Chapter 1: A Long Night Ahead
It was a night under the full moon.
That night, she found her destiny, not bringing balance to the world, but being the embodiment of vengeance.
All of a sudden, she was 5 again. Fire, blood, explosion and screams. She could never unlive the night.
"Run, Korra!" It was Tonraq, her father and the chief of the Southern Water Tribe. He was a skilled waterbender, but still no match to the attackers: a group of five, one of whom his brother. The tall woman shot explosion from her head, he solidified the water into ice, attempting to shield the attack, surrounded, he had nowhere to run.
Her leg felt as if they were made from lead. Her eyes followed a trail of blood, at the end of the trail lies her mother's cold body. How could she run? She is the Avatar, she has the power to bend water, fire and earth, she has all the power in the world… Interrupted by a scream, she followed the voice, she found the short woman's ice blade impaling her father's chest... And yet, she couldn't protect her very family.
"I'm sorry to end this way, brother. All of these won't happen if you just hand in the Avatar." said Unalaq, the pretentious man she used to call uncle. HE WILL PAY. She could feel her heart pumping, blood running through her veins. WATER, THERE'S WATER IN THE BLOOD, AND THERE'S BLOOD IN HIS BODY. She knew well enough what's needed to be done. Without hesitation, she bent the blood in her uncle's body. It was a success, she could see his body twitching, with utter fear on his face, he squeezed these words out of his mouth, "bl-ood-bender…"
A muscular man, the only non bender among the attackers, faltered quite a bit. "Listen Korra, your uncle means no harm to you. Please put him down and go with us, I can ensure your safety."
"Safety? You killed my mum and dad and I'm now supposed to trust you? " Her voice became coarse due to extreme anger, and yet she still managed to keep her composure. MY FATHER GETS KILLED BY ICE, THIS IS AN EYE FOR AN EYE. She froze Unolaq's blood, little spikes of frozen crimson pierced through his eyes, tongue and skin, like needles poking out of a bag.
The murderers took several steps away from her. Their leader, the non bender, had finally raised enough courage to take a step forward. "We will end this evil thing right here, right now, let the cycle be broken for good." They approached her; she felt no fear, no regret, her eyes burning with the flame of hatred. THIS CANNOT BE THE END, I HAVE YET TO MAKE YOU SUFFER.
"Freeze!" The shout came from the tribal worriers. Within seconds, they secured Korra from her enemies. An old woman passed through the crowd, with hands on her back while facing the assassins:" Who are you? Why are you doing this?"
"With all due respect Master Katara, the very thing you're protecting is responsible for Unalaq's brutal death." The non bender replied, pointing at the bloody corpse lying in snow.
"During an attempt to assassinate the Chief of the Southern Water Tribe and his family?" Katara glanced at the Tonraq and Senna's body, "This is a righteous act of self-defence."
"Then by tomorrow morning you will hear the Chief of Northern Water Tribe declaring war on you."
Katara answered him with her attacks, thin blades of ice that could hardly be seen. The short woman blocked it with her makeshift water arms centimetres away from slicing the non bender's throat.
Korra's eyes were glowing, not from the Avatar State but from fascinating Katara's power.
Two of the warriors took her to safety. Again and again, she couldn't stop looking back to the battleground, she wanted to see, so desperately, to see these murderers paying for what they had done, she must see it with her own eyes. But the last thing she saw they were no longer here; they had fled.
Korra woke up from the afternoon nap. After all these years, it still haunts her as nightmares. She'd better catch up some sleep before she rendezvouses with Asami Sato, who will be confronting her father tonight. She had shown her the proof of him making weapons for the Equalists. Never did she thought she would be some kind of hero, considering what she has done and what she will be doing in her pursuit to power. Stop, she reminded herself, you're now a waterbender and a triad boss of Republic City, and you, you have a long night ahead.
Chapter 2: Amon the Bloodbender
At first, Asami insisted on confronting Hiroshi alone. Korra managed to convince the nonbender to go together with suspicion of Amon being a bloodbender, so she told her friend to wait until the next full moon. Korra knew, after all of this, Asami probably wouldn't think they're friends anymore, but she still does. She had to earn Asami's trust: she has grand plans for the future and their collaboration will make it much easier.
Korra shut off the alarm: 9:00PM, time to go. She failed to catch up on more sleep, sleep was not needed anyway. She could feel every single muscle fibre in her body energized by the full moon. She had once went in disguise to see the "Revelation": Amon's techniques to neutralize bending was too similar to bloodbending to ignore, from his hand placement on the victims corresponding to the pressure points on chi path, to the way he redirects bending attacks: that man can bloodbend without a full moon! But no matter, the full moon will nullify his advantage.
Korra considered herself as a skilled bloodbender. She could bloodbend packs of polarbear dogs with a few moves of her fingers. And being the student of Katara means she was more than familiar with healing, she discovered a unique technique based on water healing...
Asami still had a skeptical attitude towards her. Korra was not surprised: for sure, she proved Future Industry's CEO stores the weapon for the Equalists in his company's warehouses, but why would anyone trust a Triad Boss over their own family?
At an attempt to convince her teammates to fight against the Equalists, she had no choice but telling them the waterbending pro athlete they think they knew is also a triad member. But that was far from the whole story. Korra is "White Flame", the infamous Grand Boss of Triads in Republic City, who killed "Lightning Bolt Zolt" with her signature white fire and superior lightning bending skills, who assimilated all other triads under the Triple Threat in merely two years. Of course she couldn't tell them, that would pin her down as a world's missing Avatar right on the spot.
"Let's go." She said, watching Asami entering the pin number of the garage's gate. In the garage sat some new satomobile models in progress, but nothing special. Hiroshi was nowhere to be found. Korra closed her eyes, laying her hand against the metal wall. Her seismic sense is far from mastery, her "teacher" Suyin has never perfected that skill and it is not quite useful in military combat, but still good enough to detect the vibration from a huge underground compound beneath the floor.
"He must be in a separate compound. Find the secret entrance."
Asami nodded, and soon they found an elevator. They remain silent during the whole trip going underground.
Korra had seen a lot of weapons in her former years at the Earth Republic -- Suyin wasn't granted the title of Great Uniter for nothing, as a prominent General of the former Earth Kingdom she is backed up with battalions after battalions of mechatanks and airship bombardiers -- but it still startled her finding so many weapons that is enough to equip an army concentrated in one bunker. They proceeded to Hiroshi, not surprisingly, along with Amon.
"Father, why? You promised me you have nothing to do with the Equalists!"
"Listen Asami, when your mother was killed by a firebender, I promised her that she will be avenged. I promised to her one day benders will never be able to treat us like second class citizens." Hiroshi took in a deep breath, voice quivering. "It hurts me so much to see you befriend a bunch of benders."
"Step aside, Miss Sato, let me equalize this waterbender." Amon said, striding towards Korra.
"Stop!" Asami shield her from Amon. "Father, you have a lot to explain."
"I see." Amon said in a monotone. "Hiroshi, if you're loyal to our cause, you must face any obstacle along the way, even if it turns out to be your family."
Hiroshi's eyebrows twisted into a knot. "NO. I will NEVER hurt my daughter."
"Fine then. You're not loyal to our cause. Therefore you become an obstacle to be removed." Without lifting a finger, he launched Hiroshi into the air.
Korra lifted her arms, fighting for control over Hiroshi's body with all her might. A few seconds later, she was able to overpower Amon's bloodbending, and put Hiroshi back onto the ground. All was well until she heard a crack: Amon broke his neck. "Shit..." She realized she had underestimated her enemy.
Chapter 3: The Truth
Asami had no time for grief; the masked man lunged to her. Korra tried to control Amon's muscles through bending his blood. It only slowed him down for a few seconds, but long enough for her to slip on the shock glove into her hand from her father's body. She switched it on, set the power level to the highest, and threw a punch aiming at his throat.
The masked bloodbender avoided her attack with ease, and threw his fist into her sternum. She stumbled to the ground, body crunched, struggling to breathe, waiting for more pain to come, but it didn't. He moved onto Korra.
"You are a skilled bloodbender, but we are not on the same level. You can't resist my bloodbending for long." The Equalist leader said.
"Long enough to put you down."
Korra answered him with scorching white flame. They exchanged a few attacks, and soon she realized she couldn't land a single strike on him. A tingling sensation on her limbs whenever she attacks, just enough to let her miss the target. Bloodbending, so subtle that most benders couldn't notice, yet so powerful to bypass her defense -- a highly trained bloodbender's defense.
She could feel Amon staring at her like a prey through his masks.
"You surprised me waterbender. Something I have never suspected, you were at the same time, 'The White Flame' of Republic City. Or, do you prefer to be called 'Avatar'?"
Breaking out from the five minutes of straight up intensive fighting, both of them were panting.
"Surprised you imbecile? I got more."
She tried not to talk too much, she needed to recover her stamina. She saw Asami at the corner of her sight: recovered from the decapacitating blow, staring at her in utter disbelief.
No time to explain, they had a bigger problem to deal with. No way she could defeat him here: everything is made from Platinum, the walls are made from bendable material, but that would bury all of them alive. They needed to get outside. Right now, her only hope to end this fight fell to a waterbending technique, she had never used it in real combat before. But exceptional circumstances require exceptional measurements, this was hit or miss, with her secret and her bending at stake.
She hurled an arc of fire to block Amon's sight, she grabbed Asami and together they ran to the elevator. The moment they got in, she metalbent the elevator upwards as fast as she could. Amon took a huge leap --clearly enhanced by bloodbending, he jumped seven metres high-- and held onto the edge of the metal contraption. Thank the spirits, he didn't get into the elevator; he was a few centimetres away when the door closed.
The moment the elevator opened its doors, they sprinted to the exit.
"Here!" Asami said.
She saw the garage's backdoor on the corner, this would lead them to the mansion's front-yard. Streams of fire, and metal sheets on the satomobile, she hurled everything she could bend at Amon, having no idea if any of these attacks actually hit the target.
As soon as they set foot on the public street, she stopped firebending and earthbending altogether. Not today, it was not the time, her identity must remain a secret. Amon couldn't afford to bloodbend in the public, unless he wanted to bankrupt his "revolution". It was past midnight, few people walked the street, but as long as these random citizens stayed on site, he wouldn't bloodbend.
"Go to Yue Bay." She screamed at Asami.
"Now I'll show you people who Amon really is."
She bent the sea water, the noise caught everyone's attention within a few blocks. She froze the water, raising a column of ice. Every time she moved her hand, she sliced a thin piece --hardly visible to the eyes-- from the ice column. The ice cut deep into nearby buildings' walls, like blades. Katara taught her this move, and swore to the spirits this was effective!
Amon couldn't use his bending, so he was forced into a defensive position, barely escaping the icy projectiles. This created the perfect distraction. As he was completely occupied, she lured him into closing the distance, on the meanwhile preparing for a water tentacle.
Splash! The water engulfed him in whole, emitting a blue light that resembled water-healing, except it was not healing. His body fell limp before she hurled him into the water.
People exclaimed out of pure shock: a waterbender killed the seemingly invincible leader of the Equalists!
At least that's what they thought, until a vortex of water rose from the sea. It was Amon without his mask: instead of the burning scars he claimed to be the work of a firebender, his face was completely intact, and he's a waterbender!
People roared in rage. "Liar!" "Get away from our city!"
He opened his mouth, but his words were submerged into the noise of his own waterbending. After a few minutes, he disappeared at the horizon.
"You have a lot of explanations to do, Korra."
Asami didn't look impressed, it was clearly written on the face.
"I promise I will, but not here. We must leave before the police arrive."
She bent water from the sea, turning it into a mist, a thick fog covered the harbour in a matter of seconds.
When people hear sirens, they would have vanished a long time ago.
Chapter 4: Confession
"I will answer every question from you." Korra stared into her eyes. "This time it's the whole truth, I promise."
Confessions from the "White Flame"? Calling this unusual was putting it lightly. Asami didn't know what to do.
"You're the very person who knows my secrets. I have no choice but to be honest, if I want to earn your trust."
So she demanded. "I want to know the whole story."
The Triad Boss nodded, "as you wish:
I am the daughter of Chief Tonraq and lady Senna. Both were killed by a group of people led by my uncle. I was five at the time, and that was the first time I bloodbend. Nobody knew I was the Avatar, and I wanted to keep it that way."
Korra paused, seemingly lifted a corner of her mouth, "I was brought up and taught by Master Katara," while sipping her cup of morning tea. It was already midday to be accurate, they passed out as soon as they arrived at her house. Until they were woken by Korra's concerned assistant, who couldn't find their Grand Boss at the meeting.
"In fact, the water bending I use to defeat Amon is inspired from water healing, but reversed: healing has to do with opening up the chi channels of the human body, what I did instead was blocking them, and it paralyzes the person. Katara used to tell me stories about her encounter with the first bloodbender Hemma, and I immediately went obsessed with it. So I practice it on every full moon. In secret, of course."
Indeed, Katara was the very person who outlawed bloodbending.
"And that's how the Civil War broke out?"
"Yes. Except, it wasn't exactly civil. The Earth Kingdom invaded our land near the northern border." Korra squeezed the teacup so hard that it was broken into pieces.
Asami jerked back, creating more distance between them. "How did you learn fire and earth bending?" She knew better than sticking to the same topic.
"As long as I could remember, I can bend all the elements except air. So all I needed to do is refining my skills. I messed around the order on purpose to avoid any attention."
The Avatar bent the water and pieces of china, throwing them into the garbage bin. "I went to the Fire Nation and learnt the basics from working for the local triads, then I double crossed them and used the money to study at the Royal Academy. Certain techniques caught my eyes: lightning generation and rage fueled firebending. That's how I got my signature white flame, it burns hotter; well, not as effective as the blue flames of Azula the Crazy Princess, but good enough to kill Lighting Bolt Zolt and rule the triads."
She waited for the next part of the story, instead it was a long, awkward pause, until the Avatar broke the silence.
"Next place, the Earth… whatever it was called four years ago. I joined the military to learn earthbending and metalbending, fighting is the best way to perfect my skills."
Korra was avoiding details.
"If you joined Suyin's army just after Hou Ting's assassination, why would you leave? Why would you come to Republic City?" She said.
Korra loosened the top button of her suit. "Let's just say... how do I put it into words? ...I have to leave because I did a number on their Special Forces."
She gasped upon the implication of these words. "You don't mean... you were only seventeen!"
Too much information, it would take her some time to digest.
"Suyin was one of the Generals who invaded my homeland. She will pay. Two years ago, I arrived at Republic City with this goal in mind."
The Avatar looked calm as usual, but she saw fury behind these blue eyes.
"If we have control over the United Republics, we have control of the United Forces, the most versatile army on this planet. I expected it will take me years to get there,"
Korra stood up from the chair, looking at her with a glare that could melt stones.
"But with you in the picture, Miss Sato, we're able to achieve this in months." "Miss Sato, can I trust you with my secrets?"
That sounded more like an invitation than a threat. How could she betray the very person who saved her life? No, never, from this day and on, she would treat the Triad Boss as a friend, whatever the public might say.
"Yes. You have my promise." She said.
"Good. I invite you to join our meeting this afternoon. I have my whole vision to share."
Chapter 5: Alliance
Asami knew she had a lot to do. They had the remaining Equalists and the Police Chief to deal with. The death of the Future Industry CEO and the Equalist Leader being exposed as a waterbender were no joke to the political dynamic of Republic City. But instead of anticipation, she was fueled by a burning ambition. After the "White Flame" provided her with a plan, the power vacuum after the fall of the Equalist was nothing but a huge opportunity. Thanks to her father expanding Future Industry during the Water Tribe Civil War, her company has quite some influence on Northern Water Tribe politics. When they controlled the United Republics, no nation could stop them.
"Before I lobby the City Council for an election, we have to first assimilate the Equalists." Korra told her during their meeting last afternoon, "these Chi blockers are valuable assets to our establishment, and if left unchecked, a huge threat in the future."
"How are you going to do that?" She asked, "They're sworn enemy to your triads."
"You, Miss Sato. You are the answer. Your father was a prominent figure among the Equalists, and their largest funder. With Amon now being exposed, their organization will fall apart. They need a leader, as a non bender and Amon's victim, you are the leader they want."
And here she is, delivering her very first speech to the Equalists in her garage.
She switched on the microphone. "Last night, I lost my father."
"For years, Hiroshi Sato followed Amon's ideal and empowered you with his weapons. However, his loyalty received nothing but betrayal." She glanced at the glass coffin in the centre of the room, and loosened her collars. "Indeed, his untimely pass is a great loss to me. But you've lost even more, the Equalists had lost its leader, and faith!"
The nonbenders roared in rage, they all knew what happened in Yue Bay two days ago.
"Amon lied to us all, his so-called 'life stories', 'chosen by the spirits', 'scarred by a firebender'. Every single thing this man told us is a lie. He is not only a waterbender, but a waterbender who can bloodbend! He broke my father's neck with his bloodbending in front of my eyes!"
The crowd was so furious that they were almost at the edge of losing control when she gestured them to stop.
"I know, you might feel like losing all the hope, but here's what I have learnt: Amon's sense of equality is a lie, true equality cannot be achieved until we non benders have a seat in the City Council. And how do we achieve this? Popularity." She shifted the speech's direction.
"This means we must gain support from everyone, even benders!"
The crowd fell in utter silence, of course they would be surprised by her taking on such a pragmatic approach.
"And right now, our leader is a fraud, benders fear us, even our non bender brothers and sisters regard us as a group of crazy extremists. Who is going to support us?" She paused for a moment, letting her words sink in.
"This has to change. Remember why you joined the Equalist: you're tired of being bullied by the triads, tired of having no say in the politics. You did not sign up for lingering on the streets past midnight, attacking random benders you don't even know!"
"Our goal is to get people to like us, that alone gives the government enough pressure to put us into the City Council. So we have to stop the war on benders, and collaborate with whoever necessary to stop the triad activity." She took a deep breath, "including the metalbending police."
"I hereby give an ultimatum to the traids, they have a week to cease all crime. And we will be the true protectors of the city, we will not hesitate to eliminate these criminals!"
The crowd started cheering, Asami knew her speech can come to an end.
"72 hours? Are you sure you don't need me to buy you more time? I told them one week." Back to the house of the White Flame, she informed Korra with the success of her speech.
"That's very considerate of you, Miss Sato, but won't be necessary. I already informed all my business partners to close their branches in the United Republics, and look for business opportunities in oversea markets."
Korra produced an iconic white flame in her hand, "anyone who fails to comply will feel the burn, or find the police knocking on their doors," and smiled at her. "Almost forgot, your Equalists can do whatever they see as fit to those unlawful business."
She imitated the way Korra speaks. "That is much appreciated, 'White Flame'." Until she could no longer hold back her laughs, "must you be this 'formal' all the time? How did you train yourself to maintain your composure while doing all of the doublespeaks?"
"Talking to Chief Beifong gives me all the practice I need."
They laughed until they were out of breath.
Korra's smile faded. "There is one thing I can't bend as an earthbender: Platinum, but someone else can. Please be prepared, our futures won't be easy."
"Even the Platinum-bender can't destroy an entire army." She said.
"Yes she can, Asami. That's how she survived."
Somebody knocked on the door, interrupting their conversation.
"Come in." Korra said.
The man wore a pair of glasses, holding a deadpan expression. When he opened his mouth, his voice sounds as dead as his eyes. "Boss, Lin Beifong is outside."
"Let her in Ryu, say nothing about the presence of our guest."
The man nodded and left.
Korra opened a hidden door behind the wooden panel wall. "Get in, don't make any sound and don't come out until I told you to. I bet she's going to ask me about your father's case."
When Lin entered, she was sitting behind her desk, alone.
Korra lifted a corner of her mouth. "How can I assist you, Chief Beifong?" She gestured to the empty chair in front of her desk. "Would you like to take a seat?"
She needed not to worry, her entire house was covered with wooden floor, Lin wouldn't be able to tell if she were lying by sensing heartbeat through the ground.
"Lin scoffed. "Pass that. Were you present at the night of Hiroshi's death? Did you see anything?"
"No, Chief Beifong. I was listening to the pro-bending match on the radio, Ryu can be the witness. Maybe Miss Sato can provide you with more valuable information?"
"I went to her mansion earlier; she was nowhere to be seen."
Lin fixed her eyes onto Korra.
Korra couldn't help to remember, Asami was only a wall away from them. She forced herself to focus on something else, couldn't afford to show any hesitation.
"I wouldn't know then, unfortunately, I can't help you." She said.
"Beware, I've been crushing the triads these days. Don't get killed, I still want to arrest you."
She smiled upon hearing these words. She set these triads up for refusing her order, Lin was merely playing her games.
"Thank you for your concern on my safety, Chief Beifong. But I have to disappoint you with the second matter, for I am an honest businesswoman."
Lin left without a word.
She gave a gentle knock on the wall. "Asami, you can come out now."
The nonbender let out a relieved sigh. "Wow, I'm impressed, if Lin found out I'm here, we will both be in serious trouble." "I should probably go home, Lin's only going to be more suspicious if she keeps finding me missing."
"Wise move. Tell her some truth, like Amon killing your father. You know what to do with the rest. At the meanwhile, I will bribe those politicians in the City Council for an election, so take advantage of your conversation with her."
"Trust me, keep updated with the newspapers, you won't be disappointed."
In the next few months, Asami appeared frequently on Republic City's newspapers: "CEO Assassinated, Equalist Leader Deemed Responsible", "Equalist Leader Threatened My Father for Funds", "Unsung Hero: Waterbender Exposes Amon's Identity, Saving Future Industry's New CEO", "Equalists Stop The War Against Benders, Starting A War Against Crimes", "CEO of Future Industry Collaborates with Equalists to Stop Triad Activities", "Crimes Go Down by 80%, Police Chief Said", "City Council Voting 4:1 for Election", "Election to be held in 3 Months", "Asami Sato: First Nonbender Candidate"
"What on earth is going on here?" The fire ferret on Bolin's shoulders squirmed under his exclaim. "No wonder I haven't seen Asami in these days, she's been busy fighting crimes and running for the president!"
"The only thing I care about is, since she somehow decided to work with the Equalists, if she would continue to fund our team."
"Don't worry about it Mako, of course she will! It says on the newspaper, she's doing this to stop the triads. Besides, she's our friend!"
Mako sighed, putting his palm against his forehead.
"Almost forgot, where is Korra? Haven't seen her for a while."
"I don't know. Could she be the one mentioned in the newspapers?" He said.
"Very possible, she can bend water into a mist. She did that in our championship match to impair our opponents' vision, remember?"
His brother could remember everything in detail.
"There's no picture on the page so I guess we will have to ask her in person."
"I guess you're right." He said. "Too bad she hates the camera."
He couldn't figure out what leads to Korra's aversion to cameras. The waterbender always avoids the journalists, even when they won the final. But to him, on the other hand, the flashing light of a camera could be even more valuable than the medal.
Mako tapped him on his shoulders, "We'd better get ready. Asami phoned me earlier, she will meet us 7:30 this evening at Narook's Seaweed Noodlery for our late due championship celebration."
"Hey, that also means I can ask Korra if she's the one on the newspaper!" He threw his hands into the air.
"Yea right…" Mako sighed, handing him a jacket. "let's go Bo."
"Long time no see everybody. We were fighting the Equalists." Korra said, "And now Asami is running for the president."
"I knew it! You're the waterbender who defeated Amon!"
"Hush Bolin, you're going to bring a bunch of journalists!"
"Why do you try so hard to avoid being famous anyway?" Mako said.
Clearly, she had raised the firebender's suspicion.
Asami looked towards her direction. She shook her head ever so subtly. Not the full story, not to them.
"I will tell you after you answer my question: are you interested in being the new government's cabinet members?" She said.
Ryu is one of the new airbenders after Harmonic Convergence in the original timeline, but in this timeline he definitely managed to get out of his basement by himself, working as Korra's assistant. Because people grow up faster in a war infested world...
"The election is two weeks away, and today we have a big event, Republic City. The huge face-off between our most popular candidates will start at mid-day today! Stay tuned for we will be broadcasting the entire conversation between Asami Sato and Raiko! Or go to City Park to watch in person! This is Shiro Shinobi, now we will be reporting the newest information on Probending: Our new champion, The Fire Ferret, will not compete in the coming season…"
"He totally reported it like a probending match, and he gets right back onto probending after that."
She isn't usually a big fan of sarcasm, but today she took over Mako's role in the conversation.
"Well, he is a commenter on probending match after all." He raised an eyebrow, "what do you expect?"
"I think you're right." She said.
"Korra, what's on your mind? You look distracted."
Asami must've noticed her unease.
"I've been having repeated dreams. A giant, white kite with the voice of a man. I don't like the way he talks to me." She swallowed the other half of the story: Avatar Aang has also been talking to her. Of course, she couldn't tell this in front of Mako and Bolin, her identity must remain a secret.
She put on a quirky smile. She couldn't afford to make her friend worry, Asami's debate with Raiko is crucial for the election. They've been planning so much for this, and now Asami is the perfect candidate, she wouldn't allow them to fail.
"Anyway, he looks stupid and has an annoying voice, and I found him somehow resembles Raiko. That's been bothering me, next time I will freeze his mouth."
Asami laughed. "Don't worry, I will freeze his mouth for good."
Seeing her friend charged with confidence and motivation, Korra lifted the corner of her mouth.
Midday. City Park.
"You would fail to even represent most people in Republic City, how are you able to represent people from entire United Republics?"
"If you're right, you would still be no better than me since both of us are non benders."
Getting personal real quick, huh? Asami knew he was referring to her position as Future Industry's CEO and her association with the Equalists, but she is not going to play by his rules.
"The statistics easily prove you wrong, despite being a place of diverse elemental bending, at least 2/3 of the United Republics' population are non benders. I wouldn't trust someone who didn't know the basic information of population breakdown for claiming himself as a good representation to the people of our nation."
Raiko's taunting tactics had failed, but he still maintained his composure. She expected more to come.
"Rumours have said Mr. Sato was associated with the Equalists, what is your comment on such matter?"
He added more fuel into the fire.
What a dirty move, bringing out my father's death? Not a chance.
She replied with a smile on her face. "The same comment on my interview with the journalists, which is also reported in the newspaper: 'my father has never been associated with the Equalists. Amon, proven to be a bloodbender, brutally murdered my father because he wouldn't fall for his threat.'"
"Amon threatened him to fund his organization, Mr. Raiko. I witnessed him breaking my father's neck with my own eyes. These people should support their opinion with facts."
The audience applauded, apparently impressed by her response to Raiko's conspiracy.
"Then why would you decide to fund these bunch of extremists knowingly with their leader being responsible for your father's death?"
She saw sweat appeared on Raiko's forehead. He had pulled out all his cards, and now it's her turn to fight back.
"After Amon fled, their new leader Lieutenant, a non bender, claiming to return to the organization's original goal: stopping triad activities." She said,
"my father, a non bender, grew up in the Dragon Flats Borough, an active triad territory, was no stranger to the traids' cruelty. They took away his wife. I promised to them I will do whatever necessary to stop them from terrorizing Republic City, and it requires me to abolish personal feelings and collaborate with anyone with the same goal."
She'd better end the discussion about her aliment with the Equalists on an reassuring note. She needed to eliminate any fear within the bender population.
"As their largest funder, I could revoke my collaboration with them at any time if they ever decide to slip back into their old ways, and I will not hesitate to do whatever necessary in assisting the metalbending police and bring them to justice."
They would never know, Lieutenant is merely the puppet figure. She is, in fact, the real leader of the Equalists.
"Do you have any other questions, Mr. Raiko?"
"No, Miss Sato, now you are free to ask me any questions."
It's pay back time.
"Mr Raiko, your campaigns are funded by Cabbage Corps, is that correct?" She warmed up for the attacks.
"And I remember your propaganda criticizes my position as Future Industry's CEO, claiming I'm incapable of representing the people, is that true?"
There was no chance for Raiko to deny, she could see his slogans just across the street.
"Yes." He said.
She wouldn't be holding back.
"With my position, I have full control over my speech during the campaign and the policies I will be ruling out during my presidency. Can you say the same considering the relationship with your funders?"
"People of United Republics, I ask for nothing but your trust. I will make this country safe for its people, secured from foreign powers and prosperous in its economy."
She wouldn't give him the chance to expand his propaganda.
"But you have no experience or achievement in any of these areas. Whereas I have plenty of experience with United Republics' economy during the years of running Future Industry. And since my collaboration with the Equalists, crimes in Republic City are down by 80%. What do you offer to make people trust your ability as their president?"
Raiko gave no answer. She knew he already lost the election.
I switched Raava's and Vaatu's voices and certain personality traits. So in this timeline Raava has an evil sounding male voice. Also, the Avatar spirit isn't your stereotypical embodiment of light and peace, more on that in later parts of the book.
"We can finally get a good night's rest." Asami yawned, "I'm tired of delivering speeches all day for the last 2 weeks."
"Weren't you excited? You're… the president… now!" Bolin was drunk, obviously.
"Well yes and no. We're going to be real busy real soon." She had long ditched her formal attires for a cozier outfit. "I'm actually fine with that. What I can't stand is all of the formalities."
"Korra can do all the doublespeak for you." Mako said, sipping on his glass of champagne, "she can talk like a lawyer."
She heard Korra chuckle.
"You've almost forgot that I'm a triad boss, didn't you? No, I can't be in the eyes of the public, yet."
Asami never saw her friend touching the champagne. Booze doesn't mix well with a Southern Water Tribe gut, was the reason "The White Flame" gave them. Asami understood -- one mishap, Korra puts her secret on the line.
"Crimes are down these days. What are you going to do with your association?" Mako said.
"I quit. Ryu is now in charge of my business. Good luck to Lin finding any evidence."
She saw Korra pursed her lips.
"You two will be ‘the face’ of the new government. And with my skill set, I'd be more useful in the United Forces."
Korra turned towards her direction.
"Asami, how do you plan to manage Future Industry at the same time?"
"It can practically run autonomously. So, I won't be working for two jobs at the same time. The only downside would be not being to play with machinery, but I guess won't be missing it while I design new weapons for the United Forces." She said. "With the United Republics having its own government, we have even more reason to put on guards with the Earth Republic. No offense, Bolin."
"None taken." The earthbender said. His smile then faded. "Did Raiko call you?"
"Ruuuude… He lost the election!" He passed out on the couch.
Councilman Tenzin was pacing back and forth, his eyebrows twisted into a knot. "These people seem to forget that United Republics is built on the compromise between Lord Zuko and Earth King Kuai."
He could recite that very treaty word by word; the United Republics 'is only allowed to stay autonomous under the Council of Five'. The United Republics hasn't been on the best terms with the newly founded Earth Republic ever since their attempt to put Prince Wu onto the throne. It failed miserably, and since then, the Earth Republic enforced a series of isolationist policies, withholding its coal, mineral ores, lumber and all kinds of natural resources.
"Our industries have already suffered enough from the lack of raw materials. And spirits know what would happen after we have a new president, they're now justified to have an outright invasion!"
"Don't worry about that," Lin said, and took a large gulp on her soup. "I doubt Suyin would do anything crazy. One thing you should know, my half-sister didn't get the title 'Great Uniter' for stupidity."
From what she told him, the Chief of Police didn’t eat for nearly 2 days on patrol to ensure the safety of the election. Tenzin wondered why she would head to Air Temple Island the second after she was dismissed from her duty.
"What you should pay attention though, is the president. I don't like her; I have a bad feeling about this."
Her words confused him even more.
"What exactly are you talking about?"
Lin ravaged her food like a hungry bagermole. "I mean, it's not that simple. She's not putting everything onto the table. She's probably behind all of these, a mastermind of some sort. Look, everything about her is timed perfectly. See, just after Amon being exposed, the Equalists immediately stopped attacking benders and started fighting triads exclusively? Come on! I won't doubt one bit she has something to do with it."
"You think Lieutenant is a puppet, in fact she's the new Equalists leader?"
"I'm not sure about that, but I do question her true motive. Anyway, that's not all, why would she be running for the president anyway? If her goal is solely to stop the triads, she already has the Equalists and the Future Industry on her back, why would she need to become the president? I mean, 'expanding National Defense and the RCPD'? That's gonna cost a ton of tax money. What she's going to do are only going to hurt her profits, it doesn't add up."
"What could possibly be her goal then?" He said.
"I wouldn't know. But I'm pretty sure she's playing a big game, and this is only the start. Be careful, I wouldn't be surprised if she makes some radical changes to the government."
"I never thought you are such a natural at politics."
His ex-girlfriend got some serious talents.
"I gotta bounce now, don't wanna raise any suspicion." Lin pushed herself out of the chair. "As far as the public is concerned, we aren't on the best terms. Take care."
Tenzin sighed as he saw Lin rushing out of the door, he could feel the unease in the air. He gazed over the sky: a storm on its way.
RCPD: Republic City Police Deputy.
Chapter 9: Two Birds with One Stone
Since Asami rose to power, Republic City's political playground was quiet. Yes, the new president improved RCPD's equipment, and launched a weapon engineering program for the United Forces, but to most people in the Republic City, nothing about their life had changed, except the continuous decline of triad activities and the Equalists' transition to a neighbourhood watch force. However, these were more than enough to make them happy, because crimes and conspiracies had plagued the city for decades.
They failed to know, that none of these would become possible without her. But Korra was contented to stay behind the curtains. If they found out Asami's presidency belongs to "The White Flame's" plans, it would ruin all her future operations. Lucky for her, they had no desire to expose the government's secret. Bolin and Mako did an excellent job as the new government's "face and mouth", people's trust to political authorities reached a new height.
She met her friend at The President's Office. "We need to keep any insurgency at bay, something like the Dai Li. Independent from the RCPD or the United Forces, responding to you only."
"It won’t end well. The Earth Queen was the perfect example for abusing special agents. She's now six feet underground."
"No. They won't be active agents like the Dai Li, and they must be kept away from the public's eyes. They will be a division of the RCPD, doing regular tasks, until they receive an direct order from you. What do you think about recruiting your Equalists? They are loyal to you, and recruiting them satisfies the call for non benders in police forces. You kill two birds with one stone."
"Wow, what a move!" Asami smiled. "Do you want to do the same with the military?"
She felt grateful she had the chance to befriend such a smart woman.
"Indeed, but it will be slightly different. My triads are excellent for this role, but as far as the public is concerned, it is a mercenary company from Republic City."
"Alright, General Korra. From now on, you're going to be in command of the United Forces' secret Special Division. Your uniform will be ready within the next 24 hours."
That sounded like how she talks.
"You are a natural." She couldn't hold back her smile anymore. "Next, the trickiest part: capture Tenzin."
"He is the only airbending master on this planet." She took in a deep breath, "I can't bend air. And I know it has a spiritual nature. So I went through every material on airbending and spirits in the Fire Royal Library. I even meditated into the spirit world for once… but still, I can produce nothing, not even a breeze."
"That's unfortunate. How can I help?"
"Political purges... maybe charge him for corruption? I'm not exactly experienced with this."
"Tenzin's got a reputation for refusing bribery. So it’ll be near impossible, and spread conspiracies along the way, not good for approval rate. And we need to adulterate large portions of financial records, then shoot ourselves in the foot in corruption control. There has to be another way…" Asami placed her hand under her chin. "The public is quite hostile to the Earth Republic, we can take advantage of that."
"What do you suggest?"
"Let's accuse him of conspiring with the 'Great Uniter' herself. He's Avatar Aang's son, she and Lin are Toph's daughters, their parents were good friends with each other, so they probably know each other from childhood. It wouldn't be hard to find postal records of him writing to Suyin. You might not know, when the Council of Five tried to crown Prince Wu, he spoke in Suyin's defense, the speech went to Republic City's newspapers."
Korra didn't know, she was in Earth Republic's military at that time.
"What I've got so far, fake a letter from Suyin, and bribe his butler to open it. Your 'mercenary' can make sure that guy never leaks," Asami drew a line across her neck with her finger. "And we order Lin to arrest him. If she refuse, we charge her for abatement. She's a huge threat to you anyway."
When time comes, she would reveal all her secrets to the world.
The ringing telephone dragged Tenzin out of his midday meditation.
Annoyed, he picked up the speaker. "Hello? Councilman Tenzin speaking."
Lin spoke as quietly as possible. "Run! It's the president! They are on their way to get you! Leave Republic City right now! Take your family! Use your sky bison!"
Apparently she was avoiding to be overheard.
"What happened? Lin! Answer me."
Lin hung up.
Tenzin remembered his previous conversation with the Chief of Police. They were coming for him.
"Pema, Jinora, Ikki and Meelo! Pack up and meet me outside in five minutes! I will get Oogi ready."
"Tenzin! What happened?" Pema said.
"It's the president. No time to explain, do what I said."
His wife wasted no more time, she had been hearing Tenzin expressing his concerns for the past few months. Within a few minutes, she got the kids ready.
"Pema, Jinora, Ikki," Tenzin said. "give me a hand."
They ran to help him putting the saddle on his sky bison. He saw RCPD's boats approaching Air Temple Island.
They set foot on the island when he was about to step on the saddle.
Tenzin found him and his family surrounded by at least fifty metalbending officers. "Councilman Tenzin, you are under arrest for sharing confidential information on United Forces with the Earth Republic."
"Lin. What on earth is going on?" He couldn't believe Lin betrayed him!
Lin stood with her hands folding on her back.
"This letter is the evidence of you working with Suyin Beifong, the Earth Republic's head of state. Your butler brought this to us." She showed him a letter.
"Suyin has never wrote such thing."
"Records from the postal department shows you have been writing to her for quite a while."
"Those are about my personal life. We're all friends since we were kids, you know this!"
"So you admit you wrote to her? Arrest him."
Two metalbenders launched their metal cables, until they stopped, their weapons centimetres away from touching him. Lin's cable coiled around their necks, they passed out within seconds.
"What are you waiting for? Go."
Lin barely avoided a cable aimed to her arm.
"We're not leaving without you!"
"You idiots." Lin yelled, but failed to hide the gratitude in her voice. "Help me put down these metalheads as fast as possible. Before they call for backup."
Tenzin spoke no more. The officers launched a web of metal cables at him, he took a huge leap with his airbending, unscathed. He stroke with his glider, shooting compressed air to his opponents. The attacks landed like explosions, knocking them off their feet.
Ikki and Meelo rode on the air current like a scooter, spiraling around the officers. The officers tried to trap the siblings, but caught themselves into each other's metal cables.
Tenzin wasn't granted his tattoo for vain; he is the one and only airbending master in the world, and he taught his children well. Best among whom, his oldest daughter Jinora. At the mere age of twelve, she had already mastered all the airbending forms, with knowledge on the spirits and talents that surpasses her father.
A true prodigy.
Jinora charged at the officers, dancing away from their metal cables. She leaped fifteen metres into the air, and stroke down with her glider. Air around her exploded when she lands, like a bomb. Five officers knocked off their feet, unmoving.
Something snapped in her. She was about to get her master tattoo in a few weeks, she waited her entire life for this, only getting her hopes shattered... by them. Jinora struggled to maintain her inner peace, a storm raged inside her.
She waved her arms, the air around her span in circle, and soon grew into a small tornado. It sent ten metalbenders into the air all at once, then drove them into the wall. The wall cracked upon the impact.
She forgot to stay close to the others, then found herself trapped in a metal cable.
It was too late, his daughter was surrounded.
"HQ, 30 officers down, requesting back up."
Lin raised a boulder, knocking the officer unconscious.
Sirens rang from the city, it was too late.
"Shit! We're out of time." Lin said.
Lin pushed him onto the saddle. "Go."
"No!" Tenzin fought her grip, he wanted to get up and save his daughter.
"If we stay, all of us will get captured. All of this will be useless. Is that what you want?" Lin yelled. "Go!"
He didn't remember what happened next, his brain took a back seat. When he recollected his mind, he and his family were sitting on Oogi's back, hundreds of metres above the ground, and on their way to the Earth Republic.
"They won't dare to lay a finger on her if Suyin knows this." Lin said.
As they approached the Earth Republic's western border, he made a promise to his daughter: I will be back.
--END OF PART 1--
The Republic City arc is now complete. Part 2 of the story will be focusing on struggle-fare between the United Republics and the Earth Republic, and Korra's struggle to keep her identity a secret. Suyin, Kuvira and Zaheer will make their official appearance. How would they differ from the original timeline? I already gave some foreshadowing in Part 1, in Part 2 you will have the answers. Also, Amon's plot is not over, but he won't be back until much later.
Chapter 11: (Part 2 Chapter 1) Suyin The Great Uniter
Suyin had to cut her vacation short. The border guards radioed earlier, her sister and Tenzin came to visit the Earth Republic. If it were any other day, she would tell them to meet her on Kyoshi island, but this time they came with some dreadful news: Tenzin and Lin are now fugitives. So, she boarded the soonest ship to Gaoling and hopped onto the maglev to Omashu. When the maglev arrived at Omashu, it was already a few hours after sunset.
"She will meet us at the train station," Lin said.
The border guards did them a huge favour, assigning a biplane to guide them all the way to Omashu.
Lin took off the badge from her RCPD armour. The badge gave her nostalgia, she remembered all too well, what happened between Suyin and her on that fateful day. She found her sister driving a satomobile for the Terra Triad, who committed a bank robbery. She arrested Suyin, but her mum, the Chief of Police at that time, destroyed the arrest report, and sent Suyin to Gaoling to live with her grandparents.
She hadn't heard about Suyin since then.
Lin saw a middle-aged woman in combat uniform walking towards her. The woman looked nothing like the Suyin she remembered. The woman has as much grey hair as her, and just like her, remains in excellent shape. But Lin recognized the eyes, those olive-green eyes, as sharp and witty as she remembered.
"Long time no see, sister." Suyin smiled.
She wondered how much time had passed, even her little sister had grown old.
"Kuvira, this is Master Tenzin and your aunt Lin." Suyin spoke to the muscular young woman standing beside her.
Kuvira wore braids, she has a beauty mark under her right eye. But Lin couldn't direct her eyes away from the woman's arms. Kuvira's right arm, or where it used to be, is replaced by metal, the only arm she had is covered with scars.
Kuvira stared right into her face, she was surprised how much force those emerald eyes could exert.
"It's great to meet you, Master Tenzin and…aunt Lin." Kuvira turned her eyes away, but quickly came back with her glance. "I'm Earth Republic Special Forces' commander."
Lin cracked a smile, the kid is clumsy with sentiments just like her.
"So," Suyin said, "you are wanted by the United Republic's new president?"
"Yes. She accused me for conspiring with you, then faked a letter from you. Can you believe that?" Tenzin said.
"I told you to stop writing to me or Kya." Suyin rolled her eyes. "The United Republics aren't on the best term with me or the Southern Water Tribe. Anyway, is everyone okay?"
"They captured Jinora."
"How dare they!"
"I can carry out a rescue operation." Kuvira said.
"I wish," Suyin sighed. "Your father radioed me, insurgent activities. It's the Red Lotus."
"The Red Lotus?" Lin said.
"Our old enemy. We can talk in HQ."
Suyin waved at her, she followed. Words couldn't express how Lin felt about their reunion.
Tenzin went to sleep with Pema and his children. But Lin wanted to spend more time with her sister, she wanted to catch up to what had happened during these years.
"The Red lotus?" She said.
"They're responsible for Hou Ting's assassination, and the biggest obstacle when we tried to stabilize Ba Sing Se. Their leader Zaheer is a nonbender, but he leads a team of special benders. A firebender that shoots combustion from her head, an earthbender that makes lava and armless waterbender that uses water as her arms. Zaheer himself is a master martial artist who excels at chi-blocking. These four alone delt a lot of damage on our troops."
Suyin handed a book to her. Each name used to belong to a soldier.
"We don't know a lot about their organization, but they seem to be against all governments." Kuvira said. "Right now, they are mostly active at The Great Divide. We must stop them from spreading to the southern provinces. That's where the main contributors of our economy are at."
"The Great Uniter founded the Special Forces to deal with this. Their 'hit and run' strategy is best countered with a swift, agile and versatile force." Kuvira clenched her hand into a fist, the metal parts collided with each other, producing a distinct noise. "They were also present near our borders with the United Republics until we built the stronghold at Omashu."
"Si Wong Desert used to be a warm-bed for Royalists insurgency. They are within arm's reach to Gaoling and other southern provinces, so I built our largest stronghold Zaofu." Suyin pointed to a star on the map. "Our strategies used to be chasing them down to Si Wong Desert, so they'll crash with the Royalists. Until we defeated the Royalists."
"How are you gonna deal with them now?" Lin said.
"That's where Ba Sing Se comes into the play. Baatar, Junior, Wing and Wei will push them down south, and we’ll crush them at The Great Divide."
Chapter 12: (Part 2 Chapter 2) A New Crisis
"This is Bataar, commander of the Northern Division, we are ambushed by a group of mercenaries. Repeat, we are ambushed by mercenaries! Requesting back up."
A new force intervened their operation.
"General Bataar, this is Colonel Kuvira. Report your current location."
Suyin noticed her stepdaughter is always more at ease speaking to her and her husband professionally. Practically speaking, Kuvira had more conversation with Bataar in uniforms than in civilian attires.
"We are at the south side of The Great Divide. They cut off the supply line and blocked our way of retreat."
"Hold your position, reinforcements will arrive in 2 hours."
Kuvira left the meeting room. She heard her daughter spoke on the way to communication office, "prepare the airships, get the Special Forces ready in 30 minutes."
She wanted to tell her daughter "be careful", but again, she was too slow to take the chance.
The Great Divide, the largest canyon in the world, remained its title as the greatest geographical obstacle on this planet. Even for an army equipped with technologies that are second to none, crossing the canyon remained a time-consuming and dangerous process.
Kuvira saw it on the telescope, General Bataar's troops were at the edge of a rout. The mercenaries' got to be the best irregular army they had encountered. The collaboration between different units is flawless, with perfect timing. These soldiers of fortune easily surpassed the Royalists, the professional army of the former Earth Queen, in their performance. There was not a chance for these mercenaries to be Red Lotus, they were on a whole other level. General Bataar wasn't prepared for this.
She checked her watch: one hour and thirty-five minutes had passed since she received his message. She jumped out of the airship and opened her parachute. Her troops followed suit. She fired straps of metal from her armguard, her troops did the same. The metal cut the enemy soldiers in the limbs, throats and eyes, putting at least two platoons of soldiers out of commission.
The mercenaries stopped attacking the Northern Division but didn't lose their formation. They grouped around earthbenders, who shielded their comrades with earthen domes.
She was twenty meters away from the ground. "Take off your parachutes!"
Kuvira turned the earth beneath her into sand, landed on her back and rolled for another few metres before she got up to a tactical stance. As she expected, the enemy shot jets of fire into the sky as more soldiers getting closer to the ground. By ditching the parachutes at that height, none of her troops got hit by the flame.
The enemy earthbenders shifted their earthern dome to vertical walls. The firebenders continued to attack behind the shelters.
She raised the ground beneath her, a long wall shielded her troops from the flame. There was sweat on her forehead, bending that amount of earth in a split second was no easy task. But she had no time for rest. "Get into groups of three, I will lower the wall accordingly. One of you focus on defense, other two shoot as much metal into the rocks as possible, dismantle their walls."
She slid off her boots' metal soles, mapping her soldiers' locations through the vibration in the ground. "On my command in 3, 2, 1. Move."
She adjusted her wall with pinpoint accuracy. She and her soldiers shot pieces of metals onto the enemy's earthern shield. They spilt their arms apart. The rocks broke at wherever the metal was drilled in, exploded, filling the air with sand. They bent the sand into their enemies' eyes.
The mercenaries retreated, but still maintained a formation, so she decided against chasing down the enemy, but she needed to get entails. Kuvira launched her Platinum hand, it got a grabbed onto an enemy firebender. She rendezvoused with General Bataar with the prisoner.
Back to their headquarter in Omashu, Suyin tried to interrogate the prisoner with her husband and her daughter.
'Who hired you?" She said.
"I don't know."
Vibrations from the metal floor told her his heart was beating wildly.
"You are lying."
Lin opened the door, pulled out a chair and sat down beside her. "We can tell when you lie, stop wasting your time."
The prisoner sulked his head.
"Is it the Red Lotus? Answer the question truthfully, you will get a lighter sentence." Kuvira tapped the table with her Platinum hand.
The man jerked back. "...no."
He was speaking the truth.
"Who trained you about the tactics?" She demanded. "Has he been to the military?"
"It's our boss, I haven't seen him yet, but I know he's a master earthbender. He's never been to any military."
She waved at Bataar and Kuvira to follow upon leaving the room.
"What do you think?"
"I will work with Junior to develop new weapons." Bataar said. "I will radio him to meet me at Zaofu, Wing and Wei can take care of Ba Sing Se."
"I'll assign two units of Special Forces to escort you to Zaofu, and another three units to help with Ba Sing Se's defense." Kuvira said.
If someone didn't know he was lying, no amount of seismic sense could call him out. Back in the United Republics, Korra was smiling.
Chapter 13: (Part 2 Chapter 3) Special Guests
Republic City Prison.
"Open the doors." Korra waved at the guards.
The officers were hesitant at first, but when their eyes reached her insignia on the shoulder patches, they saluted. "Indeed, General."
One officer opened the outer gate of the maximum-security chamber, she stepped in with another officer, the outer gate closed. The officer beside her unlocked the cell door. She took in a deep breath, and walked in.
"Who are you? Why do you people do this to me and my dad?"
The airbender threw a punch, Korra felt a breeze, she dodged to the side, compressed air hit the cell door, producing a loud noise.
Korra stood straight, folding her hands behind her back. "I am General Korra from the United Forces. Your father, who is currently at large, is charged with treason. He shared confidential information of the United Forces to Suyin Beifong, Earth Republic's head of state. And if my records are right, Jinora, you are convicted for attacking RCPD officers."
"That's a lie! My father never wrote such letters!"
"You are absolutely correct, Jinora." She took a step closer. As much as she hated to scare a twelve-year-old girl, she must establish the power dynamic between them –she is the one in control. If she ever wanted to get a desirable outcome from their conversation. "It is, indeed, me and the President's plan. But that's our only choice, your father is the only airbending master in this world."
"You're crazy, we Air Nomads live by 'non-violence'. How can you possibly think he is a threat?"
"Is that so? Then how do you justify injuring a Platoon of officers, or attacking me, unprovoked?"
Seeing the girl lowered her head in guilt, Korra pursed her lips.
"Anyway, never have I said he is a threat. I put up the scheme out of pure necessity, if I want to keep it private."
Jinora blinked, apparently confused. Korra wasted no more time, she ignited a white flame on her hand. She flicked her fingers, water in the glass froze to ice. She tapped her foot against the ground, a bulge appeared on the metal table.
The airbender rubbed her eyes, an obvious attempt to check if what she saw was real. Korra chuckled, she could imagine what it feels like to see the missing Avatar who's been hiding in plain sight.
"You're the... Avatar?" The airbender's voice quivered, so did her body.
"That's correct. I have mastered the element of water, earth, and fire. Except one, air. I can't bend air, not even a little bit..." She took a knee, lowered her head to Jinora's level, and stared right into the airbender's eyes. "I need to learn airbending, but your father is the only master in the world. If I reach out for him in conventional ways, the whole world will know I'm the Avatar."
"Why do you want to hide who you are? We're not in anything like The Hundred Year War, you're safe."
"I have my reasons, but that's not relevant to our conversation. According to the RCPD's reports, you displayed at least five advanced airbending techniques. You're a prodigy, and since your father is... unavailable, I hope you can teach me the way of the art."
Jinora didn't respond, so Korra waited patiently, but never breaking off their eye contact.
"I'm not sure, I need some time to think."
"Don't worry young lady," she smiled, "we are in no hurry."
She waved her hand, the metal desk returned to its original shape, the ice in the glass melted to liquid. She stood up, nodded at the airbender respectfully, and notified the guards her visit had come to an end.
"How did things turn out?" Asami said.
"She said she needs more time. I know it's difficult, so I didn't push her."
"Yeah, it took me quite some time to wrap my head around when you told me you're the Avatar."
Korra nodded. "Right now, my concern is the Earth Republic, my troops are having a hard time. They equipped their mechatanks with what they call 'grenade launchers', the device shoots explosives. We are no match to their firepower. Our mechas are immune to regular metalbending, but Kuvira can bend Platinum. Our tanks become living target wherever she goes."
"Despite all of these, you still control some areas and bring back mine ores? Wow, I don't know what to say."
"I only managed to hold onto the region between the western border and The Great Divide. The canyon acts as a natural defense, and an insurgency 'Red Lotus' is also active in the area. But I don't know if we can keep it much longer."
"Do you want reinforcement?" Asami put her hand onto the phone.
"No. As far as the world is concerned, my troops are mercenaries. We don't want direct conflict, for now. Not until I can airbend, at least."
"What I need you to do is to use the ores to boost the economy, so we can get enough tax money for our weapon project. If we have firepower for the Airships, we'll be at a huge advantage." She said. "Also, we have some guests tonight."
"Zaheer, leader of the 'Red Lotus', and his crew. If we collaborate, we can turn the tides of the war."
Asami checked her watch: 7:00pm.
"It's almost time. Where will they meet us? Yu Dao is a town of decent size."
"At the port. He boarded onto a Future Industry cargo ship, there's only one arriving tonight, we can't possibly miss it." Korra pointed her finger to the horizon, "look, here they are."
The freighter had Future Industry's Logo painted on its body. As it approached to the shore, metalbenders released the anchor, hooked the ship onto the moorings.
"Look for whoever's not wearing a coverall." Korra said.
It didn't take long for her to find them. At the front, a muscular man who has grey hair and a full beard. Next to him stood a tall woman with a third-eye tattooed on her forehead, a man with long raven hair and a horseshoe moustache. Last in line, a tiny woman without arms, filling her sleeves with water. Every one of them dresses in a black Zhongshan suit, with dark red details on the sleeves and a red mandala on its chest. Her heart was pounding her ribcage; she couldn't wait to greet them.
Asami noticed Korra's hands twitched slightly. Her friend's face was as calm as the ocean, but after knowing the Avatar for so long, she could tell something was wrong. Asami turned her head towards her friend, Korra swallowed. She knew better than bringing it up at this time.
"Good evening, Misses?"
Korra greeted him with a smile and stretched out her hand. "This is my business partner Miss Sato, CEO of Future Industry. My name is Korra, the founder of Earth&Fire Ltd. My employees are currently present in the areas between The Great Divide and Earth Republic's western border."
Asami knew she should play along.
He shook Korra's hand. "I'm glad we finally meet. My name is Zaheer, leader of The Red Lotus, they are my team:" Zaheer gestured to the tall woman, the man with moustache and the armless waterbender respectively. "Pi'Li, Ghazan and Ming Hua. I am invited here to discuss a potential collaboration between our organizations."
"That is correct, Mr. Zaheer. The collaboration will turn the tides on our war against Suyin Beifong." Korra said.
"Why do you fight the Earth Republic?"
"As you can see, my partner's company heavily relies on mineral ores and oil as the raw materials. Which we all know, from the Earth Republic predominantly. Since Suyin refused to share their resources with the world, it has greatly affected Miss Sato's production. Me and my employees are working on taking more areas, so I can bring back more of them."
"I don't think we share the same vision, Miss Korra. We aim to bring down the authoritative government in the Earth Republic and spread freedom across the continent."
"That's absolutely correct. But what we do share is a common goal. I think both of us will agree we want more areas to be free from the Earth Republic's control."
"Well said. What are your terms?"
"Future Industry will provide you weapons. In return, we will discuss and execute future operations together." Asami said. "Miss Korra will meet you in the Earth Republic in two weeks, please share your coordinates with us. Our next goal is Omashu."
Zaheer nodded. "Deal."
Back to her office, Asami felt she should voice her concern. "Do you know him?"
"Yes. I remember their faces too well to ever forget." Korra clinched her jaws, took in a deep breath before moving on. "They came with my uncle, murdered my parents in front of my eyes. And why? Because I'm the Avatar!"
Her heart missed a beat. "…I'm sorry."
"Please don't. I don't deserve any pity. It was I who is too weak to protect the ones I love..." Korra laughed bitterly. "As simple as that, I accept it," she swallowed, her eyes turned red. "Zaheer didn't want to kidnap them; he wanted the Avatar. My parents pay with their lives, because I wouldn't stop showing off my earth and fire bending!"
Asami couldn't imagine the amount of guilt and sorrow her friend felt. She put her hand onto the Avatar's shoulders. "It's not your fault, they are the ones who murdered your parents, not you."
"I never blamed myself for that. My fault is for being hot headed, and prideful. I learnt my lessons, there will be consequences for everything." Korra squeezed her nose bridge, holding back her tears. "I swore I will avenge my parents; I swore no one escapes justice in this world; I swore I will master every bending skill, and I won't reveal my secrets until I have the powers that back up my title..."
Asami could bear no more, she pulled her friend into a hug.
That's how Korra developed the nonchalant personality that cannot be further from the original timeline.
For weeks, they've been preparing the city for a siege.
The insurgents were gaining grounds, with the ever-increasing amount of mechatanks. The Earth Republic had no navy. With Si Wong Desert covering most of the central areas, once the insurgents controlled The Serpent Pass, they cut off the North from the South completely.
The Southern Division and the Special Forces were pushed back to Omashu, leaving the Northern Division the only force to defend Ba Sing Se. Being the nation's capital only made it more tempting for the insurgents. But much to their relief, the insurgents focused on the South. Apparently, these mercenaries came for the resources.
"City wall enhancement is now complete. All departments are ready." She said.
"Good job." Suyin said. "Omashu is surrounded by mountains, it has only one road of entry. We will exploit its geographical advantage."
"Yes ma'am." She tapped her shoulder with her fist, a salute. "I'll get the biplanes ready. The Special Forces will scout for signs of attack and offer air supports."
"Have Bataar and Junior arrived at Zaofu?"
"Yes. Major Opal confirmed a few hours ago. No attack encountered."
"Nice. You are dismissed."
She turned around, ready to leave.
"Wait. Kuvira, can you spend a few minutes with me?"
"You've been on edge for the past few weeks, what's wrong?"
She felt someone sawing her right arm bit by bit, she clenched her jaws. The phantom pain, it hadn't bothered her since last summer.
"The Insurgency. Their strategy... The speed and timing are perfect. Just fast enough to overwhelm our troops, but not too fast to deplete their firepower, multi department collaborations. It looks exactly like... what she would do."
The phantom pain got worse, the scars on her left arm started to tingle as well.
Corporal Korra was one of the best metalbenders in the military, so she invited her to join the Special Forces. And like every member of the Special Forces, trained by Suyin. Korra helped her to destroy the Royalist base in Spirit Palm Oasis. So she promoted her to Sergeant. After that, Korra suggested her using swift, multi-unit attacks to chase down the Royalists.
There was no doubt Korra had her trust. These tactics led to their victory, until... She glanced at her right arm.
"I see." Suyin nodded.
Until Korra betrayed them.
Suyin put a hand onto the metal arm. "You don't have to talk about it."
She closed her eyes. No, she didn't want to talk about it.
"Do you enjoy the surprise?"
The voice brought her to the wooden warehouse.
Korra grinned, hands folded behind her back. "I can almost imagine Suyin's face when she knows this."
Behind Korra stood a Platoon of mechatanks.
The mechatanks closed in, blocking her vision. She heard the noise from the motors, the mechas had their chainsaws and flame throwers powered up.
It was not a fight; it was a slaughter. These machines were a checkmate for metalbenders. Made from Platinum, a metal so pure that it leaves no earth particle inside to manipulate. With no available earth or bendable metals in the environment, her troops became living targets. Screams, blast of flamethrowers, noise of chainsaw motors and dismembered limbs, the air filled with the smells of iron and burnt flesh, the walls painted in red. Her comrades had their heads chopped off, their bodies cut in halves, and burnt alive. But she could save none of them.
A flamethrower scorched her left arm. Pushed into a corner, she had nowhere to run.
"Finish it!" She said.
But the Royalists had a different plan. A mechatank switched on its chainsaw, and slowly, but surely, buried its blade into her right arm.
She screamed so hard that she torn her vocal cords. Instincts drove her to stroke with her left fist. Her knuckles collided with the mecha, an attempt to bend the "unbendable" metal. One, two, three, four… She saw her blood smeared onto the metal, she heard laughs from the operation chambers, but she never stopped punching.
Damn it Platinum, if I can find you in earth, I can bend you!
The metal vibrated when she delivered her next punch. A connection, the metal was calling her. She grabbed onto it with all her might.
The metal budged.
She put her hand onto the mechatank, squeezed it into a fist. The Platinum shell crushed inward; she didn't stop until she could hear bones snapping. Another mechatank switch on its flamethrower, she ripped open the fuel tank, the machine reduced into pieces in a series of explosions. Here came the third, the fourth... Bend Platinum, destroy mechatanks, she went on a rampage. Submerged into the present, all became so easy.
She didn't know how many mechatanks had she put down; she only knew she finished off all of them. A strong wave of fatigue took over her body. She looked down and saw what was left of her right arm -amputated from the elbow. Drops of blood kept falling to the ground.
She teared up the sleeve with her teeth, wrapped it around the wound with the only hand she had, and reached for the Motorola.
"Officer down..." Her vision blurred, she struggled to speak. "Royalist base No.5, 10 miles northwest from Spirit Palm Oasis, wooden building..."
Kuvira opened her eyes, looking just as confused as waking up in the medical centre after that very battle.
Now you have it, Kuvira the Platinum-bender. The stories behind her prosthetic and her scars. And Hel yeah, she does NOT like Korra!
"What are we waiting for?" Ghazan said, "every second we do nothing we're giving them more time to prepare!"
Impatient. He had no basic knowledge on warfare. You can't blitzkrieg a city like Omashu!
"A city surrounded by mountains, only one way of entry from its walls. Only an idiot would dream about conquering it through firepower alone."
Gahzan walked towards her. She balled her fists, the ground beneath her cracked. Great, let me avenge my parents right now!
Zaheer held him back. "Cool off Ghazan. Give some respect to our ally."
Ally, huh? What an interesting word. He wouldn't hesitate one bit to slice her throat once he knew her identity.
"Do you plan to starve the city, then? They have a supply line from Zaofu through the maglevs. Even if we manage to cut off all of its connections to the outside, it's still near impossible. Omashu has its own farms within the walls, like Ba Sing Se." Zaheer said.
No, time hasn't come for her to seek revenge on them.
"That's not my plan either. We will destroy the railways, that's for cutting off their route of retreat, after we have broken into the city."
At least not before she ends Suyin.
"I siege the city for two reasons. One, to create a perfect distraction: the more ground forces we gather, the more they will focus on defense from the ground. But instead, we will deal most of the damage from the air. Which leads to reason two: wait for reinforcement. Future Industry's new airship will arrive five days later.
"On the meanwhile, Platoon Brown will bypass the walls, tunnel all the way to the city. We will crush Omashu from the inside." She raised a stone from the ground, moved her fingers, the stone cracked from the middle, and crumbled.
Zaheer nodded. "Perfect plan."
Zaheer started his operation after dusk. He and his team sneaked under the light beams on the watchtowers, headed into the mountains, until they reached to the back of the city.
As expected, the back gate was shut. He looked down south further, the railway circled around the mountains like a snake stretching all the way into the city. Too close, wouldn't be able to do it undetected; too flat, a couple of metalbenders could fix it in seconds.
He needed to find a weak point, something that takes the enemy a long time to repair. They walked along the railway, finally, a bridge that connects two steep valleys. He gestured Pi'Li. Pi'Li breathed in.
The ground beneath them shifted, Pi'Li stumbled, the explosion missed its target, landed onto a cliff. Boulders the size of a tram torn off from the cliff, rolling downhill at their direction.
Ghazan melted the boulders, the liquid earth flowed on the ground, only to be solidified by him a second later.
A Platoon of soldiers scaled down from the cliff with cables. Shards of metal rained down to their direction.
Ghazan raised an earthern wall, the wall was reduced to pieces in a matter of seconds.
The metalbenders stood only ten metres away, all in tactical stances.
"What do you think you're doing?" The woman spoke, she had an arm replaced by metal.
Zaheer glanced at Ghazan, Ghazan stomped the ground, melting the earth around him. Pi'Li breathed in.
Kuvira raised a wall of earth to shield her troops from the explosion. The explosion blew her wall into pieces. A pool of lava encroached on them; they were forced to step back. Not good, more distance is only going to create opportunities for...
They shielded themselves with boulders, the debris knocked five soldiers off the hills.
"To the right!" She swung herself across the lava.
Her troops followed, flanking the Red Lotus team from the right. The pool of lava was now an advantage. They had the enemy back against the cliff. Her troops had blocked all routes of retreat.
She needed not to shout an order; her troops fired shards of metal at the enemy.
Zaheer evaded the assault like an airbender; the earthbender and waterbender deflected the projectiles with lava and makeshift water arms. The attack had everyone occupied except...
Kuvira threw a boulder to the sound's direction.
The boulder blocked the explosion midway.
"Form groups of two! One keeps defense, one keeps the pressure!"
The strategy proved effective. Rocks met the explosions in the air, now they kept the firebender occupied.
The perfect chance for her to close in the distance. She observed the firebender.
After the firebender breathed in, it took her two seconds before she heard the pops. A time lag, a rhythm, something she could exploit. She bent a gravel, and waited behind the rock. Almost there, the firebender took in a deep breath, now! The gravel hit the firebender on the forehead, where the tattoo was located.
Small sparks of fire exploded in front of the tall woman's face. The woman stumbled.
The enemy walked back, forming a circle around the firebender. Her attack had clearly raised their suspicion. She needed to separate the firebender from the rest of the team. An idea came across her mind.
"Cover me." She charged to the team of the Red Lotus.
Action. More action.
Her troops maintained their suppressive fire. She closed in the distance, the earthbender hurled lava at her. She weaved and bobbed, the melted death missed her head, just barely. A jolt of pain hit her face, she smelled singed skin. She dodged to the side, the melted earth slipped pass her shoulders by a few centimetres; she lunged forward, the lava nearly scorched her back. Smells of charcoaled fabrics filled the air.
Kuvira hurled a rock into the air.
The rock met the explosion, reduced to sand and gravels at an instant. She bent the sand, drove it into the earthbender's eyes. He screamed, covering his eyes with his hands. She rose the ground beneath her, leaped from the pillar.
Finally, she reached close-quarter range.
The firebender cancelled the attack. Indeed, combustion-bending risks friendly-fire in such range. A huge opportunity, she would exploit it.
Her troops advanced their positions, now only ten metres away from the enemy.
The waterbender swung her makeshift water limb, its tip frozen solid. She blocked with her metal arm; the ice shattered upon the collision. Knocked back for several metres, she felt her upper arm went numb from the force of impact.
The waterbender threw another strike, she rolled forward, the ice blade missed its target. She got back onto her knees, clinched the Platinum hand into a fist, launched it to the waterbender's face.
The waterbender stumbled, put her tentacle onto her bloody nose, the water glowed in blue.
She retracted the Platinum hand, and threw it at the firebender. The firebender towered her by a head, but she wouldn't call her opponent 'skilled' at conventional firebending. The firebender threw a punch, she redirected the arm, the flame went off course. She bent the metal plates on her armguard, swung the blade at the firebender's throat.
The firebender flinched, shielding herself with one arm and threw flames with the other. Kuvira slipped to the right, and drove her Platinum fist under the firebender's rib-cage. A clear shot to the spleen.
Zaheer kicked at her front leg, she blocked it with her shin, came back with a round kick aiming at the back of his knee. He leaped to the left, and forward, unscathed, threw his elbow at her face. She blocked with her right arm; bones collided with metal. He stroke with his fingers. Chi-blocking! She saved her leg from the attack, but her entire left arm fell limp. She stepped back, Zaheer pushed forward, getting further and further from the firebender. Her goal was to separate the firebender from the group, so she would not waste a single second on him.
She stomped the ground, a huge wave of earth carried her away. She rose her Platinum hand, ready to strike at any moment.
She launched the Platinum hand, it covered the firebender's forehead.
The metal changed the sound of explosion, the pitch was a bit lower. Kuvira retracted the Platinum -wrapped out of shape, bent it back to its original state. Something was sticking on her face, she wiped it with her left hand, and found bits of pink tissue in her palm.
Zaheer fixed his eyes onto the battleground, "Pi'Li..."
She shuddered, the phantom pain on her right arm came back. The scene gave her Deja-vu, forming a parallel with what happened in that wooden warehouse... Except, this time she became the aggressor.
Her troops circled the Red Lotus. She raised her hand; they were hesitant, but dropped their fighting stances, nonetheless. She chewed on her cheeks; in the next five minutes, no one on the battlefield moved a finger.
Zaheer gave her a complicated look, turned back, and gestured his team to leave.
He tried to forget the look of Pi'Li's disfigured body, but no matter how much effort he put in, he couldn't. He exhaled, hoping the grief would come out along with his breath.
Ghazan and Ming Hua waited at the cave's entrance.
He nodded at his friends. "Thank you."
Ghazan gave him a thumb-up. Ming Hua lifted her lips to give him a smile.
He sat down, legs crossed, observing the emotions rising from his mind: sorrow turned to anger, anger turned to hate. The hate slithered around his web of memory, until it found its target, like a python, it coiled around the officer wearing a metal arm.
Hate leads to vengeance.
True freedom cannot be achieved when one is tethered by earthly attachments, he recited his mantra. So how could he spread freedom to the world if himself is a slave of vengeance?
But the hate persisted, burning as intense as his love towards his friends. He loves every single one of them, like families, but Pi'Li, she was more than a family. He saw her treated like a weapon, so he slayed the warlord who held her in captive, for her. Did he seek revenge by then? It was possible. Alas, how love could turn to hate at a whim! A slippery slope, indeed.
If love leads to hate, it behaves just like hate -a burden that chains you to earthly desires, chains you away from freedom. The solution was simple: let go.
His mind silenced, he obtained true freedom, unbounded from all worldly desires. He did not forgive, he might never forgive, but he no longer identify himself with his emotions. Revenge? It didn't matter to him anymore.
He opened his eyes, got up onto his feet, and gestured his friends to follow.
When Zaheer came back with his team, Korra found the tall woman missing.
"I lost someone I love tonight." He said, and walked away.
Should she feel upset about this?
BUT WHY? SHE KILLED YOUR PARENTS.
She couldn't offer an answer to her inner voice.
ONE MURDERER DOWN, YOU SHOULD BE HAPPY.
A sick, twisted sense of satisfaction hit her like an electric baton, traveling through her body like current.
No, this is wrong. She told herself.
The voice got angrier. HOW DARE YOU? TO GIVE UP ON YOUR OATH!
No, never. She would avenge them. But this is about justice, not for pleasure. It is wrong to celebrate on someone's death, she won't do it.
The telephone rang, she silenced her inner voice.
"My new airships will arrive at Omashu before 11 o' clock next morning." Asami said.
She hung up the phone, and picked up the radio.
"Platoon Brown report to duty, all explosives are placed at assigned positions."
"Good. Check your watch, you will activate the detonator at exactly 11:00am tomorrow." She said.
Zaheer was able to let go, but Korra couldn't. He had "entered the void", spiritually speaking, although that doesn't change his opinion on killing the Avatar. Korra might be consumed by vengeance, but she still has morals, at least at this point of the story; in later parts you'll see how she loses them bit by bit. Kuvira let the Red Lotus go, blowing up somebody's brain like that does hurt your conscience.
Suyin poured her tea into the cup while looking at the rising sun.
The radio beeped, breaking her seldomly acquired serenity.
It came from the biplanes. "We're ambushed by enemy airships! Request for back up! Repeat, request for back up!"
Airships aren't supposed to have firepower.
She heard a sharp noise coming out of the speaker, the line went static.
She grabbed the telescope on her desk and held it before her eyes. Six airships emerged from the horizon, shooting flames and combustions out of the cannons. The biplanes dropped like flies.
Somebody shook her out of the dream violently. Out of instinct, she stroke with her elbow.
Kuvira halted, the elbow centimetres away from driving into The Great Uniter's face.
"They are coming from the air; I need to evacuate the civilians, you bring reinforcement!"
She slid on the harness and fit the metal arm into her socket. "Yes, ma'am."
Fifteen minutes later, she was in the air with a squadron of biplanes. She wasted no more time, flew her biplane into the airships' formation. The first airships ever equipped with firepower.
Fireballs came out of the aircrafts' cannons, bringing down two of them.
She picked up the radio. "Fluid four Formation."
They formed into five groups of four. Two biplanes took the lead, other two flanking on the sides.
They flew forward, the airships fired again. They spread out, shifting the altitude constantly, evading the fireballs. She pushed the throttle lever, her plane accelerated, switched position with the leading biplanes in her group.
The gunner pulled the trigger, two cannons blown to pieces in explosions. Other biplanes fired their own grenade launchers, causing explosions all over the fleet. The enemy fired back, but this time, with significantly less firepower.
"Good thinking, Colonel." The gunner said.
Within an hour, they blew up all the cannons, had three ships in smoke. The airships flew to each other, walling the flagship from all directions. But they had yet to win the battle, the airships carried bombs onboard, a huge threat to the city.
"Attack the closest ships, I need a distraction."
As her lieutenant led the troops to blow up the airships. She sneaked pass the battle zone, approaching the flagship from above.
The gunner dove out of the biplane, soon she saw him opened his parachute.
She turned off the engine and rolled the yoke all the way forward. The biplane took an abrupt turn and swirled downwards. She could feel her blood pouring out of her heart uncontrollably, but she carried on. Just a little bit to the left...
When she jumped out of the biplane, her vision had lost its hue. She opened her parachute, the biplane crashed right into its vertical fin, ripping a huge chunk off of its tail. The flagship span, its damaged tail slicing into the airship nearby. The momentum drove the aircrafts into another ship, sending all three to the ground. More explosions, her lieutenant brought down the rest of the fleet.
All of a sudden, fireballs filled the sky again, three biplanes got hit, more parachutes appeared in the sky.
The enemy's artillery.
A fireball exploded around the parachutes, engulfing a dozen of them in flame.
Korra checked her watch: twenty past ten. Twenty minutes until Future Industry's second fleet; forty minutes until the detonator goes off, and they had yet to deal any damage on the city.
Asami equipped the airships with a crystal that magnifies firebending's range and power, but the extra firepower did nothing to defend them against the biplanes. She watched the entire fleet goes down, and none of them managed to drop a single bomb! Her heart was bleeding, the airship carried twenty bombs each, ten times a biplane could carry. One hundred and twenty bombs! Imagine what kind of damage they could deal if half of them landed on the city!
Korra approached the captain. "Shoot down those parachutes."
"They will attack the moment they land!"
She is here, who else can bring down three airships with a single biplane?
The captain sighed, but complied, nonetheless.
Omashu's train station was in a controlled panic. Suyin was trying to get the last group of civilians into the maglev when she heard on her Motorola:
"Incoming air attack!"
An explosion landed near the entrance, the whole building shook. Civilians pushed each other aside, raced to get into the train. She couldn't let this go on; they would trample each other!
She switched on the microphone: "Stay calm, we won't leave anyone behind! The fastest way to get everybody on the train is to do it orderly. Me and my soldiers will protect you!"
The building shook again, cracks spread along the walls. A piece of debris the size of a tram fell from the ceiling. She rose her arms, bending the concrete with all her might, stopping it metres away from crushing civilians' heads. The anticipation is often worse than the danger itself, the bombing had made the crowd acting calmer than before.
More pieces broke off from the wall, the building was at the edge of collapse.
"Maintain the building's structure!"
She and her soldiers bent the fractured walls of the building. Five minutes, ten minutes... sweat damped her uniform, her arms screamed in defiance, but she carried on: whatever happens to her, the building can't fall.
As the last civilian hopped onto the maglev, the doors shut close, electricity charged the metal rail, magnetic force pushed the train away from the city, out of sight, on its way to Zaofu.
Finally, she allowed herself to drop the bending stance. The walls crumbled as they sprinted out of the building. She exhaled, a big relief. No time to rest, though, she still had a city to defend.
Korra, you're not supposed to shoot down parachutes! Ok, clearly she doesn't follow the "rules" in warfare. Talking about what vengeance can make you do... ps: Grey-out (ie. vision losing hue) is a symptom of extreme vertical g-force. That tends to happen if you turn off your plane's engine when you're hundreds of metres in the air.
Korra checked her watch: 11 o' clock. It was time for every piece of her plan to fall into places. She pulled out her telescope, fixing her glance on the walls of Omashu.
WHAM! She could hear the blast from a mile away. Chunks of concrete fell from the walls, crumbled, only rubbles remained.
She smiled from ear to ear. History will compare the fall of Omashu to Azula's infiltration to Ba Sing Se, but she wouldn't celebrate, not yet. She would find Suyin, the very person who invaded her nation during the Civil War.
Then, Korra would end her.
She rushed out of the command centre. "Bending units, collaborate with the mechatank Regiment, coordinate with the Tunnelling Team, occupy the city."
"Platoon Red and Platoon Brown, go with me. We are going to get the Great Uniter." Excitement made her voice falter; she had waited for this day far too long.
Battalions after Battalions of enemy soldiers marched to the city. Their formation extended beyond the horizon.
Suyin and her troops retreated into the city. With the walls gone, they had no choice but to resolve to urban warfare. The airstrikes continued. A bomb exploded on a nearby building. Her troops scrambled to evade the falling debris.
"Take cover!" She yelled.
She and her troops ran to a subway station, an earthen wall blocked them at the corner of the street. Boulders the size of a bus broke off from the wall, launched towards them. They broke the boulder, filling the air with sand and gravels. Streams of fire came through the veil of dust, setting five of them on fire.
She bent the sand, the sand swirled in circles, pushed back the attackers like a sandstorm. The cloud of sand cleared out, revealing a Squad of earthbenders and a Squad of firebenders.
How was that possible? The enemy ground force hasn't even reached the city's outskirts!
Metal cables tackled the enemy from behind, held the enemies by the neck, slammed their heads against the ground. The soldiers retrieve their cables, slicing the enemies in the throat along the way.
The leader approached her.
"Nice save, Kuvira."
"They're in the city now."
She switched on her Motorola. "All units retreat to the airport; we're leaving the city."
Another Company of soldiers showed up at the airport. Suyin shoved them into the airships.
"We're the last unit." The Captain said.
She heard a loud crack; the enemy must've broken into the compound.
"But Great Uniter,"
"This is an order!"
She watched as Kuvira led a Platoon of Special Forces to raise a line of earthen wall. She looked around; a small airship parked roughly two hundred metres behind them, that should be sufficient to fit in everyone.
Two Platoons of enemy soldiers appear in her sight, each unit wore special patches on their sleeves and collars. One red, the other brown, firebenders and earthbenders. The earthbenders threw boulders at them, tearing chunks from the earthen wall. Before her troops could fix the wall, flames landed into their faces.
They launched plates of metal at the enemy, the enemy rose a wall. The metal drilled deep into the rock, they bent the metal, dismantled the wall from the middle.
The enemy fired metal shards of their own. Firebenders charged up the lightnings, electricity bounced around the metal shards, spreading out like a web. Their wall of defense reduced to pieces.
The enemy seized fire.
"Long time no see, but I don't miss you." Korra said.
"Trust me, the feeling is mutual."
Suyin could feel the daggers in Kuvira's voice. Her daughter needed an answer, so she demanded. "Two years ago, why?"
Korra twitched her mouth, was that a smile?
"To make you suffer."
"Then I return the favor." Kuvira said.
Korra drew out a metal cable from the belt. It never landed on Kuvira, instead, it headed towards her direction. Spikes poked out from its tip, like needles.
A strap of metal countered the cable midair, slicing it in halves.
So, Korra meant to make her suffer.
Korra retracted the cable. "Of course," and gave out a short, gaudy laugh, "I won't expect anything less from The Platinum-bender." "This is between me and you, Suyin."
Kuvira balled her fists. "We're not done."
"As you wish."
Korra stomped the ground; a fissure approached them at the speed of a landslide.
They ducked to the sides. Korra launched slices of rocks as thin as razorblades. She torn off a metal sign on the wall, bent it to fit her body. The rocks collided with the metal, leaving marks of indentation on her makeshift armour.
Kuvira had long turned the fissure into sand and gravels. A sandstorm covered the battleground.
"Damn it!" Korra said.
Korra isn't quite in tune with the ground's vibration, therefore relies on sight. A weakness for them to exploit.
They flanked Korra from the sides, launched plates of metal into the dust. She heard a grunt. Some of the projectiles must had hit the target.
Korra struggled for control over the sand. Sand condensed into a block the size of a satomobile, exploded at their feet. They were knocked back, vision obscured by the sand. She slid off the metal sole of her boots, her feet felt a sudden shift of vibration through the ground.
"I know." Kuvira step to the side, the metal cable landed on the ground, the spikes on its tips left cracks on the earth's surface.
Another shift in the vibration. She leaped backwards, the metal cable swung at her direction, centimetres away from stabbing her in the eyes. She rolled on her shoulders, got up to her feet, stomped the ground, a wave of earth carried her out of the dust zone. A few metres away stood Kuvira, always one step ahead of her.
Together they bent the sand away. She trapped Korra's feet with earth, Korra ripped off the rocks in seconds. But long enough for Kuvira to raise several boulders.
The boulders exploded; sand filled the air once again; Korra lifted an earthen wall to shield the shockwaves. She compressed the sand into a single block, it hit Korra right into the gut. Kuvira threw a broken window at Korra's back.
Blood dyed Korra's grey clothing in brown. Korra raised her hand, bent the glass out of the flesh. "Not bad… I should have taken your teamwork into consideration."
"You have lost. Surrender, you're going to answer for everything you have done." She said.
"Or have I?" Korra chuckled, "what if I tell you, this is far from all I got? What if I tell you, I have only shown one third of what I know?"
Korra flicked her wrist, sparks of electricity danced around her fingers.
Spirits' blood! Korra is the...
Korra pointed her finger towards Kuvira. Suyin lunged forward.
Korra is forced to do the big reveal! Korra's mastermind quality really shines in this chapter: attempting to bait Suyin into a one on one dual, a fight she will have a much better chance at winning; aiming the lightning at Kuvira instead of Suyin(who she seeks revenge upon), because strategically, Kuvira poses as a greater threat. But of course, she didn't get her way.
The lightning hit Suyin in the chest. Suyin fell, unconscious.
The last time she said that word, her parents were still alive.
Officially speaking, Kuvira has "Beifong" in her last name, except she never expected to be treated as part of the family. Family is a blood tie after all, as she often claimed, but she realized how wrong she was. Suyin shielded her, with her own body, just like what her parents did facing the bandits.
"One down, one more to go." The Avatar flicked her wrist.
Kuvira torn off a chunk from the building's frame; electricity hit the metal, deflected towards many directions. Its temperature so high that it scorched the earth, she could feel the radiating heat metres away.
The Avatar waved her arm, moistures extracted from the nearby bush, the soil and out of thin air. The plants died, the ground cracked, the air became so dry, making it painful to breathe. The Avatar, however, acquired enough water to fill a bathtub. The Avatar wielded the water like a whip, as it stroke down, its tip froze solid.
Kuvira stepped to the side, the ice blade hit the ground, shattered into pieces. She stomped the ground, a wave of earth carried her away, she launched plates of metal from her shoulderguards. The water formed a gimbal around the Avatar, the metal blew to every direction, like feathers in the wind. Shattered ice across the ground melted, only to be resolidified into spears. She lifted her arms, a wall of earth shielded her from the icicles. The Avatar flanked her from the left, she heard a sharp noise, she saw a spark, the Avatar punched forward, a white inferno closed in at her direction. She dodged to the right; the flame singed her uniform.
"White flame?" She had never seen firebending of this colour, but she was not interested to find out what it feels like to be hit.
The Avatar applied the water on her back. "Yes." The water glowed in blue, closing the cuts in a matter of seconds. "Rage makes your flame burn hotter. Common practice during The Hundred Year War."
With jets of fire under her feet, the Avatar launched herself into the air, stroke down with an axe kick, an arc of fire expanded, ready to engulf Kuvira in whole.
Kuvira rose her arms, turning the earth around her into sand, she bent the sand like streams of water, redirecting the pressurized flame, putting off the fire. She shifted her stance, the sand rotated, covering the Avatar in a cloud of dust.
Korra hated sandbending, she hated the lack of visibility, it creates perfect opportunities for an ambush, resulting in close quarter fights. Her advantage is power, and large-scale bending require distance to perform. She tried to bend the sand away, but found her right arm trapped in a metal cable.
She cursed; it was Platinum. She froze the water into an ice blade, cut the cable from her wrist. A block of metal came for her head, she blocked with the ice, the ice cracked, and crumbled.
She despised how Kuvira fight; Kuvira made it impossible for her to attack with full power. The metal launched at her from the side, she got a good look this time –a mechanical hand, she knocked it off course with her flame. The metal hand, it reminded her of the Dai Li's rock gloves.
Kuvira closed in the distance. She blocked the Platinum blade with an icicle.
"So that's how you defend 'freedom' in the Earth Republic? By fighting like a Dai Li?" She knew all the sensitive points in Earth Republic politics, she might as well to use it to her advantage.
Kuvira knocked her arm to the side; her flame missed the target.
"Whatever, I don't care."
That's ok, words might work slower, but no less effective than punches and strikes. All she needed is time.
No such luck, though, she found her wrist and ankles bound in straps of metal. She tried to bend them away, the metal didn't budge. Of course it's Platinum, why would she expect anything else? She was lifted into the air. Kuvira launched the metal hand, grabbed her by the neck, the grip got tighter every time she breathes.
As black dots starting to form in her vision, a surge of power charged every muscle fibre in her body. Her eyes lit up, firebending heated up the Platinum straps until they melt. With her hands, now free, she ripped the metal off of her neck. No bending, out of shear strength. She stroke with her arms, a powerful wind knocked the Platinum-bender across the field.
Kuvira tried to get up, she followed up the attack with a tornado.
The tornado lifted Kuvira into the air, drove her into the walls, the walls collapsed. Korra unleashed three whips of fire, they moved like striking cobras, covering two hundred metres in mere seconds. Kuvira managed to raise a wall of earth; the pressurized fire blew it into pieces in mere seconds.
"How about death by your own element?" In the Avatar State, her voice echoed with her past lives.
From the ground, she raised boulders and chunks of metal, each has the size of a tram.
"Get away from my daughter!"
She turned her head around, the voice belonged to Suyin. She should've known better; metal suits conduct most of the electricity away from the heart.
The Avatar rained down the debris on her. Suyin dodged like a dancer, sent some of the projectiles back to where they came from. The Avatar brushed off the attack with a sphere of air, extracted more water from the soil. The ground shrank to columns of earth, she stumbled. The water compressed, in a split second, the stream was centimetres away from her. It never landed on her chest, it lost all momentum, reduced to a splash.
The glow in the Avatar's eyes faded, the Avatar fell, enemy troops closed in, shielding their unconscious leader.
She waved her hand, gesturing her troops to retreat. She put Kuvira's left arm around her neck, held onto her wrist, as they walked towards the airship.
"Just hang on, okay?"
-END OF PART 2-
Korra trashtalks during a fight, but the reason cannot be more different from when she does it in the original timeline. Not expressing her anger, but for strategic purposes only (almost like Azula)! But obviously, neither her nor Kuvira fight with emotions. Suyin and Kuvira's dynamic is completely opposite from the original timeline. Suyin always try to make Kuvira feel like a part of the family, Kuvira closes herself off. With the Avatar's identity revealed, there will be a lot of political dramas in Part 3, because for the first time in history, the Avatar is a war criminal.
Chapter 21: (Part 3 Chapter 1) Aftermath
It was dark. It was always dark. It has been ages since Korra found herself trapped in this horrific dimension. The last moment she could recall, she was seconds away from ending The Great Uniter's reign permanently. What had happened?
An air nomad manifested himself, a blue arrow tattooed on his shaved head -an airbending master. "Revenge won't solve anything," he said, brushing his beard with one hand. "It's like a two headed viper. As you watch your enemy goes down, you have also poisoned yourself."
The man could be no one but Avatar Aang.
"Cut your metaphors, you didn't witness your parents murdered in front of your eyes; you don't even know who your parents are." Aang must've caused this. "Suyin slayed my people in hundreds! How could you stop me from avenging them?"
"I understand, trust me, that was exactly how I felt when I saw my mentor's skeleton lying in a pile of Fire Nation armours. But I chose to let go; I can't punish a whole nation for one man's mistakes."
"You don't understand, Suyin is the only one I'm after."
"In my lifetime, I had to face Fire Lord Ozai, and I chose to spare his life. All lives are sacred, and everyone deserves a second chance." Aang said.
"With all due respect, that's not among the wisest decisions you made in your lifetime."
"If I kill him, I lose my principles, and the Air Nomad ceases to be. I will be in a much darker place, I doubt I will ever be able to find happiness again."
She scoffed, "I'm not an Air Nomad and I don't believe in your philosophy. I find your notion hardly applicable."
"What do you believe, Korra?"
"Justice must be delivered by whatever means necessary."
Aang's spirit dissolved, replaced by a seven-metre tall, kite shaped spirit covered in blue patterns, the spirit illuminated in a white glow.
The same spirit she saw in her dreams.
"What are you?"
The spirit laughed; his voice so loud that it made her ears ringing. "My name is Raava, and I'm the source of your power, young Avatar."
"The Avatar spirit... why are you here?" She said.
"I'm here to urge you, you need to find your destiny."
"I know what my destiny is."
"Do you? Are you bringing balance to the world, or plunging it into chaos?"
How dared he, questioning her morals?
"Yes I do! I deliver justice!"
"Revenge is not justice." He said.
No, it's not, but revenge brings justice.
Raava faded from her sight.
When Korra opened her eyes, she found herself lying in a medical tent. Her troops told her they had conquered Omashu. She dashed out of the tent, headed towards the airport. She hopped into a biplane, switched on its engine. Destination: Republic City.
The airship landed on Zaofu. Opal rushed to her as soon as the doors opened.
Opal pulled her into a hug. "Mum! Are you okay?"
"I am, but your sister's not." Suyin said. "Fetch a medic, better be a waterbender."
Major Opal rushed to the medical centre, but ran into a group of two.
"What happened?" The woman in blue said.
She waved at the woman, "follow me, Kya."
"Need to patch up somebody?" The man with beard said.
"Not funny." Kya gave him a stern stare.
They walked into the airship. Kuvira tried to sit up with her elbows; the attempt ended in a sharp cough.
"Woah, take it easy." Kya drew water from her waterskin, and applied the liquid to the Colonel's body. "Let me give you a check."
"What's the damage?"
"You fractured your left collarbone and twelve ribs. You are lucky to have none of them puncturing your lungs."
"Next time I'm drove into a wall, I'd better land on my shoulders." Kuvira tried to laugh, it ended in another cough.
"Don't move, I'm going to mend the bones." Kya said, the water glowed in blue.
"You're in good hands, Colonel. My sister's taught by Master Katara herself."
"General Bumi, what brings you here?" Suyin said.
"Well, we need to find out why our sibling is suddenly a traitor. Oh, and United Forces didn't want me anymore, the President replaced me with someone called Korra."
Opal, Bataar and Junior dropped their jaws in awe.
"What?" Bumi said.
"The United Forces is behind this? Why?"
"I don't know, but I guess it has something to do with your isolationist policies." Lin shrugged her shoulders.
She rolled her eyes.
"I told you the new President is playing a big game." Lin said.
Lin knew her adopted niece is more than skilled at combat, so it begged the question. "Who did this to you anyway? You're like... what? The only Platinum-bender in the world?"
She could hear the unease in Kuvira's voice, that was expected, Suyin had long since told her the story behind the scars and the missing arm. But little did she suspected; this "Korra" is the same person as "White Flame"!
Kya and Bumi stared at each other, frozen solid. After two whole minutes, they turned their heads to her sister. Suyin nodded.
It wouldn't be easy to swallow, being told your dad's reincarnation is a criminal, a war criminal.
Tenzin held Kya and Bumi by their shoulders, looked like he had a better time handling the information than his siblings. He opened his mouth, but nothing came out.
Finally, he let out a sigh. "The Fire Nation will hold a summit at the Northern Water Tribe. I hope we can prevent a full-blown war between the United Republics and the Earth Republic."
Kya bent the water back into her waterskin. "All done, I mended your bones, but they need time to grow back together. Bones heal slowly, it might take a few weeks before you jump back to actions."
"Thank you." Kuvira pushed herself out of the bed.
"Where are you going?" She said.
"I need to fix the prosthetics. I'm a handicap without one hand."
"Leave it to me and dad." Bataar Junior said.
Chapter 22: (Part 3 Chapter 2) Choices
The moment the biplane's wheels touched the road of Republic City, Korra threw herself out of the aircraft, and ran, fire jets under her feet propelled her forward. That did not escape the public's eyes, but she couldn't care less. The whole world knew, she, General of the United Forces, is the Avatar. She dashed down the street, heading to the President's office, she needed to talk to Asami as soon as possible.
"Are you ready, Avatar?"
Asami handed her a piece of newspaper. "There's no going back now."
Korra could read the headline from two metres away. It read: Shocking Truth -Avatar Korra Attacks the Earth Republic. She flipped the page and a subtitle popped into her eyes: Former General Exposes United Republics Responsible. As her eyes moved to the last section, her heart missed a beat.
"Beifongs -The Avatar's Victims", as it was printed on the page. In the article, the Great Uniter described her "blood rage" at Omashu in vivid details and, talking about adding more fuel into the fire, Suyin reminded these journalists with the story behind Kuvira's prosthetic arm all over again.
She slammed her fist onto the table, "this is no good!"
"No, it's not." Asami put up a firm face. "We have a decision to make: what happens next?"
She stared at the desk. When she looked up, her eyes turned red. She took in a deep breath, and twitched her lips. "If war is necessary to deliver justice, will you be by my side?" Her voice broke under the shear load of raw emotions.
"Yes." Asami placed a hand on her shoulders, "every single step."
"Thank you." She squeezed her nose bridge, holding back the tears.
Their conversation was interrupted by a knocking on the door. She picked up a composed face, better to keep those emotions private. It would be stupid to share moments of weakness with those who she doesn't trust.
"Come in," Asami said.
Mako and Bolin busted into the room. The brothers did not look happy.
"How can you do this to us? I trusted you!"
Bolin grabbed her by the collars, Mako held him back.
"Don't waste your time." Mako ripped the pin of United Republics Emblem off of his suit, threw it before her feet. "We resign."
The next morning, Asami made the announcement at the City Hall. "People of the United Republics, we owe you an explanation. Today, you will have the answers."
Asami turned her head towards her. She nodded; she was more than ready. She walked forward to the stage and took over the microphone from Asami's hand.
"This is Avatar Korra," she swallowed, her ears have yet to adapt upon hearing that title. "Some of you might be angry, and rightfully so. But I'd like to provide you with more context, and you are free to come to your own conclusion."
"I am born in the Southern Water Tribe. My parents, Chief Tonraq and Lady Senna, were brutally murdered by The Red Lotus, now known as the largest insurgent group in the Earth Republic. I was five at the time. My uncle Unalaq, to-be Chief of the Northern Water Tribe, was part of the group.
"The Red Lotus convinced the Northern Water Tribe to go to war, a war that devastated my homeland for five solid years. You might know it as the Water Tribe Civil War, except it's not civil. Suyin Beifong, by then a General under Earth Queen Hou Ting, led an invasion against my nation. She captured five Southern Water Tribe islands and until today, she still hasn't returned these territories to my people.
"The Avatar must bring balance to the world, that means I will not tolerate any injustice. Both The Red Lotus and Suyin will pay for what they had done."
Her eyes scanned the crowd: silent, indifferent. The reaction did not surprise her, people only care when their own benefits are at stake. Disgust sneaked up to her throat, she held back her scoff with all her might.
"Since the City Council's attempt at crowning Prince Wu, the Earth Republic refused to share any resource with us. Minerals, lumbers, coal to name a few, all of them are essential to our industries. The entire United Republics suffered as a result of Suyin's policies, our economy went to a recession, shops and factories went bankrupt. This is unfair, you don't deserve this!"
The crowd murmured.
"Me and the President want to change this. I went undercover working with my parent's murderers, so I can bring back resources to the United Republics. If you wonder why the prices for ores and lumbers have suddenly fell, here's why."
The murmur grew louder.
"Now, people of the United Republics, we must make a choice. Compromise, face even more severe sanctions; fight back, defend our right to make a living."
She ended her speech with a bow. "Thank you."
The murmur grew into shouts. "Fight! Fight! Fight..."
She stepped down from the stage, greeting Asami with a smile. Whatever lays ahead at the world summit, they are ready.
An intelligence officer brought a report to their lunch table.
Suyin picked up the paper. "It's Zaheer."
Kuvira stopped playing with her steak knife. "What does he say?"
"He wants to meet us tomorrow at 3:00pm in Zaofu, to 'discuss a potential collaboration against a common enemy'."
She chuckled, couldn't wait to find out what happened between him and the Avatar.
"This is an opportunity." Bataar Sr. pushed his glasses against its frame. "We gain more forces to fight the United Republics and solve our insurgency problem at the same time."
"Do you trust him?" Suyin said.
"There is no reason not to, the Avatar just made a speech a few days ago on how The Red Lotus killed her parents."
"Zaheer is afraid." He took a photo from his pocket; it showed the bloodied corpse of Unalaq.
Opal gasped, "you don't mean..."
He shook his head. "There's no other way to explain why she survived, and her parents didn't."
The Avatar could bloodbend since the age of five.
With both the United Republics and Earth Republic directly involved in the conflict, the Fire Nation deeply tied to United Republics' origin, Tenzin the leader of the Air Temples prosecuted by the United Republics, and the Southern Water Tribe being the Avatar's origin; the Northern Water Tribe became the only choice to hold the summit, as the only true neutral territory left in the world.
At least, officially speaking. With Future Industry being the largest weapon manufacturer for Northern Water Tribe's military, her company had long since secured an unshakable hold on the Tribe's politics. As the CEO, Asami's influence extends to all politicians funded by Future Industry, that being three-fourth of the Council of Elders.
"The United Republics will withdraw all military presence in the Earth Republic under the following conditions. One, the Earth Republic opens its mineral, lumber, oil, and coal export to the United Republics. Two, Suyin Beifong must stand trials for invading Southern Water Tribe during her times as General of former Earth Kingdom Military. The trial will be held in an international court located in a neutral region."
The bargain started with two parties stating their conditions upon the potential peace treaty, and she didn't hold back the demands on her end.
"The Earth Republic will accept a peaceful resolution under three conditions. One, United Forces withdraw from all Earth Republic territories within the next 48 hours. Two, Suyin Beifong remains the nation's head of state. Three, the Avatar shall stand trials on an international court held in neutral regions under the following charges: causing excessive suffering in combat, attempting to assassinate a world leader, and violating Earth Republic lands."
General Bataar spat out conditions even harsher than hers.
"President Asami, please be reminded, The United Republics is founded under the compromise between my father Lord Zuko, Avatar Aang and former Earth King Kuei, during the Harmony Restoration Movement -an attempt to withdraw Fire Nation influence in its former colonies after the end of The Hundred Year War. In other words,"
Izumi gave out a burning glare behind her glasses, "the United Republics is built on the land of former Earth Kingdom, the predecessor state to the Earth Republic."
"The President and I are well aware of this, but with all due respect, Fire Lord, you also have to accept the fact that the United Republics is now a solid, independent state with its own government, not a group of former Fire Nation Colonies ruled under The Council of Five." Korra loosened the buttons at the collars.
She pursed her lips, time to bring up all the sensitive topics, let the drama begin.
"After we failed at restoring monarchy, the Earth Republic has put a series of sanctions towards the United Republics as an act of revenge, causing great losses to our economy. Thousands of people found themselves out of jobs, and bankrupted." She said.
"My policies have nothing to do with Prince Wu's incident!" Suyin shot up from her chair, slammed her fists against the table. "Do you have any idea how long does it take for ores and oil to replenish themselves? Hundreds of thousands of years. The Earth Republic has to conserve its resources!"
"If that's the case, Great Uniter, I wonder why you have such a strong reaction."
"Are you making an accusation, President?" Tenzin said.
Chief Desna tapped the table with a block of ice.
"Let's get back to the topic." Chief Eska said. "President, Great Uniter, are you willing to make any adjustment to your terms?"
"The United Republics need to discuss such matter. I request for a temporary pause on the meeting."
The twins clearly didn't buy into Future Industry's influence. They would need to change their strategy.
"Great Uniter, do you comply with the pause?" Chief Desna said.
She walked to a private chamber; Korra followed.
Chief Eska and Chief Desna knocked on the door.
"Time is up."
No worry, she had enough time to come up with a plan.
"The United Republics withdraw the second condition."
Korra knew a peaceful solution was no longer possible.
"The Earth Republic withdraw the third condition." General Bataar said. "Replaced by a new condition: the Fire Nation will provide supports to our military if the United Forces forfeit the first condition."
"The Fire Nation objects this condition." Izumi said. "My people have spent their times on so many nonsense wars for far too long. We will not deploy our military unless out of absolute necessity."
She lifted a corner of her mouth, apparently the Fire Lord turned into cowards after The Hundred Year War.
"The Earth Republic change the last condition." Colonel Kuvira said. "The Earth Republic request technological assistance from the Fire Nation in prevention of future attacks."
The Fire Lord softened her expression. "In that case, you will have my help."
"President, Great Uniter, do you object any of the conditions?" Chief Eska said.
"Very well, let's proceed to sign the treaty." Chief Desna said.
Korra checked her watch. Twenty minutes. Twenty minutes have passed since they took off from the coast of the Northern Water Tribe. Officially, they were flying over international waters.
"Can you see the Earth Republic airship?" She spoke to a crew watching from the telescope.
"Bring it down."
The firebenders shot flames -magnified once it passes the crystals, when the fire blasted out of the cannons, its power was no less than combustion-bending.
The airship shook, bringing his Pi Sho game with Kuvira to an end.
General Bataar waved at Suyin and Tenzin, "to the control room."
The aircraft shook again, he stumbled. Suyin grab his uniform, pulled him back to balance. Kuvira ripped the steel door off of its frame. They dashed into the control room, or what was left of it. The attack ripped a hole the size of a satomobile on the wall, the pilot was nowhere to be seen, the elevation lever and one-third of the control panel were blown out of existence.
Korra broke the treaty right after signing it, because what are rules to the Avatar? And she won't stop until she gets revenge on Suyin.
The wind knocked him off of the airship. A metal cable caught him by his waist, pulling him back on the board.
He nodded at Suyin. "Thank you."
"What do we do?"
"We have to land it." Kuvira said.
"Control panel's gone, we must manipulate the airship's direction and altitude by hand." He said.
General Bataar pointed at the hole on the wind shield, "first, we need to close this. It will generate air currents, blowing the ship off course. The last thing we want is having the ship spinning."
Kuvira torn the metal covering from the control panel, covering the opening. "What now?"
"Reduce the engine's power output. You and Su go to the engine room, metalbend the valves. Close them slowly, we don't want a huge reduction in the altitude."
"On our way."
The metalbenders dashed out of his sight.
"How can I help?" Tenzin said.
"There'll be a huge decline in the altitude, use your airbending to slow it down. We want to reduce the speed of descend as much as possible."
The ship tilted; he nearly lost his footing.
Tenzin moved his hands in a circular fashion, an air current pushed the aircraft back to its original angle.
"We're going to have a crash landing. We need to make it glide as far as we can to minimize force of impact."
Tenzin nodded. Bataar could feel the air current lifting the ship from below, like a cushion.
The ship shook. He spoke no more, darted to the engine room.
"They fired again." Suyin said.
"I know. Shut it off all at once!"
He watched as his wife and his stepdaughter metalbend the valves. "Quick, we don't want an explosion."
He could see the sweat on their foreheads, but they still had a long way to go. The process has been quite inefficient, since they had to fight against the pressured air blowing out from the pipe.
"I will destroy the engine." Kuvira said. "Everybody gets down in 3, 2, 1."
The metal sheets covering the engine was ripped open; hot, pressurized air filled the chamber within seconds. Kuvira created an opening on the airship's Platinum shell, venting the gas to the outside.
The ship shook under the abrupt descend, he fell.
"I have to tell master Tenzin, we're about to crash!" He struggled to get to his feet, only to stumble under another shake.
Suyin held him down. "No time!" She wrapped him in a strap of metal, securing him on the floor before herself followed suit.
Kuvira got onto the floor, face down, torn off a sheet of Platinum from the airship's shell, the sheet was large enough to cover all of their bodies. She bent the metal, forming a triangular roof above them. She bent a strap of metal to hold herself against the floor.
"Face down, protect your necks!"
The airship came to contact with the sea.
Splash! The ship was reduced to pieces upon impact.
Jolts of pain in her chest dragged her out of the slumber. She scanned around, found herself lying on a piece of metal debris, with Bataar and Kuvira beside her. She pushed herself up to her feet, feeling as if a knife cutting into her lungs whenever she breathes. Damn, breaking your ribs is no fun.
Suyin helped her husband up. Wait, she didn't see...
"Don't worry, I'm fine."
She turned around, finding the airbending master levitating on an air spout, completely unharmed.
"An airbender does not get hurt falling from height." Tenzin smiled.
She heard a noise and found Kuvira attempting to stand up, she couldn't help but to remember the latter fractured twelve ribs less than a week ago. She stretched out a hand, Kuvira glanced at her, and looked away. Knowing her daughter's resentment at vulnerability, she brought her hands into her pockets, and did not press further.
"The radio's destroyed, we have to navigate to the shore on our own." Kuvira brought out a compass from her left pocket.
She and Kuvira bent the metal debris, salvaging a raft out of the scraps. "We have a boat, now the only thing we need is a sail."
Tenzin took off his robes, tied it onto the pole. "Problem solved."
Nothern Water Tribe to Zaofu is a straight flight to the south. Judging from the time they spent in the air, they should be at least two hundred kilometres from the shore. "If we head South, it's likely we will land on either the Senlin territory, which is under United Forces' control, or worse, on the United Republics. Ba Sing Se is too far east."
Kuvira inspected her compass, "but if we turn our course west," she pointed to the right, "the current will carry us south at a much slower speed. We will land on the Western Air Temple or one of the Fire Nation's islands, a safe bet either way."
"I agree." Tenzin got into an airbending stance, "hang on tight." The wind blew on the makeshift sail, pushing the raft to the west.
Two hours later, she saw ships in the horizon. Tenzin speed up the raft.
"We need to signal them."
"Hay!" General Bataar waved at the ships with one hand, holding a piece of metal in the other. He tilted the metal, reflecting the sunlight as a signal.
The ships closed in the distance, much to their relief, symbols of flame painted on the vessels. It's the Fire Navy.
"I don't think we killed them."
"No, we didn't. and I'm not trying to." She said. "Our goal is to delay the time they arrive at the Earth Republic, so we'll have more time to prepare for our next battle: Ba Sing Se."
"Makes sense." Asami nodded. "Almost forgot, how has your airbending lesson been?"
"Jinora decided to teach me after all. I already got the forms right, but I still can't bend."
"What do you think the problem is, then?"
Korra rubbed her nose bridge out of frustration, "she said I can't bend air until I think like an airbender. I must 'be a leaf in the wind'."
"Being passive, huh? I guess it is especially hard for you to adapt to such a mindset."
"Indeed. But I have to, or I won't be able to master the Avatar State. We have a war ahead, and I need all the power I can get."
An action packed but lighthearted (relatively speaking) chapter. Bataar Sr.'s analytical mind and engineering knowledge really shines in this chapter. And the Beifong's sense of responsibility.
Korra put Jinora on house arrest as soon as the latter agreed to teach her. Jinora was grounded to the Air Temple Island, but comparing to the prison cell that previously held the airbender, a huge upgrade.
"Try again." Jinora said. With a flick of her wrist, a strong wind had all the wooden panels spinning. "Remember, flow with the wind."
Korra breathed in, headed into the maze. She slipped pass a spinning panel. Flow with the wind, she reminded herself of her mentor’s instructions. Every second she spent in this maze was a mental torture, every step she took, she fought the urge to throw flames at the doors or crush them with boulders altogether. But no, she couldn’t have that; evade, run.
Her father’s voice echoed in her mind.
How could she run? The Red Lotus was slaying him in cold blood, how could she turn away, betray them just to live for another day?!
No, she fights, she confronts her enemies. Not running away tails down, like a coward.
Korra found herself running into a panel, she stepped to the left, avoided it by mere centimetres. Fight over flight, a mentality instilled in her psyche for so long that it became her second nature. To act like an airbender, saying it difficult was putting it lightly; she wondered if it’s possible at all to think like one of them.
She shifted her weight, stepped to the right, passed a spinning panel, and again, and again, and again... Having no clue where she stood in the maze, or when she would get out. Air is indeed a unique element, unlike earth and fire, it’s goalless. Waterbending strikes a vague parallel, relying on circular, fluid motions than raw power, but even that does not come close to airbending. Water is proactive: push and pull; it has a goal: turning defense into offense.
On her next turn, she stepped out of the awful place, finally. She exhaled.
"That’s better. Be more fluid with your motion, you can get through the panels faster."
She narrowed her eyes. "But I still can't bend air."
"After water, which element did you learn?"
"Fire. I need to shuffle up to avoid any attention."
With her identity now a public knowledge, it served no purpose to hide her stories. Besides, being dishonest with her mentor served no good to progress. "Why ask?"
"Which means the last element you learnt is earth.”
"Earthbending requires the exact opposite mindset to airbending, it creates a disconnection to the element." Jinora frowned, "there is a reason for the Avatar to learn the elements in a specific order."
She should’ve known better.
"What can I do about it?” I need to master airbending fast, I have a war ahead. She swallowed these words before they had a chance to reach her vocal cords. Telling this to Jinora wouldn’t do her any good. They don’t exactly share a normal mentor-student relationship.
"You have to be patient. Let it comes to you. Peace of the mind and the spirit is the most important thing in airbending. Have you tried meditation?"
"Yes. When I was studying in Fire Royal Academy, I came across a lot of materials on spirituality and airbending in the library. I’ve been doing it for more than five years, and I suspect I meditated into the Spirit World for once. "
"Wow... that's amazing!”
She grinned; she knew she doesn’t come across as a spiritual person upon first glance. She followed Jinora, sat in a lotus position.
"You should do it more; meditation helps you harness inner peace. I’ll guide you along the way." Jinora said.
Without further due, she shut her eyes.
When she opened her eyes, she could no longer feel her body. She checked her surroundings, found herself standing in a sea of purple flowers. Not far away grew some leafless bushes with bizarre shapes. Mountains made from an unknown crystal blocked the horizon.
The Spirit World.
The serenity and sheer beauty of the scene brought her into a trans, she lost the track of time.
"This is not the same place as last time.” Still trying to make sense of her situation, she thrusted her fist forward, but no flame came out. “Where’s my bending?”
"You left your body, you’re now a spirit. Bending requires a physical vessel, so unless you enter the Spirit World through the portals at the poles, you’re without your bendings." Jinora said. "What did you see last time?"
"A huge tree and a giant spirit. It glows in dark purple and had red patterns across its body,” she lifted a corner of her mouth, "speaks in a very gentle female voice, and begs me to free it from the tree. It somehow knows I’m the Avatar."
"You were at The Tree of Time, the spirit you met is Vaatu, the spirit of dark and chaos. Legend says the first Avatar imprisoned her in The Tree of Time ten thousand years ago. I think she somehow summoned you there."
She crossed her arms against her chest. "Sounds too nice to be a spirit of dark and chaos, much nicer than the Avatar Spirit who claims to be the embodiment of light and order.”
"Things often have a different nature than their appearance. But don't worry, Harmonic Convergence passed two years ago. She won’t have the chance to get out in another ten thousand years."
As much as she wanted to learn more about the spirits, she had more important things to learn at this moment.
It was time to put this onto the table.
"Jinora, I want to share this with you, I suspect it has something to do with me not able to airbend. I based my life on two promises: avenge my parents, and avenge my people. Vengeance has been the source that I derive my powers from, especially in the case of firebending…
Varrick did not look back as his ship sailed away from a Southern Water Tribe port.
The young woman wore a pair of round glasses, and as usual, approached him with a serious expression. "Are you sure, sir?"
He waved at his assistant. "Yes, Zhu Li, absolutely one hundred percent. How could I possibly miss a war with the Avatar? It’s been too long since I touched Earth Republic golds."
“But the Avatar...”
A short laugh escaped his mouth. “What is she gonna do, attacking her own Tribe?”
The place Korra and Jinora visited is the same place where Korra and Kuvira landed after the spirit cannon fire in the original timeline. I draw a parallel to the show by making it a place for Korra to open up to Jinora. As I mentioned in Part 1, I switched Raava's and Vaatu's voices and personalities, the spirit of dark and chaos has a gentle voice and gives out a stereotypical "good" vibe.
Chapter 26: (Part 3 Chapter 6) Operation Jinora
The Beifongs hopped onto the maglev as soon as they set foot on Earth Republic coast.
The telephone rang, Suyin picked up the speaker.
"Thank you, Fire Lord Izumi," she said, "Yes, that'll be much appreciated. We'll meet them at Zaofu."
After the call ended, she told her family that engineers from the Fire Nation were on their way.
"Great. They can help us build a navy, develop firepower for our airships, and so much more." Bataar smiled.
Kuvira cleared her throat, catching both of their attention. "I bet they will attack Ba Sing Se, it's currently the least defended. The Avatar is trying to delay the time for us to get back, so she can prepare for the war. We need reinforcement to the city as soon as possible. I'll radio the Special Forces right away."
She nodded. "Me and Master Tenzin need to discuss with Zaheer about the rescue mission. See you in Ba Sing Se."
"I will stay at Zaofu and work with the Fire Nation engineers." Bataar said.
The Red Lotus stopped their campaign against the Great Uniter's reign.
"I am well aware that our ideologies do not align, and I will never forget the fact that your stepdaughter caused the death of the woman I love." He told the Great Uniter on their meeting last week, "but I know the world faces a greater danger. By starting a senseless war, the Avatar threatens both my organization and your regime. I think we can all agree she needs to be stopped."
Having been enemies for nearly a decade, Zaheer knew Suyin had no trust in him. He must earn it. So after hearing Tenzin's eldest daughter is held captive by the United Republics, he offered to help in the rescue operation.
For two days, Tenzin, Lin Beifong and his team has gone undercover in Republic City, trying to locate where Jinora was held.
According to Tenzin, Jinora was captured by the city's police. But given that the Avatar has been working with the President, it became unlikely for her to be kept in a regular prison. They decided to visit Air Temple Island, Tenzin wanted to pick up a glider. Tenzin said it can be folded into a staff to enhance airbending, and help him to perform prolonged flights -a great route of retreat.
Ming Hua froze the water into a large piece of ice. They stepped onto the ice, she bent the waves, carrying them across the sea. When their feet touched solid land, a group of police officers in armours approached them. "Leave the island immediately."
The leader pointed at the former Chief of Police and the airbending master. "Freeze! You are wanted for treason, and you are under arrest."
"Freeze?" Ming Hua grinned, "for sure!" She bent the sea water, a five-metre-tall wave engulfed ten officers, and froze into ice.
Gahzan lashed out his fists, the ground beneath the officers melted. They screamed, hopping on one foot. He swung his arms, the lava stirred, burying them in the liquid earth.
An officer reached to his radio. Lin Beifong slit his throat with a metal cable. But the officer managed to finish his words, "back up needed!" Before he choked on his own blood.
A Platoon of officers arrived on site within a minute.
The officers dressed in dark grey tactical suits, wore strange helmets, and goggles that emit green lights. They wore no armour, they weren't metalbenders. They wore heavy gloves, with electrical batons hanging from their belts. They got into fighting stances, sparks of electricity curled around the tip of their weapons and their palms.
"The Equalists…" Lin's skepticism towards The President proved to be true. The President recruited them into the police deputy.
The officers threw a couple of metal cans around their feet, smoke surrounded them in no time, obscuring the team's vision.
Attacks came from all directions.
The officers closed in the distance, forcing the lavabender into melee combat.
She cursed, he couldn't bend lava in close quarter ranges, it was hard to control the damage. The Equalists excell at nullifying benders advantages.
The lavabender was surrounded five to one, barely getting away from the electric batons.
The Red Lotus leader had a much easier time. She watched him evading the attacks with ease, his moves reminded her of how Tenzin fights. He stroke his opponents in the arms and legs. The officers fell limp. He's a Chi-blocker. He dropped five opponents on the ground, and ran to the waterbender.
The armless waterbender has been having a hard time. The water conducted electricity, she could not use her makeshift water tentacles -her weapon of choice. She was seconds away from getting hit in the throat when Zaheer knocked out the officer.
Lin stuck to Tenzin. She needed not to worry about the electricity, her metal armour will distribute current throughout the body evenly. Three officers ran to them, she launcher her metal cables, the cables sliced them in the thighs.
"Tenzin! Blow the smoke away!" She yelled.
"They're way too close." Tenzin said, leaped upwards, barely evaded the shock gloves aimed at his head from both sides.
Zaheer brought the waterbender to him, "Go. I will attract their attacks."
The nonbender dived into the swarm of officers heading towards him and Lin. Zaheer moved with astounding speed, evading the batons with ease.
He swirled his hands, creating an air current, it blew away all the smoke in a matter of seconds.
Zaheer stroked on the side of the officer’s necks, the attack landed right onto the nerves, knocking them unconscious.
With his visions no longer obscured, he located everyone. They stepped back, stayed in one piece, withdrew from the melee combat. Ghazan melted the earth in front of him, a pool of lava blocked the enemy from ever closing in the distance again. He checked his teammate’s conditions: Ghazan had some minor sprains from the bludgeons and electric shocks; Ming Hua's injury was more severe, as she struggled to stand up; Zaheer and Lin came off unscathed.
"Should we retreat?" Lin said.
"No." He would not abandon his daughter again!
"I agree.” Zaheer nodded. “It's not normal for this place to be so heavily guarded. Intuition tells me your daughter is on this island."
“How are we going to get in?" Lin pointed forward: another Platoon of officers in grey suits, green goggles and carrying electrocuting weapons stood on the way.
"We will be burying them already." Ghazan hurled lava to the officers. The officers dodged, and hopped onto the roof, formed a half-circle, flanking them from the sides. An officers took out a metal contraption that resembles a minuscule cannon. Ghazan’s body tensed up, screaming in pain.
Lin metalbent the taser off of Ghazan’s neck. The officers fired their weapons again. He waved his arms, a tornado blew the projectiles away, blew the officers into the air.
He carried Ghazan on his shoulders, and waved at his team. "Let's move it people."
He led them to the building’s side entrance. Ghazan stomped the ground, a portion of the rock walls were removed. They dashed into the building, and saw Jinora sitting casually on the stairs.
Jinora jumped up to her feet. "Dad?”
He pulled his daughter into his embrace. "Jinora! You're okay!"
"We’re here to get you out. Stay with Lin and the others. I will get us some gliders,” he said, ready to turn away.
"Dad, wait." Jinora grabbed him by the wrist. "There’s something you need to know. The Avatar wants me to teach her airbending, she means no harm."
"What?" He dropped his jaw in awe. If that's the case, Korra could simply approach him, why would she try so hard to conceal her identity? "I will explain everything, but we have to go now."
He followed the voice, and found the Avatar, standing square, hands folded behind her back.
"Master Tenzin, I will release your daughter if you stay and teach me airbending."
"We are not leaving without both of them." Zaheer charged at the Avatar.
The Avatar did not move. Until Zaheer got close enough to throw a kick at her head. She weaved under, kicked to Zaheer’s supporting leg. Zaheer raised his shin to block it. Zaheer lunged to the side, drove his elbow forward. The Avatar blocked it with her arm, hurled her fists at the nonbender.
Instinct told her the Avatar was plotting for something. She highly doubted a former Triad Boss would hold off all bendings just to fight fair. She wanted to stop the Avatar, but at that close of a range it was guaranteed to injure Zaheer as well. She clinched her fists, she couldn’t intervene.
Lin expected another round of exchange, but Zaheer evaded. He reminded her of Tenzin, again. He bobbed under a hook kick and stomped at the Avatar’s supporting knee. The Avatar took a step towards Zaheer, absorbed the impact with the front of her leg before the kick gained full momentum, punched with her back hand. Zaheer dodged just enough to avoid the attack, stroke with two fingers --Chi-blocking.
She lifted a corner of her mouth, whatever the Avatar was up to, it has gone sideway.
The Avatar threw an elbow, the attack met Zaheer's fingers in the midway.
She heard a crack; they were likely broken.
Zaheer drove his elbow upward, the Avatar stepped to the side. The elbow missed the Avatar’s chin by centimetres. The Avatar smeared her fingers into his eyes. The Avatar grabbed him by the elbow and the back of his neck, drove her knee into his face, stomped him in the knee.
The Avatar dropped Zaheer. "Fighting fair does come with its advantages. Now I understand.”
Whatever the Avatar meant, she had no time to ponder. She launched her metal cables, the Avatar lunged to the side; she swung her cables, the Avatar leaped back. Ghazan hurled lava at the Avatar, the Avatar still didn’t bend.
The Avatar leaped backwards, avoided the melted blob of death aimed at her feet, slipped, bobbed, moving out of the projectiles’ way... like a leaf in the wind.
"Are you afraid, you coward?" Lin said.
The Avatar ignored her.
Tenzin's expression shifted. He now realized the Avatar’s plan. The Avatar was observing from Zaheer’s fighting style, and learning! He feared, she could airbend at any time!
He hurled a gust of compressed air, the Avatar –it became obvious she could sense the shift of air current like an airbender-- dodged to the side. Pressurized air missed its target, leaving a deep cut into the walls, like a blade. The Avatar got into a classic airbending stance.
He felt spirals of compressed air approaching him. He leaped into the air, unscathed, but found Lin and Ghazan knocked off of their feet, the Avatar pointed two streams of white flame to their throats, like a pair of daggers, the Avatar pressed forward.
The fire never touched their skin, instead dissipated into sparks, then nothing. But the Avatar remained in her stance. Lin and Ghazan didn’t move, still frozen in awe.
"Go, you can have Jinora. I don’t need her anymore." The Avatar turned her head to him. "Master Tenzin, if you and Chief Beifong stay out of the upcoming war, I promise no harm happens to you and the children."
Korra treated Jinora with decency, and even shows mercy. What a rare occasion. Is it because of her own moral compass, or Jinora has rubbed the airbender into her? I’ll leave it to your interpretation.
It has been seven years since they set foot on Ba Sing Se. Zaheer didn't put his hopes high, no growth could occur without the destruction of the old –governments belonged to an old, archaic era. But the moment he got off the maglev, he realized how wrong he was. The city looked like nothing in his memory, he didn't even know where to start.
First, the internal rings. Ghazan broke down the walls with lava; he expected Suyin to rebuild them, but no, they were gone, along with the hierarchy of the old Earth Kingdom. People no longer segregated, or constrained to a certain neighbourhood like prisoners. Instead, the Great Uniter built outwards, two additional rings stood outside of the city wall, with a bartizan in every hundred metres. Soldiers patrolled on the terreplein, and with distance between the rings merely thirty metres, it became apparent that the walls are for military uses only.
But it was the layout that caught his eyes: the outermost ring being the shortest in height, the innermost ring is the tallest. An efficient design, it allows troops in all three rings to attack at the same time. The narrow paths between the rings will force enemy troops into smaller formations, if they manage to break into one of the rings.
"This is a well defended city."
He dreamed of liberate Ba Sing Se again after the Great Uniter's rise to power, it seemed that his dream would remain a dream.
"Indeed, it is."
The Mandala on their Zhongshan suits drew the guard's attention. "You must be the Red Lotus," the young man said, "the Great Uniter is waiting for you at the City Hall."
A female guard approached them, arms crossed, "be careful, you guys are not exactly popular among the civilians."
He frowned, was that a threat? But there was no spite in her tone.
They walked further into the city, couldn't believe what they saw. Instead of shabby dirt trails of the Lower Ring, the roads were clean and well paved. There were only a dozen vehicles in the city during Hou Ting's reign, now satomobiles and trams roamed the street. He could still recall the wooden shelters –calling them houses would be an overstatement- in the Lower Ring, barely holding the structures together. Those were replaced by sturdy buildings built from rocks and metal.
As they strode down the street, they encountered dozens of vendors and street performers. He glanced at the pedestrians, some smiled at them. He had to admit, Ba Sing Se grew to a more prosperous city, and its people were freer than before, no longer living under the terror of Dai Li agents. But he couldn't help but to imagine, how much more growth could occur with the presence of Anarchy.
He saw Ghazan headed to a street merchant, and came back with a dozen kebabs.
Ghazan bite into the meat. "It's really good, you guys should try it."
He chuckled and shook his head, worldly desires do not attract him. Ming Hua swiped half of them from Ghazan's hands with her water tentacles.
They turned left on the next corner. More and more people stopped by, giving them weird looks.
"It's them!" The man took a step to their direction, fists clinched. "You should all be in prison."
"Without us, you will still be living in the filth of the Lower Ring, feeding on scraps from Hou Ting." He said.
"You killed the tyrant, and you left us to eat each other alive." The man said. "Suyin got rid of the bandits and rebuilt the city, what did you do to help?"
"And when you came back, you want to bring her down as well?!" An old woman pointed her cane to him.
"I'm freeing you."
"From what? Living a happy life? The bandits killed all my kids, the whole city was starving to death!" She picked up a turtleduck egg from the basket, threw it to his face, more people joined her.
Ghazan dodged, shielding the kebabs with his arms. "Hey! Not the meat."
"What the fuck?" Ming Hua blocked the projectiles with her water tentacles, froze the tips solid.
"Ming Hua, no."
Ming Hua let out a dissatisfied grunt, and focused on defence only.
He stood still, allowing whatever objects the civilians hurled at him to taint his clothes. He deserved this. The power vacuum after killing a monarch brought chaos and unnecessary sufferings.
Chaos is the natural order, without which there's no freedom.
Not all chaos is the same, though, what he brought spread no freedom. People were chained to worry about the pettiest things, like when will be the next meal, or if they can make it to the next day. He realized he did not open his mind to other ways, better ways, that can bring Anarchy to the world.
Anarchy can be achieved through gradual changes overtime.
He didn't know how long he kept standing there.
A squad of City Guards stood between him and the crowds, shielding them from the angry civilians.
"Folks, I understand you've suffered greatly because of their actions. I lost ten comrades to the bandits." The Captain said, "but right now they're helping us to defend our city from the United Republics. So, show some respect, please!"
They waited until the crowds dissipated.
He realized the soldiers are not faceless henchmen sworn to serve an oppressive government. Each of these men and women has friends, families, and their own unique values; they're just as human as everyone else.
"Thank you." He said.
"Don't mention it. I'll bring you to the Great Uniter."
"Master Tenzin told me the mission is a success, you've earned my trust." She glanced at Zaheer, "what happened to your clothes?"
"The people are not thrilled seeing our presence."
"I'm not surprised, to be honest. You have no idea how bad it was when I first arrived at Ba Sing Se." Suyin said.
And how many people starved, how many soldiers died protecting civilians from the bandits... She still sees their faces when she sleeps.
"Before we move on to discuss battle strategies, I need to inform you about few things during our operation. First, the Avatar can bend air now. Second, the Avatar let us go, deliberately." Zaheer said.
"Why would she do that?"
It surely wouldn't be conscience.
"Because the Avatar is on a hurry, she needs to oversee her troops for the battle." Kuvira said.
She sighed. She knew her days as an Earth Kingdom General would come back to haunt her, sooner or later. There wasn't a single day where she didn't regret invading the Southern Water Tribe. The Avatar wanted paybacks; she paid for her crimes dearly. A whole Platoons of her soldiers slaughtered... She glanced at Kuvira's Platinum arm, words could not describe what she saw in that wooden warehouse. And now, she has drawn her nation into a war.
"So, what do you think?" She said, hoping if she focused on current issues, it would distract her from the guilt.
"Since she can bend all the elements now, I bet she will have better control over the Avatar State than at Omashu, I won't doubt one bit she can destroy a whole army. We should base our plans around defeating her."
Zaheer realizes there are more than one way to achieve Anarchy, and the negative consequences of his actions, that further cements his collaboration with Suyin, and changes his perspectives (more on that on later chapters). You can see Suyin did an amazing job modernizing the Earth Republic, war criminal or not, she is a changed woman who does good things.
The war broke out several hours before sunrise, when people are the weariest.
Captain Ji saw at least a Regiment of armoured vehicles on his telescope. The machines loosely resemble Fire Nation's tundra-tanks during The Hundred Year War.
"Alert the Great Uniter, request for air support."
His Lieutenant pushed a button, rang the alarm. A Company of soldiers in metal helmets and full combat gears darted out of the bartizans, forming a line of defense on each ring, firing the grenade launchers on the parapet.
The explosives barely left a scratch on the tanks. It took him at least three consecutive shots on the same spot to create the smallest opening on the metal shell.
"Aim at the guns."
He followed the voice. The officer carries extra metal on her shins and around her shoulders, signature look of the Special Forces. Before he scanned for insignia, the metal arm caught his attention.
If there's one person he could trust with his comrades, it's Colonel Kuvira.
Her tactics proved effective. It only took one or two shots to destroy the cannons. Not only did they nullify the weapons, but also break the tanks' engines. Two birds with one stone.
But the enemies were too many, they couldn't stop the tanks from closing in -now less than two-hundred metres.
"Take cover, their weapons are in range." Colonel said.
He had a split second to duck away before the fireball blew off a chunk from the terreplein where he stood on. Colonel bent rocks from the ditch, filled the opening on the wall.
More flames came, tearing chunks larger than satomobiles off of the rampart. He ordered his troops to repair the damaged spots. They were forced onto the defensive. Firing from the embrasures did no good to his aim, with his vision limited, he kept missing the target. The tanks gathered at less than a hundred metres away from the outer ring.
Colonel switched on her Motorola.
"Special Forces Unit 1 and 2, reinforcement to the outer and middle ring. Unit 3 and 4, biplane air support."
A fireball headed towards the parapet. She hurled a boulder; it met the fireball in the air, reduced to gravels.
Metal claws hooked onto the edge of the parapet. Within a minute, two Companies of Special Forces set foot on the terreplein.
Colonel's troops came with portable grenade launchers, struggling for the upper hand on firepower. Others hurled boulders, blocking fireballs midway.
"Unit 2, send a squad, destroy the tanks with metalbending."
A Squad of Special Forces swung themselves out of the city wall with metal cables, landed on the machines. The tanks span, throwing the soldiers to the ground. A tank lowered its cannon to ground level.
He heard the sergeant's voice from the speaker. "Can't bend'em, it's Platinum!"
Colonel dived out of the city wall, launched her metal cables -their claws dug deep into the tank's armour. She pulled the cables, like a rein; the metal beast turned its head to the left. The fireball hit a nearby tank, the tank destroyed in a series of explosions. She slammed her fists onto the machine; its Platinum shell warped inward. He heard a sharp noise; smoke came out of its engine. She hopped off of the tank –now no more than a pile of scrap metal, hurled it into the swarm of machines; a dozen more ended in explosion.
Another officer approached him, carrying a grenade launcher on her shoulders. Out of habit, Ji checked for the insignia on her chest -the National Emblem of Earth Republic.
His troops are in good hands.
Great Uniter fired her weapon, explosives hit the tanks in the cannons. Flames engulfed the tanks. "That's what you get for messing with my nation."
Suyin heard engines from above; two squadrons of biplanes flew out of the city, drowning a Battalion of tanks in explosions. She looked in the telescope: three battalions of mechatanks approaching the battlefield.
Mechatanks are design for mountain terrains, they fit the operators like oversized armour suits. They might not be as shielded as regular tanks, but compensate with mobility. Dropping bombs on mechas is like attacking foot soldiers with trebuchets –a waste of ammos. The biplanes dove down, fired their grenade launchers, the mechas retaliated with...
Electrical currents soared into the sky, spreading out like a web. A biplane got hit in its wings, swirling down towards the ground.
...a lightning generator?
An airship approached the battlefield, with United Republics Emblems painted on its body. It fired its cannons, she saw a spark, the pressurized flame destroyed a nearby bartizan, along with two-thirds of the surrounding terreplein -with a single shot. She heard motors; a dozen special vehicles were digging their drills into the outer ring.
She switched on her Motorola. "Ghazan! Drive them away from the walls."
"On it." The lavabender said.
Biplanes started dropping like flies. She brought out her telescope: a figure flying in the sky. The figure struck a biplane, like a falcon. Bursts of white flame flared up at its engine. The biplane swirled to the ground.
"Shit, it's the Avatar!"
"Closer." She said.
The pilot shifted the yoke, the biplane tilted its wings, took an abrupt turn to the left, missed the fire stream from the airship by metres.
Kuvira pulled the trigger, the explosive hit its target –the last cannon.
The Avatar could attack at any time.
She launched a metal cable, dug its claws deep into the airship's shell. She launched the other cable, pulling herself to its top. She reached out with her right arm, tearing open the Platinum sheets along the way.
A gust of wind knocked her off of her feet. She slid, bent the metal on her armguard into a blade, drove the blade into the Platinum shell. Jets of white flame headed towards her. She bent a sheet of Platinum, shielding herself from the fire.
"Enjoy the surprise!" The Avatar said.
The Avatar leaped into the air, opened a wingsuit,
The Avatar moved like a ghost, compressed air hit her from the right, knocking her off the airship. She launched her metal cable, swung herself back to its top, found the Avatar standing in front of her. The Avatar threw arcs of fire. She weaved under the attacks, stomped on the surface, creating a fissure on the Platinum sheet. The Avatar stumbled. She lunged forward, but forced to halt before a wall of white flame.
The first formal battle between United Republics and Earth Republic
Kuvira torn off a sheet of metal the size of a door from the airship. She held it against her shoulder, like a shield, and stepped across the flames.
More air blasts greeted her, so compressed that it left indentations on the metal.
"You can't hide there forever!" The Avatar yelled.
Platinum is a soft metal, the question was not if, but when, the Avatar would slice through it. But winning the fight against the Avatar was not her priority.
She fetched the Motorola from her belt. "Unit 4, bring down the airship."
Two flights of biplanes soared through the sky, heading towards the airship, fired their grenade launchers. The airship shook, covered in explosions. With her dismantling its weapons earlier, her troops can now deal free damages.
"I will find you, and give you a lifetime worth of suffering." The Avatar opened her wingsuit, dived into the sky.
The airship tilted, threw her off-board. A biplane headed towards her direction; she hooked her metal cables onto its wings, pulled herself into the gunner's seat. There was an opening the size of a tram on the control cabin. She spared a look around, parachutes below them. The crew has long abandoned the airship.
She glanced at the battle on the ground: Ghazan melted the land in front of the outer ring, the vehicles sank into the lava, along with the drill-heads. The city walls are safe, and so does the city.
She dived down, saw her friend free-falling. She caught Asami with her arms.
"Let's get you out of here."
Korra propelled herself with fire jets under her feet, carrying her friend away from the battlefield. She brought her friend back to the camp, opened her wingsuit, leaped into the sky, headed back to the battle.
Her blood boiled; the wind did nothing to cool it off. Asami is the first and only person she trusts after her parents' untimely pass –no, she didn't even trust Katara with her full story. To her, Asami had long since became a family. She was too weak to protect her family when The Red Lotus attacked, and she swore she would never, ever, allow that to happen again. This time, it's the Earth Republic; she would show them, their actions come with dire consequences.
Using her airbending, she arrived at the battlefield within minutes. She flew to a biplane. She landed onto the aircraft; the crew launched metal plates at her. She swiped them aside with a gust of wind, punched forward, pressurized flame engulfed the crew in whole. It would be the first one, but it wouldn't be the last. The entire airforce was responsible for threatening her friend's life, so she wouldn't stop until she wiped out all the biplanes. She extended her arms, opened her wingsuit, and moved to her next target.
She found the biplane that boards Kuvira. Rage took over her senses, charged up her body with the power she could scarcely imagine. She burnt away her wingsuit, propelling herself forward with fire jets.
The Avatar's eyes glowed in white.
"Get away from me as far as you can before you open the parachute!"
Kuvira threw the pilot off the biplane. She had a split second to jump out of the aircraft before a white inferno blew it into pieces.
She found herself free-falling, spinning in the air.
The Avatar threw a firewhip the size of a sea serpent. She lifted her left limbs, her 'course of flight' took an abrupt turn to the right, missed the flame by a metre. The Avatar stroke down, the wind hit her in the chest, she barely had time turning the earth beneath her into sand before she was slammed into the ground. The wind knocked the air out of her lungs, she saw black dots forming in her vision.
She tried to push herself up with her elbows, her body failed to comply. The pain in her ribcage paralyzed the muscles around it. The impact would drag the healing process even longer, if she gets to live to see the end of this battle, and that's a big if. The Avatar hurled an even larger firewhip. She bent the sand to put off the fire, and found the Avatar flying above her, holding a boulder the size of a small mountain.
She raised her arms, there was no way for her to stop the boulder.
"Give up and save yourself the misery!"
The Avatar dropped the boulder. She fired plates of metal into the rock, bent the metal, tearing chunks off of the boulder.
The boulder never touched her; it stopped half a metre away from crushing her head. She rolled out of the way, Ghazan and Suyin stood by her side. They nodded at her, and together, they performed a splitting motion with their arms, slicing the boulder in halves.
Suyin helped her got up to her feet. She scanned the surroundings: enemy troops on retreat; the city gates opened, two Battalions of metalbenders and mechatanks of their own went on the offensive, driving the enemy away from Ba Sing Se.
While the Avatar was preoccupied with fighting her, her troops have gained the upper hand. She grinned; the Avatar was too blinded by hatred to concern about strategies, and it came with a high price.
"You lost the battle, now surrender." Suyin said.
The glow on the Avatar's eyes faded, but instead of fainting, the Avatar stood there just fine. "I know when I'm defeated, but if you want me captured, you have to do more than that. Fight for it."
Ghazan melt the boulder, sent the liquid earth back to where it came from. The Avatar stretched out an arm; the lava halted, and solidified. The Avatar stretched out the other arm; steam shot out from its fingers.
The Avatar bent the heat away from the lava -a technique never seen after Sozin, and that was more than one and a half centuries ago.
This chapter is jammed with action, and punchlines! now we know Korra can control the Avatar State, making her officially a fully realized Avatar. Not even her past lives can stop her from the killings...
PS: I swear I don't enjoy throwing Kuvira around like a sandbag, she's fighting the Avatar and I need to present the Avatar's power accurately XD
Korra threw her arms forward; the now solid rock broke into boulders the size of mechatanks, headed towards the lavabender. Ghazan put up a special stance. He won't have the chance to melt it again. She kicked low; an air current knocked him off his feet.
If there's been one thing she picked up from The Platinum-bender, it's timing.
She extracted moisture from the air, froze the water. The shards, transparent, so thin that could hardly be seen. She rose her fist, feint the ice behind a rock, hurled them towards him.
Number is not at her advantage, take down the most powerful first.
A water tentacle swiped her attack away.
"Nice try." Ming Hua said.
The armless waterbender froze her makeshift limbs into ice, drilling into the earth, sank below ground level.
Ghazan melted a rock, the lava span like a disc. She bobbed under; the liquid earth barely missed her head. Shards of metal rained down at her, she swiped her hands, metalbent them away, some didn't respond –Platinum; she blew them away with airbending.
She threw arcs of fire at Suyin and Kuvira, keeping them on their toes. She felt heat brushing against her neck, the lava disc came at her head like a boomerang. She stomped the ground, blocked it with a boulder.
The ground beneath her cracked. Ming Hua busted out from the ground, swung the frozen tentacle like a scythe.
She stepped to the side, the ice blade missed her head, dug into her right shoulder.
"Colonel, this is for you!" Ming Hua pushed the blade into her flesh, slicing muscles and tendons along the way. She gritted her teeth, a grunt escaped her mouth. Ming Hua sneered.
She grabbed onto the ice, melted it into water, the water glowed in blue, closing her wound at a visible speed.
Suyin drew out her metal cables. Korra bent Ming Hua's water tentacles, threw the waterbender over. The cables sliced Ming Hua in the thighs, Ming Hua fell.
She robbed the water from Ming Hua. Ghazan threw lava at her, she bent the water into a gimbal, the water vaporized as it meets the sizzling heat of melted earth. She bent the steam, casting a fog around her opponents, she froze the steam into ice. Suyin, Kuvira and Ghazan were covered in a layer of frost as thick as a book; they shivered, busy getting the frost off of their bodies.
She froze the rest of her water, hurled them like spears.
Suyin managed to raise an earthen wall, the ice spears collided with the rock. Korra swung her arm, compressed air cut through the rock like a blade.
She scoffed. "Cold? I'll warm you up." She drove her fists forward, two sparks shot out from her knuckles, like small suns, heating up the air around them until it starts to blur. She clashed them together; the flame grew to the size of a comet.
It took two straight minutes for the flame to burn out. She found Ghazan bending a wave of lava. He must've shielded them from the fire. She ignited fire jets under her feet, propelling herself into the air. She stroke down, as she landed, the air around her exploded, knocking the earthbenders off their feet.
She sank the ground beneath Ghazan, constricted the earth, she heard his bones cracking.
Suyin stomped the ground, a fissure spread all the way to Ghazan. Suyin launched metal plates at her, she dodged, and kicked, a gust of wind hit Suyin in the solar plexus. Ghazan climbed out of his trap.
Kuvira got up on her knees, launched the Platinum hand. Korra blasted it aside with a jet of fire.
Kuvira shot metal plates at her, but the attacks lacked speed, she dodged them with ease.
She ignited a pair of fire daggers, walked towards The Platinum-bender, "tired already?"
Metal plates fired at her at blinding speed, she dodged, one of them left a cut on her eyebrow. She snapped her head to the attacker.
"Come and get me!"
Suyin swung metal cables at her, she weaved under, lunged forward, closed in the distance.
She punched forward, fire released from her knuckles, expanding to every direction, like a dome; surrounded them, engulfed them -both of them.
Ghazan coughed, sat up on his elbows, it appeared that he broke more than a few bones. Two Platoon of mechatanks approached them; two soldiers put him on a stretcher, another two ran to attend Ming Hua and Kuvira for their injuries.
The soldiers lifted his stretcher.
"Wait, I want to see it." He said.
The smoke cleared out. Both the Avatar and the Great Uniter stood tall.
He glanced at the Avatar; the flame burnt the sleeves of her clothes away, and tattered the rest of her uniform. A few singed marks spread across her arms and her face, but otherwise, she was intact.
Great Uniter kept her stance, but barely. Suyin's uniform was covered in dust, a few plates of rocks left clinging onto her frame. It must be what was left of an earthen armour, blown to pieces by the pressurized fire. A major burn in her right leg, its skin melted under the heat.
Firebending of this scale at close range injures everyone, but this fight clearly has a winner.
"You are surrounded." The Sergeant said.
The Avatar broke out in a maniacal laugh, "two Platoons of mechatanks? Aren't this familiar! Here to teach me how to bend Platinum?"
The Sergeant pointed his flamethrower at the Avatar. "It's over."
"No it's not."
The Avatar thrusted her arm forward, from her fingers came lighting. The lightning hit the mechatank in between the metal plates. The current bounced on its armours, trapping all the tanks in a web of electricity, overloading their power supply. Smoke came out of the generators, the tanks dropped unresponsive.
"Even without the Avatar State, I still destroy you."
The Avatar glared at him.
He faltered; they were in serious trouble.
"Next time you won't be so lucky." The Avatar stomped the ground, a wave of earth carried her away.
-END OF PART 3-
Why didn't Korra use the Avatar State? First to induce fear, that she is just as threatening without the Avatar State. Since she lost the physical battle (Conquering Ba Sing Se), she needs to make up in the mental warfare. Second, she is not confident with her control over the Avatar State, she does not want to risk fainting on a battleground when surrounded by enemies.
The scene with mechatanks is a parallel to Part 2 Chapter 5, and Korra laughs at the irony of the roles being reversed.
Korra also gets a taste of poetic justice from Ming Hua, who attempts to cut off the same arm (that Kuvira lost because of her actions) from her.
PS: Mako and Bolin will be back in Part 4.
Suyin waited at Ba Sing Se's airport, she checked her watch: twenty minutes to 11. She wished the meeting worth the time; she'd much rather spend her morning repairing the city walls.
Bataar, Opal and Junior flew here all the way from Zaofu when they heard of this 'genius of the century' from Southern Water Tribe. Quite a mouthful for a weapon engineer, putting himself on the same level to the likes of Chief Sokka. He'd better have the skills to back up his claims.
The airship landed, with the name "Varrick" painted on its body. Its door opened, a man in blue tailcoat ran down from the gangplank, followed by a woman with a pair of round glasses sitting on her nose.
"Zhu Li, we made it. We didn't get blown up in a cannon-fire, or fried by lightnings!"
She glanced at the businessman; he has a cleft chin.
"The battle ended three days ago, sir." The woman wearing glasses said.
The man grabbed her hand, shook it violently. "My name is Varrick Iknik Blackstone, Varrick Global Industry's CEO. She's my assistant. I'm thrilled to get to finally meet you!"
She wondered if he came to shake all the coins out of her pockets.
"Sir, you're making our client uncomfortable." Zhu Li said.
"Oh!" The businessman pulled back his hand, "my sincerest apologies, Great Uniter."
"It's alright... I guess. My name is Suyin." She gestured her family. "This is General Bataar, Colonel Kuvira, Lieutenant-Colonel Bataar Jr.; Major Opal, Wing, and Wei." "I heard you're a weapon engineer?"
"You did your research! But I'm not only an engineer, my company can deliver the finished product right to your doorstep."
"That, we will take into consideration." Bataar said, "but we'd like to see you produce a prototype first."
Varrick put on a professional smile, "with enough funding, everything's possible."
"Right now, we're building the first ship for our navy, and trying to adapt our grenade launchers to the ships. Can you help us with these?" Junior said.
"Not a problem. I can give you the blueprint for the ship next week. If you pay… Zhu Li, what's the magic number?"
"One and a half million yuan, sir."
She frowned. Fire Nation switched to paper bills a few months ago, the huge influx of paper money made the world market quite unstable; the conversion rate to yuan changes everyday. The last thing she needed is to spend money or time on the loopholes of currency exchange and paperwork. Her nation is at war with a fully realized Avatar, she needs to strike a clean deal.
Zhu Li pushed the frame of her glasses against her nose bridge. "You can pay in Earth Republic currency. It will be eight thousand gold pieces."
"We will pay you 5% of the money as deposit, 25% after you hand in the blueprints and the rest after you show us the prototype."
"Deal." Varrick snapped his fingers. "Zhu Li, do the thing."
Zhu Li pulled out a contract from her suitcase.
Asami watched as her friend walked into the office. Korra slammed herself into the chair.
"Our defeat in Ba Sing Se is a huge strike on our morale, what do we do?" She said.
"I will cease all attack for the next two months, we will focus on defense, avoid losing any area. I will assign an additional Regiment of United Forces to Omashu, it's the most strategically significant."
Her eyes followed her friend's fingers on the map. "The enemy lacks navy, we can blockade the Inland Sea. That means if we control Omashu, we separate Ba Sing Se from the rest of the country. We keep them fighting in two fronts."
She never questioned Korra's decisions towards the war. Having worked in Earth Republic military, her friend has more knowledge on the enemy than everyone in the United Republics combined.
"I will work out peace treaties with the Water Tribes. I don't want to have you fighting your own people."
Korra bowed to her. "Thank you. May I tag along?"
The meeting with Northern Water Tribe ended smoothly. Chief Eska and Chief Desna could deny all they want, but at the end of the day, they rely on Future Industry to make weapons for their military. After four-fifth of the Elders voted to not intervene in her war with the Earth Republic, their hands were officially tied.
But as she set foot on the Chief's Palace in Southern Water Tribe, her hands began to jitter. She dreaded and longed for this day at the same time. She forced herself to take a seat on the chair, fighting the urge to run away at the next moment.
The Chief greeted her and Asami. No, he was not the one who drove her to her nerves, neither is the potential pushback from the Elders –backed up by Varrick Global Industry, Future Industry's top competitor. Even seeing the Chief putting his name on the treaty did not bring her off the edge.
No, it's certainly not nostalgia. A decade away from Southern Water Tribe took away any sense of "home" from the place she calls homeland. She had no one to see, nowhere to go.
"Avatar Korra, would you like to spare a few days for the Glacier Spirit Festival? Master Katara says she misses you." The Chief said.
Now she knew exactly what has been tormenting her.
"Are you ready?" Asami put a hand onto her shoulders.
"No, but let's get this over with."
She inhaled, pulled up the curtain and stepped into the igloo.
Katara stood up.
She wanted to say something, but her mind went blank. Part of her felt like a liar, a disappointment.
The old woman greeted her with a smile, "it's a long way, huh?"
"Yes. I guess."
The small talks wouldn't last long, she knew why Katara summoned her here.
"I can imagine a ten-hour-long flight from Republic City."
"...Indeed." She said.
"Do you have any story to share with me?"
She grew sick of anticipation. Dragging the conversation would only make it more painful. No more hiding, she would face Katara, whatever her former mentor might throw at her.
So in this timeline Varrick somehow finds his way working with the Great Uniter, again, and ...totally being himself. I guess Great Uniter Suyin simply isn't intimidating enough to shush Varrick, she probably never tried to intimidate anyone.
On Korra's side, oh well, things are about to get real intense.
"When I left, I went to the Fire Nation." Korra lowered her head. "I'm sorry."
Katara's blue eyes met hers.
"Don't be. You don't have to tell the world you're the Avatar if you're not ready." Katara leaned closer. "When I first met Aang, he did the same thing. In the middle of The Hundred Year War. Imagine that."
That did not cheer her up.
"My parents once said, 'don't let pride get into your head'. But I did, I didn't understand what comes along with the title. I revealed my fire and earth bendings to Unalaq, for no reason other than vanity. And that brings us to... that night, and Civil War, then the Earth Kingdom's invasion. It's my fault." She shut her eyes, not letting any tear to escape.
"It's not your fault, whatever happened to Unalaq that night you did it out of self-defence."
Katara placed a hand on her right shoulder, the hand touched where Ming Hua left the cut. She flinched under the pain.
"I'm so sorry. I didn't know you're injured."
She laughed bitterly, "I probably deserve that cut."
She didn't want to explain further, Katara knew the story. When it happened, it occupied all the newspapers' headlines for a week.
She wasn't sure if it's the wrinkles that made Katara look sadder.
"It is about justice."
"I have to disagree."
Of course Katara would.
"Then invading a sovereign nation at its weakest time, and alluding the consequences is?"
Katara shook her head. "But two wrongs don't make a right."
"Why not? How many families did Suyin break conquering these islands?!"
"So take her family instead?"
"Of course, punishments should fit the crime. I showed her what it feels like to lose your family in the war." She said.
"But what did her stepdaughter do to our nation?"
Realization hit her like a lighting. The answer is nothing.
"Do you think it's fair to put her through all of that?"
She could offer no answer.
"You're a master metalbender yourself, so you know this better than me. Toph said there's no earth particle in Platinum, you need to bend the metal itself. She told me once, 'I'd never want to have nothing left to fight but my willpower'."
"I'm not proud of what I did, but it's necessary." She looked away. She was no stranger to wars, and collateral damages are part of the baggage.
"Is it? Scarring an innocent person for life to make a point?"
Her brain told her yes, because it is effective, but her heart said otherwise.
"...I don't know."
Did she just feel sorry about Kuvira? She threw the possibility into the furnace along with a piece of firewood. Constant pressure from Katara has clearly messed up her mind.
"When I confronted Yon Rha, the monster who burned my mother alive, he told me to take his mother's life. An eighty-year-old woman, who had never fought in the Fire Nation's campaign. Should I do it instead?"
The question would put herself into a corner, "I'm not going to answer that."
"Let's say you have already defeated Suyin, what happens next?"
"She will stand trials."
Katara nodded. "Of course. And what sentence does she deserve?"
"Pay for the hundreds of lives she slain during the war."
"Killing her won't bring you peace."
She faltered under the directness of the words; she has never met this version of Katara.
"Maybe not, but it brings justice."
"Revenge is not justice."
Katara reminded her of the Avatar Spirit.
No, it doesn't, but revenge brings justice, and if so... "What's the difference?"
"Justice does not hurt innocent people along the way."
"I never wanted things to turn out this way! None of it would've happened if they just hand Suyin to us, they put this on themselves!" She slammed her fist against the table.
"Is it the people's fault to defend their own nation?" Katara said.
"Well, no, but how else can we bring Suyin to a court? She's a world leader and has diplomatic immunity."
"Why do you think the Southern Water Tribe didn't seek retribution?"
A question she has never considered. Fear of the Great Uniter's military might, perhaps?
"Because Suyin tried to make peace with us, she helped us repair our damaged infrastructures and gave up all the land she conquered."
"She didn't return the land to us." She said.
"The islands are so culturally mingled that they developed a separate identity."
But it didn't matter, she still sees Earth Republic troops on these islands.
"Korra, all I wanted to say is, give people a chance."
Asami waved at her, "hey, how did it go?"
"Better than I expected."
She tried to make her face into a smile, it failed miserably.
The President tapped her shoulder, "do you want to spend a few days here? To clear your mind, perhaps?"
She nodded. "I really need to."
They headed to the carnival.
"Asami, do you think people can change?"
"Of course, we all change."
"How much can they change?"
Suyin pushed the brake as her jeep approached the battleship. The ship occupies almost a quarter of the space in Chameleon Bay.
Varrick came to greet them, but it's the two men standing behind him that caught her attention. She frowned; they used to be United Republics' Cabinet members, spreading the Avatar's propagandas.
Varrick pointed at the ship, "Ta-da, this is a destroyer."
"What is it made from?"
"Titanium alloy, it's lighter than steel and twice as hard. That'll give a huge boost to the ship's speed." He held his hand around his mouth, as if he's telling a big secret, "unless you want your ships metalbending proof, I'll add a layer of Platinum on top of the shell."
"No, leave it that way, it's easier to repair."
Three-fourth of her metalbenders can bend Titanium, but there's only one person in the world who can bend Platinum.
"Great. Zhu Li will give you a tour and then we can test the weapons." Varrick rubbed his hands, "oh I can't wait to see that..."
"Wait," she gestured to the men, "are they your employees?"
"Darn tootin' they are, they tested all the metals in my inventory so I can choose the best one for the ship. Mako and Bolin, say hello to the Great Uniter."
"I understand if you don't trust us, but I swear, none of us knew we were working for a tyrant. And we'll do everything we can to stop her." The tall man said.
She would give them a chance, that's something she gives to everyone.
Katara clearly had instilled some doubt in Korra, but how much will it change her?
Every Winter Solstice, the line between the physical and spiritual world would blur, hence how the Glacier Spirit Festival got its name, celebrating the communion with the spirits. But the festival doesn't live to its name, everybody who came to the south pole knew a carnival would be held for days.
They cruised around, until her friend stopped at one of the vendors.
"How does the game work?" Asami said.
The man handed Asami a water-gun, pointed to the bullseyes.
"You've got ten shots. If all your shots hit the targets, you got the top booth. If you miss less than two, you got the regular booth. And no waterbending."
"Of course." Asami raised the gun.
She grinned, fifty metres, at this distance her friend could hit them with eyes closed.
And she was right.
"Good job." She raised her thumb.
He looked as if he's frozen in ice.
"We're going easy on you," Asami gestured to her, "she works in the military. Now can I get my booth please?"
The man glanced at her, "okay sergeant, I should say thanks that it's not you... I guess?"
They spent a fortune on the blue parkas, but it's worth the price. They blended in perfectly. She has grown sick of hearing the word "Avatar", people don't even refer her by her name, as if the title defines all she is.
Asami handed the booth to her. "You broke your watch at Ba Sing Se, here's a new one."
She put it on her wrist. "Thanks."
It's blue; it has a symbol of the Water Tribes carved into its faceplate.
She heard a distant scream, with more to follow. They ran to where the noise came from, passed a panicked crowd, she saw a dozen people standing in the snow. But it's their faces – or their lack of- that caught her attention. The ground shook, five creatures emerged from the snow. The creatures had giant claws and protruding canines; they loosely resemble wolves.
They're not like any other animals, these are... "Dark spirits…"
She heard about them from Katara's stories, but it isn't until now that she saw it with her own eyes.
"What do we do?" Asami said.
She bent the snow, froze the spirits in blocks of ice. Cracks appeared on its surface, and spread, the ice shattered, freeing the creatures. One of them swung its claws at Asami.
She threw an axe kick, compressed air sliced it in halves. Its body parts moved together, conjoined at where she made the cut, leaving no visible mark of her attack. She punched forward, white flame spread out like a cloud, engulfing all five spirits in whole.
Her fire blew them into pieces, only to be patched up a few seconds later. The spirit grew into taller, larger, and even more terrifying forms.
She stepped back, shielding her friend with her body.
"Regular bendings won't work on them." The old woman has two loops of hair hanging on the sides of her head.
Katara moved her arms in fluid, circular fashion, streams of water spiraled around the dark spirits. The water glowed, unlike the soft, blue light emitted from healing, but a sharp, golden tone. Golden lights covered the spirits, they morphed, their claws and fangs shrank, they returned to what appeared to be their normal forms -wolf spirits, and ran away.
Katara left one of them.
"Try it, it's like healing, but instead focus on the spirit energy."
She bent streams of water into a spiral, wrapped them around the spirit. She closed her eyes; she could feel it: dark, chaotic, out of balance. She guided the energy until it flows smoothly like a creek. When she opened her eyes, she saw a white wolf running away; it disappeared a moment later.
"Well done." Katara said.
"What about those people without their faces?"
"These spirits aren't the corporate."
"Then who... what did that?"
"Aang told me only Koh The Face Stealer has this ability."
She has never heard that name before.
"Looks like I will have to pay this spirit a visit, through the portal."
"I will go with you." Asami said.
"No." She squared up her friend, held Asami by the shoulders with both hands. "I don't want you to get your face taken away. Head back to Republic City as soon as you can, I need you to work out a truce with the Earth Republic, and inform all world leaders. The war can wait, we have a powerful spirit that threatens everyone's safety."
Asami nodded, headed to their airship.
Katara smiled at her. "I respect everything you just said."
She bent the metal box onto Varrick's desk. She flicked a finger, the lid opened. "Mr. Blackstone, here's your payment, in full."
He picked up a gold coin from the box, bit it with his teeth, "solid gold, that's what I'm talking about, fuck inflations."
"The Great Uniter is very pleased with the prototype, she hopes you can produce ten more for us."
He dug his hand into the pile, too busy playing with the gold to pay attention.
She frowned, raised her voice, "do we have a deal?"
"Sure thing, Platinum-lady, tell your mum I'll give her a 20% discount."
"You will address her by 'Suyin' or 'Great Uniter', and stop giving me nicknames!"
Suyin walked into the room, elbowed her shoulder gently. "Relax, he wasn't being mean." "So, I hope you're following through the 20% claim?"
"Why yeah, my word is my bond. Zhu Li, help me with a little bit of maths here."
"Sixty-four thousand gold pieces after the discount." Zhu Li said.
"How do you like Bataar and Junior?" Suyin said.
"Know what? The Fire Nation claims they have the greatest minds in the world, your husband and your son put them to shame."
She looked to Su, why would Su put up with such disrespect?
"Being casual doesn't mean disrespect, Kuvira, you'll be surprised how many people would prefer a conversation like this. Look at it this way, it's part of the contract."
"What contract?" She didn't remember there were such terms in their contract.
"An unwritten one, but no less effective. If we treat our business partner with kindness and sincerity, they're going to reciprocate, then both will gain more from the collaboration, right?"
"Man, and I wonder how you got your nation from rags to riches in three years. You know how to make good business, Su!" Varrick said.
She glanced at him; it's just some nicknames, she could live with that.
Korra had a moment of fun, and she decides to stop the war! Well, only because she finds out the world's in big trouble. But if you think things will get better from this point don't be XD
Varrick is enjoying himself, and Suyin just plays along, Kuvira's gotta to deal with it, because Suyin's teaching her "people skills" lol
A light column lit up the sky, like a torch. It must be the portal to the Spirit World. Jinora told her the First Avatar closed both portals during Harmonic Convergence. That was no problem for her. As the Avatar herself, she could open them whenever she wants.
She put her hand into the light, it evoked a part of her spirit, brought it up to the front of her mind from deep unconscious. It must be the Avatar Spirit, she had no interest in having another conversation with him.
It's the third time she entered Spirit World, but she didn't know where to begin. She'd have to ask a spirit, but no such luck. The spirits she met are too young to have the knowledge on Koh The Face Stealer's existence, let along its whereabouts. She walked further into the forest -a Baboon spirit in monk clothing meditating on a tree trunk.
"Spirit. How can I find Koh The Face Stealer?"
The spirit kept its eyes closed, "Ooooooommmm…"
She raised her hand and shot lightning at the spirit. The spirit shrieked, and ducked, the lightning singed some of the fur on its head.
"Do I have your attention?"
"It was you, again! You used to have much better manners!"
It met one of her past lives? Has the world faced similar problems? She'd like to talk to Avatar Aang, but failed every time she tries to establish a connection. Maybe the rift between them grew so wide that he had given up on her.
"Answer my question. Let me repeat it again, I will show you how much more I can give you than bad manners."
She flicked her wrist, sparks of electricity danced around her fingers.
The spirit quivered. "Okay, I will tell you everything, please don't hurt me! Follow the trail on the left, it will take you to Koh's realm, you can't possibly miss it." It put up a fearful smile and waved its hand, "have a good day, Avatar."
She moved her fingers closer to the spirit, the spirit jerked back as the sparks nearly splashed into its face. If this baboon thought it can set her up, it would be disappointed. "Do you think I'm stupid? Tell me, how do I prevent him from stealing my face?"
"You can't show any sign of emotion, not even the slightest hint. Please, trust me, it works."
She drew back her hand, the lightning dissipated. "You made a wise decision."
She torn off a piece of leather from her parka's left sleeve, put it on her face, tied a knot at the back of her head, and headed to Koh's realm.
The trail brought her to a cave, a centipede as long as a tram slithered its way towards her.
"Greetings, Avatar, it is nice to see you again. I am Koh The Face Stealer. For what do I own this visit?"
Koh has a human face, painted in white, red paints around the eyes, the face fitted onto his insect body like a mask.
"You know why. You stole my people's faces, what's your excuse?"
With a blink of its "eye" Koh's switched its face to that of a gentle woman, "ah… straight to the business, but first, would you like to show some sincerity?"
Koh 'blinked' again, now it carried the face of an angry man. "Your predecessor dared to show me his face when he was a boy, and you hide behind a mask as a fully realized Avatar? You are the same coward as Kuruk!"
The taunting was too obvious, she held back her scoff. It was possible that Koh could detect changes in expression even with her face covered, one can be never too cautious.
"Reverse what you have done on these people, or else. I don't have time for all the small talk."
Koh switched its face into a sorrowful old man, "unfortunately, what's done cannot be undone."
She stretched out her arm, a lightning was ready to go.
"Tell me who can fix this."
Koh shifted its face back to the white painted mask.
She released the lightning from her fingertips.
Koh did not move, she felt a tingle in her arm, subtle, but familiar. The cold-blooded fire missed its target.
It's him. "Amon."
"It's been quite a while since we last met, Avatar Korra."
Amon walked out from the cave. He wore no mask, his hair grew longer, forming dreads. Something about his look reminded her of Minister Tarrlok, who works in United Republics' foreign affairs, but she couldn't pinpoint.
"Also, it's Noatak now." He said.
Opal put down the radio and approached her.
"Our navy has arrived at the Serpent Pass."
"Good." She said.
"Commander Guan says he didn't encounter any resistance sailing through the Inland Sea. One way or the other, all United Forces' ships are gone." Opal said.
United Forces' navy has been blockading the Inland Sea since the beginning of the war. That, and the sudden halt on ground forces.
"What is the Avatar up to?" Wing said.
"Whatever it might be it can't be good." Wei said.
Since they had signed peace treaty with both Water Tribes... "maybe they're preparing for another war. Should we alert Fire Nation?"
"I don't think so. Their economy isn't as good as ours, fighting from multiple fronts will be a suicide." Kuvira picked apart her prosthetic arm with metalbending, but Suyin saw her doing a thorough check-up on the mechanics two days ago. "The Avatar is crazy, but she's not stupid."
"They might be feigning for a defeat, while designing a weapon of mass destruction." Junior said.
Her blood ran cold, what Junior suggested is a sensible move!
"We can't let this happen." She bent the metal pieces along the map. "We will drive them back as fast as possible, overwhelm them, capture Republic City and end this madness."
Bataar nodded. "Let's start by taking back Omashu."
Korra might decided to stop the war, but she still uses force and intimidation to get what she wants, even on spirits; way to go if she wants to change.
We finally get a scene where Suyin's whole family is together. Each of them has a unique personality, but they interact in a respectful and easy-going dynamic. A joy to write after drafting so many confrontations.
Amon/Noatak is back, and he has a deal with The Face Stealer...
Ps: The Baboon spirit is the same one who lead Aang to Koh The Face Stealer in the show. Guan is as corrupted of a politician as he is in the comics, he'll have his plot much later. And Tarrlok, he's playing a big game. What is it? You'll know in the final arc of the story.
Bolin pressed his ear against the door of the meeting room.
"Wait for the solar eclipse, it will be our best time to retake Omashu."
The voice sounded like Lieutenant-Colonel Bataar Jr.
"Stalking them, seriously, Private?"
He jerked back, searching for where the voice came from.
"Ghazan, stop doing that! You scared the air out of me!"
"Doing what? I didn't sneak up on you, I've been standing here for five minutes." Ghazan shrugged. "Did you practice the moves I taught you?"
"Yes, yes I did."
"Right, and you still can't keep the lava melted." Ghazan crossed his arms, "the battle's next week. If you want to impress your girlfriend, you gotta try a bit more harder than that."
"I just did my practice today... Opal's not my girlfriend!"
"Sure, she isn't. You joined Great Uniter's army to bring down the tyrant Avatar wholeheartedly, and accidentally hooked up her daughter." Ghazan grinned.
He let out a frustrated grunt, "stop the sarcasm!"
"Hey, as your mentor, I have to give all the necessary push to help you become a lavabender."
"What does this have to do with lavabending?"
"You know how stubborn rocks are?"
He nodded, he learnt that the moment he discovered he's an earthbender.
"And what you're trying to do is to force it to change to liquid, your will's gotta be stronger than them, make them to do what you want." "Not having the courage to assert your feelings isn't gonna help you."
"I..." He raised his hands, "you win. I'm taking her to meet my family."
"Enjoy yourself buddy."
He scratched the back of his head, "there's just one little problem... I don't know where they are."
"What do you mean?"
He pulled out a photo from his pocket, the ink had already started to fade, the paper edge had long since turned yellow. On the photo is the whole extended family, with an old woman sitting in the centre – she's supposed to be his grandmother. He flipped back the photo, there was a line of writing.
"2119 Jasmine Street..." Ghazan placed his hand below his chin.
"You been to Ba Sing Se before. Do you know the address?" He said.
"Not exactly, I only stayed here for a few days to take out Hou Ting, and that was seven years ago. The street is supposed to be somewhere down south at the Lower Ring, but now all these walls are gone, I can't guarantee. I'm not sure if they still use the same street names."
"Hey Bo, what are you guys doing here?" Mako said.
"Ghazan's helping me to find our family."
"You know, it's been some twenty-three years since this photo was taken, and after so much has happened to the city…" Mako scanned him from head to toe. "Woah, you look all... important."
"I know!" He tapped his helmet with his finger. "Sometimes I look into the mirror and I think I'm in trouble, then I realize it's just me."
The Beifongs walked out of the room.
"Nice to see you!" He ran to hug Opal, The Platinum-bender shot him a glare; he gulped, he would settle down for a handshake.
Opal pulled him into her embrace. "Come on, Kuvira's not that intimidating."
He gave out a nervous laugh; Kuvira snapped her head away.
"I can't wait to meet your family."
"About that..." he handed Opal the photograph.
She flipped it over.
"I've been there, it's the handcraft furniture shop where mum bought the wooden dinner table."
"So... you guys didn't rename the streets?" Mako said.
"Why would we do that?"
"You know, like an establishment or something?"
"You're making my mother sound like a dictator." Kuvira said.
"Sorry, I mean no offense."
"None taken." Suyin smiled. "Have fun with your family."
The address led them to a quiet neighbourhood, the sign "Chow's Woodwork" caught their attention, outside of the shop were some tables and closets on display.
"This's the place." Opal said.
A young man wearing green bandana approached them. "Hello, my name is Tu, how may I help you?"
Tu has a square face, thick eyebrows, light green eyes, every feature of this man shouts resemblance with Bolin.
"Hi… umm. My name is Mako, and this is my brother Bolin." He handed out the picture, "our dad gave this to us. Is it the right address?"
Tu yelled, "dad! Grandma! It's Mako and Bolin."
A middle-aged man and an old woman walked out from the doors.
"Mako, Bolin, this is your cousin Tu and your uncle Chow, and I'm your grandma Yin." She pulled both of them into a bear hug.
More and more people in forest green walked out of the building.
"One, two… five… eleven... This is so great! We've never had a family before, now we have a big family!" Bolin said.
Yin tapped onto Bolin's shoulders, "look at you, you're a soldier." She ran her hands down his brother's uniform, smoothing the wrinkles on the way.
"Mako, how has San been?" Chow said.
Mako sighed, how did he become the bearer of bad news every time? "I'm sorry, our dad died when I was eight." he swallowed the part where San was murdered by a firebending triad, they needed not to hear that.
Chow's eyes watered; Yin lowered her head, accepting the news with grace.
"The scarf..." Yin pointed to the red scarf he wears.
"It's from dad."
No one said anything for the next few minutes.
"Grandma, I brought a friend with us." Bolin said.
The insignia on Opal's chest caught Yin's attention.
"Bolin, you're dating a Major, good for you!"
"We're not... okay you got me."
As the title says, this chapter is all about families, two families living their life and being themselves. I finally get a chance to explore Bolin and Mako and Ghazan's characters. Ghazan becomes Bolin's lavabending and relationship (unintentionally lol) mentor.
But, don't let this lighthearted and happy chapter fool you, we'll head straight back to Korra and her wars on the next one.
"Waging wars on other nations isn't enough, so you move onto killing spirits?" Noatak said.
"You are playing with fire, bloodbender. This spirit will steal your face."
"Exactly. This spirit has the magnificent power to spread true equality to the world."
She narrowed her eyes, "you're insane. You want to take away everyone's identity!"
"Maybe, but no more insane than you. And what do you care about identity?" He scoffed, "you are no more than your bending."
She raised a boulder, hurled it to his head. He lifted his arms, she lost control over her limbs.
This cursed man can bloodbend anytime he wants.
He moved a few fingers, her joints locked into each other, she could not move, submitted onto her knees. He approached her, reached for her forehead with his thumb. She filled her lungs with air, breathing out white inferno from her mouth, like a dragon. He ducked to the side, unscathed. He flicked his wrist, forced her neck to move, her head lowered to an angle that if she breathes fire, she'd burn herself.
He stretched out his thumb again. She exhaled, her breath came out with sparks. "You think I'll be afraid of my own flame?"
He will not take away her bending, no matter what it costs.
He locked eyes with her, broke out into a laugh. "Fine, you get to keep your bending, but it wouldn't matter, because you will not be able to stop me."
He walked into the cave, Koh coiled around him, morphed itself into a beam of black energy, dived into Noatak through his head. A white mask formed on top of his face – one of Koh's faces.
The bloodbending grip on her body went away, she got up to her feet.
"I used to say 'I am blessed by the spirits', now I fulfill my promise. I will never have to perform the sick art of manipulating people's bodies ever again."
He didn't enjoy bloodbending? In a way, it made sense. He led a nonbender supremacy movement, and he believed every word he said.
"I used to think a world without bending makes everyone equal, but no, it goes deeper than that. Bending makes a person different, but people can differ in so many other ways, through developing a separate identity of their own. And that, is the cause of all inequality, and destruction." With Koh now possessing his body, his voice came out deeper than a human could speak.
She put up a fighting stance.
Noatak charged her with bare hands, closing in the distance at an inhuman speed. She had no interest finding out what would happen if she's touched by those hands. She raised a wall of fire, he didn't slow down, he dived into the flames head on, came out completely unscathed.
She bent the water in the swamp, a water vortex carried her away. It did nothing to spread out the distance between them. She bent the air around her, trapped him in a small tornado. He struggled to move through the wind, she skidded back further with her water. Within minutes, he was out of her sight.
She ran out of water. Her boots touched the ground. No, earthbending would leave trails for him to follow. She broke out in a sprint, propelling herself with fire jets.
He somehow became immune to bending. She would figure out a way to defeat him, but for now, she needed to leave Spirit World, and warn the world about the crisis.
She ran, she saw the portal at the horizon.
"Hey, what happened?"
A translucent figure floating in the air, but she recognizes that face.
She halted to catch her breath.
"Jinora! Warn the world leaders about Amon, he fused with Koh The Face Stealer, he's going to take everyone's face!"
Time passed differently in the Spirit World. When she arrived at the town, two weeks have passed. More people had their faces stolen, how was it possible? Noatak needed to travel through the portal to leave Spirit World! Unless...
Her blood ran cold.
Unless Koh has a portal of his own.
She picked up today's newspaper, the headline mocked her in the face: "Earth Republic Lays Siege on Republic City, Gives Ultimatum". They gave Asami forty-eight hours to surrender, but she knew Republic City isn't their target.
She is the target.
She melted the snow in front of her into water, froze it into a board of ice. She hopped onto the makeshift snowboard, bent the snow around her, skidding towards the coastline. She ran into a cliff, but she saw a port below, she jumped. She landed into the water; she bent the water to regain her footing. She skidded on the water, threw herself into a speedboat, threw the sailor off the board. She switched on its engine, pushed the throttle lever to the highest gear, and headed north.
She sailed for hours before she saw Republic City's skyline at the horizon. She took off the blue parka, tied her wolftail into a topknot. She would not drag her homeland into this war. Her boat approached Yue Bay, she saw a fleet of battleships. What a relief, with the right tactics, their navy could drive enemy troops away...
Until she saw Earth Republic Emblems on these ships.
Since when did they have a navy?
A speedboat approached his fleet. Guan held up his telescope.
"You gotta be kidding me...
He switched on his Motorola, "Great Uniter, the Avatar is here."
"Tell her to stand down, or we'll attack the city." Suyin said.
"Fire at the boat." He ordered.
The whole fleet fired their weapons; the boat ended in an explosion. He held out his telescope: the Avatar propelling herself forward on a vortex of water, eyes glowing in white.
He picked up the radio. "Stop your advance and surrender immediately! Or we will attack Republic City."
Korra is in trouble, a lot of trouble
Korra dived into the sea, bent the water around her, surrounding herself with a bubble of air, headed towards the battleships. She had the fleet's formation memorized to the centimetres; left, two more... she stopped, this should be the flagship. She metalbent an opening at the bottom, the first layer of the ship's shell.
The second opening... she aimed for a sharp angle. The last thing she wanted is to be slammed into the ceiling by a stream of pressurized water. She must succeed in the operation, because the alternative would be destruction on Republic City and her friend being taken as prisoner. She bent the metal, created a hole.
The stream pulled her into the ship, she had a split second to bend the water to shift its course. She landed on the bottom deck. The water pooled on the floor, rose to ankle deep. That, should be enough. She bent the metal floor, closed the opening.
A Squad of soldiers ran to her direction. She froze the water, trapping their feet in the ice. She broke off splints of ice from the surface, drove the projectiles into their chest.
Infiltration needs to be swift and precise.
She heard more footsteps heading towards the bottom deck. She torn off a few chunks of ice from the surface, melted them, applied the water on her forearms, and froze it solid, like armguards. She hopped into the ventilation tunnel, climbed up, and up... She glimpsed from the space between the metal panels –the radio room. And officer lying on the couch, she looked for the insignia on his chest: Commander.
He's the target.
She torn open the metal wall, lunged out of the ventilation tunnel. He fired metal plates; she blew them aside with a gust of wind. He drew out metal cables from his belt, she grabbed them with her hands, bent the cables, pulling him towards her. She kicked forward, a blast of air hit him in the gut. She melted the ice she carried, aimed the water at his limbs, trapped his wrists and ankles in ice. She had him pinned onto the wall.
He opened his mouth, she slammed a strap of metal onto his mouth before he had the chance to scream.
She switched on the radio, turned on all the speakers on the ship. She would broadcast this to the entire fleet.
"This is Avatar Korra, General of the United Forces. I have your Naval Commander in captive. Tell Suyin to meet me at the top deck of the flagship in half an hour." She lowered her tone, "or I will take his life, so don't keep me waiting."
Lin drew out her metal cables, checked the launching mechanism.
She nodded at her sister. "Ready to go."
"Here's the plan," Kuvira said, "Su, Lin, me, Zaheer and his team will keep the Avatar occupied. General Bumi will find a mechatank in the weapon room on the middle deck, break into the radioroom with the crew and rescue the Commander."
"Sounds like a plan." She said.
"We want to come with you."
"Kya, Tenzin, you don't have to, if..."
If it's too painful for you.
"No, our father would've wanted it." Kya said.
"I want to join." Jinora said.
"What? Do you have any idea how dangerous she is? It was a major luck for us to bust you out, spirits know what she might do to you when she sees you!"
"No, I saw her in the Spirit World when I was meditating yesterday. She warned me about Koh The Face Stealer and Amon. They fused together and they're going to take away everyone's face!"
"She's a war criminal."
A war criminal who is a master of all four elements, and manipulation. Even if the Avatar wasn't lying, who was to say she wasn't setting them up for something else?
"Lin, I'd listen to an airbending master's advice when spirits are involved. Jinora has more knowledge on the spirits than everyone in this room combined." Tenzin said. "The Avatar might be our only chance to stop them. Bringing Jinora will make it easier to reason with her."
Fine, it wouldn't hurt, Jinora is way more than capable of holding her own in a fight.
Kuvira clenched her mechanical hand into a fist, a contortion stretched all the way to the edge of the steel table.
Her adoptive niece wasn't taking it well.
"I understand you don't trust the Avatar after what she did to you, neither do I. She locked me up for months. If she's lying, I'll help you in every possible way bringing her to justice."
"Alright. Please get ready, Master Jinora." Kuvira said.
A group of nine boarded the flagship through the gangplank.
Suyin shot her a glare that could cut stones.
"Release Commander Guan."
"And giving up the only leverage I have?" She mocked, "no. I only promised to do no harm on his life if you meet me here on time. Listen to me carefully."
She put down the radio, stepped outside, walked towards her adversaries.
"Here's what I want you to do. First, withdraw all your troops from United Republic territories immediately. Second, agree to a ceasefire with United Republics. Third, alert other nations about a dark spirit attack."
"Why should we trust you? Last time I signed a peace treaty you attacked us right off the bat!" Suyin said.
She glanced at Jinora, the young airbender had a blue arrow tattooed on the forehead. "Master Jinora can prove my word."
Jinora stared back, resentment still lingering around the eyes.
"It doesn't change the fact that you're a criminal, a tyrant." Zaheer spat. "You're a monster, failing to end you at that night is the biggest mistake of my life."
She clenched her fists, her fingernails dug deep into the palms. Cutting him up to a thousand pieces, and bathing in his blood wouldn't sequester the hatred.
"Be careful with your words, this is not a negotiation."
She bent the glass on the radioroom's window, the window cracked, shards of glasses dug into the Commander's limbs. The Commander let out a muffled scream.
"Stop!" Jinora said.
"I will, if the Great Uniter accept the deal."
"Even if what you said is true, you're not going anywhere. You and your President will stand trials!" Suyin said.
She bent the water in the sea, a ten-metre-high wave crashing down to her adversaries.
Don't forget Korra used to work in Suyin's troops, she can recognize the ranks like a champ. She tortures the hostage just out of spite, let's see if the karma gets back to her.
Kuvira harbours as much hatred towards Korra as Korra has towards Zaheer, so things will only get more interesting in the next chapter, when they have a 7 to 1 advantage on the Avatar.
The wave came to a sudden halt. Korra glanced at Ming Hua, Ming Hua didn't move, that ruled the middle-aged woman in blue as the only possibility.
She bit her cheek; she would have to fight her own people today.
"Who are you?"
"My name is Kya, Master Katara's daughter."
"Are you going to fight alongside those who invaded our nation against your own people?"
"No, I came to fight on Avatar Aang's behalf." Kya said.
"That makes no sense. You're fighting his reincarnation."
"You tainted my father's legacy!"
She laughed, "and what are you going to do?"
"Shame on you!"
Kya hurled a jet of water at her, she slipped to the side, slammed her fists onto the deck. Metal boards split off from the floor, contorting, heading towards Kya like an ocean current.
A grip overpowered her metalbending, stopped her attack a few metres away before it could reach the waterbender. She stomped the ground, fighting for control over the element. The effort was futile: she manipulates metal through bending the residual earth particles inside, her opponent bends the metal itself. She knew exactly who was the corporate, and she wouldn't stand a chance winning the toggle.
Kuvira got into a bending stance, sliced the metal, hurled them to her like spears. She dodged, shot arcs of fire from her knuckles. Kya blocked them with a stream of water. Ming Hua bent water from the sea, made eight tentacles out of the liquid, like an octopus. Ming Hua swung the tentacles at her. She rolled away; ice blades hit the ground. She bent the shattered ice, launched them to Kya. Kya brushed them away with a wave.
Suyin launched shards of metal, she bent them away, aimed it at Ghazan. Ghazan dodged, threw a few rocks to her, the rocks melted midway, spinning around each other, like a disc. She weaved under; the lava nearly scorched her back.
She saw Tenzin, Lin, and Zaheer heading towards the radio room.
She has only entered the Avatar State twice, she did not want to risk fainting, but it's her only chance, otherwise she loses the hostage.
She raised a wall of flame around the radioroom, she blew Lin, Tenzin and Zaheer into the sea with a tornado. She bent the sea water, a wave the size of a tsunami collapsing to the ship. Ming Hua and Kya bent the water, the wave shifted its course, flowed pass the ship. She summoned two waves from both sides of the ship, no way they'll escape this time.
Something hit her in the left arm, she faltered, lost control over the waves. The pain spread out from her bicep all the way to her shoulders. She looked down; a piece of metal pierced her arm from the middle. She can't bloodbend outside of a full moon, but she could still sense the blood in her body. The fragment was centimetres away from an artery, the slightest movement could slice it in halves. If she dies in the Avatar State, it will destroy the entire reincarnation cycle.
No Avatar State before she bent the metal out of her flesh.
But that, would be easy. She has done it a dozen times before. She bent the metal, it didn't budge.
Shit, it's Platinum.
Kuvira grinned. "You lose."
No, not yet. She exhaled, the white flames surrounding the radio room grew taller.
"Let's see if you can bleed me out before I burn him to charcoal."
"That's enough!" Suyin said. "What do you want, Avatar?"
Lin, Tenzin and Zaheer climbed back to the ship.
"I want a ceasefire. Koh The Face Stealer is coming. If you take me down, nothing can stop him. For now, we need to work together."
Lin scoffed, "I don't believe you."
"If you think I'm lying, it takes a second for you to find out with your seismic sense."
"Who's to say you're not using this as an opportunity to plot for something else?"
"I believe you, Avatar." Tenzin said.
She attacked his family, held his daughter in captive and he was speaking up for her.
"Thank you, Master Tenzin." She bowed, "I apologize for the anguish I caused you and your family."
"Release the hostage, I will give you a chance." Suyin said.
"I'm afraid I can't do that. He is the only thing that stands between your troops and Republic City. I can't risk any potential threat to the United Republics and the President."
"You put this to yourself!" Lin said.
She looked away.
"I don't deny, but it doesn't change my position."
"We can wait, you will bleed out eventually. One way or the other, we still have the Commander." Kuvira said.
"By all means, then live the rest of your life without a face, and everything that makes you 'you'."
Suyin sighed, "what do you want us to do?"
"You will order your troops to leave United Republics, and radio President Asami to meet you on this ship, sign the ceasefire contract. I will release your Naval Commander once I receive the report from United Forces."
"And having us wiped out by your troops?"
"You won't be. I will stay on this ship, use me as a hostage."
Suyin frowned, "and who's to say you won't attack us?"
"I don't have a choice." She pointed to the metal in her left arm. "I try anything funny, Kuvira will push this into my artery."
Now the power dynamic is completely reversed. I told you I won't go easy on Korra XD
Asami landed her biplane on the deck. The wall of fire surrounding the radio room caught her attention. A middle-aged woman in helmet and a full set of combat gears approached her.
"President." The woman nodded at her.
"Great Uniter." She nodded back.
"I've been notified that you agree with the truce?"
"And General Korra is on your ship?"
"I will need to confirm this."
"I confirm." Korra's voice came out from the speaker.
The flame parted; Korra walked out from the flame through the opening. She found Korra's left arm covered in crimson; metal shard punctured through the arm.
She balled her fists, "what did you do to her?!"
"Injuries happen during a battle, President." Korra said. "Nothing major, I froze the blood vessels around it."
She needed not to be an earthbender to tell her friend was lying. Korra cannot bloodbend outside of a full moon.
"The entire world faces the threat of Koh The Face Stealer. The spirit fused with Amon; they are coming to take everyone's face away. I offered myself as a hostage in exchange for the immediate withdrawal of all Earth Republic troops from United Republics."
"I have made my decision, Madame President."
Korra was hinting her to stay professional. Exposing their friendship would only create an opportunity for the Earth Republic to exploit in the future.
"Very well, then." She opened her suitcase, handed the document to Suyin. "Great Uniter, let's proceed."
She hated not being able to say "goodbye" to her friend.
She bent the metal out of the Avatar's arm, and wrapped the wound with bandages.
The Avatar sneered. "I should count myself lucky, The Platinum-bender is attending my wound."
She fought the urge to slam a piece of metal onto the Avatar's mouth. The Avatar kept challenging her professionalism.
"We check every prisoner for injury."
She attached the Avatar's wrist-to-waist restraint to the cell wall.
"Don't pretend you don't want to get back on me."
She stroke with her mechanical hand, it landed centimetres away from the Avatar's face, leaving an indent the size of human head on the Platinum wall.
"Of course I want to, but I won't do it."
She refuses to torture a prisoner, that would make her no different than the Avatar.
"You're a coward." The Avatar said.
The Avatar must be trying to achieve something from all the taunts. She felt a sudden shift in the Avatar's heartbeat through the floor.
Of course, the Avatar wanted to lower her guard, to create an opportunity for attack.
The Avatar breathed fire from the mouth, she stepped to the side. White flame slipped pass her shoulders. She bent the Platinum chains, submitting the Avatar to the floor.
"If you want to break free from this cell, you're wasting your time. You're in my element now." She said.
A shift in the floor's vibration.
Sparks of electricity coiled around the Avatar's fingers.
"Go ahead, you'll knock yourself out long before you can zap me." She turned around, walked towards the cell door.
The alarm rang.
"All combat personnel to the deck!" Suyin spoke through the speaker. "We're attacked by... what in spirits' name is this?!"
"It's Koh The Face Stealer."
"You need everyone you can get your hands on."
"You think I will trust you, Avatar?"
The Avatar strode towards her; the chains rattled. "No. But I think you'd prefer to have a face."
They had only one attacker, but the power he possessed was beyond human. He had yet to show any bending, but he moved at a lightning speed. A Platoon of soldiers fired metal plates at him, he dodged without breaking a sweat. He lunged forward, stroke with bare hands. He touched the soldiers in the face, and... rip the faces away.
The soldiers were left with no eyes, no nose, no mouth, not a single facial feature.
Suyin switched on her Motorola. "Second-lieutenant, report your condition."
The soldiers stood still, unresponsive.
After 40 chapters, Korra finally got herself arrested, a well deserved one. We got the chance to see how she will behave when the power dynamic is not in her favor. It appears it makes her even more calculating and manipulative, even the taunting serves a purpose in a plan. But apparently Kuvira's more professional than she thinks.
Kya launched spears of ice, the attacked moved like a ghost. He was two hundred metres away, but closed in the distance in second. He put his hand onto her face. He lifted the hand, the waterbender's face was gone.
"What is this?"
Zaheer shielded Ming Hua's face with his hand. "Don't show any emotion, or the same will happen to you."
Ghazan looked to his direction for an answer.
"He is fused with Koh, the face stealing spirit. Or alternatively, Koh the Face Stealer possessed him. It's hard to tell. Either way, this man is enhanced by a powerful dark spirit."
"Hey, you masked freak! What did you do to my sister?"
Zaheer tried to warn General Bumi to avoid showing emotions, but soon realized it wouldn't matter anyway. Bumi is in a mechatank, there's no chance for Koh to see him let along touch his face.
Bumi switched on the mechatank's chainsaw. The enemy charged at him head on. Bumi switched on the mechatank's flamethrower, the enemy dived into the flame, emerged at the other side, unscathed. Bumi stroke with the chainsaw, the enemy dodged, the blade sank into the floor.
The General tried to pull the blade out. The enemy hopped onto the mechatank, held his hand around the operation chamber, ripped off its lid.
The way that man did it... Zaheer swore no bending was involved.
"Ghazan!" He said.
Ghazan threw a disc of lava at the enemy. The enemy leaped into the air; the liquid earth chopped off the tank's flamethrower. The enemy landed on top of the mechatank, stretched his arm through the opening.
The chainsaw, pulled out of the floor, swung to the enemy. The enemy hopped off the mechatank, landed onto his feet.
The officer's face was covered by a makeshift metal mask, but Zaheer recognized the mechanical arm –she must've bent the blade out of the floor.
"Who are you? What did you do to these people?" Kuvira said.
"My name is Noatak, you might know me as Amon. I am chosen by the spirits to spread true equality to the world."
"You're the one who take away people's bending in Republic City."
"It is I. I used to hear about you, and I looked forward to take away your bending."
He used "looked" rather than "look", which means...
He laughed, "Platinum is the only material that can restrain metalbenders, but you can bend the 'unbendable metal'. If you use your bending to oppress others, not a single person in this world can contain you. You represent the biggest inequality between benders and nonbenders, second to no one but the Avatar."
"Then why not do it now?"
"Because it doesn't matter anymore. I have something more powerful instead."
Which means he does not have that ability right now.
"Taking away people's entire identity?"
"It is always more enjoyable talking with intelligent people." He said.
He charged at her.
She stood still.
This is the moment that proves if her trust was misplaced.
The floor beneath him ripped open, he fell through the hole. She dived to the opening, landed on the lower deck. White flame engulfed him.
The answer is no.
She launched metal plates from her armguard. He swung his arms and legs, with a reflex beyond human, deflected every single one of them. She kept him busy with the projectiles, stomped the ground, trapped his feet into the metal floor. He pulled out his feet with shear strength, lunged at her.
A gust of wind sent him to the ceiling.
"Your opponent is me, bloodbender." The Avatar said.
The Avatar threw a series of round kicks, the air so compressed that it cut into his skin like blades. He glanced at the Avatar, and scoffed, "you're not worthy to be an opponent of mine."
The Avatar shot lightning at him, he ducked, closing in the distance.
"Huge mistake." She adjusted her stance, lifted her metal arm.
No risk no reward, seems like Korra is trustworthy... for now
He span his legs, a series of round kicks aimed at her ribs. She blocked them with her elbows, he stroke with his fist, she weaved under, kicked to his supporting leg. She stomped into his knee, she heard a pop, his joint twisted to a bizarre angle. She bent her metal hand into a blade, drove it to his face. His hand caught the blade midway, she twisted the blade, the metal sliced through the tendons, but he held onto his grip.
He drove his other fist into her right ribcage. The pain began at the liver, spread out to her entire body, like electricity. Her body, forced into a nervous shock, crunched together. She bent the metal plate on her armguard, dug it deep into his thigh. He grabbed her by her mechanical arm, threw her onto the floor.
He grabbed his knee, twisted the joint back to its shape, placed his boot onto the same spot where he delivered the liver-shot. A grunt escaped her mouth. She swung the blade at his ankle, he stepped onto her bicep, pinning her left arm onto the floor.
The Avatar pulled his leg from behind, slamming him onto the floor face down. He twisted his core, throwing the Avatar across the floor. The Avatar shot lightning from the fingertips, he dodged, leaped into the air, grabbed the opening at its edge, swung himself to the upper deck.
"When I have harnessed enough power, I will be back."
He vanished out of her sight.
The Avatar approached her; fists clenched.
She locked eyes with the Avatar.
"You're here to finish the job?"
The Avatar stepped aside. "Let's regroup with the others."
"Yes, a dark spirit and a man fused together. Your cousin asked me to warn you about this... Yes, the Avatar."
Apparently Suyin was calling the Northern Water Tribe.
"I phoned General Bataar, but Fire Lord Izumi didn't pick up." Tenzin said.
"They're probably under attack. We should go to Capital City." Kuvira shot up from the chair, making the way to the navigation room.
"No." She said.
"Why not, Avatar?"
"Even if we head straight to the Fire Nation now, we wouldn't know where exactly is being attacked. All international calls come to one of the receiving centres located in various parts of the country, before they connect the line to the corresponding person."
"And how did you know this?"
"I have spent a lot of times in the Fire Nation, five years to be exact, before I came to the Earth…" She might have stopped fighting Suyin, but it doesn't mean she stopped resenting the woman. "Whatever it was called at that time."
Kuvira slammed her mechanical hand against the table. "What makes you treat my nation like 'a Taboo in the Water Tribes'?!"
She scoffed, and looked away.
"You let me out of the cell wearing only this." She shook the waist-to-wrist restraint, the chains rattled. "Why? You're not worried I may kill you?"
"If that's what you're planning, then you missed your best opportunity at the lower deck."
"You proved to us what you said isn't a lie, as much as I want to lock you up, this is an Avatar level threat. It's true that letting you out is a risk, but I also want to have my face." Suyin shrugged. "Risk and reward go hand in hand, so I made a gamble."
"But make no mistake, if you try to attack us or escape, I'll throw you right back to that Platinum cell. And don't even think about tricking us, both me and Kuvira can sense the change in your heartbeat through the metal floor. If you lie, it takes us no time to find out."
She responded to Suyin with a nod. Suyin wasn't bluffing. Although the "Great Uniter" has never perfected seismic sense, the woman did perfect the lie detection part of it through interrogating hundreds of prisoners.
"Where are we going?"
"Zaofu." Suyin said.
A small ship approached the coast of Northern Water Tribe. The ship carried around forty refugees. Their garments, dominated by red, black, and gold, appeared too thin for the arctic.
Chief Desna turned his head to his sister. "Fire Nation's under attack."
-END OF PART 4-
By not attacking Kuvira after their fight with Koh&Noatak, Korra showed her sincerity to this collaboration. But both side will have to put their resentment aside to defeat him, at least temporarily
PS: We're going explore the Fire Nation in the next part, and Iroh II, Izumi, and Zuko will make their respective appearance. For those of you who have watched the Last Airbender comics: there will be Mother of Faces, the spirit will play a crucial part in defeating Koh&Noatak.
The Maglev is the fastest way to Zaofu, but Korra knew there's more reason than practicality for Suyin to choose this mode of transportation-
To humiliate her.
It took them more than ten minutes to finish the fifty-metre walk from the platform to the maglev, because everywhere they go, they would be surrounded by swarms of angry citizens.
And these mobs followed them after they boarded the train. She clenched her fists.
"You'll pay for your crimes!" "Rot away in a prison cell." "Even that wouldn't be enough." "You tainted Avatar Aang's legacy." "Tyrant!"
That word pushed her to her limits. She stroke forward, the chains held her wrists onto her waist.
"You don't scare me." The man spat into her face.
Sparks came out with her breath; she would melt his face off!
A metal blade pushed against her throat.
"Stay still." Kuvira said.
"Enough," Lin said, "you'll have the chance to vent out your rage during the trial!"
Zaheer opened the door, Kuvira threw her into the chamber.
Ghazan took out a rock from his pocket, melted it into liquid. "But that doesn't mean we don't get the chance for a preview."
"For once, I don't object." Zaheer said.
"Me neither." Lin said, arms crossed.
That tells a lot coming from a former Police Chief.
He bent the lava, held it over her left shoulder. The heat sizzled her skin. She gritted her teeth, refusing to let any noise escape her mouth.
Tenzin covered Jinora's eyes with his hand. "You don't want to do this."
"Right arm, you idiot." Ming Hua said.
"It is the right arm."
"Her right arm."
Suyin knocked the lava aside with a plate of metal. "My daughter's right here, you don't get to decide for her."
Kuvira slammed her mechanical fist onto the table, the steel warped into a ball like a piece of paper. "Drop it! All of you!"
Ghazan and Ming Hua winced. Everyone found a spot to sit down on the benches. Kuvira bent the table back to its original shape.
She hoped she can spend the rest of her trip in silence. No such luck. The radio went off:
"Breaking news from the Fire Nation! Ember Island is attacked by... a way it has never been before! The attacker, quote 'took away their faces' end quote. A third of the city's infrastructure is destroyed. Fire Lord Izumi warns other world leaders for a potential attack. Stay tight for we will be following the incident closely."
"What do you say, Master Jinora?" She said.
"I'm not sure. I don't think it is possible to reverse Koh's effect."
The maglev arrived at a city surrounded by steel walls. Everything, from the buildings to the roads, is made from metal.
"Welcome to Zaofu." Suyin said.
Crowds gathered the moment they stepped off the train. Great, another round of humiliation.
The crowd looked into the sky, and scattered. She raised her head.
An old man mounted off from the dragon. He wore a top knot, dressed in red and gold. But the burn scar on his left eye told her everything she needed to confirm his identity.
"Lord Zuko." Suyin and Kuvira tapped their shoulders with their right hands –a salute in the Earth Republic military.
She bowed to the old man. Without him, The Hundred Year War would end with Fire Nation burning the entire world to ashes, and most of the people standing here, including her, probably wouldn't exist.
He held his left fist under his right palm – a Fire Nation bow. "It is an honor to meet you. Great Uniter, Colonel and Avatar."
She wondered where the honour is to meet someone in chains.
"I know a spirit that can undo what Koh has done. The spirit's name is Mother of Faces. I met her while searching for my mother with Avatar Aang, Master Katara, Chief Sokka and my sister."
He couldn't be serious.
"I know this sounds like a long shot," he said, "but trust me, I would've have believed it if I haven't seen it with my own eyes. This might be our only hope."
The sun was touching the horizon when the dragon landed on the outskirt of Forgetful Valley.
"There's nothing special about this forest." She said.
Lin picked up the skepticism on spiritual matters from her mother. If not for seeing Koh's attack with her own eyes, she wouldn't believe a word the Avatar said.
"No, you can see face patterns everywhere: the leaves, the barks, the animals."
Suyin had told her about Kuvira's "cactus juice habit". But judging from Kuvira's pupils, it doesn't look like her adoptive niece is currently on one of those "trips".
"This means the spirits will visit here tonight." Lord Zuko said.
She peeled off a chunk of bark. It does have some sort of patterns upon closer examination.
Lord Zuko led them to a pool. Its edges are perfectly circular.
"There're three more pools like this in the forest. a wolf spirit will be drinking in one of them. Then the spirit will appear at the pool. Be quick! We need to find all of them." He said.
"Wait, I will meditate into the spirit world and convince it to come here." Jinora sat in a lotus position, and closed her eyes.
"I'll join you." The Avatar said.
When she opened her eyes, she found herself floating in the air, below her was the forest. She moved her arms: the chains were gone.
A giant wolf headed north.
She dived down; Jinora followed.
"Please go to the pool down south." Jinora said. "We need your help!"
The wolf spirit did not change its direction.
She grabbed onto its ears. "Stop."
The wolf shook her off its body like a pebble.
"Avatar, how dare you to ride my wolf as if she's a beast of burden?"
A thirty-metre-tall spirit approached her, it has four heads, and a body made from vines.
This must be Mother of Faces.
"I need you to reverse what Koh the Face Stealer has done, and end him."
"Koh is my son." The spirit spoke sternly. "I am aware of what he did, and indeed, I will help you to reverse the effect. However, to stop him, you have to separate him from his human vessel."
"How do we do that?"
"Unfortunately, I don't have the knowledge. But I will do what I can."
Mother of Faces vanished in a mist.
"We'll head to Wan Shi Tong's library; we might get our answers there." Jinora said.
"In that case, we will cross over the spirit world through the portal. We will need our bendings."
Ming Hua and Ghazan teamed up to get that "poetic justice" on Korra, writing that scene is a thrill. And Lin didn't stopped them, bc of course she wouldn't, she watched everything Korra did with her own eyes --from the crimes Korra committed as a Triad Boss to the war crimes as United Forces' General. Tenzin's the only pacifist here, for a lot of reasons as you can guess.
PS: Kuvira likes to trip on cactus juice XD That's how she didn't get PTSD from all the arm-chopping and flamethrower stuffs
"How did it go?" Lord Zuko said.
"Well, we met Mother of Faces, and she also agreed to help us, but she can't defeat Koh before we separate him from Amon." Jinora said.
"How do we do that?" Lin said.
"I don't know, so I want to go to Wan Shi Tong's library in the spirit world, but the Avatar insists us to use the portal."
Everyone focused their eyes onto her.
"Record says that Wan Shi Tong sank his library into the spirit world after Avatar Aang and his friends' visit to his library. Apparently, he doesn't like humans, so we will need our bendings there. There's no other way to achieve this than using the portals. We will use the one at the north pole."
"Why north?" Kuvira said.
She rolled her eyes. "It's closer, and for your own sake, think about what my people will do to you once they see me like this." She shook her chains.
Lin grabbed her by the collars. "You watch your mouth."
"Please, we don't have time for this." Jinora said.
"I'll go with Master Jinora. Lin, please help Lord Zuko with Fire Nation's defense." Kuvira said.
"You sure you don't need a hand watching the Avatar?"
"I can handle her alone."
She clenched her fists –the words are a direct insult to her ability.
Lord Zuko tapped his dragon's saddle, "hop on. I'll drop you three at the nearest airport."
Capital City is the Fire Nation's largest population centre after Ember Island, so he imagined it will be Koh's next target. He pulled the reins, Druk landed at the edge of the dormant volcano, he gestured Lin, they hopped onto a satomobile.
Zuko pushed hard onto the gas pedal. He turned the steering wheel, passing every vehicle on the way. He would worry about the tickets later, for now, they didn't have much time at disposal. They need to get to the Royal Palace and inform his daughter with the situation.
Lin looked around, the streets were filled with skyscrapers, the buildings have pointy roofs –a unique style of the Fire Nation buildings that can be dated to long before The Hundred Year War. She glanced Lord Zuko; never has she imagined a man who mounts on a dragon would be so acquaint with technology at the same time.
He pushed the brake as they arrived at the Palace. Gone were the imposing fortress she saw in the history books on The Hundred Year War. The building has a brighter, more modest look that reminded her of what she saw in ancient paintings, minus the traditionalism. She walked into the throne room; it has practically become an office.
The Fire Lord wore glasses. Her clothes, despite being undeniably Fire Nation with all the red and gold, appeared quite modern. No long robes touching the ground or huge shoulder spikes. If not for the flame shaped crown that undeniably states her identity, she could easily be mistaken as a businesswoman.
Beside the Fire Lord stood her sister.
The Fire Lord greeted her with a Fire Nation bow.
"Chief Beifong, it is an honor to meet you."
She bowed back. "The pleasure is mine, Fire Lord Izumi."
"The Earth Republic brought twelve airships and a Wing of biplanes to help with the city's defense. They will arrive in four hours."
"Thank you, Great Uniter Suyin." Lord Zuko bowed.
She glanced at her sister, Suyin responded with a salute. She shook her head. Now she knew why the United Republics' propagandas portray the Earth Republic as a militarist state.
"Father, I recall three more people were with you on the journey to Forgetful Valley?" Izumi said.
Lord Zuko nodded. "Master Jinora, Colonel Kuvira and the Avatar are on their way to Spirit World, looking for a way to defeat Koh The Face Stealer."
Colonel Kuvira landed the biplane at the north pole. Jinora could saw the beam from the portal lighting up like a torch.
"We're so lucky that it's summer at the north pole." She wouldn't want to walk in the arctic blizzard.
Colonel Kuvira bent the Platinum, freeing the Avatar from her chains. "This won't happen if we're walking in snow."
"I can still bend earth!"
"I know, but you won't stand a chance."
She stood between them before they could break into another fight. "Come on, we should get moving."
They stepped into the golden light.
She saw only endless grassland in sight.
"Doesn't look like a library." Colonel Kuvira said.
"No, it's not, but I know exactly where it is. I've been sneaking in for years." She smiled. "Take my hand, I'll take you there."
She closed her eyes, focused on Wan Shi Tong's energy.
She opened her eyes. They stood in front of an upside down, temple like architecture, surrounded by dense forest.
The gates slammed open; a giant owl flew out from the building. The ground shook upon his landing. He stretched out his wings, blocking the entire hallway. He opened his beak:
"What are you doing here, humans?"
Kuvira took off Korra's restraint. Is it an attempt to establish psychological control, to prepare for the unknown in Spirit World, or to reward the Avatar for good behaviours? Tell me in the comments below.
The owl leaned its head closer. She stepped one foot to the side, ready to strike.
Jinora stepped forward. "Great Spirit of Wan Shi Tong. My name is Jinora. They are my friend and my... associate."
"Associate" refers to her, there's no way the airbender would consider her a friend after she put up the scheme to capture the airbender's family.
"I been watching you sneaking into my library for years, Jinora."
"Well, sorry, I,"
"Don't be. Your connection with spirits is stronger than every single human I have seen, and I trust you with my knowledge because unlike other humans, you will not use them for war and violence. Therefore, I made an exception. But other humans are forbidden to enter my library."
He swiped his wings, pointing at her direction. "Especially not you, Avatar. All you do is to threaten and hurt, humans and spirits alike. You are a disgrace to the Avatar Spirit."
She stroke with her fist, a mechanical hand grabbed her by the wrist. She fought against Kuvira's grip, lifted her elbow and brought it forward, but no matter what she does, the hand sticks onto her wrist like a glue.
"Trust me, Spirit of Wan Shi Tong, I share the same opinion."
Kuvira twisted her arm to her back, locking the joints together. "You get a hold of yourself." Kuvira said, before releasing her arm, and approaching Wan Shi Tong.
"I would never team up with the Avatar if not out of uttermost necessity. I assume you have heard of Koh The Face Stealer? He is threatening the world."
"Your world." Wan Shi Tong said. "Fate of the human world doesn't concern me."
"That makes sense. I guess we will both have to make a compromise."
"And why 'we'? You are not in a position to bargain."
"What if I say, I have some information that no one else in this world knows? Is that something you're interested in trading with a 'permission of entry', One Who Knows Ten Thousand Things?"
Wan Shi Tong mocked, "you certainly don't look like an academic. What makes you think that you possess such information?"
She would have to agree with Wan Shi Tong on that matter. What game is Kuvira playing?
"So, do you accept the deal?"
"I accept the deal. Go ahead."
"I know how to bend Platinum."
Wan Shi Tong faltered. "That's impossible, it's too pure."
"No, you don't bend the impurity in the metal, you bend the metal itself."
She was all ears, she always wondered how Kuvira achieved the impossible.
"You realize earthbenders can bend crystals and minerals, correct?"
"Platinum is just another mineral that you can find in earth. Like gold. You listen to the metal, then you can establish a connection." Kuvira launched the metal hand. It came to a full stop, centimetres away from Wan Shi Tong's beak, flew back, reattached to the mechanical arm. "You must be hyper focused, to a point where you're fully with the present, have no other thoughts than bending it."
"You beat me at my own game." Wan Shi Tong folded his wings, opened the walkway. "As I promised, you have permission to enter."
Wan Shi Tong opened its wings and flew away, they walked through the gates.
"So that's why we need our bendings. You planned for this, mastermind?"
Of course that wasn't her plan, she prepared to break into the library by force, there was not a chance Kuvira wouldn't have it figured out!
"Spare your sarcasm." She said.
Lines after lines of shelves filled the building.
"Where do we begin?" Colonel Kuvira said.
Jinora was only familiar with a few sections in the library. But it would be relevant to what they're looking for, because these sections are collections on spirits.
She waved at them, "follow me," and headed towards the third line from the left.
A fox spirit ran towards her, one of Wan Shi Tong's "knowledge keepers".
"Hi, can I get the record on humans and spirit fusing together?" She said.
The fox went back after a few minutes, carrying an ancient scroll with its mouth.
She opened the scroll:
"Bonding between humans and spirits: a human named Wan fused with Raava, the spirit of light and order, during Harmonic Convergence, creating the first Avatar."
She nodded. "It happens every ten thousand years, spiritual energies in the cosmos are amplified."
"Then we can assume severing the bond will require same level of energy, and same type of energy. Which means spirit energy in large amounts, and I know where to get it. Now all we need is to find out how to destroy spirits." The Avatar smiled.
The smile chilled her to the bones.
The radio beeped.
"He is here! Already broke the first gate at Gates of Azulon."
"Hold your position, I will arrive at the flagship in fifteen minutes." General Iroh said.
The Fire Lord took over the speaker, "how's our navy?"
"We lost three ships, the rest of the fleet formed a line of defense at the second gate and the third gate respectively."
She ripped the speaker off the Fire Lord's hand. "Tell your troops to cover their faces, or he'll steal your face! And prevent him from closing in the distance at all costs."
"Will do, Great Uniter."
She handed Iroh a Motorola. "Let's go, General. We'll collaborate our troops. Keep me updated."
She dashed out of the meeting room.
So again, looks like the Avatar had something already planned out already, a mastermind indeed. Jinora, naturally has more affinity with the spirits due to her connections with them, was horrified at the implications she gave.
And let's take a moment to appreciate Kuvira's ability to improvise and Korra' deductive reasoning, they're brutally efficient at solving problems when they work with, instead of against, each other.
General Iroh pulled out his telescope -the dark spirit was less than five hundred yards away.
He switched on the Motorola. "I need air support."
"I need air support. Great Uniter, do you read me?"
A swarm of biplanes covered the sky, flew towards the enemy. He sighed in relief.
Suyin's voice came out of the speaker. "A little busy here!"
He heard an explosion.
"My airships will provide you more firepower!" She said.
The enemy propelled himself on the water with... spirit energy? And triggered a series of explosions.
The naval mines.
Iroh clinched his fist. "Yes!"
"My airships are dropping mines behind the second gate; we have your back covered." Suyin said.
Even without his telescope, he could see the explosions slowed down the dark spirit.
Could it be a trick?
No, not with nearly three hundred biplanes shooting explosives from his back.
General Iroh raised a thumb. Her biplanes not only enable them to attack from two sides, but also inform everyone if the dark spirit were playing any trick.
He picked up the radio. "Advance."
It is time for his fleet to go on the offensive.
"Good thinking." General Iroh spoke through the Motorola.
She twisted the yoke all the way left, the aircraft shifted its direction violently, barely avoiding the purple beam.
"Save it for later! He can shoot spirit blast now." She yelled.
"He shoots spirits beams from his knuckles."
"I don't know, maybe he gains power from stealing people's face!"
He shot spirit beams at the water. It triggered the mines. The explosions were soon covered up by a bizarre humming noise –it must be from the spirit beams. The humming grew louder, and louder, soon reached to an unbearable level that made her head ring, and blurred her vision.
She felt something flowing down from her ears across her chin, cooling down the skin it touches. She wiped with her hand: her palm dyed in crimson. She blinked her eyes until her vision was clear, and reach for her Motorola. "Hold back your fleet! He destroyed the mines."
General Iroh spoke something through the speaker, but she has yet to recover enough hearing to comprehend his words. The dark spirit closed in the distance to the ships rapidly.
Too late, he already boarded on one of the ships.
"Jump!" She told the gunner.
She made sure she saw the gunner opened the parachute.
She turned off the biplane's engine, pushed the yoke all the way forward, the biplane swirled its way to the battleship. He aimed his fists at her, she twisted the yoke to the right, her biplane escaped the purple beam by less than a metre.
One hundred metres! Seventy metres!
She metalbent the biplane, ripped it in halves, hurled it to the dark spirit, and opened her parachute.
The remains of the biplane crushed him from the top. She landed onto the deck, took off her parachute. He tried to get up. She bent the metal, compressed it into a boulder, pressed the boulder against the deck. She stomped on the deck, bent the metal floor, sinking him beneath the floor.
Everything fell to silence
...for a few seconds.
Cracks spread across the boulder, a burst of purple energy from below shattered it to pieces. The shock wave knocked her off her feet. Shards of metal scattered all over the floor. She tried to sit up on her elbows, but her muscles wouldn't comply. She touched her face: at least the mask is still there.
He stretched out his hand, and approached her.
"I will equalize the world. Resistance is futile. Starting from you, Great Uniter."
"Hey, your opponent is me."
General Iroh trapped his wrist with a fire whip. He jerked his arm, the flame dissipated.
General Iroh followed up with arcs of fire. "Attack."
The remaining crew -two squads of firebenders, combined their attacks, the fire grew to the size of a mountain, engulfed the dark spirit in whole. He stepped out, unscathed.
General Iroh shot lighting at him, she bent shards of metal on the floor, drove them into his back. Purple energy lit up around his wounds, pushed the splinters out of his flesh, closing up the skin in mere seconds. He turned around.
She pushed herself up to her feet. But he didn't attack her.
She bent all the metal fragments she could find, rained them down to him. He moved like a ghost; her attacks missed the target. He pressed his fists together, purple beam shot out from his knuckles, vaporized the crew on the spot.
She switched on her Motorola. "Fire!"
General Iroh told his troops the same. "Destroy this ship!"
They jumped off the deck.
General Iroh and her grabbed onto chunks of debris to stay afloat.
Her biplanes dropped at least two dozen bombs onto the deck; an entire fleet fired their cannons. Explosions covered the battleship. The vessel began to sink.
No human being, even the Avatar, could survive this.
But he is none of these, he is something more powerful.
He leaped into the air, using the shockwave's momentum, launched himself to another ship. The crew scattered. He punched forward, a cloud of purple energy swept cross the whole deck.
She shuddered. Maybe it's from the cold water, maybe it's fear. What chance do they have against such power?
A vortex of water shot up into the sky. The water turned into a mist, revealing a spirit. The spirit has four heads and a body made of vines.
"Koh! Don't you dare tempering with my creations." The spirit said.
Yes, Suyin is the one who invented the "biplane tricks" you saw in earlier chapters, and she took it to a whole other level! We get to see Great Uniter Suyin in action and she is a savage.
PS: In case you're curious, Fire Nation uses imperial measurements, a reflection of their "uniqueness" and a semi-isolationist attitude.
Chapter 47: (Part 5 Chapter 5) Turning the Tides
Things weren't doing good, both in the Spirit World and in Capital City. Until Korra, for the first time in the story, used her Avatar powers for good.
"No, it is my idea all along." Noatak said. "Your son made a deal with me. I want equality for all, he wants to add new faces to his collection."
"Impossible, humans fusing with spirits can only happen during Harmonic Convergence." The Mother of Faces said.
"There are a lot of things you don't know about Koh."
Bending is a curse, it might not be the cause of all inequality, but it remains a mean and a cause for destruction. He did not hesitate to trade his waterbending for a bond with the face stealer, and it proved to be the best decision he has made in his life.
"But it doesn't matter now." He shot a beam of spirit energy from his knuckles.
The purple beam left a hole on Mother of Faces's body –made from vines. He did not ease on his assault.
"Even you need a vessel to exercise your full power."
"Still, that is enough power to stop you." She said.
The vines grew at a visible speed, filling the gaps on her body in mere seconds. Mother of Faces waved her arm; a thick fog covered a battleship nearby.
He could sense his power leaving him. When the mist dissipated, all crew on the ship regained their facial features.
He added more ferocity to his attacks. Energy beams blew off her arms. New vines grew to replace them.
He had an idea.
He attacked the same spot, destroying more vines, and more vines... He would destroy the entire body bit by bit, all he needed is time.
He wouldn't be able to kill her, though. Spirits cannot be destroyed unless they take on human vessels, or a mortal form. But he wouldn't need to. Once he defeated her in today's battle, she wouldn't be able to come back until three months later. And by then, he would've taken the face from every single person on this world, or at least most of them. With that amount of power, she would no longer be a threat.
The battleships fired at him again, he landed on one of them, released his energies across the deck, took away the crew's faces. Fog moved towards the ship's direction; he shot energy beams at her, forcing her onto the defensive. He would not give her the chance to undo his work. Two thirds of the vines have grown back. He pressed on his attack; he wouldn't let her to recover.
The fleets fired at him again. He growled. This would make the process a lot more tedious.
Wan Shi Tong dived down, striking with his talons.
Kuvira raised an earthen wall.
"We had a deal!"
"Yes, we do, and I did grant you permission to access my library, but I made no mention on the permission to leave."
Wan Shi Tong squeezed his massive claws, talons dug deep into the stone, creating cracks on the rock; the cracks spread to its edges, like a web.
"You will stay here forever, except the airbender." He spread out his wings, the wind drove Jinora away.
She spread her arms apart; the rock exploded, reduced to sand and gravels. She bent the sand, a cloud of dust circled around Wan Shi Tong. Jinora got into a bending stance; the air beside him span, grew to a tornado, carrying the sand along with it, engulfing him in whole, like a storm.
"He's stopping the wind." Jinora said.
She soon got her answers. As the storm began to subside, she saw Wan Shi Tong flipping his wings. She bent the stone ceiling; a boulder the size of a biplane torn off from the structure, dropped on Wan Shi Tong's head, slammed him against the ground. The ground beneath him cracked under the force of impact, the cracks extended for metres.
Wan Shi Tong's body grew larger, his neck grew longer, his wings wider. He straightened his posture, shook the boulder off his body like a paper bag. He flapped his wings, creating winds that rival Master Jinora's airbending...
or worse. Jinora bent the air around them, encasing them in an air bubble -only to be blown away seconds later.
She bent the metal soles of her boots, pikes of metal dug into the ground. The wind got stronger; she began to slide back. She lowered her stance, placed her hands onto the ground. She bent the earth, rocks wrapped around her hands like gloves, securing her grips.
She heard screams, and saw Jinora spinning in the air. She launched her metal cable, caught the airbender by the waist. "Bend the wind away!"
"It's too powerful."
She could use some help here... where's the Avatar? Of course the Avatar would escape, this is the perfect opportunity, what else should she expect? If her hands weren't occupied, she would've slammed the palm against her forehead.
Electricity coiled Wan Shi Tong's body. He shuddered, before tumbling onto the floor. Behind him stood the Avatar -with lightning flowing out of her fingertips. The cold-blooded fire raged through his body, until smoke came out. The air filled with the smell of burnt feathers.
She helped Jinora to get up from the ground.
The Avatar approached them, panting. "Let's get out of here."
Maybe she didn't read the Avatar as well as she thought.
He started his campaign at dawn, and now it was sunset.
He destroyed two thirds of the navy, pushed them beyond Gates of Azulon all the way back to First Lord's Harbour. He took down half of the airships, and all the biplanes except a few. He would land on the city in an hour.
He had won the battle when he slayed Mother of Faces. His strategy was simple, grueling, but effective: shooting energy beams at her until there's nothing left.
A biplane flew by, he released an energy beam from his knuckles. It missed the target. He vaguely remembered a figure jumping out of the biplane, and the next he saw, a vortex of water as tall as a skyscraper shot up from of the sea. Five streams of white flame the size of sea serpents stroke down to him. He countered with energy beams of the same size; explosions filled the sky. Waves the size of tsunami knocked him into the water; the water around him glowed in gold.
Chapter 48: (Part 5 Chapter 6) The White Lotus Gambit
The power was leaving him. To make the matter worse, he sensed the presence of a powerful spirit, shaking his bond with Koh. He released a burst of spirit energy, knocked himself out of the water. He saw the Avatar; her eyes glowed in white.
He had underestimated the Avatar Spirit. If he fights her now, he would lose. It's time to grind for more powers, and he would come back to finish the business when he's ready. Then he would give the Avatar what she deserves. A spout of spirit energy carrying him to the high seas.
Everyone in the meeting room had a long day, but they had to burn the midnight oil, because none of them knew when or where will be Noatak's next attack.
Back at Won Shi Tong's library, she learnt that what Katara showed her at south pole is an ancient, presumably extinct bending practice that dates to an era before the physical and the spiritual world was separated, before the Avatar, where humans competed with spirits for resources. But her former mentor has only discovered a fraction of the technique's full potential. This very technique can weaken a spirit's power, even destroy the spirit entirely.
On top of that, there is one version for each element.
Korra threw the scrolls to the middle of the round table for sharing.
"What are these?" Fire Lord Izumi said.
She rolled out the scrolls. "A way to defeat him."
"These are bending forms." Suyin said.
"Precisely. The techniques can weaken, or destroy a spirit. One for each element."
"I will make as much copy as I can. The more people learn it, the better." General Iroh said.
"That's not it. To defeat Koh, we must break his bond with Noatak. But no one has tried it in history." Jinora said.
She rolled out another scroll, showed it across the meeting room. "Because a bond between a human and a spirit is very rare. With the only other case being the Avatar: a man named Wan fused with the Avatar Spirit through touching the portal during Harmonic Convergence, when spiritual energy in the cosmos is amplified.
That means enormous amount of spirit energy. Breaking the bond will require the same energy in similar amounts."
"How do we achieve that?" Fire Lord Izumi said.
"We can have a powerful spirit sacrifice itself, and I have found the most suitable one."
"Good. Meditate into Spirit World and convince it." Kuvira brought out the chains, "now I need to put these on you."
"No, it doesn't work like that. When a spirit self-destroys, the energy will release immediately. Unless there is a vessel to carry the energy, it will be wasted. So I need to travel there physically."
"I didn't ask you to join. Suit yourself." She said.
"Not in a million years. What if you escape?"
"It's okay." Suyin said. "If she wanted to escape, she would've done it at the north pole."
Kuvira stared at Suyin for quite a while before putting the chains away. "Fine."
"What happens next?" Fire Lord Izumi said.
"We need to store the energy somewhere else, my body can't handle it for long."
"We can transfer the energy into a battery of some sort. And when we release it, it needs to hit the target, like a cannon." Kuvira said.
Suyin raised a thumb. Hardly unexpected from mother and daughter.
But she had to admit, the suggestion makes a lot of sense.
Fire Lord Izumi stood up from the chair, "we will need the greatest minds in the world, but we will stop at here tonight."
It's been two weeks after the battle in Capital City, Tarrlok finally picked up the telephone. He had a meeting to arrange.
"General Bataar, I would like to meet you and your top engineers at Republic City as soon as possible." He said.
"How can you be sure that his next target will be Republic City, instead of Omashu or Ba Sing Se?"
"Because it's not a speculation, it's a fact. Reports from the Northern Water Navy says he attacked several villages before being repelled by the military. Since then, he has passed a few islands at our northwest border, and now setting course towards Yue Bay. I suspect he will be at our doors within a week."
"How did you get the information?" The voice was deeper, and colder.
"How I obtain the information is of no importance, Mr. Zaheer. If you question its validity, feel free to ask the Northern Water Tribe. But after that, I would like to see engineers from all nations in Republic City. We are running out of time."
He hung up the telephone, not giving them the chance to object.
He put the Pai Sho board onto his table. He gestured Chief Eska and Chief Desna, "the guests make their first move."
Eska picked up a white lotus tile, placed it onto the centre of the board.
He lifted a corner of his mouth, a courteous smile.
"I see you favor the white lotus gambit. Not many still cling to the ancient ways."
He placed a sword tile at the edge of the board.
"Those who do can always find a friend." Desna said.
They nodded at each other. Each of them picked up the speed of their moves. He placed the last tile, the game ended by "flourish".
"The White Lotus opens wide to those who know her secrets."
He flipped over the collar of his shirt: a white lotus symbol imprinted on the button. The button is blue, a subtle way to indicate the element at charge.
The twins rolled over their sleeves: two white lotus symbols sewed into the inner linings.
They bowed. "It is an honor to meet you, Grand Lotus."
He folded back the collars, nodded to the twins, "get prepared. It is time to bring the world back to balance."
Finally, I get to write Tarrlok showing up, he's might not be that relevant to part 5 of the story but he plays a major role on the next plot arc, I swear it'll blow your mind.
As you can see, The Order of White Lotus is far from "Avatar's glorified body-guard" in this timeline, they remained in secret. But with Tarrlok being the leader, there's no way to tell what he meant by "bring the world back to balance"...
Chapter 49: (Part 5 Chapter 7) Spirit Conductor
General Bataar hasn't slept much in the past two days. He wanted to finish the blueprint before going to tomorrow's conference. And neither has his family.
When they dragged their feet towards the meeting room, he and Suyin went on a yawning match; Kuvira straight up closed her eyes, navigating through the hallways with seismic sense.
The man sat beside the President, dressed in a blue semi formal attire, has three long dreads flowing all the way to his lower back. The man stood up, smiled ear to ear –typical politician smile:
"Greetings, to leaders of all nations. My name is Tarrlok, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the United Republics. I hereby offer you my sincerest apologies for the lack of preparation in this conference, and my deepest appreciation for accepting my invitation. But I am afraid this is an urgent matter that does not leave us much time to…"
Apparently, things are not urgent enough for the man to skip the formalities. This man could talk people to death.
But he knew why -Tarrlok aimed to use the speech to induce mental fatigue and irritation, so the United Republics would get the best end of the upcoming negotiation; and the strategy has most certainly taken its effect.
The Chief of Southern Water Tribe, along with his two Elders, played with their jewelleries. Master Tenzin and Jinora, who represent the Air Nation, failed to hold off the yawns. Even Fire Lord Izumi, who could sit through Fire Nation's ten-minute-decorum before a meeting, took off her glasses to rub her eyes; her assistance's eyes had wondered elsewhere long before.
He turned his head around: Suyin span her pen back and forth with metalbending, an obvious attempt to keep herself awake. Kuvira had her arms crossed, eyes shut, head sightly lowered; he couldn't tell if she is asleep or sensing the floor's vibration, but it's not the time to find out. Chief Eska and Chief Desna sat straight, remained their indifferent glance. The Northern Water Tribe must've expected this, which means they have been working with the United Republics.
When he was about to have a shut eye, Kuvira elbowed him gently, her eyes wide open. "He's getting to the point." She said.
"We are here to discuss the design of a spirit conductor. Each nation will present their own blueprint, once we made an agreement on the final design, we will proceed with construction of the device." Tarrlok said.
"And I assume the construction will take place in Republic City?"
Fire Lord Izumi's words woke up almost everyone in the room.
"Correct." The President said.
"How can we trust you not turning it into a weapon of mass destruction?" Suyin said.
"We can't. The power comes from a spirit destroying itself. That doesn't happen every day. Besides, the battery will likely break after conducting huge amount of spirit energy. It is safe to assume this weapon could only be fired for once." The president pressed her chin against her hand. "If you have concerns about the Avatar, I can assure you, she wouldn't be able to harvest spirit energy on a regular basis. The Avatar admitted herself carrying these energies is hard on the body."
Kuvira tapped the table twice: the signal for "truth". He opened his binder and pulled out his blueprint.
"This is our design."
The President put her blueprint onto the table. "This is my design with Northern Water Tribe engineers."
The president was confirming Northern Water Tribe's association with the United Republics, or more accurately, a demonstration of her influence on Northern Water Tribe. He knew how her company Future Industry had practically bought off the Council of Elders.
"I propose all engineers work together and come up with a final design." Fire Lord Izumi said. "You are free to withdraw from this program if you object."
"The Earth Republic agrees to join under one condition," he raised a finger, "every nation will receive a copy of the final blueprint, regardless of their participation."
This technology is extremely destructive. The best way to prevent it from being used in future warfare is de-monopolize it.
Chief of the Southern Water Tribe shrugged his shoulders, "I have no issue with that."
"Neither do the Fire Nation." Fire Lord Izumi said.
They all understand the meaning behind his notion.
"The Air Nation will not participate in the construction of a weapon. But we will offer any knowledge that aids to the dark spirit's defeat."
Hardly unexpected. As the son of the last airbender, Tenzin must live off Air Nomad's "non-violence" philosophy.
Tarrlok ended the conference with an equally long, grueling speech.
He and Varrick are in charge of the weapon's aiming compartment.
"Make it shape like a bowl, five metres in diameter." Varrick said.
Kuvira bent the steel; the metal compressed, heated up to a red colour. She morphed the metal into the perfect shape. The metal expanded and cooled off.
Varrick climbed into the metal bowl. "Ok, place the antenna at where I'm standing, and weld them together."
Kuvira arranged the parts with metalbending according to Varrick's instruction, then bent thin straps of copper, heated them up and shaped them to adhere the surface. The metal cooled down as she let go of the compression.
"What is this?" He said.
"I call it a radar! It emits radiowaves then maps out the target's location through an electro-magnetic field." Varrick said.
"Let's see if this thing can detect spirit energy."
"Where do you get spirit energy?"
Zhu Li arrived with a cart. "Here, sir."
"Vines?" Varrick said.
"Yes, local tribes in the Foggy Swamp donated them to us. They say these vines have spiritual properties."
He cut off a chunk of vine the size of his fist, "let's start small."
He hooked two pieces of magnets onto the vine: one positive, one negative; connected them with copper wire. The vine emitted a purple light.
"Oh Mr. Bataar Jr., you're a genius!" Varrick said. "Zhu Li, do the thing."
Zhu Li switched on the radiowave generator.
Varrick handed him a device, "look, the needle shows you which direction it came from!"
"What is it Zhu Li?"
The copper wire heated up, broke in halves, the purple glow on the vine grew brighter and brighter.
"This is no good." Kuvira said.
"Shut it down!" He said.
Kuvira bent the magnets off from the vine.
The glow continued to intensify.
He hoped it wouldn't lead to an...
Kuvira raised a wall of earth.
The ground shook, Varrick stumbled into him. Cracks spread across the earthen wall.
The explosion created fissures on the ground that stretched for a dozen metres.
"Zhu Li! Bring me pen and paper." Varrick said.
"For what?" He said.
"I'm going to write a proposal to your mum."
They agreed to follow General Bataar's design:
A magnetic compartment to collect spirit energy, a conductor to transfer the energy into the battery, another small compartment to generate electricity, triggering the energy to be released from the cannon.
However, she realized the design has a flaw, a potentially fatal flaw.
"We have a problem."
"What problem, President Asami?" The Fire Nation engineer said.
"The magnets might not be able to handle the spirit energy."
"What do you suggest?" General Bataar said.
Chapter 50: (Part 5 Chapter 8) Progress
It was the second time she has visited The Tree of Time, but this time, in her physical body.
She cracked a faint smile. "I am here to strike a deal with you. Do you want freedom?"
Korra's question got unanswered. But she could feel a sudden shift of spirit energy in the environment. She knew Vaatu was listening, and her words had sparked the spirit's interest.
"I have the ability to free you from The Tree of Time." She said.
"I'm listening." The spirit of dark and chaos has a feminine, surprisingly pleasant voice.
"I assume you already know this: you and Raava are interdependent."
"Indeed. I am bonded with Raava through an eternal struggle. I cannot destroy light more than he destroys darkness. Even if he wins the battle against me, I will eventually emerge from him, every ten thousand years."
"Therefore, I propose you to self-destruct." She said.
"And why would I do that?"
"When you revive, you will be splitting from Raava. And by then, you will have a chance to get your revenge."
Vaatu laughed, "or I can wait for another ten thousand years, when the next Harmonic Convergence occurs. I have been waiting for so long, what is there to hurry?"
"Do you think my future reincarnation would willingly free the antidote of the Avatar Spirit, allow darkness to roam the world?"
"But you are willing to?"
"As one of the most ancient, powerful spirit, you must be aware of what happened in the physical world recently, and only you have the power to defeat him." A bit of flattery goes a long way in the negotiation.
Vaatu transformed into a dark purple ray, and entered her body from the head.
All she could see is black.
"Vaatu's energy is incompatible with mine, carrying her energy will do permanent damage on your spirit."
It was the Avatar Spirit.
Oh, great, it seemed she has passed out again, just like what happened to her when she triggered the Avatar State at Omashu.
"I don't care. I'll do whatever it takes to stop Koh the Face Stealer. Get me out of here, I don't have much time at disposal."
"I'm pleased with the progress you have made. But let me remind you, what you did comes with consequences."
"I know." Her first life lesson: there will be consequences for everything.
"You will experience great pain every time you enter the Avatar State, and you might not be able to sustain it for long."
He could never deliver good news, could he?
"Pain is no stranger to me. Now let me go at once."
"So, you decide to put the weapon on an airship?"
"Yes, everything is in the air except the radar to maximize maneuverability, we only got one shot." Asami said.
"It's the new aiming system, I invented it." A man in blue tailcoat said.
"Who are you?"
"I built Suyin's navy, and man did they destroy you!"
She fought the urge to burn a hole through his chest.
"He's Varrick." Asami said.
Her own people had fought against her.
"Get ready, I will transfer the energy into the battery." She said.
"Zhu Li, do the thing." Varrick yelled to a small woman.
Zhu Li pulled a lever, the machine started humming. "It's ready."
Korra took a deep breath, and guided Vaatu's energy out of her body. The energy came out from her mouth – a mix of black and purple. The energy moved towards the battery in a spiral fashion, as if being pulled by an invisible hand.
Zhu Li switched off the machine, the humming stopped, replaced by electrical sparks, which dissipated seconds later.
"Zhu Li." Varrick said.
Zhu Li popped open a bottle of champagne.
"We did it! Champagne for everyone."
She glared at him, he winced and silenced himself. She cleared her throat, making sure she had everyone's attention. "Well done. Check the loading mechanism, there is no room for error. Now if you will excuse me, I could use some practice."
Republic City Park.
"Show them how it's done, lavabender." Ghazan said.
Bolin stomped the ground, the ground around them expanded in size, turned red, and melted.
"Bend the lava like a stream of creek. Let it spiral around the vine, focus on its spirit energy."
The vine glowed in purple, shriveled in size, the light dimmed.
"There's no easy way out to make lava, you need to use raw power." He said.
She watched as Suyin, Lin, Wing and Wei got into bending stances. Nothing happened.
"Why would we need lavabending?"
He handed her the scroll, "look at the illustration."
Indeed, the scroll depicted bending earth in a liquid state.
Kuvira stomped the ground, envisioned the earth melting. Nothing happened.
He sighed, shook his head. "Lavabending is hit or miss, you don't have enough power."
No, she didn't. But what if lavabending isn't a perquisite anyway? What if there are other ways to make liquid earth? She knew she could compress metal to a point where it heats up. Since earth is easier to compress than metal, maybe if she pushed it further, it would heat up to liquid.
She raised a boulder, compressed it, the boulder shrank to the size of a suitcase, turned red, got softer until it transformed to a fluid like existence. She bent the now liquid earth, circled it around the vine. Soon the vine began to glow.
Ghazan stared at her; he didn't blink for more than half a minute.
"Compress it, it will melt eventually." She told her family.
Izumi scanned through the illustration for the third time. The form depicted on the paper is passive, almost like airbending. "You have to control the flame, make it flow like wind."
"That goes against everything I know about firebending." Mako slapped his hand against his forehead, "how am I supposed to bend fire like air?"
Master Tenzin and Master Jinora approached them. They bowed.
"Thank you for letting us use Air Temple Island for practice." Iroh said.
The airbenders returned with bows of their own.
"We have similar issues." Tenzin said, "the form we see is aggressive and proactive, almost like firebending."
"My father used to tell me: firebending comes from the breath, not the muscles. Firebending is about control, it can be destructive or harmless; aggressive, or passive. It all depends on the firebender. Control the flame's intensity with your breath, only use your limbs to guide its direction."
This time, instead of expanding in all directions, Mako's and Iroh's flames started to rotate in a circular fashion.
"I don't know much about airbending," she turned to the airbenders. "But I know breath control is no less important in the art. Maybe you should give it a try."
Northern Water Tribe.
Two Platoons of masked soldiers in white-and-blue uniforms lined up in formation, they tapped their right hands to the forehead, saluting to him in unison.
He responded with the same gesture before switching on the microphone. "You will serve the White Lotus." He took out a photo from his pocket. "You will obey every order from Grand Lotus Tarrlok and me."
"All Units. Right Turn. March."
They marched into the icy taverns beneath the Chiefs' Palace.
The soldiers stopped their advance. He walked towards the bunker, pushed the door open. He glanced at the device on the table: a metal bowl, with wires connect it to the control panel.
"Commander Guan." The woman greeted him with a nod.
"Well done, Dr. Sheng. Your invention puts the Dai Li to shame."
Dr. Sheng stared at him behind her glasses. Her defined jawline only amplified the conviction behind the look; he almost flinched, as if this is not Sheng, but The Platinum-bender who is watching him.
"Are you ready?"
"Always. It's time to visit home." She said.
He grinned; soon he would rule the Earth Republic.
Asami has been overseeing the evacuation for the past five days. She couldn't let all the civilians out of town at once, or twice. That equates to no evacuation, because large groups of people only attract the face stealer. She had no choice but to assigned them into smaller groups, departing at various times towards different directions, which lengthened the process ten folds. Lucky for her, she convinced the Great Uniter open their borders to take in the refugees. But emptying a city with a two million population count within five days remained a challenging task.
Korra stepped into her office. She gave her friend a firm shake to the hand. Lots of things have happened in the last few months, and she'd be lying if she says she didn't worry about her friend, but she couldn't afford the time for sentiments.
She yawned and stretched her shoulders, "we're about done, the last group will leave the city by 7pm."
Korra rubbed her bloodshot eyes, pacing back and forth in front of the desk, "this is unusual, there isn't a single report on him attacking on one of the groups."
"What do you think?"
"There are two possibilities. One: he is attacking other territories to harness power for the battle. Or two:" Korra halted, "people had their faces stolen before they could send a distress signal."
None of them were good. The face stealer would only become more powerful when he reached the city. She shuddered; that level of power is beyond her imagination.
"I meditated to Spirit World and talked to Mother of Faces." Jinora said.
As if charged with a new surge of energy, the Avatar straightened her posture. "How did it go?"
She lowered her head. "Not great, she cannot come back in her physical form until three months later."
The telephone rang, the President's expression dropped upon picking up the speaker.
"What happened?" She said.
"He is here."
The President and the Avatar darted out of the office, leaving her the only one in the room.
"Mother of Faces might not be able to fight the face stealer, she can still aid us to defeat him."
"I have an idea, follow me. Let me do most of the talk." He sat down in a lotus position and closed his eyes.
The frontline was a disaster. The earthbenders failed to put up any effective defense to keep the face stealer at bay – honestly, she shouldn't expect better, the more competent ones were assigned to the Special Division. But why are the mechatank units behind the firebenders and waterbenders? They are trained to provide covering for bending units!
Chaos spread across the troops. A purple fog surrounded the troops, when it subsided, everyone within its range lost their face. The remainder of them fell back, bumped into each other, throwing any chance of inter-unit coordination out of the window.
Korra raised a wall of earth. "Waterbenders! Group with a firebender. I want you to form two lines."
A blast of spirit energy took off a huge chunk of the earthen wall.
"Mechatank units! Flank him at the sides."
Two Companies of mechatanks charged at Noatak. Noatak avoided the machines, pushing further into the bending units' formation. He shot an energy beam from his knuckles; an ice wall shattered into pieces. He waved his hand; streams of fire reduced to flakes of ambers. His attack cut into their line of defence like a blade, leaving no time for them to recuperate. A purple veil swept across the battleground. Many more people had their faces stolen.
Noatak was minutes away from reaching Republic City.
She pressed the radio against her lips. "Special Division to the frontline."
She raised two boulders, each the size of a mechatank, hurled them to his direction. Beams of purple met the boulders, ended them to a rain of peddles. Next thing she saw, the face stealer was merely a dozen metres away. The ground beneath exploded, knocked her off her feet. She bent the air around her, currents carried herself the shockwave's range. She landed on her feet, another beam already coming at her.
She got to an airbending stance, and moved to complete the form. The energy span in a spiral fashion, its purple glow gradually replaced by a golden tone, then vanished.
Air is a really convenient element.
She bent the air around him, repeated what she did to the energy beam. Sparks of golden light left his body. He broke himself out of the swirling wind with a blast of spirit energy, headed to the foot soldiers.
The face stealer darted towards them.
Bolin stomped the ground; a pool of lava forced the enemy to a halt.
Ghazan saw something flew towards the face stealer, like a disc. The projectile emits a yellow light, two times brighter than the red glow from lava. Was that... melted metal?
Three more projectiles like this followed, except they glow in red. The enemy blocked with his arms, the liquid earth and metal sizzled his skin, but left no more than singes.
The attacks came from a group of four: the Great Uniter, The Platinum-bender and two officers who he didn't recognize.
The face stealer pressed his fists forward. He saw a flash of purple.
The Great Uniter raised an earthern wall. The ground shook, cracks spread out across the wall. The wall crumbled, only for The Platinum-bender to replaced it with a new one.
The Great Uniter spoke to the two officers. "Wing, Wei, keep up the defense. The rest of us, attack."
Rocks, lava, liquid metal, they threw everything they could bend to the Face Stealer.
"Make him stay at one place. We will fire the cannon once we got a clear shot." The President's voice came out of their radios.
A mist of purple energy closed in from all directions.
If this touches them, they all lose their faces.
He stepped outside of the wall, stirred the lava at the face stealer, forcing the latter to lift the spirit fog.
He saw a flash of purple; a boulder obscured his line of sight, only to be blown to pieces a second later.
The Platinum-bender approached him, "I'll trap him with my cables, you cripple him with the form. Su, Wing, Wei, Bolin will cover us."
From behind the walls, five dozen rocks the size of human head hurled towards the face stealer.
The face stealer shot an energy beam from the knuckles; the rocks reduced to sand and gravels. The sand rotated, enveloped the enemy in whole. The Platinum-bender launched both her metal cables and pulled back with her arms. The cables must've caught the target.
He bent the lava, let it flow like streams, and coil around the target. Glimpse of gold gradually replaced the red colour of melted earth; it was working!
He saw a flash of purple, ground in front of him exploded. Shockwaves thrown him into the air, what happened next, he couldn't remember.
Looks like Guan is associated with the White Lotus, and built a brainwash device for Tarrlok. And what did he plan to do to allow him "rule the Earth Republic"... The White Lotus has become such a shady organization.
"Target west, seven and a half degrees to the north." Varrick said.
Zhu Li held out a binocular towards the direction. "Depression twenty-four degrees in full."
Asami adjusted her aim until she could see the face stealer on the scope.
"Zhu Li, initialize phase one, get us ready to fire."
"Yes, Madame President."
Kuvira held onto her metal cables, bent the earth around her ankles, and attempt to add more grip to her footing. The face stealer pulled his arms, swung her to the side.
Bolin saw two Platoon of United Forces soldiers running towards their direction, along with the Avatar. The Avatar shot lightning from her fingertips. Electricity raged through the face stealer's body, stunning him.
"Platoon Brown, restrain him! Platoon Red, use the form." The Avatar said.
Cuffs of rocks trapped the face stealer at the ankles, only for him to rip them into pieces a second later. The ground beneath him sank, spirals of fire surrounded him, sparks of golden energy left his body. He pulled himself out of the pit.
Bolin stomped the ground, melted the earth around the face stealer, trapping the enemy in a circle of lava. Kuvira shot her metal cables, caught the face stealer in the wrists, pinned his hands to the ground, encased them in rocks.
Bolin lifted his arms, pulling streams of lava from the pool. "Do it together!" He said.
He proceeded to complete the form; Suyin, Wing and Wei joined him. Lava rotated like a spiral, surrounded the face stealer, glowed in gold, extracting the power out of the enemy's body.
The world was covered in dark purple, he lost sight of everyone and everything around him. He heard a humming noise, the humming grew louder and louder, in mere seconds it reached to an unbearable degree, making his whole head rang. But he persisted, he must finish the form; they must defeat the face stealer. The energy expanded outwards, knocked him off his feet, threw him into the air.
He didn't know how long he has blacked out. When senses returned to him, he found only the Avatar remained standing. He heard footsteps, his brother, General Iroh and Ming Hua approached him.
Mako held him in the arms. "You did it, Bo. You did it."
Her muscles were on fire, but she couldn't rest, she has yet to see Koh. Was Vaatu's energy so strong that it destroyed Koh along with Noatak, or was it still not enough to sever their bond? Korra couldn't afford to take any chance, so she assumed the worse. She should strike him down, but it wouldn't destroy Koh, maybe they would reincarnate like the Avatar. It wouldn't matter, killing him now would buy them the time to figure out a new plan. Her chi had long since been depleted, but she forced her body into action, she stomped the ground, a pike of earth shot up to the air. It never impaled her target, Noatak rolled to the side, got up to his feet.
"You have failed."
No, not Noatak, this is Koh's voice.
With her current condition, she didn't stand a chance, she must enter the Avatar State. The pain started at the deepest place of her spirit, raged through her body, like a winter storm, like a million little icicles slicing every vein in her body. She stretched her will, forcing her body to remain in the Avatar State against the agony, but her body failed to comply. She stroke with her fists, shot a stream of white flame at Koh. The fire turned orange, then sparks, then nothing.
Ming Hua swung her water arms tentacles, scythe like blades on their frozen tips cut deep into his flesh.
Don't waste the opportunity.
Korra drew water from the air, froze them. She kicked forward, launching the ice shards with a gust of wind.
The ice exploded in front of his face like a bomb, dug into his skin like broken glass, drawing blood.
The cannon had clearly diminished his power.
Mako propelled himself forward with jets of fire, punching, kicking, hurling arcs of fire at Koh. General Iroh released pressurized flames from behind.
Koh's body moved like a ghost, walked out of the flames with but a few minor burns on the limbs.
"I will take your face first, firebender."
In a blink of eyes, he was less than two metres from Iroh.
Tenzin knocked him back before he could put his hand onto Iroh's face.
Tenzin hurled waves and waves of attacks to the enemy, keeping him on the defensive. Koh charged at him; he did not evade, blasts of air knocked Koh away, he pressed on, forcing Koh to retreat.
She fixed her eyes onto Tenzin without blinking. She has never seen airbending in such an aggressive form, she studied every movement, he showed her exactly how she wants to airbend.
"You can't defeat me; I am bonded with the human!" Koh said.
Suyin pulled herself out of the rubble, she got into a bending stance, her legs screamed in defiance, she ignored it, bent rocks from the pile of rubble, she compressed it, her arms gave out, a firmer grip held onto the rocks before they fell. The rocks shrank in size, heated up and melted. She found Kuvira standing beside her, carrying a deep gash across the clavicles -the cables must've snapped during the explosion, and backfired.
"Yes, we can."
The voice came from a blue, translucent figure floating in the air, but she recognized the face.
"Mr. Zaheer has a gift for you." Jinora said.
A thirty-metre-tall spirit with four heads manifested out of thin air. "Koh, you have left me no choice."
"Mother, you can't do this!"
The spirit morphed itself into a ray of blue, hitting the facestealer in the chest. A gigantic centipede with the face of a man split from the human body. This thing must be Koh The Face Stealer.
Mako, Iroh, Ming Hua and the Avatar got into their bending stances; water intertwined with white and orange flames, surrounded Koh. Kuvira bent the melted rocks; streams of liquid earth joined the cyclone of elements.
Koh's form glowed, transformed to golden sparks; the sparks soon dissipated.
-END OF PART 5-
Everyone was pushed beyond their limit, but they won by collaboration. However, they still have to deal with the aftermath, like what to do with the Avatar. And since Korra has never changed on a fundamental level, things can get real messy real quick.
They had won, but the fight was far from over.
Korra locked her body in fighting stance, facing the direction where Noatak lied, as stiff as a brick. She had long since drained her tank, but this was not the moment for weakness. Her glare moved from one person to another. None of them could be trusted. She could hear the pulses in her head, adrenaline pumped blood against the walls of her arteries; she fought against her nerves to stop her hands from jittering. Judging from the ground's vibration, everybody around her was as tense as a tree lump.
Two Platoons of United Forces mechatanks closed in. With a simple order, she could end this right there, right now... until she locked eyes with The Platinum-bender. The Platinum-bender studied the mechas with a predatory gaze. What was she thinking?! Kuvira would've slaughtered these soldiers.
Tenzin was the first one who dropped his guard. The airbending master took a step forward while blousing his robes. She heard him breathed in. "We did it, it's over," he said. And breathed out.
General Iroh was the first one to follow. "Yes. We should go inform our troops. Tell Mr. Blackstone, President Asami and Mr. Bataar Jr., their invention is a success. It's time to rejoice."
Mako nodded at the General and ran to Bolin. Ming Hua took a few steps back, lowered her water tentacles, covering the ground beneath her with ice, skidded away without revealing her back.
The Great Uniter and The Platinum-bender bent plates of metal from their shoulder-guards, ready to strike.
"Suyin what are you doing?" Tenzin whispered to her ears.
Protecting my nation and my family.
"General Iroh, Master Tenzin. The Avatar has disrupted the balance of the world." She couldn't let go of the irony: isn't the Avatar's duty to bring balance to the world? "She has a list of war crimes under her name."
"You are no better. You invaded five Southern Water Tribe islands; they don't belong to you!"
If the other world leaders came to witness humanity's victory, they would be disappointed.
She dropped her guard and nodded at Kuvira; Kuvira looked at her in disbelief, but did the same eventually.
"I granted them autonomy as soon as we formed our government. We made peace with the Southern Water Tribe, that was four years ago." She softened her glance; she might be able to end this senseless war once and for all. "I'm sorry for my past actions."
"No, you're not. Your troops occupy these islands until this day."
"The locals pay us for security services, we're based on contracts, we don't tax them. It's not occupation." The Earth Republic government runs like a business, and she knew it took quite a mouthful for foreigners to swallow. So, she gestured to the man in blue, "ask the Chief of Southern Water Tribe."
"It's true, Avatar Korra."
The words struck her like a lightning, her body tensed up from a moment of shock before she dropped her stance all at once. Why did she feel betrayed? And, most importantly… now what? She hung her head low, fixing her stare onto the ground, "what do you want, Great Uniter?" She would face defeat with dignity. She might've lost today, but she would come back, like always, until she rise up triumphant.
"As a return for your contributions in defeating the face stealer, we give the President a full pardon; you will serve your sentence, but not in a prison cell." Suyin gestured to other world leaders, "until further notice, you cannot set foot on United Republics and Southern Water Tribe, and you will be under the surveillance of a world leader."
In other words, probation, of indefinite length; beats prison, but either way she's treated as a criminal.
Tenzin offered a hand. "Avatar Korra, it would be my honour."
"Korra, no matter what had happened between our tribes," Chief Eska said, but left Chief Desna to finish her speech, "we are still kin, my cousin."
Fire Lord Izumi remained silent.
Korra threw herself into the first bed she could find after boarding the Chieftains' navy ship. She bent water out of the waterskin hanging on the wall and applied the liquid on her forehead, the water soon glowed in blue. She was pretty banged up by the spirit cannon fire, it was pure luck she didn't get a concussion from the shockwaves.
"They won't even let me give a farewell to the President?"
She laughed bitterly, of course they wouldn't, why would they give her the chance to regroup with her friend? She was already too much of a threat for them.
"Don't worry, you will see her again." Chief Eska said.
Maybe she could use the chieftains' networking... By any means, she would never leave it to hope, because it never worked.
"At the meanwhile, I hope you enjoy the voyage. Now if you will excuse us, we need to acquire sustenance." Chief Desna said.
One of the twins closed the door gently when they left the guest room.
A year had passed and, Asami was still bitter with the world leaders' decision, but she swallowed any objection she might came up with. She would not put Korra's sacrifice in vain: she was given a clean slate, and it was her choice to not waste the second chance. The United Republics shall return to a beacon of peace among nations after all.
Somebody knocked onto the door.
"Minister Tarrlok." She gestured the man to take a seat at the other side of the desk. "How can I help you?"
"The anti-monarchy movement in Fire Nation has gone out of hand, Chief Eska and Chief Desna invite all nations to attend the summit at Northern Water Tribe to discuss future actions,"
The perfect opportunity to spread my influence over Fire Nation politics. She silenced her mind before the train of thoughts gained its momentum. No, no more war or manipulation. The old habits, again. She probably shouldn't go, it would be better for everyone.
"along with the Avatar."
Now she really couldn't turn down the offer.
Ba Sing Se.
"Please tell Chief Eska and Chief Desna, we can't make it to the summit: we are tied up in domestic affairs." Suyin said. Bataar nodded to her and picked up the telephone. She dived back into the giant pile of documents.
"Any clue so far?" Kuvira pulled a chair nearby to the desk and joined her.
"No." She shook her head, pressing her fingers against her temples. "Missing persons are scattered all over the country. As if it popped out of nowhere."
"That's what they want us to think, but massive kidnapping everywhere and all at once? It couldn't possibly be a mere coincidence."
If only she could find some patterns behind these...
Kuvira flipped a page of the record book. "Look, less than eight percent of our population works in the military. But almost one third of the missing persons are military personnel."
She would have to move troops from Ba Sing Se to replenish local security forces... Realization hit her like a boulder, "it's a move of diversion! They're trying to weaken the capitol's defenses."
"I will assign half of the Special Forces to guard duty."
Whoever is behind this can't be regular criminals.
Suyin gave Korra a second chance, but as you can see, she still harbours her hatred towards the Great Uniter, we'll see if she has changed at the next chapter. Considering Eska and Desna's association with Tarrlok and the White Lotus, there's no way they offered to take Korra in as a gesture of kindness.
Asami has longed for this day, for today she would finally be reunited with her friend.
She recognized Korra the moment she set her foot into the meeting room. The Avatar sat beside the Northern Water Tribe chieftains, slouching against the chair, arms crossed, unfazed by the many things happened in the last three years. She untangled the web of memory, tracing back to its origin -a time where she has yet to become Future Industry's CEO, and Korra a waterbender probending athlete, everything back then felt like a dream.
Korra tilted her head towards her direction; they locked eyes.
The blue eyes, unfocused, looked through her, only to zone in a second later -a stare of pure analyzing. But she saw the intensity behind the stare, brooding, like the moment of calm before an ocean storm.
Korra put her hand onto the marble table.
Asami felt something budged under her right palm. She traced her fingers along the lines carved into the stone. It reads: see me after meeting.
"The protestors claim to be 'peaceful', but they're getting more violent day by day. Especially in Capital City."
Fire Lord Izumi's words pulled her attention back to the meeting.
"Any thoughts on that?"
"Well, that's unfortunate to hear." Chief of the Southern Water Tribe spread out his hands and shrugged. "But we got nothing to offer. We will most certainly expose their violence on the news, tho."
She kept her mouth shut. After what she had done, she wouldn't risk any potential accusation towards the United Republics. Words gets twisted all the time.
"Riots are the worst in the capitol. What do you think, President Asami, is the reason behind this?"
"I'm afraid I can't offer any insight on Fire Nation's domestic affairs." The Fire Lord has been targeting her from the start. She tried to keep her voice leveled. "Due to a lack of entail."
Korra snapped out of her seat. "Is this an accusation, Fire Lord?"
She wondered how the Fire Lord could lie with a straight face.
"I wonder why you have such a strong reaction."
She hated it when she couldn't defend her friend, but none of them could afford more suspicion.
"Fire Lord Izumi, I urge you to re-examine the situation. The past doesn't define the present."
Tenzin didn't even have to be here. Ever since he reinstated the Air Nation, he had excluded himself from, as he would put it, "worldly attachments". And yet Tenzin was at the meeting, defending her, the very person who put up a scheme to imprison him.
"I understand your concerns over national safety, but one must not rush to a conclusion without sufficient evidence." He said.
Chief Desna intervened before the Fire Lord could retaliate. "I can assure you, Fire Lord Izumi, we all condemn their actions. All world leaders will assist you with every information about them if they have acquired any."
"We all need some time to re-evaluate, we shall share our thoughts on the next meeting." Chief Eska finished their speech for her brother.
Lucky for her, no one objected the suggestion.
They vanished after the big battle, now he and his team showed up out of nowhere, Suyin didn't know what to expect.
"The Red Lotus thrives to bring true freedom to the world. A world without coercive forces, where one is free to choose his own allegiance and every action is taken with consent."
She hoped they did not meant war.
"We traveled the Earth Republic during the past year. I can see you grant a lot of autonomy to communities. Instead of taxation, your government earns income through providing contract-based services to civilians. I see you do value people's freedom, and your vision may not be that different from ours after all." Zaheer cracked a faint smile, stretched out his right hand, "we decide to collaborate with you, gradually transform the Earth Republic into a nation without the need of governmental bodies."
She realized Zaheer never wanted riots, the man wanted a society formed on voluntarism. She spent years as a ruler, but not once has she succeeded in accommodating all the provinces. The reason is simple, each community has its unique culture and economy, no establishment could heed to everyone's needs. How could she not come to the terms until now, that the most efficient way to govern is to let the people govern themselves?
She grabbed onto Zaheer's hand and gave it a firm shake. "It's my pleasure."
Bolin pushed hard onto the gas pedal, ignoring Mako's complains on getting a car sick. Ba Sing Se Security called him earlier yesterday: his family went missing. He phoned his brother right away; they hopped onto his jeep the minute he finished his shift.
They went to their uncle's furniture shop and saw Tu waving to them. "Bolin, Mako! Good to see you, bros." They followed him to the living quarters behind the shop, the family was playing Pi Sho games around the big table.
"You two look stressed out, what happened?"
"Grandma Yin! You're okay!" Bolin pulled the old woman into his embrace. "Ba Sing Se security told me you were missing, we're so worried."
Mako hugged her from behind.
"Really? Nobody was missing." Yin said, holding his hand with her own.
"That's very unusual. Bo, I will stay here for a while." Mako picked up the phone over the corner. "I will tell Varrick I'm taking a few weeks off."
He should make an off-duty request to the sergeant, too.
"Bolin, don't worry about us." Yin layed her hand onto his shoulder. "There are thousands of people going missing every day. You are a soldier; you need to protect your people."
But how could he protect anyone if he couldn't even protect his own family?
"Yes, Madame President, it is I." Tarrlok bowed to Asami. "But that's not all, I am also the leader of an ancient secret society that pursues beauty, truth and philosophy. All we ever wanted is to bring balance to the world."
The words clicked in her mind, where did she read this? Yes, the articles about the Hundred Year War from Fire Nation's Royal Library...The Order of White Lotus. Chief Eska and Chief Desna had introduced him to her, they must belonged to the Order as well.
"Where are you bringing this?" Asami said.
"I want to follow Avatar Aang's example. He brought back balance by uniting people from Fire Nation and Earth Kingdom to form the United Republics, and I will unite the world." Tarrlok stood up from his desk. "I invite you to join us."
These are vague words trying to tell a beautiful story, but it wouldn't convince her. Speaking from her own experiences, Korra had painted a picture of justice to send United Republic citizens to war: a war rooted from nothing but her thirst for vengeance.
"We would appreciate if you could elaborate," she said.
"We bring the world together. One people, one government, no more war."
"Are you going to replace current world leaders?" That was another way of saying "coups". Tarrlok was hiding his plans, she needed to get entails.
"We will do what needs to be done."
Coups, then. They will replace whoever that was not in their control: the Fire Lord, the Great Uniter, maybe Tenzin, too. And…
"We don't have any agent in the Southern Water Tribe."
She threw her last bit of concern out of the window. This is an opportunity to make Suyin pay for her war crimes, not to mention the Red Lotus is with her, she could avenge her parents, too, how could she let this go? "I'm in."
"I'm with the Avatar." Asami said.
She fought the urge to hug her friend upon leaving the room.
Yep, Korra has definitely changed, and not for the better. A LOT is going to happen to the world now we have two masterminds (Korra and Tarrlok) working together (sort of) especially when they're both manipulators. We will be talking about international schemes and plotting within plotting.
Covering her fist with her palm, she gave her friend a traditional Water Tribe bow. Her breath went shallow.
"Thank you. You have no idea how much it means to me."
Asami sighed. "Korra, this man wants to control the world. I only agreed to him to protect my people, I hope you accepted the deal for the same reason."
What did she mean? That was, indeed, part of her reason, but...
"He was trying to manipulate you. This man is not trustworthy."
"I know." She said, "that's where we double cross him."
She felt a hand on her shoulder.
"Both of us were given a second chance. Don't fall for revenge again, please, it's time to let go of the past... Take care, you are always welcomed in the United Republics."
Asami ran away, leaving her standing in the hallway, alone.
How could she let go, after losing everything? She has lost her parents, her people, then freedom, and dignity... No, she wouldn't. She demands justice, and revenge is justice.
Ba sing Se.
Suyin flipped open a record book on her desk. "And they're all intact? Acting normal?"
"Yes ma'am. All of them. Acting the same way before they went missing."
"Noted. You're dismissed."
The soldier nodded to her and left. She closed the door before returning to her chair.
"This is crazy," she said, "these guards went missing for weeks, but when they return, they have no idea where they went. They don't even remember they were away!"
What has been happening here?
"They abduct military personnel, forcing us to replenish the local troops from Ba Sing Se, so we will deplete the city's security forces. Now they want to cause disruptions among the ranks." Bataar took off his glasses, wiping them with the hem of his uniform. "Apparently they're trying to buy more time for the next move, whatever it might be."
Her husband could always connect the dots behind a series of event that she would otherwise find unrelated to each other.
"What is their next move?"
"Most likely: infiltration." Kuvira said. "Sneaking large amount of their agents into the city, or the guards are the infiltration. Either way, I'd rather watch out for those who went missing."
She need not to tell her daughter what to do, she knew the matter is taken care of. Soon she would find out their motives.
"Will Bolin's family be okay? They were missing, too." Opal said, staring at her with two anxious eyes.
Opal is worrying about her friend again. "Yes. I promise."
What kind of "Great Uniter" is she, couldn't protect her people?
"Grand Lotus, all Fire Nation agents are at assigned positions." Chief Eska said.
"Excellent. Contact Commander Guan: The Take Over starts 30 days from now at exactly 5:00pm Republic City Time."
Infiltration must be swift, precise, and thorough.
So, he added, "tell him to coordinate his every move with Lee. Our operations at Captial City and Ba Sing Se must take place simultaneously. If any of them is alerted, we fail."
Tarrlok stopped her hand from reaching over the radio, "use Fire Nation frequency and encode the message."
Even if the Earth Republic managed to intercept the message, Izumi would be the one who take the blame, and they could never decode what it meant. One way or the other, The White Lotus would rise victorious.
Chief Eska nodded and switched on the radio.
"Should I inform the Avatar and the President, Grand Lotus?" Chief Desna asked.
"The Avatar, yes. We want her to cut off the loose end in Ba Sing Se – we can't trust someone who betrays his superior for power with the new world. And don't tell the President anything: she needs to be replaced eventually."
"I recall she has agreed to join us?"
"That is true, but we can't let her to rule the United Republics as it is. To bring permanent peace, every world leader must surrender their mind to our philosophy."
But he should make an exception, otherwise the history would be painting him as a power mad dictator...
"Except the Air Nation. As long as Tenzin stays neutral, I will leave them to their own devices." He said.
He would do the same to the Southern Water Tribe, at least in the short term; he couldn't afford to antagonize the Avatar at this stage.
"What do you plan to do with the Avatar? She would not allow us to brainwash the President." Desna said.
"We would deal with them together when time comes. Now, let her do the works for us."
The White Lotus has a secret prison.
"Take me to the prisoner."
"Indeed, Avatar." "You, open the doors."
The leader of the guards was the only one who didn't cover his face with masks, his soldiers never spoke.
They walked far into the corridor, so far that the head guard couldn't see them.
"Why are you wearing a mask? Koh's defeated over a year ago."
No response. The guard reached for his pocket and started unlocking a series of gates. Having been in the military herself, she knew no amount of discipline could make people act like literal machines, something must be wrong with him.
She knocked the mask off from his face – he had no face. A victim of Koh, indeed. They must made perfect henchmen: mindlessly obeying every order from Tarrlok and never leaking out any information.
She put the mask back onto what was left of his "face" and stepped into the cell. The moonlight rayed down from the barred window at an angle, so she could see the prisoner clearly, but Korra decided to stay in the dark.
The prison clothes were a bit loose on Noatak.
"Who are you?" He said.
She took a few steps forward, revealing her United Forces uniform, with only her eyes remained behind the shadow.
"Why are you here, Avatar?"
"I want you to be my teacher, in exchange for your freedom."
He had lost his bending, but decades of experiences alone could take her bloodbending to a whole new level in a matter of weeks. She needed to learn to bloodbend outside of a full moon before she goes to Ba Sing Se: Tarrlok wanted her to take out Guan, and there was no other way she could succeed in front of a battalion of soldiers.
"So you can help my brother to stuck everyone into a brainwashing machine? No!"
Brainwashing machine? How did he knew?
Before she boards the train of thoughts, she recognized the manipulation. The way he did it, so subtle, that it almost sounded natural in a dialogue. He wanted to trigger paranoia, so they would fail due to infighting, yet the information was likely true, with that level of specificity, it couldn't be a lie. She would take down Tarrlok eventually, but not at this stage. If Tarrlok is his brother, then Tarrlok probably can bloodbend without a full moon as well. Now she found even more reasons to improve her bloodbending.
"You don't have a choice either way. Even if you refuse to teach me, you will still help me to advance my bloodbending. Because it is a full moon tonight."
Korra lifted her arm, bent the blood in Noatak's body, twisting his limbs in every single way she could imagine. His screams echoed in the corridor, but she knew none of the guards would care.
Tarrlok is plotting a big conspiracy, but he is also plotting to double cross Korra. For the first time in the story, Korra faces an opponent who tries to win the mind game. But Korra came back more vicious and ruthless than ever before. Just look at what she did to Noatak, her torture habit has gone out of hand XD
What went through her mind during the past year for her to reach this point? Share me your interpretation.
These were not protestors, but rioters. They claimed to be "peaceful", yet every day Izumi saw ambulances carrying dozens of city guards and civilians alike, skin charred, sometimes unconscious.
What puzzled her though, was how fast the Anti-Monarchy movement gained its popularity -Fire Nation's support towards the Fire Lord had only strengthened since the end of Hundred Year War. There had been several calls for a democratic government during the last few decades, but none of them spoke against Monarchy; not to mention, Izumi had, as her father taught her, listened to the cries of her people, carrying out a series of policies to decentralize her power in the last ten years. She could not think of what leads to so many people joining the uprising, especially after witnessing them setting everyone who might disagrees on fire.
Izumi brought a Platoon of Royal Firebenders for the meet-up. People tipped their toes, pushing their way through the City Guards just to get a view, the flash of cameras was blinding. Finally, she saw the leader approaching her from the other end of the street, alone.
The man dresses in burgundy, with a white lotus symbol sewed into the breast pocket of his suit.
"My name is Lee."
"Where are your pawns?"
"I have no pawn. My power lies within the people."
Lee took out a microphone from his pocket. "People of Capital City, The Order of White Lotus requires your service. It's time to end Monarchy."
The scream came from a Royal Guard, flames engulfed his body. Lee turned thousands of civilians into mobs, all in but a few seconds. They couldn't all be his agents; Lee must had controlled their mind. The City Guards tried to hold them back, but they were losing the ground. A fire whip came for her head, she countered with a fireball, the explosion gave her goosebumps.
A group of thirty broke the City Guards' line of defense, they combined their attacks, the flame grew to the size of a mountain, and came down like a wave of tsunami. She and her guards parted the flame in halves. The air smelled like singed fabrics, threatening to make her stomach churn.
"Retreat to the Palace!" She slipped away from an arc of fire; the flame missed her left shoulder by a few centimetres.
It took them an hour to march down the half mile road that leads to the Royal Palace. When they opened the gate, only three guards remained standing with her. While closing the gate, Izumi saw hundreds of bodies littered on the street, most were charred, others with broken limbs, blood spilled every few steps. Thirty yards away stacked a pile of bodies, all burnt to a charcoal black, beside it lied a broken helmet.
She needed more troops, maybe even call other world leaders for help. She had a radio and a telephone in her office. She left Iroh and Zuko with two Platoons of Royal Guards at the Palace; she must find them as soon as she could.
But instead, she was confronted by Lee, behind him stood a Company of City Guards.
She recognized the leader, "Captain Zhao? Why?"
"Captain Zhao can't answer you." Lee said. "I own his mind now."
What did he do to these people? And...
"What did you do to my family?"
"Nothing. General Iroh and Lord Zuko are waiting for you at the throne room, you might want to join them. You have until midnight to declare your decree and surrender to us. Otherwise, we will attack until we slay every single one of you."
It was 9:00pm, the city hall was silent. The last person who wasn't on a night shift had left an hour ago, except Suyin, reading Varrick's two-hundred-page proposal in her office.
"Fung, open the door." She told the guard.
The man wore a helmet, tactical armours, and a full set of combat gears.
"Commander Guan? What brings you to Ba Sing Se?"
"I have a few things to tell you. First, I am responsible for all missing persons in the last six months."
"Fung, Liu. Arrest him."
Feng closed the door, followed by a click on the lock. Liu did not move.
"Second," Guan folded his hands behind his back. "From now on, I rule the Earth Republic."
Metal plates slid down from her armguard, contorting into a blade. Her attack never landed on Guan; Liu trapped her arm with his metal cable. She overpowered his metalbending, and pulled him towards her. The man shielded her from Guan's attack: the metal shard buried deep into his abdomen. Bending their metal frames, she ripped the light-bulbs off the ceiling. The room went pinch black. She slid off the steel sole of her boots, the vibration from the floor quickly mapped out her surroundings. She hurled the lightbulbs to both side of the wall, the noise of shattered glass provided her the perfect distraction. She slipped pass them, ripped the lock off the door, knocked it open with her shoulder, and darted into the hallways.
Guan must had planned this, if he captured her family, there was no doubt he'll be using them as hostages. She must find them. Deep breath, she told herself, first, you need to get out of here. Through her seismic sense, she found one group of ten, two groups of five and one group of three in the building.
Left turn, she ran into five guards. They launched their metal cables. She teared a huge sheet of metal off the floor, the guards tripped and fell. She bent the metal sheet, it wrapped around their bodies, restraining them onto the floor.
She turned right at the next corner, and saw Wing sprinting towards her, behind him were Junior, Opal and Bataar, Wei brought up the rear.
"Mum, are you ok?" Wing said.
"We're attacked by our own soldiers." Wei said.
"There are at least two Companies of them outside, and more keeps coming. It was quite an effort for us to get in." Bataar said.
"What? Where's Kuvira?"
"She's holding them off with the Special Forces." Junior said.
"Go to the radio room, call other cities for backup. There are too many of them." Kuvira's voice came out of the Motorola.
"On it, sis!" Wing put the Motorola back onto his belt. "Let's go."
The ran down the hallway, took a right turn. They met Zaheer, Ghazan and Ming Hua, behind them lied ten unconscious guards.
She gestured Zaheer to follow. "This way. The radio-room."
She ripped the door off its frame.
The radio was, unsurprisingly – of course they would destroy all modes of communication, inside out. Its metal shell ripped apart, exposing the wires inside - cut into pieces and tangled into a ball of mess.
Wing switch on his Motorola. "The radio's destroyed."
Upon leaving the room, they found themselves trapped in the middle of the hallway, two dozen guards at each side. Ghazan brought down the walls around them. They retreated into the nearby rooms. He raised chunks of concrete from the fallen walls, melted them into lava, and hurled them at the guards. The liquid earth burned through skin and flesh, until bones were visible. Half of them went to a nervous shock, crunching their body against the floor, screaming at their maimed limbs.
Kuvira broke into the room through the window, rolled on her shoulder before getting up to her feet. "Let's get you out of here."
Bolin had a week off duty, he wanted to take Mako to a trip, but the guards blocked their way to the city gate.
"Let us leave, or we will file a complaint." Mako said.
The guards didn't even look at them.
"Is there a lockdown?"
"We don't do lockdowns." He said.
Mako pointed to the guards, "They're acting weird. Something must have happened in the city."
"People of Ba Sing Se, The Order of White Lotus requires your service. Obtain a sharp object and go to Central Square."
It was broadcasted through the speakers on the streets, echoing throughout the city.
"What was that?"
He saw hundreds of people heading towards the city hall.
"I don't know, Bo. I think we should go home."
They rushed back to their house; it was empty.
"What should we do..." he paced back and forth in the living room, "what should we do..."
Mako opened the door for him.
It was a group of twenty: ten civilians, six security guards, another two men and two women in black tactical clothes.
A lanky man with thick eyebrows approached them. "There's a coup in the city. My name is Wu, leader of The Red Lotus in Ba Sing Se. We offer to take you to safety."
Wu gave him a warm smile.
We got another chance to see Suyin in action, even caught in surprise, she bulldoze Guan and his lackeys, told you she didn't get the title "Great Uniter" for nothing. But the biggest twist is, former Prince Wu being a Red Lotus leader --mind you a prominent one, soon you'll see just how much more capable he is than in the original timeline; talking about how a turbulent era forces people to grow up... We got Korra to thank for that :p
And when I said Guan's "as corrupted of a politician as in the comics" I meant literally. He brainwashes people for the White Lotus, so they can use them to take over national capitals. Not as elegant as Azula's coup in The Hundred Year War (especially in Fire Nation Capital), but no less effective. Don't worry, he'll get what he deserves, because Tarrlok asked the Avatar to take him out.
But of course Korra won't just follow orders. If you wonder how she fits into this picture, you'll get your answers in the next chapter, not that it'll be anything good.
PS: Varrick will talk about his two-hundred-page proposal in later chapters
Three guards stormed into the room. Kuvira fired plates of Platinum, the metal wrapped around their eyes, blinding its targets. Three more came, shooting steel plates from their armguards; she launched one of her metal cables, throwing it like a whip; it cut into the muscles on their thighs, they fell, the steel plates landed onto the wall. Four more rushed in, Wing and Wei wrapped their ankles with their metal cables, flipped them off their feet; the guards crushed on top of each other, unconscious.
Before more of them arrive, Ghazan raised the wall facing the corridor. Suyin torn sheets of metal from the floor, morphed them to adhere to the wall.
"We must get out from the window." Kuvira said. "Wing, take Opal. Wei, take Bataar. Mum, take dad! I'll take Zaheer. Ghazan, take Ming Hua, I'll give you a cable."
The metal sheet was warped out of shape, more guards were about to break in.
"Don't worry about us, I can handle it."
"Hold onto us by our shoulders." She told the nonbenders. "And jump!"
Halfway through their fall, Wing, Wei and her hooked their metal cables to the wall. Ghazan carried Ming Hua on his back and slid down from the wall. When they landed onto their feet, two Platoons of Special Forces soldiers arrived, securing them from potential attacks.
"What in the spirits' names is this?" Suyin said.
Thousands of civilians gathered in Central Square, with knives, shards of metal and pieces of broken glass in their hands.
Lee and his lackeys destroyed the radio along with the telephone. All communications were down, no way for Izumi to call for help. Should she surrender before more deaths occur to her people?
"We will fight until the end." Iroh said.
"No, there's been too much bloodshed." She said.
"But we can't just surrender! The Royal Guards all swore to lay their life for you!"
A guard overheard their conversation and stood by, but remained silent.
"I agree with your mother." Zuko said. "It's the Fire Lord's duty to protect her people."
She nodded to her father, and turned to the guard. "Send them home."
"Come on, little Zumi, you can't possibly make me watch my entire family getting captured."
The guard removed her mask.
"Azula?" Zuko dropped his jaws. "Where have you...how did you...
"Please, I know all the secret passages beneath the Palace." Azula rolled her eyes. "Anyway, that's how you'll escape."
"Thank you." She bowed to her great aunt.
Zuko produced a small flame with his hand. The tunnel is long, his fire only managed to light up twenty feet forward, beyond that sat endless darkness.
Azula ignited her blue flame to provide more visibility. To his surprise, his sister did not mock on his firebending.
He tried to think of something else to focus on, until he could no longer bear the silence. "Where did you go after the war?"
"All over the world, Zuzu. I needed a break."
"Of course... What brings you back?"
"The Avatar, she's a threat to the Fire Nation."
Yes, the Avatar, how ironic. Seventy-six years ago, the Avatar was deemed as a threat to the Fire Nation, and now, under completely different circumstances, she became a threat to his nation, again. Except this time, he and Azula are on the same page.
"Impressive, Great Uniter."
Guan approached her with a Company of soldiers, but none of them were in Earth Republic uniform, all wore masks.
"But you have no chance of winning." He pulled out a microphone from his pocket. "Hold the object against your throat."
The civilians pushed whatever sharp object on their hands against their throats.
"Don't you dare!" She raised a rock, slicing it into razor blade thin pieces.
Two squads of soldiers stepped forward, putting themselves between Guan and her rock projectiles.
"Let's see if you can kill me before they slit their throat." Guan shouted hysterically. "Surrender, or all of them die."
She didn't have a choice.
"Everyone, drop your weapons."
"No, mum!" Wei shouted, followed by his brother Wing. "We can't just hand you over to a psychopath."
She glanced at Kuvira -the woman clenched her fist so hard that her fingers turned white, the ground around her cracked, creating a fissure that extended metres away from its radius.
"We're not sacrificing our people for the slim chance of escape. Drop your weapons, this is an order."
The Special Forces dropped their fighting stances.
"We will stand down." Zaheer said, then raised his hands above his head.
Ghazan followed suit, Ming Hua dropped her makeshift water arms.
Guan pointed at her and her family.
They bent the metal plates and cables off of their uniforms, threw them to the ground.
"Kick them away, at least three metres from yourselves."
A Squad of soldiers approached her, Wing and Wei, Zaheer and his team. The masked soldiers stroke a few pressure points on their limbs, blocking their chi; they wouldn't be able to bend for an hour. Soldiers placed a pair of Platinum handcuffs on each of them. Five more came, taking Bataar, Opal and Junior to captive.
"You." Guan yelled at Kuvira. "No Platinum!"
Kuvira took the prosthetic off her elbow and threw it before his feet.
Two soldiers approached Kuvira, striking all her pressure points twice; another two came, and together they squeezed her into a straitjacket.
The passage led them to First Lord's Harbour.
"Get in." Azula pointed to a speedboat. "Go to the Southern Water Tribe, look for Wu and figure out what to do next."
Similar things must be happening at the Earth Republic.
"Is Suyin okay?" Izumi said.
"How am I supposed to know? That's why I told you to meet with Wu. Now get into the boat with your father."
"Wait, you aren't coming with us?" Iroh said.
"No, of course not. Somebody needs to fight the tyrant."
Azula took off the Royal Guard armour, revealing a set of black tactical clothing, with a red lotus imprinted on the chest.
"So long, Firelord."
Azula waved at her and walked away.
She didn't think they will ever see each other again.
"Even if you take me out, you won't have the Earth Republic. This is not the Fire Nation. Each province is independent, they will fight you with their own troops." Suyin said.
Guan laughed. "I don't have to if I have you. Me and Dr. Sheng have spent years to reproduce Dai Li's mind control. Except it's better, the effect is permanent. Count yourselves lucky, you're about to experience a cutting-edge technology."
He waved at a masked soldier. "Take them to the truck, put them on the machine."
He gasped, "you shouldn't be able to speak..."
The soldier lifted her left arm, Guan's limbs were twisted in various of unnatural angles. She clenched her hand into a fist, submitting Suyin, Kuvira, the Red Lotus and everyone around her onto the ground. She took off the mask with her right hand.
"You won't have Suyin." Korra said. "She will stand trials and pay for her war crimes accordingly."
"How? It's not a full moon!"
"To bloodbend? Half-moon is enough."
She felt the turbulence in the air, she slipped to the side. A blob of liquid metal slipped pass her chest by a few centimetres, it singed her clothes. Another plate of metal flew to her, she tried to swipe it aside with her hand, the metal did not change its direction. She avoided it from slicing her throat, yet it still left a long cut in her left shoulder.
Korra punched forward, compressed air hit right into Kuvira's solar plexus, slamming her onto the wall so hard that it cracked at the site of impact. Much to Korra's relief, she did not move.
But Kuvira shouldn't be able to move a finger, let alone bend... It chilled her to the bones thinking about the complications.
She silenced her mind, she couldn't afford to show any weakness at this moment. She froze Guan's blood. Spikes of frozen blood busted his skin open, what used to be an arm is now no more than a stick of flesh.
She let him scream, waiting just enough for him to recover from the nervous shock. She ignited her signature white flame, held it with her right hand while taking slow, deliberate strides towards him.
"...P-please... make it stop... I will do anything."
She made him cry.
That's right, fear me.
"Order your soldiers to bring your brainwash device. From now on, you and your armies answer to me, and only me."
Azula saves the day and shares a (consider it's her we're talking, extremely) heartwarming moment with Zuko and his family, and surprise, she's also a Red Lotus and she's been working with Wu. We have former prince/princess turning anarchists XD
See, Korra's plotting against Tarrlok by building her own brainwashed armies. And how? She bloodbends their commander until he complies, probably enjoyed every single bit of the process as well. She's really embraced this torture habit.
Suyin is a good ruler, to make such sacrifice for her people, she lives up to the title Great Uniter. Zaheer changed, too, for the better, maybe Suyin rubbed the kindness into him, but we will never know (you'll know what I mean in the next chapter).
Korra grew fear towards Kuvira, not only because her abilities, but her willpower as well. For the first time in the stories, Korra faces someone who just won't give up like herself, and finds herself not in control.
PS: Why is the chapter named like that? Because Azula and Korra infiltrated the infiltrators.
After almost one year and a half, she finally set her foot on Republic City. She was literally, steps away from achieving her goals.
"I see you brought back a few prisoners." Asami said.
"Yes, and some have committed murders and war crimes. They need to stand trials."
Asami looked away.
"Since all my charges associate with the Water Tribes and the Earth Republic, The United Republic of Nations is the perfect neutral region to set up a Tribunal. Don't worry, the Fire Nation won't say a word, they're under our control now."
She waited, but her friend offered no response. Until Asami snapped.
"We waged wars, wars that killed thousands of people. Then you go to support a power mad cult leader, putting up international schemes, and you want me in? I didn't become the president of United Republics to sign up for this!"
"Miss Sato, please be reminded, you won't be sitting on this chair without my help."
The words cut her up from the inside upon leaving her mouth, like swallowing pieces of broken glass. Spirits, did she just threaten her friend?
"I'm sorry, I should never say that." She gave the president a Water Tribe bow.
"No. You're right. I never wanted to."
"I promise, after this, no more war, no more killing." For the first time in her life, she begged, "please, my people need a resolution, I need a resolution."
Asami sighed. "Fine. I will do it for you one last time."
The tribunal charged them for a double homicide and evoking a Civil War.
Zaheer wasn't surprised. That was indeed what happened that night, and he regretted about nothing except failing to kill the Avatar. He saw darkness behind the kid's eyes when she froze Unalaq's blood, and the monster she would become. Time passed, and his speculation became nothing but reality. He knew he and his friends had no escape; the Avatar was out for blood. An eye for an eye, at least that made sense.
A few hours after sunset, Ghazan, Ming Hua and he were Chi-blocked, bonded in Platinum chains and dragged from their cell to City Park. People gathered around, civilians and journalists alike. At least two platoons of RCPD put up metal rails to held back the spectators.
Their guards - he wondered why all of them wore green goggles and black tactical uniforms - pushed them before the crowd before lining them up. The murmur in the crowd grew louder, but he couldn't overhear any of the conversation.
Sound of footsteps from behind, he turned his head back: the Avatar stood on an earthen stage. She switched on the microphone.
"People of the United Republics. Seventeen years ago, these people murdered my parents before my very eyes. They are also responsible for the Civil War between the Southern and Northern Water Tribe, a war that took away over twenty thousand lives. And today they will stand before justice."
He laughed. Oh, so this was where it's going. "Look, people of Republic City! Where your 'democracy' had fall to! Your president is making you to watch a public execution!"
The guard jammed an electric baton under his right ribcage. The strike knocked the breath out of his lungs, his muscles tensed up, almost fell onto his knees.
The crowd became silent, shocked, weren't they?
The Avatar stepped down from the stage and tilted her head towards the Judge. "Your honour?"
The Judge glanced at him. The man shook his head ever so subtly, that did not escape Zaheer's eyes. Of course, the Judge had no say. Everybody knew the Avatar has the call.
"Zaheer, Ghazan and Ming Hua, the Tribunal find you guilty of first-degree murder in the double homicide of Chief Tonraq and Lady Senna, in addition to crimes against peace in evoking civil wars between the two Water Tribes. I hereby sentence you to death."
The Avatar raised her right arm. He lost control over his limbs, his feet several metres above the ground. The Avatar moved her fingers, and he heard a series of pops, his limbs twisted to a bizarre angle, tearing all the ligaments on his body in halves. He gritted his teeth. He heard screams. Ghazan and Ming Hua must've suffered the same fate.
The Avatar raised her left hand. The pain was immediate, pikes of frozen blood busted open from his skin. His vision blurred, screams around him faded.
Would the Avatar do this to the Beifongs? He had no doubt at all.
Why did his eyelids become so heavy?
Ghazan made an Earth Republic soldier his lavabending student, right? The kid would avenge them, all of them.
"Zaheer, long time no see."
He swore he heard Pi'Li before his closed his eyes.
Korra never expected the Earth Republic lawyer would come so close to winning the case.
"Immediately followed by founding the government, the defendant rolled out a series of policies: granting regions autonomy, recognizing regions' sovereignty, and forming of peace treaty with the Southern Water Tribe just to name a few. These policies mirrored Fire Lord Zuko's Harmony Restoration Movement after the Hundred Year War, with reconciliation being the motive, and ultimately, contribute to the repatriation of the occupied regions. These actions clearly show the defendant's remorse to her past actions."
The man bowed before the Tribunal, "your honour, therefore I conclude, prison sentence is a more accurate interpretation of The International Law on War Crimes than the accuser's suggestion."
The Judge glanced at Suyin, was he sympathizing?
No, that is NOT going to happen. This time, she would set an example: not even world leader could escape justice.
After days of contemplation, she decided to bring the Beifongs to the event. After all, they deserve to see their family for the last time. The public was baffled by the last execution, she needed not to instill more fear on the population, history proves fear always leads to rebellions. So, she kept the event small and mostly private, only allowing thirty journalists to bear the witness.
The execution took place in a wooden warehouse near city hall. She assigned RCPD's Chi-blockers Unit –recruited from the former Equalists- at the entrance, checking each journalist from head to toe. The rules were simple: no earth, no metal, and especially, no Platinum. Only wooden cameras were allowed.
Killing Suyin in front of Kuvira's eyes leaves her no room for error. She remembered what she saw in Ba Sing Se, even being Chi-blocked, put into a straitjacket and bloodbent, Kuvira still stroke back. So, the environment must be devoid of all bendable materials and, instead of traditional Chi-blocking, she used water, a technique she invented based on healing. With all the Chi-paths in the body blocked, there's no way Kuvira could bend.
She waved her hand, three RCPD officers brought Suyin to the front. She turned her head to the side to avoid the cameras' flashlights.
"Suyin Beifong, you are subjected to death penalty for crime against peace," the Captain said. "Any last words?"
"Long live the Earth Republic and its people!"
"Mum! No." The Beifong twins cried.
She moved her hands in a circular motion, a sphere of air formed around Suyin's head, bit by bit, pulling the air out of the Great Uniter's lungs.
Their brother, the young engineer, wiped his eyes.
The older engineer, their father, looked away.
Suyin fell, her lips and tongue went blue.
She saw a young woman sobbing, she didn't recognize the woman's face. But maybe she knew the name... Opal?
The cameras' lenses exploded. She had a split second to put her arms in front of her body. Pieces of broken glass dug into her arms, her vision covered in red.
She bent the glass out of her flesh. She wiped the blood off her face, and discovered a long, deep cut that ran from her eyebrow to her chin. Thank the spirits, it left her eyes intact.
Kuvira smiled at her.
She rained the broken glass onto her attacker. The projectile came to an abrupt halt half a metre away from Kuvira. She flicked her wrist, a block of heated glass met her lightning midway, deflected some of the electricity before it hit the target.
Kuvira did not get up.
The journalists stared at her, jaws dropped. She waved to the RCPDs, a squad of officers escorted them out of the compound, others took the Beifongs away.
She stumbled down from the stage.
"Bring me a bucket of water. Quick." She told the Captain.
Asami said Kuvira was bending with her mind.
"How is that possible?"
She had attempted this throughout her life, but struggled to move a pebble or a cup of water.
"Your guesses are as good as mine, but that must be how she controls her prosthetics. There's no other way you can wield a mechanical arm like the real one."
That posed the Platinum-bender as a even bigger threat, Korra feared even the wooden prison couldn't hold her.
She must do something. She considered execution, but she's heard rumours of insurgency in the past few weeks, she wouldn't doubt one bit there're Earth Republic supporters in the city; Guan told her at least ten provinces in the Earth Republic went rouge, the last thing she wanted was dragging the United Republics into another war, but most importantly, she can use Kuvira as a bargain chip to the resistance.
Besides, what charges could she put up, defending a family member?
An idea popped up into her mind. First, she wrote it off as crazy, but she soon realized it was the only option.
So, there she was, standing on a floating fortress made entirely from wood, miles away from the shore. The scar on her face tingled. She took in a deep breath and walked towards the wooden cage.
"What do you want?"
"Your mother's death... it's not personal. You must've known what she did in the past." She said.
"Stop pretending. You know she doesn't deserve this!"
"Maybe not, but the tribunal have made their decision."
Kuvira slammed her frame against the wooden bars. "Shut. Up. You liar."
She couldn't flinch, she couldn't afford to show any weakness.
"You fear me. I can see it in your eyes."
"You are out of your mind."
"Am I? You have me locked up, beaten and half-starved but still don't dare to step into my cell."
She wanted to deny it, but both of them knew it is true.
"Maybe I am, maybe not. That's not why I'm here,"
she must establish control over the conversation. "I am here to offer you an opportunity. I have a device, but it's made from metal. If you cooperate, I will grant you freedom."
Kuvira laughed, "you want to control my mind and call it 'freedom'? Did the glass hit your brain?"
Her scar tingled again. "I will fucking break you."
I will tear every tendon on your body, Platinum-bender, bleed you out slowly while counting how many drops of blood you have left.
"If you don't, then you know what's coming for you."
She turned away. Fear had made her to act like a fool, if she couldn't put it on a leash, one day, it would kill her. But words cannot be unsaid, she would come back on the next half moon; bloodbending would fulfill the promise.
After 58 chapters Korra finally gets her revenge, and she makes quite a show out of it. Mercy is for the weak XD
Does it bring her peace though? No. She created a cycle of revenge --now Kuvira wants payback for Suyin's death, which only grows her paranoia. Vengeance is a slippery slope. After what she has done and what she will be doing? Korra deserves that scar.
And hint, Korra doesn't make empty threats (I guess it's pretty obvious now): "I will tear every tendon on your body, bleed you out slowly while counting how many drops of blood you have left" and "bloodbending would fulfill the promise"... ok I admit that's some dark sh*t, too dark even for this story. I will detail it in a one-shot instead
Korra did not manipulate Asami, she believed her own lies.
PS: Heated glass is a good conductor of electricity.
Picture credit to @beyaarca on deviant art (https://www.deviantart.com/beyaarca/art/AU-Villain-Korra-909841992)
Wu met the Royal Family, and he had been busy since then. Every day he would receive boats carrying citizens from all over the Earth Republic: Omashu, Zaofu, Ba Sing Se... Most of whom soldiers, sometimes they came with civilians, and one time a unit of Special Forces, all seeking refuge in the Southern Water Tribe. He has only been hearing dreadful news for the past three months: Coups in Capital City and Ba Sing Se, execution of a Red Lotus Sect and Suyin the Great Uniter, Northern Water Tribe pleading allegiance to The Order of White Lotus. What could possibly be worse? Well, quite a few. That was why he and the de-facto Firelord convinced the Chieftain to hold a meeting at the Palace.
"I urge you to re-assess the situation, Chief Pitsiak. The Avatar is now backed up by a powerful cult that spread its tentacles to every nation. Tarrlok, the leader, openly claimed they will stop at nothing until he had the whole world within his grasp." Izumi said.
"Please, we only ask for two small vessels for the rescue mission." General Iroh said.
"It's not about how much equipment you ask for. The action itself can lead to the Avatar declaring war on us."
"If you worry about national safety, Chief Pitsiak, which country do you think is next in line, if the Earth Republic fell into the Avatar's control?" Wu said.
The Chieftain stared at him sternly. "I know what you're thinking, Mr. Wu. You don't understand our culture, we Water Tribes avoid fighting our kin."
How hypocritical, this man just expressed his fear towards the Avatar's attack a moment ago.
The businessman in tailcoat shot up from his chair. "Look, Chieftain, I'm just as Southern Water Tribe as you do, or the Avatar. But I don't think she believes she's part of the tribe on her end. She made her choice when she teamed up with The North."
"She did that to satisfy the Great Uniter's conditions!"
"Believe what you want, provide them ships or find another company to make weapons for you."
"Mr. Blackstone, I
"They're locked up unjustly and the Avatar's probably torturing them! I have a conscience."
The Chieftain winced. "Fine, I'll do it."
He walked into Varrick as he left the meeting room.
"No worries." Varrick waved at Mako and Bolin. "If you want to thank me, take them with you."
Another group of three approached him.
"We want to join you." The woman in police armour said.
Kya -Master Katara's daughter- came with him. Wu parked his ship near the wooden fortress, he and his team dressed in White Lotus' uniforms. All covered their faces with masks, except himself.
Wu approached a masked soldier. "I need to see your commander."
The soldier returned with a stern woman. Judging by her tanned skin and blue eyes, a waterbender most likely.
Wu put as much authority in his voice as he could muster.
"Next shift's tomorrow."
He spoke from a mental script he had rehearsed for a dozen times.
"Special order. Do you question the Avatar's authority, Lieutenant?"
"No, sir." She saluted. "Please show me your paper."
Wu reached for his pocket, the signal for attack. A jet of water hit the commander's face, froze to ice, one Red Lotus agent shot lightning at her, Wu hurled her body into the ocean. The soldier beside him summoned a wave, Kya froze it into ice; icicles impaled the soldier's chest.
Letting Kya in was the wisest decision he has ever made.
He saw smoke from the watchtower. Good, they took down the radio.
A Platoon of soldiers lunged at them, throwing jets of fire and water.
"Chung! It's time."
Chung sprinted to the wooden cage, he slipped and fell, somebody turned the floor beneath him into ice. The soldiers ran to Chung's direction.
Wu cut the soldiers' route from the middle.
"You aren't going anywhere."
Soldiers attacked, he slipped pass an icicle, ducked beneath a jet of fire, missed a lightning, dodged a water whip... he switched on his shock glove, finally. He slammed his fist into the soldiers' bodies, the electricity knocked them unconscious. They were only ten people, too many enemies. He saw a squad of soldiers broke their line of defense, throwing streams of water at Chung.
Chung stumbled -ten metres to go.
"Kya, hold them back."
The waterbender summoned a wave, it crashed down to the soldiers. Kya trapped their legs in ice. When the soldiers melt the ice, Chung slipped a few pieces of metal into the wooden cage.
"Guys, we did it."
Wu's words sparked a new sense of vigor in his team, they charged into the enemy. He saw something poked through the wood like a hot knife cutting into butter. Another squad of soldiers came to the rescue. No use, they already won.
A disc of melted metal flew out of the cell's opening, harvesting the heads of approaching soldiers like a scythe.
A head rolled to his feet, the mask slid off. He faltered; the soldier had no face.
A woman in grey prison clothes approached him, her hair loose and unkempt, one sleeve dangling in the air, empty. She limps slightly as she walks.
"Who are you?"
Her voice was rasp, likely a result of unuse.
The Avatar held the Beifongs in two separate locations. Mako knew why, it takes a more-than-special prison to contain a Platinum-bender. He decided to go with Bolin; his brother's friend was held in Republic City. Wu got them some RCPD uniforms, that would be how they sneak into the prison.
An officer saluted to him.
"Good evening, sir."
He showed the officer a fake ID. "Guard shifts."
They passed the entrance but found themselves lost in the corridors.
"We need to find them." He said and shot lightning at the speaker on the wall. They need to sabotage as much alarms as possible.
"Hey! What are you doing?"
Bolin tackled the officer onto the ground, Lin slammed a strap of metal on his mouth.
"If you scream, I will slit your throat." Lin said.
The man nodded his head violently.
Lin removed the metal. The man kept his promise.
"Where are the Beifongs held?" He said, and gestured to Lin. "Don't lie, she can see through you."
"They're in the maximum-security wing, downstairs on the first right turn. That's all I know, please don't kill me!"
"Thank you, and good night."
Bolin punched the man in the temple, knocking him unconscious.
Bolin dragged the officer's body into the ventilation tunnel. "Let's go."
The team reached the lower level and found a squad of officers patrolling the wing.
"Guard shifts." Mako said.
"Your papers, please."
Just as he expected. He took out a piece of paper from his pocket, lit it on fire, and jabbed it into the officer's face. He smothered the man's mouth with his hand, heating up the flesh. The man let out a muffled scream. His teammates charged at the rest of the officers. Lin choked out two with metal cables, Bumi knocked out one of them with his shock glove, others fought the officers one on one.
Bolin slipped pass the battle, took out the rocks he carried in his pocket, melted them into lava, and dug the liquid earth into the Platinum wall.
Their fight with the officers ended quickly. He shot lightnings to break the speakers. They threw the bodies into the cell through the opening Bolin created.
The cell was empty.
"Hurry, Bo! Next patrol in two minutes."
Bolin broke into another cell. Two men walked out from the opening.
He check his watch: forty seconds.
"Wing, Wei, catch." Lin threw a metal cable to each of them.
Bolin broke into the last cell in the wing.
"Opal!" Bolin hugged the woman in short hair.
Lin smiled at two men wearing glasses, arms crossed. "Glad to see you, Bataar, Junior."
They darted to the stairs.
One hundred and twelve seconds.
The patrols. He answered with a jet of fire, it landed into the woman's face. Wing and Wei trapped two officers into the metal cables, slammed them against the wall. Lin's cables slashed another two's throats. Bolin's lava punched holes through two soldiers in the chest. Thirteen against eleven, an easy win.
"Move it people." he said.
The alarm would ring soon, no time to hide the bodies.
When they reached the ground level, they ran into five officers. He knocked off two with his firebending, Bolin ended the other three with lava. They passed the reception room, the officer noticed them. He knocked him out with a jet of fire. Too late, the man already sound the alarm. Lin ripped a hole on the metal gate for them to get through. He saw officers rushing to them, shooting jets of fire and straps of metals. Lin closed the opening.
"Get back." Bolin said, stomped the ground, the earth beneath him melted, soon creating a pool of lava between them and the gate.
Mako waved to his team, they hopped into a transport truck. He pushed his foot against the gas pedal as hard as he could.
He cruised around the deck, and found the woman leaning against the fence. The jagged scar on her nose bridge drew his attention.
"My name is Wu, leader of Red Lotus in Ba Sing Se, Gaoling, Yai and Kyoshi Island."
He stretched out his right hand, but immediately slapped it against his forehead. Stupid! She lost her right arm!
"When I see Suyin's achievements, I know it's time for me to step down. But that's behind us, and I'm not a Prince anymore."
She twitched a corner of her mouth, "glad to know."
"I'm sorry about your mother." He said.
She snapped her head away.
Bringing up that topic would only add more awkwardness to their conversation, but his conscience forced him to to ask: "what happened to you?"
"The Avatar's bloodbending."
He gasped. This Avatar is a monster!
"Your family is waiting for you at the South Pole."
He handed her a black parka, "you'll need this."
Something about her was off.
"I have a gift for you." He opened the box and showed her the mechanical arm.
Her eyes lit up, she bent it without lifting a finger. "Platinum."
"Sure it is, it's a gift for you."
She frowns, "I can't put it on without a harness."
"Yes you can, Varrick said he can connect the end to your bones."
She rolled up her sleeve and buried the metal deep into her flesh.
"Woah! What are you doing?"
"Connecting it to my bones."
He didn't know how to react, so he watched Kuvira tying her hair into a low bun.
Yes, Wu is a skilled fighter in this timeline, and a much better leader comparing to the show --more on that in the next chapter. Bolin's lavabending saves the day for several times, Ghazan would be proud.
Varrick has a conscience now! Maybe Suyin rubbed it into him, she left quite a bit of legacies.
As I mentioned in the last chapter, I will elaborate on what happened to Kuvira in another one-shot because it will need a higher rating than M (so you know it's nothing good). The rest of the Beifongs are treated fairly decent, thanks to President Asami Sato who still has morals (unlike a certain Avatar :p). Lesson of the day, RCPDs are "way more professional" than the White Lotus guards.
PS: "Pitsiak" means "do carefully" in Inuktitut, fits the chieftain's personality.
Korra tapped the table with her finger repeatedly. Sparing Guan's at Ba Sing Se was a risky move, she knew she wasn't even close to understanding how the brainwash device works. The results were likely successful, otherwise Tarrlok would've known Guan's alive long before, and until now Tarrlok believed he was dead. Anyhow, Guan wouldn't have the extra mind instructing his lackeys to trick her under the threat of bloodbending, but he could've put back up mechanism into the design, something she would never know for sure. No use to anticipate, she would soon have the answers. She picked up the telephone and dialed in his number.
"This is Commander Guan."
"The Avatar speaks." The phrase equated to an "attention" command. If the device had worked, he would drop the speaker or whatever he hold in his hands, and stand straight.
BUMP! A sharp noise came out of her speaker, and CLACK! Like boots hitting each other from the heels.
"Pick up your speaker." She said. "And tell me, how is your progress in the Earth Republic?"
"My troops occupy most of the country except Gaoling, Yai, Kyoshi Island, Si Wong Desert, Foggy Swamp and three other coastal provinces on the southwest."
Remote areas such as Si Wong Desert, Foggy Swamp and Kyoshi Island weren't her concern at this stage.
"Occupied areas remain unstable, what's left of their local armies are fighting us with guerilla warfare, the civilians always support them, especially in Zaofu."
"Do what you must on the civilians, if that means putting them on the machine, so be it." She choked on her words, hearing something like this came out of her mouth felt unreal, but she had no other choice. "Also, recondition your army with the machine, they follow the Avatar's command, and the Avatar's command only."
She wondered how much she had fallen.
Korra hung up the phone, flipped open the reports on her desk for the fifth time of the day. A group of ten broke the Beifongs out of Republic City Prison. For the worse, she escaped, too; the guards mentioned scorch marks on the cell's opening, she must've cut it with melted rocks or metal. The next shift didn't come until the next day, so they had no idea what happened in the compound.
"If you don't, then you know what's coming for you."
She could almost hear somebody's voice.
That "somebody" is The Platinum-bender, who can melt earth and metals, bend with her mind!
Korra ran her hand through her scar, a reminder of her defeat. No matter what she does, Kuvira won't crack, why? Guan, Noatak, Suyin, even Zaheer, she all succeeded, she has never failed to break someone's will!
Two months later.
Wu invited all the refugees to their meeting. More than a thousand people gathered in the snow of the South Pole, most in Earth Republic's forest green, others in black -those were Red Lotus agents; together they formed a big circle. He walked to the centre, the Beifongs followed. Varrick joined them, the businessman also brought Mako, Bolin and General Iroh.
"We might hold different beliefs, but we come from the same nation, the Earth Nation. We share the same land, the same home. Now our home is under the Avatar's tyranny."
"We will never forget what happened in Ba Sing Se and Capital City; we will never forget what happened to Zaheer, Ghazan, Ming Hua and Suyin Beifong. The Avatar's reign of terror will continue unless we take matters into our own hands!"
He threw his fist into the air. Waves and waves of applause came from the crowd, with cheers every now and then. He glanced at the Beifongs, one of the twins jabbed a young woman gently, who put a hand onto Kuvira's shoulders. Kuvira thrust her hands into the pockets on her black parka, clenched her jaw, but said no more.
He waited until the applause subsided.
"I invite you to join us, the Earth Alliance, we will liberate our nation!"
The crowd started a wave of cheers.
Kuvira raised a hand, they quickly stopped. He handed her the microphone.
"No one owes allegiance to a government, so we won't have any. This was also Su's wish..."
He saw chunks of muscles on her face moving as she talks, she is way too lean even by men's standards; still, an improvement from when he first broke her out of the wooden prison.
"Our relationship with the local communities will base on contracts. We will provide them security services and infrastructure upgrades, in exchange for setting up our HQ, and money. Joining the Earth Alliance is completely voluntary, you are free to leave if this is not something you're willing to do."
Only two dozen left.
"Mr. Wu has networks in Gaoling, Kyoshi Island and Yai, our operations will start from there. Mr. Blackstone is developing a technology that targets the Avatar."
Varrick nodded, took the microphone.
"Folks, before this mess, I wrote a two-hundred-page proposal to Great Uniter Suyin on a new energy source. Mr. Bataar Sr., Junior and I experimented on the vines from the Foggy Swamp. And guess what? There are loads of energy in these vines, all you need is to charge them with electricity. But you gotta be careful with these babes, if ya mess around with them they'll explode."
He could hear the crowd moaning.
"Just get to the point." He said.
"Okay, okay. Long story short, these vines are especially effective against the Avatar. Think, since the Avatar is bonded with the Avatar Spirit, spirit energy might just happen to be her weakness!"
"I've already made some prototype detonators. Colonel Kuvira, General Iroh, Mr. Mako and Mr. Bolin will go to the swamp and ask for local tribes' permission to harvest the vines."
He smiled; they will defeat the Avatar!
The crowd made path for two seniors.
"Lord Zuko, Master Katara, how can we help you?" He said.
Lord Zuko sighed. "Colonel Kuvira, can we join you? Some news is better delivered by old friends."
Korra picked up the phone.
It was Guan. "My intelligence detects resistance forces landing on the southern coasts. The Platinum-bender is heading towards the Foggy Swamp with a group of five."
"Prepare me a Platoon of soldiers and two transport trucks at Omashu."
Asami was not going to like this.
"What? You are going to Earth Republic again?!"
"I'm not going to start another war. I received entails on The Platinum-bender's whereabouts, I can't let her off the hooks. Asami, you know how much she poses as a threat, please understand."
"I thought avenging your parents and your nation will bring you peace, but it does the opposite. We've got bigger problems at home, signs on insurgencies have only increased after Suyin's execution, I suspect Tarrlok is behind this, we have to track them down before it's too late!"
"What if she is exactly the reason behind the insurgency? I bet there are a ton of Earth Republic supporters in Republic City."
"Korra, can't you see you're obsessed with fighting her?"
"Maybe I am, for a reason!" She realized she spoke louder than intended, so she held back to recollect herself. "Radio me if anything happens, I will be back as fast as I can."
The group headed deep into the swamp.
Kuvira stomped the ground in frustration, a huge pillar of earth rose from the shallow water.
"The compass doesn't work; the map is useless now."
"Don't worry, Colonel." Master Katara placed a hand onto her shoulders. "When I was young, my brother and I got lost in here with the... excuse me, Avatar Aang. We trusted the swamp and listened, and then we found the Foggy Swamp Tribe."
"Thank you for your wisdom, Master Katara, but we're short on time." She turned back, "Master Katara?"
Not just Master Katara, but Lord Zuko, Mako, Bolin and General Iroh, too; they all disappeared.
"Hey. Don't you want to take a last look at your mother?"
She followed the voice, a scar-free Korra stood in front of her, holding Su hostage with bloodbending. She melted the metal plates from her armguard, hurled it toward the Avatar. The Avatar moved like a ghost, slipped past her attack, unscathed.
The Avatar scoffed, flicked her wrist, drawing airs from Su's lungs.
Kuvira charged at her enemy, drew out the metal cables from her belt, heated up their tips, swung them at the Avatar. The Avatar leaped ten metres into the air, the cables lashed onto the ground. The Avatar dropped Su in front of her feet; Su's lips were blue.
The Avatar landed, and laughed. "You'll never be on time to save her."
She lunged at the Avatar, stroke with her mechanical arm, she squeezed her fist so hard that the compression heated up the metal in red.
A breeze brushed against her forehead, the wind hit her in the gut, sending her into the air before crashing into a massive vine.
"We haven't heard from the agent for Guan's replacement since the coups." Chief Eska said.
"It's likely Guan is still alive. The Avatar broke her deal." Chief Desna said.
She must've been plotting against them long before.
"Where is she now?" he said.
"Heading towards the Earth Republic, Grand Lotus." Chief Eska said.
"Excellent. We will take down both of them."
Times has come, he would be preparing for the endgame.
So much plotting... Both Tarrlok and Korra planned to double cross each other, who will win this mind-game?
Spirit vine technology is used for good in this timeline. And if you think the vision Kuvira saw is intense, well, you'll soon see what others had, they're just as traumatic.
The Greatest Earthbender in The World will make her official appearance in the next chapter.
She woke up in a cave. An old woman in green robes approached her, the woman walked barefoot.
"Hah, you're brighter than the other metalheads. I mean, 'grandma'? Like they look forward for me to get old." Toph scoffed. "If you call me 'The Greatest Earthbender in the World' you'd really make my day."
"Where’s the Foggy Swamp Tribe? Where are the others? We're on a mission to
"I know why you come. They're outside. But seriously, you don't want to know why you saw the Avatar in your vision?"
"No time --wait, how do you know?"
"Come on," Toph waved her hand. "I see everything through the vines."
As far as she remembered, Toph isn’t spiritual by any means, but maybe that's what happens when you're submerged into an environment full of supernatural phenomena. She didn't understand how this could work, but she knew Toph wasn't bluffing.
"The Swamp has the ability to manifest your inner conflict. I can tell you're upset about Suyin's... untimely pass," Toph wiped the corners of her eyes, "and you build a wall around it. Take time to sort out your feelings, you can't bottle it up forever."
"I don't have time for that. I need to talk to the tribe; we need the vines to fight the Avatar!"
Toph sighed. "Fine, I'll take you to the Elder. But I've warned you, head to a negotiation with something messing you up from the inside is not a good idea."
If she had the will to bend Platinum, pretty sure she could manage her own mind.
The Elder walked with a crane; his robes were made from a rough fibre she couldn't recognize.
She greeted him with a bow. "Sir, we hope you can give us the permission to harvest the vines. The spirit energy in them might be our only hope to stop the Avatar."
He nodded. "I agree, but I can't decide for the swamp. Please follow me, Colonel Kuvira."
The Elder took her to a gigantic tree that stood hundreds of metres tall, its branches and leaves formed a dome, covering miles of sky.
"This is the Banyan-grove Tree, the heart of the swamp. Every vine you see is a part of this ancient, magnificent organism. It looks into your spirit, then judge if you’re fit to take from the swamp." He said, "put your hand onto the trunk."
The water beneath them turned red, and he saw his old friend: Aang. When Aang dipped his shoes into the liquid, he morphed into Korra, a five-year-old Korra. The girl ran to him and Katara, the blood splattered, tainting her blue clothing in black. Korra reached up for their hands, all of a sudden, she grew up to her present age, wearing a grey United Forces uniform, carrying a scar across her face. She smiled, she looked down. He followed her eyes, Korra's hands, still holding onto his and Katara's, were now covered in crimson.
"Thank you." She said. The sea of blood started to boil.
Zuko put a comforting hand onto his friend's shoulders, the visions remained fresh on his mind. "Katara, it's not your fault."
"I failed Aang." Katara covered her face with her hands, choking on her breath. "If I arrived a little bit earlier, her parents wouldn't have died. Or if I paid more attention, I would notice her troubles, and help her to let go before it's too late..."
"No, you didn't. I failed Aang." His eyes started to water. "If I tried a little bit harder to convince my uncle, the White Lotus would find the Avatar before anything could've happen, and guide her to a righteous path."
"I created a monster." Katara raised her head, her face covered in tears.
"So did I."
"Stop blaming yourselves like losers."
"Toph, I'm sorry, your daughter..."
"I already know. I might live in the Swamp, but the vines extend to every corner of the world." She threw a punch into his shoulder. "Don't ever apologize, both of you. The Avatar murdered my family, not you."
"No, Katara, it's nobody's fault but hers. She had several chances to turn her life around. Damn it! Suyin gave her a fresh start after The Face Stealer's attack. After everything she did. She made every single choice by herself and for herself!" Toph stomped the ground, rising a huge boulder, only to shatter it into dust a second later.
"No 'buts'. You did NOT fail Aang. You didn't give up, you didn't let your emotions blind your judgement, because you do what's right, you want balance for the world!"
Toph stared at them, allowing her tears to ran free.
Katara pulled Toph into her embrace; the waterbender eyed him to reciprocate.
"This never happened." Toph said.
"Of course not." He still had tears on his face, but he smiled, nonetheless.
Mako lit up a pile of dead vines with his firebending. It was midday, but still, he made a bonfire, hoping it would burn away what he saw: whoever controlled his family’s minds, instructed them to slit their throats, one by one, in front of him and his brother...
"Bo, our families are okay, right?" What a terrible lie it was, even himself could hear the lack of confidence in his voice.
"Of course they are!"
The flames brought him into a trans, when he regained his cognition, he lost the track of time.
"Since mum and dad died, I've always been on the edge, Bo. I'm afraid I might fail to protect you from the triads. Now we find our family, I don't want to fail them again."
"I'm afraid too. I've always wanted a big family, now I have it, I don't ever want to lose them, I don't want to be alone anymore."
Bolin moved closer, leaning on his shoulders.
"I saw Opal, too. I don't want to lose more friends, after..." Bolin closed his eyes, and swallowed.
"I trusted her." He said.
"That's something we have in common."
Mako startled, "General Iroh?" How long has he been here?
"My mother and grandfather have always been a bit of a pacifist. Growing up, they filled me with stories of Avatar Aang. I believed the Avatar is this beacon of peace and hope for all my life. Until I realize, the Avatar can make mistakes, not just mistakes, the Avatar can become a tyrant.
I fear losing my family, too. My mother, my grandfather... I saw them on fire and, burnt alive." General Iroh said.
He cursed, the Swamp has a sick sense of humour, it brings out the darkest part of the mind. He didn't even want to imagine what Kuvira might saw in her visions.
"Does it help?" He said.
"If fear doesn't help us protecting the ones we love, why worry at all? At the end of the day, all we can do is giving all we got." He stared into the General's eyes. "And who needs the Avatar? You protect your family; you bring balance to the world. We carry our own weight."
"What if we fail?" Bolin said.
"Then remember them, learn from them, whatever we can do to carry their legacy with us. No matter what, never give up."
The radio beeped. It was Asami.
"What? Are you sure?"
"Triple Threat is behind the insurgency, I swear." Asami said. "Aren't the Triads supposed to listen to your order?"
Impossible, Ryu is loyal to the bones, and he knew the consequences otherwise.
"If I were you, I’d beware of Tarrlok. The White Lotus invented a mind control device; they must’ve used it on our citizens. Assign the Equalist units to guard you if you think you might be in danger."
"I need your help, Korra."
"Intelligence says two Fire Nation Royals are with The Platinum-bender. I will be back when I capture them. Let their demise be a warning for Tarrlok, and whoever is plotting against us."
Toph never sugarcoat the truth, that's why she talks gems. Her ability doesn't end here, next chapter you'll see how she's "the greatest earthbender in the world", by (re)discovering a technique that changes the game.
While others reflect on their visions, Kuvira dismisses it, so the swamp is about to give her a stronger one. You'll see how intense it is (even for someone who trips on cactus juice).
Korra uses fear to ensure loyalty, sure, no one has tried that before (like certain Fire Nation Princess, and we all know how that played out.) *sarcastic voice*
She stood in an endless snowland. It was dark, the full moon being the only source of light.
The tree sent her to another vision. Judging from what she saw last time, she wouldn't expect anything remotely pleasant.
She heard a scream, she turned around. Ming Hua drove the ice blade into a man's chest. She did not recognize his face. He fell, blood drooled from his wound, forming a trail. She followed the trail, walked into a woman. The woman had a huge cut in the ribs, struggling to stand up.
Every time the woman breathes, she hears blood rushing into the windpipe.
None of these are real, she reminded herself, stay put and you'll pass the test.
The woman pointed her finger forward before dropping limp. Kuvira looked forward. A group of soldiers in green uniforms, all had Coolie hats on their heads, hurling pieces of rocks and metal at her.
She stood still: this is not real.
A group of soldiers in blue stood between her and the projectiles. Some fought back with waterbending, but icicles were no match to stones. Boulders crushed their legs, shards of metal punctured their limbs, abdomen, and throats. Broken corpses littered the ground.
The Earth Kingdom's invasion to the Southern Water Tribe.
A woman approached the battlefield, wearing the General's cape. The woman threw her fist into the air. "Glory to the Queen!"
The soldiers responded with roars of triumph.
She recognized that face, it was Su. She swallowed, her stepmother had a... complicated past. But people change, they always do.
"We're not that different."
The Avatar stood beside her, hands folded to the back, this time wearing a scar across the face.
"We're nothing alike!"
The Avatar scoffed, "yes we are."
Dead bodies morphed into dismembered parts of mechatanks. One still had blood on it --the blood she smeared with her knuckles before bending Platinum for the first time.
"Vengeance is in your nature, as deeply rooted as mine." The Avatar said.
It is wrong, but she can’t deny what she did. Even if she did it out of self-defence.
"You want to make me suffer, don’t you? Because I killed Suyin.” The Avatar pointed at her own face, “can't you see the parallel? I scar you, and you reciprocate."
She turned away, but her eyes ran into two dead bodies –-the man and woman she saw earlier.
The Avatar whispered into her ears, "they're my parents. Murdered, just like what the bandits did to yours."
Something inside her snapped.
She bent the metal plates on her armguard, drove the blade to The Avatar's face. The Avatar lunged back; the ground beneath her shifted, she sank deeper and deeper into the snow.
She was back in the swamp again, her blade buried deep into the tree's trunk. She faltered, drew the metal back to her armguard. Rage swarmed to her like a mob, she must direct it somewhere else before it tramples her. She took a look around...
Kuvira stormed to the Elder.
"You dare to trick me!"
"No. The Swamp showed you what you need to see."
"You WILL give me permission to harvest the vines."
The Elder shook his head. "You aren't ready."
She stroke with her metal hand, it never got a grab on him. The vines turned alive, trapping her entire right arm. She bent the metal on her armguard, melted the blade's tip into liquid. More of them wrapped around her limbs before she could free her right arm. She bent a rock with her mind, compressed it til it melts. Before it could cut into the vines, more of them coiled around her neck, pulled her into the air. She struggled to breathe.
"Stop fighting! You don't want to become someone you hate!"
Toph's words knocked her to her senses. Waterbenders from the Foggy Swamp Tribe shielded their Elder, all in bending stances, streams of water circled around them. What was she thinking? To terrorize until she gets her way, to be consumed by hatred, this is no different from the Avatar. She refuses to become the tyrant she sworn to slay. Toph was right: neglect your emotion, and it will eat you up from the inside.
The vines around her neck and limbs subsided, as if they could read her mind. She landed on her feet. For the first time in months, she tapped into her feelings. Su's dead... her mother's dead! The thought acted like a knife stabbed into her stomach, twisting, grinding. She held her breath, grief hit her harder than a liver-shot, she couldn't hold her ground.
She kept her mouth sealed, her face straight, but couldn't stop the tears dropping from her eyes.
"I'm sorry, sir. And thank you, I could've fell onto a dark path."
"No need to thank me, the Swamp speaks to everyone, all you need to do is listen." The Elder said.
"I know after everything I did, you can rightfully refuse me, but... have me tested again."
She couldn't face his glance.
"I don't want to see the Avatar bring death to more families." She dropped to her knees, "please, this might be our only chance!"
He lifted her to her feet, and chuckled.
"Oh that, you already did. It won't let you go if you didn't pass."
She bowed low, "I will harvest the vines responsibly. I promise."
"Mako, check this out!" General Iroh picked up a chunk of vine the size of his head, tossed it into the air, shot it with lightning.
BOOM! Waves of purple energy expanded to every direction.
Kuvira raised a wall of earth. Shockwave reduced the two-metre-thick wall to dust and gravel.
He coughed. "Didn't see that coming. That's a lot of power."
Bolin bent the dust off of their clothes. "I guess that's a success."
"Try the detonator." Iroh said.
The device oddly resembles a taser, appears no larger than a watch. He fetched one, it nearly fell off from his fingers. The weight it held was unusual to its size. “Platinum?”
"Of course. I wouldn't want the Avatar to metalbend it." Kuvira said.
"Do we need to shoot lightning at it?" Bolin said.
"One way to find out." He cut off a chunk of vine the size of his fist, hooked it onto the detonator, "I think that's how it goes."
The vine glowed in purple.
Kuvira bent the detonator off his hand, hurled it away along with the vines.
A ring of earth shielded them from the explosion, only to be shattered seconds later. Dust filled the air around them. He could cough his lungs out.
"Next time throw it like a grenade." Kuvira said.
The voice belonged to an old woman.
"Is... is this real?" Bolin rubbed his eyes. "I can't believe I’m meeting my hero!"
"Please forgive my brother, he's a big fan of yours, Master Toph." He said.
"Then believe it, Fanboy, I'm about to teach you a new skill!" Toph grinned, threw a punch into Kuvira's shoulder, "you too, Stoneface."
Iroh and Bolin's laughter echoed in the jungle.
He slammed his hand into his mouth, a desperate attempt to hold back his laugh, it failed miserably.
"I understand," she said, "but..." but she swore to never bloodbend again after facing her mother's murderer. She didn't want to put anyone through this, especially to an old friend.
"You're a waterbender, I think you'd be more flexible than me." Toph said. "You know you're doing this for a good cause, you're saving lives. Come on. You can't hurt me."
Katara raised her arm, took control over the blood in Toph's body. Unwilling to hurt her friend, she decided to let Toph sit down. Toph didn't. Toph stepped forward. Toph stomped the ground and raised a boulder.
She hung her jaw in the air.
"How did you do that?" Bolin said.
"I call it bonebending."
"Sit down." Toph gestured the young earthbenders, "close your eyes, feel what makes up your bones and your ligaments. You'll see they're made from little mineral particles, stuffs you can find in limestones and coals."
Toph raised an earthen stool and sat down. Katara took a seat, and waited patiently.
An hour had passed.
Kuvira opened her eyes and stood up. "I feel it."
Bolin jumped to his feet. "Me too!"
"Master Katara, I hope you can test my skills."
"I've been bloodbent by the Avatar. I can take it."
She glimpsed the scar on the woman’s nose bridge. Guilt flooded her veins.
"I agree." Bolin said. "We might meet the Avatar soon; we need to know if we can fight her bloodbending."
"Katara, either you or the Avatar will be the first one to test their skills. And I'm pretty sure the Avatar doesn't give a damn about hurting them."
Light from the full moon casted a shadow on Toph's face. Katara couldn't tell her expression.
She sighed. "Fine."
Korra hopped off the transport truck.
"Surround the parameter."
"Yes, Avatar." The Lieutenant saluted to her and ran to his troops.
Endless jungle lays beyond.
She is more than familiar with the "visions" in Foggy Swamp. Every year would be reports of a dozen tourists seeing stuffs and passing out. The spirit energy is so strong that it once tricked Avatar Aang's senses.
She would expect the worst.
She took in a deep breath, dived into the wetland.
"You're a monster, failing to end you at that night is the biggest mistake of my life."
Zaheer approached her, his skin and clothes drenched in blood, he looked exactly like when he died.
Don't react, she reminded herself, they were mere illusions.
"Long live the Earth Republic and its people!"
Suyin wore a full set of combat gears, but her lips were blue. Suyin fired shards of metal.
The projectiles passed through her harmlessly.
She picked up the speed.
"You know what's coming for you."
Hearing that voice alone gave her goosebumps, she didn’t have the guts for a peek. Fixing her eyes onto the ground, she carried on.
After I end her, she will haunt me no more.
Korra and Kuvira make even better rivals in this timeline. They're both ambitious and strong willed individuals who repress emotions. Both are prone to ruthlessness. Even their backstories share some parallels. They really mirror each other. But the best part is, how determined they are at killing each other XD
The visions in this chapter are, as I told you, intense. So I hope "spirit vines testings” and nicknames gave you a laugh.
Toph's talent is unmatched, she discovered the ultimate trick against bloodbenders-- bonebending. Korra's going to lose a lot of her advantages at the face off.
Ps: Concept inspired by Rise of Kyoshi, where Lao Ge was able to use earthbending to manipulate the molecules in his body to stop aging.
Six police cars shielded Asami's satomobile from all directions, making ways for their President. She brought the Equalists with her, fifty officers to be accurate. Arresting Tarrlok was no joke. He had the entire White Lotus behind his back. On top of that, Korra told her he is a bloodbender. Hold on, why would she even think that was a good idea? If Tarrlok had a mind control device, and had used that on the population, wouldn't that mean some of her officers might be brainwashed as well?
No, no it wouldn't. As the president's personal police unit, they were carefully screened, every single day. She slipped on her shock gloves. Tarrlok's lackeys could attack at any time.
A pillar of earth rose from the ground, lifting the car in front of her into the air. She twisted the steering wheel all the way to the right, her vehicle evaded the falling car. Her car span violently, smashed into the vehicle on her right. The momentum threw both satomobiles off the road, until they crashed into a nearby building. Her ears were ringing, her vision blurred, somebody dragged her out of the vehicle, her brain got fuzzy, she couldn't remember.
When her vision cleared, she saw many officers standing nearby the satomobiles, looking cautiously at her direction, a couple of triad members surrounded her. She felt an arm wrapped around her neck, a hand pushing a knife against her throat. Startled, she tried to push the hand away. Another hand stroke a few pressure points on her arms, her arms fell limp. Chi-blocking? She tilted her head, the face stroke her familiar.
"It's not personal, Miss Sato. Just trying to earn some extra cash."
"Your boss will burn you to charcoal!"
"She will never know."
A piece of cloth covered her eyes, she was dragged backwards. She felt her hands cuffed behind her back, and heard a slam on a vehicle's door.
When the covering was removed from her eyes, she found herself in a chair, her wrists and ankles restrained by metal cuffs. Chief Eska and Chief Desna pushed a series of buttons on the machine.
The brainwash device!
"We had a deal!"
Tarrlok approached her, hands folded behind his back. "Yes, and I'm fulfilling it. You are about to become a member of The White Lotus."
"The Avatar will come for you!"
"Exactly, then I will control her as well. You are the perfect bait."
Tarrlok picked up a metal bowl, it has many wires connected to the machine. He put it onto her head. One of the chieftains pulled a lever.
"The Order of White Lotus requires your service..."
Moonlight shined down through the vines. Bolin smiled as he caught his own reflection in the water, and whistled. They've been walking for a whole day, but none of them wanted to rest. The Earth Alliance already had bases in Kyoshi Island, Gaoling, and other southern provinces near the coast, Wu was now working on the contract with State of Yai. They couldn't wait to meet Wu with their success.
"I hope Master Katara and Lord Zuko could join us." Iroh said.
"They're probably tired, after everything." Mako said.
Yea, so much had happened. It was probably best for them to stay.
His brother is always a bummer.
"Cheer up, bro. At least we know bloodbending doesn't feel as bad as it looks."
Kuvira pushed the cart forward with metalbending. "I bet my robot arm the Avatar will change your mind," she grinned. "Speaking from experiences."
He clapped his hands and laughed. Kuvira joined him.
"How can you make jokes on something like this? She tortured you." Mako said.
"It's but a scratch."
"Does broken nose look like 'a scratch' to you?"
"Mako you have no sense of humour." He said, "what do you say, Iroh?"
General Iroh lifted his arms, parting an arc of white flame hurled from behind. "Who is this?"
"The Avatar." Kuvira said, looked to the left, "come on, I can feel your footsteps a mile away."
From the bush came a figure, the figure leaped ten metres into the air, sparks of electricity danced around her fingers.
Mako lunged forward, catching the lightning with his fingertips, passing the electricity down to his stomach, then to his other arm, and released it to where it came from.
The Avatar stomped the ground, a boulder rose to meet the lighting, and blown to pieces. She snarled, twisting the scar on her face. She raised her arms.
Mako and Iroh dropped to the ground, but he and Kuvira stood tall. All the muscles in his body twisted into a lump, he gritted his teeth, bending his bones to move his body forward. He stomped the ground, the earth around the Avatar melted. She moved a few fingers, blood leaked out from the skin on his arms. Kuvira threw a piece of melted metal at the Avatar. The Avatar slipped to the side, the pain on his body subsided. He punched forward, raining down the liquid earth to the Avatar. She dodged, the lava landed onto the plants nearby, vines sizzled under the heat.
Kuvira picked up two chunks of vines the size of human head, then threw Mako and Iroh into the cart.
Kuvira fired more liquid metal at the Avatar, keeping the Avatar on the toes.
"Take them, and run." She said.
She melted the outer shell of her Platinum arm, threw it to the Avatar like a disc. The Avatar dodged, charged at her. She flicked her wrist; the melted metal flew straight back. The Avatar stomped the ground, a boulder knocked the projectile off course.
The Avatar shot jets of fire from the knuckles, she slipped to the side; the Avatar launched boulders at her, she dodged; the Avatar threw gusts of wind, she weaved away.
The Avatar growled. "Fight me!"
Bolin should've made enough distance by now.
Hatred has no say on her decision.
"No, I'm over you."
The Avatar shot lightning; she hurled the vines to the Avatar's direction, stomped the ground; a wave of earth carried her away.
A veil of purple covered the centre of explosion, and expanded, and expanded... consuming everything within twenty metres from its radius.
The shockwave spread even further; she was fifty metres away, but still knocked off her feet.
Bolin ran to her. "Spirits, that's nuts!"
Korra covered her eyes; the light was blinding. When her eyes got used to the brightness, she found herself floating, surrounded by blue energies -fluid like, but not quite like the ocean. If it were not another vision, then...
"Am I dead?"
She didn't know why she would speak her thoughts aloud; it was not like she would get her answers.
She faltered. "Avatar Aang?"
So, she was inside her mind again.
"Your body tapped into the Avatar State to protect you from the explosion."
"What was that?"
She has never face something that powerful.
"I've never encountered such thing in my lifetime. But from my knowledge, it is a form of spirit energy."
"Help me enter the Avatar State." She said, "I'm going to kill her."
A giant, white, kite shaped spirit manifested behind Aang.
"Not so fast. You survived, but barely. Your spirit has yet to recover from carrying Vaatu's essence, on top of the imbalance in your spirit, it makes our connection quite unstable. It won't improve until your mind is at peace."
The Avatar Spirit always come with his annoying voice.
"Sure, whatever that means. And by then I'll be dead."
"What does it matter if you're already dead from the inside?"
How dared he? She thrust her fingers forward, but no lightning came out. Right... she forgot she is now a spirit.
Raava laughed. "Look at you, young Avatar, you live for nothing but revenge."
"Revenge is justice!"
Once, she would disagree wholeheartedly, but now, she lives by that motto. "Right" and "wrong"? The line in between never existed.
"Revenge is like a two headed viper, as you watch your enemy goes down, you have also poisoned yourself." Avatar Aang said. "If you want to open your mind, I will always be there."
Korra opened her eyes, pain washed over her body like a tsunami, digging all the way into her bones... She held her breath and peeled herself from the ground, her muscles screamed in defiance, every movement hurts.
She felt her ribs piercing into the flesh, broken most likely; her shins looked bloodied. She tried to get up onto her feet, her right knee buckled, the ligaments must've torn apart. Feeling dizzy, she reached her right hand to her forehead. A deep gash, she could feel the skull underneath. She gasped and drew back the hand, now covered in blood. Lines of red and purple sprawled all over the arm, like a web -her own lightning turned against her.
Water, she needed water...
The explosion sucked the ground bone dry, vaporized the moisture in the air. She pinched the vines around her, they stayed somewhat elastic. After going through thirty metre worth of vines, she extracted a sphere of water the size of her hand. She applied the liquid onto her forehead. The water glowed in blue; she could finally think straight.
If what she sensed were correct, Kuvira and Bolin were bending their bones. No other way to move a body under bloodbending. But how was that possible?
She put the water around her right knee. Once she mended the ligaments, she got up; she could heal the other wounds while walking.
She would come back with more troops, hunt them down, all of them.
Wu dropped his jaw in awe when he met the quartet.
"Spirits, that's a lot of vines!"
"Yep, enough to blow up Republic City."
He stared at her pupils. "How hard are you tripping?"
"You fought the Avatar while you're high on cactus juice?" Bolin said.
Kuvira broke into a laugh, "keep guessing."
Mako cleared his throat. "You'll be surprised once you see how much damage they can do."
"I guess I'll test it somewhere else. By the way, I have good news for you, General Iroh. Your mum convinced Varrick to provide weapons to my associate in the Fire Nation. Your Great Aunt actually."
"That's wonderful!" Iroh said.
The Beifongs had arrived. He watched; Opal threw herself into Bolin's arms; Kuvira greeted her family with a smile. It might took a long time for the family to heal from Suyin's death, but it's a good start.
"I heard you guys did incredible things in the swamp. Mind sharing with an old man?"
He gestured the man in forest green. "This is Mr. Zheng, one of Yai's spokespersons."
Hope filled his heart, everything would work out just fine.
The Lieutenant stared at her ragged uniform.
"Are you okay, Avatar?"
She waved her hand, dismissed the topic.
"Any news?" Her voice was still rasp.
"Yes, Avatar. A radio message from a United Republics official. He asks you to contact him as fast as you can."
"Give me the radio."
"Avatar Korra, I hope you had a successful hunt."
Tarrlok. What did he want?
"I have captured the United Republics' President. Meet me at Republic City Hall in exactly fifty-five hours, if you value her life."
Fifty-five hours, it would be a midday. She couldn't bloodbend during the day, she must figure out another plan.
Team Earth Alliance outsmarted her, Tarrlok has the leverage (Asami) over her, Korra really got checkmated. What she would do to get herself out of the situation will complete her ultimate transformation to the World Controller, as she comes to a revelation that seals the word "tyrant" on her name forever.
Kuvira's able to see through her hatred. A mind at peace goes a long way winning the fight against the Avatar. Bolin, Mako, and Iroh overcame their respective fears. Their mission wouldn't be successful without introspection and personal growths. Wu's positive attitude and people skills made negotiations ten times easier. The Beifongs are reunited. For all the misery the Avatar cause them they have never gave up. They deserve a happy ending so they get one.
Ps: I won't tell you if Kuvira's tripping or not, because that's the point of the joke.
Korra checked her watch, 12:00pm.
The City Hall's doors opened, Tarrlok approached her, beside him stood Chief Eska and Chief Desna.
She glared at the chieftains. "Why?"
She didn't know why she would ask that question; she already knew the answer.
"You know why, cousin," Eska said.
"We serve the Grand Lotus first and for most." Desna said.
Of course, Kinship doesn't matter, trust is for fools.
From the moment they invited her to the Northern Water Tribe until now, were all part of Tarrlok's ploy. She cursed herself, if she took Tenzin's hand, would things be different now? Indeed, it would, but she wouldn't have the chance to avenge her parents nor her nation. She regretted at nothing.
She dug her nails into her palms. "Where's the President?"
Asami stepped out from the building, unrestrained. Asami halted, turned to Tarrlok, her body as rigid as a stick, and bowed, "Grand Lotus."
He put Asami on the brainwash device!
"How dare you!" Sparks of electricity bounced around her fingers, like ostrichhorses pouncing before a race, ready to go.
"Be careful, Avatar Korra," Tarrlok drew an ice blade to Asami's neck. Asami stood obediently, no struggle, no resistance. "You don't want to scare me; my hand might shake at any time."
She dissipated the cold-blooded fire, but the heat didn't. It ran inward, boiled her blood, lit up her heart, until the flame of hatred engulfed every fiber of her being.
"What do you want?"
With all the feverish heat trapped inside her body, her voice came out colder than the south pole's blizzard.
"As you can see, Avatar, you are the wild card in this game. You are the biggest contributor and the biggest threat to the world's balance, depending on the situation. Certain safety measurements must be taken before we let you roam free."
Safety measurements, he wanted to control her mind.
"So you can use me like a weapon?"
"No, you are a weapon already. All I need is a safe-lock."
Her eyes glowed, but it didn't last long, the pain stroke her like a lightning, like rolling in a carpet of broken glass. Damn it! Why couldn't she stay in the Avatar State?
Tarrlok scoffed, "for a moment I thought you could really win. Did something happen during your hunt in the Foggy Swamp?"
He lifted his arms. The ache follows, as if someone tearing her flesh shred by shred, her joints locked into each other. She gritted her teeth, fixing her eyes onto Tarrlok.
"Let me tell you a secret, I can bloodbend whenever I want."
"Not really. I knew it for months."
"Then you know you have no choice but to surrender."
No, Korra never surrenders! How did Kuvira and Bolin fight her bloodbending? Bones, yes, they bent their bones. There must be something in the bones that's similar to earth. She closed her eyes; the pain only aided her concentration. She found them, tiny particles that resembled limestones. She bent the particles; she could move her body again! She stepped forward, raising a boulder the size of a satomobile.
She threw the boulder at the chieftains. Eska and Desna dodged, drew water from their waterskins, froze it into spikes of ice, and rained down the icicles on her. She punched forward, blasts of air shattered the ice into pieces, changed the course of the flying fragments. The mix of air and ice hit the chieftains right into the guts, driving them into the wall. Korra swiped her hands; rocks bonded around their wrists and ankles, holding their backs against the wall.
Tarrlok pushed the ice blade against Asami's throat. "Stand down." His voice cracked, "you're going to play by my rules, if you want her alive!"
Rules? Revenge had no rule. She had to find the Platinum-bender, and kill her, along with all the rebels who named themselves Earth Alliance… Tarrlok can't have control over her mind, or the world, whatever it might take.
"I'm sorry, Asami."
She stomped the ground, the earth crept up to Tarrlok from his feet, trapping him from chest down.
Too late. The president put her hands around her throat, streams of crimson oozed out between her fingers. Asami dropped to her knees, planted her face against the ground, unmoving.
As Korra strode towards Tarrlok, she saw a newspaper dispenser at the corner of the street. She waved her hand, a strap of metal torn off from the infrastructure. Her very first life lesson: there would be consequences for everything. He would pay, he would suffer, he would beg for his demise.
Tarrlok burst into a maniacal laugh:
"The White Lotus wins, you lose! You can kill me, but you will continue my work. You lose, you always lose. History will remember you as a tyrant, and nothing else!"
She shoved the metal into his face, smothering his mouth and nose. She clenched her fist, the metal constricted, its edges pierced into his skin. From her thumbs, she ignited two streams of white flame; she buried her thumbs into his eyes. Muffled screams came out of the metal strap, hitting her eardrums as the most beautiful music in the world.
It was over, it was finally over. She never had to hide from anyone ever again, or bow to those who deserve nothing but death. She avenged her parents, she avenged her nation, she avenged every single victim of the White Lotus; she slain a dictator for the world, she brought justice, she fulfilled her destiny!
The scream stopped, Tarrlok dropped his head. She stuck a hand to his neck, no pulse. The pleasure vanished as fast as it came, with her mind cleared from the emotional high, she realized Tarrlok was right.
She lost, she had no choice but to carry out his mission, otherwise the world fell into chaos, then bear the name of tyrant for him. She lost, her parents, her friend, her principles... everything. She betrayed and hurt more people than the numbers of stars in the sky. Katara put faith in her, she wasted it. She sacrificed her only friend, and for what?
Aang was right, revenge is a two headed viper. She struck down all her enemies, but poisoned her spirit, thorough and through. For revenge, she killed, and killed, to a point where she couldn't feel anything when she takes a life. What has she become?
The answer laid in Zaheer's words - a monster.
Yes, that would be how people see her, a monster, a tyrant. Someone who spilled enough blood to fill an ocean to quench her thirst for power and sequester her hatred.
If that was what she was destined for, so be it.
She approached Eska and Desna, who were still pinned onto the walls. "You have two choices: death, or the brainwash device."
The chieftains sulked their heads. "We choose the latter. We pledge our loyalty to you, Avatar."
"You can call me 'World Controller'."
Today, she establishes her reign, a reign of vengeance.
Korra has all the power in the world, yet she lost everything that she lives for. Her morals, her friend, her ability to feel remorse... everything that makes her human. Her descent is a slow one, to make it more painful, not only did she swallow her downfall without much moral struggles, she embraced it. Now we have it, a tyrannical Avatar Korra with no redeemable quality.
Ps: There will be a sequel for Korra's reign as World Controller, another one for the Earth Avatar after her, as described in the series.