It was now some days since the abortive raid on the Rocky Outcrop village. Ahu had still not returned and Ahuahu was hurt that she had given no indication to him that she had planned to leave.
Luckily the loss of two men and injury to several others in their village had apparently been sufficient for the Rocky Outcrop village and they had not bothered their village again, even keeping away from their fishing grounds.
Hi’ilei was still in much pain from his wound to the shoulder. Haimona treated him, setting the bones back into their right position whilst Hi’ilei bit down on a tapa cloth wedge. Ahuahu who was with him, thought he had passed out but in talking to Hi’ilei, there would be occasional grunts of answers that meant nothing except that he was still conscious. When Haimona had done all he could and strapped his arm to his body, Ahuahu put Hi’ilei’s other arm around him and help him back to his hut where Hi’ilei’s wife Kiri waited patiently for them. She suggested he stay with them until he had found Ahu again. This he agreed to do.
The village was in mourning and the wives of Maranu and Kapaka who had been killed in the fighting cut their faces with the sharps edges of sea shells to mark their grief at the funeral. However Kapaka’s wife Aio did not cut hers so deeply and had help in wounding herself so as to make the scars decorative as she was still young and could hope to marry again. Old Maranu’s wife Hauku however was not so particular and made the blood flow freely but showed no pain whilst using the shell, but called up to the gods to find a place for him.
Ahuahu mainly fished by himself without Hi’ilei but sometimes took a young lad Paikea who was keen to come with him. His heart was not in it, he missed the constant banter from Hi’ilei. As he dragged the boat up the beach that evening he decided to try to find Ahu. So Ahuahu then spent some time asking the women in which direction she had gone on the day of the abortive raid. They were quite vague hardly remembering her leave but thought she may have gone towards the hills. He missed her badly, he needed to touch her and feel the soft roundness of her body near him. He felt bad that she was alone somewhere with little Tangaroa without him to protect them both.
With supplies of dried fish for the journey and Hi’ilei’s family well stocked with food in his absence Ahuahu set out to search for Ahu. He headed west towards the hills and passed through the Fern Gully settlement where they told him there they had just returned after a few days hiding in the forest for fear of reprisals.
Ahuahu then continued high into the hills, having to penetrate the thick bush before the undergrowth thinned as he approached the waterfall gully just before nightfall. Already there were bats in the air seeking their food for the night. Ahuahu sat down on the ground and brought out his meagre provisions and ate the fish and drank from the nearby stream. As the stars in the sky sparkled above him he prayed that she too was looking at them and could feel him searching for her.
Early the next day descending the other side of the hill he sensed her presence as he could just see the coastline far to the east. Had she been here he wondered as he carefully skirted the ngerengere settlement where a few wisps of smoke signalled their presence and a faint mumbling showed that they too were up early that morning talking to each other.
He could see far in the distance the line of the coast to the east and made his way towards it keeping to the higher ground to avoid having to penetrate the thick scrub into which the stream that he was following disappeared. When the sun was high in the sky he had to cross an old lava flow and could hear voices and the smell of sulphur in the air. It was a settlement close to the geyser and the hot springs by the Black Sands village by the sea. He had never been there and the foul smell of suphur gradually became less pungent until he hardly noticed it.
He asked the little children there if they had seen Ahu the girl with the little baby but they merely shook their heads as they stared at the scar on his face. An old man approached him, “Haeri mai” said Ahuahu bowing his head slightly.
“You have not visited us before” the old man said. “Are you looking for someone?”
Ahuahu explained about Ahu and the old man shook his head, “you must ask at the village by the sea.” He said pointing towards the coast. “Many families come in the evening to bathe here. We do not count their coming and their going away.”
Ahuahu thanked him and made his way to the village an easy walk away. Once again the children crowded around him and ran back to their mothers to tell of the stranger. One older woman came up to him. “Haeri mai” she said and Ahuahu responded. “You are Ahuahu are you not?” She asked.
Ahuahu was shocked by her knowing his name. “You know where Ahu is?” he blurted out.
“She has gone to look for you. We heard tell that the men from Rocky Outcrop have taken their revenge for your village attacking them, but did not take further reprisals. So she has gone to fetch you.” Then after a short pause she went on, “If you are still alive,” with a smile on her face.
Before Ahuahu could respond she went on “I should not have told you this but she stayed with me here, so I feel that I know you. The men will confirm it.” Atahai nodded toward the chief’s house. “Pay your respects, have some food then go and fetch her.”
Ahuahu was overwhelmed by the turnaround of fortune. He did as Atahai had suggested and found that Ahu had been a welcome visitor to the village. He reckoned he could get back to his village by Gannet Island before dark. Surely they would be reunited soon.