The six Toa Inika stood on the beach, gazing at the dark water and lost in their own thoughts. Some, like Jaller, pondered the fate of the Mask of Life. Others wondered if the Matoran was telling the truth and there really was a Matoran city beneath the sea. Regardless, the missing mask and deceased Matoran added up to the same thing in their minds.
“Maybe fate random-picked the wrong Matoran to be Toa,” said Kongu. “We failed.”
“No, Toa-hero, you succeeded,” a familiar voice said. “Now you just have to succeed again.”
Kongu and the other Toa Inika whirled in surprise. Coming down the beach, led by Axonn and the six members of the Matoran resistance, were the Toa Nuva. All of them had their Kanohi Nuva masks and their equipment and looked none the worse for their experiences on the island.
“Tahu!” Jaller shouted. “Gali! I can’t believe it!”
“We were afraid you might be dead!” said Hahli. “It’s so wonderful to see you. Now everything will be all right.”
“Toa are hard to kill, you know that,” said Pohatu Nuva, smiling. “Ask Makuta… if he ever gets out from under that door.”
“Our Matoran friends found us,” said Tahu Nuva, “and freed us from the effects of the Piraka’s zamor spheres. One even offered to forge a new air katana for Lewa. By the way, where are the Piraka?”
Jaller swiftly related the events leading up to the discovery and loss of the Mask of Life. Tahu listened intently, and reacted with surprise to the news that a Matoran civilization might lie hidden under the sea.
“We were trying to come up with a way to follow the mask when you arrived,” said Jaller. “But now that you’re here, you can go with us.”
“Or maybe you would rather we just went back to Metru Nui?” asked Nuparu. Secretly, he hoped the Toa Nuva would brush aside that question. Having tasted the adventure of being a Toa, he had no wish to go back to guard duty on Metru Nui.
The six Toa Nuva glanced at each other. Kopaka nodded. Gali put a reassuring hand on Tahu’s shoulder. Then the Toa Nuva of Fire turned back to the Toa Inika. “I think, perhaps, it is we who should return to the city,” Tahu said. “Take your team, Jaller, and find the mask.”
“What?” Jaller said, stunned. “But you are Toa Nuva – the most powerful of all Toa – and this is your destiny!”
“It is our destiny to awaken Mata Nui from his centuries-long slumber,” Kopaka corrected. “You are fighting to save the life of the Great Spirit, which must be done before he can be returned to consciousness. And that, my friends, is your destiny – not ours.”
“We came to Voya Nui to find the Mask of Life,” said Gali Nuva. “We failed. If it were not for you six, we and the Matoran of this island would still be enslaved to the Piraka… or worse. Don’t you see? Your very existence as Toa is a sign from the Great Beings that you were meant to find the mask and save Mata Nui.”
Jaller didn’t want to accept it, but he knew there was truth in Gali’s words. Where the Toa Nuva had met defeat, his team of Toa Inika had succeeded, at least temporarily. That had to mean something, unless the universe was just playing a cruel joke.
“What about the Matoran here?” asked Hahli. “The Piraka are still on the loose. The villagers are still in danger.”
Tahu Nuva hesitated before replying. He hadn’t thought of that. Back on Metru Nui, the Matoran had the Toa of Light and the Turaga to look after them while the Toa Nuva were away. Here there were no Turaga or Toa to serve as protectors. Should they take the Matoran back with them to Metru Nui?
Before a decision could be reached, Axonn spoke up. “There is no need to be concerned,” he said. “I will remain on Voya Nui and see to the Matoran. We will rebuild their lives here, until destiny says it is time for them to leave.”
Jaller didn’t know what to say. Axonn had been a mighty ally, and the Toa Nuva far more than that. How could he and his friends say goodbye? And with the mask out of reach under the ocean, was there even a point to a farewell?
As if anticipating his worries, Axonn spoke again. “Fear not, my friend. There is a way to reach the undersea realm, but the way is treacherous… and your destination a place of death and despair. But if you are willing to make the journey, my axe can open the way for you.”
This time, Jaller did not look to his partners for their consent. He already knew what their answer would be. “We’ll do it,” he said.
“Then meet me at the Matoran village in the center of the island,” said Axonn. “Your quest begins there.”
The goodbyes between the Toa Inika and the Toa Nuva were short and simple. Hands were clasped, words of encouragement exchanged, and assurances were given that this was not the last time they would see each other. When the time came to part, Tahu Nuva said: “Go now, Toa Inika. As Matoran, you showed courage and heart as great as that of any Toa. As heroes, you have proven yourselves worthy of joining the ranks of the greatest in legend. We will be waiting to greet you when you have fulfilled your destiny.”
Axonn stood beside Tahu Nuva as the Toa Inika walked away. When the six new heroes were lost from sight, the mighty guardian turned to Tahu and said: “They are gone. But I do not need to be wearing the Mask of Truth to know you lied to them.”
Tahu kept staring ahead. “Where we have to go, they can’t follow. What we have to do, they cannot be part of. And you know it.”
Axonn nodded. “Do you think the Toa Inika will succeed?”
Tahu Nuva turned away. “I think they can count themselves very lucky if they survive.”
A short time later, Axonn joined the Toa Inika in the center of the Matoran village. “This is the beginning,” the guardian said. “And Mata Nui will help see you through to the end.”
He unlimbered his axe and swung it at the ground twice, thrice, four times. His blows tore through soil and rock until he had dug a great pit. The floor of the pit was strange white stone. Axonn raised his weapon once more and threw it into the hole, smashing the white stone to bits and revealing a passage beyond.
“Your route lies through there,” Axonn said as his axe returned to his hand. “It will take you to the city beneath the sea and the Mask of Life… but take care, Toa. The ocean is home to many wonders, and many dangers… to figures of great courage, and some so evil that even the Order of Mata Nui could do nothing but banish them below.”
One by one, the Toa Inika climbed down into the pit and vanished into the darkness. Axonn watched them go, not sure what he felt more – fear for the Toa, about to face horrors beyond imagining… or fear for the fate of the universe, if they should fail in their quest.