Here is my story entry for Contest #7: Memoirs of the Dead.
Word Count: 4752
"No! No! Incorrect! No! This part’s too vague and this whole section is completely wrong!"
Those were the first words of complaint that I remember Nuju uttering as he partook in what would be the first of many lessons with me. I wasn't surprised. I had browsed his various academic evaluations shortly before he had come to my workplace. All of them spoke very highly of him; many other Seers who had taken him under their wing believed he was destined to become a fine scholar. Indeed, he was believed to be one of the brightest and most promising students Ko-Metru had seen in decades, maybe even centuries. He had tremendous potential.
However, there was a catch with taking on Nuju as a student - there always is in these sorts of things, I suppose. Despite his intellectual prowess, he was said to be... impatient and always in a hurry. He was firm in his convictions, which was always a promising characteristic, but he was particularly stubborn in his beliefs. Many had said it was difficult for him to see things from other perspectives. He was still a learner after all, and bright ones like him always stood behind their ideas.
The young Ko-Matoran glowered at me coldly. I took no offence from his harsh gaze; among us Matoran of Ice, it was all too frequent a response. Nobody likes to be proven wrong. But Nuju's eyes gleamed with something more than intellectual frustration or hunger; they glowed with disappointment.
He held out the tablet he had just finished reading. "This cannot be a useful learning tool, Ihu."
I smiled at him and walked to where he was sitting. An array of stone tablets lay scattered messily on the top of his table, each lecturing on a different subject of philosophy and science. Nuju held his hand out expectantly, clasping the tablet he was clearly displeased with. I took it from his hands and examined it closely.
“Nuju, you are critiquing a highly-acclaimed document," I began. "This text is a record containing the notes of some of Metru Nui's finest scientists. I do not see how their collaborative ideas on the creation of Kanoka can be inaccurate, especially since they have been in practice ever since they were devised."
"The information is hundreds of years old," Nuju grumbled. "In the centuries passing since, scores of mask makers have proposed new and better ways to create Kanohi. These techniques are obsolete and outdated." My new student's tone was as firm as it was detached.
"And what do those mask makers base their progress on?" I asked him. "They always refer back to this data when they wish to make improvements. The technology that created the first Kanoka, regardless of how old it is, laid the foundation for an entire industry in this city."
Nuju grumbled for a moment, his eyepiece expanding and shrinking as he re-examined the tablet in much closer detail. It was brand new and had been attached to his Matatu by a fellow named Vakama, who I had heard was becoming something of a rising star in the Ta-Metru foundries. I smiled at my new student courteously, despite a glare he gave me that was sharper than any icicle and twice as cold. He still had so much to learn.
"Why am I studying this anyway?" he demanded. His face had contorted so fiercely with frustration that one could be forgiven for believing he was wearing a different mask. "I am not some starstruck student who’s ready to blindly accept a teacher’s word as law. If I were, then my place would be down below in the schools of Ga-Metru. I know when I am right. And I know that the study of Kanoka has no relevance when forecasting tomorrow's events. It certainly has no place in my future."
I had expected this much from Nuju. "I present you with this document to prove that the greatest advancements in Matoran culture do not solely rely on stargazing or deciphering cryptic puzzles."
Nuju frowned. "But studying Kanoka does not help us learn about the future."
I turned away from him and walked across my observatory, coming to a stop near the massive window that overlooked the spires of Ko-Metru; a glassy empire framed by a crystalline skyline. Aside from basic furniture and essential stargazing equipment, the room was spared any of my personal effects. For many years now I have been of the belief that a workspace serves equally as a reflection of its occupant's character. For this reason I had made sure my quarters revealed as little as possible. And for this moment, perhaps it was all the better for it; nothing to obstruct the burnt orange light as it flittered away beneath the clouds.
“To understand the future, you must comprehend the discoveries that allow a society to flourish in the first place, and the principles that underline those discoveries. We can never truly dismiss our past, for without it we have no platform to make any sound judgments about our future."
When I turned to face Nuju, he had a look of shock on his face, as if I had just muttered some foul Skakdi curse in the Great Temple. He almost seemed insulted.
"With all due respect, Ihu, the past is something we leave the Onu-Matoran to bumble about. Any Seer worth his work knows that the lessons of the past are what they are because the stories they tell are little more than didactic morality tales. The future is determined by ever-changing patterns in the present; the past merely tells us what has gone before. It cannot guide us into our future."
I frowned. Nuju was bright, but also naïve.
"Without the past, how would we adapt to the future? Our experiences are built upon the past, and every mistake anyone has ever made affects the way they look to the future. There is just as much importance in what has been as what will be.”
"This would explain why many of your peers consider you such a maverick, sir."
I couldn't help but grin at the comment. It was true, that the name ‘Ihu’ had both positive and negative connotations. For years, I had been described as one of Metru Nui's finest thinkers; a pioneer from a golden age of learning. In particular, my extensive knowledge of the prophecies of the future had earned me great acclaim. Many times over, I had deciphered some of Metru Nui's most cryptic prophecies with a standard that had never been matched. In more recent years, however, I had become far more suited to the lecture halls than the observatories. And I had been called upon to lecture in places well beyond my district – the schools of Ga-Metru, the Archives and even in the most private rooms of the Towers of Thought.
However, a personal philosophy that was all-inclusive of the past, whilst popular with Onu-Matoran, did not sit well within the elite circles of the Ko-Matoran. I, personally, did not mind their scathing gossip. Their reactions amused me.
I gave Nuju a friendly smile and pressed on.
"I am a maverick only to those who are stubborn and narrow-minded and I am assured you are neither. Now, I’m sure I’ve given you plenty to think about. We’re going to have many more lessons like this, so a change in perspective might go a long way in making them all the more enjoyable."
Nuju snorted as he raised himself from his desk and left the room. Thank you’s and goodbye’s were to be a luxury, it seemed. He wasn’t my student, not in mind or spirit, but he was still new to the Knowledge Towers. He would need a helping hand to get him through these first few hurdles, especially with Ko-Metru’s finest watching with hungry eyes, eager to see if he would wither or thrive.
I would be more than happy to help him, but it would be up to Nuju to accept it and do the most important thing any Matoran could possibly do.
I was standing in the lobby of one of the Metru's innermost Knowledge Towers. Apart from the mechanical chirping of the nearby Vahki drones, not a single word had been uttered. That said, even if I had wanted to speak, I would have no doubt been escorted off the premise; the nickname "the quiet Metru" was a surprisingly literal one. That said, it was almost a relief to know that the nearby scholars were bound by silence, if only because it refrained them from gossiping amongst themselves.
It had been two months since I had become Nuju’s mentor, and needless to say, he had not been responding well to my teachings. My theories appalled him, my heresies outraged him and to him my works were totally unworthy of their praise. More than once during our lectures, he had attempted to dethrone me in my own classroom, like many of my colleagues had when I myself was a young Seer, but I simply proved too well versed in my field to truly depose.
Many times over, Nuju had presented me hours of work that I had dismissed with the wave of my hand. There were always small oversights, not enough attention to detail, too few compelling arguments. He did not hate the fact that I criticized his work; he hated that I was right. Obviously, it had finally gotten to him.
I approached the group of Vahki, keeping a wary eye on the huddled scholars that dotted the corners of the room, their eyes boring holes into the back of my head as I approached. The Vahki squad leader, clearly of the Keerakh variety, split off from the rest of its team and approached me, taking long, calculated strides as it came closer. Beside it stood the relaxed form of Nuju, who was staring up at the ceiling with wide eyes, a look of confusion decorating his blank face.
I sighed as I realised the cause of Nuju's mental state. The Staff of Confusion was always said to be the most merciful of the Vahki stun tools, far more compassionate than the Staff of Erasing, but I always found it unnerving to see the drifters borne of the staff wandering aimlessly in the streets.
The Vahki commander turned and issued an order encoded in a mechanical whistle to its comrades. Immediately, the other Keerakh turned to the other Ko-Matoran and began shooing them off. I looked up into the empty icy blue eyes of the commander, who stood firm and motionless, like the great works of the Po-Metru. I cleared my throat.
"I heard of what Nuju did. I do not condone his actions, but I wish there to be no lasting damage."
The Keerakh shook its head slowly, its mechanical eyes never flickering off me. A short pause ensued and an almost sinister silence clutched the void. It was numbing. Nuju continued to stare at the ceiling. Though he had not been my most yielding of students, I had never wished him any ill. I cleared my throat again as I realized how long I had been rooted to the spot.
"Thank you for your assistance. I will escort Nuju back to my observatory whilst the effects wear off."
The Vahki didn't reply. Instead, it broke itself from its motionless stance and made its way to the lobby entrance with its unit. Within mere seconds, they vanished into the blizzard outside. I frowned for a moment, then turned and herded the confused Nuju through the winding hallways and passageways. We strode past several rooms of prophecy, ancient centers of learning and various laboratories. Along the way, countless scholars scowled at me disapprovingly as I guided my pupil through the halls, though I paid their judgments no thought.
By the time we had returned to my observatory, near the very top of the tower, Nuju was back to his old self again, though he refused to talk until we were within the safety of my room. I seated him down in one of my armchairs before turning on him sternly.
"What was that?" I asked him. I was not being malicious.
Nuju shrugged. "A protest.”
I fought back the urge to pull a face.
“A protest? Screaming down the corridors of the Towers of Thought is not a sign of protest, especially when you're complaining about my adequacy as a mentor. Be glad this room is soundproofed."
"But that's exactly what a protest is."
"Not when you're disturbing other scholars in a no-speaking zone! It gains nothing! You know as well as I do that the Vahki monitor those buildings around the clock; they'll withhold someone for making even the slightest noise. I'm surprised they were willing to escort you back to my Knowledge Tower and notify me of what had happened. What you did there was downright stupid!"
Nuju was silent. Accusing any Ko-Matoran of stupidity was a great offence.
"You're a brilliant savant, Nuju. Your genius will take you far, but things like this will not do any favors for you! Whatever point you were trying to prove, such reckless behavior serves only to march your cause backwards."
Something changed in Nuju's eyes in that instant. It was subtle of course, but the effects were there nonetheless. I smiled inwardly. Finally, after so much struggle and resistance, I was getting somewhere with him.
"I see," he whispered plainly. His gaze then turned to the large telescope that sat outside on my balcony.
"Perhaps we should see what secrets the stars hold for us tonight," he said politely.
"Not tonight, I think," I replied. My eyes were fixed on the twin suns setting in the distance, their orange lights joining them in the retreat.
"You need to rest. Go think about what I've said. The mysteries of the Great Spirit will still be waiting here when we return tomorrow."
Things had changed dramatically over the year.
From being my most defiant student to my most avid listener, Nuju had become more than just another pupil. He had become my friend, an intellectual peer. Since the incident with the Keerakh, Nuju had begun to mellow out and his stubbornness had been tempered enough for him to concede on at least some grounds.
He was still as sharp as ever, and analyzed everything that crossed his desk with an unrivaled scrutiny, but he did this no longer with the intention of proving my folly. Ever since, lessons had become much easier with him in the depths of the Knowledge Towers. He had even been permitted back into the Towers of Thought, despite the incident he had instigated the last time he was there. Word had obviously spread that he had finally began to cooperate with my teachings.
Today, however, I had decided to do something a little bit different.
Feeling the need to push aside any lingering disagreements, I had decided to take him with me on an excursion of sorts to Ga-Metru. I myself was familiar with the region; many Ga-Matoran teachers had asked me to lecture here and had more than once offered me a position at their schools. They were very respectable positions, but they were not suited to me. I could never really wrap my head around those Proto Level examinations. Still, coming to this district was always immensely pleasurable.
Unfortunately, however, Nuju was not quite as well traveled as I was, and was immediately thrust out of his comfort zone. I couldn't help but smile. Like many Ko-Matoran, he rarely left the Knowledge Towers he was admitted into, let alone the Metru itself. Seeing his reaction to the stunning scenery of Ga-Metru was priceless.
We began our tour of the city’s greatest spiritual center with a trip past the Fountains of Wisdom, followed by a tour of the jaw-dropping Great Temple. We then went on an expedition along the coastline of the water region via a business called Macku’s Canoes. By the late afternoon, Nuju had chiseled up what looked like forty-five pages of notes. This was not surprising.
"Next time, I should take you to see the musicians in Le-Metru," I remember saying as we walked across an intricately crafted bridge that overlooked the beautiful Protodermis Falls. "Nobody makes quite as good an orchestra as, surprisingly, the Le-Matoran. Some of their symphonies are spectacular, provided they don’t have their choirs speak in that highly confusing Chute-Speak."
Nuju grunted in acknowledgement and leaned against the railing, staring out at the orange suns and the glimmering, infinite waters of the Falls. The subtle hints in his body language suggested he was just taking a second to soak up the atmosphere; there was a peace, a harmony and a tranquility that couldn’t be found anywhere else in the city. Seconds ticked by as the two of us just stood there, watching the waters topple over the cliff tops and down to the rivers below.
"Why did you bring me here?" he asked gently. I did not look at him.
"To prove a point to you,” I replied.
"When do you ever do anything that doesn’t relate back to a point you are trying to prove?” Nuju asked. It was a rhetorical question.
Ignoring his wit for once, I continued.
"I wanted to prove to you that there is far more to this life than just sitting in skyscrapers and gazing up at the skies above for answers. So many Ko-Matoran look so far forward, they miss everything important that goes on around them. It's an addictive lifestyle; not necessarily a bad one, but it can sometimes take away from your experiences."
"So you’d prefer me to do my research during live Akilini games?"
I chuckled. "No, my friend, not at all. But the Great Spirit did not lay out all this beauty before us just so we could lock ourselves inside specialized laboratories and think about why it's beautiful. At times, one must simply appreciate what life offers us, rather than observe the world through narrow scopes and spyglasses."
Nuju's eyes glimmered with thought. "You are a very wise soul, Ihu. Metru Nui will never have a Seer quite like you."
I smiled at him as I finally forced myself to meet his gaze, my mind having finally reached the heartfelt conclusion it had been trying to make for days.
"And that is why I am now challenging you to prove that compliment wrong. You no longer need me anymore, and your destiny is your own. I have taught you just about everything I can and you have finally learned the one thing I have been trying to teach you this entire time. Everything else was just an added bonus."
Nuju's eyes narrowed in curiosity. "And what would that one thing be?"
I paused for a second before I found the right words. "Humility and respect; the ability to look beyond your own opinions by accepting and understanding the views of others. By learning to keep an open mind for yourself."
"Ihu, you have a visitor waiting for you in your observatory."
I turned away from the circle of Seers I had been talking with to face a young messenger. Ehyre, I believe his name was.
"Tell him to make an appointment first," I said with a dismissive wave of my hand. "I, like any one of the Matoran here, am very busy right now. So please tell this guest to either sit and wait in my office for the next week or so or head off home."
Ehyre stiffened none too subtly as he said his next words. “Sir, I believe your visitor is an old student of yours. A Seer from the southern district. Nuju, I believe his name is. He’s already waiting in your office.”
I turned back to the messenger, a look of surprise on my face. It had been four years now since Nuju had officially completed his training with me, and since then, he had gone on to enjoy a very successful career as a thinker in the upper echelons of Ko-Matoran society. He was scarcely found outside his new observatory, where his restless mind could focus without a hint of distraction. It was then I noticed something else.
Ehyre had hurried through his message as if he were eager to be done with it, and he had made no effort to mask his discomfort in mentioning my friend's name. Something clicked in my mind. Ah yes, this was that Matoran whose scholarship Nuju had very bluntly denied. He had said the Matoran was ill suited to the role; he lacked patience, was too talkative and too quick to act. Personally, I suspected Nuju had seen too much of himself in the enthusiastic errand runner.
"Tell him I'll be right with him," I said. Ehyre nodded solemnly and left without a word. I quickly excused myself from the scholars I had been chatting with and hastily made my way through the crystalline corridors of the tower. Meetings like those were always rather dull.
Arriving at my observatory, I opened the doors to see Nuju standing out on my balcony, gazing up through my telescope. He turned at the sound of my entrance and nodded courteously, the ghost of a smile on the tips of his mouth. His eyepiece adjusted as he did a quick scan of the room. I smiled back to him and moved to tap a clenched fist in the customary manner, but was greeted instead with an open palm. We shook hands.
"Nuju, my friend! How have you been?"
The lens of my former student’s mask zoomed in and out as he looked around the room.
"I am most well, Ihu. Since we last met, I have been dabbling in a variety of top-level research projects. All very exciting ventures. I also noticed you have redecorated your observatory since the last time we visited one another. I don't like it."
Though it wasn't obvious, this was Nuju's version of a joke. The only problem with him telling a joke was that he never made it apparent that he was actually trying to say something funny.
"Well, fill in a complaint and see how far it gets you," I replied. "I'm sure the others will get a good laugh out of a rant on the décor of my office."
Nuju titled his head, then dismissed my statement and continued. "How have you been since we last met? Taken any more students under your wing?"
"Not this time," I said as I took a seat in one of my armchairs. "This old Gukko's wings can only stretch so far – and you certainly strained them.”
Nuju fought back a grin as he seated himself in the chair that lay opposite my own. "So what do you do now?"
My eyes trailed off over his shoulder as I thought of a response.
"I've been poached for one or two projects. Many value my comprehensive knowledge on the prophecies, so I haven't run out of interesting work just yet. Though I have found myself drawn to a range of smaller ventures that I have in the works.”
There was a pause. It was in no way awkward. Many Ko-Matoran paused mid-conversation to collect their thoughts and catalog their feelings. It was a perfectly natural habit.
"You're going somewhere, are you not?" Nuju asked.
I refused to dignify him with anything less than a perched eyebrow. He was spot on, of course. But he didn’t need to know that.
"And what makes you say that?" I asked playfully.
Nuju shrugged. Yet again, the focus of his mask’s multiple lenses adjusted.
"Your most prized intellectual properties are not present on your desks. Implication: They have been stored somewhere. Your telescope has also been completely shut down. Most Ko-Matoran only power them down to recharge as opposed to deactivating entirely, should they be needed at a moment's notice. Also, the door to your office was locked; fortunately, I know the code. You really must change that."
Nuju inhaled a breath of air as he concluded his deduction. "My hypothesis: you are departing Ko-Metru. Most likely to conduct another talk."
I chuckled lightly, more to myself for having made that all so obvious for him.
"That deduction is invalid. You used an eyepiece to get all that. It would be more impressive if deduced without that microscope in your eye, but I'll give you the benefit of the doubt."
“But indeed, you are correct. A group of Archivists want me to sit as a guest speaker in a public lecture. I'm to talk about the relevance the past has on determining the future."
Nuju’s grin disappeared at that news.
"Typical. The Onu-Matoran's work gets more attention than it deserves, especially with all those constant expansions to their Archives. One day, I'll make sure they come to understand the importance of our research."
I smiled at him with an unexpected warmth. "Well, when you become the next great pioneer of our future, remember to name something after me."
Nuju smiled back at my joke. "Consider it done."
Nuju's smiling surprised me; there had been very few (if any) occasions where I had seen him actually do so. I peered outside the window and stared at the suns, noting how low they hung in the ginger sky. Deciding now would be the best time to leave, I rose from my armchair and moved to my desk.
"Now then, my friend, I believe it is time for me to depart. I don't want to miss my trip. I've already got my luggage at the station and you know what those attendants are like; so unwilling to skip the standard procedure when you don't board in time."
As I began to make my way towards the door, Nuju rose and extended his fist. I bumped it firmly as I deviated from my journey to the door.
"Best of luck with your lecture, Ihu," he began, his voice filled with genuine emotion. Warmth even. In that moment, the line between friend and mentor blurred.
"I’d be curious to hear what those narrow-minded Onu-Matoran will have to say on your comments. Perhaps you can convince them to pluck their heads from the ground. In any case, have a safe trip."
"Oh, Nuju," I said merrily with a wide grin etched on my face. "I'll be back before you know it!"
And this concludes my memoirs for the moment. Being a Ko-Matoran, I feel the act of putting chisel to stone both irksome and unnecessarily tedious, so I have devised a better way to amass my thoughts. Indeed, many will question my use of this Memory Crystal for such purposes, or even brand me as downright selfish for trying to leave some small imprint of myself upon this world in such a manner, but I do not see any better way.
The Memory Crystal's potential goes far beyond that of a mere data storage tool. It can be used to record entire biographies and accounts of one's life without the painstaking effort of carving letters on tablets. It’s a quick and easy method of transferring information, so I see no reason for my colleagues to intervene because of my unusual usage of this crystal.
Whilst my memoirs are currently incomplete - my tutoring of Nuju simply being a smaller section of a much larger work - I intend to properly conclude them once I return from my excursion to Onu-Metru. Until then, I leave you with a small statement I gave to Nuju in Ga-Metru, one that had him thinking for days:
Life is a puzzle that cannot easily be solved, the bane of every philosopher's existence. It takes time and patience to piece its intricacies together, and then to understand its meaning in a global vernacular. If these mysteries frustrate or confuse you, look to the skies above and keep an open mind. Your future is not a series of events set in stone; pre-determined by the forces of chance. We may each have a destiny, but even those can be resisted, and in the most extreme cases, averted. Our future is determined not with solid certainty, but with careful consideration of variables. The slightest of miscalculations, shifts in temperature, even impulsive actions can throw the entire natural order out of balance.
And such a world is something worth revelling in.
Edited by Mersery, Dec 18 2014 - 10:52 PM.