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|(137 AG) Receding Waters|
Voices... they all sounded weird. It was as if his ears were underwater. All the sounds seemed... distant. Sight, sound, taste, smell, it seemed like they weren't functioning properly. However, his sense of touch was still there. He felt the cold ground beneath him. He was lying on his back. That's when he heard it. It sounded like an echo, but it was quiet. It was so... so far away.
The sound seemed to flow through his ears, like water, and seeped its way into his skull. Coming...
"GET UP, TWINKLETOES!!!" he suddenly heard someone yell.
"Father!" he heard another voice, it sounded as if it was in pain.
Then, he felt it, the shaking. Someone had grabbed his shoulders, and was shaking him in an effort to get him back up.
"Uuuggggghhhhh," Aang mumbled, as he groggily opened his eyes.
He saw Tenzin right in front of him. He was the one shaking him. Aang could see the tears that were flowing down his son's face. He watched as Tenzin's expression changed from one of sadness and sorrow to a happy smile. He started crying again, though Aang knew it was for a very different reason.
"Welcome back to the land of the living, Twinkletoes," he heard an all too familiar voice say.
He turned to where the voice came from, his hearing now much more clear. He saw Toph standing to his side, looking down at him with a sly grin on her face. Her gray metal police uniform, covered with little droplets of rain, shone brightly in the light of the streetlamp. He turned to his other side. Lin was crouched beside Tenzin, holding his son's arm to comfort him. Toph must have found them during her search through the hotel. He watched as his son backed away from him, leaving him room to get up. Aang tried pushing himself up, but the pain in his chest made that an impossibility. He was in pain, though he hadn't noticed it until now. It was probably due to all the blows he took during his fight with Lee, as well as Lee's final lightning attack. He really shouldn't have fallen for that. Thankfully, Toph lent him a hand, and pulled him up.
"What happened Aang?" she asked, "I don't need my sight to realize what happened to this street during your fight."
"Lee and I... we fought," Aang said, "We ended up destroying the street."
"What happened to our waterbending friend, then?" Toph asked.
"Lee... got away, Toph," he said, "I'm sorry."
The chief of police sighed.
"I'll... have my officers look for him," she said, slightly disappointed, "He couldn't have gotten far."
Suddenly, a thought occurred to Aang. He felt ashamed for not having remembered this sooner.
"Toph," he said, the words flying out of his mouth, "During the fight, Lee stabbed a young boy, Chang's son. I was going to try and help him, but... Lee incapacitated me before I could. Is he..."
"We found the boy, and he should be in a hospital right now. The healers who brought him there said that the blade hadn't hit or cut anything vital. They say he has a very good chance of recovering."
"That's... good to hear," he said with a sigh of relief, "It's nice to hear some good news."
Aang tried taking a step forward. The moment his foot touched back on the muddy ground, his chest flared up with pain. It felt like he was being stabbed. He yelled out in agony as he bent forward and clutched his chest.
"Aang!!!" Toph said, still worried, "Are you okay?"
"No" Aang said, through gritted teeth, trying to ignore the pain, "Lee... managed to hit me with lightning."
"How?" Toph asked, shocked, "He's not even a firebender."
"It's a long story," Aang said, "It was less him hitting me with it and more him redirecting it into me."
"Aang, we need to get you to the Water Tribe Cultural Centre," Toph said, worry creeping into her voice as she grabbed Aang to help him, "especially if you were hit by lightning."
"The Southern Water Tribe Cultural Centre?" Aang said, in surprise, as if he had just been told a joke, "Why go there of all places?"
"It's where your wife is," Toph said, a smile she couldn't suppress creeping up her lips, "You really should know that. Katara had been working on something there the past few nights, while you and I were planning Yarolaq's arrest. Apparently, it also has a spiritual fountain that contains spirit water from the North Pole, which-"
"-saved me the last time I was struck by lightning," Aang said, "I remember."
"It's not far," Toph said, "Do you think you could make it by walking?"
Aang pushed Toph's arm away and took another step. This one, though still painful, hurt him much less than his first step. He could probably walk to the cultural centre, even if it would be agonizing.
"Yes," Aang said, "I think I can. But Toph, before we go, I need to talk to you about something. It's... about Lee."
"Of course, Aang," Toph said, her smile disappearing and her voice taking on a worried tone, "What is it?"
Aang took a few steps forward, wincing each time, and motioned to Tenzin and Lin to stay back, glaring at Tenzin when he tried to follow them. It seemed this was a conversation between adults. Tenzin was worried about his father. The look in his eyes was one of pure determination, and when he asked to talk to Toph, his voice was cold. He had never seen this side of Aang before. It was as if the loving father he had known all his life had been replaced with this strange new man. Despite moving away, the two teenagers could still hear what their parents were talking about.
"Toph," Aang said.
Tenzin recognized the tone of voice his father was using, even though he had never seen that level of coldness before. It was the type he used when discussing matters concerning his duties as the Avatar. He spoke fast, and was completely serious. Whatever they were discussing, it was important.
"I underestimated Lee. Big time," Aang said.
"What do you mean? He's just a waterbender. You're the Avatar. I could tell he was powerful and dangerous the minute I saw him, but still, I-"
"Toph, he knew about 'it'," Aang rudely interrupted.
His father was not in the mood to be dismissed, it seemed.
"You mean he knew about th-" Toph said, now very worried.
"Yes, exactly," Aang said, interrupting again.
Toph brought her hand up and started rubbing her chin, contemplating the revelations.
"Aang, if what you're telling me is true, then you were lucky to make it out of that fight alive," Toph said, "I'll warn my officers to be extremely careful around Lee. Only engage in groups of four or more."
"Good," Aang said, his calm demeanor returning, "We should get to the Cultural Centre. It will be nice seeing Katara."
"So then, my father, Toph, Lin, and I all headed to the Cultural Centre," Tenzin said.
"Did anything important happen on the way?" Korra asked.
"No, not really," Tenzin said, "It was a short walk, though my father was in pain the entire time. That fight with Lee took a lot out of him, and I had to support him during our journey. Nothing worth mentioning happened until we reached the cultural centre."
"What was the cultural centre like?" Korra said, "I mean, I've seen it during my time in Republic City, but a lot can change in thirty years."
"Ah," Tenzin said, "You're right that the cultural centre wasn't the same back then. There was a big renovation project about fifteen years ago, which completely changed the look of the place. Back then, it both smaller and shorter than it is today. The building was rectangular, without the circular columns on the sides of the entrance or the rectangular ones on the corners. The roof was square, with a large dome in the very middle, and was painted... dark blue, if I remember correctly. The outside walls still had a lot of windows in neat rows, much like it is today. I also believe the statue of Councilman Sokka that is currently found in front of the centre wasn't there at the time. I'm afraid some of the other details elude me, though you could probably find some old paintings or photos if you're interested."
"That's good enough, Tenzin," Korra said, "Continue with the story."
The Southern Water Tribe Cultural Centre came into view slowly, as the group began approaching it. They could only see glimpses of it through the spaces in between buildings at first, but now, standing in the plaza in front of the building, they could see it in its full glory. The walls of the large stone building were painted a light shade of blue. The entire plaza was blue, the ground, the stairs, everything; showing off all the myriad shades of that colour. As they walked up the large stone steps to the entrance, they noticed something brown and black lying in front of the entrance. It looked like a person, collapsed on the ground. They weren't moving. As they got closer to the body, Aang recognized the attire the person was wearing. No... it couldn't be. Toph and Lin went ahead to check out the body.
"Looks like the Oncoming Storm has come and gone," Lin said, kneeling to get a better look, "It's Lee, and he's dead."
As Tenzin approached, the young airbender could see that, even though the figure was covered with mud, its face was clearly that of Lee's.
"That's a relief," Aang said, letting out a long sigh.
Lin examined the body some more. Lee was flat on the ground, with his right hand outstretched towards the entrance to the cultural centre.
"Looks like Lee was crawling towards the centre," Lin said, "Probably to use the spirit water to heal himself."
"The lightning must have killed him," Aang said, "It almost killed me."
"Yes..." Lin said, drifting off.
Something felt off, and it felt wrong. What exactly was giving her this feeling, she didn't know. However, something about this was very, very strange. Suddenly, it hit her.
"Tenzin," she said, turning to the young airbender, "Is it just me, or does Lee look like he's pointing?"
Tenzin knelt down and looked over the body. Every finger but the index finger and the thumb were clenched into Lee's palm. He could definitely see why Lin would think Lee was pointing.
"It does," he said, "at least a little bit. I can see what you mean, but to me, it just looks like that's the way his hand ended up."
"I suppose, but..." Lin said, trailing off again.
"Anyway," Aang interrupted, "I still need to get into the cultural centre. Lee's dead. We don't need to worry about him anymore."
As Aang took another step towards the entrance, he yelled out in pain and collapsed on the ground on his hands and knees. Toph ran over to the Avatar, and lifted him up.
"T-Thanks Toph," he said.
The two of them walked through the doors of the cultural centre together, Toph supporting Aang. The inside of the cultural centre was beautiful. The lower part of the lobby was built using both light blue and white stone, representing the beautiful landscapes of snow and ice found at the South Pole, and the ocean that surround them. The architecture inside was comprised mostly of smooth shapes, based off the waves found on a calm ocean, and the smooth movements used in waterbending. From the lobby, Aang could see all the floors of the cultural centre, all the way up to the roof. The floors above the ground, or at least the sections in the main lobby, were built out of white marble, representing the moon that grants the waterbenders their manipulation over the element. The railings that separated the high floors from the large square gap that ran through them all the way down to the lobby were almost like waves, the tops of them curving up and down. He could see why Katara loved this place.
"Aang!" he heard a voice yell.
He looked up, to one of the lower floors, and saw Katara, dressed in blue Water Tribe robes. She was waving her hand in the air, trying to get his attention.
"Katara," he yelled, straining to raise his hand up, to reciprocate the action, "I need you to come here."
He watched as Katara disappeared from his view. He heard the clattering of her feet as she ran down the stairs, heading to the ground floor. He turned his head to the left, and watched as Katara came back into his sight and she came down the large blue staircase. He tried taking a step towards her, but his leg gave out in pain. Thankfully, Toph caught him, so he remained upright. He let out a pained grunt.
"Aang!" Katara yelled, "What happened? Are you all right?"
"He was hit by lightning," Toph said, "He needs your healing abilities."
Katara ran over to him, grabbing him and taking him off Toph.
"How did he get hit, Toph?" Katara asked.
"I don't know," she said, "But me, you, and Twinkletoes need to talk about this after we're done. Apparently, it had something to do wi-"
"Toph," Aang said, interrupting his friend, "Now is not the right time to talk about that. We should wait until we're..."
He looked up at Tenzin and Lin.
"...somewhere more private."
Katara led him to the edge of the fountain, and sat him down on the marble railing. She removed some of Aang's robes. They were torn, and there was a bit of blood soaked in to the fabric.
"It honestly doesn't look too bad, Aang," she said, examining the superficial wounds on his skin, "I should be able to easily fix this. It will probably take about a month for everything to full heal, but they shouldn't keep you from your duties as the Avatar in that time."
"Thanks, Katara," he said, "What about the lightning, though?"
She removed even more of Aang's robes; the fabric by the chest wound blackened and burnt by the lightning. In the middle of his robes, where the lightning had hit him, there was a hole surrounded by burnt cloth. Katara saw this and removed the robes carefully; the lightning could have caused the fabric to be burnt into his skin. When she had finished, she used her bending to pull some water up from the fountain, and let it congeal around her hands.
"It doesn't look too good," she said, "You should survive, though."
She placed her hands on the wound, and the water began glowing as the healing process started.
"The water from this fountain is from the spirit oasis in the North," Katara said, "It's not as potent as the spirit water that saved you last time, but it doesn't need to be."
He glanced over his shoulder at the fountain, built from marble, half blue and half white, in the yin-yang symbol, spraying a stream of water up in the air.
"Really?" he said, "The fountain looks so... normal. It's hard to believe it contains so much spirit water."
"I don't really think that it's 'normal', Aang," Katara said, "It's based off the spirit oasis the water came from. I'm really happy that the Northern Tribe helped the South, and truth be told, all of Republic City, by donating both the fountain and the spirit water to the cultural centre. Now this city has its own spiritual centre, and a place where people can go and meditate."
"This doesn't seem like the best place to meditate, Katara," Aang said, "It's in the middle of the lobby of a very busy building."
"That's why they all do it together," Katara said, "In the morning, every employee of the centre comes to meditate here at the same time. I've heard it's quite relaxing. I might join them some time soon."
"So, this is the bastion of spiritual energy in the metropolis of a city that doesn't care at all for spirits," Aang said, before turning back to look at Katara.
"Yes," she said, "It's calming."
She paused. Aang reached up and stroked Katara's cheek. They were both getting older, and he was beginning to see the signs of aging on her face. Her dark brown hair hadn't yet lost its colour, though. She was still beautiful; he could still see that, and he still loved her. She stopped healing him for a second as they looked into each other's eyes. He brought her forward, and his lips touched hers. After a second, she pulled away; she did, after all, need to continue her healing session. Aang looked all around him, seeing Tenzin, Lin, Toph, and his beautiful wife, and seeing all them there brought a tear to his eye. He almost died tonight, and the, he hated to say it, consequences were beginning to dawn on him. He could have lost them all, but he didn't, and that made him happy.
"You know, Aang, this place... it reminds me of home," she said softly, before resuming the healing process.
"To me, it reminds me of the Water Tribe palace at the North Pole, in it's the architecture, at least," he said.
He closed his eyes, as he let Katara continue with her healing. Tenzin and Lin moved away, and were looking around the cultural centre's lobby.
"What do you think they were talking about?" Lin whispered, "It's strange, seeing all of them like this."
"Yes," Tenzin said, "It's not like my father to act like this."
He paused for a second.
"However, he must have a good reason for it. My father always has a good reason for what he does."
Suddenly, they both heard Aang. He was calling them over. They walked together to the fountain.
"Tenzin, Lin," he said, "What happened to you two? With Lee, I mean."
"Well..." Tenzin started.
"We both ended up telling our father what had happened to us," Tenzin said.
"Then," Lin said, "he told us about his fight with Lee, including that conversation about the vessel."
She rubbed her chin, remembering the incident.
"It became even stranger than Tenzin made it sound before. Aang didn't just tell us the conversation didn't happen. The moment he mentioned this vessel thing, everybody in the room went silent. It was definitely something the adults didn't want to talk about. My and Tenzin's mothers knew what Aang was talking about. I could tell by the way they reacted."
"So..." Korra asked, "Is that it?"
"No," Tenzin said, "Something else happened after we told each other about our encounters with Lee. Something... rather strange, in fact."
"Well..." Aang said, "I think all of us can agree that today certainly was an eventful day."
They all nodded their heads in agreement.
"You know," he said, "there's something I still don't understand about Lee, it's..."
He paused, then, it was as if a light had turned on in his head. His eyes shot wide open, betraying the surprise and worry he felt.
"Oh no," he said, "Oh no."
"What is it, Aang?" Katara said.
"I was wrong," he said, "It's not over. It will never be over."
He stood up, wincing in pain. He clutched his chest.
"This is bad. This is bad," he muttered.
"Just tell us what is wrong, Twinkletoes," Toph said.
"No," Aang said, "I can't. I... have to do this alone. This has gone on long enough!"
He took his hand away from his chest, and turned around towards the fountain.
"Here... of course... it all makes sense," he said, before turning his head back to Katara, "Katara! We'll have to stop the healing for now."
"But Aan-" she said.
"Katara," he interrupted, "Just pass me my robes..."
He turned around to look at them.
"...and all of you, get back!"
Everybody started walking backwards as Aang put his damaged robes back on. After he was finished, he raised his hands in front of him, and bent his knees, getting into a fighting stance.
Then he started moving. His arms swung in wild circles. They tore through the air over the fountain, almost moving in a blur. He continued, and the movements, while still wild, now seemed to have an order to them. It now seemed like, instead of moving his arms in random circles, he was preforming a very elaborate maneuver. His arms slowed down, and stopped in their original position, in front of him. They heard Aang take in a deep breath, and then, he placed his hands together, back to back, his palms facing outwards, and reached forward.
"So what happened then?" Korra asked.
"Nothing really," Tenzin said, "It mustn't have been very eventful, because I can't remember what happened next. That's the end of the story."
He turned to Lin.
"Do you remember, Lin?" he asked.
"No," she said, shaking her head, "I can't say I do."
"So..." Korra said, pausing, thinking about what Tenzin and Lin told her, "I can see the similarities."
"Korra," Lin said, "Lee's description of his supposed energybending stuck with me, when he said what happened when he gave bending power to a firebender. I tried imagining that happening to someone. When that waterbender told us what happened to her friend, it... it was so similar to what Lee told Aang. That's why this case reminded me of Lee."
"There's also the numbers," Tenzin said, "Both Smith and Lee seem to a certain fascination with the number eighty-three. It could just be a coincidence, but, I doubt it."
"Just a question?" Korra said, "Smith and Lee, did they look similar?"
"No," Lin said to the young Avatar, "Believe me, if Smith looked like Lee, I would have caught onto the similarities between the two much sooner. Smith looks nothing like Lee. Lee had skin the same shade as yours. Smith, well... I believe you know how he looks. They are two completely different men, Korra."
"I wish I could see what Lee looked like," Korra said.
Suddenly, an idea occurred to her.
"Wait!" she exclaimed, "Shouldn't there be a photo of Lee from when the police had the body in their custody?"
"There should," Lin said, "However, soon after Lee's death, before the police could take that picture, Lee's body disappeared from police custody. We think that some of Lee's triad friends may have stolen it."
"Yes," the Avatar said, thinking, "Thanks for telling me all that. I think I'll need to ponder all this information."
"Of course," Tenzin said.
"Anyway, it's about time we left this alleyway" Lin said, "I say we get you two back to Air Temple Island. I'll look into this case some more, get some background checks done, look into other missing person cases in the area, that sort of thing."
"Sounds perfect, Lin," Tenzin said.
"Hey!" Korra said, riled up, "Come on. I could help with the investigation. I don't just want to sit around doing nothing while an evil bender is on the loose."
"No, Korra," Lin said, "Leave it to the police. We'll find out who did this, and when we do, you can help the arrest. It's just like what happened with Lee. The duties of the police are different than the duties of the Avatar."
"I understand," she said, sighing as she calmed down. "You're right. Just... if there's anything I can do to help, tell me. I understand my duties, but if what we heard is true, then peoples' lives are at risk. I have as much of a duty to protect the people of this city as you do."
"I know," Lin said, "The moment something comes up where I could use your help, I'll call the air temple."
"Lee must have really made an impression on you," Korra said, as Lin started walking forward out of the alleyway, "You remembered all those details, including the exact wording of how Lee described the effects of his bending."
Lin stopped, crossed her arms, and looked at Korra.
"You're right," she said, "My encounter with Lee helped make me the person I am today. I was an only child, no siblings or even step-siblings, so my mother doted on me, spending all the time she had that wasn't consumed by her duties with me, and so I grew up without a care in the world and way too confident in my abilities. My mother eventually convinced me to join the police force, but that didn't change much. It wasn't until Lee stared me in the face, ready to kill me, that I realized the importance of my duties."
"Lin did change quite a bit after that," Tenzin said.
"Heck, a few years later, I got these scars," she said, pointing to the red marks on the right side of her face. "I was fighting against a group of Terra Triad members extorting a shopkeeper. There were six guys. I had managed to knock out five of them, when I tried using my cables to immobilize the sixth. He cut the cable, giving me this scar. I, in turn, knocked all his teeth out."
"Sounds a lot like my first day in Republic City," Korra said.
"Yes," Lin said, "The thing is, I'm not proud of many of the actions I took when I was younger. There are quite a few I'm proud of, but when I look back at my youth, I usually want to shake my head and ask myself why. You reminded me of a more destructive, younger version of me, with even less respect for the law. However, I have to say, that since then, you've grown into a much better Avatar."
"Thank you," Korra said.
"That's enough," Lin said, "We should leave this place."
They all exited the alleyway, walking through the crowded street back to Lin's Satomobile. They reached the vehicle, opened the doors, and got into their seats. Lin had the driver's seat, with Tenzin beside her in the front, and Korra in the back.
"Argh!" Tenzin shouted as he sat down.
"What is it?" Korra said, standing up and leaning forward over the front seats.
Tenzin stood up a bit, and ran his hand over the seat. He quickly found something, which he picked up.
"It's... it's a Pai-Sho tile," Tenzin said.
"What's on it?" Korra said, "Can you show it to me?"
"Umm... let's see," he said, "It says 'I never lose'. I don't think it's hard to figure out who wrote this."
"Smith," Korra said.
"Here," Tenzin said, giving Korra the tile.
She fell back down into her seat, and started reading it. Tenzin was right, it did say "I never lose". She flipped the tile over. To her surprise, there was writing on the other side as well. It read "Something wrong, Avatar?" What?! Wh-What was going on? This couldn't... it was like Smith knew she would turn it to find the message after Tenzin would only read one side. He even put it on Tenzin's seat. It was almost as if... Smith could see into the future.
No, Smith probably couldn't see into the future. The very idea sounded stupid, she thought, and not to mention it was impossible. He... he most likely... the message was probably for her, and it was just coincidence that it was read like that. He probably thought that she would be sitting in the front seat. She sighed in relief. Yeah. That's probably what happened. Anyway, this message didn't make Smith any less suspicious, quite the contrary, in fact. It was like he was taunting them. Korra was jolted out of her thoughts when the Satomobile started speeding forward. They rode down the streets of Republic City in silence, with Korra pondering Smith. He was an enigma, and she fully believed that he was their killer. However, why did he kill that firebender? That being sai-
The occupants of the vehicle flew forward as it skidded to a halt. Lin had slammed on the brakes to avoid crashing into a red Cabbage Car that flew through a red light. Tenzin was still holding onto Pema's statue tightly, for fear that it would fly out of the car and crash into the street, due to Lin's Satomobile having no roof. Lin was wearing a scowl and gripping the wheel tightly.
"Idiot," she muttered.
Suddenly, the police radio crackled to life.
"Calling all available units, Officer Mako reports robbery suspects fleeing downtown on 5th St. in a red Cabbage Car. Repeat, a red Cabbage Car. Units responding, identify," the voice on the radio said.
"Fits the description your boyfriend gave," Lin said, turning her head back to look at Korra.
"Lin," Tenzin said, slightly exasperated as he understood what Lin was implying, "Can we just get back to the air temple? Can't you let your officers deal with this?"
"If I only heard the radio call, I'd consider it," Lin said, determined, "But believe me, no one gets away with cutting off the Chief of Police. Let's get them. Hold on tight."
Lin switched on the police siren, and turned in the direction the red car was headed. Tenzin hugged his statue close to him as Lin slammed on the gas pedal.
There it is; the Mr. Lee arc has finally come to an end, as has Korra in general. What a ride it was. Sorry for the lack of updates, I've had this chapter finished since July, but I decided to wait until Book 3 finished before posting it, which changed into waiting until after Book 4 due to its release shortly after. Updates should be coming soon, as I have Chapters 10 and 11 pretty much done.
First off, to any previous fans of the story, I went back and changed up Chapter 1 a bit, adding in a bit more insight into what Smith is doing, though not too much. After all, I wouldn't want to spoil anything for you guys.
Secondly, I HAVE watched Book 3 and 4 of LoK, so I know about Suyin, unlike Lin in this chapter it seems. All I can say is that it's intentional, and has a purpose. All the characters will end up exactly where they started at the beginning of Book 2, so the story will fit into canon.
Thirdly, while the primary purpose of the fanfiction I write isn't to ship certain characters together, if there is a canon relationship, I will throw in nods to it. Since this takes place between Books 1 & 2, there will be some slight Makorra next chapter, since it was canon at the time. Now, at the end of the series... not so much.
Anyway, I hope you all had a great 2014, and I hope you're looking forward to where this story will go next... it's going to be epic. Please leave a review if you liked the story, or even if you didn't, and have some constructive criticism.
For the collective works of the author, go here.