Once upon a time, I wanted to be a hero.
I was little then. And the world seemed little, too. I raced around the neighborhood and made a game of memorizing the names and faces-here was Mr. Onepu, there was Mr. Taipu. I was goalie on a kolhii team. My favorite thing, though, was the storytime I had with the elders. They told fairy tales about the six toa and their adventures. Tahu, Gali, Kopaka, Lewa, Pohatu, and Onua. I wanted to be one of them. I wanted to be as pure as Gali, wise as Onua, strong as Pohatu. I saw people around me sad, and I said to myself that if only I believed enough and worked hard enough, I could be the hero great enough to save them all. My truest desire was that no one should have to cry. And so, I said to the world, I would be a hero defending the weak and bringing peace to the island. I would save the world. To that final end, to that destination of a utopia without hurt and built of happiness, I always acted for. It was my ideal that guided me. When I took up the responsibility of a job or a chore, it wasn't just for my family's safety, it was for all families' peace. So I went about the birth of my life as a person who wanted no less than to be a hero.
I grew older. Things grew complicated. I failed to save people. Even in the Ussalry, even with the weight of the law and the power of my weapons enforcing the will of my body (made out of steel), I couldn't defend everyone. Then I knew I wasn't a hero. A hero, like I wanted to be, didn't let anyone die. My dream was scarred, then. I couldn't be all I wanted. I simply wasn't enough. So I set aside the problem of my false want. I resolved that if I couldn't be an actual hero, then I would try to be as much of one as I could. I couldn't save everyone, but I tried. And I lost people. The ones I knew. Never the ones I didn't, never the faceless masses. Because they were the majority and I decided that I would fight to save the majority if I couldn't save all. Because it made sense. The boy who wanted no less than to be a hero, and found that he could not, still tried with all his strength to fulfill that want throughout life.
But now I'm not sure I can ignore the flaw. I can't just look at the corded brawn, linear plate, and weaponized hands (body made out of steel) before me and deny the resemblance to myself. The eyes are too similar, I conjecture. We both have seen Death. It pervades our existence, perverts him (me) into lone stagnation, and has wrought my (his) body into an armament to be wielded...We are the same in that way, and I sense there are other ways as well. I can see in his total hunch the resignation of a person driven by idealism into despair. I can feel in his cold air the calculation of the one choosing sacrifice. He and I are not different at all. Onua and I stretch into each other seamlessly, not a man and his shadow, like Reordin and Lewa, but like each half of a man. I am him and he is me.
That is precisely it. My childhood is the birth of the idealistic child Sulov. My adulthood is his life.
Thus, Onua is the end of the boy who wanted to be a hero.
And like all ends, I see him coming.
We are--I am--analytical in combat. I strive to overpower opponents with information more than anything. I provide them with lies about my fighting style, test and observe the results, and always keep my real power in reserve. Given enough time, even with little else, I can overcome enemies by prediction of their movement and surprise of mine. It is logical that, therefore, I seek to slow the pace of battle to a grind for optimal conditions in which to analyze the fight. The inverse is true: I am wont to avoid direct engagement in full contests of speed and power because they are my weakness as one utilizing less tangible methods to create victory.
It also follows that we both see this and attack each other with all our force accordingly.
My entire life becomes this attack. My tossing aside of my saber is my rejection of my most sentimental possessions. My sprint is my delve into the struggle of combat now and then. His response is the other half of the exchange of combat, the benefit and the opportunity. My power is my devotion to right and his the crushing weight of the sin I have fought against forever. I note that everything has become quiet about me at last, resonance of the air whooshing past and the clang of metal on metal alike dissipated, and I see Onua blink as his mask glows. Evidently, he is using his kanohi to assault my aural perception and is surprised at its lack of effect; I know no such power, but it is minimally harmful to my efforts at worst, and I plan accordingly. The absence of hearing is the absence of another kind of distraction. Distractions are detrimental to my end.
I stop a meter from myself, clock back slightly, and launch an opening jab at his nose with my shovel. His punch back flies for me at the same time, and we shift back at once. Then we punch with the other fist for the abdomen. We block with an arm each, freezing his memory in my mind, and throw up a hook kick. We each know the value of grounding an enemy to decrease opposing mobility and increase the power of blows, yet we both avoid high kicks to increase stability in case of an accident downing foes and attempt lower attacks. Our hooks entangle before they are repelled. And then we split apart for a microsecond before the next onslaught, each movement a perfect mirror of the other, and I can predict each mirror. Shoulder throw. Parry. Punch chest. Retreat. Dislocate hip. Block. Punch jaw. Retreat. Leg sweep. Parry. Punch kidneys. Pivot. Punch face-
-And my visor shatters, my mouth spurts blood, my fist intercepts an arresting grip-
-My eyes close to save my vision as the shards of glass slam into their lids, my mind knows that the next punch is for my solar plexus, my body can do nothing to stop it-
-My lungs exhale, my feet fall back with the oncoming attack, my muscles clench to armor myself, my Earth rises in a makeshift shield to slow the punch-
-And my nerves feel the pain of contact.
I'm thrown back on the ground, limbs splayed by the sheer force. I open my eyes to try to find Onua so I can more accurately predict his next strike, but they can only blink against the blood dripping in. I throw my shovel before my head to defend my brain. My mind is running, looking for a way back onto my feet, perhaps if I ward off attacks to my vital organs and use Earth to sense him so I can-
Onua's knee explodes into my groin.
Flash white. I don't move and call Earth, trying to see Onua like I planned, yet see nothing there. Then my shovel is slammed into the ground. Earth struggles to push it back up. At last, I see Onua, barely stepping onto the ground with one foot, and I throw a punch at him.
His other foot comes down on my right arm. Pulverizing. I feel a snap and a catch and then a stab right against my armor like my hand against the plinth in the Great Mine, splaying my arms horizontally and pinning them with shadow bindings. He disappears in a millisecond.
I have to stop this. I have to see him. Even if for a second. I have to see his next attack or I die.
I open my eyes. A hand of jet drills is flying for my face, Onua blurring behind it. My eyes are forced closed again, and with it, my senses. The Earth reaches up and grabs the lunging arm. His other simply attacks it, and I force more Earth into the arm.
Yet it's failing. I can't regenerate it fast enough to match the rate Onua destroys it. I assess the extent of my injuries to look for options.
Radius fractured by stomp; groin traumatized by knee; two ribs cracked by punch to solar plexus; visor shattered, eyelids cut, inside of cheek lacerated on teeth by punch; hearing inactive by kanohi. My body is ill-suited to move from its position with appendages splayed and head to the ground, so I cannot hope to win with movement. I can't stave off the arm and push Onua away with my element at once.
I guess I'm at the end of the road. My ideal's dead. Now, in a poetic move, the writer of this farcical tale is about to ensure the same of me. I've lost. There's nothing left. Even though I saw the moves of my opposition coming, even though I steeled myself against them, it didn't matter then and it can't matter now. And it will continue to not matter as long as I remain so powerless. Perhaps it was that none of my fighting was worth it. In the end, the price for what power I did get was just too high. It was enough to win some, but not enough. Destiny made sure of that. As far as I got to the Dream with hard work, and belief, I never got quite to it. None of those things mattered. The process is always outweighed by the results. And in my case, the results have not matched up.
Thus, the boy who wanted no more than to be a hero, the boy with the power to play at his want, die-
What was that?
What was that utterly contemptible piece of coprolite you just denounced yourself with?
No freaking way. That's a falsehood and you know better than that.
I wasn't going to win by becoming a toa. I wasn't going to win by beating Makuta. Cark, I wasn't even going to win by achieving the Dream.
I couldn't win that way because victory isn't made of a moment for myself. It's made of the results. Not the winning results like beating an enemy, not by proving that your beliefs are more right morally than anyone's, and certainly not by getting power.
We won with the actions we did that produced the results. We coalesced into the Wanderer's Company together. We established our mission to defeat the Makuta together. We denied sin and applied what's right together. We won as the Maru together. We won in every weapon gained, in every skirmish survived, in every helping of trail mix ingested. We've inspired others to want to be heroes, too, and so my ideal--and our mission--will never die. Hero or no hero. Destiny or no Destiny. Reality totally synonymous with our perception or everything possible. None of that matters. Regardless of philosophy and all else, we have won. We do not require the circumstances to be suited to us for victory. Nor do we require circumstances to be fluid and open to change in order to attain triumph. We win in increments, slowly but inexorably garnering a precipitated advantage, and so we have already won. The inertia of our movement granted to it by the incremental advantage has given us victory. This isn't the end, like I thought earlier, it's just the beginning of more successes.
All that is left is to clean up the mess. Starting, in my case, with Onua.
I miscalculated you, I will grant you that. You weren't trying to mentally persuade me to abandon my ideals. You were trying to tell me that I didn't need to focus on them and to just have faith. That's the only course of action that makes sense in the face of this life. There are terrible things in this world. Death is abundant. Happiness is scarce. Suffering is common. But these are all fundamental parts of life. If there is no death, then there can be no recomposition of life. If happiness is abundant, then it is taken for granted. If there is no suffering, then there is no point in the calculation of equivalent exchange. It's a terrible cycle for sapient beings to endure their torments, die, and leave others to repeat the circle, but it would be no better if sapients were made ignorant of evil and kept artificially blissful. This is a cycle that you accepted as your duty to protect. And now it is my cross to bear as well. I will protect the freedom of this existence from Makuta and all other threats to it. I will have faith in it, for after all, it is what makes sense.
On the other hand, you have shown me despair like Sulov has nearly fallen to. Your body and mind have been twisted in their current body into the inverse of a guardian. I remember your confusion when you saw how ineffectual your kanohi was--you made your sadness at your misjudgement apparent, and you only sluggishly try to fight. You are slothful and purely wish to escape the cycle, deluding yourself to think that you have accomplished nothing and desperately searching for a way to make yourself active. You are driven by a mindless desire to evolve beyond any sort of pain by, paradoxically, causing it. I was incorrect in thinking that we are the same. You are erroneous, faulty and cursed to fail only by yourself, as Sulov was. And I am veracious. There is no way that I will surrender when backed by validity; I have judged you and will punish you accordingly, as you deserve.
Now I see the course of action that makes sense. I will do what is right. I will not succumb to sin. I have won. All that is left is to clean up the mess of Sulov Koskium, Onua, and all other fallen. All to obey is my commander, the hero Stannis, and all to defend is my team. The heroes. The Maru. These are my objectives.
It's been great, guys. All of you. Thanks, fam. It's been an honor, 7th. Reordin, you're the starchild. Stannis, you are my commander.
And, if this really all is just some farce, if we're all just characters being pushed about like Chess pieces, if really there is no Mata Nui or Makuta or anything and it's all just one cosmic plot beings we can't comprehend just put together to entertain themselves with a story...
I'm gonna give it a happy ending.
Now, Maru...Let's go.
The arm of Earth is fading, slowly being ripped apart by claws. The drills are closing in on His body. Left unchecked they will pierce His Mask and then his skull. His enemy looks down coldly at His damaged self and readies the killing blow.
Exactly as planned.
He does not try to shift from His shadow constraints. He does not feed more power into the failing arm. Instead He blinks the tears and blood from his eyes and His shovel makes a slight scooping motion and flings a stake of Earth at the back of His ally (he once called him 'Reordin') nearby.
His enemy whips his head to follow the stake as the ally evades it. The Toa of Shadow cannot comprehend why this was done. Without thinking of the fight, his melancholy brings him to ponder the cause of this seeming betrayal and what it could mean. He thinks on this for all of a second.
In that one second, He acts.
He kicks the ground with his ankle. Twelve ceramic spikes erupt from it at the enemy and the platform he looks down at His beaten body from. The enemy notices and blinks from shadow to shadow to behind His body, flinging drills of shadow, yet each one is countered by a matching blade of Earth. Then, as the enemy looks on, ambushed and eyes wide, He busts free of his restraints.
He pushes himself from the ground with his shovel. Each motion requires all his bodily strength due to its current state of injury. It is obvious to his enemy that he is not acting as one invulnerable to damage. As He faces his dark mirror, each analyzing the other, He senses that the enemy is studying His wounds. His pitted face is bleeding from a crown of glass thorns. His armor is battered all over and as bloody as one flayed. His mouth bleeds like martyrs bleed for their words. Each breath is labored like one whose side has been pierced. His arm hangs heavy at his side like it was nailed into position on the ground. His muscles' soreness is clear in his movements like one who exerts himself to the point of death.
Yet He stands. He smiles, though the eyes are too blank to reflect the positivity of His mouth's curve. His enemy pales.
And He moves to attack.
Earth between Him and the enemy disappears. An exact square meter of ground, centered on His lopsided stance, begins to fly through the channel He is rapidly opening up across the cavern. The enemy teleports away once more and bombards Him with drills, but His mask allows him to follow the movement with mirrored speed so the drills miss and His slide switches paths. The enemy appears to realize this at once and instead summons a floating wall of drills behind his body. A wave sends them at His rush.
Soil crystallizes around His right arm in response. He does not need to move it, simply let its dangling form shield His body as He pulls back His shovel to ready it. The enemy sees the shield and recognition is lit on his mask again. The dark one desperately tries to bring up a defense. A bubble of shadow forms around him, rising to construct a semi-sphere about his body.
A microsecond. His shovel breaks the shadow. A millisecond. The enemy flounders away. A half-second.
His blade punches through the enemy's shoulder.
The enemy falls to the ground. His arm and legs are splayed, trembling as he screams and curses Him. He simply grinds the Earth to a stop and steps off to look at the enemy.
"Please," Croaks the being who was once Onua, as the blank and bleeding face looks down. Hazel gazes meet halfway. The lighter and more soft of the pairs is tired and frustrated, scared and sad, as pitiful as a small child crying after the breaking of a favorite toy.
The darker is completely hollow and without emotion nor coldness. It remains wholly devoid of expression.
"Please," The enemy says again. The dark eyes watch impassively as he struggles to form the words in his pain. "Please, kill me."
-And free me from this karzhani, Mirror and reflection hear unsaid.
He thinks as he watches the pathetic being before him deny himself and his cause. He kneels, motion utterly vacant, and His battered shield forms fingers to grasp the loose arm. His shovel slices off its claws and the shield sucks them in, attaching them to its front and reshaping to take the form of a titan's hand. He stands up to regard the being before him once more.
Then he speaks. His voice, like all else about him, remains utterly empty.
Ceramic binds the wound of the Shadow Toa, forming a thick tourniquet. The enemy screams and curses again. But he will not die of bleeding out. In accordance with one of His imperatives, He has not killed this enemy.
He turns to examine the other fights. Only one enemy is left a combatant. Reordin and the ones He has once called 'Oreius', 'Stannis', and 'Leah' each dart about his body, flowing together in battle. He looks upon it dully.
Soil rises from beneath His heels. Humus swirls about His body, attaching itself to his segments of metal armor to form a suit of ceramic and dirt. His hand is clad in a clawed gauntlet and feet in spiked sabatons. His limbs are covered in compact earth and trunk in potter's plate. His face is set in a helm of soil.
He checks the scene before Him once more. Then, arm set in His earthen and armored splint against His side, eyes bloody and uncovered, and body made out of steel, He leaps into the fray.