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|More from DrachenRitter42||Drama/Action||PG||Here|
22 AUG 2015
A ship was readied for the group the following day. As they prepared to set sail, Tenzin, Lin, Asami, Mako and Bolin waited at the bottom of the gangplank, and Naga sat on her haunches next to them.
Korra hung back, facing towards the little group of people who had come to see her off, which included her parents and Katara. She smiled, but it was still difficult.
"Korra," Senna asked, looking worried, "are you sure you're going to be all right?"
- "I'll be fine, Mom," she said, trying to make her tone reassuring. She hugged her parents, and then turned to Katara. "Thanks for everything, Katara."
Katara looked somber, but she nodded.
- "I'm sorry I couldn't do more for you," Katara said, "but I'm glad you're feeling all right."
Korra shook her head.
- "No, I'm really not. "All right" is going to take some time. But I am feeling better. Besides, there's hope yet."
Katara finally did smile, and pulled the feisty airbender into a quick hug.
- "Stay out of trouble, all right?" she said.
- "No promises," Korra grinned, "but I'll try."
Tenzin appeared relieved as he watched his young charge hoist her bag over her shoulder and quickly pet the flank of the big polar bear dog, before she stood and the pair started climbing the gangplank. After bidding good-bye to his mother and Korra's parents, Tenzin followed, and so did the others.
Soon, the ship set sail, back to the North, towards Republic City.
It was a long trip, and that evening the group sat in comfortable chairs around a comfortable lounge inside the ship. Lin and Tenzin were off to one side, engrossed in a serious discussion about the currently precarious political situation in the wake of the Anti-Bending Revolution, and what would happen to the Republic next. Meanwhile, Korra, Mako and Bolin were listening attentively to Asami as she described her plans to take the reins of Future Industries and try to turn the company around.
Korra herself wasn't sure yet what she would do. But she was glad for Asami, whom she considered a friend, and wished her luck.
"And what about you guys?" Asami asked, turning to Mako and Bolin.
- "Well," Mako started to say slowly, "I was thinking...no, never mind, it's stupid.
- "What?" Korra asked. "Come on, spill it. Promise I won't laugh."
- "Yeah, Mako," Asami insisted. "Let's hear it, what are you planning?"
- "Well, I was thinking of applying to join the Republic City police," Mako said.
- "You? A cop?" Korra asked. "That's...actually, that's not stupid at all."
- "You think so?" Mako asked, and Korra lightly punched him in the shoulder, making him wince.
- "No, I'm just saying that," Korra replied sarcastically, rolling her eyes, eliciting amused chuckles from Asami and Bolin. Korra continued to say "Of course I think so. And I think you'd do great. Right, Chief?"
She glanced over her shoulder at Lin Beifong, who'd stood up and was walking past them. Lin looked critically at Mako.
- "Maybe," she said curtly. "Just don't expect your girlfriend to win you any favors."
Mako's face flushed scarlet as he tried to stammer an embarrassed reply, which caused Korra to burst out laughing. Bolin laughed as well, and even Asami, though to Korra it seemed just a bit forced, and she wondered again whether Asami might be jealous of her relationship with Mako.
Lin scoffed and continued walking, looking irritable. As the laughter died down, Bolin slouched in his seat and sighed.
- "Man, this sucks," he said, staring at the ceiling.
- "What is it, bro?" Mako asked.
- "Well, I was hoping we'd take another shot at the championship next year. But you're gonna go off and be a cop, so I guess the Fire Ferrets are history."
- "Bolin..." Mako warned, as the smile slid from Korra's face. Bolin saw her downcast expression and sat up again, as he realized the unfortunate implications of his statement.
- "Oh man, Korra, I'm sorry. I didn't..."
- "I know," she said hollowly. "But hey, nothing's stopping you from taking that shot for us, right? I'll be cheering from the audience."
An uncomfortable silence fell over the group, and after a while, Korra announced that she was stepping out on deck for some air.
When Mako made his way out to the deck to look for Korra, he found her sitting cross-legged on top of the cabin, looking out to sea with a distant expression on her face. The moon was full, and cast a kind of dim, silver glow over everything. Korra did not seem to have noticed him, or at least did not react to his presence.
He looked around, but couldn't find any kind of stairway, ladder, or any means for him to get up to where she was sitting, so he stayed where he was, watching. She sat perfectly still, and it was several minutes before she finally stirred, looking down at where he stood.
- "How's Bolin?" she asked flatly, but Mako heard genuine concern in her voice.
- "Still beating himself up over upsetting you," Mako replied. There was nothing accusatory in his tone, but Korra still flinched. "You know he didn't mean anything, right?"
- "Yeah," she said. "Still, it's kind of...it's hard. Being in the tournament - hanging out with you guys, it was some of the most fun I've had in my life, and now I don't know if I'll ever get that back. What Amon did to me..."
Mako didn't know what to say, so he didn't say anything. He just listened.
"After what he did to me...I feel...broken," Korra continued. "I don't want to sound selfish, but what he took away from me...Sometimes I think I'm never going to get it back."
- "You're wrong, you know," Mako said. "No matter what he took away from you, there are things that he can't take away. That nobody can."
"You're probably the strongest person I know. And that hasn't changed, no matter what he did to you. Hell, he almost did the same thing to me. If it weren't for you, he would have."
- "Katara's the best healer in the world, and she couldn't do anything to help me. She couldn't heal what Amon did to me," Korra said bitterly. "And this...I don't know if it's even going to work."
- "You won't know until you try," Mako said firmly, his tone reassuring. "And I'll be there with you every step of the way. And so will Bolin, and Asami – all of us. And I'll bet that if there's anyone who can help you, it's Tenzin."
Korra stood and jumped down, landing so lightly that her feet barely made a sound as she hit the deck. Then she hugged him tightly, and he felt her rest her head on his shoulder. He wrapped his arms around her, and they stood there, on the deserted deck.
"Thanks, Mako," she said quietly. She kissed him lightly, and then walked away, towards the stern where Naga lay quietly sleeping. She could have returned to her quarters on the boat, but she didn't feel like it. Instead, she curled up against the warm, furry flank of the big animal, and soon enough fell asleep right there.
The trip continued without further incident, and soon they arrived back in Republic City at last, and Korra bade Asami, Mako and Bolin good-bye before boarding the ferry to Air Temple Island, which awaited them at the dock.
Tenzin informed her that they would begin training the following day.
- "I can't wait!" she commented enthusiastically, punctuated by a booming bark from Naga.
As eager as Korra was to begin her training, she wasn't sure exactly what Tenzin had in mind to help her with her spiritual issues, so she didn't know what to expect. Much to her disappointment and annoyance, the following morning found her standing opposite Tenzin in front of a kind of large gazebo off the courtyard, where he informed her that meditation would form a significant part of her new training regimen.
"Meditation and breathing exercises are a method for clearing your mind," Tenzin lectured, "which is a vital first step in being able to establish and deepen one's connection with one's spiritual self."
Korra scoffed, her expression skeptical.
- "No offense Tenzin, but this sounds kind of familiar," she said. "Oh right, you said the same thing about airbending. What was it... 'Let your mind be free,' right?"
- "That is true," Tenzin said, nodding. He was surprised that Korra had remembered, and a little impressed. "Such a mindset is key to airbending. You should know that the Air Nomads were a highly spiritual people, and without exception were all airbenders - a high degree of spirituality was, and is, essential to airbending."
- "Yeah, I know," Korra said, rolling her eyes. She had heard these lectures before, and they hadn't done her any good then. She wasn't sure it'd do any good now. But she was willing to try anything if it meant there was a chance, however slim, of restoring what was taken from her.
She followed Tenzin into the gazebo, where they had attempted to meditate in the past, and both sat in the lotus position, Korra opposite him. She sighed and tried to clear her mind, recalling the breathing exercises from the beginning of her airbending training, but idle thoughts kept intruding, as her mind wandered.
"I told you I would destroy you," Amon said contemptuously, as she fell. Her eyes snapped open and Korra screamed.
"KORRA!" Tenzin exclaimed.
Korra looked around, panting. She was on the gazebo on Air Temple Island, she was safe, and Amon was dead.
- "I'm sorry, Tenzin," she said. "I just...I don't know if I fell asleep or what, but it was like I was...like I was...there. Again."
- "At the Pro-Bending Arena?" Tenzin asked, and she nodded.
- "It felt so real..." she said, and she shivered, though the temperature was mild.
- "I see..." Tenzin said slowly. "Well, it was not. It was only a dream - or a memory. You are perfectly safe here, Korra."
- "Thanks," Korra replied.
- "If you want to take a few minutes," Tenzin replied, "we can resume when you feel ready."
Korra closed her eyes. Her heart was pounding in her ears, and she waited, breathing deeply until her heart rate settled to a normal level. Once she felt calmer, she opened her eyes and nodded.
Tenzin instructed Korra in certain breathing exercises, and they resumed their attempts at meditation. The morning wore on, with no change; either nothing happened, or she drifted off and found herself once again either at the Pro-Bending Arena or on Avatar Aang Memorial Island, trapped and at the mercy of Amon.
After the last time this happened Tenzin sighed, and stood.
- "Why don't we stop for now, Korra," he suggested. "Pema should have lunch ready, and we can continue afterwards."
Korra opened her mouth to protest, to insist on continuing to train. Unfortunately, her stomach growled loudly, and she had to admit that she was starving. So she stood and followed Tenzin back to the temple.
After a short but lively lunch with Tenzin, Pema and the kids, Tenzin stated ostentatiously that he was going to be looking something up in his study and asked Korra to meet him outside at two o'clock.
"Wonder what he's doing up there," she wondered later, as she stood at the window, looking out at the sunlit grounds behind the house.
- "If I had to guess," Pema said, "he's probably poring over every book in that dusty little office trying to find ways to help in training you and the kids."
- "You think so?" Korra asked as she turned around to face her. Pema nodded. She was seated at the table, holding baby Rohan in her arms. Korra looked at the pair of them, and had to smile. The kid was just plain adorable
- "It's nothing to do with being the Avatar," Pema commented. She walked slowly to the side of the room, where a small crib had been placed, and set Rohan down, where the baby soon fell asleep. Then she returned to the living room where Korra still stood by the window.
"Tenzin may not ever say it, but to him - to all of us - you're part of the family. And I think he really genuinely does care about you and want to help you."
Korra let out a long, slow breath. And then, to Pema's surprise, the Avatar threw her arms around her in a tight hug. .
"Thanks, Pema," she said, smiling. Then she went to see what the airbender kids were up to - Meelo was usually up to something funny, and she could always talk to Ikki or Jinora.
"Pema's so much like Mom," she thought to herself a couple of hours later as she returned outside and headed for the courtyard. They weren't really that much alike physically, but something about Pema reminded her of her own mother. Maybe, she reflected, it was her kindness, or the way she seemed to understand what went on with her as easily as her own mother did.
In the courtyard, she found Tenzin waiting for her. To Korra's surprise, the airbending master shook his head when she made for the gazebo, and instead intimated that she should follow him. They went down to a more secluded area, adjacent to a lagoon near the coast of the island.
"Apart from meditation and breathing exercises, there are also physical exercises intended to help clear one's chi paths."
- "I know about chi paths - Katara told me all about it when she taught me healing," Korra replied.
- "Of course, she did." Tenzin nodded. "Knowledge of chi paths is vital to healing. And I believe it could also be helpful to our efforts to help you spiritually."
- "Okay." Korra shrugged. If Tenzin thought it would help, she was willing to try anything. "You are the spiritual master, after all."
So, standing under the hot sun, she followed Tenzin's lead as he took her through a series of increasingly complex stretching and physical exercises, some of which she remembered from her studies with Katara. The others were new, and she could feel the strain in her muscles as she worked through them.
When they stopped, Korra took a few steps towards the lagoon, and let herself fall in the water. When she came out, Tenzin was still standing right where she'd left him. And she could've sworn he was smiling.
"Wow, I feel great," she commented, grinning.
- "Yes," Tenzin commented, "I am not surprised. Such exercises are good for the body, but as I mentioned earlier they are also good for clearing your chi paths. And ensuring proper flow of chi is very helpful to proper meditation. Now then, let's go back up, and continue."
Korra nodded and followed him up to the courtyard, hoping that this break in the routine helped. And it certainly seemed to have made a difference.
The more they tried, the more certain Korra became that she was in fact not falling asleep. But it happened more often now - she would be sitting, thinking of nothing, and then all of a sudden she was back in Amon's grasp, and helpless.
"Why?" She asked, frustrated. "Why can't I get over this?"
- "Because," Tenzin replied, "perhaps they are particularly strong memories due to the significance of those moments themselves."
- "You mean, because I'm afraid," Korra replied shortly.
- "Perhaps. It seems like these particular memories are what is causing your problems. Maybe try, perhaps, to focus on something else, something more positive."
- "But I thought you said that I had to clear my mind, to leave it free to wander."
- "This is correct. Perhaps I will need to give it some further thought," Tenzin said. Then, something he had heard from his father one time occurred to him, and his expression brightened. "Or maybe the example of Sho could help us."
- "Who's Sho?" Korra asked irritably. "Some Air Nomad guru or something?"
- "Actually, she was from the Fire Nation," Tenzin replied, and Korra did the slightest of double takes. "My father and Chief Sokka told me this story, about their time in the Fire Nation during the war."
However, Korra was highly interested to hear what Tenzin meant.
- "Sho was a young girl who was to travel alone to visit relatives, and was frightened because of it," Tenzin recounted. "In order to help her, they accompanied her and Aang taught her a trick he had learned from the Air Nomads to overcome fear."
- "I'm listening," Korra replied, her expression eager. "What was it?"
- "Well," Tenzin continued, "the way my father explained it to me was this: close your eyes, and concentrate on your favorite animal."
- "But how does that help?" Korra questioned. Though, given that her favorite animal was a super-predator that had been and mostly still was universally feared by the majority of people in the Southern Water Tribe, she could see the benefits.
Just shy of six feet tall at the shoulder and about sixteen long from her snout to the tip of her tail, Naga was the first polar bear dog to ever be tamed by anyone, and though she was the sweetest animal Korra had ever known, she still made a lot of people nervous.
Korra still remembered how long she had, as a child, pestered her parents because she wanted a polar dog as a pet. And then one day, her mother's reaction when she had come home with a polar bear dog pup, which was already even then bigger than most adult polar dogs.
- "Well, the idea is to concentrate on something that prevents you from focusing on the source of your fear," Tenzin answered. This time, Korra grinned.
- "Like, say, there's a seven-hundred-pound polar bear dog that will rip to shreds anyone trying to hurt you," she replied.
Tenzin winced at the violent example, but nodded. "I suppose so, yes," he said reluctantly.
Korra shrugged. Still grinning. "Yeah, let's give it a shot," she said.
She closed her eyes, returned to the lotus position, and attempted to clear her mind, focusing on Naga and the fact that the massive animal would never let anything happen to her. Breathing deeply, she felt her mind wander, and gradually batted away what stray thoughts occurred to her. By the time the sun set, she had only had one or two incidents of relapse.
But she had made no progress other than that, and she was physically and mentally drained. She sighed, and from here he stood behind her, Tenzin shook his head. He had expected their progress to be slow, but still... .
"It has been a long day," he said as Korra stood and stretched her legs, which were numb from sitting all afternoon. "Why don't we have some dinner with Pema and the kids, and you go to bed. We can continue tomorrow."
- "Okay." Korra nodded. "That sounds good."
That night as she lay in bed, Korra contemplated what she had learned throughout the day, and found herself irritated at how little progress she had made.
"Well, no one ever said this was going to be easy. Maybe I should just "be patient," as Tenzin said. It's only been a day." she muttered to herself. But still, some part of her still wondered whether they would be able to succeed, and she was worried what would happen if they failed.
She shook her head.
"That's no way to think!" she chastised herself. "Think positive. We're going to figure this out. I will find a way. And Tenzin will help me."
She glanced out the window of her room, and on the ground below, saw Naga curled up at the base of the wall, sleeping soundly. Grinning, Korra returned to her bed and soon, she too drifted off to sleep. Tomorrow would be another day...
For the collective works of the author, go here.