The Two-Hour Death Bargain
Hirirai soared above the forest below on green angel-like wings. The forest was vast, but tall trees that Kusurai had made earlier guided him through. After the edge of the forest, less conspicuous burn marks had been made by Kakirai.
He would get to the village and then begin to destroy it with his power over Air. Maybe afterwards, the Matoran would give up rebuilding and go back where they came form.
Suddenly Hirirai noticed one of the marker trees ahead was far taller than it should have been. He carefully avoided it, looking back to see that it indeed was still growing. He might have thought it was abnormal if he hadn't smashed into a second marker tree, equally tall and still growing. He fell quickly and tried to create an updraft to save himself.
But then a hand of mud erupted from the ground and snagged him by a wing. Hirirai cried for mercy. And then the mud hand dissolved and he dropped to the ground before three Toa.
"That was pathetic," muttered the Toa of Plantlife. "Now you're going to need to answer some questions for us, and then we can let you go."
Hirirai shrugged and decided to give the Toa what they wanted. "What questions?" he asked.
"First of all, why can't we, as originals, stay on the island?"
"I-I honestly don't know. I just know that you will all die, all of you, if you stay much longer on this island. Nizarhka, the one who attacked your village yesterday, knows more about this, but he won't tell us."
"We are the twelve Rai. We come from an island northwest of here, but we were taken away by a Makuta... I don't remember much. But now we control elements, and look different than the other members of our species."
"So we were right," muttered Gyotaren. "They're Ayomeii natives, mutated by...the Brotherhood of Makuta?"
Feyain shook her head. "Not Makuta," she said. "Well...nah trilly."
"I really wish you made sense when you talked, Feyain," said Gyotaren, and then turned back to Hirirai.
Feyain glared at him. Then she turned to Onathei, who glared at Gyotaren in turn.
Hirirai noticed the Toa distracted in their own disagreement and took the chance to get up and launch a few pointed feathers from one of his wings. He supported them with a gust of wind and they lodged into the Toa's armor. The damage was minor, but it had been enough to leave them cringing in pain, giving him an opportunity to escape.
Hirirai took flight and perched himself on a tree branch. He created a powerful downdraft and clouds of leaves blew down onto the Toa. He stripped bare a good section of the forest, and buried the Toa under leaves and tree branches. All the while he made sure he was acting quickly enough that the Toa were always a step behind him, still dealing with his last attack as he carried out his next.
Then with more gale-force winds, he uprooted several of the marker trees and put them upside down in the ground around the gigantic leaf pile, their pointed tips piercing the ground like spears. They were placed closely together, creating a tall cage around the leaf pile.
Satisfied with this, Hirirai left on foot (for one of his wings had been injured by the Toa's trap, and with no reason to hurry, he preferred not to fly and damage the wing further). It was a few hours, but he was able to follow the burnt grass to the village. When he passed a bush, Kakirai and Kusurai jumped out of it and joined him. It was only a few minutes to the village from there.
And yet when they arrived, the Toa were already there, standing confidently at the village gates.
"So these are three of the mighty Rai," said Onathei mockingly. "Are you all this stupid?"
"You fell for such a stupid trick," added Gyotaren. "And you haven't even realized it yet!"
"What trick?!" demanded Kakirai immediately. His fire aura turned on, perhaps unintentionally, and it crackled quietly.
"How are you here? I trapped you!" added Hirirai.
"It was a simple, simple, trick," said Gyotaren. "You made sure that no one could escape from your trap. You blocked off escape from the sides or the top. But you forgot about the bottom."
"The ground should've stopped you..." said Hirirai, his features contorted in distress and confusion.
"I'm a Toa of Earth," he said. "I moved the earth around us and created a tunnel. Then I resealed the hole, and had the earth push us through the tunnel and out, far faster than you could walk or even fly."
"That's where I came in," said Onathei. "Being a Toa of Plantlife, I was easily able to grow and kill grass, making you follow the wrong path. I led you to the village, but took you a long roundabout way. We've been back for a long time, preparing for you three to show up."
The three Rai said nothing. Kakirai and Kusurai just glared at their winged partner who had allowed such a simple trick to be played on them. Then Kakirai and Kusurai shot each other a glance and bolted.
"Go!" cried Feyain, running after them. Gyotaren joined her.
Meanwhile, Hirirai ignored his partners' betrayal, jumped into the air and supported himself with an updraft. Then he increased its power, and with a few flaps of his non-injured wing, he was able to propel himself (albeit crookedly) several hundred feet into the air.
From his vantage point high above the Matoran village, he created a large tornado in the center of the village. Controlling it expertly, he began smashing huts to pieces.
In all this, Onathei was not simply watching. He had charged into the village and begun evacuating Matoran. He could already see that the damage was too great, happening too quickly this time. The village would not survive, but Onathei had decided that the Matoran would.
Onathei was grabbing Matoran with vines that he launched from various points on his body and using the vines to drag the Matoran to safety. He looked like some kind of many-tentacled mutant, but it was a welcome sight to the Matoran he saved. Even as he did so, he was calculating. There were only about a hundred Matoran, and he could take about ten at a time... Each trip took roughly a hundred seconds back and forth, if he ran. Assuming he got tired and slowed down a bit near the end, Onathei decided that the longest this could take would be twenty minutes.
But the tornado would be finished with the village long before that, perhaps in another five minutes. And then the Matoran would be completely exposed, and there would be no guarantee that no one would get hurt.
So what was the solution here? Obviously one of the variables needed to be altered so Onathei's task could be finished quicker. He couldn't change the number of Matoran or the speed he ran at. So all that left was changing the number of trips; bringing more Matoran with him on each trip. In order to finish in five minutes, he'd need an additional twenty Matoran per trip... But that was simply impossible. Ten was the most he could carry. He simply wouldn't be big enough.
If only I was Gyotaren, he thought. Then I could go faster. He has a Kakama.
Suddenly it dawned upon him. His mask power could be useful in this situation too, and maybe tweak a variable. But first he would need to figure out what it was...and that didn't help much in this situation, when taking a break to try and figure out what his mask power was would end up in Matoran dying.
All through this thinking, Onathei had been working along, trying not to think that a whole village of Matoran was about to die unless he figured something out in the next several seconds. If only I was bigger, bigger than the tornado, bigger than the village, I could just scoop the Matoran up and carry them away...
Onathei thought about the dragon that had set the village on fire not too long ago. He didn't know how it looked...but he had a very active imagination. It would certainly be big enough for the job. I wish I could be that dragon right now...
And his wish came true. All at once his limbs shifted and grew. He sprouted wings and grew a long tail. And from there he just kept growing. Surprised by this new occurrence, Hirirai got distracted and allowed himself to fall to the ground. Then the tornado began raging out of control, with Hirirai having lost his focus on it.
Onathei, now in the form of a gigantic dragon, scooped up the remaining Matoran in one hand and put them down safely on the ground. Then by batting his enormous wings, he created a controlled wall of wind. The tornado smashed into the wall repeatedly, but could not pass, and eventually it simply dissipated into nothingness. The wall of wind blasted forward and away, sweeping away everything left of the village.
Then Onathei returned to normal size and shape, his mask glowing with light and warmth. Hirirai lay on the ground nearby in a state of shock, breathing heavily.
"This is why you don't underestimate a Toa," called Onathei with a big grin on his face. He had no idea what had just happened, but he believed that he had discovered his mask power... Onathei knew of no Mask of Shapeshifting, but he had heard of the Mask of Illusions which could effectively allow him to shapeshift--that must have been his mask power. Seeing Hirirai trying to escape, his thoughts were interrupted. "Hirirai, you destroyed our village, and you'll pay for that."
"P-pay?" said Hirirai, halting in his tracks.
Onathei nodded. "You may have stuttered, but I didn't." Barbed vines shot from the ground around Hirirai and wrapped themselves around him tightly. The winged mutant screamed in pain as the thorns on the vines pierced his armor and released poison into his muscle tissue. After leaving their venom, the weeds quickly wilted and died, falling to the ground uselessly.
"I'd say you have about two and a half hours to live," said Onathei casually.
"What?!" demanded Hirirai, rubbing his arm where a particularly deep wound was bleeding energy profusely.
"I just poisoned you," he continued. "The poison is in your muscle tissue, in your energy veins, and after a once-over through your circulatory system, you'll be dead. I'd say within two and a half hours, the poison will have reached too many vital points of your body and you will succumb to it. Also, about a half hour before that, you will be too far into the process to be helped."
Hirirai grunted and clenched his arm muscles, assuming a fighting stance.
"I can create an antidote, easily," said Onathei. He created another vine, this one near him, which sprouted a blue bell-shaped fruit. "But you've made me very angry. So I won't be exactly willing to help you... If you help me out, though, I'll let you live." He tossed the fruit high into the air and caught it with his other hand.
"State your terms," he said.
"Lead me to this 'Nizarkha' guy. I have a feeling you know where he is, and I want to have a word with him. So I'll give you this antidote as soon as I see your leader."
Hirirai's eyes widened. "But! It'll take way longer than two hours to get there! I'll die on the way!"
"I can stretch out the time you have by giving you a little bit of the antidote. That way, you'll still be under my control without necessarily dying in two hours. In any case, your time is running out. Are you going to help me? Or are you going to die?"
"Wait, wait, wait," said Hirirai, smiling a bit hesitantly. "A Toa never intentionally kills an opponent. You're bluffing."
"Maybe I am," said Onathei with a confident smile. "Heh, but if I'm not, you'll spend half an hour in utter agony, with nothing to look forward to but for death to relieve your pain. And for those thirty long minutes, you'll wish more than anything that you had listened to me. So, whether or not I'm bluffing, I think we can agree that it's in your best interest to do what I say."
Hirirai was not about to allow himself to be outsmarted by this foolish Toa. Two could play at this mind game. "You're willing to put yourself through that?" he said. "You're willing to have the Matoran disrespect you for going against the Toa code? You're willing to have your friends abandon you because you killed an opponent? I'm not bluffing. If I die, you will become completely and utterly alone. For the rest of your life. Is that a risk you're willing to take?"
"Hm," said Onathei, his demeanor changing. As he began to speak, his tone was tragic and laden with pain: "I hope those vines weren't poisoned. They might have hurt poor Hirirai... Maybe even...dare I say it...killed him... But...I know you guys will understand. I didn't mean to hurt anyone. It was just...an accident..."
Hirirai was silent for a second. "...Fine. You win. Let's go find Nizarkha."
"I knew you'd come through for me," said Onathei with a satisfied grin, leaving the site of the destroyed village as the Matoran scurried to create temporary shelters to replace it.
"I haven't 'come through for you' at all," Hirirai muttered under his breath. "You have no idea what you've gotten yourself into."