Chapter 1: The Great Sister
I am...the master of the four elements, they said.
I am... the keeper of balance, they said.
I am...the symbol of hope, they said.
I am...a prisoner, I said.
And you are all...liars, I said.
On the night of the full moon, at the front gate of South Pole compound, lay about twenty to thirty White Lotus guards, most of them unconscious, some badly injured, none able to stand up.
At the middle of the sparring ring stood an eleven year old girl, her hand dripping with blood that wasn't her own. In front of her kneeling a leader of this White Lotus compound.
"Out of my way," said the girl. She has a full-size back pack on her back, indicating that she was about to go on a long trip.
"Please, Avatar Korra..." the leader pant, barely having enough strength to look up from the floor. "You're making a terrible mistake..."
"I did, I have waited TOO LONG to do this." Korra spit her words coldly, filling them with more hate and anger than an eleven year old girl should.
"We're not your enemy, we are only trying to help..."
"By locking me in this damn prison for the rest of my life? Until you see fit to use me for your own benefit?" Korra replied and start to walk around the leader to get to the gate.
The White Lotus leader reached out and grabbed her ankle. "We..only did...what's best for you..."
The girl move her fingers slowly and the leader word got cut short, his body tensed up like his muscles were twisting painfully inside his skin.
"You should have listened to Katara..." Korra gestured her hand down, the leader slammed his body on the floor violently, until he passed out. "...when she said she didn't want to teach mebloodbending."
Korra turn her attention back to the gate, only to see the figure that made her curse under her breath. "Speak of the devil…"
Katara stood there, perfectly calm. An elder of the Southern Water Tribe and the best healer in the four nations, but her expression told a different story, the old woman's face was a mix of sadness, depression, and guilt.
"Step aside," Korra snarled like a polar bear wolf, her hand igniting in flame that made the blood stain evaporate.
"There is no need to fight me, Korra" Katara said, remaining calm even when the Avatar walked straight to her.
"I will kill...every, last, person in this tribe if that's what it takes to be free!"
"I'm not going to stop you."
That took Korra aback a little, she carefully looked at the Hundred Year War heroine, she was not in her fighting stance or bending, Korra could punch her fire-fist in Katara's heart right now, and she doubts that even her legendary waterbending skills could save her in time.
"I'm leaving," the girl stated while she walked past the old women.
"I have prepared you a small sailboat, you could use it to get out of the South Pole..."
"I don't need it."
"...No, you don't." The harsh word of a younger did not offend Katara, if anything, it just make her feel more guilty, defeated, and shameful. She can't even bring herself to turn her head when the Avatar walks past her.
"Korra..." the old woman heard the footstep stop, but knew it wouldn't be for long, so she quickly continued. "I have done you wrong,...we have all done you wrong here, and I know I'm in no position to ask you for anything, but..."
The footsteps still silent, the girl still listening.
"May I ask you...not to use bloodbending unless it's absolutely necessary?" Katara pause a little "For the good of the world?"
"Did the world give a damn when I was locked up alone in this hell hole? Force to train day and night to become your personal weapon? Robbed of any childhood? Never having any friends, or freedom, or a life outside of this cold prison!?"
Katara close her eye, those words cut in to her heart like a sharp razor.
"I make no promises."
And that was the last word she ever heard from the Avatar in many years to come, Katara took a deep breath to steady her mind and let the girl's words sink in, by the time she turned to look at the vast land of snow, Korra was nowhere to be found.
Katara walked into the compound and started healing the White Lotus guards, her mouth mumbling in this tragic night.
"Oh Aang,...what have we done?..."
In the morning, Tonraq's search party found what was left of the burned sailboat on the beach, no sign of the Avatar, and with a painful heart, Tonraq realized he may never see his daughter again, for the rest of his, or even her life.
6 years later...
In the middle of a jungle somewhere deep in Earth Kingdom, a group of four bandits were chilling around inside a hidden cave above a cliff.
On the side of the cave sat two children, a boy and a girl, gagged and tied up. They looked frightened, but not enough to cry...yet.
"Someone's approaching." A male bandit who observed the area with binoculars said. "A woman, Wearing a red dress. That's our ransom carrier alright." The other three smiled.
"You stay with the kids." A large muscular man who seems to be the leader ordered one of the female bandits in their group. "In case we get ambushed, kill the boy first, and use the girl as a hostage. We'll double her ransom later."
"Oh, then I wish that gal pulls something funny," the other female smile, ignore the teary eyes on the boy's face.
After three of the bandits leave the cave, a figure snuck up behind the watcher and silently took her down with bear hands, and the woman didn't even have time to blink, let alone scream or make any sound.
The women in red dress stood nervously as she looked around with a bag of money in her hand. She has black hair and a mole under her right eye...
After the bandit scouted the area to make sure there is no one else around, the three of them came out of the bush and approached the women who look frightened by their appearance.
"Wh...Where are my brother and sister?..." She ask, her voice sounding like it used to be deep and confident, but was now shaking with fear.
"Do you have our money?" the leader of the bandits demanded.
A little hesitant, the women handed him the bag she carried.
The leader opened it, at first he was pleased with a sight of gold pieces..., but frowned when he noticed something else in the bag.
"What is this?"
He picked up what look like a long metal strip, there are about eight to ten strips mixed in among the gold pieces. The women opened her mouth to answer, but a loud noise from the cave drew everyone attention.
A ball of fire shot up in the sky, not an attack, but a signal, 'The hostages are safe, go for it!'.
"Your cuff. You bandit scum." A frightened damsel suddenly spoke with a cold piercing voice, she took her fighting stance and moved her hand swiftly, five metal strip flying out of the bag and bound the leader bandit on the mouth, wrists, and ankles, rendering him helpless in the blink of an eye.
"It's an ambush!" the male yelled.
"No shit, Captain Obvious! She's a metalbender!" the female replied with more useful information, both of them took an earthbending stance, but had to roll away when they noticed a huge ball of fire shooting toward them from the cave, this time it was definitely an attack.
The woman in the red dress used this opportunity to bend five more metal strips from the bag to the male bandit and wrapped him smoothly like a professional cashier wrapped a gift box. He landed face down, not far from his leader.
The last female bandit still hadn't recovered from the ground, not even when the firebender who attacked them jumped off the cave, using stream of fire under her feet as a jets to land in front of her. She look up to see a mocha skinned teenage girl, clearly a Water Tribe look, but both of her hands ignited in flames with an intimidating smile on her face.
"You wanted us pull something funny? Here we are!" the Water Tribe girl announced, reminding the bandit of what she said earlier. She lift her right fist up, ready to slam it down on her face.
"I..I surrender! I SURRENDER!" the bandit plead, the firebender frown with her fist still hang in the air.
"Too soon lady, let me have some fun first. Tell me, which side of your face is your least favorite?" without waiting for an answers, the flaming fist punch down at the bandit's left side face, which similar to the right side, was now covered in a complete horrified expression.
"Korra! Stop!" A metal strip flew off from under the red sleeve to the wrist of the girl, holding back her fist just an inch before it collide with its target's face. The women quickly sent another five metal strips to capture the female bandit.
"What? I'm just gonna leave a few scars on her. You know, teach her a lesson, make her see the error of her ways." Korra whined as she took the strip off her hand, but made no attempt to attack the bandit again.
"I don't approve of unnecessary violence, our job is done, let the authorities punish them." the women dragged the female to her two companions. Korra watched three of them squirm helplessly on the ground.
"Are the children safe?"
"Yeah, yeah. They're in the cave with another bandit. Don't worry, I tied her up nicely, and I bet she is still knocked out as we speak."
"Good, you take them back to their family, I'll take these four to the police station in the nearby town."
Korra frowned at the idea."How about we switch places, you take the kids, I'll take the bandits..."
"I'm not leaving them to be your punching bag, Korra."
"For a mercenary, you're no fun, Kuvira."
The woman smile at the comment. She wrapped her arm around Korra's shoulder while they walked up to the cave to retrieve the children and the other bandit.
"Cheer up, sister. You know I'm good at negotiations, I'm sure I could talk a bit of extra bounty out of these thugs."
Now her big sister spoke Korra's langue, that made the runaway Avatar smile greedily, but in a cute way.
Korra lost count of how many times she watched the scene of a family reunion. Years of being a freelance mercenary, she and her partner/sister, Kuvira, took on a job of a kidnapping case almost every month, to the point of Korra having an imaginary checklist in her mind while she watched the scene: tears, check, hug, check, 'Oh! I thought I'd never see you again!', check.
With that said, it doesn't reduce a warm feeling in her heart every time she watches a parent hugging their children, knowing she's the one who made this reunion happen. Korra loves money, yes, but taking a little bit of pride in her work doesn't hurt either.
"Thank you so much for bring our children home safely." The father of the family bowing to her, while the mother look like she not gonna stop hugging her kids anytime soon.
"All in the day work, Mister." Korra bowed back, she knows how to be polite with her client.
Speaking of business...
"Oh,and here is your payment." The father held up a smaller bag than the one Kuvira used as a decoy, Korra opened the bag and smile at the amount of silver pieces inside, but then the corner of her eye picked up something outside the window. She slowly turned her head toward that direction, knowing full well what she was going to find.
On the street of this small town, appeared the figure in an airbender cloak, bald head, and his trademark blue arrow tattoo on his head. The figure locked eyes with Korra, almost thirty second that neither of them had blink, until a person walk pass, blocking him from Korra's view for brief second, and when the person out of the frame, he too was gone.
"Umm..., Is everything alright, Miss?" the father asked, as he had follow Korra's eyesight for half a minute, but saw no one in particular on the street, not even one person glancing at his house.
"Yes,...I'm just...thinking of something." Korra mumbled, stuffing the money bag in her shirt and saying her farewell to the family. She didn't forget to pat the kids on their head, and told them not to go off with strangers next time.
As soon as Korra walked out the door, she was greeted with same figure that mysteriously vanished a moment ago. She was taken aback a little, but not too surprised with his appearance.
"I'm busy." Korra snarled, she kept her voice down, knowing that while she saw this person standing in the street, no one beside her could see him.
"Stop bothering me, foul being. Go haunt your wife, I'm sure she'll be glad to see you again." the man showed no emotion to her words, and Korra was not sure if that was because he is a monk, or because he is a ghost.
The sound of a horn made Korra turn her head, she saw Kuvira driving her jeep down the street, and when Korra turn back around, the man already gone.
"Got the payment?" Kuvira asked as she parkedto pick up Korra before continuing to drive out of town.
"Here." Korra tossed the bag at Kuvira, the older girl caught it with one hand with the other still on the steering wheel, she used her metalbending to feel to silver pieces inside, before tossing it back to Korra.
"I have good news, turns out the bandit leader actually had a warrant in Ba Sing Se too, the bounty was three times what I was expected!"
"...Umm hmm..." Korra replies casually while staring out the side window. Kuvira raised one of her eyebrows. Usually Korra would be overly excited when they made some extra cash, and she would start babbling about how to spend it(all in less than a day, or a meal if Kuvira didn't stop her).
"Korra, is everything alright?"
She stayed silent, but somehow that gave her an answer.
"...Aang, isn't it?"
"...Yeah..." Korra leaned back in her seat, looking up in the sky that began to turn orange in the evening. "It's getting more and more frequent, Kuvira. He didn't say anything, but damn if looks could kill…Just looking into his eyes almost makes me go crazy!" She slammed her fist at the jeep's console and accidentally left a fist-shaped dent on it.
"Sorry..." Korra retracted her hand, Kuvira just shook her head with a soft smile and used her metalbending to fix the console back to its former shape.
"Maybe I better get drunk before I go to sleep tonight, the cactus juice always keeps him out of my head..."
"And it gives you a massive hung-over headache in the morning." Kuvira chuckled a bit, before suddenly shifting to her serious mode, but still in a light tone of voice. "Korra, you can't run away from this. You're the Avatar..."
"Already did it once at the compound."
"And now it's finally catching up to you." Kuvira slowed down the jeep so she could turn to talk to Korra with less risk of running off the road. "We can't run from our past forever, or even if you can, is that the life you want to live? Running from what's haunting you, only to wait for it to catch up, so you have to start running again?"
"The word 'haunting' is surprisingly accurate in my case." Korra said jokingly, but Kuvira knew from her tone that the younger girl does take this conversation seriously. "So,should I go back to the compound? To be the other's puppet again? Scarifying my freedom for my sanity?"
"Absolutely not that, Korra. I know how much you hate that place, that's why we only take jobs at the Northern Water Tribe, remember?" Kuvira grab Korra's shoulder softly, she wanted to ensure the younger girl that she has her support on this. "I'm just saying that, maybe you have to confront your past life directly, actually talk to him if you can. I don't know much about the spiritual stuff though..."
"I do." Korra sighed. "I just don't want to. It's what the White Lotus taught me back at the compound, the way to meditate so that I can connect with my past lives, but you know me, aside from bending three elements, I don't want to do anything relating to me being the Avatar."
"Bending more than one element is kind of an Avatar trademark though."
"Yeah, but to hell if I'm gonna let my years of abusive training go to waste." Korra shooting fire out of her hand to emphasize her point. "I bet the reason I can't airbend is because of him."
"Who else? He's mad that I not respect his dying wish to let the White Lotus imprison me..."
"I'm sure they use the word 'taking care' on paper."
"Whatever! So he's blocking me from bending his natural element. Screw him! Three elements is more than enough to make a living as a mercenary. Take that, Mister Last Airbender!"
"I doubt that to be the case, but it does sound reasonable." Kuvira chuckled. "Still, I really think you should talk to him, just to clear the air(no pun intended), see what he exactly wants. Better than to keep guessing and seeing those hallucinations ."
"...I...suppose..." Korra sighed again, before looking up at top of the mountain not far from their destination town. "We might have go somewhere...spiritual though, I think the old ruin on that mountain will do."
"As you wish." Kuvira shifted the gear stick to ride off-road, and go straight to the mountain side.
She began meditating when the sunset, now the moon is up and shining, and she is still meditating.
"Hmm, maybe this is actually harder than I remember..." Korra mumbled to herself, sitting in the lotus position at the ruin's courtyard, Kuvira is waiting with their jeep outside. The girl closed her eyes again, trying to clear her mind but her mouth still whispered. "Come on baldy, you stalk me all day long, but now you refuse my invitation?"
She felt a sudden shift in the air, like the world around her slowed down, all surrounding sounds silent, and when she opened her eyes, he's finally here.
Sitting across from here in a similar position, his eyes still the same but it look more...alive, if that's possible.
"Korra." His voice echo through the night, a perk for being a ghost, she guess.
"Twinkle toes." Korra notice a slight frown on Aang's face, she smiled. "Yeah, your wife told me you hate that nickname." She shifted herself in to a more comfortable position, stretching her legs out in an inappropriate manner when talking to an elderly person. "So, spit it out, what do you want?"
"You know why I am trying to reach you."
"Me and sis actually have few theories running around." Korra roll her eye. "Can you be more specific which one is correct?"
"You have abandoned your duty as the Avatar, Korra." Aang spoke in a calm, monotone voice, the most boring version of speaking. "You repeated the same mistake I made when I was a boy."
"I actually prefer to think I succeeded where you failed, because as you can see, I didn't freeze myself in the middle of the ocean," Korra snickered, "...but for the sake of seriousness, what duty are you talking about? The world is fine, Aang. I'll even admit that it is thanks to you. The four nations live together in harmony now, no war, no tyrannical overlord, even if the Earth Queen is kind of a bitch..."
"The duty of the Avatar is to bring balance to the world, Korra, and you cannot do that without mastering all four elements."
"Wait? You mean you aren't the reason I can't airbend?"
"No, Korra." The girl wasn't sure if she actually detected some irritation in his voice. "The other elements came to you easily, but the element of air is out of your reach, as you lack an understanding of its nature both physically, and spiritually. To unlock it, you'll need a guide, you'll need...a teacher."
"But...the only airbender in the world is..." Korra paused as she realized something, she smiled sarcastically at Aang. "Since when does being dead make you a smartass, Aang?"
"I meant what I said Korra."
"I'm not going to Republic City, and I'm not going to your son! I know he would turn me in to the White Lotus the moment he got his hands on me!"
"This isn't about the order..."
"It was your will that get me lock up in that compound! It was your idea that robbed me of my freedom! It was your doing that make the damn White Lotus have an authority over my life! So it is all about them, Aang! Don't you DARE deny it!" Korra burst out at her past reincarnation, her angry expression could make even the most fearsome warrior feel uneasy.
After a long silent, Aang close his eye and finally replied.
"You're right... It is my fault."
For the first time, Korra actually see a change of emotion on the airbender's face, he look softer, saddened, even...similar to his wife six years ago...guilty. "I let the fear of what happened to me when I was a boy cloud my judgment, I wanted to make sure that the next Avatar would be safe and secure, I didn't realize that I'd robbed you of your childhood, the fate that I myself tried to escape when I was a boy."
Korra felt the fire of rage in her heart calm down a little, she shifted back to a lotus position, rubbing her hand while avoiding eye contact.
"Look, all the past drama aside, this is unnecessary, Aang. As I said, the world is fine, it's peaceful now, it's doesn't need its Avatar. If anything, what I did is kinda similar to the Avatar's job, didn't it? I traveled around the world(minus the south pole), helping people in need."
"You charge people for your service."
"Hey, the girl's gotta eat too! How else I'm I suppose to make a living, and it's always a fair price, I never overcharge my clients. Hell! More than once, I even helped them for free if they couldn't afford to pay! Although... I do admit that I tend to avoid those cases."
Aang let out a long sigh, and Korra can only think it's kinda funny that the ghost still has to breathe.
"You were wrong about the world, Korra. There is great evil that will rise in the near future." Aang switched back into his calm emotionless expression. "And it will begin...in Republic City."
Korra frowned, under the normal circumstance she'd call bullshit on this one, but after a few minutes of talking, she had feeling that she could take her past live more seriously than she thought. "You didn't just...make that up, right? To trick me to go to that city."
"I'm not a liar, Korra. And if it'll suit your...lifestyle, I'm willing to make a deal."
The corner of Korra's mouth curved up into an amusing smirk. "Now we talking."
"Go to Republic City, learn the airbending by any method you see fit, and if you can find the way to do so without directly confront my son, Tenzin, so be it." Korra liked where this was going. "Deal with the crisis that will emerge in the city, do this, and I will bother you no more, for the rest of your life."
"Any chance you could specifically tell me what is this 'crisis' you're talking about? A vague description job is... a bad sign for business."
"You'll see when the time comes."
That's not the answer she wanted, or needed, but that one she did expect to get.
"I never hated you, Aang, and I never liked you either, but you're willing to compromise, and a compromise,I can respect. You backed down your terms, so I can do the same." Korra sighed and finally nodded. "Deal."
"I may need a few days to think about this. I'll contact you later, Su."
[Of course, Kuvira, take your time. Goodbye.]
"Goodbye. Say hi to Opal for me." Kuvira smiled as she put the communicator back to the jeep's console, at the exact same time that Korra walked out from the ruin. She saw that Kuvira had made a small campfire not far from the jeep.
"How's the meditating?"
"Surprisingly...kinda helpful. I actually got to talk face-to-face with Aang."
"Really? What did he say?"
The two mercenaries sat at the campfire. Kuvira handed Korra a stick with a marshmallow that she was grilling around the flames.
"He wants me to learn airbending to become a fully-realized Avatar, the master of four elements and all that, I guess he worries about his legacy going to waste or something."
"But… you already tried to airbend for the last six years, it has never worked."
"He said..." Korra chewed down the marshmallow before continuing. "...I need a teacher."
"But the only airbender is..." Kuvira's eye widen when she realized it. "You're going to Republic City?"
"I have no other options here. Aang promised he'd stop haunting me if I can airbend, so I promised him I will. He even said that I don't have to confront his son if I can find the way around it, that means I still can keep my secret, nobody has to know the Avatar is in the neighborhood." Korra picked up another stick of marshmallow. "So, will you come with me?"
"Umm, I don't know Korra..." Kuvira switched her gaze to the campfire, she still doesn't eat the marshmallow in her hand. "I...don't really… like that city."
"What? Why? Are you afraid we'll be out of work? I'm pretty sure the city isn't a paradise as the propaganda said, we could make a little money while we stay there. Every place can use a mercenary's touch!" Korra announced, proud of her career.
"It's not that, it's…, okay, this might sound a little...nationalistic, but I always thought it's unfair that Aang and Fire Lord Zuko took the Earth Kingdom's land and changed it to a neutral area."
"Umm hmm, that's nationalism alright." Korra nodded, and scooped down another marshmallow
"Look, I like the idea of a united community, okay? It's just that... it feels like someone broke into my house, took over my living room, and said 'this place belongs to everyone now'.It doesn't feel right."
"When you put it that way..." The Avatar rolled her eyes smiling, but the cheer faded away a bit when she asked: "So, are you gonna go solo while I'm gone? I'm not sure how long it will take for me to airbend, if this the case, maybe you should consider find a new partner..."
"Actually, I just got a call from Zaofu, Suyin said she might have a position of a city's guard captain waiting for me if I done with this...long...life discovering field trip."
"It's only took you SIX years to discover yourself, huh?" Korra tease.
"I probably would have gone back to Zaofu after the first two years if I haven't met you. I don't even think I would have become a mercenary in the first place."
"You're welcome." Both of them chuckled. "Does this mean you're gonna accept her offer then?"
"Without you, fighting bandits and bounty hunting wouldn't be as much fun as it used to be." Kuvira smiled gently at Korra, and the girl took that as a compliment. "I do owe Su a lot, she is like a mother to me, might as well take this chance to return the favor."
"So, the duo finally have to go their separate ways. Thanks a lot, Aang!" Korra yelled at the sky pretended to sound angry. Kuvira laughed at her for that.
"We should have a farewell banquet, too bad we only got marshmallows..." Korra grimaced.
"Not quite." The older girl smiled, walked to the jeep, pulled out a bottle of cactus juice and two glasses from her baggage and walk back to the campfire. "I got this after turn in those bandit, figure we might want to celebrate later."
"You... are the BEST sister a girl could ever have!" Korra cheered as Kuvira poured her a glass, they toasted and downed the first hallucinating liquid down their throat, and the entire night after that is kinda blurry in their minds.
"You know what you should do!?" Korra say in her half dizzy sound, but with a huge smile on her face. Kuvira seem to be more in control of herself, but still giggle none stop since her second glass. "You should... build an army! An army of Earth Kingdom... no! AN EARTH EMPIRE!...yeah, that sounds a lot cooler..., and you could use them to take back Republic City!"
"The other nations won't allow that, Korra. They'll be jealous of me." the metalbender kept giggling "The United Forces will stand against me, it'll be a bloody battle, and you know me, I hate a bloody battle, especially if I could avoid it."
"Then...how about this? You saving money to build...A METAL GIANT, thirty stories high, with a canon that shoots fire and lightning equipped on its arm, and no one will dare stand in your way! They'll cower like chicken and give the city to you, simple as that!"
"Thirty stories high? You know how much metal it'll take to build something that big?"
"Tear it out from the Zaofu's domes then!" Korra yell "I hate those domes! I remember the last time I visited the Metal Clan with you. The domes look nice during the day but it blocks my view of the stars at night. Use them to build your giant...and replace them with glass, or something transparent."
This time, Kuvira burst out laughing so hard she fell off the trunk that she use as a chair, unlike Korra who was already on the floor after the third glass.
"Funny, Korra... really...really funny." Kuvira panted. "Oh...it's gonna feel so lonely when you gone, sister..."
"I promise you, the first gust of air shoots out of my palm, and I'll take a nearest airship straight to Zaofu." Korra pointing up toward the sky "And who know, if being a guard captain doesn't work out for you, we could come back to this business. Traveling the world, fighting criminals, helping people, making a profit while doing so."
The Avatar gulped down the last of her cactus juice, she raised her glass to the full moon, contrasting how different she had felt, this night six years ago. "Just the two of us against the world."
"I hear you, sister." Kuvira sipped her last glass and poured the rest on the ground, as if to invite the earth to drink with them. "Together, we're unstoppable."
Their morning departure was brief, but not rushed. Kuvira drove Korra to the nearest port, so the Avatar could take a ship to the Republic City, while her sister went all the way back to Zaofu.
"Here," Kuvira handed five metal strips to her sister after she bought her a ticket. "A farewell gift."
"Thanks." Korra strapped four of the strips around her wrists, and the fifth one around her throat.
"Be careful not to melt them too soon."
"I'll... make no promises." The same words she spoke to her mentor six years ago, only with a teasing tone. There was none of the venomous anger was in her voice now. "Let's just hope I'll have no reason to use my 'fire-cutter' technique anytime soon."
"Last time you used that was to open a can of fish."
"I was hungry! I couldn't find a can opener, and you were too busy to open it for me." Korra groans like that was somehow Kuvira's fault.
The argument would go on, but the harbormaster started yelling that the ship to Republic City was ready to leave, so the metalbender pulled the Avatar into a tight hug, knowing that they probably wouldn't see each other for a long time.
"Take care, Korra. And if you are in over your head, don't hesitate to contact me."
"I'll be fine, sis. Good luck with your new career."
Kuvira smiled and gave Korra a kiss on a forehead, before her sister got on board. The ship soon sailed away and disappeared behind the horizon.
Korra traveled for a whole day before she arrived at Republic City. The thing that amazed her the most was Aang's memorial, on an island in the bay.
"Jeez, Aang. How big of an ego did you have?" the current Avatar whispered to herself, giggling at the size of the statue of her predecessor. Like he was afraid that the world would forget him.
Korra disembarked on the pier along with many other passengers. The dock was filled with people, from fisherman to tourists, from Fire Nation to Water Tribe. The Avatar realized that she wouldn't have any problems with blending in with this diverse community.
"Hmm, look at this place." She breathed in the first air of the city.
Dirty, polluted, and bland.
Fantastic... five seconds here and she already missed the countryside of the Earth Kingdom, or the desert towns in the Fire Nation. She didn't miss anything about the Northern Water Tribe though, its environment reminded her too much of the Southern Tribe.
The thought of the third nation reminded Korra of the reason she was here and the Avatar panned her gaze to a small island not far from Aang's statue.
"Air Temple Island. I guess that's where Tenzin lives." Korra spoke to herself. She remembered meeting Tenzin when she was six or seven."I wonder if he'd recognize me..."
Judging on by her appearance, Korra no longer resembled the escaped eleven-year-old girl she used to be. Her hair wasn't done in the distinct, Southern Water Tribe wolf-tail anymore, but simply let loose on her shoulders. Her wardrobe wasn't her Tribe's usual attire either, but a simple black sleeveless jacket, black sleeves and black leather boots. On the first glance, she looked like any female mercenary that you'd find brawling in a bar or chasing bandits in a valleys. As long as Korra didn't use her real name, or bent three elements in public, she should be fine.
'So, maybe I could confront him. It's still risky, but it'll be a lot easier to learn airbending than... I don't know...sneaking around the island to watch him train? That's kinda creepy.
Or maybe he has some airbending scroll I could stea-borrow... Though sneaking has never been my strong suit, and I'm gonna be in a lot of trouble if get caught. Maybe the best way is to confront him and keep denying if he gets suspicious. I mean, he wouldn't think the runaway Avatar, who disappeared six years ago, will suddenly show up on his door step...'
The growling of her stomach interrupted Korra's train of thoughts. She decided that she couldn't think if she was that hungry. And it was probably for the best if she took some time to survey the city before going to the Air Temple Island.
"I'll take one of everything." Korra slammed twenty yuans on the food stall. The vendor took the money and handed her ten meat sticks without saying anything, going back to grill more meat. "A smile to a customer wouldn't hurt, you know?" the Avatar gave commented and walked away, ignoring the frown the woman sent her.
Korra sat down next to the pond in the city park, eating her meat sticks, until she noticed a pair of eyes glaring at her from a nearby bush. A man with dirty clothes and an equally dirty beard emerged from his hiding place with an ugly grin.
"Uh, say, think I can get one of them tasty-smelling..." The man flapped his elbows rapidly up and down, keeping his hands on the shirt. "...meat sticks?"
A hobo? This city continues to amaze Korra, in the way that she started wondering if this place was any different from Ba Sing Se in terms of living quality. Still... the Avatar handed him two of her meat sticks, she was already full anyway.
"Nice house you got there." Korra said looking at the bush. The man ignored her sarcasm and answered with a mouth full of meat.
"Yes, presently that is what I do call home. Took me a while to procure a bush that beauteous. This park is quite popular with all the vagabonds."
"For some reason, I'm not surprised." the Avatar said casually. The life of a mercenary made her familiar with the 'lower-class citizens'. She can stand them, to say the least.
"Oh, it's looks like you're already learned something then, newcomer. Welcome to Republic..." the man swallowed his word and suddenly drove back into the bush. Korra raised an eyebrow when she noticed a park guard running towards her, blowing in a whistle.
"Hey, you! Stop! You can't fish here..." he suddenly stopped when he saw her meat sticks up close.
"First, this isn't fish. Second, I paid for this." Korra replied coldly, still curious of what's going on.
"S...sorry, ma'am. I thought I saw Gommu with you earlier..."
"So that's his name."
"Yes, he is sneaking around the park to stole the fish in this pond. My apologies."
"Stealing food is a crime, right." Korra took her last bite before standing up. "But from who? A hungry civilian, or the neglecting authority?" The guard looked stunned when the girl padded him on the shoulder while walking past him. "Have a nice day, officer."
Korra continued to wander around the park, absorbing the view of this so-called futuristic city. Republic City had one thing over Ba Sing Se, it was a lot brighter, full of scenery one could look at, even compared the Middle Ring.
"Are you tired of living under the tyranny of benders? Then join the Equalists!" The echo of a megaphone drew Korra's attention, as she saw a group of people gathered around a man standing on a podium. Behind him was a poster of a man wearing a white mask and a dark cloak. Good fashion sense, Korra admitted.
"Guess I have a minute to spare." the Avatar gave in to her curiosity and joined the group.
"For too long, the bending elite of this city have forced non-benders to live as lower-class citizens. Join Amon, and together we will tear down the bending establishment!"
"If that was true, wouldn't you gonna be in a lot of trouble after this? You know, for speaking against the 'upper-class citizens'?" everyone turned to look at Korra when she ask the question, putting a lot of emphasis on the phrase 'upper-class citizens'.
"That is the risk I'm willing to take! Someone must stand up against this oppression!" the man answered proudly.
"I've been in Ba Sing Se, you know? Trust me, I know an oppression when I see one." Korra paused and looked around as if she was speculating them one by one. "The worst among you still have it A LOT better than people in the Lower Ring ."
"Oh yeah?" the protester was taken aback a little, but he realized now that this girl tried to speak against him. "Let me guess: you're a bender."
"Because I disagreed with you?" Korra stood her ground, but didn't act like she was taking this debate seriously. "Can't I just be a naive non-bending traveler who just happen to wonder about this 'Equalists' stuff?" she looked at the poster again and asked before the man get a chance to answered. "Seriously though, what are those Equalists you've been talking about?"
"The Equalist are the warriors who fight for the non-benders, led by Amon, the savior of this city! How else are we going to protect ourselves from the evil of those benders who seek to oppress us for their personal gain?"
"You hire another bender." Korra smiled casually. "It's common sense, really. If you can't fight your own battle, you save money and hire someone to fight them for you, simple as that."
"Ah-ha! This is it, people. This is what's wrong with this city! Benders like this girl only use their power to oppress or exploit us!" The protester angrily glares at Korra, his spectators turning to her as well.
"Whatever." Korra shrugged and walked away, ignoring all the boos and the curses sent her way.
After all, barking dogs seldomly bite.
Korra walked down the street, noticing that her surroundings had changed, the salty smell of the ocean less intense. She suspected it wasn't the right way to Air Temple Island. Kuvira did say that her sister is like a five year-old girl when it came to walking around in a city. Korra had a habit of getting lost, and even with a heavy suggestion and lecture from her metalbending sister, she still never remembered signs, street names, and never brought a map with her. Kuvira had to pick her up at the police station one time when they stayed in Zaofu, three times in Fire Nation Capital, and six times in Ba Sing Se. It is the reason that Korra usually avoided big cities, preferring smaller towns and villages when they traveled from place to place.
"Excuse me," Korra walk up to a young man and an elderly lady sitting in front of a shop "I think I'm lost. How do I get to Air Temple Island from here?"
"Just head down this street." The old woman with a kind face pointed down the street, but her expression suddenly changed when she noticed a red Satomobile turning down the street and heading towards a phonograph shop. "You should get moving, young lady. It isn't safe." she whispered to Korra who only raised an eyebrow with curiosity.
Three people got out of the Satomobile and approached a phonograph vendor who was cleaning one of his products.
One of the men, whom Korra suspected might be a waterbender, judging by his skin color, or has Water Tribe heritage, spoke to the vendor with a tedious smile. "Mr. Chung, please tell me that you have my money or else..." he turns toward his companion, a young man with a spiky hair who awkwardly lighted his hand on fire, his face mixed with shame and guilt. The waterbender frowned at how bad the boy was at being intimidating, but still continued his word. "...I can't guarantee I can protect your fine establishment."
"I'm sorry, business has been slow. Please, take one of my phonographs." Chung offers the phonograph he was cleaning. The firebender immediately extinguished his hand and took the phonograph.
"It's okay, Mr. Chung. I know you people have a hard time..."
"MAKO!" The waterbender yelled at the spiky hair boy, he took the phonograph and threw it away, unintentionally in Korra's direction. She caught the phonograph with one hand while the waterbender continued yelling at his younger companion. "What did I told you about being soft-hearted!? You going to destroy our image you little!..." the man swallowed his last word as he tried to switched to his fake civilized mode. "My apologies, Mr. Chung. My friend here is a bit of a music lover. However, I would suggest you give me the money, or else-"
"Or else what, hoodlum?"
The three men turned around to see Korra standing confidently behind them, one hand on her hips, the other carrying the phonograph they just threw away.
The three gangsters eyed each questioningly for a second before two of them bursting out in laughter. The one name Mako tried to laughed along but came out so awkward they had to stop. The waterbender cleared his throat before speaking to Korra.
"Since you're obviously fresh off the boat, let me explain a couple things." As the man spoke, Chung retreated back to his shop, while the young man and elderly woman in another store on the other side of the road were watching what was happening. "You're in Triple Threat Triad territory, and we're about to put you in the hospital."
"How generous of you." Korra took the group by surprise, smiling. "Most people I fight usually say they are going to kill me. I'm glad to see things are more... civilized around here." She carefully put down the phonograph on the ground, knowing that she'll need to use both of her hands soon "Now, on the topic of sending someone to a hospital, how many bones in your body I can break without killing you? I'm just want to make sure you guys end up in an emergency room, not a mortuary."
"Who do you think you are?" The waterbender whispering threateningly.
"A bounty hunter who has already been paid enough for first and second degree murder," Korra casually said, like she was just talking about the weather. "Thanks Spirits that they were all outlaws, otherwise I'd probably have a life sentence in three nations by now, assuming they wouldn't execute me."
The waterbender's eyes twitched enraged, for he thought the girl taunted them with nonsense. He suddenly bent a water bullet from an unseen water skin from under his coat. Korra was about to the stop the bullet with her own waterbending, when she suddenly realize something.
She can't bend three elements in public. No problem, she only needed one to defeat these petty thugs...
But which one?
When she was traveling, she could freely choose which element to use for a specific situation. Her clients hardly cared what bender they were hiring as long as she could get the job done. Most bandits also didn't have a habit of keeping record of which bounty hunter used which element.
But now... she was going to have to stay in Republic City for a while, so if she used any of the element in public, she would be forced to stick with that element, to avoid suspicions.
In hindsight , she knew she should have thought about this before she arrived at the shore, or at least before deciding to jump into a street battle.
So instead of taking a bending stand, Korra dodged the water bullet and stood still, one hand crossed her chest, the other held her chin while she lost deep in her thought.
"What are you idiots waiting for?! Let's teach this bitch a lesson!" The waterbender ordered, and Mako and the other one who turned out to be an earthbender began their three way attack.
A fire ball, a brick, and water were thrown from every angle, none of them came even close to hitting Korra, who was now whispering to herself while casually dodging all the attacks.
"Well, I like firebending the most, but a firebending Water Tribe girl seems a bit out of place. I wouldn't want to risk someone putting two and two together and find out I'm the Avatar..."
Unconsciously, Korra moved in front of the waterbender. He was taken aback by her agility and tried to shoot her with his water bullet, which didn't work well in close quarters.
Korra grabbed his left arm and twisted it hard, before she grabbed him by his right arm and threw him over her shoulder to the ground, before twisting it to the opposite angle from the left one, but his screams did not interrupting her inner thoughts.
"Waterbending is my least favorite, although I would be able to heal myself in the middle of a fight. But again, I think I will just be more careful not to get badly injured during battle."
Korra jumped to avoid a ground attack from the earthbender. She back flipped in midair and landed behind him. With one swipe kicked at his legs, she sent him face down to the ground.
"Earth then?..." Korra stomped on the back of the guy's knee, his painful scream even louder than the waterbender's. "I could bend metal too, so it's two in one," she pressed her heel on his other leg, getting same result - a louder scream. "but the last time I used earthbending in a big city, I got arrested for property damage and end up spending my entire evening fixing some Ba Sing Se's Upper Ring footpath, those ungrateful nobles..." she kicked the earthbender at the side to flip him on his back, breaking three of his ribs. Korra then turned to Mako who already stopped shooting fire at her when she broke his friend's leg.
"H... Hold on! Hold on!" The Avatar ignored the firebender's gesturing for surrender, however, his attitude did get Mako a special treatment, because instead of getting his bones crushed, Korra only grabbed his collar and flung him to the ground. No kick or stomp came after that.
"What just happened?" the old woman asked the young man, for what she just saw, that girl just took down three Triple Threat Triads, without bending and with bare hands!
"I... I think she is a non-bender," the young man answer, before his eye widened as he whispered to himself "maybe... she is one of those Equalists they're talking about?"
"Huh?..." Korra snapped out of her thought when the situation calmed down, the earthbender and the waterbender were on the ground, groaning at their misplace bone, while the firebender stood up and slowly backed away from her.
"Look! I...I don't want any more trouble. I'll just grab my friends and leave."
"So you're the only one with brain." Korra smiled at him. "I'll keep your bones intact then."
Mako shivered at the girl's threats and was about to pick up the other two when they heard an alarm sounds from above. He and Korra both looked up to see the arrival of an airship.
"Police! Freeze where you are!"
"Oh crap..." It were the last words Korra heard from Mako before he ran and disappeared into the nearest alley, leaving his friends, who were yet to recover from the ground.
"Mako! You traitorous son of a-" the waterbender didn't get to finish his word when Korra lightly kicked him in the face, almost breaking his nose.
"Hey, it's not his fault you're too stupid to ran when you had a chance." the Avatar leaned against the Satomobile while watching the airship hatch open on the side. Four metalbender cops jumped off and anchored their metal cables on the nearby buildings, securing a safe landing.
"Aww, I miss Kuvira already," Korra frowned. Kuvira may have preferred metal strips as her main weapons, but she did use metal cables once in a while, even tried to teach Korra how to use some, sadly, unsuccessfully.
The cops approached the area - no property damage, no civilian casualty, only one girl standing by the Satomobile, two men on the ground that they immediately identified as two of the Triple Threat Triad.
"It's about time you showed up, officers." Korra spoke with a proudly grin. "I thought I would have to drag these two to the police station myself."
"Arrest them!" Ordered the cop that looked like the captain, before walking up to Korra "You're under arrest, too."
Korra's grin disappear, replace by a curious expression "What's the charge?"
"Disturbing the peace."
"To protect an innocent civilian." Korra answer almost sounded teasing, evidently as she start grinning again "You just jealous because I did your job better than you."
"That's enough." The police captain took a fighting stance and shot a cable to bind Korra. However, she quickly moved out of its way and snatched the cable out of the air, holding it back.
"That's very rude." Korra commented. "and your bending is terrible, no wonder that Triple Threat Triad claims its own this district."
The captain tried to retract his cable, but Korra secretly used her metalbending to hold on to it, but from the outside look, it did seem like she holding the cable with just her raw strength.
"Now, before this misunderstanding goes any further, let me explain-"
" You can explain yourself all you like, down at the headquarters!" he shot another cable at Korra, but she caught it with her other hand and pulled him to her.
"Pathetic." A bare fist collided with the cop's face, sending him flying backwards when Korra released the cables she was holding. The Avatar looked at the man who lay- nose bleeding - on the ground with both disgust and pity. "You give metalbenders a bad name."
"Freeze!" Another three metalbending cops jumped down from the airship and took a fighting stance around her, the other three who came with the captain joined them as well, since the two guys they arrested weren't in any condition to escape.
Korra's eyes widened when she realized she just punched an officer in the face. So much for keeping low profile...
"OK, alright. Everyone take it easy. I'll surrender..." The Avatar slowly raised her hand in gesture of surrender and let one of the cops tackle her to the ground before he handcuffed her. She didn't want to make the situation more complicated, but tried to avoid bringing attention to herself.
Deep in the dark alley not far the scene, two figures wearing trench coats, scarves and green goggles were observing the situation from the beginning.
"Contact Sato. We'll need some assistance at the police headquarters. " One of them spoke up, before both Equalists disappeared into the darkness. "We may have a potential recruit on our hands."
...to be continue
To clarify something. Yes, I'm Korrasami shipper. No, I don't hate Mako, his change in my AU may seem...pathetic at first, but I actually plan an important role for him to play later.
Chapter 3: Unwelcoming Republic City(2)
Inside an interrogation room, Korra sat at the table with her hands cuffed, while a female metalbending officer paced around the room with a clipboard in her hand.
"Let's see, disturbing the peace, put two men in the hospital with broken arms, legs, and ribs-"
'Oh, so they DID end up in a hospital.'Korra though to herself.
"-not to mention evading arrest and injuring a police captain…" The woman slammed the clipboard on the table, and angrily glared at Korra, who remained calm with a slight annoyance in her blue eyes. "You're in a whole mess of trouble, young lady."
"Yeah... you're not the first cop who told me that." The Avatar rolled her eyes. "Look, those two were threatening a helpless shopkeeper, I was just trying to help-"
"You should have called the police and stayed out of the way."
Korra almost slipped out a comment "If the police ever arrived on time, I would have been out of business five years ago.", but her situation was bad enough already without her provoking the interrogator.
The female cop walked to the other side of the table "What's your name?"
"Kairi" Korra told her fake name. "May I ask yours?"
The woman looked hesitate for a second, but decided to answer since the girl seemed cooperative. "I'm Lin Beifong."
"Wait, Beifong?Like...you're related to Suyin Beifong, the leader of the Metal Clan?"
Lin narrowed her eye at the mention of Suyin's name. "I'm her older sister."
"Oh? So...your family practically owns the entire city, then what are you doing being a petty cop here?-"
The sound of the fist slammed on a table made Korra realized her mistake, Lin glared angrily at her, especially after the word 'petty cop'.
"First," Lin's tone of voice was sharper than any metal she wore on her armor "Do not mention my sister's name in front of me ever again. Second, I am the chief of police, and I suggest you mind your tongue before you speak."
"Huh? I feel like Kuvira gave me the same lecture before... Come to think of it, is this the reason she was always the one who dealt with the authorities when we turned over wanted criminals?"Korra thought while gulping at the frighten stare of the chief of police.
Before they could continue their conversation, a metalbending officer opened a small hole in the metal wall.
"Chief, Hiroshi Sato is here. He requests to see the girl you're interrogating."
Lin's face frowned at question, but when she looked at Korra, she saw that the young girl was as surprised as she was.
"Send him in." Lin stood up beside the table, putting her hands behind her back in a formal posture, as the wall in front of Korra slid aside to form a door through which a middle aged man entered. One quick glance at his clothes told Korra that this guy lived a luxury live, so she wondered if he would ever need her service while she stayed here. And considering how ineffective these metalbender cops are, she might have a chance.
"Good afternoon, Chief Beifong." Hiroshi greeted Lin with a smile.
"How may I help you, Mr. Sato?"
"Well, how do I begin? I had heard that there is a mysterious non-bender girl who took down three Triple Threat Triads to save Mr. Chung, the phonograph shop owner." Hiroshi turned to Korra "I assume that was you, young lady?"
"Name's Kairi, nice to meet you." Korra nodded her head.
"You're a non-bender?" Lin asked.
"...maybe..." Korra mumbled, but before Lin could press any further, Hiroshi continue.
"I understand that she did break a few laws and got herself in trouble. However, it's a shame that such a heroic act got punished just because an unfortunate event-"
"This is how justice works, Mr. Sato. This girl put two people in the hospital with broken arms and legs, she needs to be punished for her crime."
"Would you prefer the victims to be one of the innocent civilians rather than the gang members?" Hiroshi's voice suddenly hardened a little. "I would gladly have the one who died at the raiding of my estate twelve years ago be the Agni Kai member instead of my wife."
"Mr. Sato..." Lin didn't raise her voice, but Korra knew that she wasn't backing down on this argument, so she either tried to avoid the harsh word, or she did feel sympathy for the man in front of her.
"My apologies," Hiroshi softened his tone. "I often lose my temper when it comes to the Triple Threat Triad. I'm sorry."
"It's alright" Lin nodded. "However, I can't make an exception for any crime, and I can't let this girl go free just because the victims were people that deserved what they got."
"I understand, and I didn't come to suggest that. I came here to offer to pay her fine and cover all the damages." Hiroshi turned to smiled at Korra "Think of it as my generosity for your good deed, Kairi."
"I'm not sure I like the idea of encouraging this act of vigilantism," Lin also turned to frown at Korra. "But it's your choice and your money, Mr. Sato. She didn't cause any collateral damage to any public or private property, so it'll be just her fine."
"Excellent, I'll go sign all the forms then, it shouldn't take long." Hiroshi spoke to Korra before he left the room with one of the officer.
"What a nice guy." The Avatar smiled widely, until Lin put her hand on her shoulder to have her attention. She wait until the door was close before she spoke.
"Don't get cocky over this, kid. And don't think that just because Mr. Sato came to save your skin this time-"
"A favor is an investment" Korra interrupted Lin, but what surprised the chief of police was how cold and calm her voice was. "I don't know what's Mr. Sato's true intentions are behind all of this, but I'm not stupid, Chief Beifong. No one gives a favor to a stranger without wanting something in return."
"Hiroshi is a good man, and I remind you of my previous advice. Mind your tongue before you speak about him."
Korra raise an eyebrow at Lin "I...think I'm kinda confused about your warning here, what exactly are you trying to tell me?"
Lin silenced for the moment before raises her left hand to opened Korra's handcuffs.
"I'll keep an eye on you. Kairi." She steps away to let Korra out of the room. The Avatar walked to the door before turning back to see Lin points with her index and pinkie at her eyes and back to Korra, glaring at her.
"...Good day to you too, officer." Korra said bluntly and walked away without turning again. She has never had a good relationship with authority, and won't have anytime soon.
"Thank you again for helping me, good sir." Korra bowed to Hiroshi as they left the police headquarter, even so deep down that Korra felt hurtful in her pride, a mercenary shouldn't leave the police station without a bounty!
"You're welcome Kairi. Let me promptly introduce myself: I am Hiroshi Sato, the owner and founder of Future Industries."
"A pleasure to meet you, Mr. Sato..." Korra heard the name Future Industries once or twice, but never paid much attention to the brand. And when it came to technology, Kuvira consistently opted for them to only use the products that said 'made in Zaofu'. Her sister REALLY was a nationalist.
"Please, call me Hiroshi."
"...Yes sir, and my name is Kairi, freelance mercenary."
Hiroshi never thought the girl's title would be more interesting than his, but apparently he was wrong.
"Merc, bounty hunter, hired sword, we have many titles." Korra smiled proudly "I usually travel around the countryside, fighting bandits, saving villagers, assisted town folk, all the things that for some reason turnout to be ILLEGAL in this city." Korra glanced back at the police station.
"Oh? Then I guess you must have many adventures to tell about." Hiroshi walked up to a luxurious looking Satomobile. "Are you free this evening? I would like to invite you to dinner at my estate."
"Oh?" Korra unconsciously backed away. She knew now what this man wanted from her. "Umm..., no... I can't...umm. You're really not my type..."
Though that line could have been offensive, Hiroshi just burst out laughing.
"I'm not a perverted old man, Kairi! You're young enough to be my daughter, in fact... I think you're the same age as her." Hiroshi waved his hand "I just want you to meet my daughter, and we would love to hear about your adventures as a mercenary, if you have time, of course."
"Well, I appreciate your generosity, but I do have some...business this evening." Korra still not fully convinced about his motivation, and she did have something to do this evening, so technically she didn't lie.
"I understand" Much to her surprise, Hiroshi backed down more easily than she thought. He only handed her a business card with an address written on the back. "I'd still like to get to know you better, Kairi. A youth who stands and fights for the people is hard to find this day. Feel free to drop by at my place anytime. Goodbye." Hiroshi nodded before got in his Satomobile and drove off.
Korra inspected the card he gave her for moment. She started to wondered why Mr. Sato seemed so interested in her?
Korra stepped off the ferry on Air Temple Island. She was the only one at the dock, so much for not drawing an attention. Korra could only hope the island was no stranger to a visitor or a tourist.
"OK, Kairi. You can do this." Korra spoke to herself while walking to the temple. "You just a curious girl who wants to see some airbending performance, maybe for writing a book or... damn! I wish Kuvira was here, she could always come up with a good excuse when we went undercover."
"Who is Kuvira?"
Korra almost jumped off her skin. She turned around to see a little girl who sat on a tree branch that was big enough to support her weight. She wearing an olive green shirt, donning her hair in two buns behind her head. She jumped down and walked to Korra.
"Hi. My name is Ikki. Who are you?" The little girl introduced herself.
"Kairi, I'm...a traveler..." 'Off to the poor start. Focus, Korra! You can do better than this!' "I'm here to study the art of airbending."
"Are you a bender yourself?"
"...I'll let you guess." Korra acted like she was teasing, but really she just wanted to keep her bending options open as long as possible.
"Well, bender or not, you know that you can't use airbending, right? You have to born as an airbender. And now there are only three airbenders in the world."
"Are you one of the three?"
The smile on Ikki's face shifted a little, but she hid it quickly. "Well, I..."
The two turn to see a girl and a boy flew from the temple with their gliders. The girl look a bit older than Ikki, while the boy was certainly younger, both of them wearing Air Nomad attire. They landed on their feet and folded their gliders back into to a staff.
"Who is she?" the boy asked, looking at Korra.
"Kairi, meet my brother, Meelo, and my sister, Jinora." Ikki pointed at the two, and back to Korra. "Meelo, Jinora, this is Kairi. She said she want to learn about airbending."
"We always welcome those who interested in Air Nomad culture." The girl named Jinora spoke with a polite smile. "What do you want to know? An Air Nomad's philosophy? The original airbending?"
"Actually..." Korra thought things started to look up for her. These children are probably Tenzin's kids, and they seem so eager to help her "I would like to see some airbending moves, you know? Air blast, create a tornado, something like that. Can you three show me?"
At the temple's courtyard, the four of them stood in front of a circle filled with several wooden gates, all standing in a different direction. The elemental symbol of airbending appeared on every gate.
"This is a time-honored tool that teaches the most fundamental aspect of airbending." Jinora announced "The goal is to weave your way through the gates and make it to the other side without touching them."
"While they are spinning, I guess?" Korra ask when she notice the joint at every gate.
"Correct" Jinora said as she thrusts her hands forward, releasing a burst of air. The gates start to spin rapidly. She held up a leaf between her thumb and index finger."The key is to be like the leaf. Flow with the movement of the gates."she releases the leaf and gently moves it toward the gates with airbending, the leave swirling and twirling, never touching the spinning gates until it emerges on the other side. "Now, Meelo will demonstrate."
The boy grinned proudly as he did a few exercise pose before runs up to the gates. Korra follows Meelo with her gaze as he weaves his way through the ancient airbending tool, rapidly switching direction each time a spinning panel comes near him.
"Airbending is all about spiral movements. When you meet resistance, you must be able to switch direction at a moment's notice." Jinora explained. Meelo emerged from the other side and stood like an Olympic winner with an imaginary gold medal on his neck. "and for the history of this gate, it's invention tract back to..."
"Can I try?" Korra cut the girl off, somehow knew that her history lesson going to be boring.
"You can, but it's a lot harder than its looks!" Meelo exclaimed "Only a well-trained airbender could get through this without a scratch..."
In the blink of an eye, Korra disappeared from their view, and in another blink, jumped out from between the gates beside Meelo.
"I think it slow down now, could you shot an air blast to make it as fast as your turn?" Korra asked.
Three children looked back at the gates. Yes, it's spinning slower than before, but it still nowhere near the level that a regular person would run through this easily.
"How could you do that? I been tried over and over again, but I never got further than half way." Ikki asked, with a little hurt in her voice.
"Let's just say...I'm familiar with getting shot, slashed, punched, burned, struck, and stabbed from every direction all at one." Korra smiled like she thought of a good old days. "A couple of times I had to do it with both my hands tied behind my back and my ankles in chain, no kidding."
Jinora looked shocked, Ikki open her mouth in awe, and Meelo raised his eyebrows in disbelieve, so he shot a gust of wind to make the gate spin up to the same speed.
"Now that's a real challenge." Korra said as she ran into the circle, where she managed to dodge four of the gate but got slammed in the face by the fifth. Korra lost her balance and got hit by every panel around her.
With her strong survivor instinct, Korra stop forcing her way through and let the gate push her backwards, until she got tossed out of the circle. However, she was still able to do a back flip and land elegantly on her feet.
"Ha! I know you couldn't do it!" Meelo yelled, hiding the fact that he did impressed how she able to retreat from the gate with the bare minimum of damage, and her back flip was astonishing!
"It's official then, your gate is a better fighter than the Triple Threat Triad gang." Korra tried moving her arm to make sure she didn't break any bones. "Did you just run through them, or did you have to use an airbending to get pass these?"
"Jinora! We can't reveal our secret technique to a non-airbender!" Meelo interrupt his sister, he pointed at Korra, and Ikki. "There are two of them here!"
"Wait, you're not an airbender?"Korra suddenly turn to ask the girl. Ikki avoided her gaze like she felt ashamed of that question, her reaction made Korra want to slap herself for asking this. While Jinora knocked Meelo's head in the background for his rudeness.
"No... I'm not, sorry to disappoint you..." Ikki spoke with a sad smile, but before Korra could apologize, they noticed a tall figure enter the courtyard.
"Kids, do we have a guest?"
"Dad!" Ikki switched her expression to a smile as she ran to her father, "How is she? Is she alright? Does she have to stay at the hospital..."
"She fine, Ikki. Nothing to worry about, but remember, no more chocolate for her." Tenzin padded his daughter head before turn his attention to the stranger girl...
...who, at first sight, somehow seemed familiar to him...
"And you are?..."
"Master Tenzin, it's an honor to meet you." Korra bowed and greeted him calmly, while inside she almost had a panic attack when she first saw him. "My name is Kairi, I come here to learn about the art of airbending."
"We always welcome anyone who have interest in an Air Nomad culture." Tenzin smiled and just dismissed his earlier thought, maybe most teenagers look the same through the eye of an old man like him. "But I must ask you come back tomorrow, we only receive visitors during office hours."
"My apologies then. I'll take my leave." Korra was now in her full on business mode, she may lack the charm Kuvira has, but she could be polite enough to smooth her way through many clients, the skill seem to transferable to this situation as well. She then turned to the three kids "Thank you all for the demonstration."
Jinora was the only one who bowed back to her, Ikki thought she didn't do anything for Korra to deserved a thank-you, and Meelo seemed to have developed a little prejudice towards her about the airbending gates.
As Korra turned to leave, relived that her true identity was safe and secure. Another figure entered the courtyard, and the sight managed to destroy Korra's calmness completely.
Ikki was about to open her mouth, when Korra suddenly said.
All eyes turn to her. A polar bear dog was running toward Ikki, but stopped when she noticed Korra. Naga slowly walked to her, sniffing the Avatar to confirm the scent of familiarity...
...The scent of her former master...
"W... what are you doing here?" Korra's voice was shacking. She had prepared to face a lot of things when she came to this island, but this was not one of them.
Carefully, she placed her palm on Naga's head. It felt like so long ago that she almost forgot the soft fur of the beast.
"How did you know her name?" Ikki asked, confused that Naga just ignored her like this. But Korra was too lost in her thought when she locked eyes with the polar dog, question, explanation, apologize, many emotion past through their eye without any word or sound.
The Avatar's thought only snapped when she heard Tenzin's voice.
A moment of silence followed, the girl neither responded or denied that name. Korra lowered her head so Tenzin couldn't see her eyes. She retreated her hand back from Naga's head.
"Korra, is it really you? Where did you..."
Before Tenzin finished his word, the giant ball of flame shot out of her hand and blocked his entire view.
...continue in part 3...
The fireball was just a distraction to buy her some time, and Korra started running toward the docks while Tenzin was occupied with the flames.
I'm screwed... I'm screwed!... I'm screwed! He knows my face, he knows what I look like, he's got the lead on me now, and he's going to tell THEM... the White Lotus. They going to come for me... track me down, hunt me like an animal!
I must run, I must hide! But... the face... I'll have to cut my face, or burn it, give myself a scar, the one that look ugly enough for people to turn away and don't recognize me. It'll be a painful burden to live with but I don't care! I would rather live with only half of my face as long as I got to live free!
"Korra! Wait!" Tenzin created whirlwind to dispatch of the fireball before using his air-cycle to outrun Korra. He stood blocking her path.
"OUT OF MY WAY!" She shouted, but Tenzin felt like she sounded more scare than angry.
"Korra! please, I just want to talk..."
Tenzin got cut short when he had to created another whirlwind shield to block another incoming fireball. Korra threw her firebending like crazy, forgot all form or tactics, she just unleashed her power to destroy whatever stood between her and her freedom. Her rage attack was too intense for Tenzin to do anything but defend himself.
She stopped when a piece of earth struck her from behind, followed by two gusts of wind that made Korra fall on her face. She quickly got up and looked back to see all of Tenzin's children take a fighting stance.
"Stay away from our father!" Jinora shouted as she and Meelo shot another air blast at Korra, while Ikki stomped the ground, summon another piece of earth and kicked it at her.
Korra stomped the ground to raise an earth wall, blocking all the attacks. The three children were taken aback to see that the girl could bend both fire and earth, but the realization hit them fast.
"She's the Avatar..." Jinora mumbled.
As the earth wall fell back, Korra began to calm down when she meet the sight of the kids. Unlike Tenzin, they just tried to protect their father, an honorable act she might add, so she wouldn't dare lay a finger on them...
"All of you stand down!" Tenzin yelled at his children, feared that they might provoke the Avatar, "Please, Korra! Don't hurt them, they are just kids."
...but Tenzin didn't know about that.
"Step aside, and no one will get hurt," Korra said in a low creepy voice.
"I don't understand, Korra. Where did you gone for all these years? And why did you come here if you don't want to be found..."
"Keep asking..." the Avatar lifted her hand that ignited in flame toward the three kids, Tenzin suddenly lost his voice as he watched in horror. "and the world will have one less airbender."
Ikki felt stupid for a second that she felt offended for not being included in the hostage negotiation. She glanced back at Naga who looked utterly confused right now. The beast wanted to protect her little master and her siblings, but she didn't want to stand against her former master either.
Whatever decision anyone might have made got interrupted when suddenly, a metal cable wrapped around Korra's wrist and pulled her out of the courtyard. Korra felt like her arm was almost torn out of its socket. The cable swung the Avatar around and she hit a tree with a force that almost crushed her bones.
The world went dark for a second, and when the light came back, Korra's head was still spinning mercilessly as she tried to stand up.
A metallic footstep clanked in her ears, and her eyes darted around. She was met with a hand that reached down and grabbed her by the neck, squeezing the air out of her throat.
"How dare you..." said a familiar voice. Korra's blurry eyes looked up to saw the face that she told herself to avoid. "...threaten my family!"
The Avatar thought chief Beifong looked grumpy before, but now she looked absolute terrifying. Should she show this face in public, Korra was willing to bet that no gangster would dared to claim even a single footpath downtown.
The last thing the Avatar heard before Lin's fist rendered her unconscious was Tenzin yelling. 'Hold on! Lin.' And the reminder of Tenzin being there made Korra know for a fact that the next time she woke up, it'll be in White Lotus's prison.
5 years ago...
"Korra, why didn't you set up your tent?" Kuvira asked as she was setting hers.
"This will do," Korra declared after she threw a mat, a pillow, and a blanket on a bare dirt floor as the two mercenaries camping at the countryside near Si Wong Desert. "I like not having a roof over my head."
"Because it reminds me..." Korra smiled as she looked up at the starry night sky. "...that I'm not in prison anymore."
"Are White Lotus compounds really that bad? From what I heard, I thought it's just a boarding school for the Avatar."
"The room was nice, good furniture and all, the bad part was how I fell asleep every night, sobbing from loneliness, then wake up every morning, just to get pushed into the courtyard and train until I coughed up blood."
"They didn't...really make you cough up blood, did they?" Kuvira asked with concern. At this point, she and her 'partner' still hadn't shared much of their history.
"Not in the last 3 years before I ran away," Korra said casually while using earthbending to clear the pebbles off where she gonna lay down. "Before that, I had to drink a bowl of water every night to heal my own entrails, my teacher said it was a good practice for my healing ability."
"That was cruel..." Kuvira mumbled, as she have no idea that the order that helped end the Hundred Year War would have a much darker side hidden from the public eye. But Korra just shrugged and stretched her oversize mat on the ground.
"What's past is past, Kuvira. Let's go to sleep! Tomorrow we're gonna go explore Si Wong Desert!" She dropped on the pillow with a huge childish smile on her face "I love living a free live!"
A wooden ceiling was the first thing Korra saw when she open her eyes. She quickly got up to find herself in a bed that... felt too good to be in a prison. Outside, the sky was dark, indicating the sun already set.
Korra turned to see a pair of eyes watching her from door that was on a crack. Slowly, the girl named Ikki opened the door and walked into the room with caution.
"Where am I? A prison? A compound? A ship to the South Pole?" Korra felt ashamed of how insecure her voice sounded, especially in front of a kid.
"You're still on the Air Temple Island, A.K.A. my house," Ikki answered. "And before you ask, no, we didn't contact the White Lotus. Aside from us, not even the Air Acolytes on the island know that you're the Avatar."
"R... Really?" Korra frowned, but felt like she could breathed easier once again.
"Yeah, mom really insist about throwing you in prison though, but dad said he want to talk to you first."
"That... makes sense, I guess?"
The silence loomed over them for a moment before the Ikki decided to ask. "So... you really are the Avatar."
"And you're actually an earthbender," Korra mocked, then asked back with more serious tone: "How did my polar bear dog end up here?"
"Your polar bear dog?" Now it was Ikki's turn to mock, as she raised her voice in a fake surprise manner "Oh! Did you mean Naga, the poor girl that you abandoned back at South Pole?"
Ikki's high pitched voice really took Korra by surprise, she opened her mouth to say something but Ikki continued.
"Well, here's how we met. Our family went to visit grandma Katara when I was 4. One night while stayed there, I walked around the house and accidentally found grandma treating a sick polar bear dog in the other room. The poor girl looked terrible. She was thin, tired, barely moved, and looked like she was about to drop dead at any second."
Ikki's paused when she noticed that Korra was now avoiding her eyes and gazed at the floor, but she continued anyway.
"Grandma told me she was the pet of the Avatar. She got left behind when the girl ran away and decided not to take her with her. For the last 3 years, Naga went to the front gate and sat there, waiting for her owner to return, she stopped eating, she got sick, and the White Lotus guard who took care of her even suggested that they should put her down to end her suffering." Ikki failed to notice how Korra's face twisted when she heard about Naga getting killed. "That night was the last time grandma tried to heal her, and she said if Naga didn't get better, they were gonna put her out of her misery."
Ikki suddenly gained a courage from the rage that she had for the Avatar, for she thought Korra didn't showed any sign of regret even after everything she told her. The little girl walked around the bed to met the Avatar's eye to eye, forcing Korra to looked at her.
"So I stayed with Naga that night. Grandma said it might be pointless, but she let me try anyway. At first Naga ignored me, like she didn't notice anything around her. I fell asleep in the middle of the night, but when I woke up, she was there, cuddling beside me. So I kept spending time with her for the rest of our visit, and by the end of the week we became best friends with each other."
Korra hid a spark of appreciation in her eyes quickly, so from Ikki's point of view, the Avatar still looked like an emotionless cold hearted bitch who didn't give a damn about what she just heard.
"When we were about to leave, Naga didn't want me to go, and I didn't want to leave her either, so grandma gave her to me. She told mom and dad that Naga would likely die if she was left here alone. And that's how Naga came to be a part of our family, and let me remind you that SHE IS NOT YOUR POLAR BEAR DOG ANYMORE!" Ikki never thought she would have the nerve to yell at the most powerful entity in the four nations, who still looked at her with a blank expression, and after a moment, simply replied with an emotionless face.
"Your general opinion of me must be really low, isn't it?"
Ikki gritted her teeth, frustrated with the response.
The door swung open as the airbending master and the Chief of Police appeared. Lin quickly walked in and pulled Ikki away from Korra. The girl offered no resistance as her mother dragged her out of the room.
"You have five minutes," Lin said to Tenzin before she closed the door behind her, leaving him with the Avatar. Although the two could heard a faint noise from the outside as Lin yelled "I told you to stay away from her. What did you doing in there?!" and Ikki answered "But mom! I just tried to protecting my possessory right of Naga!..."
"Cute kid," Korra said. "And I thought the world last airbender's son married to the daughter of the world first metalbender would be bigger news. Why did I never see headline about your wedding in the newspaper?" she asked Tenzin, who rose his hand to evade the subject.
"Please Avatar Korra, I really need to asked about your disapp-"
"If we're going to talk, do-not-call-me-the Avatar." Korra interrupted coldly, as the only person she allowed to address her with that title was Kuvira, for her sister was the only one who knew what kind of pain Korra buried behind that word.
"As you wish, Korra." Tenzin backed down politely. "Where have you gone for six years?"
"Almost everywhere really, but I mostly stuck to the Earth Kingdom. The business really bloomed around that part."
"I'm a mercenary." Korra shrugged liked it was supposed to be obvious. "Got to make a living somehow, and all the White Lotus taught me was how to fight."
"So... you really did run away..." Tenzin whispered. Korra rose her eyebrow.
"Was that in doubt?"
"Despite what my mother told everyone, there was a rumor among the White Lotus guards that you got kidnapped by the terrorists. It had happened before, but we managed to stop and captured them."
"I don't recall any of that."
"You were only five back then." Tenzin pulled up a chair to sat across from Korra's bed. "It was the reason we tightened the security around the compound. All for your safety..."
"And instead, you drove me crazy and made me run away without the help of any terrorist. Nice work!" Korra chuckled, she couldn't have cared less about who were those terrorists that Tenzin was talking about, since the Avatar title probably created a lot of enemies by her mere existence.
"Is that really the reason you ran away, Korra? I know the White Lotus compound got really strict toward you, but if you just told us..."
"Told who?" Korra interrupted Tenzin for the third time. "Katara? I didn't know what she was like in her youth, but she didn't have a backbone to oppose any one of the White Lotus. You? I met you once, and that time you were too busy talking with the compound leader. My parents? They stopped visiting me when I was eight, Spirits know why. So let me ask you again Tenzin. WHO THE HELL WAS I SUPPOSED TO TALK TO!?"
Korra jumped off the bed and grabbed Tenzin by his collar while he was still sitting, almost immediately that the door open and a metal cable shot at the Avatar. Turn out Lin didn't go anywhere and waiting just outside the entire time.
Korra released Tenzin and snatched the cable out of the air like she did with the police captain. The chief would not catch her off guard again.
"That's it! Step aside, Tenzin. I'll jail her and contact the White Lotus!"
"No, you don't!" Korra pull Lin toward her. Lin lost her balance but she was still able to block the girl's punch with her other hand. She was not going down as easily as her officer.
They would have begun their life or death spar if not for Tenzin creating a blast of wind to separate the two. He stepped in between Korra and Lin, turning his back to his wife, for she was the least likely one that to kill him.
"Korra! I'm not gonna call the White Lotus or anybody, I promise..."
"Speak for yourself, Tenzin! I'm not gonna let this crazy brat roam free in our city, Avatar or not!" Lin said, still in her fighting stance and tried to stepped in front of Tenzin.
"So if I'm gonna end up on a wanted poster anyway, might as well just add 'beat the living crap out of the chief of police' to the list then!" Korra prepared to ignited her fists in flame...
"ENOUGH! BOTH OF YOU!"
Tenzin ditched his usually polite manner and snapped at the two women. His sudden outburst seemed to work as both Korra and Lin looked stunt for a moment.
"Lin! Step back and let me handle this. Korra, just... tell me why you're here? You disappeared for almost a decade and suddenly you show up at my doorstep, but then freak out when I remember you, what do you want exactly?"
The metalbender retracted her cable and took a few steps back, but she still eyed the girl up with caution, one wrong move and she wouldn't hesitated to protect her husband. Korra looked at Lin and knew that she wasn't off the hook yet.
The Avatar toke a deep breath and started explaining: "I had a conversation with your father..."
...continued in part 4...
PS. In case it's not clear to you. In my AU, Tenzin and Lin got married, and Jinora, Ikki, and Meelo are their children (I know, doesn't make sense... but I took some creative liberty here). Jinora and Meelo are airbenders, while Ikki is earthbender.
PPS. Pema didn't exist in my AU, neither does Rohan.
PPPS. But despite the outcome, Tenzin still has an ex-girlfriend in this AU, and she isn't an OC. Can you guess who she is?
Chapter 5: Unwelcoming Republic City(4)
An uncomfortable silence fell upon the three of them. Korra sat back on the bed after she told all of her story, minus the identity of her 'partner'.
If it would come to that, Korra was determined to kept Kuvira out of this mess, the White Lotus wouldn't take it well that her sister had been living with the Avatar for all those years and didn't tell anybody.
Tenzin didn't press Korra any harder on this subject, though he did worry that this person might have exploited Korra for his personal gain, and the Avatar was too naive to realize that. While Lin was so sure that this stupid girl got tricked by a guy who undoubtedly had a criminal past as the reason of why he didn't come to Republic City with Korra.
The chief of police was quite sure that this mysterious man was probably Korra's lover as well. What a pathetic delusional life this girl must have.
Meanwhile, in Zaofu, Kuvira sneezed twice while cleaning her captain's uniform in her private room, wondering if she caught herself a cold.
"So, you came to me to learn airbending?" Tenzin asked, rubbing his beard. "but you don't want anyone to know that you're... the Avatar. So you plan to just… observe us and practice by yourself?"
"Assuming it would be that simple?" Lin joined in with a cynical grin. She watched her kids and her husband train long enough to know that airbending was as hard as any element, and one couldn't get very far without a proper tutor.
"It was the best I could come up with at the time." Korra rolled her eyes, trying to ignore Lin's mockery. "I'm not really good at the whole 'thinking ahead' thing, usually my partner did all the thinking, I just made it up as I went along."
"Healthy attitude there." Lin mumbled, glad that they didn't have any world crises depending on this girl.
"I have decided." After a moment of concentration, Tenzin turn to Korra and nodded his head."If this is my father's wish, then I'll teach you." The Avatar was about to interrupt, but Tenzin knew what she was about to say. "In secret, no one aside from my family will know you're the Avatar. You can stay in the city and only come here to train if you want. And if anyone asks, we'll tell them that you are my wife's cousin who came to visit us from Ba Sing Se."
"Really?!"The second voice belonged to Lin who looked at her husband, half curious and half angry.
"Are you going to allow this psychotic brat to walk in and out of our home? Let her near our children?! And don't even get me start about her being my relative!"
"Lin, please. This is important..."
"We don't even know if she is telling the truth! Can she prove that Avatar Aang's spirit told her to come here?!"
"Well, why else would I come to this sad excuse for a city? I had a blissful life out there in the field, and yet I have to put all that on hold just because your dad's ghost want me to complete his element collection. Did you think I even want to airbend?! I've been breathing fire and throwing rocks at bandits since I was twelve, and I was just fine with that."
Korra crossed her arms and looked away from the couple, she felt very offended that they thought she came to Republic City by choice. She had to part ways from her dearest sister, for Spirits' sake!
Lin was about to say something but Tenzin rose his hand in pleading manner, as he really didn't want either of them to start another argument, and he also didn't want to shout twice in one night, that would really destroy the image of a calm and serene airbending master.
"Lin, as the eldest and the most knowledgeable of the airbenders, I am obliged to teach the Avatar. It is my duty."
"Umm... you two assume that I'd still want to learn airbending?" Korra spoke up "I still have plan B in mind, you know. Catch the first ship out of this city, get wasted in a local tavern, hope I'll be hung over enough in the morning to not notice Aang if he decides to keep haunting me."
"This girl...is the embodiment...of everything I stand against." Lin pushed Tenzin out of her way and walked up to Korra, and the airbender knew that his wife had now crossed the line where he could no longer reason with her. It would surprise no one to learn that between Lin and Tenzin, the earthbender was the one who wearing pants in this relationship, though she still respected her husband enough to let him have a final say in many subjects of their familial life.
But this night, Tenzin already used up all her respect, partially because their guest was really trying her patience.
Korra was ready to get off the bed in case the chief was about to shoot another cable at her, but to the Avatar's surprise, Lin just stood arms crossed in front of her with a serious but calm look on her face.
"I have decided." Unlike Tenzin, any objection that would come after this would be overruled. But aside from Korra, it was doubtful that anyone on this island would dare to object her. "You will stay here with us until you master airbending."
"You will be under my roof, my rules." Lin ignored Korra's interruption."Tenzin will schedule your training, while I will dedicate my free time to scrub that rogue-like behavior out of you. If we are gonna train the Avatar, we might as well make her one who is socially acceptable."
"And if I refuse?!" Korra stood up. She didn't avoid the White Lotus for six years just to be caged by an overzealous police officer. Speaking of the White Lotus... "Oh, let me guess. You're going to call the White Lotus to take me away, aren't you?"
"If I am to call them," Lin stepped closer, and Korra momentarily felt very intimidated by this woman. "It'll be to inform that they need to start searching for the new Avatar."
Something in Lin's eyes told Korra she wasn't kidding.
The Avatar took a step back, and almost stumbled back onto the bed. She glanced at Tenzin who was silently observing the situation. The airbender nodded at her, confirming that his wife was capable of doing what she said. He immediately tried to avoid Lin's eyes when she followed Korra's glance at him.
Korra weighed her options. She could still try to fight her way out of this city to disappear like she did six years ago. However, not only the White Lotus would get more leads on her, but she surely would never hear the end of Aang's complaining. So she would be hunted psychically and mentally, and that was not how she wanted to spend the rest of her life.
Most importantly, she already made a deal with Aang, and while the situation may have gotten complicated, it was still nothing outside their agreement. She was still under his contract.
And a mercenary never broke a contract.
"Will my identity still be secret? No one besides you and your family will know I'm the Avatar?"
"That's the promise I can give." Lin's answer was as serious as her threats, and that reminded Korra of a similar answer she received from another earthbender long time ago...
"If...If I go with you, you wouldn't hand me to the White Lotus, right?" an eleven year old Korra asked with a trembling voice.
"Yes, I promise." The look on the stranger girl wasn't kind, her face was stern and almost emotionless. But on the other hand, it filled Korra with a conviction that she would keep her word.
The young Avatar accepted the hand that helped pull her up from the cold floor of this smuggler's cave Korra worked for from the past two months. The older girl dusted the dirt off the Avatar and looked at her with a softer expression.
"My name is Kuvira. Pleased to meet you, Avatar Korra."
"Deal" Korra offered her hand to Lin, who looked at her for a moment before walking out of the room without even touching it.
"You can sleep here tonight. I'll tell the acolytes to bring you some clothes in the morning."
As the chief disappeared, Tenzin let out a breath he didn't even know he was holding, while Korra waved her hand in the air, annoyed that Lin seemed to dismiss the mercenary way of promising.
"Forgive my wife. She can be harsh sometimes, but she really is a good person if you get to know her."
"Well, it seems like I'm gonna spend a lot of time getting to know her." Korra took a deep breath before turning to Tenzin again. "I'm really sorry for all the trouble I caused you tonight, Tenzin. Despite what you guys might think of me, I really have no intention to harm you or your children."
"You... really surprise me sometimes." Tenzin was taken aback by Korra's politeness. Her sobriety was similar to when they first met in the courtyard. "Good night, Korra. Also... welcome to Air Temple Island." The airbender bowed his head, and again to his surprise, Korra bowed back.
Tenzin excused himself from the room. While walking through the hallway, he wondered...
Was that one of Korra's masks as a cunning mercenary, or is there more to this roguish Avatar than meets the eye?
In a dimly-lit room where the moonlight shone through the window, a person walked in, in a similar trench-coat uniform as those mysterious men in the alley, but this one was wearing what looked like a complicated gas-mask, with four tubes and an intimidating looking respirator.
The person walked up to a man in a hood and a white mask who was staring at a large world map on the wall. He turned his head slightly to his second-in-command. From a certain angle, he looked exactly like his poster.
"Any reports,Lieutenant?" Amon asked with his calm and subdued voice.
"Just a minor one, sir," The Lieutenant answered, the voice through the respirator was full with noise and almost sounded synthetic. "Kairi, the girl who fought the Triple Threat Triads on the street. I had our men follow her around town since she left the police headquarters, their last report was she headed to the Air Temple Island, and didn't return."
"A guest of councilman Tenzin, maybe?" Amon suggested.
"Possibly, sir. I didn't have them follow her to the island, too risky. But if she comes back to the city, we'll know."
"Good, but don't get too distracted on this... promising recruit." The leader of the Equalists turned back to the map. "We have a bigger plan to unleash upon Republic City."
Chapter 6: A leaf under the wind(1)
At daybreak on the Air Temple Island, a morning breeze refreshed those who got up early. In the middle of the courtyard, Ikki stretched herself besides Naga, ready for their morning exercise.
"I wonder what took mom so long?" Ikki said while rocking back and forth on her tip toes, before she saw two figures coming from the temple. One is her mother, the other...made Ikki immediately dart back to her polar bear dog.
"Mom, be careful! The mean Avatar is behind you!" She hugged Naga protectively, still under the impression that the evil and heartless Avatar would steal her away. The polar bear dog looked like it wanted to go greet its former owner, but also didn't want to struggle out of the current one's grip.
"You didn't tell her?" Korra asked Lin.
"I'm about to." The chief of police turned to her daughter. "Ikki, Korra is going to stay with us for a while, and I invited her..."
"If by 'invited' you mean 'kick me out of bed and drag me out of the room' then...yeah" Korra mumbled, but Lin suddenly turned and jabbed the finger in the middle of the Avatar's forehead.
"Rule number one, do not interrupt while I speak ." The chief snarled.
"...yes ma'am." Korra began to wonder if Lin didn't call the White Lotus out of mercy, or she just wanted to personally make Korra relive her bad days. At least Air Temple Island had a nicer weather than the south pole compound.
"As I said, I invite Korra to join us in our morning exercise." Lin noticed the frowned on Ikki's face, so she added "You have my permission to throw a boulder at her if she tries to run away." Her daughter brightened up a bit.
"Can't you just give her candy?" Korra wasn't pleased being used as a pawn in the discipline method.
"Alright, enough chitchat. First, ten laps around the island." Lin glanced at Korra while Ikki and Naga get ready for the jogging. "Not too much for you, I hope?" her voice couldn't have been less sincere.
"While you patrolling a nice, smooth concrete street, officer." Korra stretched her leg "I ran up and down a mountain side once a month, finding the smuggler hideout, and don't even get me started on the chase, slippery bastard ran like a rabbit-squirrel."
Intentionally or not, Korra hit a sore spot with Lin. There were two things in the world the chief of police held close to her heart: her family, and her pride devotion to the police.
"Twenty, just for you and me." Lin challenged, but Korra only smirked. Compared to Kuvira, it was easy to get under Lin's skin, and Korra might be able to have some fun with that, if she willing to risk a metal cable to the gut once in a while.
Tenzin sipped his tea while reading a newspaper at the table when he heard the door open and three footsteps came in.
"What took you so long." He asked, eyes still on the paper. "Jinora and Meelo already finished their breakfast..." Tenzin stopped mid-sentence when he saw the three.
Ikki looked a little tried than usually but nothing too strange, his daughter would got carry away on her exercise with her mother sometime. Now, HER MOTHER though...
Lin looked like she just ran a full week marathon around the city, her face full of sweat that she kept wiped away with a towel but still kept sweating, she panted rapidly in a way that shouldn't be for just a morning exercise, and her cloth soaked with sweat at the level that she gonna need another big shower before go to work. To added him another surprise, Korra was in the exact same condition.
"They did fifty-five laps around the island." Ikki answered with a bored expression. "I gave up at twelve and got left behind with Naga. I think they kept going just to see who would fall first."
"Neither, mom call a quite because she has to go to work, Kor-Kairi agreed because...I think she was half way dead as much as mother at that point." Ikki almost forgot that mom told her to used the Avatar's fake name, as part of the agreement to kept her identity secret.
Tenzin only nodded, from what he heard about his father's relationship with Master Toph, it seemed their friendly competition had passed down to this generation as well, even if it was a lot less 'friendly'.
"You're good, officer." Korra said after all three of them sat down and she finally caught her breath. "I'll give you benefit of the doubt and say that you're not the desk-job type."
"Being a police is more than just physical strength, kid," Lin replied, "but yeah, I hate paper work."
Korra was about to pick up a piece of food in a dish when a small cable whipped the air in front of her hand.
"Rule number two, chopsticks, no hands," Lin said as she retracted her mini-metal cable back in her sleeve. Korra rubbed her finger with an annoyed look on her face.
"Does she do that to everyone, or just me?" she whispered to Ikki who smiled back at her.
"Don't I feel special..." Korra grunted as she picked up her chopsticks, she knew about table manners, but Kuvira only asked her to act civilized only when they went to eat with a client in a luxurious restaurant.
"Do I have permission to read a paper?" Korra asked when she saw Tenzin put his newspaper down.
"Don't read too loud." Lin shrugged before continued her breakfast.
The tension in the air disappear for a moment, Lin and Ikki eating, Korra reading, and Tenzin felt relieved that the Avatar and his family seemed to get along...on some level. And the way Korra silently reading a newspaper made him wondered...
She looked calm, quiet, even...serene, but from what he heard from the White Lotus, Korra was a hotheaded, aggressive, and undisciplined person, so he wondered if her personality had changed over the years, and that maybe there was something wrong with the way the compound had treated her.
"And, in the final round, the Buzzard Wasps won with a decisive knockout." Korra read the article not too loud but loud enough for Ikki the heard her. "I almost forgot that the pro-bending arena is in this city."
"Do you like pro-bending, Kairi?" the girl asked, sometime she forgot she was supposed to dislike the Avatar.
"Not really my style," Korra's answer almost made Tenzin smile, before he heard what followed. "Too many rules and restrictions. I prefer the fight that lets you use every advantage you have against your enemy."
"That's...not the reason I was expecting, but...at least we on the same side in this argument." Tenzin said. " That sport is a mockery of the noble tradition of bending."
"I used my bending to take down criminals, sometimes violently. You might want to stretch the definition of 'noble'a little bit, Tenzin." Lin casually joined the conversation.
"So, me and Meelo are still the only two people on this island who want to go see the match? Great..." Ikki scowled, guessing she would be stuck with the radio for the foreseeable future.
After breakfast, Lin went off to work, Ikki went to play with Naga, while Tenzin and Korra walked outside underneath a wooden shed. A ring-tailed flying lemur stopped by when it saw a new face on the island. Korra was now wearing typical Air Nomad attire instead of her usual black mercenary clothing.
"So you said that you've never been able to airbend before." Tenzin began while Korra still tried to adjust to her unfamiliar outfit.
"Is this really necessary? Wouldn't the acolytes get suspicious if they saw me in this clothes?" the girl was not please with the Air Nomad attire, the fabric was too soft, and it made her feel vulnerable.
"The clothes are design to support the airbending movement. And I already told everyone that you're Beifong's very distance relatives who study the art of all bending. They'll just think you're trying to get into the feel of airbender."
"If you say so," Korra looked around to see some acolytes working with their chores in the distance, and none of them seem to pay any attention to her. And while the Beifong wasn't the most low profile title, to said that she came from Katara's family would probably turn a lot more heads. "Aang said I lack the understanding of the airbending nature, not sure what that meant though."
"Often the element that's the most difficult for the Avatar to master is the one most opposite to the Avatar's personality. Maybe that is what he meant by 'the lack of understanding'."
"And what is the 'understanding of air' exactly?"
"Freedom." Tenzin answered as they continued to walked forward. " The ability to detach yourself from worldly restraint, to find peace and freedom above our primal desire or instinct."
"That sound like what I have been doing for the last six years, living a free life, goes where the wind lead me. How was that not a freedom?"
"I'm not an expert on your lifestyle, Korra, but if I have to guess, a mercenary probably has a lot of attachment to the earthly desire. You may think you're free, but your spirit is bound with the passion of this world. Nevertheless, today we will start from the physical side of things."
The two arrived at the same courtyard they fought yesterday. At the spinning gates stood two of Tenzin's children, Jinora and Meelo.
"Hello, cheater!" Meelo greeted her with an unfriendly expression.
"Excuse me?" Korra was a little confused by the accusation.
"You used your Avatar power to get pass the gate yesterday! Of course you were cheating." The boy crossed his arm angrily.
"It's alright, Tenzin." Korra held up her hand and smiled at him, before she turned to Meelo "I'll let you believe that if it will make you sleep easier at night."
"From a certain point of view." Korra still smiled, and that almost drove Meelo mad. Jinora pulled Meelo away to ease the tension.
"Forgive my brother, I'm honor to assist your airbending practice, Avatar Korra." Jinora politely bowed to her, and it was funny how that made Korra felt more uneasy than how Meelo or Ikki treated her.
"Please don't call me that, kid." Korra pushed Jinora's shoulder softly to made her stopped bowing. "and...I'm sorry for lying to you yesterday. It was kind of you to explain to me all the stuff about airbending. I shouldn't have taken you for granted like that."
"It's...alright." Jinora blushed a little, and she really didn't understand why her siblings were so hostile toward the Avatar. The incident aside, Jinora thought Korra looked like a very respectable person.
"Let's us begin, shall we?" Tenzin lead Korra to the spinning gate before Meelo decided to pull any tricks, he secretly signaled Jinora to kept an eye on her brother. "Jinora told me you already tried some of this yesterday."
"Didn't go well though." Korra admitted.
"Then you should try again. I'll observe and instruct you through this training." Tenzin shot an air blast to made the gate span.
"I'll try not to cheat, this time." Korra winked at Meelo before she ran in. The boy still had a face of a frog-toad on a bad day.
The gates were coming, Korra marked each of their location in her head, calculating, mapping, sketched her safe path as she ran and dodged...
First gate-passed, second gate-passed, third gate-passed, then the instinct 'your back is open!' kicked in. Korra turned to prepare for the enemy that wasn't there, and was met with a wooden panel in the face.
She stumbled back only to got hit in the back, then stumbled front, got another hit in the head,'You're losing your ground!' another instinct kicked in 'You're on defensive, protect your vulnerable points!', Korra put her arms up to guard her face, limited her own movement to stand her ground.
"She did so well on her first three panels, why did she stop moving?" Jinora asked her father.
"I think her problem might be the exact opposite of father's." Tenzin mumbled, trying to recall what Aang said to him when he told Tenzin about how he mastered the earth element."She has an earthbender attitude."
Korra regained some of her balance, she managed to forced her way through the fourth and fifth gate, but was now almost at the center of the circle. She got hit from every angle and started losing her footing again.
Her last instinct kicked in, just like before 'Too many opponents, couldn't calculate properly, risk isn't worth taking. Retreat now and live to fight another day!', Korra crossed her arms to guard her face, and let the panel push her out of the ring, while still standing.
Meelo smirked with satisfaction as Jinora went to checked on Korra, the older girl had a couple of minor bruises on her arms, but other than that, nothing to worry about.
"So..." Korra stretched her arm, getting small crack from the joint. "Any suggestions?"
"You suck, and you should give up!" Meelo instantly jumped in.
"That's great, but I mean a suggestion for me, not for you." Korra retorted with a blank expression, and Meelo would have literary jumped at her if Jinora didn't hold him down.
"I think I might see the outline of your problem, but I'll need some time to analyze it." Tenzin rubbed his beard, he would need to do some research about the earthbending to confirm his suspicion.
"Want me to try again?"
"If you like, but don't push yourself too hard." Tenzin said as he shot another air blast and let Korra run back into the circle.
The training came to a halt after the sixth time the Avatar got pushed out of the ring. She didn't make much progress, and the bruises on her arms had become increasingly visible. Tenzin also claimed that he need to study a bit at the library.
Meelo seemed to be the only one who enjoyed the Avatar's failure, he even brought a snack from the kitchen while watching Korra fight against the spinning gates.
"Well, Aang did say that I need a teacher to master airbending. Guess I'll have to count on your father for this one." Korra said to Jinora as she rubbed her sore arms.
"Do you want balm? I'll can go get some..." the airbender girl asked with concern.
Korra smiled as she waved her hand at Meelo who drank water out of his little flask, the water flowed through the air and formed a hand-shape bubble under Korra's palm. Meelo would have made a fuss, but he was more interested in what Korra was doing for the moment.
The Avatar dragged the bubble that was now glowing with a dim blue light along her arms, healing all her bruises like washing out a stain with a clean water.
"You can heal too?" Jinora was amazed, she knew that Korra could waterbend, but not all waterbenders were capable of healing.
"Another cheat from the Avatar..." Meelo grunted as he drank the rest of the water in his flask and walked away.
"As a mercenary, you best use every advantage you have at your disposal. Healing is particularly useful."Korra bent the remaining water at the bamboo grove nearby after she finished healing herself.
"You're a mercenary?" Jinora asked with wide eyes.
"Your parents didn't tell you?"
"Mom told us you're a...umm..."
"Thief? Thug? Bandit? Vagabond? Outlaw? Unemployed?" Korra's listed the titles Lin might have used to described her.
"Wanderer." Jinora finally answered "though I think mom made it sound worse than it is."
"Leave it to the people in a uniform to glorify the ways of us honest freelancers, making a living in the lawless land, that always end well." Korra shook her head.
"Maybe you could tell me the real story?" the girl had a spark of pure curiosity in her eyes, "I used to read it in books, but I think the life of mercenary must be very exciting!"
"I do have a few interesting stories about my years." Korra smiled then disappeared for a moment "Wait, how old are you?"
"Oh... well, I better skip the job at the Omashu Estate then. Really nasty stuff, that one."
Both girls chuckled before went off the courtyard together, not realizing that Meelo, who pretended to walk off at first, was still hiding in the bush nearby and eavesdropped on their conversation.
When the girls were out of sight, Meelo quickly ran to the other side of the island, to a small field in the middle of a bamboo grove where Ikki was playing Frisbee with Naga.
...or...tried to played Frisbee with Naga.
"Catch!" the earthbender shouted as she threw the Frisbee across the field, but her faithful pet paid no attention to the toy. The polar bear dog just sat still with a withering expression.
"C'mon girl! What's wrong with you today?" Ikki ran up to her pet, who only turned and whined at her. "Oh...you want to go see Kairi, don't you?"
Even with the fake name, Naga's expression still bright up as she nodded her head with excitement.
"No way!" Ikki stomped her feet, and Naga went back to whining. "I told you! She is not your owner anymore. She abandoned you, remember? Why would you want to be with her?!"
"Ikki. We need to talk." Meelo ran in the field, almost stumbled over the Frisbee on the ground.
"Aren't you and Jinora supposed to be training right now?" Ikki asked. Since the three siblings bent different elements, Ikki would practice earthbending with Lin, while Jinora and Meelo would practice airbending with Tenzin. The schedule depended on the parents' free time.
"No, dad give us a day off because he has to teach the Avatar, and that's the point!" The boy stood straight and pointed his finger up. "We need to get rid of HER! She is a threat to our family!"
Ikki's eye widened a little, she thought for a minute before responded "Well, I don't like her either, but it's was mom's decision to let her stay."
"But don't you see? Mom has been deceived by the Avatar!" Meelo was still overreacting.
"No one deceives mom, that's against the laws of universe." Ikki stated matter-of-factly.
"She is a professional cheater! She used her Avatar power to trick mom," Meelo suddenly lowered his voice "...just like the story about how dad almost got tricked by..."
Ikki pawed on Meelo mouth to silent him, she looked around in a little panic, like she worried someone would hear that.
"You can't said her name!" the girl whispered "Mom forbade her name on this island."
Meelo nodded his head, so Ikki let him go.
"But you got the point, right?" the boy continued. "They said mom had to conceive Jinora to win back dad from...you know who..."
"That just the gossip from the acolytes! It's all nonsense!" Ikki protested, but with not much confident. "...or, even if it was true, it doesn't have anything to do with Korra."
"Did you forget who Korra is?" Meelo was clearly enjoying his conspiracy, as he gestured his hand to open up Ikki's imagination. "Think, Ikki. Korra is..."
The wheel in the girl head turned to pieced the puzzle together, and she dropped her jaw when she realized the connection. "You don't mean?!..."
"Then, Korra and her..."
"Working together to destroy our family. A revenge from when mom took dad from her," Meelo pointed to Naga who was too bored to tune in on the conversation. "Maybe she'll start with stealing Naga from you."
"No!..." Ikki gasped in horror, it frightened her more, the more she thought about it. It's only been one night since Korra appeared, and already Naga began to distance herself from her.
The two kids finally nodded in agreement. It was now up to them to protect their family from the evil of the Avatar!
...continue in part 2...
Chapter 7: A leaf under the wind(2)
"...and so, I hooked the chain to his belt before kicking the crate off the fourth floor. I shouted 'Too slow!' as he got dragged down by create, screaming all the way down to the ground floor." Korra chuckled thinking of the bandit's face that day. "He survived though, with twelve broken ribs, but still manage to crawl out of the building. Gotta admire his determination."
Jinora stared dreamily at Korra while she relived her adventure, and her stories beat any book the girl had ever read. They were funny, exciting, humorous, full of twists and turns, and she could listen for an hour and still wanted to keep going. The two were sitting at the pavilion near the cliff, a nice quiet location for a story telling. With a tea pot and a dish of rice cookies on the table
"Anyway...that's about it. That was the last job at the Kyoshi Island. Me and my partner headed to the Fire Nation on the next spring, and..." Korra lowered her voice, making the girl lean in closer, "We went to Hira'a village."
Jinora cocked her eyebrows. "I'm not...familiar with that name."
"Really?" Korra genuinely surprised. "No one ever told you?"
"Told me what?"
"It's the hometown of Princess Ursa, former Fire Lord Zuko's mother." Jinora eye widened. Korra continued with a slimy smirk. "And it was where him and your grandfather went to search for her."
"You know the story about Zuko's mother!?" Jinora forgot to breathed for a moment. "I...I...I 've been pressing grandma Katara on that for years, but...but...she never got around to tell me..."
"Everyone knows the story, kid. They even have a play in the village theater." Korra could barely hold herself not to laugh at Jinora's half-panicking reaction. "I especially liked the girl who played Azula, she really good at playing an insane lighting generator..."
"Princess Azula was involved too!?" Jinora paused to collected her breath, otherwise she might faint from too much excitement. "Ca… can you tell me the story? Please?!"
"Well, kiddo," Korra cleared her throat, although she wonder why no one ever told this story to the Avatar's own grandchildren. "it's an incredible tale-"
"Jinora! We have an emergency!" Ikki shouted as she and Meelo emerged out of nowhere and interrupted the two. The earthbender grabbed her sister by the collar and dragged her out of the pavilion. Jinora's blank expression looked like she was about to have a stroke after someone set her favorite book on fire, the one she hadn't finish reading yet.
After both girls disappeared, Korra turned to Meelo."Is everything alright?"
"None of your business!" Meelo replied as he stuck three rice cookies in his mouth and ran after his sisters, leaving Korra alone in the pavilion.
The Avatar poured herself a cup of tea. Her gaze turned to Republic City. Air Temple island was a nice place, but it was too quiet for her own liking, especially now that she had no company. The city might have given her a bad first impression, but she could give it a second chance.
...Well, Tenzin did say that she had a whole day off while he studied.
"Are we clear?" Ikki asked Meelo as the three of them were hiding behind a bush in the garden, her hand cover her sister mouth, who, despite her older age, couldn't beat the strength of an earthbender.
"She didn't follow us, we're clear." Meelo poked his head out of the bush to survey the area, and there was no sight of the Avatar. Ikki released her sister who immediately yelled angrily at the two.
"What in spirit's name are you two doing!?"
"We just rescued you! You're welcome by the way."Meelo crossed his arm arrogantly.
"What did you?-Look, I don't know what game you two were playing, but count me out, I'm gonna go back to Kairi..."
"You can't! We need your help, Jinora," Ikki said, holding her sister down when Jinora tried to leave. "We brought you here to talk about how to get rid of the Avatar!"
"What?!" Jinora replied "What do you mean 'get rid of her'?"
"Can't you see, Jinora!? That Avatar is up to no good. She's trying to destroy our family from within!" Meelo chimed."Dad already fell for her deception, and mom wouldn't be home until dinner. It's up to us to protect this island and the Air Nomad's legacy!"
Jinora looked back and forth between her brother and sister, still thinking this is some kind of make believe game the two were playing.
"Okay, fine, you two listen to me." Jinora put on her serious face. Meelo and Ikki thought she finally cooperated, but... "I read the newspaper this morning, there's going to be a big match between the Fire Ferrets and the Mighty Purple Pentapus' tonight. Why don't you two go take a nap this afternoon." The girl gave her siblings a sisterly smile, a fake, blank, hollow, sisterly smile. "If you two play too much all day, you wouldn't be able to stay up late to listen the match tonight."
The two looked confused for a second, Ikki was the first who realized her implication "You still think this is a game?!"
"We are serious, Jinora!" Meelo followed. "You have to help us defeat the Avatar. We figured out that Korra is conspiring with..."
"Enough! As the oldest sister, I order you two not to interrupted Kairi with your-whatever you two are doing. She is our family guest and an amazing person. You will treat her with respect!" Jinora raise her voiced before she stomped away, not giving them any chance to explain anything.
Ikki and Meelo stared after her, both disappointed and wondered why Jinora refused to listen to them, not yet realized that they might had a better chance of convincing her if they hadn't interrupted the tale of Zuko's mother.
"I got it!" Meelo smashed his fist on his palm. "Jinora already got brainwashed by the Avatar!"
"We underestimate her power. I should have taken Jinora with me after the training, now she became the Avatar's pet!"
Ikki's face was about to turn to horrified, but suddenly stopped half way through and changed to curious as she asked: "If Kairi already had Jinora as a pet, does that mean she'll leave Naga alone now?"
"Ikki, are you really gonna trade your own sister for a polar bear dog?" Meelo asked back with a confidently smile.
...a silence fall between them for a moment...
"YOU'RE ACTUALLY THINKING ABOUT THIS!?"
"Well, I..." Ikki played with her fingers awkwardly. "I mean...polar bear dogs are as endangered as airbenders, right?" She avoided Meelo's gaze, whispering. "And Jinora doesn't play catch with me anymore, so Naga might make a better sister than she does."
Meelo face palmed so hard he left a red hand print on his forehead. The boy realized now that he was the only one fully capable of dealing with the Avatar. For he had neither the weak mind of a bookworm, nor an obsession with a furry house pet.
To avoid running into the same incident she had when she first arrived, Korra chose to explore another part of Republic City, the industrial district. The black smoke rose from many smokestacks, polluting the air and filled the area with a thin, sooty fog. By comparison, Zaofu had a much cleaner and prettier industrial area. It looked like Suyin's obsession with chroming every building in her city did help to improve the scenery after all.
Korra's thoughts wandered as she crossed the street, when suddenly a moped that seemed to came out of a blind spot ran towards Korra, but the Avatar was too lost in her own thoughts to notice anything.
'They don't even have any gardens here! Everything is just brown and grey-brown.I would rather put up with that Spirit's damned dome instead of this ugly color scheme.'
The horn honked but couldn't catch Korra's ears, however, as the driver tried to stop the moped, Korra's feet suddenly gained a mind of their own and spun herself around in the middle of a street to avoid a direct hit. The Avatar only snapped out after she found herself spun around like a top, accurately dodging the moped by a hair's width. The vehicle crashed and the driver rolled out on the street.
'Why can't I do this when I'm at the spinning gates?' Korra was surprised by her own out-of-nowhere skill, but then realized what happening and ran toward the moped driver.
"Are you okay?"
"No, I'm... I'm fine," answered the driver, who was a girl in a leather jacket and a red helmet. "I'm sorry. I almost hit you."
"It's alright, a lot of people almost killed me before, and most of them didn't even apologize like you did." Korra smiled as she helped to pick the girl up and dusted the dirt off her clothes, a habit that Korra picked up from the first impressions she had with Kuvira.
The girl removed her helmet, and long, waving, raven black hair spread out around her neck like black silk, complementing perfectly to her beautiful face, with enough make up to make her eyes and lips stand out, but not too much to looked like she had a second skin or was wearing a Kabuki mask.
"I'm really sorry, I didn't see you cross the street. Ugh, I'm such an idiot."
"Miss. The true idiots never admit that there are idiots." Korra said casually as she walked up to the crashed moped and pulled it up with one arm. "Looks like you got a few scratches on this baby, hope you can pay for a paint job later."
"It's okay. I can..." the girl stopped mid sentence as she looked at Korra more carefully "Do I...know you from somewhere?"
"I don't think so, I just arrived here yesterday."Korra pulled out the moped's kickstand with her foot, steadying the vehicle. "My name is Kairi. And despite my skin color, I'm from Earth Kingdom."
"Wait, Kairi? I know that name. You are the girl who protected Mr. Chung from the Triple Threat Triads, right?!"
"Umm, yeah..." Korra wasn't quite sure how to feel about the recognition, honestly she thought what happened yesterday was just a street brawl at most. "You heard about that?"
"Everyone has been talking about that! It was brave of you to fight those gangsters to protect the people. It didn't make it to the news because they are afraid it will make the authorities look bad."
"Trust me, the police didn't need my help to look incompetent." Korra almost wanted to take those words back, fearing that it might reach Lin's ears somehow.
"Oh, my apologies for not introducing myself. My name is Asami Sato, a pleasure to meet you, Kairi."
"Sato? You're Hiroshi Sato's daughter?" Korra thought back to yesterday, Hiroshi did say that he has a daughter the same age as her. "Your father bailed me out of the police station yesterday."
"Yeah, he told me." Asami noticed some of the vehicles start to honk at them as they drove by, reminding her that the middle of the street wasn't the best place to have a conversation. "How about, I make up to you for almost hitting you earlier. Would you like to go have a lunch at my house?"
"You mean your estate?" Korra snapped out the business card Hiroshi gave her between two fingers like a magician. "Seriously though, I appreciate your generosity, but you really don't want a boar like me in your beautiful mansion, it gonna down grade the scenery."
"Nonsense, unless you have some important business to do, you're welcome to join me." Asami kicked the kickstand back up and got on her moped, waiting for Korra to made her decision.
'Ok, that's enough playing hard to get, time to accept the invitation.' The Avatar tried her best to hide her cunning smile. This was the basic stuff for a mercenary, you must not immediately accepted the other's first offer , or they'll think you were cheap to get(which you are). Either playing hard to upped your wage, or just made a client appreciate your service more when you finally do agree.
"Well, I'm free this afternoon. As long as I could take my leave before sundown." Korra sat behind Asami as the heiress put on her helmet and handed Korra a spare one. The two girls drove out of the industrial district to the Sato estate in the better part of the city.
...continue in part 3...
Chapter 8: A leaf under the wind(3)
Asami and Korra arrived at the Sato Estate. From the front gate to the courtyard, this place rivaled the Air Temple Island, but then beat Tenzin's property completely when it came to the interior.An indoor swimming pool with a lion turtle statue? The luxury was strong in this family.
After parking her moped in the estate's garage and handed her jacket to the butler, Asami lead Korra to the dining room. The table was already set, and there was another person waiting for them, or at least for the heiress, since Korra believed that her presence here was unexpected.
"Asami, glad you could come..." Hiroshi said to his daughter, but then raised his eyebrow when he saw Korra. "Kairi? I'm surprised to see you here."
"Hi dad. I met her on my way back here. I hope you don't mind that I invited her to have a lunch with us."
Hiroshi smiled kindly and gestured to the chair for them to sat. "Nice to see you, Kairi. I was wondering if we would ever meet again."
"Nice to see you too, Mr. Sato. But am I interrupting family time here?" Korra asked, she just now realized that it's quite awkward to interacted with a rich client without Kuvira accompanying her. Her sister always made it look so easy. "Maybe you two would like some private time..."
"Of course not! You're welcome to join us. It has been a long time since we have a guest that's not one of my dad's business partners," Asami insisted. Korra had no more reasons to turn down the invitation, so she sat down beside the girl.
The food wouldn't have looked out of place in a fancy restaurant, the kind that Korra was not too familiar with. She usually ate at taverns, cheap in quality, rich in quantity.
"Is this how you usually eat, Miss Sato?" Korra asked as she picked up another dumpling. "You should try to hit me more often." There was a small laugh from both of the Satos.
"There is no need to call me 'Miss'. Kairi. Just call me Asami. And I'm pleased that you enjoy the food."
"And forgive my daughter clumsiness with the moped. Sometimes she mistakes the city road for a race track."
"Dad!" Asami blushed a little before she decided to change the subject. "I was told that you're mercenary, is it true?"
"You heard right. I'm traveling across three nations. My name is not so well known, but my reputation earns me enough jobs to get by."
"Must be a dangerous line of work." Hiroshi commented. "Especially for a young girl like you."
"You'd be surprised how many girls are in this business. Freelance mercenary has been a very popular career since the Hundred Year War. Most teenagers got inspired by the story of June the Bounty Hunter, or even the Combustion Man." Korra paused as the waitress refilled her glass. "Granted, the majority of them quit after a couple of years, mostly retire to security service or the military, the more 'steady' line of work, as they say."
"And how long have you been a mercenary?" Asami looked really interested.
"Six years, and I'm not planning on quitting anytime soon. I'm only here in Republic City on a family business."
"What business, if I may ask?" Hiroshi inquired.
"It's...a very long story." Korra made an uncomfortable expression. Tenzin and her already discussed her cover background to the finest detail, but she wasn't going to spill all of her fake story just because someone asked. "Nothing illegal, but I rather wouldn't talk about it if you don't mind."
"My apologies for asking." Hiroshi nodded. "And, please take this as a compliment, but I must say I'm surprised, usually what we hear about mercenaries is that they just a thugs with a different name, but you surely look more civilized than many people I see around here, especially what you did for Mr. Chung."
"We have all kind of people in the business, including the bad fruits. That's why it's important for us to maintain our own reputation. We need to ensure our clients that despite that a lack of authority, we are honorable people who respect the deal and will never break a contract." After all, that was the main reason why she was still stuck in this city. Honoring a deal.
"Interesting, I tried to expand my market to the Earth Kingdom once, but our products always got mugged by the bandits, or just...disappear mysteriously. Maybe I should hire a mercenary for escort..."
"That's not the case, sir. You have problems expanding your market there because the Cabbage Corp. already paid the bandits for protection in that territory. That includes sabotaging the competitor." Korra casually said, but it made Hiroshi and Asami's eyes widen in surprise. The mercenary smiled. "It's common knowledge for us, really. Even the Earth Kingdom authorities know about this, but they get a cut in the shady deals, and that's why Cabbage Corp. is pretty much the only brand in Ba Sing Se. Though a Dai Li agent complained to me once that their airship's quality are as good as the Fire Nation's prototype before the war."
"This is... very interesting inside information." Hiroshi was amazed, while Asami was more interested about the Dai Li part. "Any more stories about the shady business around the globe?" His eyes were sparkling like Jinora's.
"As a 'thank you' for this wonderful meal," Korra smiled to the roast pelican-duck the waiter just served. "You might want to hear how the smugglers and the pirates operate."
"Do you see Kairi anywhere?" Jinora walked up to one of the acolyte and asked.
"You mean Mrs. Beifong's cousin?" the acolyte replied. "I think I saw her leave on a ferry about half an hour ago." Then she continued walking with a laundry basket in her arms.
Jinora groaned in disappointment, still angry at her siblings for making her miss the tale of Zuko's mother.
With on one to talk to and her father still studying, the girl went back to the her room, no sign of Meelo or Ikki along the way, either they heeded her warning and went to take a nap, or they still played their stupid game elsewhere. Nevertheless, she preferred to be alone this afternoon.
Jinora sat at a table facing the window, took out a piece of paper and started writing a letter. At the end she wrote:
-You may not believe this, but we have found the Avatar! And she is an amazing person. She told me many stories about her missing years. I wish you and her could meet soon, and we could-
Jinora paused, and suddenly reminded herself how Korra wanted to keep her presence here a secret, and how the Avatar was so panicky when her dad first found out. While the girl knew that the person she wrote to would never tell the White Lotus, there was a chance that she wouldn't want to risk.
With a heavy sigh, Jinora scrapped the paper and start writing a new letter, exactly the same, minus the part about the Avatar.
-I've been practicing as you taught me. It help me a lot, especially with the meditating. I wish to see you again soon, at least before 'the big day' , maybe I could persuade dad to let me go visit you myself.
Hiroshi did a lot business in his life, but he never thought he could traded a meal for an outline of how the criminal world between three nation functions. The tips to test if anyone on board a cargo ship was working for a pirate. And a standard price to bribe the city guard for smuggling illegal goods.
"Excuse me." Asami stood up and leave to go to the bathroom. They already finished the lunch so Hiroshi told the waiters to cleared the table.
"Kairi, can I... ask you a favor?" Hiroshi said in a low voice after all the waiters left.
"Please tell me you not gonna charge me for this meal. I think I'll have to save a town from a dragon attack just to pay for the dumplings alone." Korra replied bluntly, made Hiroshi chuckle a little.
"Actually, I want to ask if you ever did a bodyguard job before."
"A couple of time, yes. I used to escort a bride to her wedding in the next village once. Turn out her jealous ex planned an ambush to kidnap her."
"Perfect! What if I hired you to be my daughter's bodyguard for one night?"
Korra cocked her eyebrows "Is Asami in some kind of danger?"
"No!...well... yes, ah...not exactly." Hiroshi toke a deep breath to collect himself. "The thing is, I promised to go watch pro-bending with my daughter tomorrow night. But I got some important business to attend to all of a sudden."
"And you want me to accompany her?" Inside, Korra thought. 'Typical for a rich father, hire a friend for their child.'
"I want you to look out for her. I know I sound like an overprotective father here, but the city at night isn't a safe place, with all these thugs and gangsters running around. At first I tried talking Asami out of this, but she got angry at me and said that she can take care of herself. I came to have lunch with her at home today to apologize to her."
Korra felt a gentle tug on her heartstrings.
'All the stuff about money aside...' she sighed in her mind '...I wish my dad cared for me like Hiroshi does for Asami.'
"I can do that, Mr. Sato. I guarantee no harm will come to your daughter."
"Excellent, also...could we do this without Asami know that I am paying..."
Asami walked back into the dining room. Hiroshi quickly coughed to cover his words. The girl looked between her father and Korra. "What were you two talking about?"
The Avatar noticed the awkwardness on Hiroshi's face, so she started doing her job like a professional. "Your father told me you are a big pro-bending fan."
"I am, are you?"
While Asami's attention was on Korra, Hiroshi smiled warmly at the mercenary girl.
...To be continued in part 4...
Lin took a deep breath as she stood on the roof of the ferry. The smell of the ocean helped relax her head a little after a long day of work, and the image of the Air Temple Island in front of an orange sunset sky couldn't have been more beautiful.
Republic City was her home, but deep down Lin admitted that it was less than an ideal city, even if it was founded by the Avatar, even if it was supposed to be a symbol of unity between the four nations. Republic City has its own dark corner, the political power play in the council, the Triple Threat Triad gang running the criminal world, and now there are these 'Equalists' which are either an extremist cult or an uprising movement. Sometime, Lin felt like she understand why her mother, after her retirement, never returned to this city again.
"Tough day, huh?"
"Just like every other day for me..." the chief of police paused and quickly turned back to the second voice, since she remembered coming on the ship's roof top alone.
Korra casually leaned against the wall, reading a pro-bending magazine she just bought. "No vigilante to arrest today? Maybe you should start catching real criminals this time."
"What are you doing here?" Lin asked in low voice, as there were other passengers on board, and she didn't want to make a scene."I thought you were supposed to train with Tenzin."
"We have been done since this morning. He locked himself in the library doing some research about my practice, I guess?"
"Then where did you go?"
"Sato Estate." Korra noticed the tension through Lin's glare. She stopped reading the magazine and talked to her eye to eye. "I was invited to have a lunch with Mr. Sato and his daughter."
"Stop joking around, Kairi."
"I'm serious." There was no trust in the cop's eyes, so the Avatar quickly explained. "Long story short: Asami Sato almost hit me with her moped, so she treated me to a delicious meal at her estate. The food there was almost worth getting run over by a truck, I'm telling you."
"So you pulled a scam on Mr. Sato just to get a free meal?" Lin snarled. "I knew you would did something this low..."
"What? That was a harsh accusation, officer! I could sue you for that," the Avatar smirked.
"You have a lawyer?"
"...No, I hate the court system." Korra admitted. "Had to catch the same smuggler three times because the judge kept saying 'not enough evidence'. I swear, if I catch him again, I'm gonna cut him to pieces and feed his remains to the octopus-shark..."
"I get the point." Lin waved her hand to cut Korra off. She would have been more angry for the insult... if she did not suffer from the same thing in this corrupt justice system. "I not gonna pry into your personal life, Kairi. But I hope you didn't take advantage from Mr. Sato's generosity, did you?"
"Never, officer. I'm not above turning down a treat, but I earn my living fair and square. In fact, I just got a job from Mr. Sato himself."
"A bodyguard job, he want me to accompany Asami tomorrow night at the pro-bending arena."Korra held up the magazine. "I'm catching up on the sport right now. Don't want to be a killjoy to a client's daughter. There are a lot of pretentious team names here..."
"I thought your purpose of being here was to train with Tenzin, or are you so childish that you aren't taking any of this seriously?" The anger began to rise in Lin's voice.
"The match will be at late night, past bed time. I didn't forget why I'm here, officer. I want to get it done as much as you." The Avatar kept her voice steady. She don't want to turned this into a full-blown argument. "And how am I supposed to pay a rent if I'm not working?"
"Rent? What rent?"
"Your rent, of course. I have some savings, but since I still don't know how long I'll have to stay here-"
"Wait, you think we going to charge you?" Lin was truly taken aback by the girl's assumption.
"You won't?" Korra raise her eyebrow. "I mean, you may have an unused room to spare, but surely you wouldn't let me eat your food and use your clothes for free, would you?"
"We already agreed to let you stay with us." Lin pinched the bridge of her nose, she had to remind herself that the Avatar had probably lived in a more cutthroat environment, where everything was about profits or had a hidden agenda. "My family also lives by the Air Nomad's philosophy, half of that is about charity and being a good host."
"Now I know why I lack the 'understanding of air'. Their philosophy doesn't sound like my cup of tea at all."
"No kidding." Lin sighed. "If you already promised Hiroshi, then I won't stop you. Just don't let Ikki and Meelo know you're going to the arena. I would never hear the end of it from them."
"Got it." Korra continued reading the magazine while Lin turned back to admiring the scenery of the ocean until the ferry reached the island.
As they exited the ship, Lin saw Jinora who sat waiting at the dock running toward them. The chief smiled warmly and was about to greet her daughter, but...
"You're back! I missed you." The girl jumped forward and hugged the Avatar tightly, almost like she didn't even notice her mother.
"Glad you missed me, kiddo." Korra patted Jinora's head while hiding the pro-bending magazine in her shirt, in case the other two siblings showed up.
"Will you still tell me the story of Zuko's mother?! Please!"
"Sure, but it's a long story. Can we wait 'till after dinner?"
Jinora frowned a little but still nodded her head. The two girls then walked off the dock, chit-chatting happily as Korra gave the airbender a sneak-peak of the story to further Jinora's appetite for the tale.
Lin stood there with a stunted look on her face. She opened her mouth to say something but then closed it, and quietly walked after both of them to the temple, still not sure how to felt from being ignored by her own daughter.
Dinner was prepared by the acolyte and was already set on the table by the time the family had gathered. Jinora sat next to Korra instead of her usual place, while Meelo and Ikki sat as far from the Avatar as possible. The two sibling also wear a tin foil hat wrapping around their head, which looked too awkward for anyone to ask, or simply dismissed as a plaything.
"Are you sure this is necessary?" Ikki whispered to Meelo. She was the less convinced one of the two.
"We can't risk being brainwash by the Avatar. I think she already perfected the forbidden art of Mindbending." Meelo secretly pointed the chopstick at Jinora. "Just look at our poor sister."
The oldest airbender kid almost never took her eyes of Korra the entire evening, especially while the Avatar told Tenzin about her arrangement with Sato family.
"If you promise that your job won't interrupt our practice then I have no objections." Korra nodded as a thank you for Tenzin's approval. She left out the part about pro-bending arena and just said that she would accompany Asami to meeting with her friend. "Speaking of your practice, Lin, may I have your assistance for my study tonight? There are some details about earthbending I wish you could clarify for me."
"Sure. After I take a bath first." Lin answered without much care, as her attention was still on Jinora who seemed to have forgotten about her, or anyone except Korra throughout this dinner. And that seem to upset Lin for some reason.
After the meal, the chief went to her and Tenzin's room to prepare a bath but was approached by two of her kids in the hall way. Meelo and Ikki still wore their ridiculous hats.
"Mom! We have a very important thing to tell you." Meelo still looked enthusiastic. "It's about Korra..."
"Meelo, I told you to call her Kairi." Lin corrected her son.
"Doesn't matter. We have to get rid of her as soon as possible! She going to destroy our family!"
From the opening statement, Lin was ready to dismiss this as a nonsense stuff and told both of them to go to bed, until...
"She already brainwashed Jinora to be her pet! We can't let her stay here, the power of the evil Avatar will destroy the Air Nomads forever!"
The chief paused, only for a second, the flash of Jinora hugging Korra came to her memory. It was just a small thing, insignificant even, but it crept into her thought, and buried itself in the back of her mind.
"Meelo...you...that's just nonsense." Lin replied with the awkwardness that she never showed her kids before. "Kairi will stay with us until she finishes her business with your dad, and that's final." her voice sounded less like an ultimatum and more of a simple statement. Lin quickly went in her room an close the door, she needed to clear her head with a bucket of cold water.
"What is happening here!? Why won't anyone listen to us!?" Meelo cried out. "Or... has she already take over the island? Are we the only survivors right now?"
"Look, brother..." Ikki sighed with a bored face, and take off her tin foil hat. "Maybe we-no, YOU, did overreact a little bit. I think Jinora is just fond of her. You know our sister, she really loves all those stories about her adventures and what not. Kairi probably had a lot to tell her."
"No! Ikki...not you too!" Meelo made a horrified expression. This really reminded Ikki of how stupid this whole conspiracy theory must look like.
"Ok, I'm gonna go prepare a snack for tonight's match. Keep playing if you want, or join me at the pavilion. Your choice." The girl handed Meelo back the tin foil and walked away.
Meelo stood alone in the hallway for a moment. Could it be that he was the only one who could stand against the Avatar and the destruction of the Air Nomad's legacy? The only one who was strong enough to resist the Avatar's deception?
The 5 year old boy felt the weight of responsibility fall upon him. He would have to think about this. Think of a plan protect the existence of the airbender, of his family, of the island.
After...tonight's pro-bending, of course. The evil Avatar destroying the world may be bad, but Meelo wasn't gonna miss the match of his favorite pro-bender. As the boy made up his mind, he quickly went after Ikki to the kitchen.
Jinora carried her personal note-book to Korra's room. The Avatar asked to take a shower before she told Jinora the story. The postponement only built up her excitement more and more.
Jinora arrived at the guest room. She heard to sound of flipping paper inside, guessing that Korra probably done with the shower. The girl knocked and immediately got an answer.
She slowly open the door, but caught a peak at the inside before it fully open...
The Avatar was on her bed, leaning against the headboard. For some reason, Korra chose to light an oil lamp instead of a light bulb. The small flame illuminated the room with a tender light that gave out a mysterious vibe around them.
The Avatar eyes were on the book she reading, an old book that almost looked ancient like a scroll in her father's library. Korra wore white under shirt and a grey sweatpants that belong to her mother. Her hair was still wet with water that glistening as the light touch. Her calm and serene face licking by the shadow every time the flame flick.
The picture of the teen girl silently reading a book on her bed with an illuminate light made Jinora's heart skipped a beat.
By the Spirits. She is beautiful...
The girl started to flush without realizing it.
Like a lone wanderer relaxing in a seldom night. Like a soul who carries only her heart, and her goal. So certain. So calm. So...free.
Curse the people who locked her up in a cage. Curse whoever wishes to bind her to a leash. Curse those who accuse the Avatar for being a wildish-thug(sorry, Mom). Korra right here is the most gorgeous person she has ever seen.
Jinora's fantasy got cut short when Korra put the book away and turned to her with a smile, a smile that for some reason made the little girl's face heat up.
"Hi, kiddo. Ready for the story?"
"Ah...yes! Of course." Jinora tried to hide her awkwardness. She wasn't sure what got into her. That feeling was... weird, but not all unpleasant. "Is the light bulb broken?" Jinora tried to find something to say as she sat on Korra's bed.
"No, I just like reading with a candle light in the night. The flame feels more calm than an artificial light." She held her hand at the lamp. "Want to turn on the light bulb instead?"
"No, it's fine. Let's begin with the story. I hope you don't mind if I want to write it down?"
"Hmm. A cute little bookworm, are you?" Korra complimented, and Jinora felt that feeling again, heart pounding, heat rising in her cheek. What's wrong with her? The girl pretended to flip through her notebook to find a blank page.
"It all began in the Hira'a village. The man name Ikem, proposes to the love of his life..."
...to be continue...
Jinora just love the roguish type.
"So, is that all you need to know?" Lin close the earthbending scroll she used to explain to Tenzin. The airbending Master nodded to his wife who sat across from him at the table in their bedroom.
"Yes. I think I now understand what was troubling Korra in her training."
"And it was...?"
"She not only has an earthbender's attitude, but she seem to unconsciously execute earthbending movements when she ran past those gates." Tenzin pointed at his airbending scroll. "The heart of airbending is to evade an opponent, while the earthbending, as you told me, is all about standing your ground and defending. It was like throwing a rock into the gates instead of a leaf."
"Seriously? You've studied the entire day just for this?" Lin frowned, pinching her nose bridge. "I think I could have guessed it immediately just by looking at her."
"Guess? I can't 'guess' anything, Lin!" The airbender slammed his fist on the table. "This is the Avatar that I'm teaching. I need to be absolutely certain about everything I teach her! And you..." Tenzin rose his voice, but then stopped when he saw Lin's frown disappear. His wife shifted her expression to a stern an almost emotionless face.
Every metalbender cop knew this face. It was the face the chief would made when was she about to unleashed her fury at someone. A calming volcano before the catastrophic storm. For the press, lawyers, even other council members, this was the last face they saw before Lin literary shouted them out of the police headquarters, along with whatever idiotic business they brought to bother her in the first place. After all, the chief of police did not tolerate disrespect.
Lin stood up, walked around the table to Tenzin's side. He putted down his scroll, closed his eye, and said in a small voice: "I'm sorry..."
His words were cut short when he felt a pair of warm arms warping around his shoulder.
Lin dropped to her knee and hugged her husband comfortingly. She planted a soft kiss on his temple, easing the tension out of Tenzin's body.
"I forgot how much this means to you." Lin spoke softly. "Training the Avatar. You must feel a lot of pressure. Not to mention all the secrecy she asks us to keep."
"I am." Tenzin let out a sigh, losing himself in his wife's embrace. "I'm sorry I let that out on you, but I am the only airbender in the world who are capable of teaching the Avatar the element of air. The world doesn't allowed me to fail, Lin. And with what happened with her and the White Lotus." He felt another kiss on his forehead. "I can't repeat their mistake. Father gave me a chance to make things right by leading Korra here. Whether she likes it or not, Korra is my responsibility."
"Our responsibility." Lin corrected him. Her crude hand held Tenzin's cheek gently, made him turn to face her eye to eye. "Regardless of what I think about this whole situation, I'm not going to let you face it alone. So stop hoisting the whole world on your shoulder."
The airbender wondered if anyone would believed him if he told them how kind and comforting Lin Beifong could be. The chief of police of the Republic City, and only her family had have a privilege to witness her other side.
"Thank you,Lin." Tenzin kissed his wife on the lips. Lin returned the kiss as they lingered for a moment before she parted and stood up.
"You done enough for today. Go change. I'm gonna see the kids to bed before we retire for the night." Lin padded Tenzin on his shoulder and walked out of the room.
When out of her husband's sight, the chief's expression switched back to frown as she thought about their recent guest.
It's only been one day, too early to tell if this was a bad decision or not to let her stay. But the Avatar seem to stir up trouble in her family where there originally was none. Her husband worried himself with this new found duty, Ikki started to get overprotective towards Naga, Meelo was running around acting weird the entire day (from what the acolytes told her), and Jinora...
She ignored the image of her oldest daughter hugging the Avatar flashing through her mind.
Lin shook her head. That was a ridiculous thought. While she saw no reason why Jinora would want to associate with Korra, she shouldn't make a big deal out of it. That would sound like she was...jealous…
No! Not jealous. Concern. As a mother, she has to look out for her kids. Korra could be a bad influence on Jinora, or harm her in another way. It wasn't like Lin thought the Avatar would steal her daughter or anything...
The chief's thought stopped when she turned the corner and saw Korra in the dark hallway, looking around suspiciously, carried an unconscious body of Jinora on her back. The Avatar walked slowly like she don't want anyone to heard her.
A thousand alarms went off in Lin's head. She felt her mind set back to the early day of her career as a cop, the day she used the method 'cable first, question later.' Lin unconsciously move her hand, before she realized she didn't equipped her cable tractor, not even a small one.
Still, Korra heard that movement and turned back to Lin. The teen girl smiled casually like she didn't do anything wrong.
"Oh, officer. Good timing." She walked up to Lin, who, with only the curiosity in the girl's words that was stopping her from punching the Avatar in the face and taking her kid back. "Where is Jinora's room?"
"Why do you want to know?" Lin asked, but felt like she herself was overthinking the situation somehow. And Korra would agree, seeing how the Avatar raised her eyebrow as she answered.
"So I can take her to bed, of course. The little canary-dove fall asleep while I tell her story. Guess she'll ask me to continue tomorrow."
"Oh?" Lin lost her word. Feeling a little ashamed from jumping to conclusions that the girl was about to kidnap her daughter.
'Spirits, I'm becoming too paranoid.'
"It's alright, I can take her there myself." Lin held out her hand to grabbed Jinora, but Korra stepped away, frowning.
"You gonna wake her up, officer. Just point me to right direction, I can carry her." The Avatar blinked like she just figured something out, and sigh. "Oh, I get it. You think I'm gonna steal something from her room. aren't you?"
'I thought you gonna steal 'her' actually.' Lin thought, but decided not to voiced it. "I just don't want to bother you. You're our guest and..." the chief shook her head. Coming up with more excuses would only made her looked more pathetic. "Ok, just follow me." She cut the conversation short and lead the way.
"I promise I'll keep my hands where you can see them." Korra sing-songed with a smile. They walked only a couple of feet before Lin looked over her shoulder and asked.
"A cute nickname, fitting for an airbender, don't you think?"
They soon arrived at Jinora's bedroom. Korra gently place Jinora on her bed without waking her, before stepping back to let Lin near the bed and adjust the blanket for the kid.
"She really likes stories, doesn't she?" Korra asked as she placed Jinora's notebook on her table.
"Got that from her father, he used to tell the legends or history of the Air Nomads, but she expanded her interest to all four nations."
"Seeing how easily she fell asleep while I told her about how princess Azula fought a swamp of moth wasps with lightning strike, I guess she got used to you telling her a bed time story."
Lin paused for a moment, looking down at her sleeping daughter with a small pang of guilt in her chest.
"Not really..." Lin wasn't sure what made her said this instead of just keep quiet. "I have neither the time, or the stories to tell her. She usually just read them from our library."
Korra frowned with that answer. "Not even 'The three little hybrid pigs' or 'The little firebender riding hood'? What kind of a mother are you?"
"Being chief of police, I have a responsibility to the city and its citizens, Kairi. My children understand if I don't have time for them as much as they want to." Lin narrowed her eyes. Just like in the morning, Korra unintentionally got on her nerves. "But I suppose I can't expect a runaway thug like you to know the important of my duty." The women readied herself for any witty comeback she thought the girl would throw at her.
To her surprise, Korra just stared quietly at her, before glancing at the sleeping Jinora, then back to her without a word.
Lin wasn't sure if this reaction meant anything, she opened her mouth to spoke when Korra smirked with, if she did not mistake, a sad grin.
"No they don't."
Lin cocked her eyebrows. If that was a comeback, it was both too simple and too complicated.
"The kids might say they understand, they might feel like they understand, they THINK they understand, about why their parents didn't have time for them," the Avatar continued, her tone was as serious as when she told Tenzin about her past years. "But...do you know what they actually heard in their head?"
Korra walked out of the room in a slow pace, a gesture for Lin to continued this conversation outside Jinora's room. Lin followed and close the door as they stood in the hallway.
" 'My parents chose something over me.' " The chief was almost taken aback by the unexpected statement. " 'It might be important. It might be for the greater good. But they chose it over me.' "
Lin rolled her eyes as she replied "Kairi, you overreacting-"
Tonight, the metalbender witnessed the disturbing side of the Avatar. When Korra stepped forward and close range at her, in the blink of an eye that even the trained police like her couldn't react. If this was an attack, Lin would have gone down for the count as easy as her captain.
But on the other hand, Lin might preferred this to be an attack, thing would be less...awkward.
Korra was now stood so close that she could felt the girl's breath as the Avatar locked sight with her. The girl's pupils open wider with a glimpse of darkness creeping behind her eyes. Korra's right hand gripped her shoulder, her left...was touching Lin's scar.
Mocha fingers caressing the scar on her face. Brushing gently. Rubbing soft enough that Lin almost couldn't feel her fingers, that, or it was because she was too stunt to prosper the situation probably.
" 'When the chips are down, I may not be the first thing they tried to save.' " Korra continued her speech. She then leaned even closer to whispered at Lin's ear. Her breath licked on the chief's neck.
"Will you abandon your child for the sake of pride and duty?"
Through the darken eyes, Korra reflect the memory from long time ago.
As those men in white and blue uniform escort her into the compound, the four year old girl looked over her shoulder to saw her parents talking to an old man that seemed to be the leader of these people, judging by his uniform. Her mother look worried, while her father look like he was angry, but was too afraid to voice his opinion on the man.
As the gate of the compound closed behind her, so began the first crack in the bond between her and her family.
...Korra remembered the conversation she had with her parents at the rare occasional that they came to visit her...
"Mom. Dad. I hate it here. I wonna go home with you."
She couldn't recalled exactly what was their answer, but it was along the line of 'endure', 'for the best' and 'You are the Avatar'.
...Years had passed, and the soft heart became stone. Sobbing eyes dried out with a silent hatred. No more conversation, no more pleading, no more pep talk. At the age of ten, Korra could barely remember the last time her parents came to visit her...a year or two years ago.
'They abandoned me.'
Korra sat alone in her room at night. Her mind burned with cold anger as she watched the snow fall outside the window.
'My parents abandoned me. They said this was their duty. My duty, as the Avatar.'
The girl pick up the picture of her parent that they gave her in her earlier at the compound. She flicked her finger, and burn the picture to ash without even looking at it for the last time.
'Soon, I shall return the favor.'
"What is wrong with you!?"
Lin shoved Korra away as she felt a goose bumps ran crazily all over her neck. Did she just got sexually assaulted by the Avatar?
Korra's eyes slowly went back to normal. Still, she only smiled wittily and answered like it was no big deal. "Sorry, officer. You... get on my nerves. That's all."
"Is this!-" Lin was about to yelled, but then she realized that they standing in front of Jinora's bedroom, so she lowered her voice to a hiss. "Is this some kind of prank, Kairi!? Because it's definitely not funny!"
"Look. I kinda lost myself when it comes to family matters, okay? I'm sorry if I made you feel uncomfortable."
Uncomfortable would be an understatement. Lin tried to gave the girl the benefit to the doubt that she just messing with her. It better than the alternative that the Avatar was a psychopathic weirdo who could go around harassing acolytes on the island.
"Do that again with...anyone, and I'll have you thrown out of my house!" Lin pointed at Korra before she walked away, but the Avatar sprinted after her.
"Come on officer. Don't be mad."
"I'm not mad."
"Ok. Don't be your normal self." Lin wondered if there will be a bad consequence should she backhanded the Avatar on the face right now. "And wouldn't you at least think of what I just said?"
"I'm not going to waste my thoughts on a runaway's philosophy."
"Such a close mind." Korra finally caught up with Lin. They walked side by side through the hallway, out in the garden. "Look, all I'm saying is that you really should spend more time with your kids. That is what a mother should do regardless of her career."
"I don't need advice of how to take care of my family from you." Lin still growling.
"Wouldn't you at least want to make sure that they will NOT grow up to be like me?"
They stopped dead in their tracks. Lin turned to Korra who changed her smile from wittily to sincerely, if a little bit playful.
"What? You think I don't know I have issues?" Korra said with a shrugged.
Lin carefully examined the girl, in case this was a set up for a punch line. But the girl even stepped back and raised both her hands to show that she wasn't gonna jump at Lin again.
"I really don't know what to make of you, Kairi." The chief answered after a moment of silent. "And that makes me hesitate to take you seriously, even when I feel like I should."
"Fair enough." Korra admitted proudly, she wasn't above noticing her own flaw. "Then, just hear me this. I would have had a much harder time deciding to run away from the South Pole..."
She paused to suck in a deep breath.
"...if I remembered just ONE goodnight kiss from my mother."
They fell silent once again, and for longer than a moment. For the first time Lin looked at Korra, and thought that there may be something more to this roguish-Avatar, for better or worse.
"I hear you." the chief nodded politely. "And we will see if I should listen to you or not."
Korra only smiled. The chief still seem suspicious, but at least she opened up a little.
The girl was about to depart for the night before they heard the voice of a radio. They walked past another corner to saw Meelo, Ikki, and Naga at one of the pavilion, sitting around the radio that the boy just finished increased the volume.
"Ladies and gentlemen! I'm coming to you live from Republic City's Pro-bending Arena, where tonight the best in the world continue their quest for a spot in the upcoming championship tournament. Grab your snacks and grab your kids because this next match is gonna be a doozy!"
"Oh yeah, the magazine said there's a big match tonight." Korra rubbed her chin. "I think it was a raccoon versus an octopus or something."
"A Fire Ferret. Their favorite team." Lin looked at Meelo and Ikki who didn't realize they were being watched.
"This Azon's got moxy! She advances, fires two quick shots. Yomo is hammered back to zone three! Clock is winding down, can Yomo hold on? He's teetering on the edge of the ring now. The Fire Ferrets line up to strike! And they did it!"
"Isn't it already past bedtime?" Korra turned to asked Lin. She really didn't care much for pro-bending.
"Since Tenzin won't allow them to go to the arena, I promised them that they can listen to the match of the Fire Ferrets when it comes up."
"Aww, you are nice mother after all," Korra chuckled as she watch Meelo jumped up with excitement about the match that she and Lin already zoned out.
"Azon did it! I knew she was the best!"
"Bolin did a good job too! Give him some credit." Ikki protested. She sat leaning her back on Naga, who similar to Korra and Lin, didn't care much about the sport. The beast just want to stayed close to her master.
"I bet Azon could single handily wipe the slate clean by herself! She just heldback to be polite to her lackeys."
"They are team mates! Not a lackey! Don't you dare talk bad about Bolin!"
"Yeah, they are going to kill me if they know that I'm going to the arena without inviting them."
"That's why I told you to keep your mouth shut." Lin and Korra had a small conversationwith each other before they walked away and finally departed, leaving the two kids to shouting, cheering, and laughing happily in the night.
...to be continue...
Azon is my OC character. She was created specifically to replace Mako in the Fire Forrest Team. Since my Mako still working for the Triple Threat Triad.
Chapter 11: A leaf under the wind(6)
"I think I'm doing it wrong."
Korra spoke as she opened her eyes after twenty minute of meditating. Today Tenzin's training started with meditation practice at the pavilion by the cliff. Beside her were Jinora and Meelo who were with her as a part of their own airbending training. And Ikki who joined them because she had nothing else to do. Naga lay waiting her master outside the pavilion, she won't miss the opportunity to be with both of her masters.
"There's nothing to do. Let your mind and your spirit be free, for air is the element of freedom." Tenzin explained calmly, before adding. "As I told you, you have the instinct of earthbender which is troubling you in your psychical training. We need to help you synchronize with the nature of air element before we go any further."
"You know, this is exactly what I fear practicing airbending would be." Korra groaned. "I was worried I might accidentally summon my past lives to give me advice I didn't ask for. It's a good thing this island isn't too strong in spirit."
No one noticed Jinora shifted uncomfortably at Korra's last sentence.
"Please, Kairi. Look at Meelo, he's able to meditate peacefu-."
"What!?" Tenzin jolted at Korra's blunt reply. He took a closer look at Meelo who had a greenish bubble suspended under his nose. The boy was both drooling and snoring. "Well, at least he has the relaxing part down." He glanced to the other two kids. Ikki was in the same state as her brother and soon fell flat on the ground, so only Jinora remained in her sitting position.
"Whatever. None of this airbending stuff seems to work on me." Korra comment.
"I know you're frustrated, but these teachings will sink in over time. Then one day, they'll just click." Tenzin resumed his meditation.
Korra let out a heavy sigh. She was considering got up a go get some lychee juice, but that would be rude and disrespectful to their agreement. As boring as this session was, the Avatar decided to endure.
The night finally came. Korra took the ferry to the mainland as soon as the last light of day disappeared behind the horizon. Upon the dock, she found Asami waiting for her beside her moped.
"Glad you could come," the heiress greeted with a smile. Korra nodded her head a little while crossing her arms behind her back, tried to look both casual and cool.
"Good to see you too. Asami. I hope I didn't keep you waiting?"
"Not at all. You arrived just in time." Asami handed the spare helmet to Korra before they got on the moped and drove to the arena.
"By the way, Kairi, you're staying at the Air Temple Island? " Asami asked along the way.
"Yes. I'm staying with my cousin, Officer Lin Beifong."
"You are Beifong's relative?"
"A very...VERY...distant relative." Korra faked her bored voice. "My family came from the Beifong family about three or four generations ago. It's actually my father that tried to sort our family tree and accidentally found out the connection."
"Oh? Is this...a reason you came to Republic City?"
"You're correct." Korra grunted in her throat. "My parents want me to cash in on the Beifong's fame by reuniting the family. They sent me here to become Lin's pupil and, hopefully, joining the Republic Police Force. "The disgust in Korra's voice was half acting and half sincere. After all, she did despise her parents.
"But...you're a non-bender."
"I'm a decent enough fighter that my parents thought the police force would give a pass if I had the Beifong name on me."
Asami couldn't help but think that that plan sounded desperate to some degree.
"So...you're actually on your way to become a police officer?"
"Absolutely not!" Korra rose her voice with a vicious smile. "I told you, I'm a mercenary through and through. I already talked to Lin, and she isn't happy with my parent's plan either. So I intend to just hanging around the city for a while and then go home to tell them that I failed Lin's training. Mom and dad will have to deal with it, and I go back to being a mercenary." The Avatar chuckled a little. "Lin was kind enough to let me crash though, or she just wanted to keep an eye on me because of my first day incident with the Triple Threat Triad. Either way, it's saving me a lot of money while I'm here."
They arrived at the arena's parking lot just as Korra finished her story.
"I think I now know why you don't want to talk about your family's business." Asami commented while they walking through the front door. "It sounded very...complicated."
"An unnecessarily kind word, Asami. Just call it what it is, 'shameless'." Korra waved her hand to dismissing the thought. "But don't let my parent's scam ruin this evening. Let's just enjoy the game."
"As you wish. Sorry if I pried too much."
"Who could resist the charm of this mysterious but charismatic mercenary." The Avatar rose her chin proudly. "Oh, what dark dramatic secrets I bury beneath my laid-back personality." Asami tried to hold back her giggle.
Before they entered the stadium, they were approached by three people in the hallway. The three young men around their age with a look of cockiness all over their faces. The person with long hair and cynical eyes seem to stand out most of the three. They stood blocking Asami and Korra.
"Well, hello beautiful. What is a pretty lady like you doing here tonight?" the long haired guy asked Asami with a creepy smile.
"We're in pro-bending arena, so...of course, we came here to watch a wrestling match." Korra answered. She knew where this was going.
"Charming." The guy only glanced at her before continued speaking with Asami. "You know that there is no match playing tonight, right?"
"What are you talking about?" Asami replied with caution. She then notice that Korra just stepped up to stood in front of her.
"Not the one worth watching anyway." He grinned wider. "You're better off doing something else than watching these amateurs, maybe have some quality time with us Wolfbats instead?" His hand moved to grab Asami's. But Korra quickly shot out her hand to catch his and shook it with a smile.
"We appreciate your invitation, but we already bought the tickets. Let's go Asami." She released his hand and took Asami's. They walked past the three to the stadium with the creepy guy still staring after her. He chuckled cynically and walked away with his friends.
The two took their seats in the stadium that was packed with people. The match was about to start and Asami asked Korra if she wanted any snack or beverage.
"I'm good."The mercenary answered as she scanned around to made sure there were no prying eyes on her client like in the hallway, but everyone seemed to focus on the platform where the match would be taking place.
Asami let out a deep sigh. She leaned in closer and whispered to Korra: "Ok, how much did dad paying you?"
"Excuse me?" The Avatar tried her best innocent look but the heiress just shook her head.
"Dad is paying you to hang out with me tonight, isn't he?"
"What makes you say that?"
"This isn't the first time he did this, you know. It's very embarrassing to know that people only befriend me because they got paid to be." Asami turned to the cheering crowd around her. "The way you protected me from those three guys. Is dad hiring you to be my bodyguard? Just for going to the arena?"
Korra was silent for moment. She could deny the claim, but Asami seem to hit all the points, and Korra doubted she would buy it. So she decided to come clean.
"You father didn't pay me to hang out with you. Asami." The heiress was taken aback by the seriousness in her voice.
"I collect my fee after the job is done." Korra added, and Asami didn't know what to answer. The Avatar shifted to a more relaxed tone as she continued. "Your father wanted me to look out for you. Keep you safe. He felt like the city is dangerous at night, and I would agree."
"And I keep telling him that I can take care of myself. You think I couldn't have taken those three guys at the hallway? The Wolfbats would have been out of this tournament with a broken arms if you hadn't intervened."
"I'm just doing my job, Asami. Your father wants you to have fun, but he also wants to keep you safe."
"Well..." Asami looked at the platform where the ring announcer just about to introduced the two teams. "He certainly got one of those."
'And it's not the fun.' Korra could guess what Asami thought in her head. The mercenary pinched the bridge of her nose. Tonight wasn't going well.
They watched the match between the Fire Ferrets and the Tigerdillos. Korra occasionally glanced at Asami. The heiress clearly didn't enjoy the game as much as she should, but somehow she seemed really fixated on the match. It was obvious that Asami was rooting for the Fire Ferrets, but she didn't cheer when they scored, just calmly clapped her hands a couple of time while the crowd around them roared like thunder.
The match end with the victory of the Fire Ferrets, and Korra knew this night was gonna end on a bad note when Asami showed no signs of joyfulness what so ever. She just got up and walked among the people that exited the arena.
"Do you even like pro-bending, Kairi? Or was that just an excuse to come with me?" Asami asked while they were in a hallway, and Korra decided she couldn't let her client go home disappointed. She took Asami's hand a dragged her to a separate hallway that didn't lead to the exit.
"Kairi? What are you..."
"For the record, I prefer the Earth Rumble to the pro-bending. But I did this a lot when I watched the match with my sister." Korra smiled. She was able to navigate the route in this arena easily as it's built with a standard lay-out. They soon arrived at the door that Korra entered without knocking.
In the room, the players of the Fire Ferrets were just in the middle of taking off their armor and talking to each other.
"You did more harm than good out there, Hasook. You almost cost us the match." The girl with bright red hair spoke to one of the guys who nodded guiltily.
"Sorry, I was distracted." Hasook admitted. The third guy with short hair who looked more cheerful chimed in.
"Come on, Azon! We won, didn't we?"
"Just barely, Bolin." The girl closed her locker. She didn't sound angry, just concerned. "If this is the best we can do, I doubt we will make it to the finals."
"I'll try harder next time. I promise." Hasook spoke up.
"Good for you, pal. Now could we at least celebrate this victory? We did win the match after all." Bolin tried to cheer up his team mates, when suddenly the door open and two figures walked in, one dragging another.
Korra smiled widely while Asami looked around, lost for words. The three Fire Ferrets looked back at them.
"Can we help you?" Azon asked.
"Good evening. I'm Kairi, and this is Asami. We're just the fans that want to congratulate you on your victory."
"We have fan-girls breaching in our locker room?" Hasook mumbled before licking his palm to set his hair straight. "Cool."
"N...nice to meet you all." Asami finally found her words. "You did an amazing job back there!"
"Thank you!" Bolin accepted the compliment.
"Maybe I didn't do as bad as you thought." Hasook smiled arrogantly, making Azon shake her head. The red haired girl turned to Asami and looked at her for a moment before asking.
"Asami? Are you Asami Sato, the heiress of Future Industry?"
"Wow, I didn't know we have high-profile fans too. Glad you enjoyed the game, Miss Sato." Azon extended her hand and Asami accepted it. It looked like Azon was the most professional of the team.
"Like they say in the Earth Rumble." Korra whispered to Asami. "Don't call yourself a fan until you sneak into player's locker room."
...to be continue...
Chapter 12: A leaf under the wind(7)
Korra was on the back of Asami's moped while she drove them back to the estate. The heiress offered to drop Korra off at the dock, but the mercenary insisted that she had to see her client all the way to her home.
"I didn't know that having you as my bodyguard would be this much fun,Kairi." Asami complimented the other girl. Her little meeting with the Fire Ferrets team was a lot of fun. The pro-benders were really humble and informal, a complete opposite of those Wolfbats.
"All in a day's work, Asami. I hope this made up for the whole deception thing." Korra tried to slip her apologies, hoping the heiress' good mood would make her more forgiving.
"Don't worry, you're just doing your job. If anything, I blame my father on this one." Asami sighed. "He's always treated me like I'm made of glass. Never trusted me with anything important. Sometimes I feel like he has become a different person since mother..." the heiress trailed off before shaking her head. "Sorry, got carried away."
Asami wondered if the mention of her mother had offended Kairi somehow, because the girl suddenly went quiet for almost a minute. Asami was about to ask when Korra spoke up.
"Don't be too harsh on your father, Asami." Korra's voice was serious. "Trust me, I hate an overprotectiveness as much as the next guy...(Damn that compound to hell.)...but at least he cared enough to tried to keep you safe, that has to count for something."
"I... That's what parents do, Kairi. Could it be brought up for an excuse?..."
"Not every parent."
Asami felt Korra's grip on her waist tighten. She glanced over her shoulder to see her passenger and saw Korra looking out over the dock to an empty ocean at night. Her eyes sparked with a glimpse of sadness and rage.
Even after what she heard about the scam, Asami guessed Kairi's relationship with her parents was worse than she thought.
"I'm...sorry..." The heiress tried to apologize, but the mercenary quickly cut her off with a sarcastic laugh.
"For Spirit's sake, what's with all the drama tonight? I thought we came out here to have fun."
"We're teenagers. We have a privilege to be angsty once in a while," Asami joked with a smile. They both shared a laugh and decided to drop the topic. No point in ruining the mood tonight.
Lee the butler was waiting for them at the front of the mansion. Hiroshi was still in his office, but he already instructed him about the deal between him and this girl Asami had been going out with tonight.
"Welcome home, Miss Sato. Shall I have the maids prepare you a bath, or you wish to retire for the night?"
"It's okay. I can prepare my own bath." Asami dismissed his offer. Korra felt like she was being ignored, so she clicked her tongue to drew the butler's attention.
"I believe you have something for me?" Korra snapped her fingers, making the butler frowned.
"With all due respect, Miss Kairi. I think we should discuss this later..."
"It's alright, Lee. I already knew dad was hiring her." Asami smirked at Korra.
"Oh?" Lee was taken aback and a little bit uncomfortable. He tired to maintain his politeness while glaring accusingly at Korra. "I thought master Sato expected your deal to be secret..."
"My apologies. I had no idea Mr. Sato has such a keen eye and intelligent daughter." The Avatar didn't even try to hide her sarcastic tone. "Deducting my price is acceptable, but you still have to pay me for delivering her back in one piece, and without a scratch."
"Just give her full price, Lee. I had to be an idiot to not know about my dad's involvement." Asami insisted. While she didn't appreciate the deception, Kairi did try to make up to her and they ended up having fun tonight.
"If you insist." The butler took out a brown envelope from his jacket and handed it to Korra. The mercenary took the envelope, turned away, and started counting the bills, licking her finger between the count.
Asami gestured the butler to leave them alone for now. Lee looked at Korra with skeptical eyes but complied nonetheless.
"Thank you for your service, Kairi. I know tonight was just another job for you, but I really had fun hanging out with you."
"You are nice company yourself, Asami, and I already got paid, so you know I didn't just say that because of the money." Korra waved the envelope in front of Asami, making the heiress smile playfully. "I shall take my leave then. Goodbye."
"See you around, Kairi."
Asami turned and closed the door behind her. Korra looked at her payment before pulling out a couple of bills, thinking she could get a few drinks downtown before going back to the island.
Mako stood inside a dark alley, intentionally not to draw attention of the people on the street while he counted the catch in his hands. These were protection fees he collected from shops, bars, and any businesses that opened in Triple Threat Triad territory. Normally this wasn't his job, but since his two 'seniors' were still in the hospital, he'll have to did their job until they recovered from broken bones.
The firebender took some of the bills and put them in his shirt pocket as his cut, while the rest would go to Lightning Bolt Zolt. Some gangsters would have taken this opportunity to slip some extra money into their own pockets, but Mako really didn't feel like cheating, even in this criminal career.
Mako left the alley and went directly to the bar across the street, the last place he had to collect. So far he still didn't have to threaten anyone to pay, and he hoped this convenience would last through the night. The young man entered the place and walked up to the bartender behind the table.
"Mako?" The bartender recognized him. "Didn't expect to see you tonight."
"I've come to collect the fee, Jin." Mako replied, ignoring other costumers that might be looking at him.
"They put you on this job now? I thought they only used someone who..., you know..., knew how to be intimidating." The bartender almost laughed at him. Mako sighed.
"Please just pay up, Jin. You really don't want them to send someone else who would be more than happy to trash your place for money, do you?"
"If that's the most threatening thing you can say, son." Jin said, while reaching into his pocket and handed Mako the money. "I strongly suggest you find a new line of work. You're too good to go far in this business."
"Like I have much of a choice..." The young man mumbled. He took the money before putting a few coins on the table. "Tequila."
"See, you even paid for your drink." The bartender shook his head, pouring a small glass of liquor for Mako.
The firebender took it in one shot, feeling the redness rising on his cheeks. He put the glass down and ordered. "Another..."
But before Jin could refill his drink, the person sitting next to him,who Mako didn't pay attention to, poured him a shot from her green bottle.
"My treat. Hope you like cactus juice." The girl said as she poured herself a bigger glass.
"Umm...thanks." Mako accepted the offer. He took the cactus shot while turning to see the stranger...
...and almost choked on the drink when he noticed a familiar figure. Black long hair, black sleeveless shirt, and a smirk like she expected him to react this way.
Mako coughed for a moment, feeling some of the cactus juice coming out of his nose. Korra just laughed at him in amusement.
"You?!" The young man finally recovered.
"Yep." The mercenary stared at him with half-lidded eyes. Mako noticed her red cheeks, she must have had her fair share of drinks before he came in here. "I think you still owe me a few bones I have to break, don't you?"
"If I recall correctly..." Mako tried to recompose himself. "...you said you'll let me keep my bones intact."
Korra raised her eyebrow. "I did?" She thought for a moment before the memory hit her. "Oh..., right, I did." She chuckled to herself and poured another glass of cactus juice.
"You two seem to have an...interesting relationship." The bartender commented, before he got call from the customer at other side of the table, forcing him to leave the two alone.
"Why are you still here?" Mako asked. "You shouldn't be out this late at night after what you have done."
"What have I done?" Korra replied, sipping her drink.
"You put two of Triple Threat Triads in the hospital, broad daylight, in public." Mako frowned at her, tried to look at least a bit intimidating. "The gang wouldn't stand for that kind of humiliation. You better watch your bac-."
The mercenary smashed her glass down hard enough to leave a bottom print on the wooden table. The sound echoed through the bar, silencing any other noise and drew all eyes on them."Are you threatening me?"
Korra stood up, and while Mako was taller, he felt himself shrinking at the sight of the half drunk and pissed off mercenary.
Jinora rolled and squirmed under her blanket, before she finally jolted awake with an ill expression. The little girl sighed and groaned. She sat up on her bed in lotus position, and began meditating.
A minute passed. Jinora opened her eyes with her face still pouting in discomfort. One hand pushed softly on her chest.
"This won't do..." She looked out the window. "I need a fresh air."
Jinora walked out of her room and ran tip toe through the hall way without making any sound, which is quite easy for an airbender.
The girl was out of the building and ran to a cliff the pointing north. Jinora sat down on the grass and resumed her meditation, but this time she mumbled a mantra while doing it.
"Instinct is a lie..." She began. "Told by a fearful body, hoping to be wrong."
The girl's face looked calmer and less ill, like whatever symptoms were troubling her slowly faded away in the cool night breeze. Her mouth even curved in a small smile.
"Let go your earthly tether. Enter the void..."
In the last part, without Jinora herself noticing, her body levitated from the ground and floated steadily in the air, not too high to be noticeable if saw from afar. But it's not like there was anyone to see her at this time of night.
" Empty and become wind ."
...to be continued...
Chapter 13: A leaf under the wind(8)
"I'm not threatening you. I'm warning you!"
Mako spoke quickly when he saw Korra grabbed her cactus juice bottleneck in the manner that...wasn't for drinking. He really didn't want to go to bed with a broken glass stuck in his forehead.
"What?" Korra raised her eyebrow, not entirely convinced.
"I'm telling you to watch your back. There's word on the street about what you did, and now many thugs probably want the piece of you to appease the gang."
"Including you?" Korra narrow her eyes.
"I don't need that kind of attention." Mako replied sternly, but that only made the girl burst out laughing.
"You say that like you would have a chance going up against me!" The mercenary punched Mako on his shoulder. The punch was hard enough to push him on the floor, but Mako grabbed the counter to balance himself.
"Come on, spiky! Show me what you got!" Korra taunted him while she kept punching him on the shoulder an chest, lighter than before, but more rapidly.
"I'm not looking for a fight." Mako replied, trying his best the hide the pain.
"Hey! At least your friends got their bones broken with dignity. Come on, avenge them." Korra jabbed him in the nose before continued punching.
Knowing that if he fell or tried to fight back would ignite the bar fight, Mako kept his calm and just sucked it up, both the pain and the taunting. The firebender just stood there, taking punch after punch from the girl.
"OK, I think you have had enough drink for tonight, young lady." The bartender intervened.
"I have?" Korra abruptly stopped, giving Mako a room to breathe.
"Yes, you have. You already had three bottles of cactus juice. Normally people faint at two."
"Eh, you city-folk are lightweights. At frontier, we drink until we see the sky upside down." Korra mumbled to herself. She punched Mako's chest one last time before putting a bill on the table as the bartender's tip and walked out of the bar.
The tension went away as soon as she disappeared,though some of the customer sighed in disappointment for the lack of an exciting event. Most gave Mako a pitiful look for letting himself been bullied by a girl.
"Thanks, Mako." The bartender said, acknowledging that if it wasn't for the boy's patience, his place would surely be trashed tonight.
Mako grunted while rubbing his chest and shoulder. If his boss had seen how he handled the situation, that would add to the list of things he did that ruined Triple Thread Triad's image. He turned back to the counter with an exhausting sigh.
"Another. Keep them coming." He gestured to his glass.
"On the house for you, my boy."
Korra half jumped, half stumbled off the sampan to the Air Temple Island dock. She paid the ferryman and forgot to ask for a change, after which the ferryman quickly departed without reminding her. Korra walked hobblingly to the building, more than once that she almost fell off the dock in her drunken state.
She managed to go through the walkway with minimum noise, but when she passed the garden near the cliff side, she turned and saw Jinora sitting in a lotus position...
Korra rubbed her eyes and looked again. She could swear that the girl's legs didn't touch the ground. When a breeze blew past, she saw the grass under Jinora wave along with the wind.
"Maybe I really drank too much..." Korra mumbled to herself. She hurried to her room to fall asleep before her mind played anymore tricks on her.
An hour after midnight, Jinora's body finally dropped to the ground and her eyes opened, felt like she could take a full breath once again after waking up, the airbender got up and skipped a light-footed step back to her room. She could still rest a few hours before sunrise.
Being in a career that required your body to be in top notch condition all the time, Lin was up and ready for the morning exercise before the first light touched the horizon. After she woke Ikki and dressed herself, Lin went to Korra's room.
Lin knocked a few times, if only for appearances sake, before she opened the door without any permission. The metalbender expected to see the Avatar still drooling lazily on her bed, but instead...Korra was sitting on the floor, leaning against the bathroom door, one hand rubbing her temples with both eyes closed. Her expression looked like she tried to suppress an urge to groan.
"What's wrong?" Lin asked.
"...Hangover." The girl replied, burying her face deeper in her palm.
"Have you been drinking!?" The chief didn't know why she sounded so surprised, considered her thoughts on Korra's lifestyle.
" Just a little..." A sharp pain shot through her head. "...bit too much."
Lin exhaled, shaking her head. "So you gonna use this as an excuse to not go exercise this morning?" The woman already began to think of what unnecessary chore she would give Korra later for skipping their workout session. Maybe cleaning sky-bison barn, or...
Korra gritted her teeth while standing up, hand still on her forehead. She managed to stand straight even with a bit of difficulty. "Give me 5 minutes." Korra lowered her hand and looked at Lin. Her eyes were red and bloodshot, tired, but there was no glimpse of pleading.
The absent of weakness astonished Lin.
"Are you sure you up for it?"The chief was genuinely surprised, she had seen her brother-in-law in worse conditions when he was drunk.
"If you and the kid didn't plan to actually murder me at the exercise session, I think I'll survive."
With that retort, Lin turned around and was about to leave Korra to crawl to the courtyard by herself, before she heard a loud stumbling noise. She turned to see Korra trip and fall face first on the floor, head colliding with the edge of her bed, groaning in pain.
Lin let out a heavy sympathy sigh, with a bit of hesitation, she helped Korra on her feet and guided her out of the room.
"Let's fix you up before you go headbutt the rest of my furniture."
"Ha...ha...very funny, officer." Korra replied sarcastically, while still leaning on Lin's shoulder for support.
They arrived at the kitchen and Lin made Korra a glass of ginger tea. Its taste was so strong that Korra thought she might as well just eat raw ginger, but still managed to swallow the drink. Reasonably, the strong taste and smell did help lessen her hangover headache.
"Better?" Lin asked, accepting the empty glass and put it in the sink.
"Yeah, thanks." Korra blinked to adjust her vision now that her head felt more clear. "Honestly, when you said 'fix me up' I thought you're gonna throw me in a pool or something like that."
"Don't give me ideas, kid." Lin actually smiled, or more like smirked, but still a smile.
After the exercise and the breakfast, Tenzin received a call from the council and had to leave all of a sudden. He appointed Jinora and Meelo to supervise Korra's training, either with the spinning gates or just meditation.
Since the mercenary was in no mood to just sit around, she chose the spinning gates.
But after awhile, Korra thought she might prefer just sit boringly and not get beat up by wooden panels.
"Don't force your way through!" Jinora yelled as Korra forced her way through. "Be the leaf!" The Avatar only succeed impersonating the leaf that can feel pain and got knocked out the way she came in. Exhausted from her many tries, this time she couldn't land on her feet.
"Roll! Roll on the ground like the dirt you are!"
"Meelo!" Jinora bawled at her brother, but the boy couldn't care less. He jumped across Korra who lay groaning on the floor. Her hangover headache seemed to come back all of sudden.
"Is it just me, or was I doing worse than the first time?" The Avatar asked, between Meelo taunting and her failing, she felt an urge to burn all the gates with her firebending, but being a mercenary, she was very cautious about property damage.
"You ARE doing worse!" The airbender boy had more to say, but he got shoved aside by his sister who kneeled down to help Korra sit up.
"Maybe you should take a break." Jinora said worryingly.
"Maybe you should quit!"
"Calm down, kiddo. I'm open to all suggestions, even a stupid one." A simple retort was all she needed to make Meelo pout angrily again. Both girls then ignored him as they talked to each other.
"I've been practicing just like your father taught me, but it doesn't seem to sink in yet." Korra voiced her worries.
"This isn't something you can force. The nature of the element will come naturally. You just have to find the essence within yourself." Jinora smiled reassuringly as she continue. "The moon does not fight. It attacks no one. It does not worry. It does not try to crush others. It keeps to its course, but by its very nature, it gently influences. What other body could pull an entire ocean from shore to shore? The moon is faithful to its nature and its power is never diminished."
Korra looked the girl, a little bit dumbfounded. "That was deep of you, kiddo."She saw the girl blush and couldn't help but adore the little airbender. "But does this mean I have to just...do nothing? Doesn't sound very proactive."
"Not exactly. It's just that, you tried to act like an airbender but you're never felt the element of air. Impersonating a movement can only get you so far in bending. You need to feel it in your heart..." Jinora snapped her finger. "I know! We could try this together!"
"The spinning gates." She helped Korra get up. "I'll go in with you, and you just have to follow me. Don't try to avoid to gates, don't try to be an airbender. Just follow me to the other side and let your body memorize the feeling naturally."
Korra felt skeptical, doubting that not trying to avoid the gate would prevent them from hitting her, however, seeing there weren't any other suggestion at the time. "Why not?" She shrugged and stood beside Jinora who shot another gust of wind into the gates, making them spin up to speed.
Jinora ran in first and Korra followed her closely. The Avatar fixed her eyes on the girl and tried her best to ignore all the potential concussions around her. She turned when the girl turned, dashed when she dashed, and before she noticed, both of them were already outside the ring.
"How about that..." Korra looked around to made sure that they really were on the other side of the gates. Neither her nor Jinora paid attention to Meelo shouting "Cheaters!" at them.
"Can we try again, kiddo? Just want to make sure that wasn't just a lucky shot."
Jinora nodded and they both ran back into the ring once more. And like before, simply following the girl made Korra avoid all the gates without even trying. There was something strange, yet, familiar with this feeling, reminded her of what happen when she dodged Asami's mop the other day, and also maybe when she fought those Triple Thread Triads.
When they were half way through the gates, Korra decided to glanced around just to see how she doing. But that immediately proved to be a mistake. When she lost sight of Jinora, her eyes caught a glimpse of a wooden panel spinning toward her. She unconsciously dropped to a fighting stance and got hit on the left side of her head. Another hit on the back and she began stumble.
Korra held her breath for the next hits to follow, but she suddenly felt a pair of hands grab her wrist and pull her out of the tight spot, still in the ring of gates, but out of harm's way.
"Just follow me." Jinora reminded her, she grabbed Korra on each hand and guided her forward. They start circling each other to avoid the panels,while never broke the skin contact, almost like they were dancing in the middle of spinning gates. The Avatar tried her best to mimic Jinora's movements, but found out it wasn't even that hard. The little girl's movement already had a rhythm in it, Korra just has to let herself flow along.
'Oh Spirits...' Under her calm expression, Jinora's thoughts heated up like a tea pot. 'I'm dancing with Korra! I saw mom and dad do this sometime, and now I'm doing this with Korra!'
This time it was Jinora who didn't notice when they already out of the ring, not until Korra let go of her hands(to her disappointment).
"Wow kiddo! You're awesome!" The Avatar cheered. The girl just both lectured her with meaningful philosophy, and practically assisting her to overcome her trial, something that Tenzin was SUPPOSED to be doing for the last two day. "I think you are a better teacher than your father."
"There is nothing wrong with dad's teaching! You're just a terrible student!" Meelo shouted, but by that point the girls already forgot that the boy even existed, his whining seem to fade away in background noise.
"Maybe I should start calling you master?" Korra teased, but wouldn't mind if she actually doing it. Younger or not, Jinora knew about the subject matter more than her.
"Oh...no, you shouldn't..." Jinora wondered if her face already looked like a tomato. There were so many shades of red a person's cheeks can turn to. "I'm still a long way to earn the title of master airbender."
"The title is granted, but the honor is earned. You already earned my respect, master or not." The mercenary smiled, showing she had a scripture to quote too. "Still, if you insist, I'll just go back to calling you canary-dove then."
"Canary...dove?..." Jinora was on the brink of losing her mind. 'She give me a pet name. She give me a PET NAME!' She read enough romantic novels(PG-Rate) to know of what circumstances under which people give each other pet names.
"Excuse me, Miss Beifong." A female air-acolyte walked up to them. Korra ignored her at first, until she repeated herself and the Avatar just remembered her cover identity as Lin's cousin.
"You have a visitor. Asami Sato is here and asked if she could see you."
...to be continued...
Chapter 14: A leaf under the wind(9)
Asami tapped her foot nervously as she waited at the dock. This was her first time visiting Air Temple island, and not because of her interest in the Air Nomad culture, so she felt disrespectful to the place in some way, not that it was a big deal...
"Didn't expect you come here, Asami."
The heiress turned to see the mercenary walk up to her. Asami was surprised to see the other girl wearing an Air Nomad-attire, but decided not to bring it up just yet.
"Morning, Kairi." Asami said as Kairi bowed to her and she quickly bowed back. Oddly enough, the formal greeting almost looked like the tan-girl was trying to keep some distance between them, which could be the case, considering how much Kairi talked about being professional.
"To what do I owe the pleasure of this visit?"The mercenary's words even reminded Asami of her father's client; practical, but not comfortable with a casual conversation.
"Do friends need reasons to come visit each other?" Asami asked back with a smile.
"Oh?...friend?" The certain word clearly caught Korra's attention, and Asami almost felt hurt to see the other girl reluctant to accept that status.
Was the night before really just... business to her?
The smile already disappeared from the heiress' face as she spoke. "I'm sorry! I...didn't mean to presume that we're... That you...
"Ah tatata! Too late for that." Kairi's cut her off. "The words are already out, and as a greedy merc, I'm going to take a heck of advantage out of it." She stuck her hand out in to Asami. "Friend?"
Her smile returned. She accepted the hand and finally felt like the formality between them dropped away.
'That was close.' Korra thought. 'Didn't know she would jump on me like that. Guess I'm not familiar with friendly faces around here.'
As odd as it might be, Korra never had any 'close friends' in her life. She always enjoyed company of other mercs when they drank at a tavern, but a real friendship was something Korra reluctant to enter into. Kuvira was an exception as she was like a sister to her.
But in this case, Korra thought it wouldn't hurt to hang out with this rich girl while she was undercover in this city. Just to amuse herself, if nothing else.
"Walk with me?" Korra offered before they walked side by side through the garden area of the island.
"You are a disgrace to the Air Nomad legacy! Jinora!"
Meelo yelled at his sister who sat on one of the spinning gate panels with dreamy eyes. She tapped her ankle at the gate to made it spin around slowly, paid no attention to Meelo's accusation.
"She called me canary-dove." Jinora mumbled, clutching to herself. "She thinks I'm cute..." A light blush appeared on her cheek as she smiled.
"You reveal our secret to the Avatar, and she's going to use it to destroy us. She will come after me first! She knows I know too much..." Meelo mourned to the sky, not noticing another person and a big polar dog just entered the courtyard.
Ikki looked between her siblings. This was a weird way to start the day, she thought.
"I'm afraid to ask, but what are you two doing?"
"Ikki! Jinora has sold us out to the Avatar! The days of airbenders are numbered, again!" Meelo turned to his sister and tackled her with a bone crushing hug.
"So you're still on about this, huh?" Ikki mumbled. She pushed her brother away before turning to Jinora. "Speaking of which, where is Kairi? I thought she was training with you?"
"She went to greet a visitor." Jinora answered without caring very much. In her palm she tried to created a heart shape air-sphere. "I think her name was Asami Sato, or something..."
"What? That's my job! Mom put me in charge of welcoming visitors here." Ikki huffed before jumping on to Naga's back. "Let's go, girl. Before that freeloader ruins our island's reputation." The polar bear dog barked and ran straight to the docks, before her nose picked up Korra's smell midway and she turned to the garden instead.
"So you really do have a race track in your backyard?"
"Of course, it's where I test-drive Satomobile prototypes for my father. Maybe I'll give you a ride on that track sometime."
"Sound like fun! I would like to be at the other end of your moped when you hit other people for a change."
Asami gave Korra a playful nudge. The mercenary hadn't been kidding when she said she was gonna drop all formality between them if Asami insisted on them being 'friends'.
"I would tell you more about this island." Korra said after Asami told her about Sato mansion, the race track was the highlight. "Unfortunately, I know little about this place. The best I can do is point out the obvious." She gestured her hand around randomly. "A pavilion, a tree, a bush, the courtyard with a yin-yang pattern, you get the idea."
"It's fine." Asami stopped in the middle of the garden. "Actually, I came here to ask if you..."
Before the heiress finished her sentence, the two saw a massive fur beast running toward them with full speed. Naga jumped across the two to avoid hitting them and lost enough momentum to stop not far from the girls. Ikki climbed down to introduce herself to Asami.
"Hi! My name is Ikki. Nice to meet you." The little girl's smile could brighted up a room. She stepped in to stand between Asami and Korra. "Welcome to Air Temple Island."
"Emm, hi, little one. My name is Asami Sato." The heiress looked a bit confused. "I'm...I came here to..."
"I apologize for my cousin. She doesn't know much about our home. And I believe she was supposed to be training with my brother and sister." Ikki glanced at Korra who looked at her with bored eyes.
"Training?" Asami inquired.
"Yes, at the airbending gates. We can go see that later, but for now..."
"You practice airbending?"
Ikki froze when Asami cut her off, realizing that she just let the information about the Avatar slip. To her surprise, Korra calmly explained it to Asami.
"I just want to spend some time with my nieces. The temple has this obstacle course that even non-benders could try, if you're fast enough." Korra then switched her gaze from Asami to Ikki. "It's not like I can actually bend air or anything."
The earthbender avoided Korra's eyes, refused to admit her sloppiness.
"But the kid is a better guide than me. She could give you a tour around the island." The mercenary suggested.
"Oh, right. That won't be necessary." Asami gave an apologetic look to Ikki. "Actually Kairi, I came here to ask you if you want to go watch Pro-Bending with me again tonight?"
Korra's eyes widen."Oh dear..."
The heiress didn't understand that reaction until Ikki spoke up.
" 'Again'? What do you mean'again'..." The little girl suddenly clicked at the implication. She gave Korra a cold rages glare that the mercenary found herself avoid, ironically. "You!"
"Should have just spilled it out when we were at the dock, Asami." Korra mumbled through her teeth, which only made Asami more and more confused.
Ikki growled like a cat at the thought of the Avatar went to see her favorite sport, when she, who was born and raised in this city, never even got close to the arena.
"Like I didn't have enough reason to hate you." The earthbender jumped on Naga and rode away without looking back. Korra looked after her and let out a long sigh. Lin was going to kill her for this.
"Did I do something wrong?" Asami asked worriedly.
"No, not intentionally anyway."
Korra went back to training with Jinora in the afternoon, with both Ikki and Meelo were nowhere to be found(to neither girls' surprise). They kept training 'till evening and Lin was the first to arrive home.
"You did what?" the chief asked calmly, but not calm enough to hide her irritation when Korra told her about what Ikki overheard.
"Asami was the one who blurted it out." Korra said defensively.
The two were talking at the docks. Korra thought she'd better give herself some space in case a fight broke out. She even changed back to her black mercenary clothes for better maneuverability.
"Now Ikki knows I went to the arena, and by extension, maybe Meelo too."
"It hasn't even been a day. Now I wonder if the whole city would know you're the Avatar by the weekend."Lin rubbed her forehead.
"Don't joke about that, officer. You would be surprise how far I would go to escape the White Lotus' authority." Korra replied before nodding a little. "But, guilty as charged. Promise I'll be more careful in the future."
"That's for your own sake more than mine. Though, I'm surprised that you came clean with me like this." Lin added her comment. Not that when Ikki and Meelo came to complain to her about Pro-bending, she wouldn't know that it was Korra's fault. But a roguish person with no concept of honesty would at least put some afford in denying their crime.
"Better you heard it from me than the kids. It's easier to dodge the punch if it comes from the front." The Avatar hoped that Lin got the joke, and didn't mistake it for a challenge. The chief actually considered the latter, but decide to not abuse her authority over the teenage girl.
"Well, Tenzin is the one who forbid them. He is the one you should give a heads up."
"I'll...tell him later, but what about Asami? Can I go with her this evening?"
"Is this another job, or...?"
"I wouldn't say no if Mr. Sato wanted to pay me later." Korra smirked. "But for now, no, this is just a friendly night out."
Lin thought for a moment, at first it seemed reasonable to not let the Avatar get off their island more than necessary, less chance of her getting into any trouble. But on second thought, getting locked up against her will was the reason Korra fell off the grid for half a decade. Lin knew that despite her threatening the Avatar when they made the deal, Korra was probably capable of slipping away and disappear again if she really wanted to.
So far, Korra agreed to stay on Lin's terms, and aside from a little error here and there, the girl was committed to her deal. There was no point to over discipline her.
"Are you gonna come back wasted like yesterday?" Lin asked, she didn't see how Korra was last night, but judging by the morning hangover, she doubted the girl could walk straight.
"Don't worry, I won't. There were something seriously wrong with Republic City's cactus juice. It taste horrible, yet I couldn't stop drinking it. And it gave me a hangover headache worse than anytime I drank at other taverns. Must be something in this city's water."
"Or," Lin interrupted, "you're a drunkard with terrible taste and a lack of self-control."
Korra pretend to contemplate it for a second before shrugging. "Nah, I like my theory better." She gave Lin a cocky smile, to which the chief just shook her head while she watched Korra wasted no time running up the ferry that was just about to leave the island. "Also, I'll take that as a 'yes'. See you after dark, officer!" Korra shout from the second floor as the ship departed.
Lin turned around and walked up the stairs, along the way thought if any of this was foreshadowing of what she had to face when her three kids hit puberty.
Korra was at the city's dock and about to head to the arena. She really wanted to get there before the place became crowded after dark, which would make it more difficult to find Asami. However, a familiar voice drew her attention.
"Join the Equalists! Together, we will end the reign of bender tyranny!" The protester from the park shouted into his megaphone, successfully making himself the center of attention of the entire dock. He didn't have his podium like the last time, only one hand carrying a megaphone, the other held up the poster of the masked figure, Amon.
"Look around you, brothers and sisters." He continued. "This city prospers by the hardworking people, and the machinery that was invented by us common people." He point to one of the cargo ships that used a small crane to transport its containers. "We don't need bending in our society! We don't need benders to oppress the regular people! Join the Equalists today and help us bring equality to the world!..."
"Did the guy know that half of the workers here are waterbenders?" A person next to Korra whispered to his friend. The mercenary glanced at a group of workers on the docking bay, and noticed many of them cracking their knuckles.
"I'll bet our EQ-guy is about to go swimming sometime soon." Korra mumbled with a grin, making some people around her chuckle in agreement. They too noticed the unhappy reactions of the dock's workers.
"Heed my word, brothers and sisters. United we will..."
A fireball was thrown out of nowhere and burned the poster to a crisp, making the protester fall on his butt as he tried to put out the flame that caught his sleeve.
One side of the crowd peeled off to let five figures walk in. Two men wearing black shirts with the mixed red pattern, two men with yellow-green shirt, and one man with blue almost gray coat.
The Triple Threat Triad.
Everyone, even Korra recognized their status, and if she went by the way they were dressed, they were two firebenders, two earthbenders, and one waterbender.
"What do we have here?" The waterbender stood towering the now shivering protester. "A lousy gibbon-monkey disturbing the good people of Republic City? We can't have that." The gangster's voice dripped with creepiness.
"Y...you! You're a criminal! Just like any bender!" The protester stood up as he looked around, like he tried to rally the crowd on his side. "You and your kind are the disease of the society!..."
One of the earthbenders punched him in a face hard enough to draw blood from his nose. The two firebenders grabbed the protester before he fell back.
"We ain't need bending to take care of you, you pathetic worm." The earthbender cracked his fingers, still itching to throw another punch. Meanwhile, the waterbender turned to the crowd around them with a bright smile.
"Show's over, people! Don't worry, we'll take care of this garbage. You all can go back to your business. Have a nice evening!"
The crowd parted again to let the five men drag the protester to the warehouse-zone of the docks which has fewer… witnesses. The poor man cried for help but he either received a sympathetic look,or a hate glare from the people he insulted a minute ago.
"What do you know? His mouth DID get him in trouble." Korra mumbled to herself as the crowd dispatched. She saw the last glimpse of the protester's foot as he got dragged behind one of the warehouses at the far end of the docks.
The sun almost set, she should be hurrying to the arena, but her thoughts still conflicted. On the one hand, the guy really was asking for it. He was one step away from walking down the Northern Water Tribe city street, carrying a sign saying 'I hate colored people!' around his neck. Most could see that he got what he deserved.
On the other hand, who deserved to be at the mercy of the criminals? Korra fought them to protect their victims before, what stopped her for doing it this time? Because she didn't like the guy? Because he was rude to her?
'But It wasn't my responsibility'.
She wasn't a guard, she wasn't a cop, and she was sure as hell not the Avatar! She wasn't the protector of the people, especially the one that get himself into trouble. No one paid her to protect anyone.
-Fortune is our priority, but true mercenaries never betray their conscience. In a time with no contract, we set our own reward, and pay our own price.-
The words from the book she read echoed in Korra's thoughts, and she sighed. As unlikable as he was, if he turned up dead in the next day, Korra knew it was gonna leave a bad taste in her mouth.
The protester was thrown to the wall followed by a kick to the gut. He crouched down with hands on his stomach, whimpering in pain.
"So...how do we do this?" One of the firebenders asked his friend eagerly.
"You...scum." The victim tried to shout, but came out as a squeeze, "I'm not afraid of you..." before he earned another kick to the face. He fell on his side and lost four of his teeth. The blood now came out from both his nose and his mouth.
"Maybe we should cut out his tongue." The earthbender suggested. "Yeah...cut out his tongue and feed it to him." The sick description only earned him a gleeful laugh from his friends, except the waterbender who knelt down beside the terrifying protester.
"No, here's what we gonna do." He pulled out a knife and place its tip on the guy forehead. "We gonna beat you up, cut off your tongue, your fingers, your ears, even your dick, and pull out your eye balls. All of this while you're still alive, I'll make sure of it."
Korra hid behind a stack of crates to eavesdrop on the conversation. What the gangster said made her want to burn bandit's face sound like child play.
"And Kuvira said I had issues..." Korra rolled her eyes. Compare to these psychos, she definitely was a normal one.
"Then..." The waterbender continued, ignoring the horrify expression of his victim. "...I'm gonna carve this Equalist symbol on your back, before we drown you in this dock. And when your corps washes ashore tomorrow, people will know what happens to those who associate with them."
"N..no... No..." Whatever courage he had before, it had left him completely now. Fortunately for him that the hidden mercenary decided she heard enough and revealed herself before the beating start.
"Come on, guys." She called out to them in a friendly tone. All five of them turned to see her in surprise. "Don't you think you go a little overboard with the whole cutting and carving thing?"
"Who are you?" The firebender asked, while the waterbender inspected the newcomer quietly.
'A teenage girl, long black hair, dark skin, wearing black...'
" Just a passing by. Listen..." Korra clapped her hands together as she walked up to them. "I know this is none of my business, but the guy probably already pissed his pants by now. Are all these..." She dragged her finger across her throat, gesture of killing. "..necessary?"
"I think she came to save him." The earthbender drew his conclusion, the other quickly added. "Is he your friend?"
"Ah...ah...you... You!..." The protester point at Korra with shaking finger, he was yet to recover his ability to talk straight.
"He called me an oppressor and made the park crowd boo me when I first arrived here." Korra shrugged like it was nothing. "So no, not a friend. In fact, on a bad day, I probably give him a bloody nose myself."
"Then why are you bothering us?" The firebender asked with irritation. Korra knew she couldn't draw this out any longer. She said with her playful if not apologetic smile."Look just beat him up, I'm not gonna stop you. But could you not...kill him? And preferably leave him in one piece? I just don't want to be a witness to a murder, that's all."
"Oh? Then you did come to save him." The waterbender spoke to her for the first time, and he sounded too cheerful for Korra's liking. "You know, I remember the rumor about two days ago. They said that a girl, with your exact description, beat up two of our gang to protect a phonograph vender."
Korra's smiled disappeared, at the same time all the men turn to her with full hostile intentions. The protester was the only one who look confuse of what he just heard.
"This city seem to forget who's the real boss lately..." The waterbender licked his blade. "Maybe I should carve the word 'heroine' on your back before we drown you?"
'So, the Mako guy spoke the truth about my reputation.' Korra thought as she assumed her battle stance. 'I'll buy him a drink next time I see him.'
"After all, two corpses send a better message than one." The guy flicked the other hand to shot a water bullet from his water skin at her, and the fight broke loose.
...to be continued...
Chapter 15: A leaf under the wind(10)
The Air family had gathered in the dining room. Meelo and Ikki looked rather upset, while Jinora stared blankly at the ceiling, mumbling something about "I am her canary-dove..."
Lin helped an air acolyte carry a trays of food into the room. She set her own dish and Tenzin's, while the kids help passing each other food around the table. The air acolyte excused herself out of the room when Lin sat down in her place.
As they were about to start eating, the door opened again and Tenzin walked in.
"I'm home, everyone." The master airbender announced his presence. He looked around table and found one person missing."Where is Kairi?"
"Out on the town with Asami Sato." Lin answered as she pick up her chopstick.
"Again?" Tenzin frown. He sat down next to Lin. "If this becomes her habit, maybe we should set some ground rules..."
"I will not set any more rules as long she shows no signs of trouble. From what I heard..." Lin glanced at Jinora who smiled at her. "...she did her part and trained all day. She earned her free time."
"If...you say so..." Tenzin didn't even attempted to objected. He then turned to their oldest daughter. "So, how did Kairi training today. Did she make any progress?"
"Yes, dad. She..."
Meelo suddenly burst out and drew everyone attention, everyone except Ikki who just shook her head and continued eating her and Lin's non-vegetarian food.
"What do you mean, Meelo?" Tenzin inquired. Jinora was about to answer but Meelo cut her short.
"Jinora helped Korra pass the airbending gates! She was holding her hand while they ran through the panels. They cheated the trial!"
"Is that true?" Tenzin turned to Jinora who frowned at her brother.
"Well...yes, but I only helped guide her so she could memorize the pattern."
"It's still cheating, right dad?" Meelo asked. Tenzin crossed his arms in contemplation before nodding to his son.
"It wasn't how the trial was meant to be."
"That's not fair!" Jinora protested. She remembered the surge of pride when Korra complimented her teaching, and now that pride was insulted by her brother and father. "My method helped her practice!"
"Dad never held our hand when we were practicing at the gate." Meelo smirked, feeling more confident now that Tenzin was on his side.
What anyone wasn't expect was when Jinora sat up on her knees, slammed her fists on the table, and yelled angrily at both of them.
"MAYBE DAD WAS WRONG! MAYBE THE WHOLE TEACHING WAS WRONG! No one here succeeded at teaching Korra anything but me! Ever think about that!?"
The last part was more directed at Meelo than Tenzin, regardless, the dining room fall silent for almost a minute. Jinora's expression slowly changed, as if she just realized what she had done.
Lin cut her husband off with a calm tone. At the same time Meelo opened his mouth to say something, but immediately closed when he saw his mother glared at him. Lin put her chopsticks down while looking at the three airbenders. Jinora sat back on her cushion without anyone having to tell her.
Ikki was the only who seem to enjoy the commotion going on. She spoke without a sound but Jinora and Meelo could read her lips saying 'You in trouble.'
"I will not comment on airbending training, that's your specialty. Regardless..." The metalbender looked at her eldest daughter. "Be more polite when express your opinion, Jinora. And never use that tone of voice to your father ever again, understand?"
"Yes, mother." Jinora replied weakly, Lin turned to the guys, but directed her attention more specifically at Tenzin.
"However, Jinora has the right to be angry. You left her in charge of Korra's training, and she did her best. If you have problem with her methods, next time, do it yourself, but do not insult her effort."
The two airbenders nodded to her, before Tenzin turned to apologize to Jinora as well.
Ikki tried her best to suppress her smile. It was at times like this that reminded her that by natural order, earth beats air.
Korra ducked behind the crates just as the three elements flew past her. The thugs in this city were too easily provoked, but on the upside, the mercenary did loved having reason to justify her aggression.
"My only regret..."Korra spoke before one of the firebender jumped over the crates to attacked her from above. She dodge his rain of fire, and when he landed, Korra struck him with her elbow in his stomach, then grabbed his head and flung him to the crates, taking him out of the commission with a bloody nose and a few missing teeth,"...is that no one paid me for this."
With one of their friend down, the waterbender, the two earthbenders and the other firebender quickly spread out to surrounded her. They shot their attacks in angles that wouldn't hit each other, and Korra was surprised that they were capable of using tactics.
Korra dodged the fire and the water, but two pieces of earth struck her back and her shoulder. She dodged their attacks again and evaded all the earth but got glazed by the fire on her arm and a water bullet on her shoulder.
'Ok... They practiced teamwork, I'll give them that.'
Korra fell into a disadvantage situation. It was a little difficult for her to go on full defensive without bending, and the synchronize four-way attack was too much for her to handle with her bare hands. If she used her bending right now, she could defeat them easily, but then another thought came to her mind...
'This feels like those spinning gates.'
Attacks from all angles, could not guard, could not counter, only evade. The exact same circumstances that the airbending gates tried to create. Korra could think of this as a field test of her training.
The mercenary assumed airbending stand and closed her eyes, tried to recall all the things she was taught about airbending...
No! Not what she was taught, but what she experienced. What she felt when she was training with Jinora.
Korra felt herself as the center of everything.
She felt her surroundings, as the limits of where she can or cannot go.
She felt the attacks, coming from three directions.
And finally, she felt the wind.
A small realization, but for Korra, she felt like she just discover a whole new world.
Korra no longer felt herself, she felt her breath, feeling of something that was always there but never noticed before.
She no longer felt her surrounding, she felt mass of air, flowing in pattern-like a tide of waves that hit a shore.
She no longer felt the attacks, she felt the shift in the wind, ripples that disturbed the natural flow of air.
All these new feelings practically predicted the movement for her ahead of time, like a reverse echo of things that were happening around her.
Korra moved herself nimbly, avoiding each attack by just inches. She barely moved from the spot, only her arms, torso, or head that was targeted. Almost like a paper doll that didn't move by its own will, but was pushed out of the way when the wind blew.
After a series of attacks, the Triple Threat Triads began to realize there was something wrong with their tactic, since the girl seemed to take less and less effort to dodge their attacks. She even closed her eyes as if to taunt them.
"What? Out of juice already?"
Korra opened her left eye and smirk at them. Maybe the element of air was worth learning after all.
"Keep up your attacks! She can't dodge forever!" The waterbender yelled at his comrades, but before they could continued their assault, and Korra was ready to perform her air-dodging again.
Three shadowy figures leaped out from their hiding spot, one on the warehouse roof, one behind another pile of crates, and one swung across the rail at the end of the dock.
Before the Triple Threat Triads knew what hit them, the firebender and two earthbenders were already collapsed on the ground after getting jabbed behind their necks. One of the newcomer quickly throw a bola at the waterbender. The bender struggled, tried to use his water but the other attacker came up behind him and knocked him out with a punch to the head.
Korra stared at the situation in awe. All the thugs were neutralized swiftly and quietly. The three figures dragged them to the side of the warehouse and tied them together. One of them went to the injured protester while the other two turned to face the mercenary.
All of them were dressed in olive-green trench coats, a scarf, and a black mask cover from head to neck, with glowing green goggles that Korra assumed helped them see in the dark.
"Are you alright?" One of them asked, his voice sounded hard to identify, probably on purpose.
"I'm...fine." Korra looked at the protester. The third trench coat man was tending to his wounds with a field med-kit. She noted that this mean these people were well equipped, and not just some passer-by that threw on a disguise to save them in a hurry.
"Our apologies," the other figured said, the female voice took Korra by surprised a little. "we would have interfered sooner, but we saw that you could hold your own against them."
"We're impressed, both your skill and your courage for helping him." The guy gestured to the protester, who seem to forget all his pain and looked excited and happy at the appearance of the three.
"Is he yours?" Korra would be surprised if this loud mouth actually had a powerful friends, or any friends in general.
"He speaks bravely for our cause. We would not fail those who put their trust in us." The man put his fist on his chest. The woman did the same gesture.
"So...you're the Equalists." Korra arrived at the obvious conclusion, obvious, but disturbing at the same time.
Honestly, she thought the Equalists was just a political movement that put way too much effort on their appearance. She was expecting to see a dressed up riot in the near future, a few hundred people wearing that cloaks and masks, walking down the street, burning a few shops and complained about their living quality. The event which Korra had full intention to not getting involved in. This city could burn to the ground for all she cared, so if it managed to crumbled down in a more colorful manner, so be it. If she hadn't already left by then, she'll watch Lin kicked the mob's ass from the island, with a binocular.
But this? A real functional vigilante group? This was unexpected for the city that was so... mediocre from an outside look.
"Correct, and we too know who you are, mercenary Kairi." The guy said as if tried to impress her.
The female quickly added: "We have been keeping an eye on you since you first arrived in this city. We're well aware of your commitment to help the follow non-benders."
"You folks are making a lot of assumptions here..." Korra scratched the back of her head, did saving one vender and 'trying' to save a loud-mouthed protester really qualify as that heroic of an act? "Also, I'm not appreciate being stalked." The second part, Korra spoke with more menacing tone.
"It was necessary. Potential recruits like you are hard to come by these days." The female said, no trace of apology in her voice. "You wouldn't want your courage to go unnoticed, would you?"
"Actually yes, I prefer to keep a low profile." Korra replied harshly, taken them aback a little.
"There's no need to be afraid of us, my friend. We're here to offer you a position in our ranks." The guy decided to cut to the point, seeing how the mercenary didn't enjoy their attempt at friendly talk.
"You want me to join you? Join the Equalists?" Korra's eyes widened.
"The revolution is coming, the one that will change this city, or this world forever. We offer you a chance to be a part of it. Help us bring forth the age of non-bender." The girl sound inspired, clearly believing every word herself said.
"A reckless recruiting process for an underground operation, don't you think." Korra commented dryly, the shock didn't stay with her for long since this wasn't the first cult she encountered in her years, a lot of families hired a mercenary to bring back their kids that ran off with a crazy cult all the time.
"We do not distrust our own brothers and sisters." The reassuring from the girl made Korra want to puked. These people were too idealistic for their own good. "But we understand if you need time to think this through."
The three Equalists re-grouped, bowed to her one more time, and dashed away, disappearing in the darkness of the docks like shadow. Regardless of their too trusting attitude, they seem really good at stealth.
"Spirit's mercy! Thank you so much!" The bandaged protester got to his feet and darted to Korra. Bowing and pleading with gratefulness. "I was such a fool to mistake you for a bender! Please, accept my apologies, good lady. I'm forever in your debt!"
"All in the day work, sir." Korra answered without much care.
"Oh, and forgive me for prying, but I think you should TOTALLY join the Equalists, milady! We need people to fight for equality. I would risk my bones and limbs to praise your deeds for the city to hear!..."
"I would rather you don't do that." Korra quickly thought of an excuse. "I prefer to work with secrecy, you know. Element of surprise and all that, so those benders wouldn't know what coming to them."
"Ah! A brilliant strategy! I shall keep my mouth shut. Your secret is safe with me! I will not spill a single word even if they threaten to drown me again!"
"Appreciated." She nodded. "Now, if you'll excuse me..." Korra started walking away from the crime scene, still hoping she could reach the stadium in time for the match. As she exited the warehouse zone, the protester shouted after her.
"Fight the good fight, sister! Victory to the Equalists!"
"I thought he said he would shut up." Korra gritted her teeth, tempted to go back a drown that idiot herself.
...Next chapter, epilogue for Episode 2
Chapter 16: A leaf under the wind(11)
After dinner, Tenzin invited Jinora to meditate with him in the temple, as a way to ease some tension between them. He invited Meelo too, but the boy was quick to reject.
Lin found Ikki when she entered the kitchen to brew herself some tea. The little girl was pouring fire flakes into a bowl, with Naga popped her head through the window, sniffing at the snack.
"Another match tonight?"Lin asked as she set a teapot on a stove. Ikki threw Naga a piece of fire flake before answering.
"The Fire Ferrets are going to demolish the Platypus Bears tonight!" The little girl cheered. "I know Bolin could stomp the other team with one foot. Azon would throw a couple of sparks and take all the credit, as always. And Hasook...well... I'm sure he'll try his best." She shrugged at the last member, often forgot he even existed.
"Sounds like an easy win." Lin said casually, before shooting the real question. "I was talking to Kairi this evening..."
Ikki frowned at just the mention of her name, worrying Lin if she picked a wrong time to bring up the topic, but the chief wasn't the type to back down mid-sentence, so she asked away.
"...I suppose you already know that she's going to the arena?"
"Yes, mom." Ikki averted her gaze and didn't say anything after that, leaving them in silence, until Lin let out a sigh and spoke.
"I know you're upset."
"I wouldn't make a scene, if that's what you're worried about." said Ikki,looking back at her mother. "I'm way too old to be throwing a tantrum."
"You're actually not."
"Well, guess you mature faster when you have an idiot brother be an example of how ridiculous you look when acting like a child." The little girl said proudly. Her witty words with a slightly arrogant attitude reminded Lin of what Aang told her about Toph in her younger years.
If it was up to Lin, she would have taken her kids to the arena, no problem, but this was another thing that she let Tenzin had a final say about how to raise their children. In truth, Tenzin only forbade Jinora and Meelo to watch pro-bending, but to let Ikki have privileges above her siblings would be terrible for the three's relationship. The radio was the best scenario Lin could have bargained from Tenzin to make up for her kids.
Lin smiled and patted Ikki's head gently, not sure if she should be relieved or ashamed to have her daughter spare her an awkward conversation. Ikki smiled back at her, pleased to made her mother feel better.
"And how did Meelo feel about this?" The chief asked for the sure to be the most troublesome of the two.
"Umm...I didn't tell him." Her mother was clearly surprised by that answer. "He's already paranoid about Kairi plotting to destroy this island, I don't feel like giving him more ammunition."
"A wise decision, if a bit unfair to your brother though." Lin commented, but since she was the first to keep secret about Korra going to the arena from both of them, this felt like Ikki was just following her footsteps.
"What he doesn't know won't hurt him." The little girl shrugged. "On the other hand, what he know would hurt ME, since I'll be the first person he'll come to to complain."
"You take too much after me, dear." Lin's smiled softly, deeply proud of her daughter's thinking ahead. Ikki grinned widely as she replied.
"Between you and dad, I'd rather take everything after you, mom."
Korra was surprised when she arrived at the stadium and found Asami standing at the front entrance, the echo of cheers from the inside told Korra that the match already started.
"How nice of you to wait for me." The mercenary meant that as a joke, the reply on the other hand...
"I am waiting for you." Asami smiled as she looked at Korra, her eyes subtly dart at Korra's shoulder and arms without the Avatar noticing.
"I told you that I might not come." Korra asked with one brows raise. "Are you planned to wait here till the match ended? What if I didn't show up?"
"But you did." Asami grabbed Korra's hand as they walked into the stadium, stealing a glance at the mercenary's back before asking. "What took you so long anyway?"
"A little commotion at the dock." Korra answer simply, not wanting to tell anyone that she met those Equalists, yet. She left the conversation as they entered the seating area, even though Asami looked like she wanted to hear more.
The two girls only missed the first round between the Fire Ferrets and the Platypus Bears. The Fire Ferrets are in the lead almost the entire game, all three members gave their best, but Azon and Bolin clearly were the better two, not that Hasook was bad, just...didn't look like he contributed much to the team outside of filling the slot.
The match end with the Fire Ferrets' victory, both teams shook hand with no ill will, making Korra miss the rude taunt and victory dance of the earth rumble.
"We can barge into their locker room again if you want." Korra suggested as they applauded with the crowd.
"I thought that was the one time only?" Asami asked, she seemed more enjoy and in tune with the match tonight.
"As long as you don't go in empty handed," Korra remembered there was a gift store at the entrance of the stadium. "and I have some...favors to ask them too."
As the clock rung when the hour had passed, Tenzin opened his eyes to see his daughter sitting across from him in the room, still deep in her meditation. The girl sat still with only the sound of her breathing, some might say she looked like a statue, but the more accurate comparison would be a tree, the rise and fall of her chest reminded Tenzin of a branch full of leaves that waved along a light breeze.
"I think we did enough for tonight." Tenzin spoke softly so not to spook his kid. The girl took a deep breath before opening her eyes. "You're really good at meditating, Jinora."
"Thanks, dad." The girl smiled.
"I like to apologize again about what I said at dinner. It was unworthy of me." Tenzin nodded to his daughter as they stood up, hoping to clear the air between them once and for all.
"Me too, dad. I should never raise my voice at you..." Jinora wasn't sure if she was sincere about this apology, but she maintain her expression in hope that her father will dropped the subject.
"Well, we better retire for the night. I'll supervise Korra's training tomorrow, if you still want to assist..."
"I do." She was quick to reply. Tenzin admired his daughter's passion in their work, not knowing that she was more interested in the person, not the training.
As for Jinora, this mediation was less than satisfied. The presence of her father made it hard for her to relax and contemplate. She couldn't even chant her usual mantra, if word spread about who taught her that chant,...mother was going to kill her.
Jinora departed from Tenzin as she walked through the hallway, thinking she would need to sneak out to meditate by herself again after everybody was already asleep. She turned the corner and almost bumped into Ikki who just came out of the kitchen door.
As the two siblings stared at each other, it's just now occurred to the girls how awkward it became between them. Jinora hadn't speak to Ikki since she yelled at her and Meelo in the garden, while Ikki never apologized to Jinora either, for she thought that was her brother's fault. They were not sure if they should hold a grudge, or just forget the hold ordeal. Unlike with Meelo, their tension had no heat between them, just awkwardness.
"So..." Jinora spoke first, tried to think of any topic, when she remembered that Korra went to the arena with Asami. "Big match tonight?"
"You sound like mother." Ikki answered blankly, but her inner thought sneered. 'Only I get to be like mother...' Before she could put those into words, Meelo came out of the kitchen with crusts of fire flakes around his mouth.
"Hey Ikki, do we have anymor-" He made a dramatic gasp when he saw Jinora. "Traitor!"
"Oh for... I really don't want to deal with this right now." Jinora shook her head. Ikki felt her ill will toward her sister decrease when she realized that their whole grudge began with her brother, the cause that's absolutely not worth fighting over.
"Just drop it Meelo," Ikki said, to Jinora's surprise. "or mom would ground you for weeks if you antagonize her again."
"I will accept your apology after I lift the hypnosis the Avatar had placed on you, Ikki!" Meelo reassured her. Ikki rolled her eyes and gave an apologetic look to her sister. Jinora smiled awkwardly, but at least one of her siblings had come to their senses.
It was a pure accident that Jinora shifted her gaze outside the window and saw a ferry approaching the island, her mood suddenly brighten up.
"She's back!" The oldest sibling said as she ran out of the nearest door, heading toward the dock.
"Look at her, wiggling her tail to go greet her evil master. Our sister is beyond helping now." Meelo let out a long sigh, before tugging on Ikki's sleeve. "Let's go eavesdrop them!"
"Why?" Ikki asked in annoyance .
"So we might learn how Korra brainwashed Jinora! Don't you want to know how she convinced her?"
"Whatever it is, it's better than how you tried to convince me, that for sure." She grunted, but still allowed herself to get dragged to the dock.
"Oh? You still awake, kiddo?"
Korra was surprised when she met Jinora on the stairway. The girl came and walked beside her while asking with a cheerful tone.
"How was your evening, Kairi?"
"Great, my team won, apparently. Still have no idea how they count their score though. Should have just punched each other off the platform, last one standing wins." Korra said sarcastically, maybe a little less sarcastic than Jinora might have thought. "I only went because of Asami. It's nice to hang out with someone my age once in a while."
Jinora felt and odd pang when Korra mentioned Asami, but she decided to shrug it off...for now. She was about to say something when they both saw Ikki and Meelo drive into one of the nearby bush,try and failed to sneak up on them.
"I think she saw us." Ikki said, without even attempt to retract her legs that stretched out of the bush. Her uncooperative was the reason they were slow to hide in the first place.
"No, she's not! We were sneaky like wind."
"I'm an earthbender, dummy."
"Then pretend to be a rock! Just keep quiet!" Meelo hissed as he about to peer through the leaves to see their target, before the top of the bush opened wide by their sister's hands. Jinora looked at them infuriatingly, while Korra who stood behind her just smiled at them.
"Our cover is blown! Abort! Abort!" Meelo was about to get up and ran, but Ikki got him in a choke hold. She looked up at Jinora with bored eyes.
"This wasn't my idea."
"You didn't seem to put much effort to resist him, though?" Jinora's eyes narrowed.
"Resisting him took more effort than dealing with you." Ikki replied sternly. "You know it's true." She added, applying more pressure to her arm as Meelo struggled to get free.
"All right kids. Let's play nice with each other, shall we?"Korra lightly clapped Jinora on her shoulder, that was enough to made her step back, forget whatever she was angry about a second ago.
"Look, I know you two are mad about me going to the pro-bending arena, but..."
"WHAT!?" Meelo stopped struggled and looked up at her. His eyes widen as he process her words.
"Wait, you didn't...tell him?" Korra turned to ask Ikki who let go off Meelo and face palmed herself.
"You're really bad at keeping secrets." The earthbender mumbled, even Jinora made an awkward face, finding a hard time to defend the Avatar on this subject.
Meelo finally gathered his shattered mind and said raspy but loudly. "How could you be...so...EVIL!"
"Is that so?" Korra coughed, trying to hide her embarrassment for actually blurting out her own secret, no Asami to blame this time. "If I'm so evil, would I bring you this gifts?" She took something out of her back pocket. Ikki chuckle mockingly.
"You really think a cheap present would..."
The earthbender suddenly lost her voice when Korra float a small roll of paper in front of her. A brown piece of paper with a logo of pro-bending, on its left corner wrote 'For my little fan, Ikki Beifong.' , in the middle signed the name 'Bolin of the Fire Ferrets.'
Ikki forgot to close her mouth when Korra handed the autograph to her. When she regained her composed, the girl spoke with a completely different tone.
"I swear by the name of Beifong, to never bother the Avatar for the rest of your, and your other incarnation life!" She bolted out of the garden to the building, presumably to frame the autograph and hang it in her room.
"Ikki!" Meelo shouted after her. "How could you be bought by just a piece of pa..."
"This one is for you." Korra float another paper in front of Meelo, same logo with different hand writing.
'For the world's greatest airbender boy, Meelo.' signed 'Azon of the Fire Ferret.'
Meelo stared at the paper like he was hypnotized, his eyes switched between Azon's name and 'the world's greatest airbender boy.' Almost a full minute before he took the gift and said to Korra with a blank expression.
"I want to negotiate a ceasefire."
"Good night." Meelo nodded a bolted to his own room, leaving only Jinora who looked up to Korra with an admirable eyes.
"That was very clever of you! Are those autographs real?"
"Of course, I couldn't have forged a fake one even if I tried. I'm terrible at crafting, writing included." She took a third piece of paper and show it to Jinora. "I don't suppose you happen to be a secret fan of Hasook by any chance?"
"Poor guy." Korra shook her head, and put an autograph back in her pocket. "Sorry I don't have any other gift for you then."
"It's alright, although..." Jinora was hesitated, and Korra thought she saw the girl blush a little when she finally spoke. "Will you...ran through the airbending gate with me one more time,..." Jinora swallowed before adding. "...h-holding hands?"
Korra raised one of her eyebrows, thinking that was an odd request, but maybe Jinora was just so determined in her teachings, and wanted to see her result one more time before the day ended, though the 'holding hands' part was a little bit weird.
"If you want to." Korra offered her a gentle smile. She took Jinora's hand as they walked to the panels ring, oblivious to the growing heartbeat in the younger girl's chest. Jinora tried her best to suppressed her smile, and if possible, tried not to blush too much.
As they entered the circle hand in hand, with the spinning gates around them blowing along the wind in the night, Jinora thought she was no longer need any meditation tonight.
Chapter 17: The Realizations(1)
The next morning, Lin had to leave earlier after her morning session with Ikki and Korra, so the little earthbender was able to stuff her breakfast in her mouth hastily just to get the meal over with.
"Ikki, mind your manners, and use chopsticks." Tenzin grunted when he saw his daughter pick up a dumpling with her hand.
"You can't tell me what to do, you're not mom." Ikki grunted back, licking the sauce off her fingers. Tenzin was taken aback a little by that retort, while Korra failed to suppress her chuckle.
"I never noticed that there was a hierarchy going in this house." The Avatar rolled her eyes at the master airbender. "And you're certainly not the alpha male..."
"That's a topic we don't need to discuss, please." Tenzin quickly interrupted, trying his best to hide his embarrassment. "Let's talk about your training, Kairi. I apologize that my work has kept me busy these past few days, but today I'll be able to supervise your training thorough and through. We have wasted enough time as it is."
"I wouldn't say that. I mean Jinora did a pretty good job teaching me." Korra poured herself a tea, before gestured the teapot at Ikki. The little girl hesitated at first, but nodded and let Korra poured her a cup.
"I'm...glad that you and Jinora get along," Tenzin avoided commenting on the fact that he still thought Jinora had taught her the wrong way. "But you need to learn from the real master if you want to be able to use airbending in the near future." The airbender didn't notice that Korra was about to gestured the teapot at him, but stopped when he implied that Jinora wasn't a 'real master', and put the teapot down without saying anything.
"Whatever you say." She replied, drinking her tea. Ikki, unlike her father, caught the little behavior with the teapot, and looked at Korra with curious eyes.
"Also, I see that you have taken a liking to the city. I hope that wouldn't become a distraction to your training."
"Not the city itself, I went there for...company, mostly." Korra scratched the back of her head. "Which reminds me, I'm going to go have lunch with Asami in the city today."
"Kairi, I just said..."
" I'll just take a lunch break, I'll be back before we start the afternoon session, don't worry."
"It's not just about the time, and I'm worry that you lack of commitment to the training is what has been holding you back. I think you shouldn't..."
"But dad, mom said you can't forbid her to go to the city as long as she kept her schedule." Korra swore she could hear a grin in Ikki's voice.
"Ikki! That...discussion was between me and your mother, it was no place for you to bring it up here." Tenzin looked nervously between his daughter and the Avatar, as if he was hoping she hadn't heard that.
"Your dad is right, kiddo. You shouldn't have said that." Korra then bent down to whisper beside Ikki's ear, knowing full well that Tenzin was watching. "Please tell me the full story later when he's not around."
The earthbender couldn't suppress her smile, making Tenzin wonder if he wanted to know what Korra whispered to his kid.
After the sixth time the Avatar sprinted out of the airbending gates, the spinning panels began to die down, as did Tenzin's skeptical about Korra's improvement.
"I guess you really get better at this."
Tenzin said, standing beside him were Meelo, looking bored, and Jinora, who mumbled the word 'better' to herself like she thought that was an understatement.
"My elbows still caught a couple of panels, but aside from that, like the wind!" Korra stretched her arms dramatically.
"I'm glad to see such improvement." The master stroked his beard. "But what about the bending itself? Can you managed to manipulate any portion of air?"
"Sadly, no." Korra pushed her palm forward, nothing came out. "Not even a puff or a breeze. Guess it took more than maneuver yourself through a spinning panels to become an airbender."
"Hmm, if your physical side is already adapted to our way of bending, then it is your spiritual side that still need practice." Tenzin nodded to himself before continued. "Change of plan, we're going to spend the rest of the morning meditating."
"No way!" Korra and Meelo coincidently shouted at the same time. "Why do I get punished for getting better!?" the mercenary protested.
"This isn't a punishment, Kairi. This is an actual training." He said sternly, then pointing to the pavilion at the cliff side. "Let's move to the meditation area."
"Yeah...can I go get a glass of water before we begin? I'm kinda thirsty after all the running."
"Of course, but don't take too long, the sooner we begin, the better." Tenzin watched Korra walked away before he and the two kids headed to the cliff side, he then thought of something and turned to his son. "Meelo, I need you to go get Ikki, tell her we have meditation session today and she's welcome to join us."
"You know she always get angry at me every time I tell her that, dad?" Meelo pouted. Meditating was one thing Lin agreed that Ikki should be doing with her siblings, regardless whether it helped improve her bending or not.
Tenzin was about to repeat himself when Jinora suddenly said, "I'll go get Ikki, dad. You and Meelo go ahead, don't wait for us." She didn't give her father any chance to disagree as she ran after Korra to the house, leaving a confused Tenzin behind, as his oldest daughter was the only who actually enjoyed the meditating session and couldn't wait to begin.
Ikki wasn't the person Jinora was looking for, she actually forgot about her sister for the moment while she was searching for Korra, until she found both of them in the kitchen, talking to each other.
"Your mom sure got your dad good. Didn't Tenzin even try to argue with her?"
"Nope, mom said she won't put anymore rules on you, and that's it, end of story. Dad just has to change the subject or risk angering her."
Korra burst out a small laugh, until she saw Jinora watching them by the door frame. "Oh, hey kiddo. Did Tenzin sent you to get me? I'm sure I didn't take that long..." the Avatar looked at the half water glass in her hand.
"What? No! I...I didn't. Dad sent me to get Ikki." She looked at her sister, and just now noticed that Ikki was...baking...something in the oven. Strange, since Jinora didn't know her little sister could cook.
"Is this about the meditation?" Ikki asked.
"Eww... Can you tell dad I'm busy? With this," she pointed at the oven. "and I'm going to bathe Naga later too, so..."
"Fine. Fine. I'll just tell dad you're busy." Jinora waved her sister off. She wasn't the real reason she came here anyway. Jinora waited until Korra finished her water and left the kitchen with her.
"I should have pretended to slip at the spinning gate." Korra said to her while they walked through an empty hallway. "Your father really took the fun out of this training, you know."
"Dad...kinda prefers a traditional method when it come to teaching." Jinora found herself not so eager to defend her father at this accusation.
"This meditation still doesn't click for me, how am I suppose to make my mind empty while meditating?"
"Actually, you don't." Jinora quickly said, this was the reason she came after Korra. "You can't make your mind go blank or empty, that's against the nature of life."
"But... your dad said..."
"One can not ask an ocean to become a desert. To empty a mind is to destroy its very concept." Jinora quoted her scripture. "The purpose of meditating isn't to make you stop thinking, but to make your thought calm and free, as it's a state of mind one needed to use airbending."
"My thoughts usually ran wild when I didn't do anything." Korra scratched her head. "Any tips on how to think calm and free?"
"We all have different ideas of what 'calm' and 'free' mean to us. For me, I'm picturing myself floating in green fields of an empty valley. The serenity of the valley, with nothing but stones and grass, made me calm, while an open sky over the endless field made me feel free..."
Jinora closed her eyes as she told Korra her mental image. Korra thought the girl looked serene enough that she could just ascend to the sky right then and there.
As they both walked to the pavilion Tenzin and Meelo were waiting, Korra contemplated on what thought could calm and free her mind.
They all sat under the pavilion, eyes closed, while Tenzin attempted to give them his advice about meditating.
"The key is to control your breath, just in and out, like..." His voice faded away from Korra's mind as she went through all the memories in her past years, picking apart any moment she was able to recalled.
As of logic, one must be nervous or panic before became calm, correct?
The outside world disappeared as Korra recalled a few of her memories.
When Korra was 12 years old... only a year after she ran away.
She was in a small tavern not far from the Great Divide, small place, bad business, in the next 2 years she would come back here and found this place abandoned.
Korra sat eating her lunch, something tasteless but it manage d to fill her stomach. She was half way through her meal when the tavern door opened , and two figures wearing white and blue walked in.
The White Lotus!
Korra almost dropped her spoon at the first sight, and she continued to trembling as the two men walked up to the tavern keeper, one of them asked him something, she managed to catch the word she feared the most from their conversation, 'the Avatar!'. While the other White lotus looked around the room, and just before he was about to met Korra's eyes, who at the moment, too scared and panicked to look away...
A hand grabbed her chin and turn her head from her pursuers, followed by a napkin wiping repeatedly around her mouth, intentionally covering the lower half of her face.
"I told you to slow down. Look at all the mess you made ." Kuvira said to her at the same time that Korra felt the White lotus' eyes fall on her . The metalbender's voice was loud enough for them to hear, but not too loud to be suspicious.
The girl's beating heart slowly calmed down as the feeling of those eyes went away, the only pair of eyes that looked at her right now was the person who sat opposite of her. Kuvira's eyes reflected so much commitment and confidence that they chased Korra's fear away just by knowing that this person was looking out for her.
She felt safe...
She felt calm...
The two White lotuses left the tavern a moment later. Kuvira dropped the napkin and smiled at her, before they continued their lunch, stalling their time so they wouldn't run into those White lotuses on their way out.
13 year old Korra was sick.
It was after their job in a small village, to go find missing children in the swamp, they managed to find all of the kids and deliver them home. But when the night fell , Korra suddenly had a crazy fever and got nauseated so bad that she could barely speak. The village didn't have doctor, only an old lady who studied some herbs came to check her condition, she told Kuvira that her partner might have caught some disease from insects in the swamp.
Korra was afraid, her skin felt like she was burning alive, her inside felt like there's a thick liquid running between her lungs and her throat, her thoughts scattered like a book that got torn up by a house pet.
The herb lady could only give her some basic medicines before she left the small inn they stayed. Korra felt like she wish...or begged someone to just killed her to end this agony.
Until she felt a hand wrapping around her trembling palm, as the older girl sat beside Korra's bed in silent, holding her hand with soft grip, while the other hand took a piece of wet cloth to wiped away sweat on her head. Her stern, but kind voice kept chanting to her ears.
"It's gonna be fine. You'll get better. I'm right here, little sis.".
Korra was still in pain that night, her body was killing her.
But her mind stayed calm , with only a slight squeeze of Kuvira's hand, a light brush of her thumb as she wiped her forehead, and those whispered words that kept Korra's mind together.
She got better by the morning, and they left the village.
While on their way to the next town, Korra brought up the fact that last night was the first time Kuvira ever called her 'sister'.
A day before Korra's 14 birthday.
She and Kuvira sat inside a cave on the side of a mountain at the edge of a desert. There was a heavy rain storm brewing outside, the sky looked like a massive black cotton, occasionally whipped by a furious strike of lightning.
Korra startled every time the lightning struck, it didn't go unnoticed by Kuvira.
"Afraid of lightning?" She asked, pouring hot tea from her canteen and handed a cup to Korra.
"Bad memory from the compound." The Avatar sipped her tea. "I have this one asshole teacher that tried to teach me how to redirect lightning..."
The thunder struck , interrupting Korra as she winced and almost dropped her cup.
"...he kept shooting lightning at me every day we trained, every time I heard that cracking sound, my body gets reminded of the pain that followed."
"He couldn't do that to you..." Kuvira frowned. "Shooting lightning at a 10 year old girl..."
The correction didn't make Kuvira feel any better.
"He would have killed you with his lightning."
"Katara taught me how to heal a lightning strike, guess she had many opportunities to practice if those stories were true, so that teacher made me heal myself after every shot. He didn't leave a scar, so nobody ever knew ."
"Son of a..." The metalbender cursed under her breath. " Was he ever get caught?"
"When I was 9, Katara accidently stumbled upon our session. He was arrested , but I don't know what happened to him after that." Kuvira saw Korra clench and unclench her right hand, the hand that she noticed would start shaking every time there was a storm, now she knew why.
The older girl caught a glimpse of flash light from a far horizon, she quickly raise her tea cup to Korra.
"May he rot in hell."
The lightning struck , and for the first time, Korra forgot to flinch. She just kept staring at Kuvira before she slowly smiled.
"May he burn in hell." She raise her own cup, and the two went back to watch the rain storm rolling over the desert. Korra took in the smell of wet dirt and sand, never realized the strange aroma that came with them.
With her sister by her side, Korra managed to stayed calm even in the middle of a storm.
A single tear falling down her cheek. Korra quickly wipe it away, hoping no one noticed her, as she went back to relish those memories and many more, slowly lost herself in this calmness.
That morning, Meelo turned out to be the only one who had problems sitting still.
...to be continue.
Chapter 18: The Realizations(2)
Inside the Pro-bending Arena gym, a large ball flew through the air before was caught by the smiling earthbender.
"I'm so glad Azon managed to move our training time slot to noon." Bolin said cheerfully. "How did you do that anyway?" He turned to the firebender, whose face stuck between a forced smile and an annoyed eye-roll.
"When your teammates were so lazy that they couldn't bother waking up early to be on schedule, you get pushed to do a lot of impossible thing to keep the team going." Azon answered, watching Bolin passed the ball to Hasook.
"See, dude? We are her inspiration!" The waterbender laughed as he tossed the ball to the girl, only to have her kicked it back to him with full force, flinging him backwards in a flip, and causing him to landed hard on his back.
"And that's my inspiration for you." Azon crossed her arms. "You two think the morning is evil? Wait until you see me on a bad day."
Before they could resume their practice, a middle-aged man dressed in fine clothes walked in with a smug smile on his face. Azon made a gesture for her teammates to take a break while she walked up to him.
"Mr. Butakha." Azon call the man.
"There are my Fire Squirrels."
"It's Fire Ferrets!" Bolin corrected him, at the same time an actual fire-ferret ran up his shoulder. It's squeaked at Butakha who ignored him it completely.
"Whatever." The owner of the arena waved dismissively at Bolin before taking a wad of cash out of his inner pocket."Here's your winnings from the last match."
He placed the money into Azon's hand. She was about to turn to her team, but Butakha raised a finger, stopping her.
"Ah ahah, not so fast. First, you owe me for gym and equipment rentals from last month." He took about a quarter of the cash, before taking another third of what was left. "Rent on Bolin's apartment."
"Told you, you should move in with your brother." Hasook whispered to Bolin who frowned at him, a surprisingly serious frown foran optimistic guy like him.
"Oh, and one more small item of business." Butakha said. "Your team need to ante up thirty thousand yuans for the championship pot."
"What!?" Azon accidentally raised her voice. "Since when?"
"Since all those Equalist movements made my sponsor pull out because 'Pro-bending promotes violence to non-benders' , or some pig-bullshit like that. Sorry, kids. You got 'til the end of the week to come up with the dough, or else, you're out of the tournament."He kept muttering something about the Equalists as he walk away.
"Thirty thousand? How are we going to find that much money by the end of the week!?"Bolin asked while Azon distributed their pay, minus his rent, as he was the only one who lived at the arena.
"It would have been a lot easier if we have sponsors. Think we could still find them in time?" Hasook suggested, the first candidate for him would be Future Industries. Since Asami Sato was a fan of their team,she wouldn't want them to be disqualified before the tournament, right?
"I'll figure something out." Azon sighted. "But I'm open to all suggestions. Got anything, Bolin?"
"Oh, oh, I got it! I got it! I've been training Pabu to do circus tricks." He held up his fire-ferret."Now people would pay good money to see that!"
Hasook looked down at Bolin with a 'you cannot be serious' expression, while Azon's was 'I was just asking so you wouldn't feel left out.'.
Before they could continue their discussion, another person entered the gym, with more discretion than Butakha, even if the spiky hair and red scarf seemed to give him a distinguished look of someone who tried to look casual.
Bolin was the first who saw him, but said nothing. This almost made the newcomer turn back and leave.
"Mako?" Azon turned to see him. Her expression seem neutral, but brighter than when she saw Butakha.
"Hi." Mako said, and only Azon and Hasook answered him. Bolin turned away like he pretended he didn't see him.
"Sorry to interrupt your training but..." He glanced at his brother who still ignored him. "Can I...talk to Bolin for a sec?"
Both teammates nodded and left the two brothers alone. Bolin now crossed his arms, looking like a 5-year old trying to express his anger.
"Hey, bro. I..."
"Oh look, you just used up your 1 second quota. We're done then, bye."
"Please, Bolin. Don't act like a child." Mako pleaded.
"I AM NOT!..." Bolin suddenly stop himself when he realized that he yelling in high pitch voice not only sound like a child, but almost a little girl. "I am not." He said again, this time in his overly deep booming voice, which sound equally ridiculous. Hasook almost let out a laugh from the other side of the gym, if not for Azon elbowing him in a stomach.
"Look, I came to check if you're alright. There's word on the street about an anti-bender movement. You might be targeted."
"I'm fine, thanks for asking. But if there's an anti-bender movement, it's because of you and the people you're working with, Mako!" Bolin pointed his finger up, similar to how Meelo acted. "Don't you see? The Triple Threat Triad is the reason people hate bending! If you're really concerned, then stop working for them and find an honest job!"
"We've been over this." Mako pinched the bridge of his nose. "They wouldn't let me quit that easy, and this is the only job for me to make enough money to get by."
"What are you talking about? Look at me! I'm an honest Pro-bender and I get paid just fine!"
"You live in an attic!" Mako shouted, like he couldn't believe his brother though his living quality was acceptable.
"It has a really great view!" Bolin missed the point of the argument, but felt like a winner when his brother had no answer to that. "And I don't get harassed by any non-benders. Are you sure you aren't just being paranoid?"
"This is real, Bolin. I don't know if it's gonna blow up in the future, but there is a movement of people that hate benders as a whole. You need to be careful." Mako was so contemplative on his conversation, he didn't notice two new arrivals in the gym, as he continued.
"Viper and Lau got send to the hospital the other day. Beating up by this non-bender girl, who had way too much fun breaking people's bones."
"Really? What was she like?" The third voice asked.
"Well, she said she's a mercenary. Dressed in black, probably afraid people won't know she's tough. Clearly has anger issues when she's drunk. And her smugness..."
The realization hit Mako mid sentence as he quickly turned around to see the 'girl with anger issues' smile angrily at him. Behind her was another girl who look like the opposite end of the spectrum, but the shock didn't left Mako enough time to process her beauty.
"Thanks for the honest opinion." Korra still smiled as she spoke, but the smile didn't reach her eyes.
"Wha?... How?...What are you doing here!? Did you stalk me!?" Mako was panicking a little, but Korra did notice that even when he looked terrified of her, Mako still moved to cover Bolin from her direction, protectively.
"Don't give yourself too much credit, pal." The mercenary dismissed her curiosity and just went with what she heard him talking before she came in. "You're not my type..." She paused, studying him up and down in contemplation. "Actually you aren't that bad, though. Let's say...if I was isolated in a snowy prison for 17 years and you were my first contact with a human being, I might ask you out." Korra nodded, her sarcastic story being oddly specific.
"You know him?" Asami asked, not too fond of Kairi's last sentence about asking this guy on a date.
"Not well, but I know he likes music, right?" She smirked at Mako who totally got her implication. He remembered almost everything on the day they met, bad memories were hard to forget.
"Kairi! Asami!" Bolin shouted happily at the two. He threw his arm over Mako's shoulder, introducing him."Bro! These are Kairi and Asami Sato. Two of our best fans. You two, this is Mako, my older brother..."
Slowly, Bolin retracted his arm, like he just remembered that he and Mako were having a disapproving argument with each other.
The earthbender crossed his arms and stepped away from his brother to the two girls, his face back to the childish scowling expression.
"Who brings shame to our family by associating himself with criminal gang. Shame on you, Mako! It pains me to call you my brother." Then, almost immediately, he turned to Kairi and Asami with puppy koala-dog eyes, whispering. "He's not really a bad person, just got in with a wrong crowd. Don't judge him too harshly on that, okay?"
The two girls were both confused and amused by the brothers. Korra then ignored Mako and took out a small white bag with a green ribbon, and handed it to Bolin.
"Your little fan baked these for you, a return gift for the autograph."
"Thanks!" Bolin opened the bag to see it full of green cookies inside. The earthbender tried one before smiling like a child. "This is delicious! Hasook, Azon, come try them!" He called for his teammates, and gave one cookie to the fire-ferret on his shoulder.
Mako watched all of them having a good time sharing sweets, he sighed silently before walking to the gym exit without saying anything. Azon was the only one who caught him leaving and followed him, while Bolin and Hasook asked the girls if they want to watch them show some pro-bending moves, Korra wasn't much interesting, but Asami seem eager to see.
Azon caught up to him in the hallway. Mako looked reluctant but still turned to face her.
"I know you don't want to talk about this, but I'm with Bolin on this one. You really should quit working for the Triple Threat Triad."
"Azon, I told you I can't..."
"You're not a wanted criminal, Mako! And forgive me for saying this, but it means you weren't that valuable to the Triad that they would fight to keep you." Azon hoped that didn't sound too much like an insult ."And if you're worried about what you'll do, I'm going to quite pro-bending after this championship..."
"Wait, you're quitting?"
"I promised my dad to join the United Forces after I'm done chasing my dream. It's fun and all, but I think pro-bending isn't my calling." She shrugged. "The point is you could take my place on the Fire-Ferrets. You're a decent firebender yourself."
"You think the others would accept me?" Mako said less of a question and more of a statement.
"Hasook is an easy guy, he wouldn't mind. And deep down we all know that despite what he said, Bolin's going to give you a big loving bear hug if you join the team."
"I don't know..." Mako still hesitated, even when all the odds seem to favor him. It wasn't like he liked working for the Triad anyway.
But he rejected Toza when the man offered to take him and Bolin in long ago. Mako wasn't sure if he deserved a second chance.
"Just promise to think about it, ok?" Azon deiced to give him some room, since pestering wasn't gonna make anything easier.
"Thanks, Azon. You're too kind." Mako nodded, maybe he would actually considering her offer this time. Both Azon and Bolin gave him too many chances to turn his life around, he afraid one day they might run out generosity for him.
They both said goodbye and Mako exited the pro-bending arena. He still had some free time before heading to the Triple Threat Triad headquarters to help prepare for a big meeting between the Triple Threat, the Red Monsoons, and The Agni Kais tonight.
...to be continued...
Chapter 19: The Realizations(3)
At Central City Station, Bolin sat by Fire Lord Zuko's statue, counting what little coins he earned from Pabu's performance. The earthbender was wearing a flashy bright ref-yellow jacket, and a fake mustache.
"Well, we got a...decent start for one afternoon." Bolin sighed. "Let's hope Azon and Hasook find a better way to make money before this weekend."
As Bolin leaned back on the statue base while looking around. He spotted a red Triple Treat Triad's car drive by, making him unconsciously frown at the thought of his own brother.
He kept staring at the street until he heard Pabu squeak. Bolin turned to his pet who he dressed with a bright lime green jacket.
Bolin raised an eyebrow, before Pabu squeaked again.
"No, I didn't think about him."
Bolin frowned. The fire ferret continued squeaking.
"I DEFINITELY did not miss him! Mako is a jerk! I'm glad he's not here."
He crossed his arms and turned away. After a moment of silence, his frown slowly faded.
"I...just want him to get his life straight... I just want him to quit working with the Triad. Maybe even join our pro-bending team, you know."
The fire ferret jumped on his shoulder, sniffing on his cheek.
"I...might've been a little bit too hard on him this noon."
"You're right! Good or bad, he still my brother, I should've treated him better than that!"
Bolin stood up and walked away from the Central City Station.
"I should apologize to him. I mean, we didn't even say goodbye before he left. Maybe we could go have dinner tonight, catch up with each other. I wonder if he's dating someone right now?"
"Are you dating Asami right now?"
The question made Korra choke on her drink. She looked at Ikki who stared at her with an honest unblinking eyes, while Meelo seemed perplexed with that question.
The three were sitting in the pavilion. At first, Ikki only came to ask Korra how Bolin reacted to her cookies, but got wrapped up by Tenzin to stay and join them, and since she just bathed Naga, Ikki didn't have any excuses to leave. Right now, they were on afternoon break, while Tenzin and Jinora went to look for something in the library.
"...cough!...cough!... Come again?"
"You told dad you went to the city for company, so...are you and Asami like...going out or something?"
"Silly Ikki." Meelo chimed in. "They can't date, they're both women!" The boy made an assumption by the name 'Asami'.
Korra was considering if she should tell Meelo a little bit about homosexuality, or whether or not it was her place to teach him. Luckily, she didn't have to make that call.
"Newsflash, women can date women too. They can even get married! The same goes for two men."
Ikki's answer made Meelo frown.
"No they can't!"
"Yes, they can."
"Who told you that!?"
"Mom told me." Ikki crossed her arms. "In fact, mom used to date a woman too!"
"Really?" Korra suddenly became interested in the argument. Who knew Lin Beifong swung both ways?
"Really." Ikki nodded to Korra before turned back to Meelo, who now sat with widened eyes after what he heard. "Mom said she used to date aunt Kya before she ended up with dad. I don't know the details though, mom said she'll tell me more when I'm older."
"I'm surprised she told you this much already." Korra chuckled, wondering what circumstance that made Lin tell this to Ikki. "But to answer your question, no, I wasn't dating Asami. We just hang out as friends. And she's way out of my league."
"What do you mean out of your league?" Ikki asked.
"Kiddo, she's a heiress of a million yuan business, with a gigantic mansion, and of bright future ahead of her. Me? I'm a traveler who goes from place to place, my future is on the endless road to an unknown destination." Korra waved her hands dramatically. She'll never get bored talking about the life of mercenary.
"Oh, so it's one of those 'star-crossed lovers' situations Jinora likes to read so much." Ikki drew her own conclusion. "So what will it be? Will she run away with you, or you're gonna move in with her after married?"
"You're not listening, are you?"
While the two girls continued their chitchat as Meelo processed this...new discovery on life, Tenzin and Jinora returned, carrying two trays with four cups of tea.
"We got something to help you with the meditation." Tenzin said while passing the cups around. "This tea was brewed with special herbs that only grow on the top of a high mountain. A secret ingredient of Air-nomad culture. It will relax your thoughts, and help you focus when meditating."
"Took us 10 minutes to find the recipe in the library." Jinora whispered to Korra, who held back her chuckle why everyone drank Tenzin's special tea. Everyone...except Meelo.
The boy stared past his cup, contemplating something on his mind, until he finally decided to asked.
"Hmm?" Tenzin replied, mouth still sipping the tea.
"Can baby come from when a woman and another woman love each other very much?"
The airbender master spat his entire drink while Korra and Ikki burst into a big laugh. Jinora looked between her sister and the Avatar, wondering what topic they discussed before she came back.
The sun had already set when Bolin left Mako's apartment. He waited for his brother almost four hours but there was no sight of him. Even though from a few people he asked around the building, they all said that Mako usually came back in the afternoon before going off again in the evening, but today, no one saw him since he left in the morning.
Against his usual instinct, Bolin decided to go to the Triad headquarters, but when he arrived, something felt...wrong.
"Strange..." Said Bolin as he approached the door cautiously with Pabu still on his shoulder. "I remember they usually have someone posted out front." He looked at the only dark, almost abandoned like, building on the street.
The earthbender slowly opened the front door, only to find an empty room with broken furniture. No sign of anyone, but Bolin could tell that there had been a fight.
"Mako? You in here?"
A truck's engine roared outside, making Bolin promptly run out the back. As he opened the door, he was just in time to see a truck and five motorcycles drive off. The doors of the struck were still half open, and was enough for Bolin to caught a glimpse of people inside.
One of which was his own brother, tied and gagged and seemingly unconscious as a masked individual inside slammed to doors shut.
Bolin was about to run after the truck, but one figure on a motorcycle threw a grenade at his foot. It's exploded with a bright flash and produced thick, heavy, green smoke, halting Bolin's pursuit as he coughed and was momentarily blind with tears.
When the smoke was clear, beyond his eyes was an empty street in this quiet night.
to be continued...
Chapter 20: The Realizations(4)
Tenzin got an emergency call from the council, and left with Lin in the morning. Korra did wonder what the emergency was, but she's too lazy to find out. Crossing fingers, the mercenary guessed it might have something to do with the Equalists. Who knew, the city might decide to hire them to deal with the Triads, and lay off half of metalbender police force for being ineffective.
Jinora jumped at the chance to teach Korra again, which the Avatar really appreciated. At dinner last night, they both had to endured Tenzin bragging about how his teaching(and his tea) were the reason Korra got better at meditation.
"I don't understand why I still can't airbend." The mercenary said in frustration. She tried mimic the move Jinora used to shoot a gust of wind from her palm, but failed. "I never had this much trouble with the other three elements."
"Maybe because you're too old." Jinora observed and commented. "Grandpa Aang was a lot younger when he practiced all four elements. It's possible that you're too in tune with the other three that it prevents you from unlocking the fourth."
"Well, sorry for not living up to my previous life. It's almost like we're different people or something." Korra mumbled. She hated when anyone compare her with Aang.
"It's not your fault!" Jinora said quickly. "You should have been given at least some basics of airbending when you were younger. It was their fault."
"The White Lotus, of course!"
Korra was taken aback by the answer. She could swear that Jinora sounded...angry...when she mentioned the order's name. Korra never thought anyone beside her(and maybe Kuvira) would actually dislike the White Lotus.
"Dad told me he actually asked to take you in and train you since you were six, but the White Lotus refused," Again, it sounded almost like she was snarling the name. "And dad couldn't abandon his work at the city council to go stay at the compound."
"Shame, I would have cherished the memory of leaving that prison for a couple of months. In fact, maybe I wouldn't have snapped and run away later." Korra smiled solemnly. She tried performing the move again, and still nothing came out. "But then I wouldn't have become the mercenary I am today. So, give and take, I guess?"
Bolin nervously stepped onto the Air Temple island dock, thinking this might be a bad idea, but he was really desperate.
Last night, he went to report about the attack and the kidnapping at the Triple Treat Triad headquarters to the police. The investigation would take time, as he was told when he went to the police again this morning, and Bolin couldn't just wait around doing nothing while Mako was kidnapped.
But what could he do? If the metalbender police couldn't find the trace, he probably had worse chances to investigate by himself. He didn't want to drag Azon or Hasook into this mess. The only way, or person, he could think of was the one Mako mentioned yesterday.
Kairi, apparently, the mercenary.
Bolin was surprised when he really thought about it. Kairi did look tough, but he never thought about her being a sellsword. And while being mercenary wasn't illegal, he still thought the profession leaned more toward the other side of the law. After all, no citizen should need mercenaries if the authorities did their job correctly. Thus he was a bit unnerved when he learn that his fangirl was a hired (possibly)killer, until she handed him a bag of cookies, then he forgot about it until today.
He walked up to the temple, thinking about asking someone when he spotted the teen girl immediately, due to her being the only one on the island who wore black. She looked like she was practicing some kind of exercise move with another younger girl in the courtyard. Bolin quickly approached them.
She turned around, surprised to see him.
"Bolin? What are you doing here."
"Bolin?" Jinora echoed the name. "You mean the pro-bender that Ikki is a fan of?"
"Hi! Sorry I come here all of sudden, but..." He seemed a bit hesitant, especially when he looked at Jinora. "...I need your help."
"What's wrong? Tell me." Korra crossed her arms.
"Umm...I..." He glanced at Jinora again. The little girl cocked her head in confusion. Why was he looking like he was uncomfortable with her?
"Oh, this is not your fan, by the way. That's her sister, the one that baked you cookies. She's playing with her polar bear-dog in the bamboo grove. I can go get her..." Korra made an assumption. Ikki would probably lose her mind if she knew that Bolin came to see her.
"No! I came here to... Can we talk in private?" The earthbender saw Kairi narrowed her eyes suspiciously, so he quickly added: "I mean!...I want to talk to you about...your...business."
Korra finally got the implication.
"You mean you want to hire me, right?"
Bolin's eyes widened in alarm at her direct question. He looked between Kairi and Jinora before whispered to the mercenary.
"We shouldn't discuss this in front of a kid..."
Or at least, tried to whisper, since Jinora could hear full well what he was saying. She looked at him with a deadpan expression as she interrupted.
"I'm not that naive, you know. I know what she does." She turned to Korra with a smile. "I'll leave you two for now then. He really looks like he wants your help."
"Thanks, kiddo." Korra nodded as the girl left the courtyard. She turned back to Bolin. "So, how can I help you?"
"My brother got kidnapped!" He said, almost yelling. "I...I need your help to rescue him!"
"Wait, your brother? You mean Mako?" Bolin nodded. "Not that I don't appreciate you thinking of me, but shouldn't you tell the police..."
"I already told them, but I figure you might be the better option." That sentence made Korra feel so proud of her career right now. "Mako is involved with the Triad, so I was afraid the police might not take this case seriously..."
"I understand. Though you might want to keep that opinion to yourself." Korra pulled Bolin under the big tree at the edge of the courtyard, so they won't draw too much attention from air-acolytes as when standing in the center. "Now, tell me everything. Do you know who kidnapped your brother?"
Bolin told Korra everything that happened last night, which was surprisingly a lot of traces to go on, she wondered why the police hadn't caught those kidnappers yet. Then again, it happened in Triple Treat Triad territory, so the metalbender police might have trouble investigating the crime scene.
The most important thing was the identity of the kidnappers, which from what Bolin described, Korra was willing to bet they were the Equalists, maybe or maybe not the same group that 'helped' her at the dock before. It made sense that they would go after the Triple Treat Triad, she just never thought they would successfully kidnap an entire headquarter like this.
It would be...awkward to go after the Equalists, knowing she was on their recruitment list, but this is business, and Korra didn't have any reason to turn Bolin down.
"I accept the job." She stated firmly, making Bolin smiled.
"Really!? Thanks you so much! I..."
"It'll be six thousand yuans. Two thousand up front." Korra continued, still firmly, and coldly.
Bolin almost dropped his jaw when he heard the price, remind himself that she was, after all, a sellsword.
He had his saving money around two thousand yuans that he brought with him today just in case(he was tragically right), only enough to pay up front, without anything to paid Kairi after she rescued Mako.
But that was all that mattered, wasn't it. If she could save his brother, Bolin was ready to take any consequence she'd throw at him without regret.
"Here's." Bolin took out his wallet, and tried his best not to let Kairi see the inside that was almost empty after he paid her.
Korra finished counting the bills before she said to him. "I'll go search for him immediately, where would I find you after I rescued him?"
"No need, I'll come with you." Bolin said with determination, and the seriousness the Korra never saw in him before.
"I don't think that's wise..."
"I can't just sit around and wait! I can fight too!" He flexed his arms muscle to show her. "Besides, I'm paying you, so I can do whatever I want, right?"
"I should have written a contract." Korra rubbed the bridge of her nose. So this was why Kuvira always took forever when talking deal with client. She should have paid more attention to her sister's paperwork. "Fine. You could come, but try not to get in my way, alright? For the sake of your brother."
"Yes, sir!" Bolin smiled excitingly and salute her. "You're the boss!"
"I'm not! You hired me, technically you're... You know what, never mind." Korra facepalmed herself. This was going to be a long mission.
to be continued...
Chapter 21: The Realizations(5)
After telling Jinora that she'd take the rest of the day off, Korra went to the Republic City Park with Bolin.
"I don't think the Equalists would hide Mako in this park." The earthbender said. Around them were people walking, children playing, everyone doing everyday activities one would do in a park. Korra didn't know if she should adore or be annoyed by his naivety.
"I'm looking for my source. He should be..."
"Equality now! Equality now!" A familiar voice amplified by the same megaphone. "We want equality now!"
"...right there." Korra saw the protester on his small podium, shouting to the people that mostly ignored him. He still had bandages all over his face, evidently too proud to go see a waterbending healer.
"Non-benders of Republic City, Amon calls you to action! Take back your city! It's time for the..." The protester suddenly stopped when he saw Korra and Bolin approach him. His grin widened as he shouted at her without the megaphone. "My good lady!"
"Well, that...wasn't the worst title I've ever been called." Korra forced her smile.
The protester jumped off the podium to greeted her, completely ignoring Bolin who stood few steps away.
"I'm so glad to see you again! How may I help you?"
"Yes, nice to meet you too." She said as quickly and dismissively as possible. "I heard rumor around town about the raid at the Triple Threat Triads headquarters last night, know anything about that?"
The man's eyes brightened with excitement, he opened his mouth to yell something, but then closed and gestured Korra to the podium. He took out four leaflets from the pile and handed them to her.
"Witness the Revelation tonight, nine o' clock." He read the title on one of the leaflets, before flipping the paper around to showed Korra a drawing pattern on its back. "Four pieces of these will show you the location on the city map. I believe you'll find what you're looking for there."
"Couldn't you just tell me the location?" Korra frowned.
"They didn't tell me either, this way even if the police get me, I won't have anything to tell them! Smart plan, right?"
"Very smart." She smiled, but inside thought. 'It means they don't trust you, you idiot.'
Korra returned to Bolin,letting the protester go back to his business, shouting and promoting the cause he believed in, but didn't understand.
"What did he tell you?"
"Nothing intelligent." She gave Bolin the leaflets, letting him see the drawing on their back before asking, "Is there a city map nearby?"
"Umm... I think there's one at the bench under the bridge."
"Let's go then."
"It seems she already got an invitation."
From the other side of the park, two men and one woman were observing the interaction between Korra and the protester.
"A direct approach is no longer necessary then." One of the men looked over to Bolin as he left the park with Korra. "That guy... I swear I saw him before."
"He kinda looks like one of the pro-benders though. I don't remember which one." the woman commented.
"Nonsense," the last man dismissed his friends' idea. "She couldn't be associated with those benders. Probably just a look-alike. Let's go to the factory, they could use our help preparing for the meeting tonight."
The ominous looking factory was a secret meeting location, as Korra and Bolin walked after a small crowd of people heading toward the building. Both of them wore a disguise, with Korra wearing an overcoat and a woolen hat, and Bolin just wore his regular clothes, but adding a fake mustache.
"I still think the mustache is a bad idea." The mercenary mumbled. They gave two leaflets to the door man and entered the building with no problem.
"No one recognized me so far. This is going great!" Bolin proudly stroked his mustache.
They walked to the meeting place and looked out over the gathered crowd, waiting before an empty, but lit podium at the other side of the large factory.
"I never knew this many people hate benders." The earthbender was put off by the size of the gathering. He knew about the Equalists, but he didn't know how serious they were.
Korra put a somewhat comforting hand on his shoulder, easing his tension. She was hardly affected by the crowd, since she was used to seeing a lot more people gathering for even stupider reasons.
"Keep an eye out for Mako." She whispered to him as they made their way through the waiting crowd to get as close as possible to the podium.
Suddenly,a white light shone out of an open hatch in the middle of the stage. An announcing voice echoed through the hall.
"Brothers and sisters, please welcome your hero, your savior, Amon!"
A hooded figure, dressed almost identical to the poster, emerged from a trapdoor in the stage with a line of Equalists behind him under loud approving cheers of the crowd. A spotlight turned on, illuminating the Equalist leader as he walked up to the microphone, the people still cheering loudly for him.
"Nice opening." Korra said as she smile and clapped along with the crowd. Bolin hoped she was just trying to blend in, because the fact that he hired a non-bender mercenary to the anti-bender gathering event started to sounded like a bad idea.
"Welcome, my followers."Amon said, his voice was soothing, yet possessed so much power and authority.
"My quest for equality began many years ago." He took the microphone out of the stander. "When I was a boy, my family and I lived on a small farm. We weren't rich, and none of us were benders. This made us very easy targets for the firebender who extorted my father."
Amon paused,walking to the right on the stage just to be dramatic.
"One day, my father confronted this man, but when he did, that firebender took my family from me. Then, he took my face. I've been forced to hide behind a mask ever since."
The crowd gasped in astonishment, while Korra thought that was the most boring, and cliché back-story she ever heard, no disrespect to the dead, mind you.
"As you know, the Avatar had disappear for almost a decade now, but if she were here, she would tell you that bending brings balance to the world."
"Said who?"Korra grunted below her breath.
"But she is wrong. The only thing bending has brought to the world is suffering. It has been the cause of every war in every era, but that is about to change. I know you all have been wondering, "What is the Revelation?". You are about to get your answer. Since the beginning of time, the spirits have acted as guardians of our world, and they have spoken to me. They say the Avatar has failed humanity."
"That better not be you, Aang." Korra mumbled angrily, wondering if her past ghost actually went around, gossiping about her to the weirdo in a mask.
"That is why the spirits have chosen me to usher in a new era of balance. They have granted me a power that will make Equality, a power to take a person's bending away,"
He paused again for dramatic.
The audience gasped, and started talking among themselves, some thought that was amazing, some thought that was impossible, some thought Amon was a chosen, some thought he was a liar.
Korra and Bolin looked at each other, her eyes reflect doubt, and wondering, while Bolin's reflect fear, and horror.
"That's impossible." Korra whispered. "He's out of his mind."
"I thought only the Avatar could take away people bending?" Bolin's voice was shaking, however, his words unintentionally made Korra's voice grew cold when she answer.
"The only Avatar that could take away bending was Aang." at least, that she knew of. "And he's already dead!"
Bolin was taken aback with that reply. Why did Kairi sound so hatred, as if she...hated...the Avatar.
The earthbender gulped, picturing the girl exposed him to the crowd, revealing herself to be the Equalist sympathizer.
'Why didn't I go to the police after we got the location!?' Bolin screamed an inner thought. 'This is bad, I better run, but I can't just leave Mako with this people. What should I...'
"I know you all have questions, some might even have doubts, so let us have a demonstration. Please welcome, the Leader of the Triple Threat Triad, and one of the most notorious criminals in Republic City, Lightning Bolt Zolt."
An Equalist guard lead the tied up man onto the stage. He wore a gold and black jacket with a pink under shirt.
The crowd booed at the man, which to his arrogant or dignity, spat back.
"Ah, boo yourself!"
At the same time, Equalist guards lead five more tied up benders onto the stage, forcing them to their knees, Mako being the last of them. The firebender looked around, seemingly unsettled by the crowd in the hall.
Bolin was about the run to the podium, but Korra pull him back. He almost startled at her touch, still thinking about the possibility of her stabbing him in a back.
"We can't fight them all."
"Then what do we do!?"
"Calm down and let me think." She then started scanning the area while the commotion on the stage continued.
"Zolt has amassed a fortune by extorting and abusing non-benders. But his reign of terror is about to come to an end. Now, in the interest of fairness, I will give Zolt the chance to fight to keep his bending. Lieutenant."
With Amon's order, one of the guards who was wearing a different gas mask from the others, took off the rope binding Lightning Bolt Zolt. Amon moved away from Zolt while the same guard pushed him in the opposite direction, creating some space between the two fighters.
"You're gonna regret doing that, pal."
The Triple Threat Triad leader smiled, before immediately shooting a fire blast at Amon. But the masked man nimbly dodged every blast that Zolt threw at him, gradually coming closer.
Zolt realized he had underestimate his opponent, so he surged forward and fired the bolt of lightning at the Equalist leader who ducked underneath it, grabbed hold of Zolt's wrist, and twisted it around until he moved to standing behind him.
"He's good." Even Korra got distracted from her planning when Zolt started shooting lightning on the stage.
Amon grabbed Zolt's neck from behind while lightning was still pouring out of Zolt's fingers. He quickly moved his hand from Zolt's wrist to his forehead, and placed his thumb in the center.
Zolt's face suddenly contorted in fear when he felt a surge of strange energy creeping its way inside his body from the thumb of the mask man, at the same time, his lightning slowly changed into a stream of fire, before disappear entirely.
The last thing Zolt saw when he met Amon's gaze, was the weird flicking of orange light in the mask man's eyes.
Amon let go of Zolt, who collapsed weakly onto the ground. Zolt got up with difficulty, before attempting to firebend at Amon to no avail. He crashed back to the ground at the feet of the Equalist leader.
"Wha ... what did you do to me?"Zolt looked at Amon, saddened and shocked.
"Your firebending is gone. Forever." The Equalist leader answered, slowly walking around his victim. "Not only that, but your children, and the children of your children, every descendant of you who were born after this moment, will only be non-benders."
Amon turned back to the audience that amazed by his declaration, the power to not only removed one bending, but, for the lack of a better word, sterilizing the bender lineage entirely.
"The era of bending is over. A new era of Equality has begun!"
The crowd cheered madly. Lieutenant released the second captured bender, and kicked him forward to face Amon.
"We have to hurry!"Bolin yelled at Korra, luckily his voice was buried in the cheer of the crowd, so only Korra could hear him. The mercenary was looking at the machines on the wall, certain that they were powered by water and steam.
"Wait here, and when the chaos starts, run toward the exit. I'll take your brother and meet you at the city park." She told Bolin quickly before walking away, not giving Bolin a chance to ask anything or protest.
Korra emerged at the side of the pleased crowd, quickly moving through one of the side exits. She ran through a hallway filled with machines, stopping at a big red wheel. She turned the wheel all the way with little difficulty, but it only released one small air leak.
"Gonna need more."
Back at the hall, Amon had successfully taken away another one's bending, after a futile attempt of fighting from the owner. He was dragged to the side of the stage while another bender got released and put against Amon.
"Come on, Kairi, what are you doing?"
Bolin looked around for any sign of chaos, anything that suggested it would help his brother escapes, but the only commotion going on was another bender lose pathetically to Amon. Only one bender remained before Mako's turn!
Said brother, however, was observing the situation around him with a surprisingly calm expression, as his fellow gang members got taken out one by one, and the crowd cheered every time they collapsed to the floor, losing their bending forever.
Mako sighed to himself, a corner of his mouth pulling up in a small...smile.
'This is it then.' He thought to himself, watching his friend howl with fear as Amon got a grip on his neck.
'They gave me a chance...so many chances. Bolin told me countless time to quit working with the Triad, and just yesterday, Azon offered me a place in her team. I should have listened to them.'
Lieutenant approached Mako and untied him with less than gentleness, before taking him by the arm and flung him to the middle of the stage, in front of Amon. The crowd cheered, prepared for another round of excitement.
Mako took a deep breath, and slowly let out.
'Here goes nothing.'
A voice startled Korra after she just finished turning a small red wheel, causing another minor leak to shut out of the pipe. She turned to see one of the Equalist guard walked toward her. From the appearance and the voice, this one seem to be a woman.
"What are you doing back here?"
"Wait..." The female Equalist cut Korra off when she get closer. The goggle eyes stared at her for a second before asked. "Kairi? Are you Kairi the mercenary?"
"What!? No! Who told you that?..."
"Don't you remember me? You met me and my friends at the dock when you fought those Triple Threat Triads."
"You are that girl?" Korra was genuinely surprise. "No offence, but you guy kinda dress the same."
"Of course, it's me! I'm so glad you came, but what are you doing here? You're missing out all the fun in the hall."
"Oh, right. See, I was looking for the bathroom, but then I saw these leaks." She pointed to the leaks of her own create. "I was worried, so I try to fix the machine, but it didn't work..."
"What? Let me see!"
Korra stepped away and let the guard inspected the machine. She then slowly moved behind the Equalist as she analyzed the leaks.
"If this thing broke, the steam will float the entire hall. I better tell someone..."
Without warning, Korra wrapped her arms around the Equalist's neck from behind, locking her in a tight choke hold. The female guard struggled, but Korra just kept tightening her arms, cutting off her air, and prevented her from making any sound.
"Sorry, I'll try to be gentle." The mercenary whispered not long before the body in her hold went limp. She let the unconscious girl fall to the floor, and went back to breaking the machine.
The cheers began to die down in the hall when the audience noticed something was wrong, so did every Equalist on the stage.
From what should've been another victory of their leader, Amon. The fifth victory in one roll to solidified the beginning of their revolution, but there was no fight. The last prisoner, Mako, just stood staring at Amon without any attempted to attack or defend himself.
"Your move, bender." Amon said, as if to encouraged the young man. Mako turned to looked over the gathering people, seeing all their eyes on him. He actually missed Bolin in the crowd because of the fake mustache.
The firebender turned back to face the mask man, shaking his head.
"I won't fight you."
to be continued...
Chapter 22: The Realizations(6)
Jinora put the last scroll she took from the library away, and sighed. Of all the books her family had been collecting over the years, nothing seemed to help her with Korra's problem. As far as she knew, the Avatar already accomplished the minimum factors for her to, at least, show some signs of airbending. So what did her or her father missed?
If the library's documents couldn't help, then maybe...
Jinora gulped at the idea. She peeked out of her room into the hallway, making sure no one was around at this time of night. Jinora then locked her door and went to the corner of her room. She lifted one of the floor boards to reveal a secret hidden stash. Inside was a medium size wooden black box.
Inside the box was full of letters, scrolls, journal, and old books. Jinora pick one of the books up, before noticing a piece of Pai-Sho that fell out of the middle page.
A Red Lotus piece.
Mako felt a kick behind his right knee and a hand grip roughly on his shoulder. The masked Lieutenant pushed the firebender down on one knee, grunting at him.
"Try stalling for time, bender?"
The young man felt what could possibly be a metal gauntlet under the Lieutenant's glove, making the grip even more painful.
"Or you couldn't even go down fighting?"
"I won't fight any of you."
Mako stood his ground. He heard the creepy breathing sound under that mask, as if the Lieutenant was about to say something, but Amon interrupted his second-in-command.
"Let him speak."
A simple order made the masked Equalist back away. Mako rubbed his shoulder as he stand up, looking back at Amon.
"You already heard me, I have nothing more to say."
"You said you won't fight to keep your bending?"
Under the white mask, Amon glanced around the hall, displeased that the rousing atmosphere he had built up had die out. Almost all of the audience calmed down, and were more curious about Mako's unexpected action.
"You can take away my bending. I won't struggle."
Mako stepped closer to Amon. Some of the Equalists on the stage, including the Lieutenant, actually got tense and were ready to charge in to protect their leader.
"Because you'll face your defeat with dignity?"Amon asked in a mocking tone, trying to present himself as calm, collected, and above the situation.
"Because I deserve it." A simple quite answer managed to stun the entire crowd. "We all deserve this." Mako looked over to where Zolt and the rest of his gang were held, some of them hadn't even regained consciousness from the fight yet.
Mako continued."You're right. Me and my acquaintances, we used our bending to hurt people, abuse them, extort them of their money. There's no excuse to our action, we did what we did...because we think we would get away with it, bribing and corrupting the justice system, it's only fair that you would take matters into your own hand."
The firebender kneeled down in front of Amon, head bowed.
"I submit myself to your judgment. Do as you please."
The audience who a moment ago would have ask for any bender head on a pike, now turned and whispered to each other, wondering what to think about the boy. Many found it difficult to stay excited at what they've thought to be a righteous persecution.
Amon realized, from the reaction of the people, that he was losing the crowd.
They were supposed to stay angry, outraged, and cry for justice over the bender. That was why he chose the Triple Threat Triads. These unsympathetic targets who Amon knew would lash out at him the second they had a chance. These unredeemable criminals who he would have every right to put down with no one objecting. These low lives that would either fight to their teeth, or plead pathetically to be spared. One group of bad apples that Amon will use to justify persecuting the entire race.
And it took one act of sincerity to ruin all the set up. Amon knew he couldn't just lash out at Mako and de-bend him like the rest of the gang. The brat had presented himself to be a bigger person, offering an olive branch. If Amon returned him with a stick, people might have second thoughts of who actually was the villain here.
The Equalist leader knew he has to play this smartly, whatever the firebender true intention was.
So Amon kneeled down and helped Mako stand back on his feet, to the boy surprise. He then put his hand on Mako's shoulder, before turning to address to crowd.
"This young man saw the error of his way. Let him be the example that we're not without mercy."He then turned back to Mako, rising his thumb to his forehead as he speak to the boy, but made sure everyone in the hall could still hear. "After this purification, you're welcome to join our rank."
Bolin couldn't watch any longer.
Or to be precise, couldn't just stand and watch any longer.
The earthbender was tearing up when he heard Mako's speech. So his brother did feel guilty about working for the Triads. After all this time Bolin thought Mako was just an arrogant bad boy wanna be who couldn't tell right from wrong, and stuck with the gang just because he wanted to look cool.
That was why all bet are off when he saw Amon raised his thumb. Whatever Mako thought he deserved, Bolin would not let that maniac mask-man took away his brother's bending.
No longer care about what Kairi had said, he stomped the ground and shoot himself over the crowd to the stage, drawing the attention of the entire hall to himself, including Mako and Amon.
"I'LL SAVE YOU, MAK...OOoooOO!!"
Bolin's mouth made an 'O' shape as he both calling his brother name, and cried from getting kick in the gut mid-air just before he reached the podium. Turned out the attention he drew was including the Lieutenant, who was quick to react and jumped to intercept the earthbender in the air with a powerful kick.
Bolin fell hard on the podium floor, while his attacker landed nimbly beside him, and immediately put one foot on his chest.
"A distraction for a surprise attack," The Lieutenant looked at Mako. "I should've known."
"Bolin! What are you doing here!?"
Mako was going to Bolin, but got ceased by two Equalist guards on the stage and forced to his knees once again.
Bolin could barely speak. Amon walked past the struggling Mako to the newcomer, smirking pleasantly under the mask for the turn of event.
"So, it seem we have an uninvited guest. Who are you?"
Amon kneeled one leg down beside Bolin. The Lieutenant backed away, then answered.
"I know him. He's Bolin, one of the Fire Ferrets team."
"Ah. The pro-bender then. A barbaric practice that you benders insist on calling 'sport'. So why would a pro-bender decide to come to rescue a criminal?"
Amon could already feel the tension in the crowd rising, the sympathy for Mako began to slip away when the audience thought that he was merely tricking and stalling for time for this failed attack.
Bolin took a deep breath, still not recover from the kick.
The pupils behind the white mask widened for a second, a flash of memory in a snowy night pass through Amon mind, but he dismissed it quickly by the need to stay focused on the matter at hand. He couldn't afford a distraction.
"A brother then. While you're not on the list, I suppose we could make an exception."
Amon gestured the Lieutenant to forced Bolin to sit up. He walked behind the earthbender, preparing himself in a familiar position.
"Wait!! Y...You can't do this!!"
Mako screamed, struggling against his captors.
"I thought you agreed that all benders deserve this." Amon said dismissively as he gripped Bolin's neck from behind.
"I deserve it! I'm a criminal! But Bolin didn't do anything wrong, he's innocent!"
"All benders are guilty..." The Equalist leader lower his thumb on Bolin's forehead. "...for being born with bending."
Mako's eyes widen, a realization hit him like a lightning, a realization that he was wrong about these people, these Equalist, they weren't seeking justice, they weren't here to right the wrong.
It just a vengeance, a mad, prejudiced, racist, vengeance.
The firebender didn't know how loud his scream of anger was when he finally broke free from the two guards' grip, because at the exact same time, an explosion erupted from one side of the hall.
Korra was frustrating with the machine. She used to broke a boiler before(both intentionally, and unintentionally), but this one seem to have difficulty breaking down no matter how many values she randomly turned. Korra then notice a small branding on one side of the machine.
"Huh, guess that's a quality insurance." She made an assumption that all boilers she ever broke before were Cabbage Corp's.
"I'LL SAVE YOU, MAKO!"
Suddenly a familiar voice echo from the hall. Korra ran to the door and pecked at the stage just in time to see Bolin got kick in the gut, and all the commotion that followed.
The mercenary cursed while she ran back to the machine. Decided that this was no longer a time for subtlety, she unclipped one of the metal strip that Kuvira gave her, bending it back to a straight piece.
Korra used one hand metalbending the strip to spin as fast as possible, and the other hand firebending above the metal, heating it until it turn from silver to red in mere second.
She slashed the 'fire-cutter' two times, first at the machine, second at one of the pipe. She then bent away the cutter that was beginning to melt. The engine started to explode and pouring steam out nonstop. As hurry as she was, Korra still had time to drag the unconscious guard away from the machine, so she wouldn't drown or got boiled alive by the steam.
Finally, Korra waterbent all the steam back into the pipe, increased the pressure enough until she heard a loud explosion from the other side of the wall.
"Now for the fun part."
The Mercenary said as she walked back to the hall, bending a good amount of steam around herself as she blend in with a panic crowd, heading toward the podium.
to be continued...
Mako didn't know who or what caused the explosion, but he used this chance of distraction to launch himself at Amon and the Lieutenant, delivering massive stream of fire that glowed bright red through the thick steam. The flame caused the crowd below to panic even more, thinking their savior just got burned alive.
Amon and the Lieutenant dodged the firebender's attack with ease. The steam however spread over the stage, blocking everyone's peripheral vision.
"Take him down!" The Lieutenant shouted, but nothing happen. No guards came to capture Mako who retreated back to Bolin. The Lieutenant tried listening carefully, among the screaming of the crowd, there are sounds of punches and kicks going around the podium, followed by silence and no respond from any guards.
"There's someone else here, be careful!" The Equalist warned Amon, pulling something that look like a pair of electric-batons out of backpack.
Amon observed the situation quietly, their audience were panicking beyond control, each made a break to find an exit, and the hall was full of steam.Tonight event was officially ruined.
"I think it's time for us to retreat..." Amon turned to speak to his second-in-command, but suddenly a pair of hands came out of steam and drug his last remaining underling into the thick cloud.
"Lieutenant!" For a second there, Amon almost used his waterbending to clear away the steam but caught himself just in time. He cannot risk exposing his true identity, not in this place, not at this time, and not for anyone.The situation called for him to cut his losses.
Amon slowly walked back into the steam, secretly using waterbending to navigate his way and vanished into the trapdoor on the stage floor.
Korra got the Lieutenant in her choke hold. She had to wonder if this guy wore a full set of metal plate inside his suit, because his body felt so stiff and she couldn't feel any human flesh underneath the fabric. The mercenary had to use extra force to hold him in place after disarming that weird looking batons.
"You...Kairi?..." The Lieutenant speak with difficulty. "...the...mercenary..."
"Damn. I'm getting too famous around here." Korra answered, before decided that choking this guy took too long.She fling him to the floor, followed by a stomped at back of his head. Usually this could cause fatal damage, but Korra knew that the mask and the helmet would soften her blow, and only render him unconscious.
The mercenary looked around for the leader, but couldn't find him anywhere. With no more enemies to fight, she walked to where Mako was kneeling by Bolin's side. The firebender tried to help his brother get up,and was surprised, almost frightened when he saw Korra.
"You again!? What are you doing here!?"
"Yes, me again. You're welcome, by the way."Korra replied,throwing Bolin's arm over her shoulder. Mako hesitated at first, but then decided that his brother's safety was the top priority, and helped Korra carried Bolin to the exit door.
"The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and through fear, many benders could be cut off from their bending."
Jinora quietly read the book from her secret box, using only a small candle light instead of a light bulb. If Korra said a flame was prettier than an artificial light, who was she to argue?
"Fear can extinguish a bursting volcano. Fear can dry the vast ocean. Fear can crumble the tallest mountain. Fear can vanquished a mighty storm. Benders who carry too much fear in their heart could lose connection to their element."
The girl was curious. The subject of fear never came up from her ’ordinary’ study with her father. Was this a lost knowledge, or an obsolete lecture that was thrown away? Even so, what did this have to do with Korra? Of all the little faults the Avatar could have, being fearful wasn't one of them.
Jinora flipped to the next page.
"For Fire, fear can turn passion into obsession.
For Water, fear can turn adaptation into doubtfulness.
For Earth, fear can turn protection into self-imprisonment.
For Air, fear can turn freedom into isolation."
The trio stopped running after they got a good distance away from the factory district, and were sure that nobody was chasing them.
"What the hell were you doing there, Bolin!?"Mako yelled at his brother as they took refuge under a small bridge in a secluded area.
"Yell that a little louder, spiky hair. I don't think Amon heard us yet."Korra chimed in. Mako glared at her, be decided to lower his voice.
"We came to rescue you! Of course" Bolin answered, crossing him arms. "And I think right now you're acting super ungrateful."
"You almost got your bending taken away by that crazy masked man!"
"You were too!"
"It won't matter for me, but you're a pro-bender, it'll destroy your life!"
"I'll risk my life to save you! Wouldn't you do the same if it was me who got capture!?"
"Of course I will!"
The brothers lost their word for a moment, both surprised and unsurprised of what each other said. Korra stayed out of the conversation but she was looking between the two, curious of how this would.
"I'm...sorry about the afternoon." Bolin finally said, averting his eyes to the ground. "About what I said, and...the way I shut you off..."
"You don't need to apologize, you weren't exactly wrong." Mako averted his eyes too. They were now talking without looking at each other.
"Did you really mean what you said on the podium?" Bolin asked. "Were you really going to let them take away your bending?"
"That was... I... It's just me being stupid, Bo." The firebender shook his head. "I thought it was retribution, but really it's just propaganda of a mad man. I meant what I said before though, I think me and the Triple Threat Triads needed to be punished, one way or another."
"But it isn't too late for you. You can still turn a new page. I'll help you anyway I can."
"You shouldn't have to."
"We're brothers, Mako. As much as sometimes we like to think otherwise, we're still family."
The brothers looked at each other deeply in the eyes, a pause of silent, before Mako put a hand on Bolin's shoulder, smiling softly.
"Still haven't lost hope in me, do you?"
"I did, but never again. Promise."
"Awww..." The boys turned to Kairi who couldn't help but smile at the heartfelt interaction between brothers. "Thought you guy were gonna kiss for a second there." She add playfully.
"Yeah...right, almost forgot about you." Mako pretended to adjust his collar to hide his embarrassment. "What are you doing here anyway? Why were you helping me?"
"I....ehh" Bolin interrupted, remembering that he still had one unfinished business with the girl. "I hired her to help rescues you."
"Right, mercenary." Mako reminded himself. "Then I guess the explosion and the steam were your doing?"
"Along with clearing out every single guards on the stage. Like I said, you welcome." Korra tilted her chin up proudly.
"Well...thanks you. Glad to see that not all non-benders are going along with the Equalist."
"I'm not one to care much about politics." And Korra meant it, because every governing system, be it monarchy, democracy, dictatorship, or even anarchy, will always have a place for mercenaries like her. "Now,Bolin, do you have the rest of the cash with you, or do we have to go back to your place?"
"Ehh...I, I mean..." Bolin gulped. "I...don't have any...money...left..."
Even Mako could felt a sudden shift in the air, as if some menacing aura suddenly radiated from Kairi, who expression switched from friendly smirk to intimidating frown.
"I'm sorry! The two thousands yuans was all I have left, but I really needed your help!"
Bolin dodged behind Mako while Korra closed her eyes and took a deep breath, trying her best to calm herself down, but not working very well.
"Wait I can pay you." Mako interrupted before the situation get ugly.
"You?" The mercenary opened her eyes.
"It was my life you saved anyway."
"Aren't you just out of a job right now? Quite working with the gang and all?" Korra didn't sound convinced. She didn't want any more empty promises from these brothers.
"True, and the Equalists took all my money when they captured me, but I have some savings at my place. How much do we own you?"
"Four thousands yuans."
The number made Mako flinch a bit, but he nodded. "Like I said, I'll pay. We can go to my apartment right now..."
"But Bro, wouldn't you need that money too? You can stay at my place, but we'll need to find you a new job. And I don't have any more savings left either."
"We need to pay our debt, Bo." The firebender glanced at his brother behind him, looking him in the eyes. "She saved us, and if I going to turn a new page, I won't start with owing or cheating anyone."
Korra groaned internally when she heard Mako said that. Now she was going to feel very bad if she took his money.
It wasn't like she really needed the money anyway. It was just about the contract. Korra had her own reputation to keep, and going around doing charity work wasn't good for business.
Still, Korra was her own master, she will not do anything by obligation, but by her satisfaction, and the fact right now was that it wouldn't feel right taking money from these brother.
She'll let them off the hook, for this one.
"You know, come to think of it, I did save both of you back then, didn't I? So I think just six thousands yuans won't cover anymore. I am gonna need a raise." Korra crossed her arms, giving both men the most smuggest smirk she could muster.
Mako looked at her with a half shock half disgust expression, while Bolin's eyes almost fill with tears, never thought his supposed fan could be this cruel and greedy.
"How about winning Pro-Bending tournament for me?"
Both brothers were stunted, until Kairi gave them a warm comforting smile. She let her arms loose, waving relaxingly as she spoke.
"The tournament is going to start next week, right? So if the Fire-Ferrets would win the championship, consider us even."
"Are you serious?" Mako found it hard to believe, but Bolin was more optimistic.
"Of course!" The earthbender yelled as he came out behind his brother back to held Kairi's hand. "I promise I wouldn't let you down! The Fire-Ferrets will win the pro-bending tournament for you! I'll even say your name every time we start a match!"
"That....wouldn't be necessary." Korra gripped Bolin's hands back, a little firmer to make her point. "Just keep me in mind when you play. And say, if I would to ask your team to come take a picture with someone every now and then...."
"That would be no problem!"
Korra shook his hand, gesture to solidify the promise. She still didn't give a damn about pro-bending, but...she was sure Ikki and Meelo would love to meet the Fire-Ferrets...someday.
Mako sighed with relief that they settled the situation nicely, better than he could have hoped for even. The firebender watched Kairi get pull into a bear hug by Bolin, thinking that this strange girl kept getting involve with him in less than an unpleasant scenarios, yet, she managed to surprise him every time.
Maybe she wasn't so bad after all.
"It was her. No doubt about it."
The female guard said to Amon. He and other Equalists were inspecting the boiler that Kairi destroyed. With the confirmation of her and the Lieutenant, they were now sure that the infiltrator was the mercenary Kairi.
"She tricked me to look at the boiler then got me from behind."
"Sneak attack. That seemed to be her A game tonight." The Lieutenant growled, still a bit dizzy from the head stomp. Kairi was certainly an extraordinary fighter, and it was a shame that her loyalty to non-bender people seem to be...non-existent.
"She'll pay for her treachery!" The female guard spat, obviously more upset about the betrayal than the choke hold.
"We'll deal with her later. There are more important tasks at hand."Amon replied calmly as he looked at the cut on the boiler and the tube. There were some kind of silver smeared around to cuts that his underlings did seem to notice. Amon quietly glanced around the floor, and found a silver puddle of a melted metal at one of the corner.
Did that mercenary use some kind of metallic tool to destroy the boiler? But why would it leave melted metal behind? What tool did she use, or if she used any at all?...
Come to think of it, he only heard about her being non-bender.
"Do you still want me to keep track of her?"
The Lieutenant asked, voice betray no emotion.
"Keep our eyes on her, but don't do anything drastic."
Dark skinned girl.
Age around 16-17.
Staying with councilman Tenzin.
Amon wondered why he didn't realize the connection before.
But no one, especially any of his Equalists needed to know.
Everybody thought the Avatar was dead.
And he intended to keep it that way.
After parting ways with the brothers, Korra returned to the island with a heavy heart, and a troubled thoughts. This Amon, a mysterious man who could take away person's bending, permanently if his words were to be believed.
Could he be what Aang said? Could Amon be the evil that he said she'll need to defeat?
Korra was now standing in front of Lin and Tenzin's room, contemplating if she should tell them about what she had learned tonight.Republic City was their home more than her anyway. But wouldn't thing get more complicated? Wouldn't it be better if she dealt with Amon quietly on her own? Did they need to know?
Less people, less trouble.
Korra turned around and was about to go back to her room, when she found Jinora standing behind her, looking at her with questioning and worried look.
"Hey, Kiddo. Still awake?" She asked, trying to act normal.
"I...saw the boat when you came back. Is everything alright?"
"Everything's fine."Korra said, and was about to walked off, but Jinora was persistent.
"But you look like you want to talk to mom and dad. Are you..."
"Everything-is-fine. It's nothing concerning you, alright?"
Korra smiled at the little girl, but it was an empty smile which Jinora found unsettling, and the airbender could notice that her voice was hardening.
The mercenary walked past her, Jinora almost let her pass when she remembered something. It took a lot of courage for her to decide to speak up, even though Korra might get angry at her.
"Korra, are you...afraid of something?"
The older girl froze on spot, many heartbeats passed before she slowly turned around to look at Jinora again. To the little girl’s relief, she wasn't looking angry, just confused.
"What did you say?"
Jinora took a deep breath, mustering what left of her courage to walked up to Korra and took her hand. Korra was surprised, but didn't pull away.
"I...My family would never hurt you, you know that, right?" Jinora looked directly into Korra's eyes, keeping her gaze steady. "You can tell us anything."
For a moment, maybe a minute or two, both girls were staring into each other eyes, one was pleading, expressing, trying to show her sincerity, the other was reading, calculating, deciding if anything she see and hear could be trust. As the moonlight shone through window, reflecting on the airbender's eyes, and a soft squeeze from the smaller hand, Korra found a strange feeling of warmth and comfort, something she never felt from anyone since Kuvira.
The mercenary retracted her hand, but then put it on Jinora's head, patting her softly.
"Go back to sleep, kiddo." She gave her a smile, a real smile this time. "And...thanks."
Jinora nodded. She walked away from Korra until she turned a corner. Jinora stopped, peeking from the corner, and saw Korra walked back to her parent's room.
She knocked, waited until a drowsy Tenzin opened the door, surprised to saw her.
"Sorry to wake you up, but I need to talk to you, and your wife too."
Jinora heard her mother said from inside, before Korra and her father disappeared into the room. She smiled to herself while walking back to her own room. Passing the window that she could see the Republic City, Jinora stopped and watch the view for a moment.
Whatever troubled Korra probably came from city, and she could only hoped that her family would be there to help the Avatar deal with them.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
PS. I swear this will not become Korra-Jinora paring.
The Republic Council had a meeting at the City Hall, each representatives sat around a U-shaped table, sharing in discussion.
"There is a madman running around our beloved city, threatening to tear it apart. We need to create a task force whose sole mission is to find Amon and bring him to justice."
Tarrlok's opening statement was met with immediate rebuttal from almost everyone in the room.
"Absolutely not!" The female representative of the Fire Nation replied.
"What a preposterous idea." The long haired-male representative of the Southern Water Tribe commented dryly.
"A move that aggressive would only further divide our citizens." The chubbiest guy in the room added, the representative of the Earth Kingdom, shaking his head.
Tenzin, the representative of Air Nomads, said nothing.
Tarrlok huffed, but still persisted." We are facing a dangerous movement here." He explained as calmly as possible. "If left unchecked, this could turn into an uprising in the near future."
"People of Republic City are free to express their political opinion peacefully." The Southern Water Tribe councilman said.
"Peacefully? The Equalist organized, assaulted, and abducted people! They're basically terrorists."
"And who was their target exactly?" The Earth Kingdom councilman asked. "As far as we know, the Triple Threat Triads' headquarter was attacked last night, and that's all. If the authorities are to investigate, it would be stuck on the fact that a crime syndicate headquarters existed in the first place!"
Everybody, REALLY everybody, knew about Tarrlok's ties to the Triads. The councils knew he took bribes, pulled strings, and had a strong connection with many underworld individuals. But Tarrlok always played smart, there was never any concrete evidence of his involvement in any illegal activity. The waterbender knew which hands to shake, which pockets to fill, and which mouths to silence.
But most importantly, Tarrlok could keep the Triple Threat Triads in line, he helped them profit from smuggling, gambling, protection racket, etc. In exchange, more aggressive activities like robbery, murder, or human traffic were lower since he took the position of the Northern Water Tribe councilman. The Agni Kai Triad's raid at the Sato estate was the last 'big' incident in Republic City, and that was before Tarrlok managed to secure his connection with the Agni Kai's leader. He even convinced the Triads to let the firebender that accidentally killed Yusako Sato get arrested, just to calm the public down. Too bad said member didn't appreciate getting thrown to the wolves, and was planning to expose some incriminating evidence of Tarrlok's involvement with the Triad, so Tarrlok had to bribed a couple of inmate to dispose of him in prison.
However, all that power and connection came at a price, and he was paying it right now, since most people considered the Equalist as a 'political movement', the Triads contacted Tarrlok, insisted that he should be the one to deal with this problem.
"What about Amon?" Tarrlok tried to change the angle. "He is not going to stop with the bending triads. Eventually, he will come for all us benders. Our friends, our families."
"He's just one man." The Fire Nation councilwoman brushed him off nonchalantly.
"He has the ability to take people's bending away!"
"You mean the rumor? We have zero proof of your claim, at least, from a believable source anyway."
The Southern Water Tribe corrected him. Tarrlok gritted his teeth, of course there was still no hard evidence of Amon's ability. All the victims were the Triads' gang members, including Lightning Bolt Zolt, and they understandably didn't report this to the police. Tarrlok only knew about this because he went to visit Zolt earlier this morning. He too was horrified by the fact that someone with this power existed. He even asked around the Triads to confirmed that this Amon wasn't, and couldn't possibly be the Avatar in disguise.
There were rumors that spread from, Tarrlok assumed, the people who attended the Equalist gathering last night, but in this room, Tarrlok was sure that he was the only one who knew the rumor to be true.
Or so he thought...
"This is going nowhere, I propose that we postpone this debate until further notice."
The councilwoman announced, and the other two representatives seem to agree. Tarrlok almost sigh in defeat, until...
"With all due respect, I think we should reconsider Tarrlok's proposal."
All eyes turns to Tenzin, including Tarrlok who couldn't believed his own ears.
The airbending master took a deep breath. He too couldn't believed the day he agreed, and even spoke up for Tarrlok would come.
"That's impossible!" was Tenzin's respond after Korra finished her story. "The power to take away people bending? That... It couldn't be..."
"Was there, saw that." Korra shrugged as she sat at a the small table set in Tenzin's and Lin's bedroom. Lin sat opposite of her, while Tenzin sat on her right. "Whatever he did to those people, it made then unable to use bending. Amon claims the effect to be permanent, but...that remains to be see."
"Are you sure he did not just chi-blocked them?" Lin speculated.
"I know chi-blocking when I see it. What he did is not chi-blocking." Korra tapped her own forehead. "There was something...unsettling when he did that. I could swear his eyes glowed orange for a second."
"Could be just a stage trick, still..." The chief of police pondered. "Regardless of how he did it, if Amon can actually taking people's bending away, then he's more dangerous than we thought."
"Have you...considered contacting my father, Korra?" Tenzin asked cautiously, knowing he was trading on a sensitive subject.
"Should I?" Korra pouted, seeming more upset than reluctant.
"Why not? He was the one who told you about the evil that will rise in Republic City, wasn't he?"
"Yes, and when I asked him to elaborate, he acted all mysterious and cryptic about it."
"Maybe father wants you to experience the threat first hand, so when you seek him out..."
"Oh! So that's how he wants to play!"
Korra suddenly rose her voice, not too loud to wake anyone else, but loud enough to showed that she was upset.
"He sent me blindfolded into a dangerous situation, not telling me what to expect. So that when things get overwhelming, I would have to swallow my pride and ask for his help, putting the stubborn Korra in her place. Is that it!?"
"You're being unreasonable. Aang wouldn't put the city's safety at stake just to teach you a few lesson." Lin replied for her husband, she saw Tenzin getting teased by his brother and sister enough times to know that he wasn't particularly good at arguing.
"Being dead changes people, you never know. The point is Aang hired me to do this, I'm here not as the Avatar, but a mercenary. " Korra's tone made the two adults flinch. "If he wants me to defeat Amon, fine, I'll defeat him, but I'll do it my way...like a mercenary! Deal with it."
As the room fell silent, Tenzin took a long deep breath, starting to get annoyed by the word 'mercenary'. Was Korra really that proud of her career? While he had nothing against her choice of profession, he couldn't understand what was her so proud of being a thug-for-hire.
"Actually Korra, no, you won't do anything to Amon." Lin broke the silence, making both of them turn to her. "I have nothing to say about the Avatar's business, but if you're here as a mercenary, then I'll talk to you like a mercenary."
"You're in my jurisdiction, and this is a police matter. I have been keeping peace in this city for years, I need no mercenary to do my job."
"Lin..." Tenzin was about to protest, seeing that this was turning into a pissing contest, but the chief ignored him.
"So either you start acting like the Avatar, or you'll stay out of this altogether."
"Is that so..?" Korra dragged her last word as if to infuriate Lin.
"My city, my rule, your choice."
The older woman wasn't backing down. She was always good at making ultimatums. The tension in the air was so thick as they waited for Korra's respond. Until the girl let out a chuckle, leaning back on her chair with a smirk.
"Then I'll leave Amon to you, officer."
"Are you sure?"
"Certainly." Korra acted like she was oblivious to the chief's dead serious tone. "The better the city can take care of its own problems, the more evidence to prove that the world doesn't need the Avatar."
Tenzin felt a surge of disappointment at the girl's words. How could his father's successor say, or even think like that!? He knew that Korra hadn't accepted her title as the Avatar, yet, and she was bound to have some negative attitude, but to dismiss her own legacy altogether? That's just absurd!
Lin relaxed in her seat and let out a long sigh. Clearly Korra didn't give whatever response Lin was hoping for.
"If that's your decision, then it's settle. Me and Tenzin will deal with Amon, you just stay out of trouble."
"No objection there."
"Good. We all should retire for the night now, and thank you for bringing us this information."
"Happy to help." Korra gestured her hand playfully, standing up and walked off the door, saying goodnight to them nonchalantly.
Until they were certain that Korra was out of earshot, Tenzin grumbled with hands covering his face.
"How could she be this...this..."
"Sorry that I asked." Lin said, her voice was sympathetic. "You shouldn't have to hear that."
"No, no, it's good. I have to hear it. At least I now know what she truly thinks about the Avatar." The airbender tried to regain his composure. "I know she's yet to accept her role, but I never thought she think the Avatar is unnecessary to the world."
"She seems to has a...strong...opinion against the idea." Lin took one of Tenzin's hands in hers, holding it firmly. "Give yourself sometime, dear. I'm sure you could make her see reason."
Tenzin squeezed her hand back, his wife's hand was crude but always comforting. Her strong grip ensured him that she wouldn't let him face this problem alone.
"But right now, we have to deal with Amon and his Equalists first."
"You really think we should do this without the Avatar? What if he really has Spirits' aid?"
Lin understood her husband's concern, she still remembered the Yakone incident that her mother was taking on many years ago, back when Avatar Aang still alive. Toph did allowed Aang to help her in the case, and it was only with his power that they managed to captured the powerful bloodbender.
But neither of them were here, Toph disappeared after her retirement, no one even knew if she was still alive or not, and Aang was dead, replaced by a stubborn brat who was less than willing to accept her role as the Avatar.
Lin clenched her other hand in a fist, despite her resentment towards her mother, a small part of her wished she was here, maybe even gave her some advice.
"This is our city, Tenzin. Our home. I know you pride yourself as an Airbending Master, but now the city need you as the councilman. I'll have my force investigate on any suspicious Equalist activity, and you need to convince the city council..."
"...to take this matter seriously. The Equalist may only target the Triads for now, but what would stop them from going after the civilians? If they operate on the logic that all benders are evil, it's only a matter of time before someone commits a hate crime."
The meeting fell silence for almost a full minute, all eyes were on the airbender.
"T...Thank you, councilman Tenzin." Tarrlok was the first to snap out of his stunned state, still couldn't believe what he just heard.
"Are you really siding with Tarrlok, Tenzin? This seems…so unlike you." The Southern Water Tribe councilman asked.
"I'm not siding with anyone, I'm only concerned that we underestimate the potential danger of the Equalists."
"Then are you agreeing with the idea of Tarrlok's task force?" The Earth Kingdom councilman rubbed his chin.
"Not entirely. I agree that we shouldn't be too aggressive, but we shouldn't left the Equalists' activity go unchecked either."
"And what about this Amon character? Do you believe the rumor about his power?" The Fire Nation councilwoman narrowed her eyes at him.
"If he didn't have this power, then he's either a liar, or did not care to stop a false rumor about himself. If he DID has the power to take people's bending away, then he is a dangerous individual."
"The Avatar has this power too, and we didn't consider him a dangerous individual." The Southern Water Tribe councilman replied. Tenzin wondered if his harsh tone was because the currently 'lost' Avatar was of his people. The airbender was about to answer, but Tarrlok interrupted him.
"Avatar Aang worked alongside the Republic City council at that time. He was public figure who people trusted and respected. This Amon however, working in a shadow, leading a mad cult, and no one could hold him accountable for anything. It's absurd of you to compare our late savior to a criminal!"
Tarrlok waved his arm dramatically. Tenzin almost admired his speech before he reminded himself that Tarrlok would say anything to get his way, and he probably spoke up for the Avatar just to help his case.
"My apologies..., I was out of line." The Southern Water Tribe councilman bowed slightly to Tenzin.
Tarrlok smirked, seeing how he managed to change the tide of this meeting. Still, the Northern Water Tribe councilman eyed Tenzin suspiciously, what on earth possessed the airbender to side with him today?
After she finished her training with Jinora, Korra went out in the city with Asami again, with the heiress promised to show her noodle restaurants around town.
They finally settled at Narook's Seaweed Noodlery for lunch. The two girls were eating, chatting, and generally having a good time when the radio suddenly switched from soft music to static and then a familiar voice was heard.
"Good afternoon, my fellow Equalists. This is your leader, Amon."
Everyone in the restaurant went silent as they all looked at the radio, only a sound of a boiling soup in the kitchen could be heard. Asami turned form the radio to see Kairi, the mercenary's face was surprisingly passive.
"Some of you may have heard, the Republic Council has voted to create a special force to fight against us, proving once again that the bending oppressors of this city will stop at nothing to quash our revolution. But we cannot be stopped. Our numbers grow stronger by the day. You no longer have to live in fear. The time has come for benders to experience fear."
The radio switched to static, and returned to the music once again, but the silence still lingered among the customers. Someone whispered, someone sweated, and an overall uncomfortable atmosphere spread around people.
"Can I get a boiled egg, please?" Korra shouted loudly, startling most people, and looked as if she just broke the spell cast by Amon a moment ago. As the waiter took her order, the other customers went back to their food like regular basic.
"Guess you didn't care much about local news, huh?" Asami asked, tried to sound playfully.
"I don't care much about politics." Kairi just shrugged, drinking her green tea.
"If you don't mind me asking, have you ever been in a situation like this anywhere else?"
"What? Out eating with a beautiful girl?" Kairi winked at the surprised Asami. "Nah, you're my first."
"Kairi!" Asami tried to covered her smile while blushing. She wondered if this was a real flirt, or just Kairi being sarcastic, like usual. "I mean, the Equalists, or the uprising, that sort of thing."
"Well, there was a civil unrest in Omashu once, but I left the city before things got ugly."
Korra remembered thinking that maybe the mob or the authority would want to hire mercenaries for a job or two, but Kuvira insisted that they shouldn't get involved in political conflicts.
"Then...I guess you won't be staying here too long, huh?" Asami sighed, a little sadness in her voice.
Korra contemplated her reply carefully, noticing the tone shifted in their conversation. She picked half of her new boiled egg and dropped it in her noodle bowl.
"You think this Equalist movement is going to turn into a full blown uprising?"
"Don't know" Kairi sipped her soup. "But if you want, I could stick around to make sure you're safe."
"You think I need protection? You're really full of yourself, Kairi."
"And you're a strong independent girl who could take care of yourself, yeah, you said that a couple of time."
The two girls laughed together good naturally, Korra not noticing a group of teenagers sitting at the opposite table, one of the girl glared at the mercenary, rubbing her neck that got choked by her yesterday.
"Calm down, we're only to keep an eye on her, remember?" One of the teen put his hand on her shoulder. "Don't worry, the traitor will get what coming to her soon enough."
...to be continued...
Sorry for a slow update, but...Kingdom Hearts 2.8 just came out.
I believe that explains everything.
As the sun was setting on Air Temple Island, the Air family and Korra were about to eat dinner. They bowed their heads as Tenzin starts a prayer, or at least, him, Jinora, and Meelo prayed. Lin and Ikki sat quietly but respectfully because they didn't adopt the Air Nomad's tradition, for obvious reason. And Korra didn't feel like praying because...Korra.
"We are grateful for this delicious food, for happiness, for compassion, and..."
The door behind him opened, revealing a smirking Tarrlok who either didn't notice or didn't care when all eyes in the room snapped at him.
"Good evening Tenzin, chief Beifong, children." He bowed politely to everyone.
"What are you doing here?"
Lin glared at the supposedly uninvited guest.
"Still a ray of sunshine, Chief Beifong." Tarrlok smirked at the woman. He ignored her and turned to Tenzin. "Am I interrupting something?"
"Why are you here?" Tenzin repeated his wife's question, standing up to face Tarrlok.
"Oh, Tenzin, Tenzin." The waterbender sighed, grabbing Tenzin's shoulders like they were close friends. Tenzin startled a bit, but didn't pull away. "After the stunt you pulled at the City Hall, you think you could avoid me all day, and leave without a word?"
"Can it wait?We're about to eat dinner. Maybe you should..."
"Great! I am actually famished right now. Airbenders never turn away a hungry guest, am I right?"
"Care to put that to a vote?" Lin said coldly, reminding Tarrlok that only half of the people in this room were airbenders.
"I...suppose." Tenzin hesitated, but nodded. Even with his wife's disagreement, he was still an airbender, and his dislike toward the man wasn't enough to turn him away.
Seeing Tarrlok walked arrogantly to join them, Ikki noticed her mother's irritation, so she took an empty bowl and scooped the rice from their pot, intentionally chose the part that slightly burnt for little girl handed the bowl to Tarrlok after he sat down beside Korra.
"I believe we haven't met yet, young lady?" The councilman asked, making Lin and Tenzin tensed for a moment, worried how Korra would responded to him.
"Kairi. I'm Chief Beifong's distant relative. Nice to meet you."
"Nice to meet you too." Tarrlok greet the teenage girl."How long have you been here? I think I never heard of you before?"Tarrlok ate from his bowl and immediately went stiff when he chew on an overcooked rice. He swallowed without complaint to keep his manners, but sending a scowling stare at Ikki. The little earthbender just smiled innocently at him.
"6 days, and every one has those embarrassing cousins they don't want to talk about." Korra simply lied.
"A newcomer then, I hope you like Republic City so far." Tarrlok said while digging through his bowl, tried to find at least one grain of rice that wasn't burned.
"Eh, seen better, seen worse." The girl shrugged.
"Well, at least I hope you'll enjoy the rest of your stay. By the way, are you happen to be a pro-bender?"
"Really? You're certainly look fit to be one." Tarrlok said, commenting on Korra's obvious muscle, a couple of faded scars, and an overall body that built like an athlete.
Jinora wasn't happy, seeing the older man looking Korra up and down like that.
"Thanks, but I'm no sport-girl, just a mercenary."
Lin felt like punching the Avatar in the face. Why the hell did she has to tell that to Tarrlok!?
"I'm kinda on 'vacation' right now, but yep. A freelance mercenary at your service."
"What an opportunity. You could be a great asset in our operation..."
"Tarrlok." Lin interrupted the eager councilman. She and Tenzin looked at each other and nodded before standing up. "Maybe we should discussed your business now. Shall we go outside?"
"...If you wish, Chief Beifong."
Tarrlok seemed suspect, but did not protest. The three adults left the dining room, leaving one boy and one teenage girl who went back to their meal like nothing happened, and two little girls that wanted to spit in Tarrlok's bowl.
"You know, Sato may have the biggest mansion in Republic City, but only your family gets to have a view like this in your garden."Tarrlok comment at the sight of the ocean as they sat down on one of the pavilion. The waterbender didn't ignore the possibility that Lin chose this spot because she could throw him off a cliff in case he annoyed her too much. Even then, the view of sunset above the horizon was a sight to be seen.
"Just out with it, Tarrlok. What do you want?"Tenzin opened the conversation while Lin prepared a small tea-set she grabbed from the kitchen.
"Well, since you want to be so direct." Tarrlok shifted in his seat, turning back from the ocean to the two hosts. "I asked the council for a task force, and even with your help, they only authorize a squad. A squad, Tenzin,of ten people!"
"The council want an actual concrete evidence of Equalist's threat before any further decision." Tenzin replied, trying his best to be calm."I'm sure all of them will come around eventually."
"Let's hope that 'eventually' is before our city falls in to the hand of those terrorists." Tarrlok's voice show a clear distaste for whom he was talking about. "It's a good thing you backed me up when you did. Otherwise the city would've just let these lunatic's rampage went unnoticed..."
"My police force is well aware of the Equalist's thread, Tarrlok."Lin interrupted coldly, when she asked Tenzin to convince the council for help, she never thought that they'd ended up siding with Tarrlok of all people.
"Of course, Chief Beifong, and I'm glad that we'll be working together. At least the police didn't turn the blind eyes like the council." The man smiled, a politician smile that only served to remind Lin why she hated this guy so much. "Speaking of which, do you consider letting your niece..."
"She will not get involved, end of story."Lin interrupted again, and somehow, even colder.
"I understand your concern, but, since she's a mercenary..."
"The brat didn't know what she was talking about. Leave her out of this." The chief locked eyes with the councilman, letting him know that this wasn't up for debate. "And since we're discussing this, I understand that you'll use mercenaries to fill your half of the squad, correct?"
"Yes, I do. And don't you worry, I only pick the best for this job. You'll see."Tarrlok answered with the same smile, making Lin glared even harsher.
"Your definition of 'the best' is what was I worry about."
The waterbender's expression remained unchanged, he only picked his cup of tea, raising it as if to propose a toast."As I said, you'll see."
At night, a large car with a water tank drove toward a normal looking bookstore in the Dragon Flats borough. Once stopped, twelve people jumped out and up against the wall. Lin was one among the group, and now she was peering through an opening at the bottom to see what inside the basement.
Several men and women were training and learning chi blocking techniques. On the opposite wall laid a large poster with a portrait of Amon staring over the room. Things couldn't have been more obvious.
"Your source was right, Tarrlok."Lin whisper to the councilman beside her, he smirked back and turned to give a hand signal to the rest of the squad.
The City council approved a join force between Tarrlok and the chief of police, a squad of ten people, not counting the two supervisor, for this mission. Not enough to combat an actual thread, but enough to get Tenzin and Tarrlok off their back, even if the latter was more reluctantly. The council was basically just testing the water of the situation, if the Equalist turned out to be real threat, they could authorize more, if not, disbanding a squad of ten people wouldn't make much of a fuss.
Lin had handpicked five members from the metalbending police force, all had proven to have self-control and wouldn't do anything reckless. They needed to deal with the Equalists by the book, no vigilantism, no off the record operation, otherwise Amon might use the skepticism to fuel more hate toward benders.
Hence why she was more worried about Tarrlok's men, all five of them were mercenaries, some of them have decent records, but none of them were clean, either ex-cons, or with a history of violence. She suspected that Tarrlok just took in whoever was already on his payroll.
"We attack on my signal." Lin said, all of her officers nodded. "One, two..."
There was a loud sound of a tank's lid opened, before one of the mercenary bent a stream of water from the tank and force it into the basement. Lin and her officers have to dodged out of the way of the water.
"What the hell are you doing!?"The chief shouted at the mercenary, who replied with a chuckle.
"Flushing out rats."
As he said, the remaining mercenaries already went to break down the front door and stormed the bookstore.
"Damn it! You five, surround the area and find any other exits, don't let anybody get away!"
Lin's officers nodded and dispatched around the store as order. While Lin grabbed Tarrlok's shoulder as he was about to followed his men inside.
"Keep your men in line, Tarrlok! Or you'll ruin the entire operation!"
"They know what they're doing, chief Beifong."
"You think mom will be alright?"Ikki asked Naga while scratching behind the polar bear dog's ear. The girl popped her upper half through her bedroom's window to play with her pet, and to look at the Republic City.
Naga made a whimpering sound and licked the hand that scratched her, wanting to reassure her little master.
"You're right. Mom's gonna kick those Equalists' asses! I just worry about the ponytail guy."Ikki grunted, she didn't know who or what is Tarrlok like as person, but if mother hated him, then she hated him too.
The girl let out a big yawn a moment later, it was passed her bed time, and tonight didn't have any pro-bending match to occupy her.
"I think I'm gonna go to bed now. Good night, Naga."
After Ikki retreated back into her room, Naga was about to lay down beside the window as usual when she spotted a figure walking pass the garden.
It was Korra...her old master.
Korra leaned against the railing of the platform that facing toward Republic City, sipping her cup of tea, watching stars like she had no care in the world.
"Well, I tried, Aang." She said casually. "I tried to help, but your daughter-in-law insists that I stay away. So..., not my problem anymore then."
True be told, Korra didn't understand why any problem in the world would require the Avatar's help, specifically. What could she have done that can't be accomplished by a group of three benders? Whatever Aang and Tenzin thought, she was just a simple fighter, albeit a good one, but not the greatest in the world. Korra still got her ass kicked by Kuvira every time they sparred.
Maybe this was for the better, If Lin and that...guy whose name she forgot, took care of Amon and his Equalists, then Korra might get off scot-free. All she needed to do now was complete her airbending training.
Korra's train of thought was interrupted when she heard something approaching from behind. She turned back to see the polar bear dog jogging toward her, mouth opened and tongue sticking out made it look like she was smiling.
Even after her truce with Ikki, and the earthbender girl even began to open up to her, Korra still kept her distance from Naga. Partly out of respect for Ikki, and partly out of...guilt. Korra only saw Naga when she had exercise sessions with Lin and Ikki in the morning, and the fact that Ikki never let the polar bear dog come near her was telling enough that the little girl still held a grudge.
Korra's thought was interrupted again when she felt Naga nudging her with her nose. Korra couldn't help but smile playfully while petting her head back. She looked around to noticed that Ikki was nowhere to be seen.
"Did you sneak out here to see me?"
Naga made a whining sound like she was saying 'yes'.
"Aww, I'm touched, girl, but wouldn't Ikki mad at you when she found out?"
The polar bear paused for a second, before she moved closer and rest her head on Korra's shoulder. The girl froze, losing all her playfulness as she tried to comprehended what was happening. Slowly, she warped her arm around Naga, burying her face in the polar bear dog's white fur.
"I...I missed you too, girl."
The raid at the bookstore was a complete success. After securing all the Equalists in the basement, Lin went upstairs to gather the many documents she found around the store, every piece of evidence was valuable for her investigation.
After she went back down however, Lin heard shouting from the basement, the chief came into the room to find one of Tarrlok's mercenary stood face to face with two of his comrades, behind him were a group of tied up Equalists they'd captured.
"Enough! Both of you!" The mercenary said, even with his uniform which cover most of his face, Lin could still tell that his was a young man, maybe teenager around Korra's age. "They're already surrendered, just leave them alone!"
"And what's matter with you? These scumbags hate us benders. We should teach them a few lessons." One of the two mercenaries, a women no less, cracking her knuckle with a sadistic smile.
"I won't let you!"
"I'll be damn, look like we have an Equalist sympathizer over here." The other mercenary snorted. Before the two could had done anything else, the lone mercenary notice Lin entering the room and call out to her.
"Chief Beifong, I believe we need some of yours officers to watch over these captives, sir!"
"What's going on here?" Lin asked, even though she kinda already pieced together what happened.
"Nothing, officer, we're just gonna soft them up a little bit, easier to transport that way." The female mercenary answered with her same grin.
"There'll be no softening anyone." Lin came to stand closer to them, her presentup close, and upset, managed to make the mercenaries felt uneasy. "You did your job, now back off."
"Pff, whatever." The female mercenary grunted, but she and her friend backed away, knowing it wasn't wroth antagonizing the chief of police over this. "Bloody terrorist sympathizers." They mumbled as they walked away.
"Thanks, Chief Beifong. I don't think I could've held back those two by myself." The mercenary sighed.
"Try to play a hero, I see." Lin said skeptically at the teen, but he didn't seem to mind.
"Just don't want anyone to get hurt more than necessary, ma'am."
The chief was surprised to hear that, her experience with mercenaries so far had been unpleasant(especially the one that's hanging around her house), but this young man seemed sincere, a trait she never thought could be found in a thug for hire.
"I didn't catch your name in the briefing room, who are you, son?"
The mercenary looked taken a back, but still removed his headwear to reveal his full feature, the most noticeably was his spiky black hair.
"It's Mako, ma'am."
...to be continued...
I hope this chapter will make it clear that this isn't a Mako-bashing fanfiction.
"It's settled then, no more late night snacks for both of us."
Bolin crossed off two numbers on his account book. Pabu, sitting across from the small table on the floor, squeaking to protest its owner.
"I'm sorry, Pabu, but if we're gonna raise enough money for the tournament, it means you and I are going to have to live on a tighter budget." Bolin looked sadly on the list of expenditures he had cross off. "Aw man, I miss my favorite dumplings already."
The attic door opening interrupted Bolin's complain, Mako climbing up the room carrying a bag in one hand.
"I'm back, Bo. Got your favorite dumplings for you too." The older brother carelessly tossed the bag at Bolin, who opened the bag with Pabu jumping up his shoulder. Both of them took in the steaming aroma with sparkling in their eyes.
"Oh, the Universe never abandons a good boy like me..."
"Did you say something?"
"Nothing! Thanks, bro!"
Bolin and Pabu dug through the dumpling bag while Mako sagged down on the couch.
"So, how was the job?" Bolin asked Mako who was still lying down, looking very exhausting.
"It's good, we took out an Equalist's secret training ground. It's just a small group, but it's a start." The firebender let out a long sigh. "And Tarrlok paid me as he promised. If this keeps up, I'm sure we'll get your championship pot by the end of the week."
"You know, I'm still not comfortable with you working for the Task Squad." Bolin voiced his concern. After Mako officially resigned from the Triad(by which he meant 'Mako went to the headquarter to confront Lightning bolt Zolt, but the boss was not seeing anyone, everybody else were too busy arguing about who should take charge, and they were more than happy to let Mako quit just to reduce the competition'), councilman Tarrlok approached him to offer him a job. The councilman knew Mako from his connection with the Triad, and that the boy was the 'survivor' from the Equalist's gathering.
The payment Tarrlok offered was too good for Mako to pass up, and even if Tarrlok wasn't the most honest politician (which Mako doubt even exists), the Task Squad was authorized by the City Council, hence a legitimate job. Plus, Mako agreed that the Equalists were a real danger to every bender in the city, going after them would mean he was protecting Bolin in a way.
"After our run in with the Equalists, I thought you would want to avoid them," Bolin continued, Mako sat up on the couch before answered.
"The Equalists are dangerous, but that doesn't mean I'm afraid of them. In fact, I cannot be afraid of them. They're using fear tactic to terrorize the city, if we're afraid, they won."
Mako clenched his fists, but then relaxed when he realized he was starting to get worked up. He didn't want to bring the stretch from work into their house.
"Besides, you owe your snack to my salary. Those dumplings aren't cheap, you know?"
"Now that's a low blow, bro!" Bolin pouted at the smirking Mako.
The next day, Lin sat in her office surround by towers of Equalist related documents on her desk. Until the afternoon, one of the officer came in to told her she has a visitor.
"This better be an emergency," Lin replied, putting down a report she was reading.
"It's councilman Tarrlok, ma'am. He said this is about the Equalists' case."
The chief of police narrowed her eyes. There was no way Tarrlok came here with a good news, at least for her, still she nodded to the officer to let him in.
A minute later, the Northern Water Tribe councilman walked past the officer that closed the door behind him, wearing the same smirk as when he came to the island uninvited.
"Good afternoon, chief Beifong. I see you still hard at work as ever."
"What do you want, Tarrlok? I thought we already discussed about the Task Squad last night?"
Lin didn't even pretend like greeting was necessary.
"I didn't come here about the Task Squad, well...kinda, let's me just show you."
Tarrlok took a black piece of paper and placed it over the report Lin was reading. The chief felt her teeth gritting, but said nothing before picking it up and reading the note.
"You gotta be kidding me..." Lin's eyes widen, she looked back up at Tarrlok with the mix of surprise and angry. "A gala!?"
"Tonight, in honor for our Task Squad." The councilman replied calmly. "They did an exceptional job last night. They deserve some appreciation."
"You want to throw a gala after one mission!? You realize how ridiculous that sounds!?"
"You're not looking at the big picture here, Chief Beifong. This gala is also the way to raise an awareness about the Equalists." Tarrlok suddenly shifted to his more serious look. "Amon is a threat to the entire city, we shouldn't be the only ones having to deal with him. The people must realize how dangerous the Equalists are, this gathering could help just that."
"Oh, then I assume you're inviting every shop owner and factory worker to this gala?"Lin snarled, knowing full well this event will be exclusive to the richest and the people with political connections. Hell, if he had his way, Tarrlok would probably want the Avatar on his guest list.
Which had Lin remind herself, however this turned out, do not let Korra go near the gala at any cost.
"It call social structure, chief. I'm sure in the end, all citizens of Republic City will appreciate what we're doing for them." Tarrlok stood up, adjusting his clothes as he was about to leave. "Your family are all invited, of course, especially your niece. I'm looking forward to seeing her again."
'Over my dead body.' Lin thought after Tarrlok said his goodbyes and closed the door. She looked back at the invitation in her hand while letting out a long sigh. This was going to be a long day for her.
"Sir, there's something you might want to see."
In a secret hideout, an Equalist foot soldier walked up to Amon and handed him the invitation letter, almost identical with the one Tarrlok gave Lin."It's from Sato."
Amon silently read the contents on the paper, an invitation for Hiroshi Sato and his family to the gala the will be held tonight at the city hall.
"They seem to think raiding one of our training grounds was a big success."
"Good for them for setting themselves a low bar. Hurt less when they inevitably fail." The masked man replied with a bit of sarcasm. "Still, while councilman Tarrlok and Chief Beifong are busy with their celebration, we could take this opportunity to move some of our cells that are at risk to more secure location. Pass on the order."
"Yes sir. Would you be supervising this operation?"
"No, I'm afraid not." Amon turned to Republic City map on his desk, his eyes squinted at the small island outside city's bay. "I have other business to take care of tonight."
"A gala? You guys are throwing a 'job well done party' after busting up one bookstore?"
Korra could barely control her laughter while reading the invitation letter. Lin, dressed in dark-green formal attire, sitting opposite of her in the living room, scowled at the mercenary.
"It wasn't my idea-"
"You know what I did after clearing out an entire bandit camp in a valley? Two steaks at a tavern and a bottle of cactus juice, maybe some wine if any of the bandits had a bounty on them." Korra ignored Lin's excuse. "But of course, what was that compared to this 'one bookstore'. I'm sure that was the battle to remember. Ink splashed on the wall, papers flying everywhere! Lookout, someone actually tripped and hit their head on a table corner!"
"That's enough out of you, Kairi!"
Lin got up and pulled the Avatar in by her collar. But the teenage girl just continued laughing, making the older woman's cheeks turn increasingly red.
"Lin, we're ready. Should we..." Tenzin opened the door to see his wife in the middle of trying to choke the Avatar, while Korra was too busy laughing to pry the hands off her throat. Lin spotted Tenzin, and with a little reluctance, let go of Korra. The girl fell back on the couch and finally composed herself enough to just chuckle quietly.
Jinora, Ikki, and Meelo poked their heads out from behind Tenzin. Lin was glad they didn't see her try to choke the Avatar. The chief of police adjusted her clothes before she spoke. "If everyone is ready, then we should be off. Kairi, I trust my house will still be intact when I return."
Korra nodded her head halfheartedly. "I'll try not to burn the place down while you're gone."
Tenzin was relieved when his wife didn't respond to the Avatar's sarcasm, though her grunting noise clearly showed her irritation. The air family was about to left the room when suddenly, Jinora spoke up.
"...Mom, maybe I could stay home with Kairi?" she hesitantly asked, and all four of her family turned to look at her. The airbender girl gulped and hoped her cheeks weren't visibly blush right now.
"You don't want to go to the gala?" Tenzin asked, oblivious to his daughter's true intention. It wasn't where she doesn't want to go, but where she would rather be. Lin on other hand, shifted her gaze to the Avatar who sat lazily on the couch , suspecting the real reason she wanted to stay.
"Yes, dad. I doubt there will be anything fun to do at the party anyway, and I would rather stay at home and read in the library." Jinora quickly turned to her mother. "And...I could keep an eye on Kairi! See that she doesn't...cause any...trouble?"
"Are you all thinking I'm gonna sink your island or something?" Korra chimed in from the couch, feeling a bit offended. But nobody paid her attention at the time. Tenzin thought it was fine if Jinora want to stay. To be fair,both him and his wife only went to the gala by obligation, while Meelo and Ikki agreed to go with just because they want to leave the island once in awhile.
"If that's what you want, I have no objections."
Lin wasn't quite as convinced, but even she wasn't sure why. Jinora and Korra have been training together for the last few days. They get along just fine. And despite her personal dislike toward the teen girl, Lin knew Korra wouldn't do anything bad or harm to her daughter. It's only an unexplained feeling that's still bothering her.
In the end, Lin couldn't chose feeling over logic.
"Me neither. But we might come home late, so be sure not to stay up over your bedtime, alright?"
"Thanks Mom. Thanks Dad," Jinora smiled brightly before ran off to change out of her formal clothes. Ikki and Meelo watched after their unusually excited older sister before looking at each other.
"Her loss! Jinora doesn't know how many sweets she'll miss out at the gala!"
"Speaking of food, maybe I could sneak something form the buffet back for Naga!"
"Well... I'm glad at least you two find something to look forward to at the gala," Tenzin sighed. Lin patted her husband on the shoulder, before all four of them left the house and headed for the dock.
"I never seen so much food in my life!" Bolin exclaimed starring at all the food on many tables in the city hall. His mouth came dangerously close to drooling.
"Calm down, bro. You gonna draw attention."
Bolin composed himself, still not taking his eyes out of the many rolls of food in front of him. Just when he thought he's going to live on a tight budget, Mako got an invitation to this gala, and now in front of him was basically all-he-could-eat-buffet. The Universe must really love him.
"I still think councilman Tarrlok is really overdoing this, " Mako mumbled, adjusting his unfamiliar formal clothes he and his brother had to rent for this occasion. It's not that he wasn't grateful for the honor. Mako just felt like he wasn't deserving of it, yet. The other mercenaries Tarrlok had hired on the other hand seemed to have no conflicted feelings, gathering at one corner and munching down food like a starving pack of hyena-raccoons.
"Councilman Tenzin. Chief of Police Lin Beifong, and family."
With the announcement, both brothers turned to see the air-family entered the hall. The two little kids ran off immediately, while the husband and wife had to greet people around them.
"Come on, Bolin."
"You'll have plenty of time to eat later. Let's go greet Chief Beifong first."
"Fine..." Bolin pouted, putting his plate down. He walked after Mako to the middle of the hall. They waited until most of the guests left the couple alone before went in and introduced themselves.
"Good evening chief Beifong, councilman Tenzin."
Tenzin noticed them first, and not remembered ever met them before.
"Good evening young man. And you are?"
"Mako?" Lin recalled the firebender, since he was the only person on the Task Squad other than her officers that she didn't absolutely despise.
"It's an honor you remembering my name, ma'am. This is my brother, Bolin. He's playing for the FireFerret."
"Um-Good... Good evening, sir, ma'am," Bolin stammered, he wasn't used to meeting important people. Certainly not a chief of police and a master airbender.
"Fire Ferret, huh?" Lin mumbled, looking between Mako and Bolin. It's look like Ikki might got more than snacks for Naga from this gala. "Small world."
"Ah, yes, my wife told me about you, Mako. Thank you for your service to this city."
Tenzin bowed his head a little, Mako quickly bowed back.
"It's nothing, sir! I'm just doing my part as a citizen."
"What a profound young man," Tenzin complimented him, still wondered how a boy like this ended up on Tarrlok's payroll.
"Thanks you, sir. But might I ask, is Kairi not coming to this gala?"
This suddenly piqued Tenzin and Lin's interest, if a little bit frightening when someone suddenly mention the Avatar's name, even a fake one.
"You know Kairi?" Lin asked back, tried not to let any emotion slipped.
"Um...yes, ma'am. She rescued me and my brother from the Equalists. I was hoping to thank her again."
The couple looked at each other. Korra mentioned rescuing someone from the Equalists' gathering, but didn't go into detail. She just said it was someone who got in over his head, and a family member hired her to rescue him.
It really was a small world.
"Sneaking behind your master's back again, aren't you, girl?"
Korra hugged the polar bear dog who, after Ikki left the island, came to spend catching up time with her old master. Korra was now sitting in the garden near a lamp post, with Naga laying her head on Korra's lap, whimpering happily as she gently scratched her head.
"Kairi, where are... Oh."
The mercenary turned her head to see Jinora who seemed to be looking for her. The little girl's surprised sound came from seeing the polar bear dog on her lap. Jinora knew how possessive Ikki was about Naga, especially against the Avatar.
"Hey, kiddo..." Korra looked down on the still whimpering Naga on her lap. "You're not...gonna tell Ikki about this, are you?"
"What? Of course not! If anything she seems happy to be with you."
Jinora sat down beside the two. She petted Naga a little, but honestly, didn't care much about the beast at the moment. Just a chance to sit by Korra's side under the star filled night sky... Jinora touched her cheeks when she felt like blushing again. This is too romantic for her.
"So why exactly didn't you want to go to the gala?" Korra asked, not noticing that Naga who was relaxing on her lap perked her ear up and turned to the direction of the temple.
"I'm never good at socializing, and unlike Ikki and Meelo, I couldn't think of anything fun to do at the party."
"You sound a bit lonely there, kiddo."
"Sometimes. Usually I spend my time reading books. You...probably guessed."
"Don't you have any friends your own age? And what about your siblings?"
The two girls were caught up in their conversation, they didn't realize that Naga was beginning to growl.
"I...I love Ikki and Meelo, but they don't want to spend their free time with me much. I don't blame them though, I know I'm kinda boring. The same goes for other children, not that we get many visitors."
"Don't say it like that." Korra patted Jinora lightly. "I'm sure you'll find your own folk. There are all kinds of people in the world. Believe me, I saw a lot."
"Maybe the world needs to change a bit..."
"Nothing! I...I said-"
Jinora didn't get to finish her excuse when Naga suddenly got up and barked viciously at the house, startling both girls.
"Naga, what's wrong?" Korra asked, trying to calm the beast down, but when she and Jinora followed Naga's eyesight, they immediately understood why.
Up on the roof of the temple with a bright full moon as background, stood a man in white mask. Hands behind his back, in his usual relaxed but intimidating pose.
Amon looked down upon the airbender and the Avatar. One could only guess what expression he wore behind that mask.
...to be continued...
Sorry for the delay. I just recovered from a surgery on my back(I got metal on my spine now. Looking forward to all the fun stuff I'll have at airport security). I couldn't sit straight for weeks, so writing on laptop was kinda out of the question. But hey, I'm back! And we're at the 'first climax' of the story. I'm really excited to write this part.
Chapter 27: The Silent in the Night(4)
"...and with that, I propose another toast to the Task Squad!"
The entire hall raised their glass, followed by a round of applause. Lin and her five officers nodded and bowed to the people around them, while the four mercenaries were either basking in glory, or too busy with the food.
"This is really kind of embarrassing, chief," one of the officer whispered to Lin after all the guests went back to their business. "You think councilman Tarrlok has ulterior motives about this gala?"
"He always had ulterior motives." Lin sipped her glass, watching Tarrlok went around the hall, talking and shaking hand with many high societies. "But don't think about it too much. You all have fun, just don't let the praise go to your heads."
"Yes, ma'am,"they replied in unison. Lin couldn't help but be proud of her officers. She left them to enjoy their food and drinks to go back to her family at the table on the other side of the hall.
Tenzin was busy making sure Meelo wouldn't choke on all the cakes he had swallowed(at the same time). Ikki, with her eyes sparkling like a star, watching Bolin flexing his muscles and told tales about many incredible matches she never got to see. Mako stood near them but didn't interact with anyone, just stirring a glass of champagne in his hand. Lin decided to approach him.
"Not going celebrate with your mercenary friends?"
"No, ma'am. I don't... Wait, am I bothering you and your family?"
"You didn't. I'm just asking."
Mako looked relieved with that reply, Lin smirked a little.
"The truth is, I don't get along well with them. Besides, I'm not really a mercenary. Tarrlok hired me on the squad because I can fight."
"If you're not mercenary then what do you do? A pro-bender like your brother?"
"No...I... I was..." The firebender looked around to make sure no one else were paying them attention. Meelo tried to break a record of how many cakes he could stuff in his mouth, so Tenzin was busy. And Bolin was showing Ikki a few bending stances. "I used to work for the Triple Threat Triad."
"Used to?"Lin's tone got a bit colder.
"I was never on any warrant, or had any criminal records, ma'am!" The firebender panicked for a second when he saw an angry flair in the chief's eyes. "Sorry. I mean, I used to work with the Triad. They never let me in on any big operation, but yes. Until recently, I've been working for them."
"And now you're not?"Lin tried not to scare the young man...too much.
"After Amon abducted me and my brother almost lost his bending trying to rescue me, I knew I couldn't go on like this anymore. I quit working with the Triads and tried to turn a new leaf. Working for Task Squad has been my first legitimate job so far."
"Quite a story." Lin secretly used earthbending to check if he was lying or not. To her surprise, Mako was either a really good liar, or he was one hundred percent honest. It's really a shame a boy like him was working for Tarrlok. "Make sure not to slip back into your old habits then."
Their conversation ended just the moment they're approach by two figures. The owner of the Future Industry, Hiroshi Sato. And by his side, the heiress of the Future Industry, Asami Sato.
"Good evening, Councilman Tenzin, Chief Beifong," the middle-aged man greeted them formally, so formal in fact that Lin detected a sourness in his tone.
"Good evening to you too, ," they greeted him back, and from his passively frowning expression, Lin knew something was wrong.
"Is everything alright, ?"
Hiroshi scowled at Lin question.
"While I am grateful for your work to keep peace in our city. I feel a bit at odd about you prioritizing at a certain group of individuals."
"Dad..."Asami tried to interrupt, but he ignored her.
"The Triple Threat Triad have been terrorizing Republic City for many years now. And while I gave the benefit of the doubt to the complication of influencing people and local criminal activity. The moment a similar activity occur from the non-bender side, your authority seem to work quickly, and aggressively to deal with them."
"Mr. Sato , I assure you that benders and non-benders are treat equally under the law. Amon and his Equalists are a special circumstance,"Lin replied. She already knew that the situation with the Equalists would provoke this type of criticism. And in a way, Lin couldn't blame any non-bender who felt like they were being treated unfairly. After all, that was the main slogan the Equalists were selling.
"I hope you'll be able to back up those words, Chief Beifong."Hiroshi said solemnly, at least agreed not to argue any further, for now.
"My apologies, councilman Tenzin, but is Kairi came here with you?"Asami turned to Tenzin, hoping she could change the topic to something less controversial.
"Oh, I'm sorry, Miss Sato, but Kairi isn't here."
"She wasn't invited? But I thought the invitation was for the entire family?"
"She...preferred to stay on the island. My niece doesn't like socializing much." Tenzin just remembered now that Korra had been going out with Asami Sato for the past few days. He hoped his excuse sounded convincing.
"I guess... Kairi did say that she doesn't like going to luxury places too often."
"I hope that she said she didn't want to come, and not that she wasn't allowed to come',"Hiroshi said, narrowing his eyes. That hit a little too close to home for Lin, since technically she did forbid Korra to come to the gala, though not with the reason was thinking, and the Avatar didn't seem to mind anyway.
Lin couldn't think of anything to say, so she stayed silent and let Tenzin handled the conversation. Even in absence, Korra still managed to cause her trouble.
A cold breeze blew through the garden that was now almost silent, save for the growling sound of the polar bear dog. All eyes were on the man on the roof, whose dark clothes contrasted the dimly lit sky of the full moon night.
"I was afraid you might went to the gala with the others, how fortunate that you decided to stay here, alone in this night." Amon tilted from Korra to Jinora. "Well, almost alone anyway."
The mercenary quickly pushed the airbender behind her, instinctively prioritizing Jinora's safety over her own.
"Why are you here, Amon?" Korra called out the masked man. Her tone was rude, a bit mocking, but no trace of dread or fear. "Was this about the Revelation gathering? Look, I'm sorry about the boiler, alright?"
"I have many reasons to be here." Amon ignored her mockery. "For example, in front of me is one of the last three airbenders in the world. I think you know what I would do to her."
Suddenly, Korra lost all her playfulness, her fist clenched, her eyes narrowed, and her voice dripped with coldness of an icy water.
"She just a kid, Amon."
"All the more reason to get it done early. She'll have more time to adapt to her non-bender life."
"I'll break your magical thumbs before you touch her."Korra was dead serious.
The two stared at each other for a moment, until Amon let out a creepy chuckle. Jinora would be scared for her life now,if not for Korra standing here, protecting her.
"You're lucky I already have plan for you and your family later. You can keep your bending for a while longer, little one." That didn't sound reassuring at all for Jinora. "No, tonight I have business with you, Avatar Korra."
Both girls went stiff with that Korra could think of any comeback or excuse, she realized that her and Jinora's reaction just gave the answer away, that if Amon wasn't already convinced to begin with.
"K...Korra... How did he-?"
Amon jumped down from the roof on the garden below. Naga immediately roared and charge at the man, too fast for even Korra could stopped her. The Equalist waited until the beast got close, side stepping to dodge the attack, and jabbed his two fingers at the side of her throat. The polar bear dog suddenly collapsed not too far from the masked man.
"Don't worry, it'll be fine." Amon curled his fingers back into a fist. "The Chi-blocking will wear off after fifteen or twenty minutes. Of course, I'm afraid I can't show you the same mercy, Avatar."
"How did you know who I am?"Korra was calming down a bit, seeing the polar bear dog's chest still puffing up and down.
"You assumed you could come and go into my city without leaving any trace?"
"Fair point. Don't remember this being your city, though." If Amon wouldn't tell, then she won't press. It wouldn't matter either way after she silenced him,for good. "So if you have a beef with me, let the kid go. Or are you the type that really needs an audience to get anything done?"
"She can go." Amon answered simply.
Korra took Jinora and stepped back a little bit before kneeling down to meet her eyes, but still kept the Equalist in her sight.
"Can you get off the island by yourself?"
"Korra...I..I can't leave you-!"
"Can-you-get-off-by-yourself?"Korra emphasized each words sternly, letting Jinora knew this wasn't up for arguing. The little girl couldn't help but answer honestly.
"I...I have my glider. I can glide to the city dock."
"Are you sure?"
"I used to glidea lot further when dad took us to visit other air temples. This is nothing."
"Good. Leave immediately and go somewhere save. Maybe go to the city hall, your family probably still there."
"Korra, please! You can't fight him alone! I can bring some help!"Jinora's eyes were teary at this point. Korra was touched that the kid cared for her this deeply. She place her hand on Jinora's shoulder, making sure she understand what she's about to say.
"Then go to your mother. No one else. Only your mother, understand?"
Jinora nodded, even now Korra still wished to keep her identity a secret.
"Alright, go fast kiddo, but don't worry too much. I'll probably pound him to a bloody pulp by the time your mother gets here."
Korra gave her a cheeky smile, and Jinora wished for anything holy that this wouldn't be the last time she saw her. The little girl left the garden and ran to the other side of the building. Along the way she found many air acolytes' bodies lying all over the place. She went to check on one of them, and was relief to find out they're just unconscious.
Jinora entered her room via window, grabbed her glider,went up to the highest floor of the temple. Without any hesitation or even a second thought, she jumped off, using her airbending to stay in the air, and glided as fast as possible to Republic City.
Korra began cracking her knuckled. Anticipating the fight that would follow. She felt a little bit excited for the duel.
"So, are you going to kill me, or just take away my bending?"
"Aren't those the same things for you?" Amon retorted briefly. "What is the Avatar without bending?"
"Umm, a non-bender?" Korra shrugged. "You know, the people you claim to be championing?"
"Without bending," the mask man walked closer, one hand behind his back, the other hand raised, palm facing inward, "you'll be nothing."
"Nothing? Was that supposed to be your opinion on non-bender?" Korra retorted, but unlike Amon, she didn't make it brief. "Or do you think only you are the exceptional? The chosen one? All are equal, but you are a bit more equal than the rest?" the mercenary gestured her hands around, as if to invoke an imaginary audience."Behind every savior is a man who always thinks himself better than his peers."
"You talk too much."Amon had no intention to humor Korra with her banter. He dashed in and attacked Korra with series of chi-blocking. Korra made use of her airbending stance to avoid them all, but some came too close for comfort.
The Avatar began fighting back with punches and kicks. Amon was certainly no pushover. He was a different level from those Triple Threat Triads she fought, dodging and countering her every move, and soon he struck back with another series chi-blocking.
They both went back and forth, taking turn being offence and defense. Until Amon started to notice something strange.
"Why haven't you use your bending?" He asked while blocking her punch. So far the Avatar only attacked him with a regular martial art.
"Consider it an interest of fairness."
"So you were listening in the crowd that night." Suddenly, Amon grabbed hold of Korra's wrist, ducked underneath her arm, and twisted it around until he moved to standing behind her. Korra immediately recognized the position. She tried to fight back, but Amon kicked behind her leg, forcing Korra on her knees.
"All too easy." He declared, putting his thumb on her forehead.
Korra panicked a little, but this wasn't the first time she's in a compromise position, or hardly the worst one. She bent one of metal strip on the wrist Amon was grabbing. The metal sprung up, its shard edge cut into Amon's hand, forcing him to let go.
Korra stood up and bent another strip out. She sent both of her weapons flying at Amon, trying to capture his writs like Kuvira did. But the Avatar lacked the perception her sister had, and the masked man was no mere bandit. Even with one hand injured, Amon managed to catch both strips and threw them out of Korra's bending range.
"So much for fairness, I guess." The mercenary huffed.
"Your existence is an embodiment of inequality. Nothing you do is fair."
"You really hate me, do you?" Korra watched the blood drip from her enemy's hand. He could bleed after all. "What do you want from me, anyway? Bragging rights? Gonna cut my head off and show me to your fellow Equalists the next meeting?"
"You overestimate your value," Amon replied. The wound wasn't fatal, but it was deep. Not that he couldn't taking care of the Avatar one handed. "Your disappearance was a blessing to the world. I'm here to make sure it stays that way."
"You think I'm preparing my grand opening to the city?" Korra was a bit confused. "In case the fake name wasn't enough hint, I am here undercover. I don't want people to know I'm the Avatar!"
"It doesn't matter. I neither know nor care about your intention. You're a threat to my people as long as you remain." Amon raised his hand, prepared to charge at her once again.
However, his body suddenly felt heavier, at first Amon thought he's just getting tried, but the weight increase to the point where he found himself unable to move. His usual calm expression behind the mask turned to surprise when he realized there's something wrong with his body.
Amon then noticed the wound on his hand. A fresh wound that... suddenly stop bleeding.
The realization hit him. He looked back at his opponent who shifted into a waterbending stand, except all her fingers curling down like spider legs. Her eyes became cold with a sadistic glints as she stared at him.
"You..." Was all Amon could mutter before Korra moved her arm, forcing his body out of fighting stand, and down on one knee. The Avatar voice cut through the sound of his crunching flesh and bone with a mix between threatening and humoring.
"You picked a bad night to come here."
"Tenzin! Chief Beifong! Enjoying the gala?"Tarrlok exclaimed as he walked up to them after greeting most of the important guests in the hall.
"Yes. Quite a nice speech, Tarrlok. I hope you meant what you said." Tenzin answered, while Lin just gave Tarrlok a cold glance and turned back to her drink.
"Of course, of course. By the way, I don't see your niece anywhere. Is she not coming?"
"Good Spirit, you're the third person who asked about her tonight. What is wrong with you people?" Lin grunted as she picked another glass of wine from a waiter. At first she thought she would keep a level head through an entire night, but after meeting with Hiroshi Sato, she decided she at least deserved a glass or two.
"So she's not coming then? Shame." Tarrlok looked disappointed, he thought having a non-bender mercenary on his squad would help with public relations. "Well, I won't bother you two anymore then. Enjoy the party."
After Tarrlok, and everyone in the hall for that matter, were out of earshot, Tenzin whispered to his wife.
"Seriously, Lin. Maybe we should reconsider allowing Kairi to come to the city this often."
"After tonight, I might agree." Lin said, stirring her glass of wine in contemplation. "She definitely made herself known. I'm now surprise she managed to stay off the grid for six years."
"I wonder if that has something to do with her...partner." Tenzin stroked his beard. "If he kept Kairi from the public for this long, maybe he's a dangerous individual..."
"Let's not discuss that here," Lin interrupted her husband. She knew Tenzin was always worried about this mysterious partner Korra still tight-lipped about. Lin shared his concerns, but since she let her half-sister run off with the circus (and later pirates, apparently. Though Lin still wondered if Suyin was just messing with her on that one,) she didn't feel qualified to be judgmental about Korra's situation. "Too many ears. We'll talk to her tomorrow morning."
"You're right." The airbender sighed, looking across the hall to the table that Meelo and Bolin were having and eating contest, with Ikki cheering the earthbender, and Mako tried desperately not to look embarrassed about his sibling. "At least the kids are having fun. I hope Jinora is doing alright..."
A strong gust of wind blew the hall door open, drawing the attention of the entire room. Some guests thought there's a storm outside, but at the opened door stood only a girl, looking panicked until she spotted someone in the crowd.
Jinora bolted to her parents, ignoring all the people that were staring at her. She used her airbending to jump past some of the guests that were in her way, causing a little commotion in the hall.
"Jinora!? What are you doing here?"Tenzin asked, but his daughter ran pass him to her mother. Lin noticed Jinora's panic, almost horrified expression, so she knelt down to talk to her on face level.
"Jinora. What happened..."
"Amon is on the island!"
The girl's whisper drained color off Lin's face. She was about to asked back, but Jinora added, with her eyes began to tear up.
"He know she's the Avatar."
Lin immediately understood the need to whisper, and why Jinora chose to tell her, specifically. The chief of police processed all the information in a heartbeat as she stood up.
"Stay with your father." She then turned to Tenzin. "Do not go back to the island until I return."
With that, Lin ran out of the city hall, commandeered the nearest vehicle, and drove toward the dock, leaving a hall full of confused people. Tenzin, after his wife had left with only a few words, tried to ask Jinora what's happening. But the little girl didn't hear anyone, her small hands clutching on her chest. Chanting in her head until she couldn't hear anything else but her own thought.
"Please, Spirits, keep her safe. Just keep her safe. Just keep Korra safe!"
Amon muttered through his teeth, feeling like there're invisible strings attached to all his limbs, and pulled everything inward!
So this is what it feel like on the receiving end. Amon thought to himself. This is what he felt the night I left my family behind.
"Not my proudest skill, but no doubt, my deadliest one," Korra replied, still holding him on his knees. "It takes the challenge out of a fight, but it's useful when I really need to win."
"Should I...be honored...to witness the Avatar's...darkest...secret?" Amon asked, he didn't care about her answer, he just needed time to gather his own strength. The only reason she got the upper hand was because she caught him off guard.
He never would have thought the Avatar could use bloodbending.
"You're not the first person I used this on." Korra began to walk closer, and Amon could feel the effect getting stronger. The strings now felt like iron chains, threatening to pull his body inside out. "And unfortunately, like many people I used this on, you won't live to tell tale."
"You're...going...to kill me..."
"I wasn't planning to let you live since you know my true identity."
The Equalist leader detected a hint of regret in her voice, but with the casual way she said about his death, let him knew that this can't be her first time.
"...You're right." Korra decided she'll satisfy the curiosity of a dead man. At least he'll leave this world without unanswered questions.
"Enough that I no longer getting sick afterwards." She raised her hand, forcing Amon to look up at the sky, revealing his throat to her. Amon suddenly realized what she was planning.
"You're...one...cruel...woman, Avatar." He kept stalling for time. Even with his special bloodbending, it still took time to break off the Avatar's grip.
"On the contrary, bloodbending kills slowly, and painfully." Korra held one hand in her bending post, but the other hand sprung and caught one of her two remaining metal strip, wielding it like a knife. "I'll make it quick. Consider it mercy."
Before Korra could slit his throat, Amon let out a creepy chuckle like he had no fear of death. At first Korra thought it was his last attempt to die with dignity. Until...
Amon's hand shot up and caught her on the wrist, stopping the blade from reaching his throat.
"What!?" Korra was shocked beyond belief. She still used bloodbending to bind his body, but now Amon was slowly standing up, hand still on her wrist, and head slowly look down until the white mask stare down at Korra from his different height.
It was the first time Korra found that face...scary.
The mercenary tried using bloodbending again, in close range. She heard a crunching noise from his body, but Amon somehow managed to resist her control.
"How...How could you? Who are-!?"
Before she could finish, Amon's other hand reach out and chi-blocking her at the neck. Korra was so focus on her bending, she forgot the dodge or defend herself. The second she lost her bending power, Amon immediately twisted her body around and force Korra down on her knees, back to the same position the moment before. Except this time she had no bending, and could not struggle out of his grip.
Amon placed his thumb on her forehead. Korra's eyes widen, her instinct scream escape, but her body couldn't comply.
...to be continued...
Chapter 28: The Silent in the Night(5)
"What do you think happened?" Mako asked his brother after councilman Tenzin left the gala with his three children, one of which just broke into the hall without any explanation. Even councilman Tarrlok wasn't fast enough to catch up with the airbenders, and now just explain to other guests that the Air family had an...emergency.
"Don't know, bro," Bolin replied while scooping jade noodles into his small plate. Somehow he still managed to continue eating after his and Meelo's eating contest. "Maybe they realized they left a stove on?"
"That... isn't impossible." Mako scratched his neck. He caught a glimpse of chief Beifong's panicked expression, and that didn't sit well with him.
"Good evening, Bolin," a melodic voice called from behind, making both brothers turn around to see a smiling Asami Sato standing behind them. For some reason, unlike the other guests, she seemed unfazed by the Air family commotion.
"Ood-eve-ing..." Bolin swallowed his noodle before spoke again. "Good evening, Asami. Nice to see you here."
"Yeah, sorry I didn't greet you earlier. My father is in a little bit of a bad mood tonight. It’s really hard to slip away from him." The heiress then turned to Mako who looked hesitant to join the conversation. "Good evening to you too, Mako."
"G...Good evening, Miss Sato." The firebender almost went stiff when talking to Asami. The fact that she looked absolute gorgeous in her red evening dress didn't help.
"Please, you can call me Asami." The girl extended her hand, which Mako reluctantly accepted. Shaking hands, Mako was surprised that Asami had a firmer grip than he expected.
"So, you're a Task Squad. That's very impressive."
"It's nothing, ma'am...I mean Asami! I'm...just...doing what I can to help this city." Mako knew that he must look like a fool right now. Asami staring directly at him made him feel nervous for some reason, it must have been her beautiful eyes.
"Any interesting stories to share? Fighting the Equalists must have been thrilling."
" 'Thrilling' wouldn't be my choice of words..." the firebender replied. "We were just doing our job. I'm just glad they surrendered when they did..."
"Yeah! You taught those good-for-nothing Equalists what for!" Bolin jumped in, under the impression that he's helping his brother impress the girl. "You should have seen him! Mako could beat those Equalist with one hand behind his back!" he said even though he wasn't there, and Mako never told him any details about the raid.
"Really? Now you really need to tell me, Mako." Asami insisted curiously.
Mako was about to correct her and his brother that he never fought anyone with a hand behind his back, and that the details about the operation were classified, but all of sudden, Hiroshi Sato approached the trio with a stern look on his face. He put his hand on Asami's shoulder from behind, startling her a little.
"Asami, let's go. We're leaving."
The older man ignored his daughter as he looked at Mako and Bolin with...not a downright hostile, but clearly an unfriendly look.
"If you'll excuse us," Hiroshi nodded before taking Asami's hand and guide her out of the gala hall. The heiress gave them an apologetic look but still followed her father.
"What's up with him?" Bolin asked, not understanding the cold treatment Mr.Sato gave them.
"I'm not sure, but maybe Mr.Sato wasn't entirely on board with the Task Squad project."
"What? Why wouldn’t he want anyone to fight the Equalists?" Bolin then used all his brain power to come to the conclusion that he thought was completely mind-blowing. "You think Mr.Sato is in cahoots with the Equalist?"
"You can't just go around accusing people like that, Bolin!" Mako warned his brother. It was bad enough that the Equalists used the subject of discrimination to justify their wrong-doing, the worse it would be that any benders would prove the Equalists were right. "And by the way, the congressional already finished. If you're done eating, I think we should go home too."
"Wait! There's still another desert section I haven't tried!" Bolin took a new empty plate and resumed his unfinished supper around the hall. Mako could only sigh, thinking maybe he should get himself another glass of wine, too bad there wasn't anything stronger.
The ground beneath the two fighters shook before a pillar of earth shot up to separate them. Amon released his captive and backed away, letting Korra fell forward on the ground. She used what little strength she had left to look up and saw the chief of police on the other side of the garden, in her earthbending stance that still looked intimidating, even without her armor.
Amon tried rushing back to Korra, but Lin stomped the ground to create a wall of earth around the teenage girl. She then levitated a garden boulder and kicked it at Amon. The masked man dodged the attack easily, before fully turning his attention to the newcomer.
"Chief Beifong, I've been expecting you," Amon half lied, he knew that letting the little girl escape meant she would likely get help for the Avatar. What he didn't expect was Avatar Korra's ability to used bloodbending, and that it took him longer to deal with her than he thought.
"You are under arrest."
Lin summoned another set of pillars from the ground beneath Amon, but he stepped around with minimal movement, avoiding all her attacks before dashing at her.
As the two fighters engaged, Korra, while still lying on the ground, grabbed a piece of rock that fell off from when Lin summoned an earth wall. The rock piece had a sharp enough edge to use as a shiv...
Korra rolled onto her back, then stabbed the rock into her upper arm. Her blood splashed out while the pain slowly regained the control of the body that the chi-blocking stole. The Avatar twisted the rock inside her arm, more pain, faster recovery.
Lin threw the biggest boulder in the garden at Amon. A boulder the size of half a car not only missed the target, but the Equalist did a black flip into the air and landed standing on the boulder that sunk one-third into the ground.
"I thought you said you're arresting me, Chief Beifong." Amon said, stood now twice higher than his opponent. "This rock could've killed me."
"Never said I'd arrest you in one piece." Lin panted, slightly worried that this man could dodge everything she threw at him. Without her armor or gadgets, capturing him would prove difficult.
"Police brutality, as to be expected."
"Don't play a victim with me." She kept the conversation going to catch her breath."You intrude into my home. You can spin the story all you want, but we both know my aggression is justified."
"I suppose hiding the Avatar in your house isn't a crime?"
Amon let out a chuckle as he jumped down from the boulder. "For an officer, you do speak like a politician." He lift one hand up, moving his fingers in the way that made cracking noise. "Guess that happens when you married one."
A vein popped on Lin's forehead, she was about to attack again, to Amon's delight that he managed to make her lose her composure.
Before he could made his move however, Korra jumped out from behind the boulder and got Amon in her choke hold, similar to how she capture his lieutenant. Amon was taken by surprise, and even flinched a bit when the blood on Korra's arm splashed on his mask.
"Lin, now!" the Avatar shouted. She's yet to regain her bending, and even if she can move, her muscles are still tense from the chi-blocking. Choking Amon was the only thing she could do the restrain him.
"Just do it!"
Lin understood Korra's intentions, either with the lack of attachment to the teenage girl, or just being pragmatic in a fight, Lin stomped up a piece of earth and kicked it at the restrained Amon, knowing Korra was in the crossfire.
Despite the surprise, the Equalist recovered his focus fast. When seeing the attack coming, Amon spun around to used the Avatar on his back as a human shield. The piece of earth struck the teenage girl and sent them flying in separate directions, both taking a hit, but Korra got the worse of it.
Lin went to the Avatar. She lay on the ground, groaning from the pain on her back. Korra was bracing herself, but not for a direct hit.
Amon stood up slowly, prepared to attack both his enemies now that they let their guard down, but his attention was pulled when he saw a light from two powerboats coming toward the island, metal police boats.
"It seems I'll have to excuse myself."
Lin noticed the boats too, and part of her want to stop Amon from getting away, but the other part didn't want to leave the injured Korra lying here alone while she gave chase.
"You...can't...let him...get away." The Avatar spoke through her pain loud enough for even Amon to hear. "He knows I'm--"
"Your secret is safe with me."
The Equalist's words surprised them both. Amon wondered if he should explain his reason.He decided that if he didn't, they might do something rash that could alter his grand plan for the city.
"The last thing I want is for people to know that the Avatar has returned."
With that, Amon ran to the cliff side and jumped off. Both Lin and Korra thought he had lost his mind, but when Lin followed and looked down from the cliff, beneath her was nothing but a silent ocean full of reefs. No climbing gear, no boat, not even a water splash to be heard.
At the Republic City's empty old dock near the sewer tunnel that lead to the ocean, a figure stepped out of the water onto a rusty ladder that was covered in seaweeds and barnacles. The man was soaked from head to toe, but with one swift move of his arms, all the dripping water left his body, leaving his clothes completely dry. He then bent a small portion of water to heal the cutting wound on his hand.
Amon found a secluded spot to rest and remove his white mask. The man behind the mask let out a long sigh, tonight was more trouble than he thought, and the result of confronting the Avatar was...unexpected.
He beat her, that much he knew. Avatar Korra was stronger then he thought, even dangerous with her bloodbending, but that didn't matter to him. When the full moon faded, he'd pay her a visit again, and finish what he started.
Amon inspected his mask, there's still a bit of her blood inside the eyes holes...
The thought of red substance drew on him, as his logical side celebrated a small victory he had tonight, the emotional side lingered on something...not so positive.
He had been down this path to equality since before the news of the Avatar's disappearance, before that, he thought the Avatar would be nothing more than a spoiled brat, a child prodigy growing up with all the praise of people around her. A chosen one, who knew nothing of reality, only the delusion she was raised by. Someone he'd break as soon as they crossed path, and he might even enjoy doing it.
But after her disappearance, after she was just...gone. Dropping off the face of the earth. Some even thought she was already dead, that the White Lotus tried to cover up the Avatar's death until they could find the next one. Amon didn't care much for any conspiracy theories, but he did wonder from time to time that, if the Avatar wasn't already dead, what kind of person she had become?
The way she bloodbent him.
The way she was ready to slit his throat, and considering that a mercy.
The way she injured herself just so she could get back up and continue fighting.
The way her blood splashed on his mask.
She reminded him of a feral wolf that would bite its own leg off to escape a trap, and still attack the hunter because it was hungry.
The emotional side made Amon's passive face shift into a frown expression. In hindsight, he would rather fight a toothless mutt the Avatar could have been.
After all, he never saw a wild animal he was sure could never bite back.
"Korra, these wounds?--"
"These were my doing." Korra told Lin when she saw a stabbing wound on both her arms and legs. "A lot of people didn't know, but you can lessen the effect of chi-blocking by stabbing or cutting yourself to regain muscles control. It hurts, but it works."
Lin helped Korra back on her feet. The bleeding wounds looked scary but it wasn't that bad, and the impact of getting hit by the boulder didn't leave any permanent damage. Korra insisted that she would be fine after she regained her bending and could heal herself. It seem the stabbing technique regain muscle control, but not bending power.
"Stop with the compliments, officer. I'm blushing."
Seeing how the girl went back to sarcastic remarks this fast, Lin slightly regretted not leaving the girl to chase after Amon.
The pair went to check on the unconscious air acolytes around the temple, and Naga who could stand but can barely walk, Korra told her to sit a and wait for them in the garden.
"By the way, were you the one that sent Jinora to the city hall to call for help?" Lin asked as they went down to the dock.
"Oh, so she got there safely then? Thanks Spirits." Korra replied with a rare smile of genuine relief. "I just told her to leave the island while I fought Amon. She was the who insisted on bringing back help. Thanks for coming by the way. You saved my ass back there, I owe you one."
"No...Thanks...for protecting her." Lin stumbled on her words a bit. At first she thought Jinora might have escaped on her own, but if it was Korra who stayed to fight Amon and let her daughter get away, that's a different story. "We're even."
"If you say so."
The two powerboats approached the Air Temple Island. Lin stood on the dock while Korra sat on a bench near a lamppost. Six figures stepped on land as soon as the boats docked. Five of them were Lin's officers at the gala.
"Chief!" they all called out to her with worry. "We saw you suddenly left the gala, and councilman Tenzin didn't tell us anything. Is something wrong?"
While she appreciated her subordinates' concern, Lin focus was more on the sixth person who came with them, the one who's now giving her fake concern expression. And she knew it was fake because...she just knew it.(Years of policing had given her a sixth sense)
"What are you doing here, Tarrlok?"
"Chief Beifong! You left in a hurry after your daughter came to you at the hall. Tenzin refused to answer me anything, so I was worry. What happened?"
Lin looked at the six people in front of her. It wasn't like she could keep this a secret anyway. Too many acolytes got attacked by Amon. Granted it, none of them were injured, but she couldn't just ask all of them to keep quiet about what happened.
"Amon was here."
"What!?" all of them answered in unison, before Tarrlok noticed Korra sitting alone not too far. He walked past Lin to the teenage girl.
"By Aang! What happen to you!?"
Tarrlok shouted when he saw Korra with blood-soaked clothes, drawing attention of the others.
"Oh, these? It was me--"
"Did Amon do this to you!? That monster! Even non-bender isn't safe from him!"
Korra knew that the man's emotional outcry wasn't sincere, but the five officers didn't seem to share her opinion. They looked horrified when they saw the wounds on her arms, and many stains of blood on her clothes.
"It's not what it looks like. All of these wounds were my doing. I stabbed myself with a rock."
"And why did you do that?" One of the officers asked.
"I was...chi-blocked by Amon."
"Then my point still stands. These so call 'Equalists' would even attack their fellow non-bender just because she wasn't agreeing with them!" Tarrlok turned to speak with the five officers. "This is what we have been fighting, my fellow Task Squad. If you still have any doubt about this duty, then have it no more."
Korra was amazed that Tarrlok, after seeing her as a victim, the first thing he did was making a rousing speech for his own agenda. The guy didn't even ask if she was alright. Councilman Tarrlok was truly born to be a politician.
"We have first aid kit in our boat. I'll go get it," one of the officers said, and Korra saw no reason to refuse him, her wounds were starting to get itchy anyway. The rest of the police turned to Lin, seemingly none of them took what Tarrlok said that seriously, at least until it was confirmed by their respected Chief of Police.
"You want us to do anything, chief? Are there other casualties?"
"Many air acolytes were rendered unconscious by Amon. I checked on them and found no injuries, but let’s call med-team in just in case."
"And since Amon was here, the island is considered a crime scene. Call in a team to investigate and collect any evidence too."
They all saluted Lin and went to work. Tarrlok huffed with annoyance that he got ignored. Guess there's still some people that wouldn't fall for him, but that only meant he had to choose a right audience.
Lin walked up to Korra who got her wounds treated by one of her officer, and after a close inspection, he too agree that the wounds weren't as serious as they looked.
"Are you alright?"
"I'm fine, your boy has a very gentle touch, Chief."
"You're welcome." The male officer replied while warping Korra's upper arm in bandage.
"I'm gonna go back to the city to get Tenzin and the kids."
"Tell Ikki Naga is fine. She's probably worried."
Lin nodded, she turned and walked back to Tarrlok, asking him if he could accompany her back to the city, really she just wanted him off her island.
"It was brave of you to face Amon by yourself." The officer spoke to Korra, thinking he could distract her from the pain when he cleaned her other arm.
"I didn't get a chance to run, so I don't know if you can call that bravery. Still, the guy lived up to his reputation. You guys are gonna have a hard time dealing with him and his goons."
"Don't worry, the metalbending police is doing everything in its power to bring Amon and the Equalists to justice. You can count on us."
"...Sure. You'll get them..."
While the officer was focusing on her other wound, Korra slipped a drop of blood from her leg on her finger. With a bit of concentration, she levitated the blood and swirled it around her finger. She flicked the red drop away before anyone could notice her bloodbending. She thought, while watching the blood splash on the concrete dock floor, leaving a tiny barely visible red stain in the full moonlight.
'...if I don't get a rematch with him first, that is.'