Chapter 1: Meet the Zodiacs
"Focus Korra!" A ball smacked into the young avatar's chest, dropping her to her backside. She groaned.
"I'm trying!" She snapped back, getting up and throwing the ball back at Mako, who caught it with a sigh.
"What's distracting you?"
"Just getting sick of messing up." She muttered as she readied herself once more.
"How about we take a break from this, maybe you and Mako can do a firebending spar or something? Good practice." Bolin stated, stepping foreword. The earthbender was already walking over to where Pabu, his fire ferret, watched. Korra and Mako looked at each other and shrugged.
"Alright, but your next Bolin." Korra stated as the pair got into their stances. Bolin found himself enthralled as always with the near-acrobatic movements of the firebenders, smiling he lounged back, Pabu watching on his shoulder.
"There are days I wonder what it would be like to be a firebender instead of an earthbender." He told the fire ferret, who looked at him and then shook off. As the two sparred, the flames jetted out from every direction, some getting a bit close to the entrance to the training room for comfort. Just as Bolin was about to tell them to get a bit more control, the unthinkable happened.
A girl walked right into the entrance, straight into the path of the fire that was expelled from the sparring benders. She froze up, eyes wide.
"Look out!" Bolin shouted, shooting to his feet in a futile attempt to get to the girl. She screamed and ducked her head to the side, Korra and Mako looked over in horror, everyone expecting the small girl to get burned badly by the expanse of flame when another kid ran in, placing himself between her and the flames, cutting through them as if they were nothing. Everyone froze for a moment as he turned, focusing on the still panicing girl.
"Nepeta, are you okay?" He asked, she let out a shaky breath and wrapped her arms around his neck. As she shook, recovering from the scare, two more teens jogged over, a big, burly boy with sunglasses over his eyes and a girl who stumbled slightly, opaque red shades over her own eyes. Korra, Mako, and Bolin hurried over.
"We're so sorry, we didn't know you were out there, are you okay?" Korra asked as they got over. The girl seemed to have recovered. She shook her head.
"I was stupid walking by a training room when I had no way of defending myself." She stated. "Sorry about the scare."
"No way of defending yourself my rear end, you could have been badly hurt, your gear includes explosives Peta." The other girl stated, looking concerned. "You sure you're okay?"
"Yeah, Karkat saved me." The boy glanced over at Mako and Korra.
"Might be a good idea to keep the extra flame under control when training. You never know when someone'll walk by, and if that fire had caught Nepeta. She wouldn't just be burned, she'd be dead. And likely you'd be in rough shape too." He grumbled, glaring. He stormed off, not even acknowledging the others.
"Sorry about Karkat, he's just protective, and he was scared for a bit there." The still un-introduced girl stated. "You should have heard him run to get to Nepeta when he saw her freeze up."
"Heard?" Korra asked, bewildered. Mako glared at her.
"She's blind Korra. Sorry about her, she's new to Republic City."
"Don't worry about it, a lot of people are like that at first." She stated, offering her hand. "Terezi Serket-Pyrope."
"I'm Mako, my brother Bolin's behind me, and this is Korra, she's the-"
"Avatar, yes, we are well aware." The big guy stated, looking up. "Equius Zahhak. From Ba Sing Se." He stated.
"Nepeta Leijon. Of Republic city." THe little girl grinned brightly and bowed.
"You got over that scare fast." Mako stated.
"Oh, I've had fire thrown at me plenty of times, and that was MEANT to hurt me."
"Fire, rock, ice, water, lightning, and various other items." Terezi stated.
"Only thing yet to be thrown is air."
"And it is not likely that oyu will encounter an airbender as they don't seem to make a habit of leaving Air temple Island." Equius admonished her. "Sorry, Nepeta is very... Excitable."
"Oh, that's a fire ferret! It's just like Kirn!" She stated, pointing at Pabu.
"Yep, he's my pet." Bolin stated. The girl knelt down, offering Pabu her hand to smell, the ferret ran up to her shoulders, causing her to giggle. Equius was blushing with embarrasment. Terezi sighed and elbowed him.
"Equius, can you go find my cane for me? I dropped it when I heard Peta scream and really would like it back."
"Of course." He stated, hurrying back down the hall.
"Don't mind him, he's really prim 'n' proper." She stated. "C'mon Peta, we should get moving, Kan wants us all to go over the routine once before tonight."
"Oh! Right." THe girl stated, handing Pabu back to Bolin. "Thank you for your time, see you at the show tonight!" With that she was off, Terezi taking her cane from Equius and following.
"Show? Most people call it a match." Korra stated.
"Probably a non-bender performing troupe. The troupes tend to get a show at some of the bending matches." Mako stated. "It's rare but it has happened."
"But that Karkat guy must be a bender, he cut through the fire like it was nothing." Bolin stated.
"Maybe he was just lucky, or skilled." Mako theorized. "One way or another, we'll see later."
"Welcome to the next of tonight's pro-bending matches! Up next, we have the fierce Fire Ferrets!" A cheer went up through the arena. "Against the vicious, Lunging Lizards!" Korra found herself looking over at the other team. Two girls and a boy, the exact opposite of her team. A female waterbender stood directly opposite herself, a female earthbender opposite Bolin, and a male firebender, eyes blocked by a pair of sunglasses under his helmet, stood opposite Mako.
"Korra! Watch out for these guys, they're famous for being mercilous." Mako called as the bell rang. Korra immedietly found herself well challenged by the waterbender, who sent long tendrils of water at her without hesitation. Korra quickly retaliated without a second thought, but instead of sending them at the waterbender, she lashed out at the earthbender, soaking the ground at her feet and sending her off balance, Bolin quickly sent her stumbling backwards to the very last zone, smirking as he refocussed his efforts on helping with the firebender, who was drilling Mako with a savage onslaught of flames. Korra set to work on the waterbender, who quickly went on the defensive. But despite her efforts, she found herself knocked right over the platform's edge when Bolin launched an attack at her. With just himself and the now knocked back earthbender on the field, the firebender was obviously getting eager to deal some damage. He launched a ferocious flare of fire at Bolin, shocking him off balance and making him an easy target for the earthbender, who quickly knocked him back a zone. Korra and Mako quickly set to work on the pair, Bolin providing as much help as he could from the back of the group. Korra blasted the firebender back a zone, allowing herself and Mako to advance after him. A rock to the stomach sent him back next to the earthbender, who helped him up before launching an attack on Korra, blasting her back with Bolin. Mako joined them quickly, allowing the two benders to advance. As the two groups launched attacks back and forth, it seemed a stalemate had been found, until, with a decisive blaze of flame, Mako knocked the earthbender off balance and Korra sent her off the platform. The firebender quickly succombed to the onslaught.
After the match, Korra found herself watching the arena, a small group of kids were up on the platform, setting up some sort of pattern.
"The acting troupe's prepping." Mako had told her when she asked him. She sat back with Tenzin in the stands, Mako and Bolin on her other side.
"There's that Karkat kid from earlier." Bolin pointed at the figure, who was bent over, painting the pattern on the platform, a tall, graceful young woman stood next to him. Across the arena sat a boy in a wheelchair next to the waterbender from the Lunging Lizards.
"What's she doing in there?"
"Probably supervising or something. What I'm wondering is what happened to the kid in the chair." Mako stated, frowning.
"I don't know. But it must suck not to be able to do anything. Probably he's healing after some really bad accident." As they spoke the firebender from the Lunging Lizards stepped over the pattern on the platform to speak with Karkat, who stood up straight. A quick shake of the head and a few playful shoves were exchagned before the firebender left.
"You know their names?"
"The members of the Lunging Lizards?"
"I know the guy, he's Dave Strider, his brother's a firebending legend, swordsmaster, Dave's striving to do as good if not out-do him."
"What about their parents?"
"Dead. I don't know what happened but, when I spent time around Dirk, Dave's brother, he said he'd been taking care of Dave since he was 20, Dave was 5 at the time." Mako stated. "The waterbender is Rose Lalonde, she's really skilled, but she had the bad luck of her little brother, 3 at the time, wanting to be an airbender."
"What's so bad about that?" Tenzin asked.
"Not that, the bad luck was, he was impressionable. Some kid on the street told the 3 year old John that, if he wanted to be an airbender, he had to jump off a roof. The wind would catch him." Korra stared.
"He did it?"
"Yeah. Died on impact. Lots of people say Rose is competing for her brother's memory." Mako sighed.
"I know the earthbender. Jade Harley."
"Daughter of the Zoo owner?" Mako asked.
"The exact same one. Jake Harley runs a zoo on the other side of the city, but he's actually one of the most reputable earthbending coaches in the city." Bolin chuckled. "He's also one of the funniest guys in hte city. Jade's got narcolepsy though."
"She falls asleep at totally random times. She hasn't done it in a match yet, but they're just waiting for it."
"Wow." Korra chuckled. Suddenly the lights started to dim. The platform had cleared, and as the lights all went out, the announcer came on.
"Now, for your viewing pleasure, and to give you a break from the usual pro-bending matches, the arena provides you with a treat. The Zodiac Performing Troupe!" Silence descended over the arena, apart from the quiet murmuring of the crowd. Then, suddenly, from the two opposite ends of the arena, two light sourcess came on, one blue, one red, a pair of firebenders. Each knelt, the light barely illuminating them, just enough for Korra to recognize that the firebender with the red flame was the Karkat boy from earlier. They placed the flame on the pattern they'd painted, and the flames spread over the pattern, inside each open space inside the pattern stood a different young man or woman, including two of the three other kids from earlier, the tall girl who'd stood beside Karkat ealier, and a large variety of others. For a bit, the children stood still, silent, music jsut barely perceptible in the background. Then the drumbeat got louder, faster, more insistant, the tall girl from ealier and a tall, lanky boy, each on the opposite ends of the platform, on the middles of the longer portions of the rectangular platform, began moving, pulling water up and over the edges, it glowed in the light of the multicolored flames, while they manipulated hte water, Karkat and the girl who first started each raised a column of flame, manipulating them into shapes, a pair of firey dragons. They sent them into the middle, where they clashed, right over Terezi and another boy, both of whom, aparently firebenders, took control of the now mixed colors of flame, red blue and purple, and sent the massive fire dragon up into the air, transforming it into a pheonix before dissipating it into two streams of flame that swirled around the now rising column of water and ice,, which took up the shape of a sea serpent, resembling the Unagi that inhabits the Kyoshi Bay. Next, in a quick move, one of the still unmoved girls moved, skirts swirling. She spun, removing a pair of whips from her belt, she struck one into each flame creature, that now resembled a different serpent each, which the four firebenders(Karkat and the girl had joined Terezi and the still unnamed boy) made react, twisting towards the girl, who now held two whips dancing with flames. Korra found herself enthralled and on hte edge of her seat as the girl faced down the huge columns of flame without an ounce of fear. A moment later a pair of light flashes headed straight for the two 'heads', each exploding in the face, the firebenders making it rear back. More explosions danced along the flame creatures' bodies, the source. Nepeta Leijon, the little girl from earlier, who basically danced as she sent a few more volleys of her explosives against the creatures. She then jumped headfirst over a path of flame from the still intact pattern, hands finding the floor and pushing her off in a flip the landed her on a patch of rock that raised. She leapt, somersaulting into the water serpent. The upward flow ot the water sent her along it's back ridge and up onto the head. She was completely dry at the top, perching there without an ounce of fear. Karkat and the other male firebender then took full control of the fire dragons, sending them around the arena, right over the heads of the crowd. Korra marveled at the creature as it passed her, earning screams of shock, excitement, and fear from the other crowd members.
By now everyone was moving, the fire-whip weilder lashed out at the water-serpent while the two remaining performers, waterbenders(a boy and a girl) created a spiraling ice slide up the sides of the Unagi-like water serpent. Nepeta leapt from the top, landing with on leg bent, one straight, on her feet, sliding down the spirals, somersaulting over gaps the sent her past water tendrils. Then, Karkat and the other male firebender, rejoining with Terezi and the female firebender, each crashed the fire dragons into the Unagi-serpent. Aparently, while up there, Nepeta has spread explosives of every color through the creature. Gasps and screams sounded and Korra found herself marveling as the creature exploded, sending water all over the arena. The performers nwo all stood, the flames doused, the fire whips no longer flaming, and a good portion of them soaked. There was a moment of shocked silence before the arena exploded in applause and cheers. Korra found herself standing with Bolin, Mako, and Tenzin.
"That was amazing!" She marveled, Bolin letting out a shouting cheer. Flowers were thrown into the ring, the tall waterbender, the other female firebender(apart from Terezi), the other female waterbender, the whip-weilder, and Nepeta all lifted a flower, the firebender handing one ot Terezi. They each raised them in salute, the male benders smirked at each other.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, the Zodiac Performing Troupe!"
Just a short chapter prologuing the introduction to the rest of the Troupe.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
“What’s the matter Avatar Korra, too scared to take on your biggest opponent yet?” The taunting tone Tahno used was infuriating, and as she stood, Korra could practically hear that inner voice of common sense (which sounded irritatingly like Tenzin) telling her it was a bad idea. The haughty waterbender smirked as she met his gaze, opening his arms in invitation to get hit.
Only to have a burst of blue flame hit him dead in the center of his chest. Korra, Mako, Bolin, and the members of the Wolfbats all turned to see the attacker. Standing, blowing a wisp of smoke off the index and middle fingers of her right hand, was a young woman, around their age, with long black hair, glasses perched on her nose, a smirk adorning her face.
“Even if she were, I would have much more fun kicking your butt.” She stated, grinning sharply. Leaning on a wall behind her, chuckling slightly, was a familiar face, the Terezi girl from the other day, whose bright red glasses slipped down just far enough to reveal a burn across her eyes.
“Who the heck do you think you are?” Tahno snapped as he stood, glaring, his team mates coming in behind him for support. Terezi sneered.
“I wouldn’t suggest ganging up on my sister and I boys, you won’t have much fun with that fight.” She stated, smirking. “And as for who we are, Terezi and Vriska Serket-Pyrope, twin daughters of Snowman, members and only female firebenders for the Zodiac Performing Troupe.”
“Any other questions before you hit the road?” The other sister, Vriska, asked.
“Yeah, what makes you think you’re a match for us?”
“Because, we’ve taken on more benders than you at once, and more skilled benders than you.” Terezi stated.
“We’ll see about that.” The Wolfbat’s firebender, Shaozu, stated, positioning himself to attack. Terezi pushed off the wall, standing behind her sister supportively. Vriska’s posture changed ever so slightly, hands adjusting.
But before they could even begin, another voice cut in.
“You girls wouldn’t be starting a fight, now would you?” A pair of teens stood in the doorway, a girl and a boy. The girl was the tall waterbender who had been on stage the night before, and the boy who snickered behind her was one of the male waterbenders.
“Yeah Vris, didn’t you remember our rehearsal in 2 MINUTES?” He sneered, earning a glare from Vriska.
“We were ACTUALLY defending someone, something you’d never do unless it was Feferi, Eridan. And the only reason you’d do that is because you’ve got a crush on her.” Vriska snapped in response, turning to her team-mate.
“Nonetheless Vriska, we have rehearsal very soon. Terezi, I thought we expressly asked you to keep your sister out of trouble?”
“But they were insulting us and our friends Kanaya!”
“Your friends? Do you even know these people Terezi?”
“…sort of?” Kanaya sighed.
“Come on girls.” She stated, as the other three left, Eridan taunting the twins as they went, Kanaya smiled and nodded to the rest of the people in the room.
“I apologize for the trouble they have caused. Have a nice day.”
“Wait!” Korra called after her as she turned to follow her friends. The waterbender turned back to her.
“I was wondering if I could come see your rehearsal, you’re show was amazing and I wanted to see how you do it.” Kanaya seemed bewildered, especially when Bolin and Mako both agreed, asking to come as well.
“Well… we can ask Karkat when we get to the training room we are using. I see no issue in it.” She stated. “Come, let us go.”
“So, where are your members from?” Mako asked as they walked alongside Kanaya.
“Oh, all over really. Eridan and Feferi are from the Northern Water Tribe. Equius is from Ba Sing Se, Nepeta, Karkat, Sollux, Vriska, Tavros, Terezi, myself, Gamzee, and Aradia are all from Republic city. We met here in the city though.”
“Huh, that’s cool.” Korra murmured as they turned the corner into the training room.
A few steps inside another face swung in front of hers.
“HI there!” Korra yelped and stumbled back, bumping into Bolin in her surprise. Hanging upside down in front of her was Nepeta, the girl from the day before.
“Nepeta did I not ask you to stay on the ground until we began practicing?” Kanaya chided the girl, who giggled and dropped to the floor.
“Sorry Kanaya, I just waned to test the wire’s strength.”
“Kan, why’d you bring these three here?” A sharp voice snapped as one of the members shoved through the crowd. It was Karkat, the firebender from yesterday, who’s narrowed red eyes had dark bags under them.
“They would like to watch our rehearsal tonight; I did not see a problem with it.” Kanaya stated.
“…Fine.” Karkat practically growled out, turning and stalking off. “But keep them out of the way!” He shouted back. Kanaya chuckled.
“Don’t mind him; he just didn’t sleep very well last night.” She told them. “We’ll be starting in a bit, hope you enjoy the show.” Korra, Mako, and Bolin all sat off to the side as the lights were dimmed by the four firebenders. The three pro-benders eagerly awaited seeing how the magical experience of the performance they’d seen the night before.
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