He wasn’t exactly thrilled about the meditation aspect, either, but he had a certain drive to succeed at this endeavor. Metalbending was the one thing that only he could offer to the team (at least, other than Korra, but she could fill so many roles already), something he could use to his advantage and maybe be the one to protect his friends, for a change.
He concentrated harder and harder, attempting to ‘see’ the metal, but he could only feel the earth underneath the leaf. Why couldn’t he see the earth inside the hairpin? Was there even any there? He was so focused on his task, he didn’t even hear Korra’s question.
And then, just as he began to wonder, he saw something. Not the hairpin, but the earth. For just a moment, he saw the leaf sitting on the earth. He saw Korra sitting nearby. It was just a flash, and it was gone, but he had seen - without opening his eyes.
Excitedly, he did just that. “Korra, I think I’ve got it! I think we need to ‘see’ the earth before we can metalbend. Maybe if we just work on that…”
It would take some practice, but he had a hunch that it just might work - maybe after a few lessons with a certain former Chief of Police.
Her look said it all. Eyebrow raised, lips quirked in that signature pout, and skepticism written across every inch of her face. See the earth? She was seeing it right now!
“You sound like Master Tenzin,” slipped out before she could stop it—but she didn’t really want to. There was a sudden sinking feeling in her stomach that she always got when her mentor offered some of his sagely advice, the kind that she could never follow and ultimately ended up chucking out the window in favor of her own methods. Maybe this wasn’t ‘be the leaf’ but it was pretty darn close.
He seemed so excited, though, and this was for his benefit as well as hers… “Okay, let’s try it,” she conceded, blowing out her cheeks before she closed her eyes again. See without eyes, but who did that except for the blind? And though she’d heard the stories and legends of the great Toph BeiFong, it wasn’t like she’d ever sought to emulate the woman. They were probably more alike than she cared to admit, but that didn’t give her superpowers.
Besides, she already had quite a few of those, thank you very much.
Seconds passed. A minute or two. If Bolin was making progress, great for him—but she was getting nowhere fast. Nowhere, that was, except on the verge of losing her temper.
It really was only a matter of time. That irritation bubbled, it boiled over, and what was intended to be a huff of annoyance came out as a puff of smoke before a well-placed fist sent a stream of fire right toward her uncooperative pin and its leaf. “Stupid thing! Why won’t you just move like I want you to?!” she growled at what was now just a pile of smoldering embers.
the humble offering
When Tahno looked back at the his probending days, he realized that he had been horrible. It wasn’t his intention to cheat when his first started probending, but as he got more famous, it got to his head. The Wolfbats started cheating to stay rich and famous, so they would never have to go back on the streets.
He kept his eyes down, looking at his noodles. His eyes went wide and he froze. His brain couldn’t comprehend what she just said. A few seconds went by and he found his voice. “You…. can fix… me?” Tahno whispered looking up at her. He wondered when this happened, but he decided to ask about that later.
Suddenly, he felt anger. Tahno was worried that she was messing with him, but he didn’t let it show. He looked into her eyes, seeing sincerity. His anger instantly left his body and excitement replaced it. “Can you fix me now?” he asked, his voice soft, still looking into her eyes. Tahno smiled at her, hoping she would say yes. He wanted to feel whole again.
The ‘how’ wasn’t really that important, was it? Launching into a full explanation probably would have gone over his head; heck, she’d tried to explain to her friends how Aang had showed her energybending and all her previous lives had been there and how she’d unlocked the Avatar State… and aside from a round of hugs and the relief of knowing she was back to normal, she doubted they could even begin to understand.
Who could? She was the Avatar. How she could do anything she did was a mystery as old as time itself.
But that just meant she was ready to cut the small talk if he was. “Come on,” she said, hand on his arm and already trying to tug him out of his chair toward the door. “Not here.” As gracious a host as Narook could be, it wasn’t the kind of performance she wanted to put on in his restaurant. There was something just a little sacred about that process, and even Korra could appreciate that.
Assuming he followed her, she had let go of his arm, hers propped on her hip as she asked, “Where do you wanna do this? I mean, we could do it here, but I was thinking maybe the gym? Then you could test it out. You know, right away.” The beach could work, too, or the dock—but she’d ultimately leave it up to him.
“I doubt it.” It wouldn’t be easy to forget a personality like Korra’s, whether she wanted to or not. Thankfully, she wasn’t to that point yet, although it would probably be an easy point to reach. Honora shrugged.
“I also don’t have any problems with playing along, Avatar Korra.” She held out her free hand. “Honora. It’s a pleasure.”
She couldn’t be sure she liked the other girl’s tone… What were they playing at, exactly?
But that extended hand was easy enough to decipher, and as Korra returned the gesture with a hearty shake, she perked up. “Oh, Honora? Like the Fire Lady? Wow! Your parents are Fire Nation, then, huh?”
“What brought you all the way to Republic City? It seems like no one here has been all the way over there—but I definitely wanna visit someday.”
Nothing wrong with a little sunshine
He couldn’t argue with her, sometimes the city really didn’t make sense with all of it’s rules and endless boundaries. It was true that he’d also bent and broken said boundaries before, but it had only to survive to see another day. Trying his luck out in the open…well, that was another thing all together. Especially when it was apparent Chief Bei Fong did not have a soft spot for the Avatar or…in general when it came to her city. He tossed the idea of sneaking out for a split second, before ultimately shaking his head. Maybe he’d be a little more inclined to sneak out if the tournament didn’t hang in the balance, but it did, and he wasn’t going to take any unnecessary chances.
Trouble was definitely the last thing he needed, especially with everyone so tense and prone to jumping at the slightest disturbance. Mako and Bolin had never exactly gotten caught being affiliated with the triads, but he knew the metal bending officers were aware that he—moreso than Bolin—had been somehow involved so he tried to avoid running into them as much as possible.
A beach? He looked at her for a brief moment before humming.
“Yeah, there is. On the far side of the city.” He scratched his cheek. “A bit of a walk, but sure we can go there. Want to bring Naga with? We’d get there faster, and she’d probably like to splash around too.” He smiled at himself, knowing that Korra would light up at the chance for her ‘best friend’ to spend the day with them too.
Slowly he started to ease up, finally starting to warm up to the idea of this day off. Who knows, even if she was just with him—he knew he wasn’t exactly ‘Mr. Fun’—they could still make the best of it. Plus, she was a waterbender foremost, being in her natural element would be something to see.
Yes. She could barely contain the excitement—and had to stop herself just short of letting out a whoop of joy. Of all the things she had the power to do, she could convince stick-in-the-mud Mako to come to the beach for a day.
If she could do that, she was sure she could do anything!
“Great! And yeah, Naga would love to come. She doesn’t actually like getting in the water that much, though. I think her fur just weighs her down too much.” But she’d still take the faithful girl’s saddle off when they hit the sand, let her roll around and lope across the dunes. Hopefully there’d be dunes.
She was about to practically bolt out the door when forethought hit and she paused long enough to send him another of those more sheepish smiles. “You, uh, don’t need to take anything with you, do you?” A thumb jerked toward the stairs that led to the attic when she elaborated, “I can always wait outside if there’s something you wanna grab.”
A swimsuit, perhaps? Although she’d be hard-pressed to find anything but her own underwear—and with that in mind, she decided to nix the patience bit and just grab his arm as she barreled through the door. “Forget it. Come on, we’re totally doing this before you can back out on me.” And before the realization of just what she would be wearing into the water could weaken his resolve and set more than just a hint of a blush on her cheeks.
Naga rose up to meet them as soon as Korra was in sight, waving to the polarbeardog as they walked that way. Well, Korra walked, at least, but Mako was still being dragged if he hadn’t shirked the hold already. Even if he hadn’t, it’d only last a second more; dropping his arm, she wasted no time climbing into the saddle. “If you know the fastest way to get there, why don’t you give directions?” she asked, already palming the reins. All her attempts to hide that excitement weren’t really cutting it.
Korra’s first strike hit its target, making Skoochy fall flat on his rear. Ignoring the pain, Skoochy picked himself back up as fast as he could, waiting for Korra’s next strike. And…THERE! She kicked the ground, sending a big chunk of rock hurtling at him. This one he dodged easily, rolling out of the way easily, and coming out in a controlled, prepared crouch, never taking his eyes off of Korra.
He could hear Bolin on the sidelines, giving advice on how to win, but Skoochy shook his head slightly, ignoring him. His own earthbending was weak, and using bending would only give the Avatar a chance to use it against him, giving her the advantage.
No, the best way to go at this was like with any street fight. Bolin and Skoochy shared a lot of things, but it was Mako who had taught him how to fight, how to stay small, tight, focused, and defensive, how to keep his cool and wait until the other one had worn himself out with wild attacks, and how to save one strike for the last moment in order to win.
Mako and Skoochy had both learned the lesson well: in any given fight, it is the one with flying fists who usually loses in the end.
So Skoochy crouched, staying as silent as possible, and waiting.
Skoochy was either the luckiest kid in the world—or the unluckiest.
He was facing the Avatar, who had lived a lifetime already fighting, bending, refining her forms and technique in anticipation of any wars fought to keep four nations’ worth of peace. She wasn’t scuffling on the streets, she was contending with the foremost masters of combative bending and martial arts of the century. If he wanted to learn, he was definitely favored by fortune.
If he wanted to win… not so much.
“You’re a sitting turtleduck!” she crowed, and there was just a hint of smugness behind the tones. She knew exactly what he was doing, but ha. If he thought there’d be any chance in the Spirit World that he’d ever outlast her, he was sorely mistaken.
One punch, two, and a footstomp, and the clumps of earth that went flying toward him, pinning him in. Left, right, and another shift of her foot set another bump behind his feet so that if he sought to retreat he’d end up heels over head again. “Use what you have,” she told him, swinging through with her arms to send one after another after another of those pebbles in an endless assault. At least she wasn’t packing too much of a punch.
The short wait was well worth it as Reimu reemerged with two steaming hot plates of curry rice, as well as some tea. She set one down for Korra and sat on the patio, pouring them both a cup of tea. “After spending all your life fighting demons,” she finally answered, “you can tell when one is or isn’t. For example, you haven’t tried to eat me yet. That’s always a good sign.”
She took a sip of tea and looked up at the pure blue skies. “So, Miss Korra. Tell me a little bit about yourself. Where do you hail from? What are your special abilities? Surely you must have all sorts of stories to tell.”
Visitors to the shrine were few and far between, so Reimu could truly appreciate a good story. “Is the curry any good?” she asked, realizing her manners were getting a bit rusty. “I don’t often cook for others, so I’m sorry if it’s bad…”
If there was anything Korra truly did well, it was eat. Reimu didn’t even have to worry about the taste, really; the Avatar was rather novice when it came to the nuances of curry and its complexity of flavor, she just liked food. Plain and simple.
“It’s great!” she praised between bites, cheeks tucked full and smile barely managing to keep the massive mouthful at bay. “Ssssoooooo yummy,” snuck past that latest chew and swallow, as the young woman continued to dig happily into the bowl.
…Until about twenty seconds later when the spice came back to bite her in the, well, tongue.
Hot, hot, hot! A quick pant and she was grabbing for that provided cup of tea and tossing the entire thing back to douse the flame across her palate. She was from the South, they didn’t cook with the same incensing spices that the Fire Nation employed, and she’d only recently been introduced to the tamer Earth Kingdom cuisine. Master Katara’s sea prune stew never really had a powerful kick to it, it was just homey and delicious.
Thankfully, she wasn’t afraid of heat and fire. As soon as that explosion had been contained, when the tea had washed it off the edge of her tongue, she could smile again and reiterate, “It’s good—ah, a bit… spicy? But I like it!” She’d just remember to take smaller bites next time.
“And I’m from the South Pole, but I was in Republic City when I wandered this way. Have you ever been there? Is this— Are we anywhere near there?” Master Tenzin was going to kill her! He probably would have an entire search party, the whole police force or something, searching for her if she wasn’t home by nightfall. Especially with how things had been growing more and more dangerous in the city.
Keeping that in mind, that this girl for whatever she was could still harbor anti-bending sympathies, with her tongue in cheek she finally offered a tentative, “I’m a bender. You… know what that is?” If Reimu didn’t, they’d be in the clear—and maybe Korra really could tell her about some of her ‘special abilities.’
The Sound of Slumber
Something akin to a slumber party was in order that first night, and it was riddled with blankets upon blankets woven in bison wool to share. Each intricate pattern played off its counterpart with pictographic fables telling stories of an ancient past. Asami’s natural fascination with their handmade workings became a feat of the evening, enthusiastic with questions at dinner time and a gentle conversation with the eldest airbender child, Jinora.
When it was time to finally turn in, those hands were so careful with the embroidery that it wasn’t far from the truth to assume that she was fearful of ruining them. Thankfully, a timid ‘They’re just blankets’ from the mother could assuage those fears. Pema’s thoughtful words and kindness could extend in favor of easing Asami right back into a land of comfort, curling into a more restful sleep after refusing Korra’s offer of the bed.
Guests always slept on the floor, right?
It had been too long since she found herself in this familiar territory, snuggled into a small nook with a friend or two. The expansive estate she used to live in was large enough to host more than a ‘few’ friends of course, but the rooms weren’t at all small enough to harbor those baleful ghost stories in the wee hours. Dark closets and close quarters somehow made her childhood more believable in comparison to the realities she lived as an heiress of Future Industries. Such a night like tonight would only cater to those memories as she shifted and cuddled against the fluff of her pillow.
On the ground, anyway, there were nothing but sweet dreams. The lull of the evening cradling her tiredness as she drifted slowly from her withering consciousness.
The hospitality of the Air Temple was nothing new to her. She’d long since gotten used to the staple fare of the dinner table, the sound of Tenzin’s steps padding along the hallway making sure his children were tucked safely and quietly in bed, and how comfortable the bed could be if she lumped the pillow just right. More often than not, Naga stayed close not just for her peace of mind but because nothing was as soft as a polar bear dog’s fur—at least, not to Korra.
For that, Asami’s place on the floor might have been almost enviable. She had the benefit of one huge paw as a cushion, and the warmth and steadiness of that heartbeat just there if she saw fit to take advantage of it. Korra, on the other hand, had tried to shirk the stress and ‘excitement’ of the day by turning her face to the wall and tucking her chin to her chest.
Of course, sleep didn’t exactly come easily in those days.
It was only a few hours, when the sounds of nature had been snuffed by midnight rolling across the sky and over the water, when even the lights across the water had dimmed for the night, that she woke. Abrupt, scared, eyes wide and breath heaved in her chest as she realized where she was—safe. That was the important thing.
Only belatedly did she also remember who was with her, that her room wasn’t the solitary sanctuary it might have been, where Naga’s muzzle would reassuringly touch her arm or a fanned snort from her animal companion could put the world to rights. Now, when the beast stirred, it would undoubtedly wake the sleeping occupant just a few paces away… and frankly, Korra didn’t even know what to say when she so clearly wasn’t okay.
“‘Bout time, Korra!” Bolin joked with his friend.
“Aha… Sorry about that. I sort of ran into some trouble…”
“How’s it going, Bo?”
“You do look kinda pale..” He studied her powdered face.
“I’m good, how you ‘doin?”
“I’m doing just fine. Still training. You’ve probably seen me running drills, right?”
“Just between you and me, if the airbending kids ever try and convince you how ‘fun’ running through the gates is, don’t listen to them.”
Run the other way, flee—flee for your life!
The Little Things Count
Korra had been running around Air Temple Island, talking to Tenzin, Pema, Ikki, Meelo, Jinora, but not to her older self. Whenever she had tried, the older Korra would just look up and then walk another way.
Little Korra didn’t like that. She thought that the older her would be just as energetic as she was, actually even more so! But this… Korra wasn’t expecting this. It was just so out of character for Korra to act like that. Normally if she felt bad she would pout and yell about it, or just keep to herself but still pout.
Something must have happened to the older her to make her like this. Senna always told Korra that she could brighten anyone’s day, so that’s what she is going to do!
Operation brighten up older Korra’s day is a go!
Korra saw shades. Shadows that played in the darkness of her mind, ghostly visions in her dreams or those blurry echoes of the past in her mind’s eye that still bore fingerprints on the present. She couldn’t connect them, hadn’t been able to string the meaning together or the reason why they were flickering to life for her.
Aang was a given. He was supposed to be her mentor, he was her teacher’s father, her waterbending master’s husband, a real and viable presence in her life despite his absence from it. The statue on Memorial Island comforted her in its cold, stone way; she knew that he must be playing some part in this, trying to break down her own spiritual walls for her.
But the others… She couldn’t fit the pieces together. It was like fitting together a jigsaw puzzle when she was missing the edges, or playing pai sho without a full set but being unable to remember what tiles were missing. It was frustrating, and more often than not, she’d more readily give up in aggravation than press on to try and find an answer.
The same went for those glimmers of her younger self. How much she would have loved playing in the crystal clear water surrounding the temple’s isle. How fascinated she would be with the spinning gates, how happy she would be to ride on the back of a sky bison. How enthralled she would have been, even then, by the lights of Republic City laid out like a glittering carpet across the hills just across the Bay.
Those were fantasies. Silly, idle thoughts, whims, that she had no time for. Something truly evil was afoot—and until she figured out what, she truly was a failure.
Sitting there on that rocky outcropping by herself, chin on her palm and gaze fixed on the horizon, she could only hope the answers would come soon.
Lin sighed heavily and folded her arms, looking at Korra with something between annoyance and exasperation.
“I have to hand in my Uniform, my letter of resignation, my cables.”
“I have to resist reinstating myself when I see whomsoever Tarrlok manipulates into my place, barring the idea that he does not do it himself.”
“Korra, I will assume, since it is apparently common knowledge now, that you know about my history with Tenzin.” Her mouth tightened into a line of disapproval and she frowned slightly, dropping her hands to her sides for a moment before clasping them behind her back.
“I do not know if I will need to ‘hide-out’ just yet.” She glanced off to the side, partially-formed plans on how to retrieve her Team and take down Amon speeding through her head momentarily. “I have a lot to do.”
They all had a lot to do. She still had to keep on training, and with this latest turn of events, they had a glimpse of just what they were up against. They’d all be back to the drawing board when it came to defeating those… machines.
And with her friends all moving in on Air Temple Island, she was sure that was going to make things a lot, er, busier—at the very least.
“Well, I know it probably doesn’t mean much, but… I’m pretty sure Tarrlok still trusts me.” Or maybe ‘trust’ wasn’t the right word; she knew she couldn’t trust him, but she had no idea what was going on in his mind more often than not. “And I’m technically still on the task force, I guess.”
“Republic City is my legacy, too. I’ll do what I can to make sure he doesn’t, uh, make things worse.”
She didn’t have political finesse. She didn’t have the cunning or manipulative talent that the Councilman did. But she had determination, and she had sincerity. Even if the man was as shady as everyone seemed to think, she wasn’t about to let the city fall prey to any more chaos if she could help it.