"I like the Walrus best," said Alice: "because you see he felt a little sorry for the poor Oysters."
"He ate more than the Carpenter, though," said Tweedledee.
[color=#2f4f4f;]IC: Dorian (Inn, Ga-Koro)[/color]
[color=#2f4f4f;]I had come down with sudden, paralyzing, makes-you-wish-for-straight-up-death boredom after Kynaera had gone off to be a "hero" and told me to rent out a room. I did so at the recently revamped Tidalpool Inn which, after a dreadful fire months back, been completely refurnished with new rooms, employees - after all, ask any employer and they'll tell you that burned out husks of the old doorman aren't quite as polite as the smiling new Toa of Plasma who's ready to take your coat 24/7 - and room service menus. So here I was, chilling out in one of the suites towards the very tippy top of the Tidalpool Inn, and all I could think about was throwing myself smack dab over the edge. How many couples would see me fall as they lounged around and watched the horizon? Would I traumatize some kids? What if the old folks home down the road was hosting a walk, trying to get the elderly out and about? Would I induce a couple heart attacks?[/color]
[color=#2f4f4f;]Possibilities, possibilities, decisions, decisions.[/color]
[color=#2f4f4f;]From my spot lying on the single, king size bed, head propped against an aesthetically pleasing iridescent purple wall, I could just turn my head and see Kynaera talking to some Toa of Air who looked noble and handsome and everything you'd expect from a man who climbed his way out of a storybook; even from here, though, I could see the corruption in his red eyes, the black aura that surrounded him and suffocated the decency around him and then had the gall to call itself a soul. And he was standing next to my Ky. Was she, too, a terrible person? Was guilt by association a thing? I suppose it is, seeing as in a matter of weeks, perhaps months, I might well be carted into prison for the rest of my life for a murder that I didn't even attempt to commit, as well as any number of crimes committed by Bad Company that I wasn't around for, but did that make me a terrible person?[/color]
[color=#2f4f4f;]Short answer: Yes. Long answer: No.[/color]
[color=#2f4f4f;]Kynaera was different, though: she was scarred, hurt, beat up emotionally and completely, totally lonely. I had left her alone for forty years to go off and do my own thing, live my hedonistic roller coaster life, get myself beat half to death and then pretty myself up all over again. She had done nothing but give and give for me, over and over again; Ky had never once abandoned me, and I knew she never would. She loved me; I loved her. And I'd betrayed her by leaving, when I would bet my life's fortune on the fact that she'd never leave me in turn. Even now, she had taken me into her heart yet again, a feeble wretch off the street who was just a burned out husk of the old Dor-man - teehee! - and she loved me. Through all of it, through everything I had done because of her, Kynaera still loved me.[/color]
[color=#2f4f4f;]Man, I needed a smoke.[/color]
[color=#2f4f4f;]For some reason, I had bought some rolling papers and enough for just a couple cigarettes in my pocket - God bless, Xa-Koro - and it was in one of these papers that I put together one of my favorite copper rolls. I drew a matchbook from the dresser by the bed and flicked one out, examining it for the briefest of moments before brushing it against my forearm and creating a small flame, just enough to light the tip of the cig. After crushing the match in between two fingers, I tossed it into the trash can - littering's bad, mmkai? - and leaned back, cig in my mouth, as I blinked a couple times to try and clear my vision, which had been fogged ever since I got out of Ta-Koro. One more blink. Vision's 20/20 again.[/color]
[color=#2f4f4f;]One more blink, longer this time. I was exhausted, and I didn't even feel like attempting to open my eyes, but at last, I did so, and when I did, I came the closest to screaming that I had in forty years, for crouched over me, like a feline, a sickened look of the utmost disappointment on his face, was a man in the throes of middle age; his otherwise handsome face was beginning to show signs of starting to sag, like an old fruit buried underneath new product at a market, and the beginnings of permanent indigo circles underneath his eyes were so visible that I could actually punch him directly in the face and you wouldn't even tell he had a black eye.[/color]
[color=#2f4f4f;]"Why am I not surprised at you, boy?" asked the man as he took me by the forehead and straightened up my posture in the same way that he had hundreds of times before in a previous life; my spine instinctively recognized the movement and fought against him, but his grip was strong, vice strong, stronger than I remember, and then I was helpless, copper roll hanging slightly out of my mouth and deep, flirty azure eyes wide with shock, fear, and a bit of some long buried emotion that even now threatened to well from my throat and drown both of our blackened souls.[/color]
"What do you mean by that?" said the Caterpillar sternly. "Explain yourself!"
"I can't explain myself, I'm afraid, sir," said Alice. "Because I'm not myself, you see."
"I don't see," said the Caterpillar.
[color=#2f4f4f;]"Are you enjoying Kynaera's company?" the apparition asked me, standing up and circling the bed to and fro. This is what David felt like as the lions circled him, in those brief moments between the time where he cried and screamed and pleaded with God to hear him and the time where the big man finally got bored of hearing him whine and sent down a healthy can of divine intervention for David to pop open. This is what you feel like in the brief seconds between the time where you can't hold your breath underwater after your boat capsizes and the time where the water starts to fill your lungs and gradually and gradually you get more and more screwed.[/color]
[color=#2f4f4f;]This is what it feels like, those brief, few seconds of a strange, unholy hybrid of fear, anxiousness, uncertainty and understanding, to know that somehow, somewhere along the road, you really and truly failed.[/color]
[color=#2f4f4f;]"Hm? I asked you a question, Dorian, look up at me and answer it like a man," my father - no, my perception of my father; this was not the man who gave birth to me, no, he was either dust or bone or some fragment of soul still ambling directionless through Ko-Wahi - continued as he stopped at the foot of my bed. Something, perhaps a small glint of approval, glowed in his eyes as I stood up and faced him: it was a type of look that I'd seen so few times I could probably count them on my real phalanges. "Are you enjoying Kynaera's company? She gonna make you a real boy again? Well, I'll be, Dorian, what's the matter? Didn't like the little chart that you drew up for your life anymore? Pretty boy painter doesn't exactly get turned on by the killer's lifestyle the way he used to? Well, color me surprised, kiddo. I always knew you didn't have the sack to really get your rocks off by causing pain, but I figured at least even you had some form of event horizon. You really are still an idealist after all this time- or you're just ###### pathetic."[/color]
"A while ago I broke him in mind. I showed him that strength and power were not everything a warrior had to be. I taught him this by way of letting him win, but I arose again unharmed. Then I broke his body by showing him justice and equality, by severing his likeness of me and giving him a gift that would require his initiative after making him sacrifice his abilities. And now, in the presence of his friends and colleagues, I broke his spirit by showing how worthless he is after all his exploits. Absolutely worthless. Pathetic. Foolish."
[color=#2f4f4f;]"I am NOT WORTHLESS! IAMNOTPATHETIC! IAMNOTFOOLISH! YOU ARE!"[/color]
[color=#2f4f4f;]I had been worthless, for the longest time; I had contributed nothing of worth to Mata Nui, merely destroyed, burned, taken people, places, concepts that were truly beautiful and crushed them underfoot with a pretty smile and an apathetic shrug. Only when I, too, had been crushed by Brykon had I realized the way I was wasting my life and my potential: yes, my potential. I was a bastion of it, and the resume of my accomplishments in life only served to prove that. Brykon had helped me realize that, even while he crushed me and degraded me and left me to die underneath Xa-Koro. Dragging myself up from the muck and the methane with all those walking dead men who served Aurelia brainlessly...that was power. That wasn't pathetic; that was me, finally becoming a man. But that wasn't something I had been taught by the apparition before me, nor was it something I had the potential to learn myself. Brykon had done it for me, at a time when I needed it truly more than ever.[/color]
[color=#2f4f4f;]"I love her, old man," I said quietly, finally breaking my vow of silence; I felt my father's head snap like a bullwhip towards me, felt his eyes meet mine, and though I saw him stiffen up with rage and pure shock I knew there was confusion in there, too. "Yes, love. It was always a concept foreign to you, but to me, it means something. Family means something, something that obviously never really clicked with you otherwise things would have been inconceivably different. There is not a day that goes by that I don't regret what I did to our family, but don't you ever expect so much as a grain of remorse from me for killing you, because if I could, you hellish little cretin, I would do it again."[/color]
[color=#2f4f4f;]That was the last straw: instantly, whatever pride had been in his eyes disappeared, and suddenly he was the man who gave birth to me again, disgusting, abusive, in my face. He was on me in an instant, holding my cheekbones in his hands, eyes wild and feral like those of a rabid animal's. "Do it, then!" he cried out to the heavens. "End it! Huh? You think you'd really do it again, Dorian, you really think that you'd wash your hands with your own family's blood again? Try it, then! We both know you don't mean a word of it, a single threat, a single cutesy depressing little metaphor, a single word of your family schtick! Your brother's alive, after all. Malik? He ran off and joined a circus. Despite his many, many dishonorable qualities, at least your little brother knew where he belonged, but you...you belong nowhere."[/color]
[color=#2f4f4f;]Something cold and metallic was pressed into my hands: Naryth's - no, my - revolver, whole and cold and just as much an instrument of death as the day when I had first picked it up from beside the Vortixx's body in the alleyway near the casino at Xa-Koro. That was a different me, a Dorian that should have never existed - may have never existed at all, really, had it not been for this disgusting sack of meat that passed himself off as sentient. My old man must have sensed the revulsion rolling off me as I held the weapon, because his smirk became vindictive then and he took both my hands and pressed them against the gun before pulling it to my forehead.[/color]
[color=#2f4f4f;]"That's riiight," he sighed. "You never really killed anyone with this thing. Well, Dor, it's simple, you just take it like so, place it against my forehead like so, and then SHOOT ME IN THE ###### HEAD. DO IT. END THE MISERY AND THE DISGUST AND THE DISAPPOINTMENT THAT I WAS FORCED TO CHOKE DOWN EVERY TIME I HAD TO ADMIT THAT YOU ARE MY SON--"[/color]
[color=#2f4f4f;]The gun cocked, ending his ramblings where they lay in the air between us. When his eyes met mine, there was no pride, no hatred, no nothing. Just empty mirrors into an empty soul.[/color]
[color=#2f4f4f;]"You choked for nothing, old man," I whispered, holding back tears. "Because I'm not."[/color]
[color=#2f4f4f;]I pulled the trigger, and suddenly my dad's heartlight, his eyes, the room around me, everything went white and I knew no more.[/color]
"Oh, you can't help that," said the Cat: "we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad."
"How do you know I'm mad?" said Alice.
"You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn't have come here."
[color=#2f4f4f;]Xa-Koro didn't look at all like I remembered it.[/color]
[color=#2f4f4f;]If you were visiting the place for the first time, you would be well within your rights to call the place a shanty town, a monument built not of marble and rock, but of wood and muck and ######; the people were not demons, not yet, but nor could they really be called a true people. They were halflings, floating endlessly through a life that they both merited and did not merit. This, however, was not the Xa-Koro I knew, for at least the Xa-Koro I knew was intact: this place hit you all at once with the smell of charred flesh and a bitter, false dream, Aurelia's dream. She had been the Queen of Xa-Koro, and her will be done across the Kumu Islets: just as this place had started to become something, had been worthy of notice of the mainland, it had been snuffed out, as though it were a scratched diamond on one of her gaudy rings.[/color]
[color=#2f4f4f;]Here, in this Xa-Koro - my Xa-Koro - burnt corpses lined the streets like doormen at Ga-Koro hotels. The buildings were like trophies you give to the last place finisher at a swim meet, for on first glance they looked respectable, but then you stared at them for more than a second and you could see the falsity to them, watch them fall apart like a baby bird's skeleton falls to dust in all but the lightest grips. Not even the streets were truly streets: as I looked down Xa-Koro's main road, on my way to the docks, I could see that they were full of scribbles and drawings that I recognized after a second to be mine. They were the pages to my journal.[/color]
[color=#2f4f4f;]This was my mind, in all its raw beauty and its disturbing brittleness. We're selling postcards at the gift shop, if you want to bring your friends sometime.[/color]
[color=#2f4f4f;]A war cry, fierce and long and full of pain, and instantly there was a butterfly knife in my hand, though I couldn't remember conjuring it, and the last thing I remembered was me holding the gun to Papa Shaddix's head. Now wasn't the time to worry about the knife, though: I looked up and saw Tank charging at me, black Mark of Pain glowing and whipping up a frenzy. His eyes led to nothing, could be construed as tunnels at first glance, and truly, for a second, I knew fear, and I knew how Utu had survived so long, become so powerful and in tune with his Mark. It was a feeling that I had truly never felt before, and it was something that I never wanted to feel again for as long as I lived, whether it be a few months or an eternity.[/color]
[color=#2f4f4f;]Then instinct took hold, and the knife lifted up almost by itself, cutting right into Tank's diaphragm and stopping his little Pickett's Charge all at once. Grab him by the neck. Stabbity stabbity stab stab. Down went Tank in a little heap, the glow of his Mark fading away, followed by the Mark itself, as all his blood spilled out onto the pages of my journal in minutes: a little portrait of Nikarra, playing guitar peacefully as the sun shone over her head and her name shone over the sun, was obscured completely by the life-giving deep red liquid of the Toa of Sand.[/color]
[color=#2f4f4f;]No. Please. No more blood. Not on my hands.[/color]
[color=#2f4f4f;]Utu next. Him, I could hear coming from a mile away, because Utu was massive and his broadsword cut like a windmill through the air as he came at me from behind: spin around quick, knife upwards into the jugular. He never had a chance to fight back, and suddenly his blood was spilling down my sword arm, too, and wherever his blood touched my skin it left an odd, tribal looking tattoo that I could probably interpret if I wasn't so busy fighting for my life. Other Mark Bearers next: Yuru. Jikal. Iris, in Tuara's body. Poor Tuara has just enough time to look at me in the eye and smile, thanking me for freeing her. She knew what it was like to be me, be a prisoner in this kind of place, more than anyone else on this island, and I had to smile back because I knew she was in a better place.[/color]
[color=#2f4f4f;]Then the people start getting more personal, because we're bonded by more than just being experiments of a mad Makuta-affiliated scientist with a grating voice and a bad taste in fashion. Jin leaped down from the rooftops - oh, Jin, always on the rooftops, always on top of things - and I had no choice but to snap her neck through teary eyes as she tries to electrocute me with those hand buzzers of hers, those buzzers that I thought were so cute when she had first electrocuted Grokk with them. Please forgive me, Jin. I know I don't deserve your pardon, but I need it.[/color]
[color=#2f4f4f;]Then there was Aurelia, and Jin was still in my hands so I lifted her hand buzzers and then threw the Vortixx's corpse at her to distract her. Since Aurelia was small, she managed to duck under it, but then I grabbed her by the neck and squeezed hard. Her eyes rolled backwards and began to twitch inside their sockets, shaking around like gumballs in a machine. Crackling sounds, a gross smell like someone's got chicken on the rotisserie, and still Aurelia's eyes rolled back until finally they stopped seizing around and there was a weird, muffled popping sound that might have been the voltage overloading her heart and squashing it like a tomato in a food fight. Aurelia was released, and dropped to the ground of her kingdom: black char marks were visible where I'd held her pretty little electress neck and squeezed with the buzzers.[/color]
[color=#2f4f4f;]I saw Grokk next, then, saw him dive out from a side alley, Zamor launcher raised, Containment Sphere primed, and spun around him so that I could see his back and I could watch as I drove my butterfly knife right in between his spinal column, like sliding a piece of bacon back into a cheeseburger after it falls out onto your plate. Deep red blood bubbled up and ran over my hand: for a second, I was surprised he wasn't spilling bad puns out of the vicious hole in his back.[/color]
[color=#2f4f4f;]Yank the knife out, spin around: a long surgical draw along the abdomen, deep, probably nicking a vital organ or two, followed by an unceremonious cut to the throat, and down Grokk went, blood spilling out of three jagged slices in his body. That last Mad Hatter grin was still on his face, and if I'd given him another five seconds, he probably would have gotten out a last scarf joke. The light left his eyes as suddenly as his blood, and a cold feeling doused my gut.[/color]
[color=#2f4f4f;]And now I had no friends.[/color]
[color=#2f4f4f;]These were the people that had made me what I am: the old man had been the levee that started it all, with his distaste for Kynaera, and when things had gone haywire with her and the old man had abandoned me to die, he'd opened himself - and the island - up to a whole new world of hurt. He had been right, in a way: even as I longed for change, for redemption, still I crushed these people underfoot as I finally stepped foot on the docks, my ultimate destination. A lone man was standing, back to me, on the tip of the dock, where a boat would usually be moored: before he even turned around, I knew who he would be, and before my eyes he blinked out of existence and then showed up in front of me again. [/color]
[color=#2f4f4f;]His face was beautiful to even behold, a masterpiece I couldn't have conceptualized and laid down on canvas if you gave me a hundred years and a million widgets. His very body was exquisite, perfectly and distinctively muscled, and everything about him save his eyes was a deep matte black save his eyes, deep yellow pools which drew in all light around him and then shot it out like fireworks. It was a man who literally could have been borne of the devil himself, so rich was his charm, his very manner of existence, and still in my heart of hearts I couldn't help but obsess over him. [/color]
[color=#2f4f4f;]Heuani smirked, as if he were nothing but aware of this, and took my sword hand: the blood had all dried up and turned into tattoo ink, so he took the time to examine the markings, smile up at me occasionally, and then nod to himself, as if he weren't surprised in the least. Then, when he was done, he slowly and casually took my Protosteel phalange and ripped it away. Instantly, an old wound was opened up, and the blood began to pour anew from the other half of my finger, except this time it didn't turn into ink, it just stayed blood, and it dripped across the docks as above us the sky turned a deep, deep crimson to mirror the carnage that lay in my wake.[/color]
[color=#2f4f4f;]"What a shame," Heuani sighed in disappointment, clucking his tongue. "Now we can never be married, Dorian."[/color]
[color=#2f4f4f;]I could still wield a knife, though; even as Heuani drew his flamberge suddenly out of seemingly thin air, waved the dark, beautiful sword around, I prowled the docks around him like a cat. A deep glimmer of pride in his eyes, discordant with the vicious nature of the fight, shone out of the deep golden lighthouse beacons that were the Toa of Shadow's eyes; for a second, I was reminded of the old man, and suddenly a prickle of anger blossomed into full on rage as I leaped from behind. All the incubus had to do was snap his fingers: instantly, I was on the ground, pinned by my own shadow, and the scar on my abdomen shaped like the path of a droplet of condensation opened up again, expanded, spilled my blood out of my perfect abdomen and out onto the docks. The force of my fall sent the knife falling right by my foot, out of reach thanks to the shadows. I was pinned, and Heuani, ever the predator, knew it; as he leaned down, brushed the holster where once I had kept my revolver, ran his hands along the path of my reopened wound, my rage began to sedate itself, I calmed down, and...[/color]
[color=#2f4f4f;]No. I have NOT come THIS far to die NOW.[/color]
[color=#2f4f4f;]My legs still had some form of motion to them; I flicked my right foot upwards, sending the knife into the air: quickly, reaching out with my mind, I sent the weapon zooming right at me and watched with a gleam in my eye as it cut right through Heuani's shadows and left a small cut on the back of his hand. Weapon firmly in place, I managed to dig the knife into the tabula rasa underneath his armpit for all of about two seconds before the Toa of Shadow yelled out in pain and kicked me away, towards the edge of the dock, and tossed my knife with expert aim through my left hand. My cry of pain mimicked his, and us two masters of seduction stood as one and faced each other.[/color]
[color=#2f4f4f;]His face was impassive, a little on the vindictive side but mostly emotionless; nevertheless, I had spent too long as the Mark Bearer of Rage to not tell when a homeboy was giving off some serious angry pheromones, and Heuani was practically bathing in his fury by now. Stop; don't think about Heuani bathing. The Toa seemed to take advantage of the moment, weaved forward expertly with his flamberge and kicked me to the ground again as I ducked out of the way. The knife landed right beside my hand this time as he bent down to decapitate me, as he'd had me do to Echelon so long ago. Then I struck, with all the grace and speed afforded to me by the Calix plus my own top-notch instinct and reflex afforded to me by years of physical conditioning and assassin work.[/color]
[color=#2f4f4f;]I stabbed through Heuani's right elbow, first, coming up behind him and putting him in an arm bar. My weapon slipped out of the top of his arm as I moved the bone, trying to break it, and slid waiting into my right hand. Push the hilt forward with right hand: the butterfly knife flew like a North Korean rocket, shaky, probably not very good for anything longer than ten seconds, but still long and straight and true enough that it stuck itself through Heuani's neck. My adversary froze up, straightened his posture in shock; I took advantage of his moment of weakness to dig the knife further through until the point of the weapon could be seen sticking out of the other side of his neck.[/color]
[color=#2f4f4f;]By this time, the blood was really spilling, and I could feel the tight grip of his oh-so-soft hands - I wonder if he moisturizes or if that's just natural - slacken on his flamberge, allowing me to kick the weapon out of his hands and giving us both ample time to watch it slice through the night sky, leaving a long, smooth rent in the air behind it. In a brief second, words from another lifetime, spoken silkily, seductively, aiming to please, came back to me.[/color]
[color=#2f4f4f;]"The way you swing swords, you shouldn't be wasting your time on these. It's a far less effective - and attractive - weapon. It's an ugly machine."[/color]
[color=#2f4f4f;]A laugh. God, that laugh.[/color]
[color=#2f4f4f;]"But, then again, I may have a bias towards firearms..."[/color]
[color=#2f4f4f;]As I had the last time Heuani had offered the weapon to me, I plucked it out of midair fluidly, flicked it once in a pinwheel, and then brought it down while it was highest in the air, stabbing it through the top of the Toa's head and pushing down until I could see the tip. Instantly, I could tell he was gone to whatever fate awaited him: his eyes rolled slightly, closed up halfway, and then he dropped the instant I pulled the flamberge out. No blood spilled from the beautiful corpse; there was no telltale sign of a dying heartbeat, and in that instant, I knew I had won not only over Heuani, or those who I had blamed for turning me into me, but I had won over the one creature that actually had turned me into me:[/color]
[color=#2f4f4f;]And the world, so crimson, so bloody moments before, suddenly turned a purest snow white and faded again before my very eyes; so intense was the heavenly shine that I was forced to shield my face in order to prevent it from being burned away. When my eyes next opened, I was on my knees on the bed, a Protosteel flamberge otherwise identical to Heuani's stabbed through the top of a pillow, a butterfly knife stabbed through the side in a vicious crucifix.[/color]
[color=#2f4f4f;]Uh...I'll tell Room Service to put that one on my tab.[/color]