[Ko-Wahi Wastes; early afternoon]
My worldview had been made of glass.
Clear, adulterated, transparent. Through it I could see everything I experienced with an unbiased view, all angles visible to me. It was a worldview I had been building ever since the Temple of Courage, a worldview that allowed for even the miraculous to happen. Or so I thought.
It shattered into a thousand pieces.
I stood there, my arm outstretched, my body frozen in a blocking position. I knew it was coming; he even told me he would. Yet I was not fast enough to parry as single sword thrust, so inept that I could not stop let alone touch something I saw coming a mile away. But that wasn't the problem.
It was the Crystal of Creation on my right hand.
A symbol of my mission, of lessons learned... and of how little Makuta cared for my attempts at collecting them. I should not have been surprised, but the fact he knew, so in depth, and could grab them without the charms - how was I to logically face him? He knew of my mission, knew of my progress, knew every step I was taking. Knew where I would go, what I would do before I did it, and he thought so little of my attempts that he handed me one like a rich man gives millions to some poor child. It was nothing to the former, and to the latter he had no idea what to do with it. He cared that little.
How... how was I to continue?
I... I might as well give up here. The Makuta knew all. My strength. My weakness. My progress. He knew me better than I knew myself, and right now I was so messed up I could hardly think straight. There was no point in continuing this mad quest, the element of surprise gone. I had bought enough time for the Matoran; this was their quest anyway. They were the ones destined to defeat the Master of Shadows, not me. I just got his lap dog, and I couldn't even come close to touching him. I finally realized the how futile this quest was. Everything I had been building up, everything I had been working towards, my forced change of personality... vaporized.
I was the same loser I was before, only now I knew it.
I had thought the Temple of Courage had been the lowest point in my life; well, I had been wrong. Right here, right now, I found a new low, in the snow, standing across from probably the most powerful toa on the island. I wasn't special. I wasn't even unique. Heuani had read me like a book, down to the very last letter, and now I could see just how, well, yes, inept I was. I couldn't do anything right.
I didn't have the courage to face my friends half the time.
I couldn't even get into a temple properly, breaking in through the roof.
I often despised my teacher, bucking him at every possible minute.
I insulted and tried to woo every pretty girl I ran across.
I couldn't... I couldn't even be fair and fun around Cael.
I was nothing but a charade.
I was a nobody.
I was devastated.
Out of the corner of my eye I could see Heuani, sword in hand, grinning. Pacing. Acting like a panther, wanting to pounce. This is what he was looking for, to break me down to a sniveling mass, a hopeless individual with no fight left. To play with me. Toy with my emotions. He could leave me here, devastated, wanting to curl up in a hole and never come out, unable to face my own failure, or simply end it now. He had the power. I could see the want in his eyes. It would be so easy for him to take that half step and end it all now. End the problem, no matter how insignificant I was. Remove the threat before I could in some way, some how, become more dangerous. Kill me where I stood. He had the power.
Yet... he didn't.
He made no move to kill me.
I stood there motionless, at the lowest point in my life, and yet I was still here. By all accounts, by all logic, even in my absolute ineptitude, it stood to reason that he would do something, anything, to stop me. Hand me the crystal, play some mind games, and then when I had hit rock bottom slit my throat, letting me wallow and die in the knowledge of my own weakness and stupidity. I mean even and absolute imbecile could get lucky and do something damaging, so why hand over for all practical purposes a weapon to an enemy? Why not just remove him from the game and be done with it? Why play games, tug at heartstrings, pull at emotions and egos if I was just going to die anyway? I mean, outside of some sort of sadistic pleasure.
Unless... that was the point.
The fire in me had died, chocked out my Heuani's words and actions. But as he stood there before me, a tiny spark ignited deep inside, a sudden realization among the oppressing thoughts of failure and fear. If I was a threat, why keep me alive. But if I was so inept that I could never even come close to harming him, why even bother? Why didn't Heuani simply grab some random stranger off the streets of Ta-Koro and mess with his head, then leave? No, the Makuta would never let his servants, especially one of such high ranking, do something so frivolous. This type of servant was reserved for only the greatest of needs and problems. Like Jaller showing up when all the other Guardsmen could not solve the issue. If the Captain was there, then things were serious. Getting real fast, or already had. If Heuani was here, messing with my head, then clearly there was something more going on than just a simple quest for some colored stones. My eyes narrowed, studying him closely. His overly-charismatic smile. His gait. His unearthly confidence. The way he held himself back. I... knew that look.
No, this wasn't Makuta's doing at all. It was his.
Slowly things began to click into place, hidden from my mind's eye until this moment. Everything I had ever heard about this toa was true, down to the letter. So why would he want me to finish this quest faster? Why hand me a crystal? Why not kill me? Why not end the threat to his master right here and now. Because he couldn't.
No, not couldn't; wouldn't. He didn't want to.
He saw something in me, and it wasn't my ineptitude. It was the exact opposite.
I was the only one who could provide a challenge.
Everything made so much sense, understanding rushing at me like an oncoming avalanche. Here before him was the only toa who understood the riddles and puzzles of the Temples, the only one (besides himself apparently) who had since their construction even been able to gain access. Not only was I doing what no other toa had done before, but I was resisting him. Yes, his mind games were having a devastating effect on my psyche, but unlike like Niici, or the precious few reports of those who survived an encounter, I was not enthralled. His ability to control and manipulate the mind was either ineffective or drastically reduced. I was special. The fact he was here was proof that I was not as inept as he claimed.
I was different.
And that look - now I knew. It was pride. Egotism. The absolute knowledge that he was the best and that no-one ever came close. Which meant every mission he ever went on was a cakewalk, even though important, completely underneath his talents and abilities. He craved a challenge, someone who could come close to his level, give him at least a fight, some honest entertainment for once, since he was head and shoulders above the rest. So he was here to speed up the process. He saw in me the possibility of a decent battle, and was impatient to get me to that point. He so craved the chance of a possible equal that he was willing to bend the rules of this game, to get me there faster, quickly get my abilities to their fullest. To have that fight. To defeat me and crow over that achievement, to prove once and for all not only the world, but to himself he truly was the best, the most powerful, the greatest.
It was his ego driving him.
I knew that feeling all to well, and I understood it perfectly. It takes one to know one.
I smiled. I smiled a great, big, wide smile.
I had his number.
With a thrust I shove it back at him, the crystal flying through the air with a decent amount of speed. Oh he caught it; deftly, swiftly, with class, but the surprise on his face was unmistakeable.
"Oh, Heuani, but that's cheating. And while I understand you're the type to use every underhanded trick in the book, you wouldn't cheat yourself. Not over something like this. Not over a chance to prove once and for all you're the best."
Whatever ability he had to shackle the body collapsed around me as I began to slowly move in an opposite circle around him. "I'm not as inept as you claim I am - your very presence here proves it. I applaud your mind games, and as devastatingly effective as they are, that's not the point: you want to speed up the process. You're here because you want me ready faster, for our destinies to intermingle at an earlier date. You know I can provide a challenge, but not yet. A challenge you crave for, as is everyone on this island is so beneath you... and somehow, in some cosmic way, I'm the guy to deliver it. But you're so eager to do it that you're bending the rules, and well, that's not right. How am I supposed to fight you fully prepared if I skip a lesson? I will be weaker and less of a toa for it, and you will have a lesser challenge out of it. Not as fulfilling a battle as you wish. Tell me, is it worth it? Worth cheating to get me there faster? Willing to gyp yourself over impatience? Your ego is impressive Heuani, I'll give you that."
I stopped, letting his mull over that for a moment. This was possibly the biggest gamble of my life, calling him out on his out abilities. Then again...
"Let's just say, friend, that it takes one to know one."
The truth in that was unmistakable.
OOC: Loki vs Stark, take two. Though I'm not sure which is which at this point