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|B2 Chapter Eleven: Histories|
Few words were exchanged on the short ride back to the Jintaro homestead. Nanaki insisted on riding in Guo's car with Jinora and her father, and throughout the ride Jintaro kept his arms wrapped around his child as if terrified the world would snatch her away again. The rest of the team followed in Kozin's rented van. During the trip Jinora noticed Nanaki was pale and haunted, but didn't press the overly-stressed girl.
It wasn't until Nanaki was seated at the familiar span of her own kitchen table, after her father had put a blanket over her shoulders and made her tea, that she began to speak. Surrounded by her ring of loved ones and protectors she told them everything that had occurred from the moment she got into Himaru's limo to the moment she was waking dazed and weak in her father's arms, neglecting only to mention Po's ultimate fate. She spared no detail on recounting the speech Himaru gave her as well as she could remember it, and when she had finished speaking everyone was silent for several long minutes.
"This is an unprecedented event," Jinora finally said, breaking the silence.
Nanaki looked up at her.
"What would happen if he did it?" She asked.
Jinora shook her head. "Calamity like nothing the world has ever seen. Picture every natural disaster you can imagine taking place all the same time on a global scale. All life on Earth would be extinguished in a matter of seconds."
"He's insane," Akytreu said, gasping.
"He's worse," Kozin said, holding his wife's hand as the girls decided to explore the back yard and Yakkara whom was laying in the sun there. "He's an idealist. From the way he spoke he truly believes he's doing what's best for the world without realizing what the consequences would be. That makes him more dangerous than most. It's a pity. I could respect a man like that in other circumstances."
Nanaki seemed to see the Commander for the first time.
"Hey," she said, "I remember you. What are you doing here?"
"Commander Kozin has graciously consented to be your firebending teacher," Jinora said, smiling.
"Though I don't think she needs one," Kozin said, looking at Nanaki with a mixture of admiration and thoughtfulness, "not with what I saw an hour ago. The Fire Sphere is a very advanced technique, only a true master can perform it."
"That...wasn't me," Nanaki said, and grew pale again.
Jinora watched Nanaki thoughtfully for a moment before she turned slightly to address the whole team.
"Himaru's plan is much more dire than I could have dreamed. We are confronted with a very difficult dilemma. We have no proof to back up our accusations against him that we can bring to the public's attention. Indeed, we cannot even prove the Avatar was his prisoner. We face a foe whom is a pillar of Earth Kingdom society and wields vast political, influential, and financial power. How then, should we proceed?"
They were all silent in though until, almost with one accord, every head turned to look at Nanaki. She became aware of their stares and deflated visibly.
"I don't know what to do," she said.
Abruptly, she slammed her fist onto the table.
"I won't kill him, if that's what you're all thinking," she said, with great vehemence. The outburst surprised everyone.
"Nobody suggested you do any such thing," Jinora said gently.
Nanaki calmed down and quietly apologized for her outburst. Jintaro looked at Jinora.
"But is there really a threat? He can't get into the Spirit World, can he?"
"He can, if he's determined to," Jinora said.
"There are two portals, one at each pole, that grants access to the Spirit World," Tu'uri explained.
"Military contracts," Kozin said suddenly. They all looked at him.
"Himaru has contracts to design and build nuclear armaments," Kozin said. "Nothing would stop him from taking a nuclear weapon through one of the portals and detonating it." He thought for a moment further, then nodded. "That's how he'll do it."
"How can you be sure, Commander?" Jinora asked.
Kozin turned to her. "If I were fighting an army with soldiers composed entirely of pure energy, it's what I would do."
Jinora was satisfied with that answer. She addressed the group again. "Then that's what we must presume he will do. Which brings us to our second unprecedented event."
She looked at Nanaki.
"The Avatar must be fully realized to face this threat," Jinora said. "You are going to have to master the remaining three elements all at the same time."
Nanaki stared at her in disbelief.
The group remained at the table for the remainder of the day, making plans. It was agreed that the entire group should relocate to Air Temple Island at the earliest opportunity, since only there would Nanaki have all the tools required for her to master all of the elements. Jintaro announced that he and Otoshi would go also, which lead to Jinora revealing her suspicion that Otoshi was the Unbeliever insider. Jintaro was outraged at the accusation, and even Nanaki argued fiercely in defense of her brother, but when Jinora and Guo laid out their evidence the Avatar and her father could not question it. Heartbroken, they agreed that Otoshi must have been the one giving information that lead to the assaults on the tea shop and Air Temple Island.
When Otoshi returned home from school, it was with a thunderous amount of surprise that he saw everyone there. Nanaki was shocked to see how much weight her twin had lost, and how haggard and exhausted he looked. Jintaro confronted him about the Unbeliever accusation in a great rage and Otoshi didn't withstand the assault. He broke down and confessed everything immediately, confirming Jinora's suspicions almost to the letter. He also seemed greatly relieved at telling all, for it was found that he had been carrying all the guilt in the universe on his shoulders since the moment he learned of the attack on the island. Nanaki forgave him on the spot. They cried together, and from that very second the twins familial bond transcended, becoming a deeply rooted and solid friendship that would last the remainder of their lives.
In later years, when Jinora would sit under her favorite awning sipping her tea, she would often recall that tender moment between brother and sister with great fondness. She would also grow very sad in that, because nobody then knew how short a time that would prove to be.
There was dissent when it came to Nanaki's training. After long discussion it was decided that Nanaki would learn waterbending and firebending congruently. She would train for four hours a day in the morning with Kozin and then four hours in the evening with Tu'uri. She would not begin her training in airbending until her teachers had decided she had mastered their respective elements. Nanaki was curious at this, and asked the reason.
"Airbending is the polar opposite of Earthbending," Jinora explained. "It will be very difficult for you to grasp, and harder to master. So I agree with Guo, we should refrain from airbending lessons until you have fire and water mastered."
As the day worn on the discussion did too, briefly interrupted by a splendid dinner cooked by Jintaro with both his children helping. Kozin made himself extremely useful by phoning various contacts and friends, thus establishing a network of spies and emissaries that would immediately inform him if Himaru arrived in the Fire Nation and give account of all of his movements. Jinora was very glad that Kozin had decided to join the team.
After the meal the discussion continued until night had fallen. It was then that Jinora noticed Nanaki kept nodding off, and chided herself for neglecting the Avatar's well being. Without argument Nanaki was sent off to bed.
She stood for a long time in the doorway of her bedroom, looking at her belongings. It seemed so alien now, so different from the room she had woken up in a short five months ago, where she was just an ordinary teenager living an ordinary life, worrying about boys and if she looked all right, and having tea with Yi over an aggressive game of Pai Sho. Times that seemed so tranquil now, time before she learned she was the Avatar. She peeled the quilt from the bed, took up the pillow, and went back downstairs.
She ignored the curious looks everyone gave her and paused by the couch, where Yi had fallen asleep. She kissed her best friend's cheek, then went outside into the backyard. Yakkara lifted her head up when Nanaki appeared and purred in greeting. Nanaki tucked herself in between the great zebratiger's front paws. Yakkara groomed her as if the Avatar were her very own cub and laid her head down beside Nanaki. There Nanaki slept, a dreamless and serene sleep that she desperately needed.
Dinner was taken in the backyard the following evening, and the atmosphere was quite festive. The adults talked and joked with each other, Yi and Akytreu had a private moment (or so they thought, Guo watched them carefully) together, and Kozin's two daughters played with shrieks and screams of delight with a long-suffering Yakkara. Only Nanaki was quiet, barely touching her food and not meeting anyone's gaze. Jinora watched the Avatar from the corner of her eye, but again made no overtures to get her to talk about whatever was so clearly bothering her. When the dishes were cleaned up everyone was told to pack and prepare. Nanaki only shrugged when Jinora offered to help her get her things together.
Halfway through the process Nanaki stopped. She crossed the room to the door and closed it, giving herself and Jinora privacy. She sat down on the edge of the bed as Jinora watched her, laced her fingers together, and looked down at her shoes.
"What if I can't do it, Jinora? What if I can't master all four elements in time?" She asked.
Jinora smiled as she folded one of Nanaki's sweaters.
"On the average, it takes the Avatar ten years to master all the elements. It took Avatar Korra thirteen."
Nanaki's shoulder's and head slumped.
"But Avatar Aang did it in sixteen months. You and he are very alike," Jinora said, packing the sweater into a suitcase and inspecting Nanaki's shoes.
Nanaki looked up and over at her. "Really?"
"Oh yes," Jinora said. "Both of you are very sweet tempered. Both of you have the distinction of mastering the bending of your native element before the age of ten." She looked at Nanaki, knowingly, from under her eyebrows. "And both of you are absolutely adamantly against using violence to solve your problems.
Nanaki looked down at her shoes again, going quiet as Jinora selected several warm jackets from the closet to pack.
"I killed him, Jinora. The big man. I never even knew his name," Nanaki said quietly.
Jinora sat down on the bed beside Nanaki and took her hand.
"Tell me what happened," she said.
When Nanaki finished she looked shyly up at Jornia and cringed, as if frightened that her mentor would yell at her, or strike her, or—worst of all—strand up and leave the room. Jinora looked at her face for a long moment.
"Let me tell you a story," she said. "Unalaq was not the last threat that Avatar Korra ever faced. When I was much younger, Republic City was ripped apart by violence. The root cause of the trouble was an up and coming crime boss and firebender named Minazi. Minazi was brutal. When you wronged her, she didn't go after you. She went after your loved ones. Whole families were slaughtered. Minazi wasn't just a crime boss, she was a terrorist . She would go to any lengths to consolidate her power and she had designs in taking control of the criminal underworlds of every Nation.
"Avatar Korra did everything within her power to topple Minazi's empire. She disrupted Minazi's enterprises, she arrested her henchmen, she blocked the madwoman at every turn. But the more Avatar Korra did, the more brutal Minazi became. When Minazi ordered the destruction of a school as a warning to Avatar Korra and murdered eighteen children through the act, Avatar Korra understood that the violence would only continue to escalate.
"When they finally met face to face, Minazi was ready. She had two hostages, and she was willing to execute them both and proved it by killing one of them as Korra tried to stop her. Avatar Korra saw that there was going to be no solution to the problem aside from the most difficult one. If she allowed Minazi to escape, or gave her any wriggle room, Minazi's brand of crime would spread to every corner of the planet. Korra did she what she had to do to end the threat."
Nanaki stared with wide eyes. "Korra killed her?"
"She did, though it tore her apart to do it. You see Nanaki, being the Avatar means that sometimes you will have to make choices that are impossibly difficult. Being the Avatar is not about yourself. It's about doing what is necessary to defend the world and the people in it."
Nanaki frowned, uncomfortable. "So...it's okay that I killed him?"
"I'm not saying that," Jinora said. "What I'm saying is that you were forced into a position to take an action you had to take. I think it's important for you to see it in that regard in case you have to take the same action against Himaru."
Nanaki shook her head.
"Avatar Aang could have killed Fire Lord Ozai, and he didn't."
"That's true, he didn't. But he was prepared to. Despite how much Avatar Aang abhorred the idea of taking life, much as you do, he fundamentally understood that if the world was at stake and no other solution presented itself, the needs of the world would have to come first regardless of his own morals or ethics and the Avatar would be called upon to take the necessary steps. The Avatar's duty is to the world," she said.
Nanki spent a few moments pacing, trying to consolidate her thoughts. Then she looked shrewdly at her mentor.
"You were one of those two hostages, weren't you?" she asked.
Jinora nodded again, her smile fading away like a cherry blossom on the summer breeze.
"I was. The second, the one Minazi killed, was my sister Ikki's first child. My nephew, Tozi. He was four years old."
Nanaki almost recoiled in shock and horror and impulsively hugged Jinora.
"I'm so sorry," she said, kissing a wrinkled cheek. "Is that what caused the rift?"
Jinora smiled and patted Nanaki's back.
"Yes, it is. Ikki had long believed that Avatar Korra should have taken the action she did before that moment. Ikki was understandably inconsolable. She blamed Korra, and the rest of us, for what happened and convinced herself that Korra had chosen to save me instead of Tozi which, of course, was not the case. Ikki was grieving, and still is. Perhaps someday, though, that separation can be mended," she said.
Nanaki nodded. "Let's hope."
The two resumed their work of packing, neither of them speaking again. Nanaki felt rejuvenated, and energized. She was very glad of Jinora, and knew she didn't have to ask the elderly Air Nomad not to mention what had happened to the big man to anyone else. At last Nanaki impulsively kissed Jinora's cheek, watched the old lady leave the room, and she relaxed. After a very long and very hot shower she slipped into her pajamas and curled up in her bed, the bed she had not curled up in for four months. It felt good to be home. Tomorrow, they would be off to Air Temple Island.
Tomorrow they would be coming home, and the Pai Sho board between Avatar and businessman was set. The game was ready to begin. It was just waiting for an opening move.
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