|More from DrachenRitter42||Drama/Action||PG||Here|
09 SEP 2015
In the five months since the Equalist attack, the Pro-Bending Arena had been completely rebuilt, including the attic in which Bolin and Mako had lived for so long. However, neither of the brothers lived there any longer.
For a while they had lived in guest quarters on Air Temple Island, and they had also spend time at the Sato mansion, now inhabited only by Asami and a small cadre of servants who had remained with the heiress following the arrest of her father. But shortly after Mako had successfully joined the Republic City Police Department, they had rented a two-bedroom apartment not far from the station, where they now lived.
Bolin, however, was at the arena, leading the re-formed Fire Ferrets as the Pro-Bending season began anew. He looked around at the dressing room, where his two new teammates sat somewhat dejectedly, and Pabu chittered away from where he stood perched atop the railing separating the players' locker room from the field.
When re-forming the Fire Ferrets, Bolin had originally sought out their former teammate Hasook, who had told him in no uncertain terms that he wanted nothing to do with him or Mako. The waterbender had been adamant in his refusal even after Bolin had informed him that Mako would no longer be a part of the team. So he had been forced to look elsewhere. His first recruit had been the Fire Ferrets' new firebender, a girl named Tori who had confessed to being a fan of theirs for a long time, and had proudly showed him a keepsake from their narrow loss in the previous finals: A black pro-bending helmet, which Bolin recognized from the colors as having belonged to Tahno, ex-leader of the four-time-championship-winning White Falls Wolfbats.
Bolin recalled with some unease that after Tahno and his teammates had been stripped of their bending by Amon, the Wolfbats had been permanently dissolved. But Tori had kept the helmet as a souvenir, telling him eagerly how she had caught it when Korra had knocked it off Tahno's head during their one-on-one tiebreaker in Round Two of the finals. A waterbender named Kaviq had been the next to join them, and he had thought they were ready to take another go at the championship this year. So far, unfortunately, they weren't off to a great start.
In the background, Shiro Shinobi was enthusiastically addressing the audience. Bolin had been glad to learn that the announcer had been none the worse for wear following his electrocution by an Equalist in the early stages of the attack on the arena. He turned to look out at the crowd that had gathered, and sighed. With a stern expression, the earthbender turned back around to face his teammates.
He cleared his throat.
"Now we all know that our last match was garbage. Terrible! Even Pabu could've done a better job," he said, gesturing toward the excitable fire ferret, who chittered away as he moved closer, and put his little paw on Bolin's side. "But that's in the past, right?" Tori nodded apprehensively. Kaviq just sort of sat there, looking at Bolin with a vaguely uneasy expression on his face.
"Right!" Bolin continued, grinning confidently. "Because we're gonna win this time! 'Cuz we're the Fire Ferrets - and when you back a Fire Ferret in the corner, well mister, he comes out fighting!" Bolin continued, punching air, before gesturing over his shoulder, back at the arena, as he glanced from Tori to Kaviq. "So, let's get out there, and bend like there's no tomorrow! Are ya with me?"
Tori nodded, while Kaviq rubbed his nose with his left hand, while sniffing, barely acknowledging Bolin. The team stood, but as they headed towards the lift, Bolin glanced out at the arena, very worried about their chances...
Asami Sato was a long-time pro-bending fan, and whatever the Fire Ferrets' fortunes, she wished she could've been in the audience at the arena at the moment. Unfortunately, she was not. She was elbow-deep in a comprehensive checkup of the engine of what would soon be the first commercially distributed light aircraft, courtesy of Future Industries.
After her father's arrest, she had spent weeks poring over the company's finance and his documents, trying to get a handle on exactly what had been going on and what Future Industries had been doing for Amon and the Equalists. She had found several hidden factories used for the manufacture of mecha-tanks as well as airships, and these lightweight, fast biplanes. The biplanes in particular were a find, but it had taken months of effort to strip them down, remove all of the armament that had been built into them, and rebuild them. The one she was working on was the last one, and she was especially looking forward to taking one of them for a test flight.
The radio was on, and tuned to the station that broadcast the pro-bending matches from the arena, so she'd heard the previous matches, and she knew that the Fire Ferrets were up next. She sighed, and slid out from under the plane, before being helped to her feet by a tall, graying Future Industries engineer named Ken Sagara, a long-time employee of her father's whom she had recently promoted to the top engineering post in the company.
- "Thanks, Ken," she said, pulling off her gloves. "I think we can call it a night. The planes are almost ready to ship, and we can wrap up this one and take it for a test run in the morning."
- "That's good news, I guess," Sagara replied half-heartedly. He'd worked for Future Industries for years, and throughout the years had seen the young heiress grow up from a small, scared child to the confident young woman who stood now looking at the dark-brown and maroon aircraft, its cowling open and engine almost completely rebuilt.
"Listen, Miss Sato," he continued. "I hate to mention the elephant-rhino in the room, but since your father was thrown in prison, no company will work with us - and with the amount of resources that were expended in this under-the-table Equalist business, the company has no cash reserves to cover operating expenses. Another month like this, and we're bankrupt - and that's a best-case scenario."
- "I know, Ken," Asami replied, smiling confidently. "And I'm doing everything I can to make sure that the company recovers. Don't worry - I'm I'm sure we'll manage somehow."
- "I sure hope so, ma'am," Sagara replied, before bidding his boss good-night.
Once he left, the confident smile fell from her face, and Asami's expression became worried. Ken was right - the company's situation could scarcely have been worse, and while she hadn't told anyone this, Asami had already started using what remained of her father's personal fortune to keep the company afloat - but she couldn't keep doing that for long. She'd taken several steps to try and address the situation, but unless something drastic happened soon, Future Industries was finished.
She turned her attention to the radio, and realized that the Fire Ferrets' match was over. 'Already?' she wondered, and groaned as she heard Shiro Shinobi's comment. "Ooh, the Fire Ferrets go down in the water, and right into the record books - for the fastest knockout in Pro-bending history!"
Frustrated, she stalked across the hangar to the radio and turned it off. Then she started heading home, glumly wondering how much longer she would be able to live there. She was greeted by the family butler, the almost unflappable Kaname, who mentioned that a letter had arrived for her from the Southern Water Tribe with the day's post. She recognized the emblem on the envelope, and eagerly tore it open. She sighed, a cautious smile returning to her face. After a quick bite to eat and a long, hot shower, she slipped into bed and soon fell asleep.
THE FOLLOWING DAY
AIR TEMPLE ISLAND
In the months since returning to Air Temple Island, Korra's training had continued according to a relatively regular set schedule. Mornings and evenings were spent in meditation, as she attempted to center herself and to regain the tenuous connection to Aang she had established, which had been lost when Amon took her bending. Afternoons were dedicated to furthering her mastery of airbending, and in the past few months she had continued to make tremendous progress in this aspect of her training, under the watchful eye of Tenzin.
Today, however, Tenzin had left the island after lunch, announcing with his usual formality that he had been called to Republic City to meet with the newly elected President Raiko. Raiko was a non-bender, and Korra knew next to nothing about the man - though he had to be better than Tarrlok and his sycophants on the Council.
The main reason Korra was so eager today, with Tenzin absent, was that she had been looking forward to spending a little more time with Jinora and the rest of the kids without their father watching over them.
Over the course of her training, she had spent numerous hours discussing Aang with Tenzin and the kids. And there was one thing she had heard Aang was quite good at, which she had been quite keen to try herself: Airball. Ikki and Meelo were especially enthusiastic about the game, which was played atop high wooden poles between airbenders. The goal was to score by using airbending to send a ball through one of two hoops, situated at opposite ends of the playing field.
There was a small obstacle course tucked away in the back of the island which the kids and Korra had all used extensively in their training, which essentially, to Korra, was the concept of the gates on a larger scale - the emphasis was on dexterity, agility, quick movements, and of course, balance. To that end, a part of the course incorporated a series of tall, straight wooden poles, which had to be crossed quickly and without falling.
To Korra, however, those posts could have another purpose, to which the airbending kids agreed: By setting up impromptu goal posts on two of the furthest posts - one at each end - they could use that segment of the obstacle course as an airball court. They found a suitably light ball, and split up in teams of two - Jinora, as the most experienced of the kids, with Meelo, and on the other team Korra and Ikki.
For Korra, it would probably be the most fun she'd had airbending since she started training - it almost took her back to her pro-bending days, she thought ruefully as she stood perfectly balanced atop a post about midway down the course, while Ikki was a little further back, nearer to the goal posts.
"All right," Korra said loudly, grinning from ear to ear. "Let's get this game started!"
It was a testament to Korra's progress that she lasted quite some time before slightly misjudging the speed of the ball as Jinora sent it tearing across the field towards the goal post. She moved to intercept it but was a second too slow, and she missed the ball, which smacked into her face.
"Damn!" she swore through gritted teeth as she lost her balance and slipped off the post. However, she caught the top one-handed, and used a quick burst of airbending to right herself and resume her position. Ikki intercepted the ball, but in the time it took Korra to get back into position Meelo used airbending to redirect the ball towards Jinora, who sent it soaring above their heads and into the opposite goal post.
Ikki, pouting, retrieved the ball, and the game began anew. Jinora and Meelo scored once each, putting them three points in the lead, but the more the game went on, the better Korra got. After about an hour of continuous play, they stopped briefly. Jinora and Meelo were still ahead by a healthy margin, but it was getting harder for them to score.
- "Well, losing sucks," Korra grumbled. But then she grinned like an idiot as she looked at the kids. "But airball is a ton of fun!"
- "It really is!" Ikki piped up, smiling widely.
- "Sure looks like it," said another voice from somewhere below.
Korra turned around and lost her balance again. This time however she did not bother to jump back up, using airbending to land gently on the ground a mere two feet from Mako.
Mako was looking particularly sharp in his uniform, and Korra felt a dull flush creeping up her cheeks as she embraced him, while above her Jinora and Ikki giggled. - "How long have you been standing there?" she asked.
- "Not long," Mako said, smiling. "Haven't seen you have this much fun in a while."
- "I know," Korra said excitedly. "I haven't had this much fun in months. Not since..." There was an awkward silence that stretched for a minute.
"So, I heard about Bolin," Korra said slowly.
- "Yeah, he's pretty torn up about it. The Fire Ferrets, pro-bending - all of it was such a big part of our lives for so long, I don't think he really knows what to do without that," Mako commented with a glum expression. "I heard he even asked Hasook to come back."
- "You mean that jerk I replaced?" Korra said with typical bluntness.
- "Yeah," Mako said with a laugh, "that's the one. Anyway, Bo was telling me that Hasook basically blew him off, so he had to recruit new members."
Korra looked at him with a sad sort of smile. She would have loved to have helped Bolin out, but that wasn't possible until airbending was somehow incorporated into pro-bending. And with only a half-dozen or so airbenders in the entire world, that probably wouldn't happen in her lifetime.
"Hey," Mako continued, "remember in the finals when you knocked Tahno's helmet off during the second round?"
Korra burst out laughing at the memory. In spite of what had happened afterwards, Tahno had really deserved that, and it had been immensely satisfying.
- "Yeah, I remember."
- "Well get this: Bo's new firebender? He was telling me she was at that match...and she caught the helmet when it landed. Still has it!"
- "Oh man, that is hilarious!" Korra replied, still laughing. She soon stopped laughing, though. She remembered when she'd seen Tahno at the police station, how...broken he had seemed. Well, she sure could relate now.
- "So," she said after a while, looking at him, "Looks like you made it. You're a cop now." Though the news that the pro-bending heartthrob and the Avatar were dating had spread like wildfire following their return to Republic City, Korra had not actually seen Mako in quite some time, and she had never seen him in uniform. And he did, she thought, cut a pretty handsome figure.
- "Yep," Mako said. "Of course, I'm just a beat cop, but hey everyone's gotta start somewhere."
- "You're right," Korra said with a nod. "I don't envy you having to work for Beifong, though." The two of them shared a laugh at that one - the strict, disciplinarian Chief of Police was not one to be crossed, and the mutual dislike between her and the Avatar had only slightly abated since Korra had manage to get herself arrested her first day in the City, what felt like forever ago.
- "ARE WE GONNA PLAY OR WHAT?!" Meelo yelled, and Korra rolled her eyes.
- "Coming up now," she replied, and created an air spout that propelled her upwards until she landed on top of a pillar. The game resumed, but very, very quickly it became apparent just how fast a learner Korra was. Within minutes, she had scored a first goal, and soon very quickly she and Ikki had narrowed the gap between their team's score and that of Jinora and an increasingly irritated Meelo.
Watching from below, Mako couldn't do much more than gawk at what he was seeing. They had spent countless hours together in the arena, practicing as well as in their matches. And he had seen how swiftly she had improved as they practiced. But he'd never seen anything quite like this before. Randomly, the thought occurred to him that if airbending ever made its way into the pro circuit, things would get a lot more interesting.
Above, the match had become more fast-paced than ever, as Meelo launched a shot that Korra narrowly intercepted, using airbending to redirect it towards Ikki, who sent it soaring across the arena. Jinora intercepted, and the ball soared high above their heads, much as it had during the previous half, after it had smacked her in the head.
- "Oh no, you don't..." Korra commented smugly as she jumped, and launched a massive blast of air that sent the ball soaring right back the way it had come, clear across the field until it soared through the goal on the other side of the court.
- "So, this is what you've been doing," they all heard Tenzin suddenly say, and they all looked to see him standing next to Mako, his arms crossed and an annoyed expression on his face.
- "Tenzin!" Korra said. "You're back!" She jumped down and hugged her mentor, but he still looked annoyed.
- "Yes, Korra, I'm back," he said in a huff. "And I'm a little surprised to find you playing games when you should be training."
- "This is training," Korra retorted. "Airbending training. Only, it's fun!"
Above them, Ikki looked over at Jinora. "Guess the game's over, huh?"
- "Score's tied," Jinora replied. "So it's a draw." Ikki grinned at that.
Tenzin, meanwhile, opened his mouth to argue, but Korra turned to Mako.
- "Hey, Mako, you wanna stay for dinner?"
- "Uh, sure, if it's not too much trouble," Mako replied, with an uneasy glance at Tenzin.
- "No trouble at all," Korra replied. "Right, Tenzin?"
- "No, I suppose not," Tenzin replied, frowning. "But don't think that this is over."
As the group started on its way back, Tenzin hung back a short distance, and Korra proceeded to do likewise, as Mako and the airbender kids moved ahead.
- "Korra, you have to understand that your training - both in airbending as well as your spiritual training - are of the utmost importance, especially now," Tenzin said, his expression less irritated but still concerned.
- "I know, Tenzin," she said. "And I'm doing everything I can - the meditation, the breathing exercises, the physical exercises you taught me, all of it. And some days, it feels like it's going great. But then some days I feel like I'm stuck in a hole and I can't see where the exit is. I just don't feel like I'm making any real progress," she continued irritably. "I mean, the stuff with Amon at least has stopped - finally. So that's good news."
- "It is," Tenzin replied, his expression softening. "And what about these dreams, or visions? Like the one you had when we were at the Southern Water Tribe?"
- "Those are still happening. And it's weird, sometimes I can make at least some sense of it, like when I saw all that stuff about Yakone. But sometimes none of it makes any sense."
Tenzin nodded. He suspected what she was seeing was something similar to what she had described - flashes of memory from Aang, or perhaps even Avatars before him.
The key, he surmised, wasn't just Aang, but Korra's own connection not only to her own spiritual self, but to her Avatar Spirit. Tenzin believed that Wan Shi Tong's Spirit Library almost certainly held answers - but while the library had been found in the Si Wong Desert during Aang's lifetime, it had sunk beneath the sand. Who know where it was now, if it even was still accessible? They would have to do with his own library...or perhaps, those of the other Air Temples. As the thought occurred to him, an idea began to take shape in his mind, one that might be highly beneficial to Korra's training...he would have to give it some more thought.
- "Seriously, though," Korra was saying, "at least airbending training's going a lot better."
- "It certainly does seem to be," Tenzin said. "You are making tremendous progress in that aspect - but of course, the physical aspect of bending is something that has always come almost naturally to you - it is the spiritual aspect that is the real difficulty."
- "Don't I know it," Korra said sarcastically.
- "And I will continue to do everything to help you. You just have to..."
- "I can't actually water-smack you in the mouth, but if you say 'be patient', I might have to find an airbending equivalent. No offense."
- "I was going to say, you just have to trust that we will work through this."
Korra let out an audible sigh of relief, which turned into a groan of frustration when Tenzin added "And yes, it will require that you be patient."
She stomped off towards the seven-hundred-pound mass of white fur that was Naga, lying under the broad canopy of a tree along the path, and collapsed onto the big animal's side, then started absently scratching the polar bear dog's ear, which earned an appreciative growl that sounded almost like a purr. Naga's mannerisms amused her so much sometimes.
- "In any case, you were doing very well, up there," Tenzin commented, and there was a distinct note in his voice of pride at how much progress his student had made.
- "Thanks," Korra replied, meaning it.
- "But I still think you should take your training much more seriously."
Korra groaned again.
- "As hard as it might be to believe, I am taking it seriously. Seriously," she replied, standing up again. "But it doesn't mean I can't have fun every once in a while - especially if I'm learning something while I'm at it.
Tenzin opened his mouth to reply, but thought better of it.
- "We'll continue this discussion tomorrow. For now, let's have a nice, quiet dinner."
- "Or as quiet as anything can get with Meelo around, anyway," Korra said with a crooked grin, and Tenzin smiled.
Later that night, Mako prepared to leave, and when he went to say good-bye to Korra he found her sitting in the branch of the same tree under which Naga was lying. "You heading out?" she asked.
- "Yeah," he answered. "Bo's probably at the apartment, or else asleep at the table at Nanook's again."
Korra didn't reply, at least not right away. She sat in the tree, a pensive expression on her face, looking up at the sky. "What are you thinking about?" he asked.
- "Nothing particular," she said. "Just looking at the Moon."
- "Really?" Mako asked, puzzled. He looked up. The moon, only a few nights from the full, was an almost perfect circle. "Why?"
- "You know how important the Moon is to the Water Tribes, right?" She asked, and he shook his head. "The Moon and the Ocean Spirits are sacred to us. The legends say that the first water benders learned how to bend by observing the ocean tides and how the Moon affected them."
- "I didn't know that," Mako said honestly. His exposure to waterbending in youth had been limited to the likes of Viper, Shady Shin, and the other waterbenders of the Triple Threat Triad. The history, the culture, none of that had been all that important to them.
- "Waterbenders are strongest at night - and the closer the moon is to full, the stronger we are," Korra continued. "So maybe it's just in my blood. But I've always felt comfortable under moonlight. It's like she's watching out for us."(*) Mako looked up, and shivered. He wasn't sure if it was from the cold, for the temperature had dropped appreciably, or some awareness of something intangible that he simply had never noticed before. Maybe it was just Korra's words getting to him. But he couldn't believe in something like that.
Korra finally dropped from her perch, landing so softly that Naga didn't even stir. Airbending - sure seemed to have its advantages. She took his hand in hers, and they walked together down to the docks, where a ferry waited to take him back across Yue Bay to the City.
- "Well, I'll tell Bo you said hi," he said. "And if I can, I'll try to come by more often."
- "That'd be nice," Korra said quietly.
- "Thanks for having me for dinner," Mako said. "Good night, Korra."
Mako was taller than her by a couple of inches, so Korra rose up on her toes to kiss him.
- "Good night, Mako," she said, before he boarded the ferry. She stood on the dock watching it sail away, until it became a pinprick in the darkness, which soon disappeared. With a sigh, she turned around and started to head back towards the temple, where her bed awaited. It had been a long day, and tomorrow promised to be just as long...
(*)A NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Yes, I am aware of the specifics of the Moon Spirit and the events of the Siege of the North. I did not directly address that here because there is a specific time and specific place where, if all goes as planned with this fanon, I will probably address it and the actions of Princess Yue more directly. But that's a ways further down the line.
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