It took some time before Puaura’s legs were strong enough to walk more than just a few steps. But in time, she was able to shuffle around with a cane. What’s more, she was even able to swim again, and each day after they finished working on fixing up the old resort, she joined Ahio in the clear blue waters.
Now that Puaura knew the truth, Ahio felt more relaxed around her. The three of them were almost like a family now. Almost. Although Puaura made it clear that she still loved him, he simply couldn’t bring himself to be romantic with her, like they once were long ago. Not while he was in another man’s body.
“But how will you ever get your body back?” asked Puaura, dismayed. “Tangaroa’s curse was binding for a lifetime.”
Ahio pressed his lips together. “Then there is only one thing to do,” he said after a moment. “I will have to find Tangaroa and beg him to switch us back. After all – this was not my wish.”
And so, he made it his mission. Whenever he was not needed on land, Ahio swam around the the ocean, scouring the depths, hunting for the god of the sea. As the months sped by, he began to grow discouraged. Maybe Tangaroa was nothing more than a myth passed down by the elders. But then…how had he ended up in this body? Some powerful supernatural force had to be responsible.
Then one day, while following a shark, he came across a small cavern he’d never seen before. As he swam closer, he noticed something that made him gasp. There, hidden in the algae, was a small, ancient wooden box. How it hadn’t rotted by now, Ahio did not know. The box seemed to be vibrating, like a living creature. As Ahio swam toward it, the water around it began to feel heavy, as though he were swimming through a thick sludge. Something – or someone, did not want Ahio to open the box. Which only made him want to open it more.
The moment his fingers touched the wood, he felt it. A ticking sensation – not from within the box, but deep inside him, like a second heartbeat. He had found the treasure of Rongo! Grasping the lid with both hands, he tugged it open. A mighty current pushed him up and away from the box as the lid sprang open. A small golden orb rose from within. When it was directly across from Ahio, it stopped, and burst open. And in its place swam a strange, tailless merman, with skin as pale as a fish’s belly.
“Thank you for freeing me from my prison,” said the merman. “I have been in there for many, many years.”
Ahio gaped. “Your prison? But who…who are you?”
The merman’s eyes shone black like obsidian. “Don’t you know?” he asked in an amused tone. “My name is Tangaroa.”