?” News to me.

“Yeah, she said that, from the moment she realized the Skakdi were going to be troublesome, she made every effort to cozy up to the Turaga,” Jahlpu recalled, “all in the hope of being selected to become a Toa. Even mentioned the idea to her on several occasions, apparently. According to her, until she brought up the idea of new Toa, the plan had been to bring the Toa Mahri over from the other side of the planet to deal with things. She was bragging that, in effect, we’re all Toa because of her, that there wouldn’t have been any new Toa without her.”

“…and she said this while she was drunk out of her mind?” I was rather skeptical of the whole thing.

“Well, yes…” Jahlpu admitted, “but have you ever known her to make up stories? Plus, the detail in which she described what all she did to… influence events made it sound a lot more believable.” Granted, beyond her pipe dream of being the next Hahli, I’d never credited Kirall with such imagination either.

“Right, but why?” I was still struggling with the idea that our ditsy Toa of Water, of all people, had been pulling so many strings behind the scenes.

“To become a Toa,” Jahlpu answered. “I mean, she always wanted to be like Hahli, and Hahli’s a Toa, so there was her goal.”

“Hahli didn’t connive her way into it,” I said indignantly. “She’s nothing like Hahli.”

“Oh, I agree,” Jahlpu nodded, “and had I known about it before, I would’ve done whatever I could to stop it, but she doesn’t see it that way…” he sighed again, frustratedly. “Point is, whether I stay or stick with them, she’s got some kind of plan, or at least an idea of where she’s going. I’m not that worried about her getting lost, well, not any more than she already is, and there’s nothing I can do to change that.”

“Sheesh, and I thought the title of Toa was losing meaning before…” I grumbled. “I mean, she’s just using it now.”

“…and I want no part in it,” Jahlpu concluded.

“Neither would I,” I decided. The very idea of someone becoming a Toa through the means my sister had apparently employed was repulsive. “So the clueless one is Lerome.” No surprise there.

“Our glorious leader,” Jahlpu said with what for him was quite unbecoming sarcasm. “Like I said, some have to fall to learn to pick themselves up.”

“I guess… just, what if he doesn’t learn?” I wondered. Given that this was Lerome we were talking about, that was a real possibility.

“Then he’ll crash and burn,” Jahlpu sighed. “Irresponsibly. Not unlike his hero, I guess.”

“Lewa?” I mean, ‘crash and burn’ did apply there in the most literal fashion, but I knew better than to assume that was the result of irresponsibility alone.

“Exactly,” Jahlpu confirmed. “The guy that died in the most reckless, stupid, and avoidable fashion. Still worshiped as a great role model by his people, first and foremost our brother.”

“Well, there could’ve been more to it than that…” I halfheartedly tried to interject. On one hand, I wanted to correct some of Jahlpu’s assumptions, but on the other I didn’t want to throw out there what Nuparu’d felt so important to hide.

“Actually, that’s the whole problem I have with this Pohatu thing,” Jahlpu continued, now verging into the territory of a rant. “Yeah, he was a great Toa in his time, probably better than most, but look what he did to himself.” Oh, he didn’t know the half of it… actually, what did he know?

“What do you mean?” I asked him.

“After the reformation, right?” Jahlpu set the scene. “He’s helped to put this world back together, he’s a great hero, then reinvents himself as a kolhii player. Makes himself a new model for the Po-Matoran. And then he quits. Toa don’t quit.”

“Well, he got hurt,” I pointed out.

“Not important,” Jahlpu dismissed. “Toa don’t quit. Quitting is giving up on our duty to the Matoran, to other Toa, to this world.” The moment that he brought duty into the conversation, his attitude started to rather uncomfortably echo what Kopaka’d given me before.

“The injury was severe, though,” I tried to argue, but Jahlpu wasn’t having it.

“Yeah, he couldn’t play kolhii anymore, but that shouldn’t have been the end for him,” he countered. “I mean, what kind of example does it set? Push yourself to breaking point, then quit?”

“Could be worse.” I mean, at least they wouldn’t get to know of the ensuing alcohol-fueled descent into what remained only days ago… again, things I couldn’t on good conscience tell Jahlpu about.

“Could be, yes,” the Toa of Earth admitted. “But it’s emblematic of a problem: whenever this whole multi-part special thing gets to the end of Pohatu’s kolhii career, I bet they’ll just gloss over the aftermath. They’ll spin some story about how he lived out his days in peace, and I’m sure he did, and that was it. No one’s going to point out that for what by now is most of the time since the reformation, he might as well have been dead as far as his duty’s concerned. Is it a minor thing by comparison to what he did? Yes. But in the same way, those folks we met in Le-Koro-Nuva completely ignore the fact that Lewa’s recklessness needlessly cost him his life, and at the rate things are going our brother’s set to follow the same path. Venerate them all we want, we’re robbing ourselves of the opportunity to learn from our heroes’ past failures the moment we bury them. Pohatu didn’t know his limits, or I guess he ignored them in a blind pursuit for whatever he wanted to be. Same goes for Lewa, and the farce that Tahu’s involved with these days.” I would’ve added Kopaka’s unwillingness to acknowledge his limits with respect to surviving in the mountains to that list.

“So, you do still care…” I realized.

“Yes, I do, and I’m worried,” Jahlpu added. “But I can’t turn Lerome off of this idea of his that Lewa is someone to be unquestioningly imitated, even though I know it could kill him and in the meantime won’t provide the clueless fool with much to go on for building a life for himself.”

“Isn’t… isn’t your devotion to Onua the same way, though?” I pointed out what, to me, was fast becoming the kikanalo in the room.

“Name me one thing that Onua did wrong,” Jahlpu challenged. It was a challenge I was more than capable of meeting, except… I couldn’t say what I wanted to say. “He did everything he could with duty and the Matoran in mind,” Jahlpu continued as I faltered, “and though his death was unfortunate, it wasn’t like it was untimely, was it? I mean, working in the mines takes its toll on everyone, so yeah, unfortunately Onua didn’t get to be around as long as he could’ve if he’d done something else, but would he have provided as much for the Matoran as he did if he’d done anything else? I don’t think so. Onua embodied duty all the way through, which is what sets him apart from the others.” In retrospect, from his viewpoint I guess the rant was quite justified… but from mine, it was staggeringly hypocritical. Onua’s death was anything but inevitable by the time it came, and his incredible devotion to duty had been exactly what had led him there… suddenly, Lerome wasn’t the one I was worried about anymore, and I’d heard more than enough. I wasn’t going to show Jahlpu then and there just what exactly the lesson that could be learned from Onua was, but I wasn’t going to stick around for much longer either; sooner or later I knew I’d let slip something if I kept listening to the argument Jahlpu was making. After all, it was almost the exact same one that I’d made to Nuparu only two days before, even if my brother lacked some of the knowledge behind it.

“You know, talking about history like this, you sound more than ever like an archivist,” I pointed out, trying to change the subject to something I could close on. Archivist had been Jahlpu’s old job, and one that he’d never hesitated to point out hadn’t been his favorite.

“You know, maybe I do,” Jahlpu gave a slight chuckle as the tension seemed to diffuse somewhat. “I guess trying to draw lessons from history is kind of my thing…” no kidding. He’d studied extensively what it meant to be a Toa upon his selection to become one, trying to use history to prepare himself for what was ahead. Again… in light of this and with what he knew, what he’d said was more than justifiable. It definitely raised some serious questions on the notion of ‘making legends’ as a justification for Kopaka’s actions concerning both himself and Pohatu, ones that I’d definitely have to pose to the Toa Nuva of Ice when we met up again.

“And maybe they’ll address it,” I shrugged.

“Maybe, but I’m not holding out hope,” Jahlpu conceded. A short, awkward silence followed.

“I should be going,” I eventually got up. “Got a few things to check on, but I’ll be back tomorrow, probably.”

“Probably?” my brother questioned. “You know, you really have to tell me what you’re up to at some point… I do worry.”

“Oh, I’m well aware,” I confirmed. “don’t worry, I’ll be fine… and I’m sure I’ll be able to tell you at some point. Just… now.” In reality, I’d have to tell him a lot more, but there was the matter of Kopaka to settle first.

“I hope so.” Jahlpu got up, then motioned for me to follow him downstairs. Soon, we were standing outside and he was locking the door again. He explained that he was planning to find and bring back some furniture to officially move in after the memorial service in New Atero. That said, there was nothing that was stopping him from looking around for stuff now, which was his plan for the rest of the afternoon. I considered coming along, but decided against it in favor of wandering about on my own in vain hope of stumbling into Kopaka and Nuparu, or whoever else he was with. So, after a ‘goodbye for now,’ we went our separate ways into the city… but he’d still left me with much to think about.


#####author’s notes: this one took me a long time to figure out… I knew what I was shooting for when I decided to throw more time at Lis’ teammates again than was warranted, but figuring out exactly how Jahlpu’d make the argument he did here without making him way too much of a jerk in the process took me a lot of rehearsing and several drafts. Still, the end product is something I feel a lot better about than where I started off.

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


Lis has too many big secrets. Sooner or later, something’s going to come out.

It seems odd though, that Lis doesn’t mention that Pohatu was a coach for awhile before retiring (unless I’m remembering wrong). He didn’t just quit immediately.


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He did coach for a while, but it was a tiny thing compared to everything else he did. Three or four years is only a blink in a life that lasted for several millenia. And, in the end, it was the injury that got him to quit, or rather altered his self-perception forced by the injury. Lis’ concern lies more in what happened after that, not the relatively short period of time that Pohatu struggled on in public, even though the fact that he did does lend more credence to the idea that he didn’t just instantly give up when a more significant obstacle was thrown in his way. In that sense, the injury wasn’t the obstacle that Pohatu couldn’t overcome; it was his self-perception in the wake of it. It just doesn’t quite look like that to the rest of the world.

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Two-story by Matoran standards; not really sized for Toa.

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i’m referring to Lerome opening the door.

he’s not supposed to be in the scene.

y’know, continuity error.

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well crap, no one noticed. Good catch.

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yea, decided to point that out on my marathon of the rest of the story XD

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