Cast of Characters
- Nichou, Bulik
- Kyhra, Kughii
- Papa Podu, Bulik
Chapter 3: Home Sweet Home
Nichou jogged back to the bazaar, looking for the the Po-Matoran kohlii player he had travelled with for the better part of two days. The Onu-Matoran was excited about his new apprenticeship and couldn't wait to find Stannis. But it was already dusk, so that task would have to wait until later. After a small search, Nichou saw his friend standing by a fountain near the center of the plaza, and so he walked over to him.
"Hey Nichou, how was your luck? I found a place," Kyhra said with a smile. "Want to check it out?"
"My visit went well; I got the apprenticeship. And it would be great to see the place you found," The Onu-matoran replied.
"Oh, that's fabulous! Alright, follow me. It's not too far from here actually," Kyhra said while striding away through the slowly dwindling crowd. Po-Koro was filled with the sounds of commerce and laughter as the stars twinkled mirthful above. Kyhra's lava eel skin coat brushed against the stairs as he walked through a small side street between buildings, turning at different junctions without the need of a street sign. Terra cotta roofs and marble walls held the heat of the day as the night air chilled. The pair's feet clomped softly in the muted sand of the street. Kyhra enjoyed the soft sand contrasting the stone buildings. It lends a rustic feel, he admired.
The street decreased until an ussal could no longer pass through, officially becoming an alley. The smells of lavender and desert rose wafted through on a soft breeze. Lanterns dangling from the edges of roofs on chains were filled with lightstones by the civilians, a tradition of neighborly goodwill. The illumination made the stars disappear when Kyhra looked up.
In the end, the flat was located three stories above the main forum, a small staircase winding up the side of a cliff with a stone-carved rail to the front patio, soft tan stone and a battered welcome mat of prickly grass. "Here we go," Kyhra said and produced an iron key from inside his coat. "We'll need to get this copied, but you can have this one."
There was a click as the lock turned, but the door remained shut. Placing his shoulder on the wood, Kyhra pulled the knob slightly up and shoved, the rusted hinges protesting as the door swung inward to reveal a modestly sized apartment. To the left of the door was a lounge area with a couch, coffee table, and in front of the two was a long, octagonal window with a view to the bustling plaza below. To the right of the door was a small table with chairs, an oven fueled by a bed of heatstones, and a polished granite counter flanked by several drawers and cupboards of cutlery and dishes. The floor was a pattern of light blue and white tiles, while the walls were painted a bold dark blue, like a darker lapis. The white plaster ceiling was rough and textured, but in a good way. Past the living room, in the far left corner, was a door to the lavatory. Not much to say about that, other than that Ga-Koronan plumbing was ingenious. To the far right corner was a door, which the two matoran quickly opened, exhibiting a bedroom with a bunk bed, and some drawers for storage.
"Dibs on the top bunk," Nichou said gleefully.
"Flip a coin for that?" Kyhra flashed a devious smile and produced a bronze widget. Where he stored everything Nichou couldn't fathom. He stood in the doorway, his body halfway between the frame, as if his next move was a variable to chance. "Heads or tails?"
Nichou stopped in his tracks, as he found Kyhra with a proposition on the threshold. Kyhra revealed a bronze widget, light glinting off the metal from the lightstones overhead. The Onu-Matoran sighed, debating the gamble in his mind. He looked at Kyhra's single eye, determined. "Tails," the matoran of earth replied firmly, his brow furrowed.
Kyhra nodded, then flipped the widget. Bronze hummed in the air as it spun in rapid circles. His blue eye counted each revolution: twenty three. The resounding sound of metal rang through the apartment as money landed in Kyhra's outstretched palm, the coin deftly placed onto the back of right hand to display the result:
MADE IN TA-KORO
"I guess that's tails then," the matoran muttered. His face drained as he used a léger de main to palm the coin and return it to wherever it have been within the coat's folds. Kyhra realized his mistake and quickly returned to his smile. "I was a little bummed about the bed is all," he lied smoothly.
Nichou fist-pumped with a barely audible "Yesssss!". There was a conveniently placed ladder attached to the end of the bunk bed, which Nichou quickly scaled. The mattress felt very good on his back, especially considering he had literally slept on a rock yesterday. But, that was his fault, considering he hadn't thought to bring a blanket, or a tent, for that matter. But it felt good nonetheless. Despite the fact that the sun had already set, Nichou was not ready to go to sleep just yet.
"This is a very nice flat, are you sure we can afford it?" He asked.
Kyhra nodded and walked over to the wardrobe, opening and closing the drawers absently. His finger came away with dust, and a moment later he sneezed.
"Ah, yeah, it's only a thousand a month. Real steal these days with inflating real estate prices. Nearly had to kill someone to get them uninterested in the place. That was a joke." He laughed to add to the effect, putting the onu-matoran's jaw and sense of security back in place. "So, each month you just give me your portion and I can take it to the owner, no problem. Your internship won't take all your time, right, so you can get a job to pay your share."
Nichou mulled over the words, dissecting their importance. 500 widgets! Nichou thought. I need to get a job quick or my wallet is really gonna pay the price. Heheh. get it? Pay the price? Oh, whatever. The Onu-matoran thought over the job opportunities, pondering if there were any viable sources of income in the 'Lost Koro'. There was hardly any wood out here: plus, wood is eroded fairly quickly. The citizens of the city of stone were proud of their stone monuments that could withstand the shifting sands of the motara desert for centuries. So Nichou's profession wasn't going to do him any good there. He certainly wasn't going to become a bounty hunter again. Well, there was that construction project his home koro was creating...
"Yeah, I guess I need to find a job. Who knows, maybe I could work on that 'Iron Mahi' thing? I dunno,"
"Eh, just don't be tracking dust in here. We've got enough," Kyhra responded as he left the bedroom and slid into the kitchen. "At least I got a part-time job, so my half is squared away." The apartment had been minimally furnished, left over from the Rahkshi invasion Kyhra suspected, from the buildup of general neglect. Knives were still sharp, hanging on their magnetic rack on the wall by the counter. The glass on the cupboards was dingy, and cobwebs defiantly remained in the crannies. Kyhra sighed, realizing his ideal world didn't exist, and that he would be spending the next few days eradicating tiny tenants. Opening his eye he grasped the handle on the icebox and pulled. A waft of cold air flushed over his face, making him shiver involuntarily.
"Nichou. We got a problem."
Nichou gracefully slid off the bed and onto his feet, walking to Kyhra with an eyebrow raised.
"Hmm?" The Onu-matoran asked, wondering what the problem was.
"Look. In the icebox. At the..."
"Oh no...." Nichou gasped, cradling his shaking head in one hand, the space between his thumb and forefinger curved against his purple kakama. The Onu-Matoran pulled his hand away from his head to further inspect the catastrophe. They were out of food. The worst nightmare for any hungry matoran. The only thing inside the icebox (Besides Ice, of course) was a lone cricket, chirping in dismay at the giants staring at it. The minuscule rahi hopped out of the icebox, past the room, and squirmed under the door.
A single tear slid down Kyhra's mask of water-breathing as he closed the door to the icebox. "I figured you'd eaten," Kyhra admitted. "I guess we'll have to go out. I think there's a decent kabob place open at this hour. We can get groceries when the market opens tomorrow."
Nichou's spirit perked up when he had an idea. As if a gift from Mata Nui himself, the answer to their predicament was so simple!
"We... Could buy a pizza?"
The two matoran stared at each other. "PAPA PODU'S!" they yelled in unison, the bubbling excitement of a cheese stuff crust gushing into their mouths. The hot acidic warmth of basil, oregano, and tomato picked fresh off the vines behind the pizza shop. Kyhra swallowed, then nodded his head.
"Should we get delivery?"
"Sure," Nichou replied, mouth already watering at the thought of the sweet, chewy taste of the fresh tomatoes, basil, olives, and whatever else Podu put on his famous dish that spread across the island like tomato sauce on dough. Both matoran instantly were racking their brains in an attempt to remember the hour on which the restaurant closed. Hopefully they would still be open.
"Alright then, why don't we just get a kualsi runner for the extra price? No point hiking halfway across the koro, right," Kyhra mentioned. The two matoran had made their way into the living room, and Kyhra plopped on the couch. "Question is: what toppings?"
"Um..." Nichou thought, mentally going through each topping he liked. The Onu-Matoran sat down on the couch as well, thinking for a few seconds.
"Olives, extra cheese, pepperoni, and... that's it."
"That's a short list," Kyhra commented. Then he smiled. "Hey, Nichou, here's a joke for you: how can I order less than you, but more?" He paused, the sound of Nichou's thoughts wracking through the small apartment like shattered glass.
"Uh....." The Onu-matoran replied, scratching the back of his head. The two matoran sat there for a minute, as Nichou attempted to figure out the riddle. With a sigh and a shrug, he replied, "You have me stumped, what is it?" The matoran of earth wanted to know the answer, for he could not complete the puzzle.
Kyhra's grin spread even wider as he stood up and stared down at his friend. "With the Kitchen sink, Nichou. I want mine with the kitchen sink," he said with his hands planted on his hips. Kyhra barely stood above Nichou even with the carver sitting down; a sobering reality of size and how one handles it.
"So, I guess I'll be ordering then?" Nichou asked, standing up as well. The matoran of earth glanced at kyhra, feeling hungry. "I assume the price will be around 4 widgets total, so can you give me your half?" He searched through his pack for his two widgets, quickly finding them in a small pouch in the inside, instead of searching through the pile of assorted items that he carried with him.
"Uhhuh," Kyhra agreed, running a hand into his coat. Three widgets lay in his palm, the bronze and iron currency weighing more than its worth. Taking two, he returned the bronze widget flipped earlier to its unknown home and dropped the others in Nichou's outstretched palm as the beady eyed onu-matoran opened the front door.
"Don't get lost," Kyhra said with a sly chuckle.
"Okay!" Nichou replied as he walked out the door, down the steps and into the alley. He soon found a steady pace and began to jog down the sharply angled streets of Po-Koro, luckily finding little to no traffic. The darkness felt very homely to him, and the Onu-matoran could easily see where he was going. Nichou took several turns past other homes until he reached the bazaar.
In the forum, there was still a good amount of business being done, despite the late hour it was. On the edge of the Market District was a humble, yet well-known restaurant, with a sign overhead, illuminated by a few lightstones, that read:
Nichou strolled through the threshold, glad they were still open. A Po-Matoran with an orange Rau was manning the register, and after a small greeting, Nichou stated his order: "I'll have an extra-large with pepperoni, olives, and extra cheese, as well as an extra large with the kitchen sink." The Onu-matoran laid the widgets down on the counter, and in a few seconds found out gladly that his estimation was correct. He could hear an audible groan as the well-known Podu back in the kitchen found out he had more work to do. Complaining, the Po-Matoran said sadly:
"I'm sore all over. I'm tired of pounding this dough,"
"If you don't do it, then nobody here is gonna come home with dough today!" The other Po-Matoran countered, using another form of the noun. He clearly wanted to get home as soon as possible.
Nichou sat down on a bench to the side, waiting for several minutes. At one point, a toa of sonics with a kakama entered, returning with money from an arranged order. He was apparently a delivery boy, exploiting his mask power or a cheap job. Within a few minutes, the smell of pizza drifted from the kitchen to the waiting room, making all the occupants hungry with anticipation. A minute later, Podu come out and set down two cardboard boxes, bottoms scorching hot from the contents within. Having already paid, a mouth watering Nichou picked up the two boxes by the sides, one on top of the other, so as to not burn his hands. The Matoran of earth ambled out of the shop, nose itching at the scent of good food.
After a few minutes of walking back through the city, Nichou found his way back to his new home. Propping the boxes on his shoulder with his left hand, he used his right to find the key from his pocket and unlock the door. He opened it and walked in.
Nichou walked into an empty room. He glanced about with the pizza boxes, but Kyhra had vanished like a wisp of smoke.
"I got us some bubbly," Kyhra's voice floated from behind Nichou. "It's cold out here. Don't keep the pizza out where it'll freeze Nichou."
Nichou whirled around to find Kyhra behind him. The Onu-Matoran walked backwards a bit, setting the pizzas down on the table. "Bubbly?" Nichou asked, tilting his head slightly.
"Yeah, see? I picked up some mineral water. Figured it'd be nice with the pizza. There's a place just down the hill, sells late night stuff." Kyhra placed the cloth bag down besides the pizza. It flopped over to the side, lowering around a few green liter bottles. "I'll get some plates," he added and squeezed into the kitchen. It took a moment of rummaging through cupboards, but the matoran soon found what he needed. A balancing act involving a stool and standing on tip toe later, Kyhra returned with a triumphant smile.
Nichou was handed a plate by Kyhra, and he quickly sat down at the table, opening his pizza box and taking two slices. He downed the two at a remarkable rate, very hungry, and irritated from being deprived from good food the past two days during the trek through the desert, when he had to eat stale-tasting beans, among other things. He grabbed two more slices and began to eat some more.
The couch springs creaked as Kyhra joined his roommate. Flipping the lid on his own box, the pungent steam wafted upwards to tantalize his senses. "Oh: Papa Podu did it again..."
Kyhra pulled the first slice of heaven out from the box, wrapping the cheese around his finger to cut it. Flavorful mahi sausage, ripe onions, green arugula and more melted in the doughy meal as he chewed, the sound of happiness escaping from his closed lips as an audible hum. The two ate mainly in silence, broken occasionally for requests to pour water or get more napkins. Kyhra vanquished his entire pizza over the course of a few hours, lounging in the food coma and thoroughly enjoying the break from lying, murdering, and stealing. Finally, he wiped his greasy fingers on the last napkin and gave a contented sigh.
"That was good," he muttered with a small burp. "'Scuses..." The rough plaster on the ceiling was transfixing: Kyhra could make out rahi, pizza, and words in the tiny ridges, his imagination running wild from the cheese intoxication. With a head on the arm rest, he finally continued; "I should probably hit the sack. I got a kohlii tryout tomorrow, and then I'm off on a business trip south. Want me to bring you anything?"
"Maybe one of those Ga-Koronan flower necklace things," The Onu-Matoran joked, waving his hands through the air as if trying to sculpt the item out of air.
"I'm joking, of course." Nichou moved across the multi-colored tile floor, and sat down beside kyhra, weaving his fingers in-between each other and leaning forwards, staring out the window towards the market three stories below them. Incredibly, there was still a small crowd in the bazaar, even at such a late hour.
"So what business do you have down south?"
"I've got someone I promised I'd see," Kyhra admitted, a sullen look spreading across his face. "Not that she probably wants to see me. Anyway, enough boring talk. I'm off to sleep. You enjoy the night for however long you're gonna be up. Just put the lightstones away when you're done." He slid off the couch and walked to the bedroom, feet shuffling across the floor. The panel door slid shut, plunging Kyhra into darkness, save for the light peeking out between his toes.
This is going to be interesting, he admitted to himself as he climbed into the bottom bunk. Kyhra boxed the pillow a few times to fluff the dikapi feathers, then shrugged off into a light nap.
Nichou nodded slowly and gloomily at Kyhra's response. He wasn't exactly sure who this female his friend spoke of was, but the Onu-matoran figured that maybe his roommate would feel better about revealing more some time later. The matoran of earth continued to stare out the window as Kyhra shut the door with an audible clunk. The various stores and kiosks mostly empty and locked up for the night. Several beings dotted the landscape, and from his apartment's somewhat high perch, Nichou could see most of the koro laid out in rigid geometrical patterns, a mathematician's playground.
Nichou sat there for a minute or two, going through all the things that had happened today in his head. He still had to see Stannis tomorrow, and report back to Puroruk for his apprenticeship. Plus, he had to get a side job to pay the rent. He stood up, closing the curtains and stowing the lightstones in a drawer. The Onu-Matoran slowly walked to the bedroom, slowly opening and shutting the door quitely. He scaled the ladder with ease and went to bed.