The other Toa arrived after several minutes of patience. Gali had wanted to ask more, but knew that it would just cause Ternian more pain to have to explain herself twice. So she waited until her brothers were assembled.
Ternian started to speak, then stopped. She had spent almost the whole time she had waited in trying to find a way to say what she needed to, but she still couldn't. Eventually, she gathered herself and spoke.
“You all know the truth now. What I did, and why my team is... no more. There is nothing I can do but apologize for not telling you myself. I tried, Mata Nui knows I tried, to tell you. More than once, I almost did, but I couldn't... bring myself to tell you...” She bowed her head, eyes tight shut, and lowered her voice to almost a whisper. “...I just wasn't strong enough. I couldn't admit what I had done, that I... Mata Nui, I ended their lives, destroyed them, as surely as if I had sent them all to Karzahnii.”
She was silent for a few moments. Then she continued, eyes still averted, but voice deceptively steady.
“There is a clear question now. What will you do now? I can't take back what I did, but you know this: I am not worthy to be guarding the Matoran. I cannot allow them to continue to entrust their lives to me; not anymore, not when I have already failed my own team. I have endangered the Matoran too many times with my mistakes. The best thing for them is that I leave—in one way or another—so I don't make any more wrong choices.”
“Then you are afraid?” challenged Tahu. To be honest, he wasn't sure what to think. He really hated it when his reality was turned upside down.
Ternian met his gaze evenly. “Yes, I am.” she said quietly. “I am afraid that I will fail them also. I can't—I won't—put any other persons life at risk again because of me. I did it again with the Nui-Jaga; if not for me, the scorpions would never have found the protodermis—never have mutated—and would not have endangered so many.”
“It was not your fault any more than it was my own.” Onua interjected. “In my opening of the cave where you were, the shifting of the ground made it easier for the Nui-Jaga to escape. Does that make it my fault? No,” he answered himself before Ternian could speak. “It was an unfortunate coincidence of circumstances, or Fate, or the working of the Great Spirit for some greater good, for all we know.”
“You can't run from responsibility.” Pohatu added. “The Great Spirit entrusted you with this Duty; he knew who you are, and the kind of choices you would make. There's a reason for it.”
“It is not because of what you did. It is only that you didn't tell us, and that can be forgiven,” Gali finished gently.
Ternian watched them. Look at them, she thought. Novice Toa, and here they are trying to help me. She started to speak, then stopped and simply turned away toward the treeline to leave. But her departure was cut off by an unexpected voice.
“Is this what your team heart-wanted you to do? What Wenalhi heart-wanted when you true-promised him that you would keep the Matoran ever-safe?!”
It was Creala. The tall Matoran stepped forward, eyes gleaming angrily. Ternian whirled around and stared at her friend as though she had been struck. Maybe she felt she had been. Then the Toa's eyes narrowed. “My team is gone,” she said coldly. The plantlife behind her vibrated in agitation.
“So that makes it true-fine for you to give up on your Duty-work?” Creala shot back, “To decide that it's not cost-worth it to keep hard-trying?” She glared back at the Toa. Even though she as tall for a Matoran, and the other was short for a Toa, then Ternian was still over twice as tall as her. But Creala didn't waver.
Nether did the Toa Rema. “You've seen what happens when I try! I get other people hurt! I can't allow that to continue, not anymore. I'm just putting other people in danger. The safest thing for them is that I stop, I can see that now.”
“You can't clear-see anything!” Creala exclaimed. Then she paused for a moment, not out of hesitation, but because she didn't want to say something that she would regret. There was a stunned silence before she spoke again. “You can't clear-see,” she said, slightly calmer now, “that the true-reason you're hurting others is that you're fast-holding onto what you did wrong in the past. You hurt others by hurting yourself.”
Ternian stared at her old friend for several moments. Then she turned away and began to walk toward the treeline.
Creala stepped forward and caught hold of the Toa's arm. Ternian didn't turn to look. “You would really try to stop me, old friend?” the Toa of Plant-life said in a dangerously quiet tone.
The Le-Matoran placed herself in front of the Toa of the Green and forced her to look at her face. “I would.” she stated. “I can't quiet-let you leave. You heart-owe a Duty, and you can't ever-turn your back on it.”
Ternian looked at Creala for a long, long while. Then she quietly said, “I need to be alone.” Her voice was ragged, uneven, and cracked. Without another word, she lept straight into the air, past the Matoran barring her way, and dashed forward.
There was a long silence. Then Creala slowly shook her head and turned away from her best friend.
Ternian continued walking through the thick woodlands. Usually, she enjoyed being among her element, but the greenery around her didn't comfort her. They know now, she kept thinking, they know everything that I did... Mata Nui, why didn't I tell them myself?! The thought continued to echo through her mind as she traveled. But something else was bothering her; the Toa Koto hadn't... they hadn't seemed angry at her. Why weren't they? Her mind insisted. Then she shook her head. If they weren't mad at her for what she had done, they clearly didn't understand what she had done. No one can understand. I destroyed them, destroyed them all, Karz it, why—
Her thoughts were cut off as her mask activated, and she narrowly avoided running headlong into something blocking her way. Something tall and imposing, with gleaming red-and-gold armor and a great Kanohi Hau over its face. “I told you,” she said, instinctively backing away from the Toa of Fire who had circled around and was now blocking her path. “I need to be alone.”
“That isn't an option,” Tahu replied firmly. “I'm here to tell you what, evidently, you can't figure out by yourself, OR understand when your closest friend tells it to your face:” He made a sharp slashing motion with his arm to accentuate his point. “You're being stupid.”
“What?” Ternian was taken aback by his direct words. “You know what I did; I can't guard the Matoran now. I destroyed my own team, and I need to pay for it. I was deceiving myself to think I could start over and put my past behind me.”
“So, you decide to waste your own life because you decided to put your teammates in a place you thought they would be safe?” Tahu retorted heatedly. “That. Is. Stupid.” With each word, he took another step forward.
“You want to know what's 'stupid'?” Ternian shot back angrily, hunched over as though about to wrestle him aside. “What's 'stupid' is that my team is gone when I wanted to help them. What's 'stupid' is that I wanted my team to be safe, so I put them in danger! What's 'stupid' is that I claim to be a healer when I bring so much suffering on others! It's...just....Karzahnii!” She turned away angrily, only to find the Toa of Fire barring her way, his blue eyes blazing with flames as fierce as the fire he commanded.
“Any Ta-Matoran can tell you that when you get knocked down, you need to get back up again. No one's knocking you down but yourself. No one's blaming you but yourself. If you want to talk 'stupid,' that's it! Wallowing in self-loathing and pity and ooh, I'm such a baaaad person, I don't deserve, meah meah meeeaaah isn't helping anyone, just putting them in more danger; something you swore not to do. So for Mata Nui's sake, and for theirs, snap out of it!”
Ternian's eyes flashed at that. She continued to glare at him for a few seconds, then averted her eyes, and Tahu could see that his words had struck home. The fire in her eyes slowly went out. “All right.” she said, voice hardly audible, “For the Matoran's sake. I owe them that much.”
“Good,” Tahu said. He motioned for Ternian to follow him back to the group. “Come on; we have a job to do.”
He turned and started walking, not looking back to check if she was still there. He heard a hesitant silence, then slow footsteps behind him, following him back to the Toa Koto.