"I want you to teach me how to fight," Korra says to Asami without preamble.
"What?" Asami says. She blinks, and the corners of her mouth pull downwards in confusion, mouth twisting. "If anyone was going to teach someone to fight, wouldn't it be you?"
Korra shifts from one foot to the other. Since her bending vanished she's begun to look anxious, unsure in her own body, Asami thinks; her eyes dart around restlessly. Her entire body language feels wrong- it makes some part of Asami ache to see. "I knew how to fight as a bender. But you know how to do hand to hand, right?"
"Yeah," Asami says, cautious. "But maybe you should wait a-"
"I don't want to wait!" It explodes out of Korra's mouth, not loud but harsh and upset. "I need to learn now. I hate this," she continues, softer. "I feel... helpless."
They lapse into silence. Asami doesn't know what to say to that. She can't think of anybody less helpless than Korra, anyone less weak. Asami has had her share of feeling weak, begged her father to let her take self-defence lessons after she stopped being able to stand it once Mom died. It had taken longer than she'd expected for the feeling to go away.
Korra shifts again. Asami gives her a tight-lipped smile, eventually. "Okay. Tomorrow morning. But don't expect me to go easy on you."
"Wouldn't dream of it," Korra says, and smiles back, looking grim.
"I saw Aang," Korra says to Tenzin quietly. It's late and Pema has put the children to bed, leaving the house quiet in spite of all its guests; a hush seems to have descended over the entire island. It feels like mourning. "When I was on the cliff."
"Did he say anything?" Tenzin says, barely restrained urgency in his voice. He's been telling people to calm down and give her time and space all week, and she can tell he's been repeating it to himself as well. She'd realised a while ago he's not got the grip on himself he'd like to, but she appreciates how hard he's tried.
"No. It was just a glimpse. But that's good, right? That I can still see him?"
"That's wonderful, Korra," he says, and he's smiling more than he has in days at her when he says it. "Your link to the spirit world hasn't been lost. If you can contact any of the previous Avatars, they might know what to do."
"Right," she says, and in spite of herself she feels her spirits lift. "So... meditation it is, then?"
She expects a lecture at the put-on distaste in her voice, but to her surprise, Tenzin hesitates.
"What? What is it?"
"I think, perhaps," he begins, slowly, "that we may need to evaluate your training. You've been spending longer in Republic City than may have been wise."
Korra recalls seeing Katara and Tenzin in deep conversation earlier that day, heads bowed together, and then she recalls Katara's strident, consistent objections to Korra's training all those months (only months?) ago and longer, right back to when she had first been learning water. The Avatar has to see the world, she had insisted over and over again.
Korra begins to smile back.
Now that she can only airbend, Korra wears the acolyte robes. It seems appropriate, somehow. She has to wear them when training anyway, and she's been spending so much time doing it now- well. It's just simpler.
She stands in the yard and goes through the motions. And again. And again. It's not any easier than it was before, though at least now wind comes out of her hands, her feet. But the forms feel alien and wrong, ducking and weaving and gentle in a way Korra doesn't understand.
Pema watches her.
"That was much better!" she says when Korra has finished, wiping sweat off her forehead. "You're getting good."
"No I'm not," Korra snaps back, and winces at her own voice. "I mean, I couldn't take anyone in a fight like this."
Pema sighs, and walks over to place a hand on Korra's shoulder, comforting. "Well then, it's a good thing you don't have anyone to fight, isn't it?"
Korra doesn't know how to explain that she doesn't know how not to fight; the idea will just seem alien to somebody like Pema. She misses the harshness of firebending, the swiftness of waterbending, the solidity of earthbending. Airbending feels a little bit like running away, dancing off in circles and dodging the hits instead of delivering them. She knows that's not true, of course- she doubts she could take Tenzin in a fight if he didn't hold back, for a start. But it's not her.
If she had the others to balance it out, maybe that would be OK. But she doesn't. Airbending feels like all she is now, not one small part matched by others. She can't be just that one thing. How can she bring any kind of balance to the world if she's so off kilter herself?
She has to try.
Korra never backs off from a challenge. This isn't going to be the exception. If she has to change airbending around to suit her, if she has to change herself to suit airbending, if she has to change the entire world to find her place in it, she will.
"Yeah," she says in response to Pema's soothing, "I guess it is. Here, let me try again."
She grabs Naga and runs, following the shoreline. It's not running away, she repeats over and over like a mantra. She just can't stay. Can't stand in a room with everybody she feels she's let down and let herself be stifled with condolences and awkward silences. None of it will bring her bending back; Katara's failure is the last straw, really. Korra knows that if Katara is at a loss then nobody else is going to step up with a magic cure-all.
Vaguely she's aware that this is a bad idea. I'll send a message back, she tells herself, pushing the guilt away. Her parents know her well enough that they'll have suspected the moment she left Mako behind. She hopes.
She doesn't know quite where to go yet, but she'll work it out as she travels. The world seems wide and open, and she's not seen most of it. Korra figures that however hopeless things seem now, well, they can only get better. There'll be something, somewhere.
She just has to find it.
Korra peers over the edge for a heartbeat, two, three. It's a long way down to the ice below. She can't feel it at all, however hard she pulls; she can't feel the tides of the ocean, either.
A long, long way down. Four, five.
She takes a step back, curls up on the ground, and blinks back her tears as best she can.