Turaga Uren stood in the middle of Tedra-Koro's square, looking up at the sky as he had very often over the past few days. Though he tried to assure himself that the Toa Tedra were alright, he still could not suppress the worry that flittered in his heart. He sighed as he turned back towards his home.
"A watched Kanohi never hardens," he muttered. "Then why is it so hard to resist staring?"
The sound of an airship caught his attention and whirled around to see a familiar sight cresting the island's mountain. The Kleria was coming in quickly, and the Turaga's eyes lit up with delight. He set his feet towards the harbor, where the island's landing strip lay, and prayed to the Great Spirit that the Toa had come to no harm. By the time Uren had reached the harbor, a veritable crowd of Matoran had already gathered there. As he made his way through the crowd, he watched as the walkway was lowered from the side of the ship. Onric was the first to emerge from the ship's interior, followed shortly by Koth and Tivari. Uren looked on in earnest and breathed a sigh of relief when he saw Lestra and Cedrak descend together.
"Turaga, we're back," said Onric, as he approached his elder, "and we've brought back our brothers."
Uren nodded in approval, before a confused look crossed his face.
"Brothers?" he asked.
Onric motioned to the craft, and a new figure appeared in the doorway. A collective gasp ran through the crowd as they all recognized the Toa of Air standing there. The Toa descended the ramp and approached the Turaga. He bowed before his elder, before speaking.
"Turaga Uren, it's good to see you again," he said.
A smile grew across the Turaga of Stone's face as he returned the bow.
"The same to you, Rysavy," he said. "Come, we must plan a celebration, for the return of, not one, but two of our heroes."
A cheer rose from the crowd as they made thronged back to the town. Rysavy looked up at the sky and said a silent thanks to the Great Spirit.
"It's good to be home," he thought.
He looked up and saw a line of clouds coming in from the north. He felt through the wind and smiled as he recognized what they were.
"Snow clouds!" he thought. "Oh, Lestra's going to be ecstatic. She loves snow."
The stars shone down on the village of Algiren as Nianga stared out the window of her temporary home, gazing at the night sky. She had come with Taiyu and Tsonclad to their old village, slipping through the MERAH's portal and landing on the snowy mountainside. Negurin's directing had been good, too good in fact, as the portal had opened just outside the village gates, and the three of them had been met by the sight of four battle-ready Toa. However, upon seeing their old comrades, the Toa had put away their weapons and welcomed the two Toa of Ice with open arms. She had quickly been introduced to the others, Zonerri, Pralen, Nerin, and Vehya, and it was not long before they were all sitting in the village's dining hall, telling tales of the past eighty years. Nianga chuckled.
"Our adventure began telling tales around a table," she thought, "and so it has ended."
The thoughts of adventure turned her thoughts to Taiyu, and a pensive frown crossed her face. It had been three days since the battle with Yuniro's troops, and neither she nor the Toa of Ice had brought up what had happened that night.
"And so," she thought, "I sit here awake again, wondering if he said what I thought he said, or if it was just my mind telling me what it needed to, to keep me awake."
She lowered her head onto her crossed arms and sighed.
"Now my own head is playing mind-games with me."
The sound of footsteps caught her sensitive ears. She looked up to see the back of a Toa rounding a corner just down the street. She paused for a moment before stepping out into the cold. She followed the figure, until she found him sitting by one of the village's many fountains.
"Hello, Nianga," he said, without turning around.
"Hi Taiyu," she replied, sitting next to him, "what brings you out here?"
"Tsonclad and Zonerri have had a bit too much Madu rum," he replied, "and they're getting rowdy. Neither of them have the best singing voices."
Nianga chuckled, imagining the pair of them. A moment of silence passed before she spoke again.
"Taiyu, during the battle, when I was wounded…did you say what I thought you said?"
He turned his face towards her.
"What did you think I said?" he asked.
"That…that you loved me."
Taiyu sat silent for a moment, Nianga growing more nervous with each passing second. Finally, he lowered his head, and spoke.
"I did, Nianga," he said. "I don't think I knew it at first, but during those weeks aboard Devichon's ship, you stirred something in my soul. Only when I was taken away did I realize what it was. I love you, Nianga. I…I only hope you feel the same way."
Nianga sat still for a moment, tapping her claws together.
"Taiyu, I –" she stammered. "I can't tell you how long I've been waiting to hear that, but now that I have…I can't help thinking we're making a mistake."
Taiyu's head shot up, and he looked at her with a very puzzled, very fearful look on his face
"What do you mean?" he asked.
With that, Nianga launched into her story, telling him about her past, leaving her island in shame, her life on Zora Nui, first as a dancer, then as a thief.
"I…know what you must think of me now," she said.
Her eyes began to water as she continued.
"Not only was I a criminal and a miscreant, but I'm everything you're not. You stand tall and strong; I…look like I crawled out of a cave. I don't know how you could ever love someone like me."
"Nianga," said Taiyu, "look at me."
The Naxan turned towards the Ice Toa, and he took her hand. As he did so, she felt a shiver run down her arm.
"Nianga, I've never seen a Naxan. Before I lost my sight, I'd never left my home village. I may not have functioning eyes, but it seems sometimes I see things that others miss. And do you know what I see here? I see a woman, strong and full of courage. Someone who was thrown the worst the world had and strode through it with her head held high. And I don't care if you think you're a criminal, or ugly, or anything like that. I fell in love with you without the slightest idea of how you looked or of your past. It never mattered to me, and it still doesn't. No matter what happens, the only that matters," he placed his hand over her heartlight, "is right here, and that will always be beautiful to me."
With that, Nianga, who had been on the verge of tears, was pushed over the edge. As the tears fell from her eyes, Taiyu gathered her up in his arms. She clung to him, as though she was drowning at sea and he was a piece of driftwood. And though her tears continued to fall, Taiyu placed a hand beneath her chin and raised her lips to his own. As they shared their first kiss, sitting beneath the stars, Nianga felt a warmth growing inside her that she had never known before. It filled her through and through, and she never wanted it to end.
At last, they broke apart, but their foreheads remained pressed together, their breath turning to mist in the space between them. Nianga opened her eyes and stared at the Toa she loved, and though his eyes were sightless, they spoke of a love deeper than she could ever have dreamed of.
"Taiyu," she whispered, "I love you."
"I love you, too," he replied.
"Rhenton?" called a perplexed Negurin, as she stood inside Rhenton's shop, having just come from the MERAH. "Where are you?"
"Up here!" came a call from above her.
She then noticed the ladder that leaned on the back wall of Rhenton's office and led to a hole in the ceiling. Climbing up the ladder, she emerged onto the roof of the building. She looked around to see Rhenton laying on his back, staring at the sky.
"Stargading?" she asked, laying down beside him.
"Indeed," he said, "it's much prettier in de country, but it is still quite lovely."
He turned towards her.
"Much like you," he said, smiling.
"I'm prettier in de country, den in de city?" she asked, a look of mock confusion on her face.
Rhenton laughed as he moved to wrap an arm around her shoulder. He paused.
"Do you mind?" he asked.
Negurin smiled and pulled his arm around her, resting her head on his upper arm. The pair of them turned their attention skyward again. Negurin sighed.
"Well, I looked into de mysterious venom antidote," she said.
"Well, dat's what's so strange. No one seems to know anyt'ing about it. Not de infiltrator squad, not de scientists, nobody."
Rhenton turned to look at her.
"Den where did it come from?" he asked.
Somewhere in a port city of Jhameika, a shrouded figure could be seen flitting though the docks. By this time of night, anyone not required to be awake was sound asleep. The figure stopped at a certain tavern. Testing the door, he found it unlocked and swiftly went inside. After shutting the door, he turned around and saw a single figure sitting at a table, a single lightstone casting eerie shadows about the room. The figure at the table motioned to the newcomer. When the being at the table spoke, his voice sounded unspeakable ancient and full of wisdom, yet there was a subtle edge to his voice that made the newcomer hesitate.
"Come, come, don't be shy," he said. "I can assure you, you are in no danger."
The newcomer came and sat down, throwing his hood from his head as he went.
"You do remember our bargain, don't you?" he asked.
The other figure chuckled.
"Of course, Yasec, how could I forget?" he said.
The Menirun reached into his pouch and removed a small package. He pushed it across the table towards the other being, who promptly picked it up. Untying the string that bound the cloth around it, he was greeted by a telltale glow, that lit up his face and the rest of the room.
"And now, for the second part," he said, rising from the table.
Before the figure could react, Yasec had leapt from his seat and pulled something else from his pouch. He held it up for the figure to see.
"Dis is a bomb," said Yasec, "an energy bomb dat targets antidermis. Try anyt'ing funny, Makuta, and you're not'ing but a puff of smoke."
A laugh leapt from the Makuta's throat.
"And what purpose would I have in invading your mind?" he asked. "I may have no qualms about kidnapping innocent bystanders or leveling entire islands, but I never break my promises, Yasec. You should know that."
The Makuta closed his eyes, and Yasec could feel a presence enter his mind. He kept close tabs on it, making sure it only saw what it needed to see. At last, the presence removed itself, and the Makuta opened his eyes.
"Thank you, Yasec, you've been a marvelous help."
With that, he moved to the door and opened it for the rebel leader. The Menirun moved towards the door, pausing at the entrance for a moment.
"If you don't mind my asking, just what is so special about dose Toa dat you had to engineer dat whole prison escape?" he asked. "Surely dere are oder, more willing Toa who would do whatever you wished."
The Makuta smiled.
"You of all people should know that you should never judge a disk by its decoration," he said, "and you should also know that there are some things best left unsaid. Farewell…King."
With that, the rebel leader bowed to the Makuta and left the tavern. As the Makuta turned and made his way back to his own room, he smiled.
"Oh yes, Yasec, you will be king, and you will get to rule this pitiful land, for a while. But with one more Crystal of Catastrophe in my possession, I am this much closer to fulfilling my part of the Plan. The name of Makuta Oriles will be forever renowned as the greatest mind to ever grace the Makuta race. We will rule this world, and when you see what we will do, you will have only yourself to blame."
Well, this is the end, and I just want to thank TasumiDreamer and InTheLight1396 who have reviewed almost every chapter.
As for what you'll be seeing from me in the future, I've completed the next story arc in my Road Rovers fic, Neo Rovers, as well as a series of short Kingdom Hearts stories. These will going up over the course of the summer, while I work on rewriting my first big story, Scourge of the Visorak, and finishing a sequel to it. I plan to have them both done by August or September, but nothing is set in stone.
So, thank you all for reading my story. Any and all reviews are welcomed.