|More from Jacob13Kyle||Action/Adventure||PG-13||None yet||None|
|Born to Rise|
Book 3: Doorways
May 23rd, 2015
John confronts Ethan Alexander. The Battle for Creation comes to a head.
Korra was in the fight of her life. She was facing both Unalaq and Vaatu at the same time. Unalaq alone would have been a hard enough fight, but with him being backed up by the Spirit of Darkness, it was almost impossible. Almost. With the Avatar State, she was keeping the odds balanced. But no matter how intense her blasts were, she couldn't damage Vaatu for long before he healed himself.
As she dodged another ice spike, she reached her limit with her uncle. Bending a pillar of air beneath him, she launched the Northern Chief through the Southern Portal.
"Keep him out!" she snapped at the others, her voice blurred with that of all her past lives.
"We're on it!" Mako shouted as he, Bolin, and Asami sprinted through the Portal after Unalaq.
"You think that keeping him out of the Spirit World will help, Raava? Ethan Alexander is on the verge breaking the anchor's foundation, and then nothing can be done to stop the collapse!" Vaatu proclaimed. As the Spirit's form began to glow purple before he fired his beam, a bolt of lightning struck the kite like being dead center. Vaatu cried out in pain, his form suffering great damage from the unexpected strike.
"I won't have my world's poison harming the rest of Creation, not while there's still a breath in my body!" Korra turned toward the sound of the new voice in surprise. Standing on a nearby stone was Dante, a pair of drawn short swords in his hands.
"Dante?!" she asked, not sure if she was believing her eyes. The matterbender had vanished shortly after the Whaletail Island Incident, and not even the best trackers in the United Forces had been able to locate him. Although now that she thought about it, she really shouldn't have been surprised that he was here, given the circumstances.
"The one and only, Ms. Korra. I still owed you and your husband one, so I figured I'd be needed here. You put that overgrown kite down, and I'll take care of him," he said, turning toward the tree. Korra nodded as she turned to face the reforming Vaatu. Her eyes glowed white as she unleashed a torrent of fire, determined to not let the Spirit fully reform.
But one of Vaatu's tendrils got loose and slammed into her side, sending her flying. As she began to stand again, the Spirit plunged his tendrils into the ground. Before she could react, she found herself ensnared within a growing web of vines. Korra found her arms and legs being bound so that she could not bend or fight back. The vines tightened their grip, intending to strangle the Avatar.
Suddenly, the sound of cracking filled the air, causing both Korra and Vaatu to look upward toward the source of the noise. High above them, a jagged emerald green crack filled the sky. From within the crack, a massive flaming airship appeared. As the crack closed behind the ship, it listed and began to turn in their direction. Korra smiled to herself, only John could make such a dramatic entrance.
"What is this?" the Spirit asked, baffled by the airship's sudden appearance. Using the Spirit's distraction to her advantage, Korra snapped the vines and incinerated them with her bending. Summoning a large body of water from a nearby pool, she enveloped the Spirit and froze him on the spot. Shooting jets of flame from her fists and feet, she rocketed herself away from the Spirit.
"You think that a little ice will stop me?!" Vaatu roared as his icy prison began to crack. Korra watched as the dark spirit broke free, just moments before the airship's flaming hull crashed down upon him.
"Hey, Darling, I'm home!" Korra smiled at the sound of the voice. John emerged from the wreckage, his clothes and face blackened from being so close to the roaring flames.
"You just crashed an airship into the Spirit of Darkness," she said, with a hint of amazement.
"Well getting a battleship here wasn't exactly an option," he replied with a chuckle. The screech of metal tearing from metal filled the air as Vaatu erupted from the wreckage, unleashing a cry of pain and rage. His form glowed purple as he fired a beam toward John, sending the firebender flying. Korra reacted instantly, blasting the Spirit was several bolts of fire. As before, the holes she punched in his form started to heal almost instantly.
With his shirt and coat smoking from where the beam had struck him, John stood and drew his father's revolver. Doing his best to ignore the pain from the ribs that were now undoubtedly broken, he cocked the revolver and fired. Vaatu screeched in pain, this time the damage wasn't healing itself.
"Thank you, Dad," John muttered to himself before he fanned the hammer, emptying the gun into the dark spirit. Vaatu groaned in pain, his form now resembling a slice of Swiss cheese.
"A weapon of Fate, that's impossible..." the spirit said weakly, diverting most of his energy into reforming himself.
"Korra, use the purifying technique that Unalaq taught you, use it now!"
"I've never successfully purified a spirit before!"
"DO IT!" As John began to reload the revolver, Korra bent two streams of water from a nearby pool around Vaatu, both of which began to glow with a golden light. John watched as the light climbed higher and higher on the spirit, praying that it would work. Vaatu's form slowly changed color from orange, red, and black to gold as the purifying technique began to work.
"No..." the Spirit moaned weakly before his form disintegrated into sparks, which faded away on the breeze.
"Go in peace," Korra murmured as she brought her hands together and allowed the water to return to the ground. Holstering his gun, John allowed himself to show a small grin. Korra had done it, she had defeated the Spirit of Darkness.
"Well, that was new," he said, breaking the silence that had followed. Korra couldn't help but laugh at that. Even now, he was finding something to joke about. In a way, it gave her hope that things would be alright.
The sound of gunfire broke the silence, causing both of them to turn toward the tree. Alexander was still chanting, but rather than looking at the urn, he was holding his Mauser and firing at the darting form of Dante, but never succeeding in hitting the matterbender.
"Where the hell did he come from?" John asked as he watched Dante fight. Korra merely shrugged.
"I have no idea." Drawing his 1911s, the firebender's grin got a little wider.
"Today's my birthday you know," he said. Korra blinked in surprise at that. The events of the Invasion and Harmonic Convergence had made her almost totally forget the fact that today was John's nineteenth birthday.
"I wish I had gotten you a present," she said as she absentmindedly rubbed the silver bracelet he had given her.
"On the contrary, you just destroyed the last major obstacle standing between me and the man who killed my father, branded me a traitor, and sent the past four years of my life down the crapper. This is the best gift I could have gotten," he said as he cocked both pistols. In the distance, Unalaq emerged from the Southern Portal, followed closely Bolin, Mako, and Asami. The Northern Chief was ridding a stream of ice as he struggled to stay ahead of the others.
"Korra, keep him away from the tree. I'll handle Alexander and his men," John said as he watched the chase unfold. Korra gave him a quick kiss.
"Always." With that, the couple parted and ran in the direction of their target. As he ran, John bent to scoop up an AK 47 that had been dropped from the wreckage of the Columbia. The sound of gunfire and the wizz of bullets made the firebender dive behind a low rise of ground, narrowly avoiding the wall of lead that passed overhead.
Propping himself up on his arms, John peaked over the small mound, only to force himself flat again when the bullets tore up the ground around him. Alexander's gunmen were firing at him from the wreckage of the crashed biplane. Raising the assault rifle, he blindly fired a short burst at the enemy before rolling over onto his back.
Running through the brief image he had gotten of the wreckage before he had ducked, John realized that one of the biplane's bombs was exposed under one of the wings. Firing a shot into the air to cause his foes to duck for cover, the firebender sprang to his knees and fired at the explosive. The bomb detonated, causing the other bombs to explode as well, consuming the wreckage in a brilliant fireball and sending the gunmen flying. John forced himself flat again, just barely dogging a flying propeller from one of the engines.
"Asami Sato, I could kiss you," he said to himself, happy that the heiress had provided him with a means of a quick escape. Standing with a grimace, he gently touched his ribs. His breath was shortened by the pain from the broken ribs. And a shortened breath meant that his firebending was going to be effected for the worse.
As he dropped the assault rifle, John turned his attention toward the tree. Dante was giving Alexander a tough fight, but it wasn't enough to make the madman stop his chanting. By now, the orbs were levitating on their own and rotating around the urn with both their speed and glowing light increasing.
The firebender could only watch as the orbs increased in their brightness before unleashing a shock wave in all directions, sending everyone flying. The ground at the base of the tree buckled, and then with an ear shattering roar it collapsed. Like a great scar in the earth, the crevice spread outward in all directions before it came to a halt, just shy of consuming the tree itself.
"Okay, whatever that was. It does NOT need to happen again," John said to himself as he regained his footing. Dust had filled the air from the sudden collapse, but he could still see the glow from the artifacts. The collapse had not claimed anything of importance, or at least not yet anyway. Limping his way forward with the revolver at the ready in his hand, John took a cautious look over the edge of the gash in the earth.
An eerie emerald green light filled the chasm, stretching downward seemingly forever. The roots of the tree also stretched downward like that of a great twisting beanstalk in a child's story. It was clear that the damage from the artifact had torn a hole in the very fabric of the Spirit World and had damaged the roots greatly.
As he looked up, John saw the artifacts preparing to unleash another pulse. Acting on pure instinct, he raised the revolver and fired once, twice, and then three times. One of the orbs, made of glass or a crystal, shattered. Another one made of metal flew out of the orbit with a loud ping. The third bullet struck the side of the urn, echoing with a low clang.
"No!" Alexander screamed in rage as he turned and emptied his Mauser toward John. The firebender quickly holstered his revolver and drew his pistols as he ran along the side of the crevice, returning fire in the process. As he reached a narrow part of the crack, he jumped over and began to sprint toward Alexander.
The madman quickly reloaded his pistol and fired once. John came to a halt and fell to his knees in the sudden pain. Looking down, he saw a growing patch of red on his left shoulder. He couldn't believe it. Years of dogging and dancing around bullets, and he had let his anger cloud his vision and had allowed himself to get shot.
"You have caused me no end of grief, you little git. All this time, you have been trying to stop me, trying to stop what was meant to be! Mankind and Spirits were meant to live side by side, Creation without boarders!"
"Humans have enough trouble keeping the peace amongst themselves, do you really think that they'll try to keep the peace with the Spirits? What you want will be utter chaos, followed by the Spirits massacring mankind!"
"You're wrong, John! Spirits and Man will coexist, they must coexist! A Creation without boundaries must be allowed exist!" John eyes narrowed, both in pain and suspicion.
"You don't want the boundaries gone for Spirits and Man to coexist. You want them gone so you can bypass the Eternal Storm. You want what lies at the heart of Creation." In an instant, Alexander's wildness vanished, replaced by cold professionalism. John had been spot on.
"Of course I want what lies there. The power of a god, the knowledge and wisdom of twelve worlds at your finger tips. Who wouldn't want that kind of power?"
"You couldn't handle it, no mortal could," John panted. His breath was harder to draw now, and he could feel blood leaking between his fingers as he tried to stop the gushing wound. He was getting weaker and weaker.
"I am almost temped to let you watch. To let you see the man who took everything from you ascend to godhood. But I think not," Alexander said as he aimed his pistol between John's eyes, "I think our game ends here, as it should; the traitor on his knees before the Grandmaster." After all the times he had stared death in the face, John had never once truly acknowledged his own mortality. Not like he was now, staring down the barrel of his enemy's weapon.
Was this it? Was he really so tired of it all that he didn't care if Alexander pulled the trigger? Part of him said yes. The part that had seen his mother and unborn sibling wither and die, the part that had cried alone in alleyways and trash filled dumpsters after his father had been murdered, the part that had witnessed the atrocities committed by the Chinese soldiers in Nepal, the part that called himself a monster every time he closed his eyes and tried to sleep.
But another part of him wasn't ready to give up. He had seen the potential for a future with Korra, the possibility of a normal peaceful life. For that, he was willing to fight back with everything he had. Grabbing up one of his pistols, he emptied the clip into Alexander's chest and stomach.
"You're right, so get on your knees," John said as he let the empty gun clatter to the ground. Alexander didn't move from his position, but he started to lean back and forth, and blood began to leak from his lips.
"I shall become a god," he croaked as he tried to take aim again. His mouth gaped opened suddenly as a pair of blades erupted from his chest.
"Actually, I know of a few existences that would object to that," Dante said as he appeared behind Alexander, having run his swords through the madman.
"You always know when to show up," John said with a weak chuckle.
"The power to control matter goes where it's needed. It can never removed or destroyed, only hidden," Dante replied. Alexander weakly looked down at his wounds before he looked back up at John.
"If you want to keep this place alive so bad, you can experience both the good and the bad," Alexander croaked before he suddenly began to thrash about. Dante was forced to tighten his grip on his blades as he hung on. The Mauser fired once before Alexander pitched and sent himself, Dante, and the artifact falling into the crack.
John could only watch in stunned silence as the two vanished from sight into the Void. This wasn't the way he had seen this whole thing ending. As he looked over the crack, a new sight drew his attention and filled him with horror. Alexander's wild shot hadn't been as wild as he would have believed. Across the crack, Korra lay with her hand pressed against her back where Alexander's bullet had stuck her.
"Korra!" As he moved to stand, pain blinded him and he collapsed. The last thing John saw before he blacked out was the golden arch of the portals high above him.
When he came to, he found himself being worked on by Kya while Tenzin and Bumi stood nearby over Korra. Asami was keeping pressure on Korra's wound while Bolin and Mako stood over a defeated Unalaq.
"Korra?" he asked as he tried to sit up. Kya halted him by placing a finger in the middle of his forehead and pushed him back down.
"She's doing better than she looks. You, however, need attention and you need it now," the waterbender said as she resumed healing the gunshot. But John didn't stop struggling.
"You attend to her first," he said as he tried to push her away.
"You've lost a lot of blood, your life is more in danger then hers, now shut up and let me work," Kya snapped, silencing him. John couldn't help but cringe as he felt the skin and muscles stitch themselves back together. Finally, Kya removed the blob of water she had pressed to his shoulder and allowed him to sit up.
The firebender groaned as he sat up and ran a hand over the newly healed wound. The flesh was still tender, and he could feel a bump and a spike of pain as his hand passed over the bullet that was still inside.
"You didn't get the bullet out," he muttered.
"I'm a healer, not a surgeon," Kya replied as she applied a new blob of water to the wound on Korra's back. John stood and rolled his shoulder, testing his limits. Thankfully, he found that he could still move, and still fight if necessary.
"What are you guys doing here, Tenzin? I thought you were headed to the Air Temples."
"We were. But we received a telegram from Mom telling us about the war. And with the United Republic involved, we figured it was best that we come back and lend our aid where we could," Tenzin said.
"It's a good thing too, looks like you could use all the help you could get," Bumi added. John cast a glance toward Unalaq, who was currently entombed up to his neck in earth, along with a fire blade that Mako was producing and holding to his throat.
"I'd say we have it under control," he said.
"Really? Cause from where we're standing it sure looks like both you and Korra would have bled out if we hadn't been here," Bumi responded. John said nothing as he walked over and looked down into the Void. Taking a shallow breath, the firebender realized that his ribs were still broken. Hand on his side and limp in his step, John slowly made his way around the crack to Korra and Kya.
"How is she?" he asked. Kya moved her hand back and forth in a swaying wave like motion. The water around her hands glowed bright blue as the healer did her work.
"I've stopped the bleeding and healed most of the damage. But the bullet is up against her spine, she won't be able to walk until a surgeon gets it out. I'm going to patch her up so that she can be moved without pain."
"When you get done with her, can you take a look at my ribs?" he asked. Kya glanced upward from her work, a smirk forming on her lips.
"Sure. But first you have to say it." John frowned.
"You know what, John." The firebender's frown deepened as Kya removed her blob of water and rolled Korra over. Korra looked back and forth between the two, expecting an explanation.
"That was forty years ago, Kya."
"Say it, or your ribs heal the natural way." John clenched his teeth in frustration.
"Fine! Izumi won the Pai Sho tournament."
"And the Sake drinking contest."
"And the firebending duel."
"I'm glad you remembered John, now say it." The firebender's face was red with frustration and anger.
"Damnit Kya, we don't have time for this."
"Say it." Kya replied as she crossed her arms. John sighed, realizing that there was no way he was getting out of it.
"Girls rule and boys drool, can you heal my God damn ribs now?" Kya flashed a smug smile of victory and satisfaction before she bent a blob of water onto John's exposed ribs, which had turned an ugly color of black and blue.
"It takes a brave man to admit his short comings John, I'm so proud of you," Kya said as she began her work. She was rubbing it in now, and John knew it. But that didn't mean that he was willing to let her off easily.
"I'm surprised you didn't mention the Truth or Dare game," he said calmly, as if he was giving a stranger the time of day. The reaction he got was exactly what he expected. Instantly the water that was in direct contact with his flesh turned to ice. Kya's eyes flashed a glare that was almost as cold as the ice she had just formed.
"Careful what you say John, you wouldn't want to upset your healer now would you?" she asked. John merely smiled at the threat.
"Finish the job in silence, and I won't embarrass you," he said as he cocked a defiant eyebrow. Although the look of anger continued in her eyes, Kya did as she was asked. When she was done, John lowered his shirt and took a breath. Relief filled him as he was able to breathe for the first time in hours without any pain.
Bending down, he picked Korra up and began to carry her bridal style toward the others. Korra had her arm around his neck, keeping herself propped up so that she was resting her head on his chest.
"I can hear your heartbeat," she said in a small voice. John looked down at her as he walked and took a moment to admire her beauty. Her battle with Unalaq and Vaatu had undone her usual ponytail, leaving her long hair to hang down on its own.
"There are a lot of people who would disagree with your claim of it's existence," he said. Korra shook her head to the best of her ability and smiled.
"They haven't seen what I've seen. You've got a good heart John, even if not very many people see it," she said, placing her hand on his chest as if to prove her point. John held her a little closer, savoring her warmth for another moment before he returned to serious mode.
"Extensive damage has been done to the foundation of the Tree. We need to repair it, and we need to repair it now," he said.
"What do you suggest?"
"Vaatu created the Portals in the first place, perhaps Raava has the ability to heal the damage that's been done," he said as they approached the group. Tenzin developed a look of concern on his face when he saw the Avatar's form cradled in John's arms.
"I'm alright, Tenzin." Korra said. The airbending master sighed in relief.
"If I'm not mistaken, this tear threatens the Tree's foundation," Tenzin said as he looked down into the Rift. John simply nodded.
"We need a spot for Korra to meditate, where would be the most spiritual spot be?" he asked. Tenzin turned his eyes toward the tree, or to be more specific, toward the large opening in the tree's heart.
"Follow me." He led the couple up into the hollow of the tree. All around the inner walls of the tree, various images appeared like reflections on the surface of a still pond. Some contained scenes of their adventures over the past year, yet others contained scenes from Korra's childhood.
"These are...my memories," Korra said in awe as she looked around the tree.
"In ancient times, monks use to meditate within this hollow to connect with the cosmic energy of the universe. The legends say that the roots of this tree bind the Physical and Spiritual worlds together," Tenzin explained.
"It does more than that. This tree is the linchpin of the Sixth World, the anchor that keeps this world in place. If it falls, the boundaries between worlds are gone," John said. Tenzin nodded in agreement.
"You think that the Avatar Spirit is enough to heal the damage that's been done?" he asked. John simply sat Korra down in the center of the hollow and steadied her into a meditating position.
"It's worth a try," he replied. Korra took a deep breath and closed her eyes. When she opened them again, the blue white light of the Avatar State had replaced her normal blue. After a moment of staring straight ahead in silence, she spoke.
"They are coming. You must stop them while we mend the Rift," she said, her voice mixed with the voices of all the Avatars. John frowned before he lept up into the entrance to the hollow. The others were gathered around the base of the tree, starring at a growing patch of darkness in the distance. Hundreds of dark spirits were shimmering into existence and charging toward the tree like a pack of feral animals. Drawing his revolver, the gunfighter began to ready himself for the fight that was coming in his direction. He had never faced this many dark spirits at once before.
"Alright everyone, defensive line! They do not reach Korra!" Tenzin, Mako, Bolin, and Kya took the front line, bending their respective element while Asami and Bumi stood in reserve with a pistol. John stood behind them all, guarding the entrance to the tree should any of the spirits make it past the others.
The wall of spirits slammed into the benders like a wave upon a rocky shore, but they forced them back with everything they had. Cracks filled the air as Asami fired her pocket revolver at a centipede like spirit that had slipped past the others and was coming straight for her. Her bullets did little more than anger the spirit.
Just when the heiress' pistol clicked empty, a loud bang filled the air, and the spirit vanished into a puff of smoke. Looking behind her, Asami saw John give her a sly wink as he lowered his revolver. But as she looked back toward the spirits again, his grin vanished. The spirits were close to overrunning them, and he knew it. Jumping down into the tree, he hurried over to Korra's side and took a knee next to her.
"Korra, Raava, whomever is in there, is there any way to speed this up? We're close to being overrun out here," he said. Korra turned her head toward him, but when she spoke, it wasn't her voice.
"The energy of the Portals is enough to help close the Rift, Jumper," the voice said. Like Vaatu's voice it was ancient and powerful, but female and not as menacing.
"How am I suppose to transplant Gate energy here?" he asked.
"You are a firebender are you not? Redirect the energy like you would a bolt of lightning," Raava said. John frowned as the sound of Mako releasing a lightning bolt reached his ears.
"Gate energy isn't like lightning, it won't work."
"You have the ability to manipulate matter, with this gift the energy will flow where you direct it."
"Korra took that ability from me months ago, I'm just a normal firebender."
"The ability to manipulate matter is never gone, only hidden," Raava said, echoing what Dante had said earlier. Turning to look back toward the battle outside, he focused on the nearest Portal. If Raava was right, their best chance of surviving this involved him reaching that Portal.
"If this kills me, make sure Korra knows that I love her," he said over his shoulder before he jumped into the thick of the battle, a yell bellowing from his throat. A snap of his fingers caused an explosion that cleared him some room to land, allowing him to run forward. Raising his revolver, he fired a shot at the closest spirit. The bullet passed through the spirit like it wasn't there, disintegrating it and several others behind it.
John ran forward, firing his gun again and again, killing more spirits as he went. When the gun clicked empty, he holstered it and drew his sword, slicing the head off of a spirit shaped like a wolf that was snapping at him in the process. Slicing, dancing, and hacking, John continued to make his way forward, killing anything that got within the range of his blade.
Finally, he broke free of the mob of spirits and sprinted at full speed toward the Portal. As he reached the base of the glowing pillar of light, he turned on the balls of his feet and threw his sword end over end straight into the face of a leaping spirit. The Spirit vanished, but several others were hot on its trail.
"I hope this works," he said to himself as he plunged his left arm into the Portal, all the way up to his elbow. Taking a breath against the tingling feeling on his skin, the firebender turned toward the Spirits and the Tree. He focused on guiding the energy of the Portal through his body like he would a bolt of lightning.
Planting his right foot, John extended his right arm, pointing his middle and index finger toward the tree. Instantly a swirling golden beam erupted from his fingers and streaked toward the tree. The horde of dark spirits instantly vanished, either destroyed by the energy or forced to flee by it. Only the roar of thunder filled his ears as the energy passed through his body.
But the longer he held on, the more uncomfortable he began to grow at the amount of energy passing through his body. It grew from uncomfortable to searingly painful. John screamed as the pain blinded him from everything else. The smell of burning clothing reached his nostrils, and he was vaguely aware of the pain in his arm growing.
Looking toward the arm that was submerged into the pillar of light, he watched with horror as his flesh from the elbow down turned black and then crumbled into ash. With that, he cut his connection wobbled a bit. His left arm was gone, he had burns across his chest and down his right arm, and most of his clothing and his jacket had been scorched into rags.
Half blinded by pain, he began to stumble his way back toward the tree, ignoring his fallen blade as he walked past. Finally, his legs gave out and he collapsed onto his back. High above, the pillars of light broke apart as Harmonic Convergence ended. For the longest time, he simply stared at the sky. Then his vision went white and he lost all feeling and conciseness.
"Am I dead? If this is Hell it's a lot better than I thought it would be." John couldn't see anything, only a blinding white light. Yet his body felt relief as all of his pain had vanished.
"You are not dead, my son." At the voice, twelve separate lines of people appeared before him, each one stretching off into the distance. He recognized many of them as Avatars. Aang, Roku, Kyoshi, all but Korra were present. In the line directly in front of him, he recognized his mother, Isabella. Behind her stood a young woman wearing an old Soviet uniform with bright red hair, his mother's past life he figured.
"If I am not dead, then where am I?" he asked. Isabella gave her son a warm smile.
"You are in a place between life and death. This is where all Avatars reside when their current incarnation seeks their guidance."
"I'm not an Avatar, why am I here?" he asked.
"You are here because we brought you here," Aang said.
"All of us, in one life or another, one form or another, has sought to uphold the boundaries between our worlds and the Spirit World. To be the bridge between the two, but never allow them to meet, this has always been our task," said an elderly man standing on Isabella's right.
"Now with the two Portals open, that task is at risk," Isabella finished.
"They must be closed if balance is to be insured," Aang added. John frowned in confusion.
"I don't understand, the Gates are located in the most barren and hostile conditions on the planet, and they lead to the most barren part of the Spirit World. There's got to be more to closing them then just letting a few spirits or nut jobs slip through."
"The Portals staying open don't just leave a pathway for Spirits and Man to interact, they keep all of the Gates open. Every natural doorway leading to and from the Sixth World will be forever locked open, allowing anyone or anything to pass through," Isabella explained.
John was conflicted as he ran the thought over in his head. Part of him wondered if it was truly right to close the Gates like they asked. This world had given him a second chance. How many others in need could be offered the same chance if the Gates were left open?
"Your father had that same look when he debated on this subject," Isabella said with a smile. John's eyes cast downward in shame at the mention of his father.
"I'm not the one you should have contacted. I dishonored dad's memory with the war, the weapons, all things that he would have disapproved of. I got people killed. Eve, Roland, Collin, Leon, they're all dead because of me," he said, his voice containing regret and bitterness.
"Your father was no stranger to doing what was necessary to survive, John. He knew better than most that no war is bloodless, and he would have understood why you did what you did. You forget that he fought wars of his own, often for the same reasons you did," Isabella said. The look on John's face showed that he didn't believe her.
"You fought for peace, and for the one you love. Liam helped end the Hundred Year War for these exact same reasons," Aang said.
"But he also fought to keep your world pure! He kept guns out of people's hands, weapons that would have tipped the scales so badly in one nation's favor that there was no way balance could be kept!"
"The world has changed since then, John. When your father first arrived, the fastest means of communication over great distances was by messenger hawk and only a candle could light up a house at night. Now the cities are powered by electricity, and messages are transmitted in an instant. Guns would have been developed regardless of your intervention, it was only a matter of time," Aang said calmly.
"War has always been human nature, John, regardless of what world you're in. You cannot keep blaming yourself for what comes naturally to Man," Isabella finished. John sighed. Perhaps they were right. They were Avatars after all, if anyone knew anything about mankind and war, it was them.
"What will you have me do?" he asked.
John's vision slowly began to clear, revealing Kya kneeling over him with a blob of water being held over her hands. He blinked once as he slowly began to realize that she was trying to heal him.
"Korra?" he asked weakly. Kya motioned over her shoulder toward where Tenzin stood with the Avatar cradled in his arms.
"She's okay, everyone's okay thanks to you," she replied with a smile. John groaned as he began to sit up, ignoring Kya's protests. He needed to see Korra, and prove to himself that he could still function at least somewhat on his own. The firebender wobbled back and forth like a drunk, and began to fall forward, but was caught by Mako before he could face plant in the dirt. With his arm around Mako's shoulder for support, they began to walk toward Korra.
"John, that has got to have been the most reckless thing you've ever done! You nearly destroyed yourself!" Tenzin reprimanded when they came to a halt. John looked down at the charred remains of his left arm with distant eyes. He still couldn't quite believe that it was gone.
"Not only that, but you actually got yourself killed! If Kya hadn't managed to restart your heart we would have lost you! What do you have to say for yourself?" John ran his words over in his head for a moment before he cracked a tired grin.
"I'm back, baby!" he said, unable to help himself. Korra's fist slamming into his face quickly erased any signs of smiling that he had. The firebender recoiled from the strike, almost falling again if it wasn't for Mako's support. As he regained his footing, he spat out a blood covered tooth.
"Darling, we really need to reach a point in our relationship that doesn't involve you knocking out my teeth or breaking my jaw," John said.
"You deserve more than that for scarring me like that," she said.
"I'm alive, you're alive, the Rift is shut, and Alexander is dead. I'd say this is a win," he replied.
"You lost an arm," Korra deadpanned. John glanced down at his missing limb again. His life just got a whole lot harder, and he knew it.
"I still got one good one to hold you with," he said, choosing to focus on the brighter side of things.
"Alright, enough chit chat! We got people here that need medical attention and we got a long way to go! Let's move out!" Bumi snapped. John couldn't help but smile as they began to walk toward the portal and the physical world. Despite all of his immaturity, Bumi was a great leader when he needed to be.
As they passed through the Portal and into the physical world, John took a moment to look around. The Northern Army that had surrounded the Portal had surrendered to members of the United Forces. Many of them now knelt with their hands tied behind their backs, under the ever watchful eyes of the victorious soldiers before them.
It was over. It was finally, truly over. He was bruised, battered, bloodied, and crippled. But he was free now. Free to do whatever he wanted. Looking toward Korra, he caught her blue eyes looking back at him. He gave her a small tired smile, and received one in return.
He knew exactly what he wanted, and nothing was going to stop him now.
Notes and Trivia
Born to Rise is the longest chapter in The Gunfighter.
For the collective works of the author, go here.