Kainak’s call caught Julie’s attention first by a couple of milliseconds before the rest of Manti’s search party. It was a common thingie, and she believed their relationship had something to do with it. In any case, she knew it was him, and that something had happened. So she watched him walk into the village ruins, carrying the person on his shoulder like a firefighter carrying someone out of a burning building. And even though she was too far away to see his face, she knew he had a shit-eating grin just by the way he waved, his tone of voice, and how he casually strolled on in.
She got up and ran up to him, leaping into his arms. She didn’t know why she did that, but Unaki’s frowning glare must’ve subconsciously changed her mind, and she rubbed it in with a smug look while Kainak still held onto her. She watched Unaki glaring at them while she walked over to everyone, carrying a basket.
“What happened?” Manti asked, walking up to Kainak and Julie. He saw P’li wasn’t moving. And he felt his heart beating faster than it should have.
“He tried to attack me,” Kainak replied, and told them about what else happened with P’li and the researchers. Disappointment without surprise crossed the Chief’s features. It wasn’t so much that P’li had joined up with Unaki that was bothering him, but why P’li had the gall to attack the outsider learners and even Kainak when it would have been smart to stay here.
“I just had to take care of some monkey business,” said Kainak. “He really aped the apes.”
“No puns, Kainak,” Manti interrupted, although judging by the Jungle Dude’s toothy, shit-eating grin, he didn’t regret it one bit, and might have more ready to use. Still, Manti looked down at P’li’s still form, completely knocked out by the haoles’ tranquilizer darts. “When will he wake up?”
“I don’t know,” Kainak replied.
“Make sure he doesn’t try to run when he does wake up,” said Manti.
“Yes, sir,” Kainak replied. He was and had been a loyal Teo for the past several years, no matter how much certain people within the tribe didn’t like it or told him otherwise. That included taking direct orders from Manti. “But I’m not killing him.”
“Fair enough,” said Manti. “But, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Unaki!”
Unaki almost jumped 10 feet in the air. She came down, finding everyone awkwardly and unhappily staring at her, especially Huli and Kainak.
“Explain this right now,” said Manti, as he was her biggest worry. “Do you know why he attacked the outside learners? Was he acting under your orders? Do you think he did this on his own?”
“May I answer one question at a time?” Unaki asked.
“You’re already on… Kainak, what is the term? Thin…”
“Thin ice,” Kainak answered, remembering the times he used to play hockey outdoors in The ‘Peg before he gave it up like he wasn’t a true Canadian.
“Thin ice,” Manti said, “You are on thin ice, little cousin. We can still let you go if you agree to do so, but if you try anything, we’ll be on you faster than a big cat on a weak deer.”
Unaki gulped. She sensed they weren’t kidding around. She didn’t even have to guess; the warriors all had their weapons pointed at her, and Manti’s tone was enough. Unfortunately, the tiny voice in her head that sounded like a mix between her and Oranta, that had been bothering her the entire time the Teo had been here, started up again. She tried to shoo it away, but it kept coming back, insisting that she make the situation worse, by, in its own words, “KILL MANTI!” Oranta had a history with him, but being power-hungry might have been the real reason she wanted to either kill him or turn him into one of her monkey slaves.
“Unaki! Answer! NOW!” Manti wasn’t playing around. He gestured to two of his warriors, and they walked right up to her and grabbed her upper arms, maintaining a tight grip on her. So tight, that it was genuinely painful, and she cried out in pain. They only lessened their grip a little, but it wasn’t enough.
“I grow tired of this, little cousin,” Manti said through grit teeth. “You answer us now, or we’re taking you with us!”
“I didn’t tell him to do anything!” Unaki blurted out. “I looked down, and he was gone!”
“I think she’s telling the truth,” Julie said, but with just enough skepticism.
“I doubt it,” said Kainak.
“What makes you think that, Kai?” Manti asked.
“My gut,” he replied, “And he did tell me he did it for love. Okay, maybe he could’ve done it on his own.”
“Can we ask him?”
“Let’s see,” Kainak said. He kicked P’li in the gut. He stirred a little bit but stayed asleep. “Two tranquilizer darts can take a lot outta you,” he said, “Even after a couple of hours. P’LI! WAKE THE FUCK UP!”
P’li stirred again. He was still groggy when he began to open his eyes and was probably a bit weak from the stuff, as he couldn’t sit up with Kainak’s bare right foot not even pressing down on his chest, but keeping him in place. “Kua’pua’ua? Is that you? How come you don’t look like a pig-bat anymore?”
“Hey P’li, who told you to attack the haoles?” Kainak asked, keeping P’li from looking at Unaki.
“You did, Kua’pua’ua,” he answered.
“That must be a powerful drug!” Manti laughed.
“If he is that drugged, then it is doubtful he can say anything of use,” said Unaki. “If he points to me, then you should not trust him.”
“And if he doesn’t?” Hilo asked. Unaki refused to respond, apparently seeing his point or something like that.
Unaki remained silent. She looked conflicted from the outside, as far as Julie could tell from her expression. But she also noticed that she kept looking at her like she was a squatter in an abandoned Beverley Hills house. Or something like that, because she’d never squatted in a house in the affluent parts of LA. She didn’t need to. She tried to think of a better analogy for Unaki’s glare, and then she remembered how some people in Westwood stopped and stared at some dude in a nice suit who happened to have the wrong skin color. Must be how some dude from South Central feels when he goes to Beverley Hills or Westwood… Or Santa Barbara. That made her cringe and hold herself tighter.
She awkwardly looked away, and at Manti. It looked like he wasn’t aware of Julie’s white guilt. Although he wasn’t unaware of her discomfort very long, and he noticed how uncomfortable she looked. It didn’t take long, just a glance to his right, to figure out why she was uncomfortable.
“Something wrong with Huli, little cousin?” he asked.
“No,” Unaki replied.
“She is the problem,” said Unaki. “These haoles come to the island, acting like the pay own it, and then those two people play pretend like pale haoles are the best at everything.”
“I agree those two are strange,” said Manti, “But hatred of haoles is no excuse to kill them.”
“Just you wait!” Unaki spat. “They will keep coming. They will steal our game, treat us like beasts to be stared at, bring more sickness, weapons, and machines until all of us are dead. I was doing you a favor.”
“Pigshit!” Kainak replied.
“Did Oranta teach you this?” Manti asked.
“Of course not,” Unaki laughed. “My father knew the threat the haoles were, long before their learners arrived. Their ways are incompatible with ours; they do not belong here.”
Whether her point was valid or not, it didn’t faze Manti and Kainak, as they just stood aside, their arms crossed and the most unimpressed expressions on their faces. But Julie turned and walked away, unwilling, and not wanting to admit that Unaki might have a good point. “You may be right,” Manti said. “But it is no excuse. In the meantime, it seems you have chosen to stay here, little cousin. We’ll be leaving now.”
“Not yet,” Unaki announced. “I have yet to finish what my aunt started, as horrible as she was.” She reached into her basket. The Koa lunged for her, she answered by throwing some powder in their faces. It looked like the power burned their faces or got in their eyes; they screamed, covering their eyes and frantically wiping the power off their faces. Then Unaki threw more liquid at them, and they all backed off of her. Now that Manti and Kainak were right in front of her and no one guarding them, she pulled a leaf out of her basket and painted something on it. Kainak drew his knife and lunged at her. She swiped him with one side of the leaf, and he went down in a heap, painfully holding his leg.
Now she lunged right for Manti and painted something on his chest. Then she started chanting. Manti clutched at his chest and doubled over. “Changing people into monkeys is not my only ability,” said Unaki. “I can—”
Julie’s right hook haymaker connected with Unaki’s left cheek and the monkey witch went down in a heap. Then she pinned Unaki, growling in frustration and finally subdued her.
Holding on to his stiff right leg, Kainak struggled to stand but successfully made his way over to Manti. He collapsed right next to him. The Chief was still clutching his chest and struggling to breathe. Putting 2 and 2 together, Kainak took a piece of cloth and wiped the mark Unaki made off of the Chief’s chest. Then the pain left the Chief’s face, and he gingerly sat up with his warriors’ help. He walked over to Unaki. He glared at her, and she shrank against the glare.
“I’ve had enough of this,” he said. “I wanted to let you go, but I see you’ve made your choice. You’re coming with us.”
“I’ll go,” she said, “Please, I don’t want to die.”
“You should not have attacked me,” he said. Gesturing with his head, he watched as his warriors pulled her up off the ground.
“You will have a fair trial,” said Hilo. “But, I cannot guarantee your innocence.” He gestured to the other warriors to follow him, and they led Unaki, and carried P’li, out of the village.
But Kainak and Huli lingered. Noticing this, Hilo turned and spoke, “Is there something wrong, Kainak? Do you want us to leave you behind?”
“Is there something wrong, Huli?” Kainak asked,
“One moment,” Julie said. She walked over to the edge of the bluff overlooking the ocean, the wind sipping her hair and outfit about, and stood overlooking the water for a few moments. Then, she sucked in her breath and screamed. She screamed so loud that she disturbed some birds on the shore. Her scream did faintly echo off the water, but it was mostly lost, except maybe to some sailor a couple of miles out, if the sound didn’t fade, or sound worked like it would in movies. Eh, it was possible her scream could travel that far with the tunnel effect the trees made.
Her scream finally died down, and she collapsed to the ground. She screamed again, this time while pounding the dirt and cursing everything; the village elders, Oranta, the dirt, the trees, that stupid bird that just sat there doing nothing, Hilo—he looked genuinely hurt when she shouted his name, and Kainak had to console him, although both seemed to know it was indeed in the heat of the moment and she could be forgiven for releasing whatever anger she’d built up—the Greystokian culture, xenophobia, P’li, and finally, Unaki.
When she was finally finished, she sat up and pulled her legs up to her chest. Kainak saw that now was a pretty good time to talk to her. He looked at Hilo, and Manti’s lieutenant nodded. The Jungle Dude turned back to his mate as Hilo departed. He finally walked over to her at the bluff’s edge and sat down next to her. She was unhappy, as if her screaming didn’t tell him already. So he let her sit that way for the next several minutes until he was sure she was ready to talk. Looking at her again, he could see plenty of regret in her eyes. Regret for what? Staying here?
“Are you alright?” he finally asked, rubbing her back.
“Comic book jungle girls always save the day,” she said. “But this isn’t a comic book, and I’m not a symbol of racist colonialism.”
Uh-oh, self-aware existential sadness.
“I just… I just wanted to help!” she struggled through sobs. “I thought she was a good person. You’d think she didn’t want to be like Oranta. I didn’t want it to end like this.”
“I wish I knew why, too,” he said, wondering why so many of history’s horrible people suffered horrible abuse. There were also people who rose above their abuse, so abuse itself doesn’t turn people evil.
“Kainak, am I an idiot?” she asked.
“No, no, of course, you’re not!” he answered. “You’re a brilliant woman!”
“Be honest with me,” she replied.
“Are you sure? I don’t want to hurt your feelings.”
“Kai, we gotta be honest with each other,” she said.
“You know I love how friendly and all-loving you can be, and how much you want to help people,” he said, “But in this case, I think those all blinded you to the reality of the situation.”
“Godsdammit,” she said to herself. She didn’t want to say anything else right now, so Kainak looked around. The village was still in pretty good condition. Maybe only two people were needed to keep it up until other Paea returned to reclaim it or whatever. The right word wasn’t coming to him at the moment.
“Let’s stay here for now,” he suggested. “We can keep the place up until people come back.”
“Really?” she asked incredulously.
“Yeah!” he said excitedly. “I can go kill a deer, bring it back and make dinner while you—”
“I’m not going to do what I think you’re going to say,” she said.
“I was just going to say you could go for a swim at the pool to calm down.”
She stared at him, incredulously for a couple of seconds at most, and then sighed. The Jungle Dude promptly stood up and ran out of the village. Huli looked down at the ocean, noticed the path leading down, and thought ‘fuck it’ before standing up and running down the bluff.