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|In the Beast's Lair|
3: Turned Tides
Air. Water. Earth. Fire.
After a long, fulfilled and yet exhausting life, Avatar Korra passed, being succeeded by Sari of the Earth Kingdom, who died early and didn't play a role in history.
The current Avatar is Asura of the Fire Nation, who mastered the elements quickly.
Although she thought she would never play an important role in history, she was proven wrong when the black ships arrived. The first one came in peace, but all the following carried a deadly load: WAR.
A war even the Avatar and her allies can barely end, one that threatens to end the worlds involved.
Now, more than ever, ending the war is urgent, for that for both sides it is either victory or death, for that this war could be the end of all of mankind.
Previously in Avatar: The War of the Worlds
On Avatara, Arzowa brings an end upon the Reich's occupation, on Earth, Operation Phoenix, especially Operation Wallenstein, fails horribly, which makes the Team wanting to stop the Führer personally, and in space, the European Space Fleet sinks the Fleets of Oceania, the Solar, 55 Cancri and CoRoT-7 Sectors. The Germania is ready to depart for its first mission as the "Destroyer of Worlds".
"Wie war das? 7.7 British Munition? In Fünfer-Ladestreifen?" the salesman asked the brown-uniformed customer in German, "How was that? 7.7 British ammunition? In five-round clips?"
"Ja, genau. Dazu noch .455 Webley patronen und, wenn's geht, Mills bombs." The - mummed - uniformed man replied in flawless German, "Yes, exactly. And some .455 Webley rounds and, if possible, Mills bombs."
"Ein wenig fokussiert auf Britische Zweit-Weltkriegs Waffen, meinen Sie nicht, Herr Gauleiter?" The salesman returned with a few packages, "Quite focussed on British Second World War weaponry, don't you think, mister Gauleiter?"
"Ich sage immer: den Feind mit ihren eigenen Waffen schlagen. Hat aber in Washington nicht ganz funktioniert." The mummed Man revealed a burn scar in his face, which the salesman examined a bit. "I use to say: defeat the enemy with their own weapons. Didn't really work in Washington though."
"Ja, ich seh's. So, das wär'n dann mal 200 Reichsmark," the salesman demanded, "Yes, I see that. So, that'd be 200 Reichsmark."
The mummed man nodded in thanks as he received the packages after having handed over the banknote. Just as he turned to the shop's exit, the shopkeeper cleared his throat, and thus, he stopped in his tracks and turned to face him again.
"Was halten Sie eigentlich davon, dass die Regierung Englisch benutzt, und nicht Deutsch?" the vendor asked, "What's your opinion about the fact that the government uses English instead of German?"
"Nun... Der Führer wird schon seine Gründe haben. Ich halt' mich da lieber raus," the Gauleiter answered. "Well... The Führer surely has his reasons. I don't want to interfere with that."
"Apropos... Morgen ist die erste Mission der Germania als Weltenzerstörer, werden Sie bei der Zeremonie dabei sein?" he trailed off, "Speaking of which... tomorrow is the Germania's first mission as the Destroyer of Worlds, will you attend the ceremony?"
The news troubled the uniformed one, but he maintained his expressionless face. "Sicherlich. Wie auch immer, auf Wiedersehen, und Sieg Heil!" he replied and bid farewell at once, "Surely. However, goodbye, and Sieg Heil!"
The man then left the enormous shop, and walked down the footpath at the street's side, greeting each and every one passing with the rise of his right hand and "Sieg Heil" accompanying it, only serving the purpose not to raise any suspicions. He'd been in Huston for almost a month now, and was astonished about most of the Nazi's accomplishments in the city. Not only had they forced everyone to speak German, but also had they rebuilt each and every building in colonial style. He soon had left the crowded central area of the metropolis, and entered the less-frequented outer parts of it, between the city centre and the suburbs. He began to sweat, but not because of the outside temperature - which was average for the oncoming October - or from exhaustion, but from the fact that he was wearing a mask, and thick clothes to make him seem corpulent. His chubby figure staggered to a gigantic estate's gate, which he unlocked before remembering it had been left open because he'd been to clumsy to close and lock it again in his attire. He swung it open and stepped through into the palace-like headquarters of his, everything in colonial style. He approached the house's, or rather, palace's portal, and knocked at it with his seemingly stubby fingers. It was opened immediately by a man wielding an ancient sword, threatening to cut through the (pretended) Gauleiter's throat, before recognising the man and sheathing the sword again, letting the chubby figure of his step in, closing and locking the door immediately afterwards. The Gauleiter took off his officer cap, as well as his brown coat, and hung both on a hat rack near the massive portal, before taking off his mask, the young face of the European Grand Admiral being revealed.
"Lads, you need to know something," was all he could say as he ascended the stairs, the Team having gathered below, "But first... Let me take off that ridiculous costume... "
As soon as the pot had been set at the trivert, the dipper landed in it, and the six plates around were filled with the hot five-flavour soup, though not by use of the dipper, but by Kiruya's waterbending. Mike, back in his usual uniform, decided to move the dipper he had brought back to a drawer in the surprisingly small kitchen. The dining hall, on the other hand, was huge, which proved the table's dimensions, which was almost impossible to grab only halfway across, which urged Luo to move the porcelain plates to their respective places with his earthbending. As Mike returned, they began to eat, and only shortly afterwards, a parallel conversation.
"So? What's the news you said you'd need us to know?" Zolu's casual and yet demanding tone made the Grand Admiral nervous, and he found it impossible to remain a calm tone. "Uh, yeah, so, er, that one..." he glanced around at the others, thinking, We could never make it in our current condition., finishing aloud, "...well, wasn't that important anyway. If it was, I'd said it right away."
Everyone took a simultaneous sip from their respective spoons. As they realised what had occurred, their eyes darted back and forth, before everyone let go of a laugh, and resumed eating the soup.
"Hey, that's really good, from all that sea prunes I didn't know that Water Tribe cuisine could actually taste like that!" Asura remarked, earning a glare from Kiruya, who decided to take it as a compliment, "Well... Thanks, I had to improvise."
After having paused their exchange for a minute, Malu couldn't hold it any longer, and burst out, "Spit it! What did you want to tell us?"
Mike's nervousness returned as she brought up the topic, and he began to sweat. "Well... it's just that I wanted to remark... how far German has spread around here?"
"First of all was that a question, and second were you lying. So, what are you hiding?" the always barefoot Metalbending Police officer shot at the Grand Admiral, who then had no other choice that to state the truth. However, not everything he'd originally intended to tell them. "Alright... You got me... The truth is, that... that Johnston has scheduled the Germania's first mission as the 'Destroyer of the Worlds' for this week. So, now it's out. We need to prepare ourse- "
"WHAT?!" everyone else in the room shouted, Zolu finishing, "Then why didn't you tell us straight away?"
"Because... 'cause I wanted to tell you after lunch. I just didn't want to ruin the illusion... " Mike's tone was apologetic, but did it little to lessen the others' astonishment and anger. "And you couldn't simply tell us that you wanted to say it later?!" Kiruya spoke what everyone thought.
Mike remained silent, as they all began to ponder about what they still had to do in the little time they had.
"Oh spirits... This week? I'm not even a fully-realised Avatar yet!" Asura stated in a helpless tone, earning Mike's attention - and confusion.
"What do you mean, you're not a fully realised Avatar? You're the master of the four elements, aren't you?" Mike's confusion was undeniable.
"Yes, sure, but there's more to being the Avatar than just that. It also has a spiritual side, especially the Avatar state which I still have to master..." Asura explained, giving the Grand Admiral an idea. "Avatar Asura, I will teach you from now on in that matter."
"Uh, Mike, don't you think we'd be more suited for it since we've got more knowledge about it?" Malu's confusion was even greater than Mike's.
"Maybe, but I doubt that anyone of you have such experience with human emotions like I have. Avatar Asura, if you accept my - well, more or less offer - I'd be most honoured to teach, to serve you."
Asura looked at the Grand Admiral who now kneeled before her alike commoners kneel before the Earth King, and pondered about what to do. Before long, she had decided, "Screw it! Sifu Přemysl, I'm honoured to have you as a teacher... "
Asura had followed Mike into his chambers, and waited for him as he made necessary preparations. She leaned on the wall, while he blocked the windows, ran across the gigantic room, closed the door, and placed two pillows on the floor. He then realised a little mistake of his, opened one of the blanket-reinforced curtains a few centimetres, just enough to let sufficient light in to see. He then stumbled through the room to take a candle he had prepared from a table, and then took out a utensil she had never seen him use before: a lighter. He blew dust off it, and then tried to light the candle, but instead, the flame exploded the little cloud of dust. The miniature explosion made Mike retreat from it, before he tried to light the wick, but the lighter only produced a flame that died down instantly afterwards. Annoyed, he struck the tool, and then made another attempt - in vain. An annoyed moan escaped Asura, before she shot a little precise fire-jab at the candle while Mike held it, lighting it almost instantly. Mike then calmed himself and proceeded, putting the candle into a candleholder he had positioned between the pillows. Then, he rushed to close his curtain again, and took seat at one of the pillows, gesturing Asura to take the other.
"Why all this effort?" Asura wondered as she crossed her legs in the process of sitting down.
"It keeps distractions out the best way possible. Distractions can ruin everything!" Mike stated plainly, then looking for reassurance, "You ready?"
The Avatar nodded, letting Mike start.
"To begin with, tell me everything you know about the Avatar state. I need to know what I should teach you."
"Well, there's not much to begin with... It's just that it's the Avatar's peak of power, but also only weakness. If killed as the Avatar state is active, the Avatar is destroyed, and ceases to exist. However, in the Avatar state, one is the most powerful, because... Well, because all the past Avatars' power and wisdom becomes available. Normally is it a defence mechanism, activated by great danger, or, usually, by certain emotions. However, as a part of the Avatar training, one learns how to enter it at will, anytime, anywhere. I was about to learn that, but then the war broke out... So, what have you got for me?" Asura elaborated, eager to learn.
"Well... let me think... " Thoughtfully, Mike spoke, pausing for a few minutes, before beginning anew, "Yes, that's it. Let me start at the beginning.... "
"We humans managed to travel faster than light, mankind developed ways of communicating with an equal speed, we actually did the impossible. We can understand most of the whole of cosmos, of the universe, and what may lie beyond, but there's one thing no one can really get. Human emotions. They are more complex than any theory about parallel universes and more confusing than all possible and impossible aspects of time-travel, and less predictable than where an electron might be around an atom's core. No one could possibly claim that they can actually understand them. They make us do things that might seem stupid, give us the ability to ignore physical pain when the mental one is greater, and they are impossible to control, am I right?"
Mike's words had yet to be completely comprehended by Asura, then she decided to answer, "I guess so...?"
"No. Only one emotion is impossible to control, or rather, to subdue. That one can cause all others, is the feeling of genuine happiness and unbelievable pain at once, love it is. But that doesn't matter. There is one emotion, the second most powerful, just after love, I believe, that is an ordinary human's Avatar state: rage. When enraged, one ignores pain, nay, lets it fuel the rage, and is enabled to use unbelievable strength. However, the pain is the fuel and, more importantly, the cost. Learn how to enrage yourself, and you will learn how to enter the Avatar state. I ask again, are you ready?"
The Avatar across him looked into the candle's flame, and then spoke, void of emotion, "Bring it on."
"Focus on yourself, only yourself and your perpetual inner turmoil. There are things you love, and those you hate. Gather both. Look inwards, and gather all that you hate, and all that you love. We all undeniably have things we hate, and those we love. Just... Look into yourself. Tell me what do you see?"
Asura had closed her eyes, her pulse and breathing rate rose, before falling rapidly. "I see... " She made a long pause. "The Team, I see the battles we fought... I see... Johnston. I'm seeing... " She trembled heavily, before breaking down, sobbing. "All those I killed!"
Mike was shocked, and yet, maintained a straight face, pulling Asura up. He looked her in the eyes and spoke coldly. "When you want to open the door to your peak of power, to rage, to the Avatar state, then you must abandon all means of morals in the process. They only hinder you. You've seen me in battle? I'm as cold as ice, and hard as steel. Because if I wasn't, I would've gone insane by now, trust me. I've killed thousands, thousands of people with their respective lives, their families, friends and everything! But... It's okay if you can't cope, it's a very intense process... " Mike decided to warm up a little and embraced her, whispering, "It's okay... "
As he released her, she looked him into the eyes, hers teary, before she straightened her back and a cold, expressionless face took hers over, and then she let Mike speak again. "Once you've abandoned all morals, look at all that you love. As I said before, gather it. Or rather, gather it alongside its opposite. Everything you hate... Now, imagine it invincible. The evil is invincible, convince yourself of that!"
Asura did as told, and her pulse and breathing rate shot up as she trembled heavily again, while a grim expression took over her previously calm face. She clenched her fists tightly and flames escaping them, with every breath she took.
"Now... the good, everything you love, can't stand up to the evil! Convince yourself of that all good, all you love is gone forever! Nothing can bring it back, nothing at all... Imagine it!"
The Avatar's body began to tremble heavier, her face darkening even more, the candle's flame erupting into a mighty fireball. She could feel her eyes reopening, Mike's look telling her she had done it, and she assumed control of her body, but then it began aching in her heart, deep down, signalling her something wasn't right in any way. The pain became unbearable, and the brief glow of the eyes of hers ceased, the she cried out loudly, tears following, "I CAN'T!"
"What do you mean you can't? Imagine it all gone!" Mike's confusion was greater than before at the words.
"I simply can't!"
"But why? Why can't you imagine all that you love gone?"
Asura, lying on the floor, gathered her strength and courage to sit upright and speak, slightly sarcastic, "Maybe it's because all that I truly love is ordering me to do so!"
Astonishment washed over Mike's face, his jaw dropped, before he put himself together again, and asked Asura innocently, "Then why didn't you tell me?"
Asura didn't respond verbally, but by running out of the room, leaving Mike alone once again. "Why can't I for once get human interaction right?" he shouted, angry with himself, letting himself fall on the floor, where he remained, contemplating his mistake, before realisation struck him. I haven't told them the mission is tomorrow!
The whole Team was gathered around the table again, for dinner, all but one. Mike was the missing one. The huge table, heavily decorated with ornaments, was made from some expensive tropical wood, Zolu found as he, bored to death, examined it, waiting for Mike. His sister, on the other hand, seemed pleased that he hadn't showed up yet. Zolu noticed that, and leaned towards her, asking curiously, "So... What exactly did you learn from our Mister-know-it-all?"
Asura turned away from him, and remained silent, which then made Malu curious of what had happened. "Why won't you tell him?" she asked innocently and yet putting pressure in her tone.
The Avatar then wanted to stand up and leave the room to escape from revealing anything, but a large, strong hand hindered her, a hand that only Luo could have. "Sit, pupil, and speak," were his only words. She became nervous, and her eyes started darting back and forth. Kiruya had only observed it from the distance as she carried the pot of whatever she had decided to cook, but as she now sat, her interest for the happenings began to increase. "C'mon, just tell us!"
Asura's pulse increased above all former levels as she could feel someone walking down the stairs, and she shot up and spun around, hitting Luo in the side with a fire-jab, before she tried to escape through the kitchen Kiruya had just left, but a strong wind of Malu's knocked her into the wall, Kiruya freezing her to the wall with the water she quickly pulled from thin air. She would've broken it, but the three of her former masters, alongside her brother, approached her, Luo shouting in her face, "What was that for?"
She would've shouted back at her former teacher. She could've done it. "Step out of the way," was all she could say. Mike had just entered the room, and Luo stood between the two. She inhaled deeply before releasing it in fiery form. The massive blast sped towards Mike, but Kiruya and Malu combined their powers to stop the flame from reaching the Grand Admiral, who confusedly stumbled out of the way. Being busy with Mike, Asura took the chance to break free and ran. As they noticed her leaving at the speed of light, Zolu found, looking at Mike, "Now I really want to know what happened up there."
Mike shook his head as he replied. "No, you don't, trust me."
He took a seat and sat on it, took his plate, leaned over the table to reach the pot, and poured some kind of stew into it, sat again and began to eat his portion of stewed sea prunes, deciding to drink it rather than to use his spoon. After only a minute, he had finished and left the room rather hastily, heading upwards as well. Only five minutes later, when everyone had finished their meal, rather pressed so by hunger than by the meal's taste, Asura came to sit by them, and took the pot, downing it within a few seconds, before Mike entered. He didn't take his seat, but remained standing in the doorway, Asura glaring at him. When he was sure that he had the Team's undivided attention, he cleared his throat, and then spoke. "You must know that, in reality, there is no good and evil, the world isn't black and white, not evil and good, nor wrong and right, that's all just subjective... And I believe that lying, or rather, not telling information of utmost importance, is most widely considered wrong... And is something I have done, thus you could say I have done you wrong... I told you that Johnston's crazy plan starts next week. Well, technically, that wasn't lying... But it sure was quite dishonest. Today is Sunday, as you might have noticed, and tomorrow, Johnston will take off to observe the Germania's first mission. We must act tomorrow, tomorrow morning. We mustn't rely on someone else's help, we came here to take matters into our own hands, and that we must do tomorrow. I apologise for having wronged you, and beg your forgiveness, especially yours, Avatar Asura." The Team was astonished as Mike walked over to Asura, and deeply bowed before her, even addressing her with her title.
"I apologise for the attack before, I truly had not wanted that... And I think we should all get ready, if it truly is tomorrow," Asura calmly spoke for the others, and then pulled Mike close, whispering into his ear, "...but that doesn't mean I accept your apology."
She then let go of Mike, who bowed another time before her, the walked towards the doorway, bowing before the whole Team, and then speeding up the stairs.
"Well, Space Sword won't whet itself..." Zolu stated as he got up and left the room as well, Malu, Luo and Kiruya leaving at once, under the excuse of training together, leaving Asura alone in the room. She sighed, got up, and then decided to wash the dishes, being the last one. After the few minutes it had taken her, she decided it was time to check on her abilities. She opened a sliding door that lead into the garden of the estate, and stepped out. She closed her eyes and kicked out, creating a massive stream of fire. A satisfied grin formed, before she jumped as high as she could, enabled by her airbending to jump to one of the estate's ponds, whose surface she froze in a form so she could glide down on the ice, straight to its bank. After that, she shot herself up again, with an earth column this time, and landed again before the sliding door. Satisfied with herself, she allowed herself to open her eyes.
The Lee-Enfield laid to the uniform's left side, Mike sitting to its right, ammunition for both his guns, a whetstone and his bayonet lying before him. He was busy assembling the ammunition into clips for both firearms, and subsequently stuffing them into the ammunition pockets of his uniform. He had become relatively experienced in that activity a long time ago, therefore it took him a little amount of time to having finished it, and then he went to attaching the hand grenades of his to his uniform for transport. As he had finished it, he took his rifle, and pulled out the bolt and began to clean the parts accessible from the momentarily exposed area. This was when Asura knocked on the doorframe, as the door was widely open.
"What is the purpose of your visit?" Mike's voice was cold as he put down the rifle, and turned to face Asura.
"I came to ask you a question," she answered his formal question as he returned to cleaning the bolt, and found it clean enough to assemble the rifle again, before remembering to clean the barrel as well. Asura, however, began elaborating, "When you helped me to overcome my parents' death, you said something that the hole your loss left behind was filled, and, well... I kinda felt the same way. But your actions today made me question that. So, I must ask you now... Do you love me?"
Mike dropped the firearm he was about to reassemble, and turned around again to face her. He seemed uncertain about that, and trembled slightly, sweating as well. "Well... Yes... No. Er, I... I don't know!"
Asura was greatly shocked, and replied in an equally sounding voice, "How can you not know?"
"Because one moment it feels like our love is undying, and the next I feel like a rift has formed between us, forever dividing us... It's complicated!" Mike gestured to support his talking, and spoke as-a-matter-of-factly. Asura found his reply rather insufficient. "Tell me when you've made up your fucking mind," she hissed as she turned around and left the room, and Mike once again mentally defeated. He took the bolt and thrust it into place, before changing into pyjamas and turning off the light. Then, he forced himself not to collapse at the spot and tell himself how stupid his recent actions were, and instead walked up to his bed, where he then closed his eyes, sometime later drifting off into uneasy sleep. Compared to what Asura had done to him mentally, the next day's task seemed almost harmless, he assumed. But he should be proven dead wrong.
Notes and Trivia
- Actually, the A Lesson section was intended to be of greater length than all others, but it didn't really work out that way...
For the collective works of the author, go here.