This story is the longest one yet and is definitely the shakiest so far, as I feel I took a lot of liberties here (you'll see what I mean). It was also the hardest to write; I'm still not sure I got the emotion right here. Anyway, I hope you enjoy it!
Ga-Wahi, ~11 months before Mata Nui's reawakening.
Hahli shoved desperately at the crowd of gathered Matoran that stood at the entrance to the mining shaft in Ga-Wahi. She had been waiting for Toa Onua to resurface for nearly two days now, anxious for him to return with news of her lost friend, Kuni. The Ga-Matoran had gone missing three days past on a trip to visit Le-Wahi. She had been last seen near this spot, and it was assumed that she had mistaken this mine for a tunnel leading to her destination. Onua had been told of the issue, and he ventured below the surface of Mata Nui, swearing not to return until he had located and rescued Kuni. Hahli had just gotten word that he was nearing the surface once again.
"Move!" Hahli said, miffed that these Matoran from other parts of the island were barring her from witnessing the return of her friend. She finally burst to the front of the crowd, leaving grumbling villagers in her wake. She saw Toa Gali standing not too far off. "Toa Gali! What news?"
Gali gave her a surprised look behind her gleaming golden mask, but said, "Nothing beyond the fact that my brother is nearing the exit. He should be here any moment."
"And he has Kuni?" Hahli inquired.
"I believe so," the Toa of water said with a smile. "The message he sent seemed to indicate that he did find her."
Hahli breathed a sigh of relief. Her friend was safe, and she could relax. In mere moments, she would be reunited, and life would go back to normal. She could stop worrying...
The crowd began to murmur as a black figure emerged from the earthen tunnel. Toa Onua carried another motionless, blue figure in his powerful arms.
Hahli rushed to meet him. "Kuni!" she cried. "Is she all right?"
Onua shook his head. "I..." he hesitated. "I am not sure, little one. We must get her to the Turaga immediately. Something is wrong, I think."
"What?" Hahli said, her worry growing. "What's wrong?"
"She has been groaning the whole way back, ever since I found her unconscious underground. I don't know what ails her exactly, but there is certainly something... dark in her presence."
Gali approached the two of them. "I'll take it from here, brother. Rest from your task." She moved to take Kuni from his arms. When he recoiled slightly, she urged, "You must rest, Onua. You have been at this for nearly three days. Please, let me."
Onua's shoulders slumped. "I... You are right, sister." He gently exchanged his precious cargo to Gali's arms. "I suppose I feel as though I am failing her somehow by not seeing her all the way to safety."
"You promised to return her to the surface, Onua," Gali said. "In that, you have succeeded, and we are all grateful. I will be sure to tell you about her recovery."
Onua nodded and moved aside to take his rest.
"Hahli?" Gali said, looking to the Ga-Matoran. "Let us return swiftly to Ga-Koro."
"Of course," Hahli said. She ran to keep up with the Toa of water, the pair of them moving through the crowd with ease as it parted before them. It took a full sprint for her to keep up with Gali's gentle jog.
Within the hour, they had reached Ga-Koro and were approaching Nokama's hut. "Turaga Nokama!" Gali called from outside. "We have someone who requires your attention!"
A moment later, the green door of the hut swung open and Nokama stepped out into the sun. "What is it, Toa of water?" she asked, leaning on her trident. "Is something wrong?"
"It is Kuni, Turaga," Gali answered, kneeling down and cradling the Matoran's head in her arms. "She is the one who was lost a few days ago. Onua returned to the surface with her not an hour ago, but something is wrong."
"How so?" Nokama asked, moving to look at Kuni's near motionless form.
"She has not woken since Onua found her, and she moans in her sleep," Gali explained. "We fear something dark has come upon her."
Nokama drew close, examining Kuni closely. "I see..." she mused. "Bring her inside. I must take a closer look." The trio stepped inside Nokama's hut and Gali gently let Kuni down on one of the extra beds in the room. The unconscious Ga-Matoran groaned and twisted on the bed. Hahli had never felt so uncomfortable as she did now, seeing her friend so clearly in pain. "If what I suspect is true, Kuni may be in a very grave condition indeed," Nokama said. "But to see for sure, I must remove her mask."
"Are you sure?" Hahli asked. "Wouldn't that just make her weaker?"
"Yes," Nokama said apologetically, "but it is the only way to prove my suspicions." Hahli nodded, trusting her Turaga. Nokama wrapped her fingers around the edges of Kuni's Kanohi Pakari and gently peeled it up from her head. Underneath lay Kuni's face, a mix of organic material and armor... and it is was stained a deep black. It started at the center and fanned outwards, even dipping into her eyes. Nokama's eyes closed at the sight, and she gave a sad moan.
"What... what is this, Turaga?" Gali said.
"I fear she is touched by shadow," Nokama sad, replacing Kuni's mask. "Makuta's darkness has corrupted her. We thought we had rid the island of the creatures that are capable of doing this..."
"Turaga, doesn't the shadow usually appear in the mask?" Gali asked.
"It does," Nokama answered, "but under the right circumstances, it can seep beyond the mask and into the body, making its effects permanent."
"But she can be healed, right?" Hahli said. "There's a cure? What can I do for her?"
"I'm sorry, Hahli," Nokama said, leaning heavily on her trident. "I can soothe her, perhaps bring back her mind for a while. But eventually, she will be lost. Makuta's shadow will corrupt her, just as it did the Rahi."
No. That was impossible... Hahli couldn't imagine that happening to another Matoran. Rahi were simple beasts, easily manipulated. Surely a being as strong as Kuni would not fall so easily. But if Turaga Nokama, the most experienced healer on the island, said nothing could be done...
"Take her to her hut," Nokama said. "Make her comfortable. I will visit her after I gather some supplies."
As Gali picked up Kuni and exited the hut and Nokama moved to begin preparing her healing items, Hahli would not move. Her fists clenched and her eyes closed. "I can't just give up on her!" she said, louder than he had intended. Nokama's shoulder dipped and she turned to face Hahli. "Not like you. I can try, I can look for a way to save her!"
"Hahli..." Nokama said soothingly. "I am very sorry about all this. I want the best for Kuni, but I have so rarely seen this condition. My experience and knowledge are limited, and the only thing I know to do is to make her passage easy."
"Is there anything I can look for, anyone I can talk to, something to do to make it better?" Hahli said, on the verge of tears.
Nokama laid a hand on the Matoran's shoulder. "Be there for her. She needs you now, more than ever. Really, you should be proud of her. When a Rahi is overtaken by shadow, its mind is turned almost instantly. Even mighty Toa Lewa found it difficult to resist the corruption. But Kuni... Kuni fights. Had her mind already been lost, she would not be so docile. Yes, she is in pain... but she is not lost. It is her way of fighting the Makuta."
Hahli gave something between a small laugh and a sob, and wiped at her eyes. "I see. Well... I suppose I will go help prepare the hut." With a grim heart, she took her leave.
Hahli rapped on the door to Kuni's hut. "Come in," came Nokama's voice from inside.
"How is—" Hahli's words broke off as she looked at her friend and saw her eyes open and alive. She ran to her and embraced her. "You're awake!"
"Careful, Hahli," Nokama chided gently, smiling on them. "Kuni is much stronger, but she still needs her rest."
"It's good to see you too, Hahli," Kuni said with a weak smile as Hahli backed away.
Hahli grinned broadly and wiped at her eyes. It was so strange... To look at Kuni now, one could hardly notice her... illness. It lay buried, hidden beneath her Kanohi. "I was so worried," Hahli said. "I... I wasn't sure you'd wake up. I thought you might be gone..."
Kuni gave a wry grin. "Can't get rid of me that easily," she said.
Nokama turned to the bedside table and tucked a few of her healing items in her leaf bag. "I will leave you two to talk," she said. "Don't be too long, Hahli."
Hahli took a seat on a bamboo chair beside the bed as Nokama left. "What happened to you?" Hahli asked. "Down below?"
"I... I can't remember a lot of it," Kuni said. "Or maybe it just feels short. I took a wrong turn and slipped down a steep, smooth surface. There was no light at the bottom... Thankfully, I'd thought to bring a lightstone with me. I lit it, but it seemed feeble somehow. The darkness of the cavern I'd come to was... oppressive. Deep."
"Is that where you were when Onua found you?" Hahli asked.
Kuni laughed and shook her head. "I'm not so smart as to stay in one place. I explored. There were a few other tunnels that branched off of the place I was in. I wanted to find a way out, to free myself. Of course, that didn't work. I only got more lost. And then... then I saw a creature."
Hahli's stomach tightened. "A... a creature?"
"Not one I'd ever seen before," Kuni explained. "Small, sluggish. Purple and black, I think."
"Doesn't sound familiar."
"It was weird... and disgusting. Left a gross trail of slime everywhere it moved. I remember I went to look more closely at it, trying to figure out what it was, what it was like, then... something hit me." Kuni visibly shivered at the memory. "It wasn't like getting punched or something. It didn't really have impact on my body, but I felt it... in my mind."
Kuni paused, letting the information set. After a moment, Hahli asked, "What then?"
"I don't know," Kuni shrugged. "That's the last thing I remember before waking up to Nokama tending to me a few minutes ago. She explained everything that happened since I got lost."
"What a strange tale," Hahli said, her eyes falling to the floor.
"You know, it was funny..." Kuni chuckled. "While I was lost, there was one thought I kept coming back too: 'I'm going to miss Hahli's kohlii game.'"
"Aw, you don't need to worry about that. You know I'm not very good."
Kuni gave her that grin again. "Oh, I know that. But I know you can be. I want to be there for you, see you play. You'll be great one day, I know it. Maybe even a champion."
Hahli chuckled. "That'll be the day. And you know what I just thought of? This is just like that time when I was sick a couple hundred years ago, and you took care of me."
"Yeah... except now, I'm the one stuck in a bed. I liked the previous arrangement better. Come to think of it... why am I here? I don't feel that bad. Tired, but not exactly... ill."
She doesn't know.
"Nokama hasn't said anything?" Hahli said, trying to keep her voice from cracking with resurgent sadness.
"Nothing," Kuni said with a shake of her head. "Only that I need to rest, stay in bed. Nokama is usually so forward with me, but she hasn't said anything about my condition. Do you know why they're keeping me here?"
Hahli was silent, debating with herself. If I tell her, wouldn't she be crushed? The knowledge that she is corrupted with Makuta's shadow... I don't think I could bearing knowing if I was in her position. On the other hand, to let her go on without knowing what will happen to her, for me to keep it from her... it doesn't feel right.
"I... I do," Hahli said, struggling with the words.
"Well, what is it?" Kuni asked, seemingly oblivious to the conflict in her friend.
"The Turaga said that... that you've been infected..."
"Infected? With what, a poison?"
"I wish it were so simple," Hahli said. "Nokama said... you have been touched by Makuta's darkness."
Kuni was silent for a long while. She barely breathed, not looking at Hahli. At length, she spoke again. "So... is it like the Rahi we have fought with all these years?"
"Yes," Hahli said, choking back a sob. "So Nokama has said."
"Why can't I feel it? Why doesn't my mask look different?" Kuni sat up straighter in bed, looking at her reflection in a mirror on her wall.
"It's deeper than that. The corruption sank through your mask, into your body. It... it's permanent now."
Kuni's eyes closed and she exhaled heavily. "So I am lost, then."
"Don't say that," Hahli said. "Nokama said you were strong, that the only reason you were still with us was that you were fighting the darkness. Maybe you can make it, you can beat this..."
Kuni shook her head. "I think... I think I kind of already knew. When I was asleep, I remember having... strange dreams. Dark dreams. Creatures in shadow, voices in the night. Even now, if I think about it, I think I can feel something. Something pushing at the back of my mind..." Her hands came to her head, cradling it. "I... I'm scared, Hahli."
Hahli stood and moved to her friend. "I am too. I..." She grabbed one of her friend's hands. "I wish there was something I could do. If there's anything you need, anything you think will make it better, I'll do it, I'll get it for you."
Kuni gave a sad laugh. "Thank you. I don't know that there's anything I can do to make it better. Just... promise me you'll take me to your game."
Hahli smiled and gave Kuni's hand a squeeze. "Sure," she said with a smile. "We'll get you there."
"All right," Kuni said, letting go of Hahli and lying back. "I'm getting tired again... All your drama is wearing me out."
"Fine, I'll get out of here," Hahli said. "Rest up, and get better."
"I'll do my best," Kuni said. Hahli moved to exit the tent, but Kuni said, "Thank you again, by the way. For telling me. I'm glad that, even if this shadow takes me, I knew about it. I go with the dignity of... facing my enemy, I suppose. Thanks to you, Hahli."
Hahli nodded. "Anything for you."
The days went by, and Kuni's condition worsened. It was not a surprise to Hahli, but it hurt all the same. Kuni continued to be bedridden, and Turaga Nokama kept paying her daily visits with simple healing treatments, meant only to provide comfort. Hahli continued to feel afraid, anxious, angry, and helpless. One of her best friends on Mata Nui was dying, or perhaps worse, having her mind being stolen by the Makuta. And there was not a single thing she could do about it, or even think to try.
Hahli was awakened one night by a horrible screaming, a desperate cry from another hut. She rushed from her bed out into the cool Ga-Wahi night, the sea breeze brushing her mask. The screams did not stop, but she saw no signs of an emergency. Her tired mind took a moment to connect things.
She ran as fast as she could to Kuni's hut, and screams grew louder. Other Matoran were beginning to rise as well, peeking out of their doors and windows to see what was the matter. Some asked her if she knew anything, but Hahli just kept running.
Finally, she burst through the door of Kuni's hut to find her friend writhing on her bed, hands on mask, screaming her lungs out. Hahli had never heard such a terrible sound in her life. She started to move to try to help Kuni, but then she spoke.
"The voices!" Kuni cried. "Oh, the voices...! He is here, in here in here!" Her hands pounded on her mask. "Makeitstopmakeitstopmakestop!"
Hahli ran then; there was nothing she could think to do but find help. "Nokama!" she yelled. "Toa Gali! Please help!"
Footsteps behind her signaled an arrival, and she turned to find the Toa of water approaching. "What is it, little one?" she asked. "Who shouts?"
"It's Kuni," Hahli said breathlessly. "She's... she's screaming, speaking horrible things, and thrashing in her bed."
"Take me to her," Gali said, grim determination on her mask. Hahli ran, leading her back to her friend's hut. The pair entered again and Gali knelt beside Kuni. Kuni did not stop her thrashing in the slightest; she didn't seem to be aware that either of them were there. Gali summoned a large oval of water from thin air, large enough to envelop Kuni's entire body. She gently lowered it onto her, leaving room around her face to breathe. Light gleamed as Gali poured pure elemental energy into Kuni in a desperate attempt to stave off the darkness, to calm her mind. Slowly, Kuni did calm. She still twitched within Gali's bed of water, but the screaming had ceased.
"Th-thank you, Toa Gali," Hahli stammered. "I... I didn't know what to do for her."
"It is all right," Gali said, looking at her over her shoulder. "I am glad to help, no matter the hour or the situation." Her eyes turned downward. "I only wish I could do more for her."
So do I, Hahli thought. And still I wonder, can it get worse than this?
They decided to keep Kuni strapped to her bed; this way, if she had another fit like last time, she would not thrash about and harm herself. She lay calmly in her bed most of the time, simply sleeping. Nokama still tended to her, and Hahli still visited her every day. Kuni seemed to have less stamina each time, ending their talks sooner with every visit. Hahli's feelings of anxiety deepened until things came to a head on the tenth day after Kuni's return.
Hahli had been helping Marka construct a new fishing boat when she heard a commotion from within the village. Matoran were gathering, and Hahli could hear crashes. The rustle of conversation turned to shouts.
Hahli set the rope coil she had been working with around her shoulder and ran into the village, pushing through the crowd in time to see that Kuni's hut was indeed the center of attention. Turaga Nokama suddenly came crashing through the door, rolling on the ground. Hahli rushed to her side. "Are you all right, Turaga?" she asked, helping the elder to stand.
"Do not worry about me," Nokama said, voice strained. "Worry about her." Hahli followed the Turaga's eyes into the hut, where a lone figure just inside the doorway.
Hahli stood slowly. "Kuni?" she said.
The figure gave a wicked grin that Hahli could barely see. "Kuni is gone," it said. The being that was once Kuni flew out of the hut, running straight for Hahli. She dodged the blow just in time, rolling out of the way and instinctually pulling a disk from her pack as she rose. The crowd of gathered Matoran began to scream and disperse. The village's warning horns sounded.
"Kuni, stop!" Hahli shouted. "Get a hold of yourself!" Is her mind lost? Has it finally happened?
Kuni stood now at the edge of the floating platform, staring off at the waters of Naho Bay. She looked back at Hahli, and she hardly recognized her friend. Kuni's eyes were full of hatred and... was that fear?
Without saying a word, Kuni ran away from Hahli, headed for the fleeing Matoran. Hahli gave chase. Kuni caught up quickly with the runners, seeming to run unnaturally fast. She tackled the first Matoran she came in contact with and wrestled her to the ground. Her victim screamed, begging for her to stop, for someone to help. She continued to struggle and whimpered as Kuni's fingers roughly grasped the edges of her Kanohi.
Hahli readied her disk. "Kuni, stop this!" But Kuni did not stop. Kuni continued to pull at the downed villager's mask, but the villager struggled to keep it on. If that came off, she would be completely helpless...
This is not my friend, Hahli thought as she drew her arm back to throw her disk. Don't think of her as Kuni. She is the enemy.
Hahli flung her arm forward, letting the disk fly with all her strength. As Kuni raised her arm to strike at the villager's head, the disk struck home, knocking Kuni's own mask askew. She reeled from the blow, falling to the ground and cradling her face.
Thinking quickly, Hahli grabbed the rope from around her body and ran at the fallen Kuni. She took one end of the rope and started wrapping it around her friend, securing her arms and legs, before finally pulling it tight and knotting it. She stepped back, watching Kuni writhe on the ground, unable to move a limb. She suddenly stopped, looking to Hahli. The anger in her eyes slowly dissolved, only to be replaced with what seemed to be... smugness.
Kuni laughed, a deep and unnatural sound. "I told you," she said. "Kuni is gone. Now, there are only shadows."
Hahli saw the words come from Kuni, but they were clearly not of her.
"I don't believe you," Hahli said, breathing heavily. "She fights you. This is just... temporary."
"I admit, she did put up quite a struggle," the shadow said. "It does not usually take this long for me to gain control. It was really only sealed moments ago, but my control was not strong enough to direct her fully. She knew my heart, though, and attacked her fellows. Not what I would have had her do, but it was entertaining enough." Hahli gaped in horror, and the Makuta laughed.
That laugh would haunt her for hours to come.
Hahli lay on her bed, staring at the ceiling. It had been a day since the incident with Kuni, who had now been placed in an improvised cage, a cell to keep her contained. Her body remained tied, and she sat in silence, staring at any who passed. It was unnerving, and some said they wanted her out of the village.
Is that the answer? Hahli wondered. To simply toss her out? But wasn't that the fate they had been trying to save Kuni from in the first place?
A knock came at the door. Hahli jerked in surprise, then sluggishly rose and moved to open it to reveal Marka.
"Hey, Hahli," Marka said. "How're you holding up?"
Hahli shrugged. "Fine," she answered.
Marka cleared her throat. "I was wondering if you would come down to the dock, to help me finish that boat we were working on? Everyone else is busy."
Work? Yes, work. That was what Matoran did during the day. But...
"I don't think I feel up to it right now," Hahli said. "Thanks for offer, though."
Marka seemed to deflate. "Oh, all right. Um, I'll see you later then."
Hahli returned to her bed.
Several more visitors came as the day went by, each with some offer for her.
Nixie invited her to gaze at the sky.
"No thank you."
"You need to do something, Hahli. Kuni wouldn't just want you to sit around."
Kai offered a leisurely boat ride.
"Thanks, but I have things to do."
"Mmm, all right then. I really am sorry, Hahli."
Maku asked if she would help her practice kohlii.
"I don't really feel like it right now."
"You don't think I feel it too? She wasn't just your friend, Hahli. We all feel it. At least I'm trying to do something with myself."
One by one they came and each was turned down. Hahli continued to lay and stare.
With the final knock, her pent up emotions burst forth. She stormed to the door, and opened it saying, "What do you—?!" She stopped short upon seeing her visitor. "Jala? Why... what brings you here?"
"Turaga Nokama summoned the Guard," the Ta-Matoran answered. "She just wants some of us to keep an eye on your friend for a bit, make sure things are safe here."
Hahli nodded. "I see. Well, I hope your stay goes well. Now, I, um... I have things to do." She began to close the door, but Jala caught it.
"No you don't," he said, gently reopening the door. "I've heard the others talking. You haven't done anything. You just sit in your room all day. You don't get out, you don't say much."
"I'm just tired, Jala," Hahli said. "Now please, just go on."
"They're worried about you, Hahli," Jala said. He laid a hand on hers. "I'm worried. I know you're losing someone dear to you, and... I'm sorry. I want to help you."
"I don't want to talk about it," Hahli said, anger rising again. Even towards Jala? He was one of her best friends. This wasn't normal...
Jala backed away and nodded. "I understand. If you need anything, I'll be around. And... I know it's odd, but I want you to have this." He reached into his pack and pulled out a small retractable knife, the kind he often used himself, and offered it to Hahli.
"What is—?" she began, then realized his intentions. "Jala, no. I can't..."
"It may not be safe, Hahli. I know it's hard, but please... we don't know what might happen. We've lost one of you to him; don't let us lose two."
Hahli's sighed in resignation. Without a word, she took the knife and closed the door.
Hahli lay awake on her bed that night, eyes open, but unseeing. The endless swirl of thoughts still churned in her mind, never ceasing, never letting her get any rest. The knocks had stopped coming after Jala's visit. For that, she was glad. No more distractions...
Something crashed outside her hut.
Hahli's eyes glanced around nervously, landing on the knife Jala had given her. It lay on her bedside table, glinting in the moonlight that came in through her window. No, she thought. It's probably nothing. Just the wind, maybe a Rahi. If it comes in here, I can protect myself.
A dull groan followed by a snap came next. Hahli sluggishly moved out of bed and moved to her door. She opened it slowly. What—?
Something slammed against the door, knocking Hahli back. She sprawled on the ground, catching herself with her hands. The thick leaf floor bounced with the impact. A figure slipped calmly inside the door and closed it.
"It's kind of pathetic, really," the thing said.
"You put me in a cage, but you think I'm powerless?" It laughed. "You forget what I can do. One blow from one of my tarakava, and it was simple to get out. So kind of you all to leave the cage so near the water."
"What do you want?" Hahli said, rising carefully to her feet.
"Not much," Makuta said through Kuni. "Mostly for you Matoran to stop meddling. Why can't you just stay where you are, where you belong? What is there for you below ground..."
"That was a mistake!" Hahli said. "Kuni never meant to go there, let alone find you. It was a harmless mistake."
Makuta chuckled. "Even so, why should I pass up such a golden opportunity to spread chaos? Perhaps end an existence... or two."
It came for Hahli then, hands reaching for her neck. She caught them with her own, struggling to grapple with her attacker. "Kuni, stop!" she cried in desperation.
More chuckles. It pulled back, breaking Hahli's grip, then came rushing back in a crouch. It tackled Hahli's midriff, and kept running. Such strength! It ran with Hahli over its shoulder and slammed into the wall. Hahli lay slumped against the wall of her hut, disoriented from the impact.
The thing stood over her. "Part of me regrets this, Hahli," it said. "Needless loss of life and all that. But just imagine the kind of statement this will make! Matoran lost to shadow, kills her old friend. Imagine the horror, the fear... Yes, that would keep you all docile, wouldn't it?" A fist came down on Hahli's head. She grunted in pain and threw up her hands to ward off further blows.
"Help..." she said weakly. She tried to move away, to reach the door, to escape.
"Is that all you have left?" Makuta said, grabbing Hahli by the throat and lifting her up. Hahli could see the eyes in the moonlight now. Green. Kuni's eyes. But they were filled with hate once more, with malice. Such emotions never dared to reach Kuni's eyes.
She is gone.
"Go on, little Matoran," Makuta said through Kuni's mouth. "Cry for help, see if anyone comes. Or at least try." The grip tightened, and Hahli found herself gasping for air, hands clawing at the one that held her, seeking release.
And she did try. Pitiful attempts at forming words were all that she managed. Hoarse squeaks that would have been inaudible outside of the hut.
Is this how it ends? she thought. Slain by the hand of my friend, an instrument of fear for the Makuta...
Mata Nui, how can this be?
Her eyes flitted madly about the room, searching for something, anything to get her out of this. Moonlight was still streaming in through the window.
It glimmered on something near.
Hahli reached out a hand and grasped the handle.
Not like this...
She hit the button and extended the blade. Her lungs begged for air.
Before Makuta could realize what was happening, Hahli shoved the blade into her attacker's chest. The eyes went wide in pain and shock, and Hahli could not help but see her friend's pain in them. Then a primal yell, louder than anything she had heard before, escaped its mouth, forcing Hahli to cover her ears as she was released. The scream was terrifying, but Hahli thought she could hear another sound, a softer voice within its depths.
Makuta staggered back, staring at the knife in its chest. Hahli thought she could see something dark and wispy leaking from the wound.
Makuta ripped the knife free. It growled, then screamed again, this time in rage as it lurched toward Hahli. Its energy seemed to give way halfway through the motion, though, and it stumbled toward her, arms falling low. Hahli caught the falling form, still wary.
The trail of darkness vanished from Kuni's body. The body lay still for a moment, and Hahli was unsure of what to do, what to feel. She felt Kuni's head stir gently on her shoulder. Her head lifted just enough so that their eyes could meet. Kuni's eyes were empty of the rage that filled them only moments before. This was... her. The Makuta's presence was gone.
"Kuni," Hahli said. Had her friend come back, only to die in her arms?! "Kuni, no, I'm so—"
"No," Kuni said weakly, eyes drooping. "Do not be sorry. Thank you."
Kuni's eyes closed.
Hahli held her limp body close as the door burst open and Matoran peeked in, curious to see what the noise had been all about. Hushed murmurs filled the air as they saw Hahli cradling the now-lifeless body of her best friend.
Hahli sat on the beach, several kio away from Ga-Koro. She stopped weaving her ropes for a moment to look out at the sea, at the waves rolling in. The tide was coming in.
She heard footsteps from behind and looked to find Jala approaching.
"The others said you wanted to be alone," he said, "but I had to come see you. I had to be sure... sure you were okay."
"So what if I am or not?" Hahli said, returning to her weaving. "What would you do for me?"
Jala was silent for a moment. "I don't know," he sighed.
Hahli stood and faced him. "That's right," she said, tears threatening to rise again. "You can't help me. No one can. She's gone. And I killed her..."
Hahli broke down then, falling forward. Jala caught her, and he held her, and it all came out. Stories of before, of the centuries Hahli had spent being friends with Kuni, the things they did together. Then the full tale of how this had all come to be; Kuni going missing, then found again, only to be irreversibly lost.
"I'm sorry," Jala said when it was all finished. "I'm so sorry. But you can't stop living. You don't have to forget, you don't ever have to stop missing her. You just have to keep living. She was glad for what you did. She told you herself! What you did for her was... it was the only way for her. Even so... I can't tell you how much I wish it hadn't come to this."
Hahli said nothing; she only stood, sobbing. Then she said, "If only I had been stronger. I could have saved her..."
"Hahli..." Jala said, taking her chin and bringing her eyes to his. "You did save her. She was beyond healing, but not beyond saving. And you saved her... from a fate worse than death. You freed her, and protected yourself at the same time. You never stopped being a true friend for her, Hahli. You never left her side. Not really. At least remember that."
Hahli seemed to relax in Jala's arms. Her sobbing slowed. "Then why does it still hurt so much...?" she whispered.
Jala gently pulled away and looked her in the eye. "You know, they're having the remembrance ceremony tonight. The entire village will be there, even Matoran from other villages. We all feel the loss. And even though we've lost someone dear to us, we all know that we don't want to be driven back because of it. You said that Makuta meant for this to drive us back in fear? Well, tonight we'll show him. Show him that what he used to try and make us fearful will instead make us stronger and braver than ever before. We'll never stop fighting, because of people like Kuni. We won't stop fighting, and we won't stop loving each other. We remember and honor her if we keep fighting. If we keep... living." He reached down and took her hand. "Come on. Come back to the village with me. Let's remember her. Together."
Hahli nodded and walked with Jala along the beach toward Ga-Koro. They spent the night with the rest of the island, not in mourning, but in celebration of a life well lived. Tales were told of Kuni's life, her adventures on the island, and the things she did for her fellow Matoran.
All knew that she had been strong indeed, Hahli most of all.
You will always be in my heart, Kuni. Until the very end.
Edited by Kookie, Apr 09 2017 - 02:33 PM.