The world is vast. It is filled with mysteries many sought to unravel. Yet as tenacious as humans have been in seeking the answers to all of the world’s—and life’s, by extension—mysteries, there are some that will be left unanswered. And then there are those things that people do not know and would never have thought existed—mysteries that would have forever been hidden and unknowable—had things happened differently, or did not happen at all.
Somewhere hidden in the farthest corner of the southern pole, away from the ever constant change, the hustling and bustling of modernization, was a small village within the borders of the Southern Water Tribe. Nia Bayou. The Bright River. It was a village forgotten by time. A place filled with overflowing spiritualism. The people of Nia Bayou worship the spirits and all they represent. They are also known as protectors and guardians of the most powerful being in the world: Raava…or, at least, the human incarnation of the said being, the Avatar.
The Avatar. No one outside of Nia Bayou knew of her existence. If they had, they thought of her as nothing more than a story, a legend, a myth. But legends and myths are merely stories—real and true stories—whose truth have been lost and twisted in retelling over time. While some may question the Avatar’s existence, the people of Nia Bayou knew otherwise.
The Avatar was alive. She was real. And she lives at a compound known as 'The Hallowmount' that lay near the outskirts of the village. Though she lived with them, she was not with them. People revered the Avatar like they would a god and kept her at a polite distance. It did not help that she kept to herself as well, often in meditation inside her hut, communing with the spirits day in and day out.
That particular day however, when all seemed calm and the Avatar was in deep meditation, she felt a disturbance in the air. She couldn’t quite wrap her head around it. All she knew was the spirits were agitated. They were troubled and restless. Something was stirring; something was up.
Being the bridge between humans and spirits, and the reincarnation of the Lord of the Spirits, the Avatar felt it was her responsibility to see what was wrong and fix it. And so she meditated even harder, trying to pinpoint the exact location where the commotion was coming from.
Seconds passed by which turned into minutes before the Avatar opened her eyes, gaze unwavering and glowing in an ethereal hue. She had found the information she had sought. She knew what needed to be done.
For the first time in her sixteen years of existence as the human reincarnation of Raava the Lord of the Spirits, the Avatar was going to leave the Hallowmount and Nia Bayou.
There are, perhaps, dozens upon dozens of words that could describe the heart of the United Republic of Nations. Many would call it a melting pot of belief and cultures. Others would simply find themselves speechless and at an awe of the largest, most modern, metropolis in the world where automobiles, mopeds, and airships are widespread and abundant; where high-rise apartments, tall buildings, and skyscrapers dot the city’s skyline.
It is a place surrounded not only by the advancement and sophistication of an urban city, but by nature as well. A mountainous region separated it to the north from the Earth Kingdom whilst the large body of water that is the Mo Ce Sea lay to its south.
For one young engineer and promising inventor, however, a word that best described Republic City was: home.
Asami Sato had lived in the city for years now—ten years, to be exact—having left her hometown when she had been accepted to the prestigious Great Republic University. Still, she always found herself in awe of how different and beautiful the nights were when the gas-lit streetlamps illuminated the way, fireflies hovered and danced around the city park making it seem as though the stars themselves were fluttering and within reach; or how despite the constant traffic of people and automobiles there was still a sense of peace, order, and calmness, an aura of something beautiful and inexplicable—like something spoken of in stories, passed on as some fairytale.
That particular night, however, was different. The well-known prodigy—ranking first in her class, and having the highest percentile grade in the shinning history of the Great Republic University—did not bother to look out of her dorm room window with wistful thoughts. Today was the deadline for her dissertation—the final requirement needed for her to graduate—and although many who had read and reviewed her work would say it was flawless, the promising, young inventor still wanted to make sure that it was perfect even if it meant cutting the submission really close.
She was so deep in work, brows furrowed in concentration, that she didn’t hear the door open and close. Nor did she notice she was no longer alone until a voice spoke behind her causing her to almost fall off her seat and knock down her mug of already-cold coffee.
“Asami, what are you still doing here?” her friend and roommate of six years Opal Bei Fong was surprised to say the least, though upon seeing the prodigy’s reaction quickly apologized and added, “I thought you’d be at the University submitting your papers.”
Opal Bei Fong was the first friend Asami had made after being admitted to the University. The youngest of the Bei Fong Clan—renowned for being a family of law enforcers—was a year younger than Asami, and the only reason they had met was because of a gala Hiroshi Sato had held in honor of his daughter’s acceptance to the prestigious school.
Lin Bei Fong—Opal’s aunt and head of the security detail Hiroshi Sato had requested—had brought her niece along and had introduced the girl to the Industrialist, who then introduced her to his daughter. And although their interests didn’t align (Opal being more inclined to literature, history, and the arts whereas Asami was into the intricacies of machineries and tinkering with her inventions), the two quickly became friends.
“I will be once I’m certain there are no errors or misprints in them. I have to make sure there aren’t any mistakes that may pass me off as an amateur.” Asami replied as she righted herself and began fixing the papers that had been scattered about.
Opal couldn’t help snorting, “And the dozens of other times you’ve been checking and rechecking your thesis just doesn’t cut it? Honestly, Asami, give it a rest. It’s as perfect as it will ever be and you and I both know that no one in their right mind will ever think of you as an amateur in your field with the way you obliterated every single tests that they threw at you. Besides, you won’t be able to submit it in time if you don’t go now.”
The engineering prodigy’s brow furrowed, “What are you talking about? I have plenty of time. It’s only—” she turned her gaze to the orange glow of the numerical clock that sat on her desk to supply Opal with the time. Her eyes widened and she all but sputtered the words out as she spoke, “Eight-thirty?! That…that can’t be right!”
But Asami Sato knew that the clock did not lie. It was the most accurate of all the clocks in Republic City—maybe even the world. And she would know, she was the one who made it after all, as a project during her second year of study.
A whirlwind of activity soon ensued as Asami hurriedly began to arrange her papers inside a brown envelope, stuffing things up in her bag, and readying herself to go out. Opal, although finding the situation somewhat comical as well as a recurring event (this, after all, was not the first time Asami Sato had failed to notice the time and had to rush in order to compensate for it), helped. As soon as she was certain she had everything in order, the Prodigy rushed out of their dorm room with a shouted thanks to Opal. The younger woman could only shake her head and chuckle softly.
Six years and she still hasn’t changed much.
As with all the nights that have long passed and all the nights that would be, Republic City’s nightlife was bustling with activity. There was a different kind of atmosphere during the night that the people of the city take advantage of. A different kind of energy. Asami had to duck and weave her way through the crowd, foregoing the notion of using her moped. The Great Republic University was not that far, and with the current state of traffic she was certain she’d get there quicker if she ran than if she made use of any form of transportation.
The closer Asami Sato got to the University, the quieter the surroundings became until all she could hear was her own footsteps and the hushed intellectual (other times, not so much) discussions being carried off by the wind from the few students lingering around. As she made her way to the Engineering Department’s main building, Asami found herself exchanging clipped greetings with the others from her own class. It was only when she had reached the halls leading to the Department Faculty Offices that Asami stopped jogging, fixed her hair and her outfit, and walked as casually as she could allow herself towards Professor Noatak’s office.
As the promising, young engineer and inventor stopped in front of the door leading to Professor Noatak’s office, she took a deep breath to steel herself. She enjoyed the professor’s class and respected him for his extensive knowledge in his field. She wasn’t even bothered with speaking to the Professor, per se. No. Asami Sato was more conscious around said professor because of his connection to her father. Professor Noatak, after all, was a very close friend and confidant of her father’s and the one who had backed Asami’s application to the University—not that Asami Sato needed a backer. Her credentials alone were enough to win the University’s council many times over.
Before Asami could knock and let her presence be known, however, the door to the professor’s office opened from within and she found herself face-to-face with a surprised Professor Noatak.
“Miss Sato,” Professor Noatak quickly recovered himself as he stepped out of the room and closed the door behind him. “Do you need something?”
“No, sir.” Came Asami’s reply, backing away from the door as she took the neatly packaged documents from her bag and handed it over to the professor. “I came to submit my dissertation. I was rechecking it and I failed to notice how late it was. I apologize.”
Professor Noatak smiled as he accepted the package, tucking it under his arm.
“No need for apologies, Miss Sato. You can relax, you’ve made it in time with—” the professor paused to look at his pocket watch before continuing, “—three minutes to spare. I say you have a new record. Now, since you’re already here why don’t you accompany me to the Garage? I am pretty sure there are some people there who are more than interested with this study of yours and would be quite happy to meet you.”
‘The Garage’ as the student and faculty of the Great Republic University called it, was the factory where top engineers, architects, inventors, and scientists from the University worked in bringing about new technologies—whether it be in the form of a new automobile, a weapon, or a way to ease the everyday burdens of the common man. No one without the proper clearance was allowed to set foot in the Garage. Even Asami Sato, who has been in the top of her class since she first started in the University, had only heard rumors from the other students and stories from her father and had never seen it for herself.
So when Professor Noatak invited her to accompany him, Asami could only stare and gape at him. This amused the professor.
“I’d appreciate an answer soon, Miss Sato. The clock is ticking and I would like to be done with this as soon as possible.” Professor Noatak said, his voice stern but the twinkle in his eyes told a different story.
“Oh, r-right,” a nervous laugh escaped the student’s lips. “I would be honored, Professor. I think anyone would be. I mean, it’s the Garage.”
The professor grinned at her enthusiasm. Gesturing for her to follow him, the teacher and the student walked towards the factory on the basement level of the department building. All the while they exchanged intellectual ideas for projects, theories on all subjects related to their field (including the topic Asami broached in her dissertation), and then some more.
When they got to the Garage, Asami’s jaw practically dropped. It was everything she imagined the secret haven for the world’s biggest and brightest scientists, inventors, architects and engineers would be.
The ceilings were high. Higher than one would imagine it to be, considering where the factory was. There were several levels in the Garage that housed several metallic rooms. Each of those rooms, Professor Noatak had explained, had teams of inventors, engineers, scientists—all the top of their respective fields—working on one project or another. Some, he said, put time and effort in making new forms of transportation. Others were researching on new types of weapons. The bulk of them, however, Asami was told, were occupied with developing new power and fuel sources. When Asami pressed the professor about it, Professor Noatak clammed up saying that it was a top secret project that even he had no clearance of.
The esteemed professor gave Asami the grand tour as they made their way to the center of operations to drop Asami’s thesis to the people anxiously waiting for it. By the time they were done, it was well-past the University’s curfew and Professor Noatak had led her right back at the Engineering Department building’s main foyer.
Professor Noatak needn’t ask what Asami thought of factory, her face had been alit, filled with wide-eyed wonder. Even now that they were already outside of the Garage, her excitement was still infectious that it made the professor from the Northern Water Tribe smile.
“Thank you so much for the tour, Professor.” Asami had to contain herself from gushing. “It was an incredible experience. The stories don’t do it justice.”
“I’m glad you enjoyed yourself, Miss Sato. It would have been rather problematic if you hadn’t. You’ve already done us a great service with that paper of yours, and I know you will continue to make the University—and your country—proud in the near future. I, after all, can see you as a great addition to our team down there.”
It took a while for Asami to understand the implication of Professor Noatak’s words, and by then all she could do was stare at him in shock. It shouldn’t really come as a surprise to her. She was, after all, one of the brightest minds of the age. But she was stunned. And as she left the building, there was a huge smile on her face. She couldn’t wait to tell her father and Opal about the promise of working at the Garage.
She walked down the front steps of the Engineering Department’s building, humming a happy tune. The prospect of the future—a future she had worked hard on, with her own hands and using her own merits—was bright.
As Asami stepped through the strolling gardens of the University on her way back to the dorms, a sudden wind blew, whipping her hair around. The streetlights all died out in unison, blanketing the park in darkness with only the fireflies, the stars, and the light of the full moon for illumination. There was a sudden chill in the air that was not there before. A chill that Republic City shouldn’t be experiencing that time of the year.
There was also a deep silence that Asami had never experienced. Despite the wind blowing, it was not howling, nor could the rustling of the leaves from the trees surrounding the garden be heard. The Lizard Crows that normally populated the garden, singing their own tunes, were also eerily and inexplicably silent.
Though baffled by the events that had transpired, Asami was far from afraid. She was, after all, quite capable of defending herself, having trained in a number of martial arts and self-defense classes at her father’s insistence.
Asami’s senses heightened as adrenaline pumped through her veins, her mind throwing her one scenario after another as she stood in the middle of the strolling gardens. She didn’t know how long she had been standing there, eyes scanning her surroundings, ears perked for any sound that may prelude danger. It felt like hours—though it probably was just mere minutes—before she heard a strange sound, like a soft jingling of a distant bell.
Quickly turning around to the direction of the sound’s source, Asami carefully followed it to the edge of the garden, right where a gazebo stood surrounded by a small lake that overlooked the University’s main building.
Asami had expected there to be some sort of small bell hanging on the gazebo as part of someone’s elaborate prank, or perhaps some other plausible explanation that her mind failed to concoct at the moment. What she saw, however, was not something she would have ever come up with by herself.
For the soft jingling and jangling sound didn’t come from a bell, but from a dark-skinned, young woman whose long brown hair was styled in a wolf tail, wearing some kind of tribal outfit.
In a person’s life, there are many events and encounters that can hold a great deal of significance. Chance encounters with people are like that. Asami Sato did not know it then, but that meeting—that fated encounter—was going to be an important one; one that would set into motion events that would change not only herself, but the entire world as well.
But for the moment, all Asami could do was let out a gasp of surprise. Not because of what the mysterious young woman looked like (for Asami couldn’t even see her face. The stranger had her back turned as she looked at the University’s main building) or what she wore, but because of the fact that the said young woman was standing in the middle of the lake, feet touching the water but never sinking.