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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 consume the worlds involved.
And the question everyone asks is: Will there still be a world, a mankind to save?
Previously in Avatar: The War of the Worlds
Mike tells Asura about the true dimensions of her duties, for whose fulfilment she needs guidance. Meanwhile, the Dai Li and the Fire Nation prepare to take over Ba Sing Se.
Crown Prince Rong walked through the corridors of the enormous palace Ba Sing Se had, until he came to the massive door behind which laid the throne room. All present servants and guards were conspirators like the Crown Prince himself, and opened the immense door for him. He walked in fast paced, and as the door closed after him, all of the servants and guards hurried out of the room. His father, Earth King Ruyi, and he himself were alone now. No one to aid either, but one of them certainly wasn't in need of aid. The old earthbender who had begun his career as an inhabitant of the Lower Ring and fought his way up in the Civil War looked his son into the eyes and spoke, "I demand to know the reason behind your surprising visit, Crown Prince!"
Speaking sadistically, Rong answered, "Can't one simply visit their father nowadays?"
Unbeknownst to both, a third one was watching and listening, garbed in the uniform of a warrior, and an emerald cloak over it. Her eyes widened in fear when the Crown Prince added, "...a last time."
The Earth King, too, knew why he had added these words, and rose from his throne, shouting, "You want my throne?! Come and get it!"
"As you wish, your former majesty..."
A bullet was metalbent at the monarch, but he avoided it and answered with an earth pillar, which was crushed just when it breached the surface of earth. A rock glove soon covered Ruyi's mouth, but he, the Earth King, personified the Earth Kingdom: steady and strong. He refused to give in and quickly rose three boulders which he kicked at his son. One of them hit him in the stomach and caused the royal to fly back a dozen of metres. While the Earth King removed the rock glove from his face, the Crown Prince prepared an attack of his own. With great power, he ripped off the metal from the throne, and hit his father from behind. The latter submerged himself into earth and struck the conspirator from below with multiple pillars of earth. When he jumped out of it, he was met by a fist of rock mid-air, and was thrown backwards at the battered throne. A few of his vertebrae cracked when they met the hard surface, and he could barely get up. When he had, he only saw his son, blood dripping off his chin, as he rose an immense boulder. In a last attempt to stop it, he rose his hands and caused a mere crack before it crashed down on him. Bone were shattered, the whole organism was bruised as the rock left a crater on the ground. Rong narrowed his eyes at the sight and turned his back to it, as, coming from above, someone jumped just behind his back. His sister Shen-Lin. He felt the katana's point at his back, its wielder trembling with horror.
"Where do you think you're going, Rong? Murdering your own father, you scum of a brother!"
Rong stopped and even let doubt come into his mind, but then he decided to forget the thought of doubt and rose an earth pillar beneath his sister. She jumped and managed to cut her brother's cheek before she hurried outside the palace, to get to her home as fast as possible.
Mike sat before the radio unit, listening to reports of the Earth Kingdom Air Force and its meteorological service, which forecasted slight rain for the northern parts of the city on next day's afternoon, but Mike didn't believe any of it. Not a single cloud could be seen from the garden they had assembled the radio unit when someone knocked at the door nervously. Mike rose from his lying position in which he had spent the day in. Asura was meditating in the temple he had shown her, Zolu was somewhere else in the Upper Ring searching a bathhouse with Malu as a reconnaissance unit, Luo was strolling around the temple while Kiruya guarded it, only Shen-Lin's whereabouts were unknown to him. As he walked barefoot through the dining and living room towards the door, a last few knocks as if coming from a dying one could be heard, and Mike's eyes widened as he caught sight of Shen-Lin cowering just before the door, sobbing. Her whole body shook while tears flew down her horrified face - Mike knew such reactions all too well. He had witnessed them twice already, and he knew what it meant, so he tried to comfort the horrified, wincing girl. He helped her up and inside and embraced her tightly. The two remained in that position for a few minutes until Shen-Lin let loose and Mike asked, "How did it happen?"
Shen-Lin looked baffled, but, still with teary eyes, answered, "Rong - Crown Prince Rong, my brother... He... crushed Ruyi... my father, our father, I mean, with... a boulder... "
As she remembered it, more tears than before flew down her cheeks and shortly thereafter, Mike's back when he held her again, and the two began to talk. Hours passed swiftly as Mike comforted her and helped her to partly overcome the issues, as he already had done once, with his former girlfriend, Anna Visconti. They had finished their talk when night began to fall, and all others except for two returned to the house. These two were Kiruya and Asura, who still were at the temple, but considering they were a waterbending master and the Avatar, the Team decided not to worry about them.
On the next day, just after noon, Shen-Lin was listening to incoming reports from all sides of the Earth Kingdom Air Force so she didn't have to think about her father and his demise, when one of them, more a call for help, caught her attention.
"District forty-two. Request immediate reinforcements to fend off enemy fighter aircraft, I repeat. Under heavy fire over district forty-two of the Upper Ring, requesting immediate reinforcements, being overwhelmed by enemy fighters. Private Li, over."
Shen-Lin's eyes widened when she heard the call. The skies over Ba Sing Se had been silent for the past two weeks, and now, at the beginning of September, the Fire Nation was striking. She took off the headset and laid it to the radio as she walked fast-paced through the house, catching Mike's attention.
"Going to get Asura?" he guessed, before Shen-Lin pulled his ear so he would follow her, answering, "No, fending off a Fire Nation attack! Look at the sky!"
Once they had left the building and taken seat in the car, Mike leaned out of the window and took a look at the skies. To the north, thick, dark clouds moved in, ready to deliver whatever they carried, and from all other sides, Fire Nation fighter and transport aircraft flew in formation. Few to no Earth Kingdom resistance encountered the aeroplanes as they loomed over Ba Sing Se and neared their destination steadily. After half an hour, Mike and Shen-Lin sat in their respective jet fighter's cockpits and taking off when the reason for the little resistance revealed itself. Agents in long, emerald robes took out the personnel of the airfield as the aeroplanes ascended into the skies, headed to the Agrarian Zone to fend off the bulk of the enemy Air Force, and found themselves flying in the rain - of paratroopers. Fire Nation paratroopers descended around them as the jet fighters raced through to the Agrarian Zone, one very well-known aiming a lightning at them. The bolt blasted the air between them and could have easily exploded either aircraft, but it seemed like the bender who had shot the lightning had missed on purpose. No glance back was needed for both to know the bender's identity, who was the Crown Princess of the Fire Nation, and was not possible as of then, since they were flying as high as the engines could take them, and when they descended again, the Legion's camp was below them and the Legion as a whole going into imprisonment, guarded by the mightiest battalion of the Earth Kingdom army, the 501st. After a few minutes of flight, they could witness Fire Nation tanks advancing over the fields, being followed by motorised and mechanised infantry, which all streamed through a breach in the mighty Outer Wall, which had been breached a third time. This was when a squadron of fighters behind them noticed their two fighters and hurried to shoot them down. The two of them saw no other option than to make use of their speed and hide in the mighty cloud that loomed over northern Ba Sing Se. When the aircraft entered the dark entity, their pilots figured out just what kind of mistake they had made, when snow stormed through it and fell down onto the earth whilst lightings shot between clouds and surface and within the clouds as well. Only two of the enemy squadron kept pursuing the Buffalo Squadron, but in that cloud, none truly had an opportunity to strike the other when they could see only a few mere meters and the instruments began to freeze. Mike had only little, Shen-Lin no experience with such situations, and the two Fire Nation pilots seemed to have even less experience with it.
"Seriously? Snow?!" Mike asked rhetorically when he had found out why the cockpit was slowly freezing, "I mean. it's September!"
An audience of another kind
"What have you come for?" the First asked Asura surprisingly irritated. Asura had waited hours, if not even days, to speak to her past life and now she had managed it, her previous incarnation refused. She was a brown-haired girl garbed in brown and red, a slightly rusty armour covering her torso, her curly hair bound in a ponytail, two swords resting on either side of her body, and a dagger in between. Her face was dotted with freckles, her legs covered in rough, brown trousers, and her feet bare - Asura would have believed she was a mercenary if she had not reached her the way she had. Asura gathered her courage and answered.
"I am Avatar Asura, and I have come for guidance- "
"Why haven't you said it at the beginning? I'm Sika, and happy to know someone needs my guidance. So, what would you need?" the First cut her current incarnation off mid-sentence in much friendlier way.
Asura rose and eyebrow at the interruption, or rather at the way she said it.
"You wonder why I was so friendly now?"
"Yeah, it would be nice to know if the person I am speaking to is sane or not!"
"Well, I'm certainly not sure about that, but the reason for my unfriendliness- "
"Is that even a proper word?"
"Not sure. Still, the reason is that a total of twelve Avatars have, in all eternity since I died, have chosen to speak with me. Some just to show how much pain they could endure. Some of them just so that they could boast with the fact that they had spoken with the first Avatar. And then there were four who had no other choice than to use my so-called wisdom. And then there's you. You're the thirteenth, and you have truly come for guidance? Very well. I didn't live too long like certain Earth Kingdom Avatars and didn't end a world war at a premature age after running away because of selfishness like a certain Air Nomad Avatar, nor... y'know, there isn't much I can do. But I will give my best piece of advice I can give."
Asura looked at her previous life and noticed that she had to have died younger than she herself was now, and her eyes widened - with the reason unbeknownst. She only could stutter.
"I- I didn't- I didn't know this, s-sorry, I really- "
"Now what do you want? I have plenty of time, but I guess you don't."
"O-Okay, alright. So, there's this guy travelling with me who has seen pretty much half of the - how does he call it? Galaxy? - yeah, galaxy and who told me that I would be responsible for all of it - it consist of hundreds of worlds like this! I'm not sure if I can bear all of this... responsibility."
Silence fell for what seemed to be an eternity until Sika rose her voice again.
"I know exactly what you mean. When I was revealed as the Avatar, I was shocked. I could barely imagine the size of the realm I grew up in, and from ancient prophecies I knew of the Avatar's responsibilities - to the world. I couldn't even imagine the sheer size of it. But when I travelled across it, and made friends everywhere I went, my confidence grew. I won't tell you my story though, it'd be too long, there surely is time another day. So, where was I? Right, the advice for you... As I said before, there is indeed little advice I can give you, so I hope it helps - and satisfies you... "
"Uh, yeah, ah, well, right. The advice."
"And? I'm still waiting!"
"Always, no matter what happens, where you are and what the odds are - always believe in yourself, you, and only you are the Avatar and you can do it! Not to forget, of course, trust your friends, because some of them might know the threat you are encountering better than you. And also, you can make friends everywhere - you only must search them. And then, last but not least, there is no enemy that cannot be overcome. So, that's all. Everything I can tell- "
Asura looked exasperated at the first of her kind. Sheer rage boiled within her. She hadn't come all this way, endured all this pain, only to hear what she had already known.
"Are you serious?" she began relatively calm.
"Yes, why shouldn't I- W
"Really? I've come all this way, endured all this pain, just to hear this?" she rose her voice as she neared the sentence's end.
"As it seems- "
"Shut up! I've heard something I already knew before, and come all this way to hear it? Really?! I mean, seriously?!" her voice sounded enraged, and her eyes lit up shortly before someone put her hands on her shoulder. Kiruya had come inside to ensure her own safety, and to inform Asura of something of utmost importance. Sika, still present as a spirit, looked, as much as a spirit could, scared and, too calmed and seated herself cross-legged again. When Asura was calm enough to listen again, Kiruya spoke.
"I'm not really sorry to interrupt your eruption of fury, but there's something important. Fire Nation planes all over the city, Dai Li agents taking out the defence and securing the palace, and the 501st opening the gates for the Fire Nation ground forces by capturing the Legion as a whole. Ba Sing Se is being overrun. Interested in the war her current incarnation fought, Sika leaned forward and cleared her throat.
"Air force? Warfare truly advanced since my time, eh? I believe I shall observe the mortal world as a spirit, though. Asura, farewell. Looking forward to the next time."
Kiruya watched as Sika's spirit merged into Asura's body, and the current Avatar moced again from her position to the door.
"So, how do we get home again?"
The ice cold mists blocked every sight, and Mike wasn't the only one trying to get down. Since the radio contact with Shen-Lin had been interrupted - for good, as it seemed, Mike hadn't heard anything of the two fighters which had pursued them. Shen-Lin was trying to get home as fast as possible. He was on his own, and didn't see a thing except the frozen cockpit. His breath was visible and froze the glass even more, though he tried to scratch it off repeatedly in the past half hour, but now he was searching a way down. The barometer's index was frozen and he had lost every means of orientation, so he decided to speed up. When the temperature began to rise again, he saw that at least the last unfrozen instrument of his was good for something, and followed the warmth. Soon, he could make out colours and shapes through the heavy snowfall. Soon thereafter, when he was a few hundred metres above the rooftops, the two fighters which had pursued him and Shen-Lin came into sight, and he intended to fire, but did he not realise that he was too close and too fast to do so. He tried to evade the first one, but his right wing had other plans and hit the enemy aircraft in the engine, whose following explosion cut off the wing. Mike had noticed the second fighter below, but did he have other problems now. After shooting down the first fighter with his left wing, his own nosedived spiralling and shaking heavily. Mike had little control over it, and knew that he would crash into the second fighter, and so he made preparations. He had his rifle ready, and shot the cockpit cover open with the revolver he carried, and hit it hard enough for it to separate itself from the aeroplane. Opening the safety belt, Mike readied himself to jump into the next tree he found, and did so above a backyard near theirs. His fighter crashed into the Fire Nation one and, as one, the two crashed into the house below. Mike fell down at a thick branch which he tried to hold himself on, but failed and continued to fall down. He hit a few other, smaller branches, but managed to land on his feet when soil was the next station. Without thinking much, he ran through the house the backyard was behind, and out on the street. There, a camouflaged car almost hit him if he had not jumped back. As soon as the driver had noticed him, he was being carried into the car's back by Kiruya, who seemingly had left Asura temporarily. As he sat himself upright on the back bench, he noticed Dai Li agents chasing them and shooting earth pillars out of the soil. Few of such caught the car, but it was built to withstand even mines, so they did little to change its course. When they had reached their home, Mike found out how Shen-Lin had avoided to be captured during landing, as her jet fighter still was blocking half of the street. Shen-Lin drifted after passing said aircraft, and made possible for someone to hop on the car. Mike was too weak to bother, and was surprised to see Luo with provisions seating himself beside him, having entered through the window. After having fully turned around due to the fresh snow, Shen-Lin sped up to get to the temple as fast as possible.
"Why the temple?" asked Mike when he had found out where they were headed to, receiving an answer from Shen-Lin immediately.
"Because from there, centuries-old tunnels connect with sewers and lead to an airfield, where we possibly have the possibility to get a flight out of here, or get us one on our own."
The car arrived at the old structure, every of the passengers getting out, heading for the entrance.
"Well, I just noticed I only have five rounds for the Lee-Enfield and twelve for the Webley left," stated Mike as he entered the massive building slightly limping. The others shot him glares before Luo closed his eyes to rely more on his seismic sense and hit the stone floor with his bare foot to slowly rise a huge slab in the building's centre. Just when he had half opened the passage into the sewers, a bullet hit the slab, while emerald-clad agents broke through the roof and a red-robed and armoured woman landed before the company of Fire Nation soldiers who approached the temple. Luo crushed the agents into each other with his metal cables and so, bought some time for the rest of the Team. Kiruya was the most unfortunate of all, she was standing by a certain wooden box at the wall and being approached by two agents who seemed to be out of Luo's range. Mike, having loaded his rifle in the meantime, shot it twice before the agents could reach the Water Tribe woman, and made her see that Mike, still somewhat limping, waited for her to jump into the tunnel. Shen-Lin was the only other of the Team who had not entered it, and currently was fending off Dai Li agents with her katana and her shuriken. Kiruya still thought about the artefact she was observing, one that was centuries of age and historical more than important. Her most famous ancestress - Katara - had it used once, and it had been refilled.
"C'mon already, hop in!" Mike cried through the heat of battle while elbowing a fallen Dai Li who arose again. Kiruya shook her head and took the amulet, putting it in a bag of hers, hurrying to the hole. Mike, too jumped in and left Shen-Lin as the last standing in the temple, until Crown Princess Arzowa entered.
"Long time no see, eh..." Shen-Lin stated out of breath, remarking her former friend's arrival.
"Indeed. Though, I'm sorry... it's not the time to strike yet, considering that I'm leading the Fire Nation occupation of Ba Sing Se. I cannot just let you go, nor can I bluntly kill you," she stated swiftly. Time was short, and she didn't want to be discovered as a traitor - not yet. Shen-Lin knew what was coming and awaited it. As anticipated, Arzowa shot a small blue flame at her ankle. Shen-Lin cried out in pain and stumbled backwards, right into the hole leading into the tunnel, which Luo closed immediately afterwards. Their journey continued as Shen-Lin gave the direction, before, when dusk replaced the evening, she broke down in the sewers. She cowered at a wall of the underground network of tunnels and began to cry. Everyone stopped in their tracks and turned around to see her ankle burnt and her eyes filled with tears, her sobbing resonating all around in the sewers. When everyone moved to her to help her up or similar, she shooed them away.
"Please, leave me! I'm just slowing you down, and I won't leave my people here to suffer! Please, just do yourself a favour and leave me!"
"Shen! Princess Shen-Lin of the Earth Kingdom! You are coming with us, whether you slow us down or not! Let us help you!" Kiruya shouted at the royal, who only continued to yell, "Go! I'm slowing you down!"
A few hours had passed since they had left Shen-Lin and they were at their destination she had suggested. Forming a waterspout, Kiruya shot up to a duct cover and lifted it with her waterbending. Following her were the rest of the Team, who found themselves just before their getaway: a mighty triple-engined military transport aircraft, armed with three pairs of machine guns mounted in cupolas. They climbed in and assumed their respective positions. Mike as the pilot, Malu having the position of the co-pilot, Kiruya as the radio operator, and the rest manning the machine guns. When Mike started the engines, every one of them knew, this trip out of Ba Sing Se was going to be hell.
Notes and Trivia
- Yes, Ba Sing Se has just fallen a second time. Now the last remaining strongholds are the Southern Air Temple archipelago and the Water Tribes.
For the collective works of the author, go here.