The path to the ruins of Tillian's former home, a home away from home to anyone who ever stepped inside, was one full of memories. Memories good and bad, memories that brought joy, and memories that brought sadness. There was the spot that the Po-Koro Guard landed, just before Tillian's wedding, and the path they took to reach the festivities. There was the alley that he and Haru had moved through so quickly, so desperately, to get their friend to the hospital. So many conflicting emotions filled the region, for each memory of pure glee, one of utter despair was there to match it.
The De-Toa could see that something had changed the moment he rounded the corner, when he was still a long way off. He could see the ground covered in flowers, each one matching a different portion of Emotia's armor in color. He paused for a moment, as the comparison leaped to mind. It was odd; that wasn't the connection he would normally have drawn, but at the same time, it was true. Each one was a living tribute to the Toa that had lived there, a Toa ripped from the world too soon.
He had still been in Po-Koro when he heard the reports. Nothing official, no, there was no notice for that. It had been an accident that he knew. A sailor mentioned that Tillian's home had burned to the ground. He hadn't heard the rest of the conversation, but it hadn't mattered. The same day, he'd written to the Marines to try and find the truth.
When it arrived, he immediately wished that he hadn't. Emotia had been confirmed dead by one of the Arete, perished in the same fire that destroyed her home. That was the same night that he'd ventured into Po-Koro alone for the first time in weeks. He could tell that Hari hadn't understood when he said that he needed to get out for a while, that she couldn't understand why he wanted to be alone. And when his initial shock and grief faded, he'd felt guilty. Even he could see that she'd been hurt, hurt because he wanted to be alone and he wouldn't tell her why. She'd never asked, and he'd never explained, and he knew that he should have.
He'd tried to get in contact with Tillian next, but to no avail. Naona was unable to track him down either, it was as if he had vanished from the face of the island. Weeks of quiet grief passed, not a single one of them able to leave the village long enough to go to the Village of Water. Things had been busy, far too busy, for that. It had taken them all too long to find the time to pay their respects. They should have found the time right away, they should have made the journey as soon as they found out, and Hewkii's reforms be ######. But they hadn't. They'd waited.
As he grew closer, he could make out the figures in the distance. An unfamiliar Le-Toa speaking with another of the same, a familiar Ba-Toa and Po-Toa huddled in the ruins of what had been their home. As he grew even nearer, he could see a third Le-Toa resting against Tillian, and-
In the Gukko Force's basic training, significant emphasis had been placed on honing the reflexes. A single second, they said, could be the difference between success and defeat. Recruits entered the training with abilities ranging from decent, to stellar, but all left faster than they entered. The officers in charge would time their reactions, urging the recruits to beat their previous times. The last time that he was there, Krayn had taken roughly a second to transition from a walk to a run, and two to change to a full sprint.
He didn't know how long it took him this time, but if his trainer had been there, it almost certainly would have been twice as fast. His coat fanned out behind him, his pack beating against his pack with every step as he moved forward with the utmost speed, but he paid it little attention. The unfamiliar Le-Toa, a doctor, by the look of her, noticed him first. Her eyes went wide, and she stepped into his path, opening her mouth to speak, but she stopped short.
Krayn was no longer in front of her. The instant she'd moved, so had he. And he was faster. A single push with his right foot had sent him towards the side, flying diagonally past her at speeds rarely reached by the unaided Toa. The low barrier of what used to be the home's outer wall was vaulted in an instant, no attention paid to the opening to the left, and there was a quiet impact as he tossed his pack aside, and slid to a stop.
Tillian jumped, a quiet curse flowing from his mouth as the De-Toa appeared, but no attention was paid to him, either. Without waiting for his breath to return, Krayn brought two fingers of his left hand to the side of the unmoving Ve-Toa's throat, while the first two fingers of his right went to her wrist. Her pulse was present, if a little slower than normal. Without a word, her swiveled his head, ear a few inches above her chest as he listened intently. Yes, she was breathing, and at a steady rate.
"There's nothing wrong with her, Krayn. Not really."
The voice sounded from behind him, and hesitantly, he turned to face it. It was the doctor, but she wasn't so unfamiliar anymore. He couldn't quite place it, but he knew her. "She's fine. Just tired, The flowers were her doing, and in all honesty, she used a bit too much of her element making them. But she's fine. She'll wake up as soon as she's properly rested."
After a long moment that consisted entirely of a silent staredown between the two, Krayn relaxed slightly, though one wouldn't know it to look at him. Remaining silent, he sank into a sitting position next to his pack, just a yard or so from where Hari rested. For several minutes, he remained that way, simply sitting, a silent sentinel against any threat, perceived or real. But finally, he reached for something attached to his backpack.
He didn't know how long she'd been comatose, and he dared not ask. But it was irrelevant to the true mistake, the true failing; he hadn't been there. He hadn't been there when she found out about the death of her friend, he hadn't been there when in her grief she used too much of her power. And where had he been?
He'd been in Le-Koro, of all places. While the people he cared about where gathered to grieve and reunite, he had been elsewhere. He had been in Le-Koro, subjected to another round of verbal abuse. He'd been in the place where no one cared, where he didn't matter. When he needed to be here, he was in the polar opposite location. When he should have been with the people who mattered, he was with the people who didn't give half a Mahi dung. And that was a horrible thing.
His hand closed around what he sought, pulling it back to him. A battered, old instrument rested across his lap. It had clearly seen better days, its finish was worn and faded, the varnish of its neck long since worn away by countless uses. The guitar had been one of the things that he had stopped home for, one of the things he brought with him. Like so many other things, it had been neglected for far, far too long.
When his hands began to move, the sound was unheard by those around him. His problems, his past, his being.... He could understand it now. He could understand his mistakes, what he should have done, and when he should have done it. But he wasn't ready to share that understanding just yet. Not with them, at least. There was only one person that could hear, though in her state, it was hard to be certain if she could hear anything.
"All this feels strange and untrue.
And I won't waste a minute without you."
I've wasted far too many of them already.
"My bones ache, my skin feels cold
And I'm getting so tired and so old."
"The anger swells in my guts.
And I won't feel these slices and these cuts.
I want so much to open your eyes.
Because I need you to look into mine."
There was too much that he'd never explained, never tried to explain. Things he should have told her, things that, left unknown, kept her away. Kept her from understanding why he acted as he did, why he'd sometimes revert to a perfect stranger. A distant, reserved spirit hiding behind the guise of someone she knew. So many things that he'd been too cautious to say, so many things that he should have said.
So many mistakes. They needed to be fixed.
"Tell me that you'll open your eyes.
Tell me that you'll open your eyes.
Tell me that you'll open your eyes.
Tell me that you'll open your eyes...."
First of all, song wasn't made up by me. I'm not nearly talented for that. That would be the Snow Patrol's "Open Your Eyes", recommended by a Mask we all know, who made the unfortunate mistake of providing a song that acted as a roadmap for this post. Sorry buddy.