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|A New Life|
Chapter 20: A New Life
The sun peeked through the curtains of Sukan's bedroom window, and she slowly opened her eyes as the light hit her face. She got up and yawned as she stood. Her nightclothes hung loosely over her body as she half-staggered toward the door.
Not exactly a great night's sleep.
The door creaked open, and she immediately noticed that, contrary to what she'd previously assumed, Yoriko was asleep on one of the chairs, curled up with a blanket wrapped around her small frame. Sukan also noticed the tear tracks on her cheeks, and she approached slowly and quietly.
"Yoriko?" she whispered as she rested a hand on her shoulder, "Sweetie, it's time to get up."
The little girl stirred, but when she didn't open her eyes, Sukan nudged a bit harder.
The young Avatar inhaled deeply and twisted around in the blanket, stretching as she did so. "Miss Sukan?" she whispered.
"It's time to get up, Yoriko; we don't want to miss breakfast."
Yoriko rubbed her eyes and yawned. "Will the Fire Lady be there?"
"Yeah, she will, and we're both going to apologize."
The young girl pursed her lips, and her shoulders sagged. "But...she was gonna hit me."
"And she's going to answer for that," Sukan replied. "But you and I said some things that weren't necessary, and we need to acknowledge that."
"She does make people do things they don't wanna do, though," she whispered. "The dragons were all scared of me....of the Avatar...because of her and Galba. They aren't nice. Not all of the time."
Why did she...? Sukan bit back the question and nodded. "I know, Sweetie, but we need to focus on fixing what we did wrong first. She'll come around, I think."
The throne room was lit by a wall of white flames that sat behind the throne itself, and Saitei's shoulders sagged as Yoriko and Sukan approached.
"I trust you both slept well?"
Yoriko pursed her lips, and Sukan shook her head. "No."
"Ah," the Fire Lady replied, "I see." After a couple of seconds of uncomfortable silence, she spoke again, "I... humbly apologize for my actions yesterday. They were beyond uncalled for, and I wish I could...I wish I could change what happened. I am the Fire Lady, and I should act as such."
"It won't ever happen again," Sukan said, but after a few moments, she sighed. "I'm sorry, too. I shouldn't have called you a spoiled brat. It was disrespectful."
"But accurate. The methods and attitudes that suited my handling of your predecessor are not appropriate for our standing, young Avatar."
Sukan turned to Yoriko. "Don't you have something to say?"
Yoriko chewed on her lower lip and turned her gaze toward the floor.
"Yoriko?" Sukan knelt down, but Saitei raised a hand.
"She has nothing to apologize for; what she said was...correct. I have been imposing my will when I should not."
Sukan frowned. "That said, the way she approached the situation was not the best." She turned back to Yoriko and laid a hand on her shoulder. "Honey, we talked about this."
Yoriko shook her head. "Uh-uh."
"Yoriko, please," Sukan said as she gently nudged her forward.
The little girl resumed chewing on her lower lip before finally grumbling out a quick, "Sorry."
"Enough," Saitei said. "We have more important things to discuss."
"Uh-huh, I wanna say something." Yoriko stood as straight and tall as she could manage. "If Liung wants...she can come with us."
The Fire Lady inclined her head and leaned back in her throne. "Why the change? Yesterday you were adamant about letting Liung choose her own fate."
She tugged at her ponytail, which hung over right shoulder. "Because I can stay with Miss Sukan if Liung comes with us; we can...be a family."
"I see...and is this something Liung wants also, or are you just hoping that she'll come with you?"
"She told me yesterday that she would be willing, Fire Lady," Sukan replied, but Saitei held up a hand.
"I want to hear it from the Avatar. Will she be a friend, Yoriko, or a means to an end? You were so vehement—forceful—yesterday. But now that you have something that you want, are you giving that up?"
"No!" she cried. "I wouldn't do that! She wants to leave; I heard her say it!"
Sukan furrowed her brow. "When did you—?"
"I...I could hear her talking to you. It was really soft, but I could."
"What is going on here?" Moro asked as she pushed the doors to the throne room open and walked in. "Why didn't anyone wake me up?"
Yoriko's eyes widened. "Oops...we forgot..."
Moro sighed. "Forgot...right. What exactly did I miss?"
"Apparently, Officer Sukan is considering adopting the Avatar, provided Liung be present as a companion and protector," Saitei replied.
Moro raised an eyebrow. "I see. So a lot, then."
Taiko sat on the park bench next to Aizu as they looked toward City Hall, where Shingen's corpse had been found but hours before. He had shot himself in the head.
"He was always a weak one," Aizu growled, "We shouldn't have trusted him like we did. What if he had exposed us?"
"I don't know," the Airbender replied hoarsely. "I never expected this..."
"Really? Because he was always more concerned about how he appeared than about our cause."
Taiko frowned. "So you say, but I believe his mistakes were the result of moving too quickly for the cause. It was not my desire to see him dead."
"Yeah? Well, I could've told you he was on edge after I paid him a visit when all those people came to see about the Avatar. He was terrified of what we'd do to him." Aizu smirked. "He was a fool, and we're better off without him."
"No, we have lost important eyes and ears on the council, and we need to be able to know at least something of what's going on, especially with the Avatar's reemergence."
The Firebender shrugged. "We'll get by; it's not like we can change what happened anyway."
Taiko sighed. Aizu was right; the Red Lotus would have to make it without someone in a seat of power in Republic City.
"We might need to push our plans up a little bit; the leaders of the world aren't going to get any weaker."
"Neither is the Avatar," Aizu replied.
"Yes, but we need to soften up the Order, or at least split their attention, before moving against her."
"So..." Moro inclined her head. "This is what you've decided? It's only been a couple of days, and you're ready for this?"
Sukan glanced down at Yoriko. "Sweetie, can you go wait out in the hall? I have some things I need to say."
"You're gonna yell, aren't you," Yoriko said. She pursed her lips and nodded when Sukan didn't reply. "Okay..."
When the servants had ushered her out into the hall, with Prince Jogi accompanying her, Sukan spoke.
"I'm not ready. Not yet. I need training to be able to defend her myself, and she needs training as the Avatar. But," she sighed before continuing, "I'm the one who's been dealing with her nightmares, her tears, and the fact that she sometimes wakes up in the middle of the night so terrified that she's about to go into the Avatar State." Her eyes narrowed. "And you all sit around talking about her fate as the Avatar. What about her life?"
Moro nodded slowly. "Those concerns are certainly valid—"
"It's who she is!" the officer cried. "If we just treat her like the damn keeper of balance all the time, she's never going to know what it's like to just grow up!"
"That is her lot in life," Saitei said, "and she needs to make it a priority."
Sukan frowned. "I made her apologize so that she might come to understand how to properly show respect, but I've about had it with you! She's a little girl, not your weapon!"
"She must learn how to defend herself!"
"But that doesn't mean constantly putting the world on the shoulders of a six year-old!" Sukan replied. "I agreed to take her in because I realized something; I'm the only one who remembers what it means to be more than a walking, talking destiny!"
Galba slithered down from the ceiling, his massive gray form wrapping around the three women. He nodded his head, and Sukan and Moro pressed their hands against his side.
"You speak plainly, Sukan, and your affection for Yoriko is clear. However, that does not mitigate concern for her well-being and training."
She shook her head. "No, it doesn't. Like I said, I'm going to need training just as much as she is. With everything she might have to face, I want to be able to protect her just as well as any one of you. But I also don't want her entire life to be one big push toward destiny. It isn't healthy."
Moro nodded. "Well, as far as training goes, I know just the man for the job, but as for Liung—"
"I do not advise that the hatchling be chosen," Galba said. "She is impulsive and prone to outbursts of emotion."
"With all due respect," replied Sukan, "so were the others. They were just better at hiding it." She smirked. "You should let them off that island more."
The gray dragon cocked his head. "Sometimes, Officer Sukan, when you say 'with all due respect,' you do not mean it."
"Sorry," she replied, "but you and Saitei are both so used to getting what you want that you don't bother listening."
Galba's throat rumbled, and his reptilian eyes narrowed. "Why do you think Liung is a good choice? Or are you going by what Yoriko wants?"
Sukan's lips formed a thin line for a moment. Don't piss off the dragon...got it. "Liung asked to be her companion after...well, after feeling the Avatar Spirit. She wants to help if at all possible."
"Alright, then," Moro said, "if Liung wants to help, and you're serious about this, we can start making it happen."
Saitei frowned. "Do you think this is the best course of action, Moro?"
"I don't think we have many other options. If Yoriko, Sukan, and Liung are all willing to make this work, it could actually work. That said," the Waterbender approached Sukan, "this needs to be handled delicately. You need to work with us every step of the way, Sukan. If you can't do that, then we'll find another way, but Yoriko has to be given every opportunity to thrive."
Sukan nodded. "I know."
"We'll train her; we'll train you. And maybe someday, she'll be ready to find out how to fix the Avatar Spirit. That's the goal."
"And it is a noble one," a deep, male voice echoed from across the room. All of them turned to see the Spirit of Ice, Kenshin, standing in the doorway. "The Avatar needs to be whole in order for the balance to be restored, and little would make me happier than to help in any way I can."
Yoriko's grin widened as she pulled away from the doorway, which the man in blue armor had just entered. "They said yes!" she squealed.
Jogi inclined his head. "Now that they have, do you know what you'll have to do?"
Her grin disappeared, and her brow furrowed. "They're gonna train me, like Mrs. Kenshi said. I'm gonna—"
"Be the Avatar."
The little girl said nothing in reply.
Jogi leaned against one of the pillars and stretched his arms into the air. "Why Officer Sukan?"
Yoriko's head jerked up. "Huh?"
"Why is it so important that she adopt you?"
"She...uh...she's the only one who—"
Jogi frowned. "She is far from the only person who cares about your well-being."
"But...she cares about me...not the Avatar..."
The prince inclined his head. "What do you—?"
The young girl pursed her lips and plopped down to the floor, legs crossed. "I don't wanna talk about it anymore...she said yes. That's all that matters."
"Then listen up, little one. Sukan is sacrificing everything for you, and I'm afraid that you're taking that for granted." He knelt down in front of her. "She is giving up her life and everything in it, as it is now, for you."
Yoriko glanced toward the door and bit her lower lip. "Yeah..."
"If you don't want to hear anything else from me, at least hear this: she deserves your respect and love. Do not take her for granted."
Moro's turquoise eyes flared as she whirled on Kenshin. "What the hell are you doing here?!"
The spirit inclined his head. "I've been sent to check on the new Avatar, but seeing as she hates spirits, I figured it would be best to discuss her condition with her elders. I did not expect you to be here, so the venom can be toned back, don't you think?"
"I think I liked you better when you were begging for my forgiveness, Kenshin," Moro hissed.
"Forgiveness that I was denied," he said. "Rightfully, but it did not make things hurt any less."
Sukan took a tentative step forward. "What about Yoriko?"
"Lu Ten informed me that he already told you about what happened to the Avatar Spirit, to Raava. She has been poisoned, and that poison will consume her if left unchecked."
Saitei leaned against one of the pillars and exhaled, dimming the fire near her throne. "And what news do you have that we don't already know?"
Kenshin folded his arms behind his back. "The Avatar's past lives have indicated that they need Yoriko to come to the Spirit World as soon as she has mastered all four elements. There, they will help her heal Raava, if they can."
"So," Moro said, "that's the plan? Fine. We'll train her, and we'll prepare her for this." She glared at the Spirit of Ice. "Now that you've delivered your message, you should leave."
He sighed. "I was hoping we might have a word, in private."
The Waterbender's eyes narrowed. "No." She turned away.
"You should know, at least, that Lyre came to see me a couple of months ago." Kenshin smirked as Moro whirled on him in an instant. An ice dagger was in her hand and her hand at his throat in a matter of seconds.
"Fire Lady, I don't mean to be rude," she began, "but could you give us a minute alone?"
Saitei inclined her head. "You'll be fine on your own, then?" After a few moments of silence, she shrugged. "Very well. Officer Sukan, it would be best if we—"
Sukan noticed Moro's free hand, which was balled into a shaking fist. "Right behind you."
As they exited the room, Kenshin kept his gaze on Moro, whose teeth were pressed together in an expression he had never seen from her before, even at her worst.
"I'm going to kill you for this, you monster! I told you to leave Lyre and Nana alone!"
"She came to me to get help for her friend, Jing," he replied. "She was appropriately cold; you would've approved. But she was desperate."
"What'd you tell her?!"
"That I couldn't help him. It was far beyond my knowledge and abilities. I would've told you this sooner, but—"
She lunged toward him with the dagger. "I'll kill you?!" she screamed as the weapon sunk into Kenshin's chest.
The spirit's eyes widened. "Well...that wasn't how I wanted this to go...but I suppose this was all I could expect."
It was Moro's turn to be surprised. "What...how...? I thought your healing powers—"
"It's been twenty years, Moro," Kenshin replied. "They returned years ago, along with everything else you'd rightfully taken from me." He frowned. "If you want to know the truth, they had returned a couple of months before I first got to see my granddaughters."
"That..." The Waterbender furrowed her brow. "You could've fought...all those years ago. You could've killed Nana and Lyre..."
Tears formed in Kenshin's eyes. "So much pain...and I can't even tell you how wrong you are. I have no right."
"But you didn't. Why?"
"You know why."
Moro glanced toward the door. "Get out of here, Kenshin."
His reply was simple, "No."
"Get out! Leave me and my family alone!" she cried.
"I am not here for you, as much as you'd like to think so!" The Spirit of Ice narrowed his eyes. "I am here to help the Avatar."
"And you've delivered your message," Moro said, her voice barely able to rise above a hoarse whisper, "you can go now."
"Actually," Sukan's head popped through a slightly opened door, and as soon as their gazes turned to her, she fully entered the room, "I still need to ask him a few questions. If he can help me understand what's going on with Yoriko, so much the better."
Kenshin raised an eyebrow. "So you are the woman who has agreed to take on the burden of raising the Avatar?"
The officer swallowed, and her heart pounded. "I am."
"I am so sorry, then," he replied.
Moro took a step forward. "Kenshin—"
"What do you mean?" Sukan asked, ignoring Moro entirely. "I don't regret my choice."
"No, but you are afraid. Rightly so. The young Avatar is in a precarious position, as the spirit within her is unintentionally doing her own spirit harm." He frowned. "But...if you've taken this on of your own free will, there are several spirits who would like nothing more than to see things made right, if possible. Just get her ready. Train her, nurture her, be everything I wasn't to my own children, and she has a chance of surviving this ordeal intact."
Sukan's lips formed a thin line as she considered his words. While she was deep in thought, she felt tiny fingers wrap around her right hand.
"Do...do you really want to be..." Yoriko winced. "Do you really want to take care of me, Miss Sukan? I don't wanna—"
Sukan lightly squeezed the little girl's hand and smiled. "Yes, Yoriko, I want to take care of you. When I give my word, I mean it."
"We'll do this together, okay? You don't have to be afraid or worried. We're going to be a family, and I'm going to protect you. Along with a big, red dragon, probably."
Yoriko's lips formed into a small smile. "We still have to tell Liung."
"We do have to do that."
Shen pressed the phone against his ear as he sat in his Republic City apartment. "So, Officer Sukan has agreed to adopt Avatar Yoriko?"
"Yes, she and I have talked at length since this morning, and it seems like she's sincere," Moro replied. "Liung, the dragon hatchling, has agreed to be Yoriko's companion, and we've already begun working out how this is all going to happen."
"Sounds rough, but not as rough as the morning you've probably had."
Silence held on the other end for a moment. "What do you mean, Shen?"
"C'mon, 'Ro, I know something's upset you; I can hear it in your voice."
Her heavy sigh caused him to sit up.
"Shen...Kenshin showed up today."
The Airbender frowned. "Oh...did he...are you alright?"
"No. No I'm not. He keeps trying to tell me he's changed, but I can't—" He could hear her choking back tears. "He's met with Lyre, and he's had his powers for years. At any time, he could've...he could've hurt them."
Shen furrowed his brow. "Then why didn't he?"
"That's what scares me...what if he actually changed? What if I've...what if I've been hating him for years, when all he wanted to—"
"Moro, hon, calm down," Shen said, although he could barely keep his voice from shaking. "Worrying like this isn't going to help. What he did to you and your family isn't—it isn't wrong for you to distrust him. If he's changed....damn...I don't know."
"So," she said after a deep breath, "no deep Airbender wisdom, huh?"
Shen shrugged. "Sorry, hon."
He ran his free hand through his hair. "What now? Do you think you should...talk to him again?"
"I don't want anything to do with him, even if he has changed. But...I'll talk to Lyre when we get back to Republic City. We'll have a lot more to worry about with the Avatar than this; Yoriko and Sukan are going to need all the help they can get."
"Agreed," he replied. "But, 'Ro, you can't let this eat at you. Talk to Lyre, talk to me, but don't leave it be."
"I know," she whispered, "I'll be back soon. Love you."
"Love you, too."
"I was told you had a mission for me," the Owl said as he approached the bench in Avatar Korra Park where Taiko sat.
"I do," the Airbender replied. "I need to test your effectiveness at discretion. You can kill, but can you do it without leaving a trace?"
I already have. "Point me at a target, and I'll kill for you, Taiko of the Red Lotus," he replied.
"I need..." The Airbender sucked in a breath. "I need you to get rid of a rogue Airbender named Jimo and all who stand with him."
The Owl raised an eyebrow and leaned back against the bench. "You want me to kill Airbenders? Your own people?"
Taiko frowned. "The Red Lotus...knows no nation. Humanity is one, and this group might very well turn out to be a threat. Much like Petrine's was."
"A preemptive strike, then?"
He nodded. "They're in Republic City, and they can't leave. No one knows we exist, and as long as they don't catch you, no one will be able to trace any of it."
"I just have one question: when does the real work begin?"
Taiko glanced out at the trees and noticed his son waving enthusiastically. He smiled and waved back before glancing at the Owl. "When you're done here, we'll begin training you for infiltration into the Earth King's palace."
"It will be. If we take out the world leaders in a showy way, it'll make our work a lot more difficult. As it is, we're going to get you ready to take Qiang out without anyone suspecting." Taiko grinned. "How much time do you have to dedicate to our cause, assassin?"
"All the time in the world."
- So...it's been four months since the last chapter. Final semester of college has been hellish. Anyway, hopefully a more consistent update schedule will happen. We'll see.
- And for those of you lost as to Moro and Kenshin's scene, check out my one-shot,.
For the collective works of the author, go here.