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|Chapter Nine: Farewell|
It is in sleep, Nanaki, that we are at our most vulnerable. And yet, it is also when we are most capable of knowing ourselves. In symbol and in imagery we walk the decadent corridors of our passions, of our fears, and of our desires. We strip away the minutia of lies we tell ourselves every day and look upon our face, both foul and fair, as it truly is. We peer into the wellspring of fundamental truth of who and what we are. Know then this fundamental truth about yourself.
You are The Avatar.
Nanaki groaned lightly in her sleep, her skin breaking out in a fresh veneer of sweat. Yi was at her side instantly, dabbing her forehead with a cool, moist tea towel. At the touch of the fabric and it's chilly comfort, Nanaki settled.
Guo, also standing by the bedside, turned around.
"How did she do it?" He demanded of Jinora, whom was seated on a short stool at his elbow. "How did she enter the Avatar-State?"
Jinora cloaked herself in silent introspection before answering.
"One might assume that we were wrong and that her connection to Avatar Korra is intact. But still."
She fell silent again, her brow furrowing. The clock on the mantelpiece ticked away several seconds.
"Well?" Guo prompted.
Jinora continued to stare at the floor, leaning on her windstaff.
"I've never seen that kind of intensity in the Avatar-State before. Her hair and her fingernails had the same radiance that I'd only ever seen in Avatar Korra's eyes. She didn't fight as Korra would have done. It was angrier, and much more primal. But perfectly controlled. None of her attackers were seriously injured."
She looked up at Guo.
"If you want my honest opinion, I'd say that what we witnessed was no less than a manifestation of Raava herself."
Guo wasn't satisfied with the answer. Nanaki called out faintly in her sleep and he looked at the tiny girl again. He shook his head.
"Raava can't come through the Avatar directly," he said. "It's impossible."
"With the Avatar, one can never truly know what is or is not entirely possible," she said.
When Nanaki finally awoke, the house was silent and dark. She looked around the small room and was not entirely surprised to see Yi sprawled along the foot of the bed, fast asleep. Nanaki smiled at her best friend, the girl that had always been there for her. She slipped from the sheets, made use of the facilities, and quietly dressed.
Taking her backpack from the closet, she took another look at Yi and felt her heart breaking. But there was no denying what she had to do, not after what had happened the day before. So quietly did she leave the house that a stray cat, asleep on the roof, didn't notice her going.
Thirty minutes later, she was standing in her own bedroom. She looked around at the mementos of a life that had seemed so perfectly mundane just two months ago: the heart pattern quilt on the bed, the plethora of plushie animals on both it and the shelves lining the walls, the small black and white television set propped up on a stool in a corner. She picked up the oldest of the toy animals, a tiny white elephant-owl that she had been given when she was four, by the woman who had left that same year never to come back.
"What are you doing here?" Her father's voice said from behind her, and she turned to see the man standing framed in the doorway.
"I came to say good-bye," she said, looking at the toy in her hands.
Jintaro was not amused.
"It could have waited for a better time. Like, when I was awake. Do you have any idea what time it is?"
Nanaki started to put the plush back on the bed, changed her mind, and put it into her backpack instead. It was chased by several changes of clothes and her money purse.
"I didn't come to say good-bye to you," she said, "but to Mom."
She strolled purposefully toward him, and he stepped out of her way. Nanaki walked past him without a look and continued down the hall.
"You're running away," he said, suddenly understanding. "Where are you going?"
"When did you start caring?" She asked, not looking back. He had no answer for her.
It was nearly dawn when she stepped off the train and onto the platform of Central City Station in the heart of Republic City. Nanaki didn't know why she had come here, or why the city had seemed to call to her not five minutes after she left her house. She only knew that Republic City is where she had to be.
As she threaded her way through the station toward the street she was aware of the curious looks of commuters on their way to work, looks that quickly became astonishment when they realized just who they were looking at. A few older pedestrians, seeing her coming, bowed very low until she had passed. It made her uncomfortable.
She looked both ways before trotting across the street to the sidewalk that offered a panoramic vista of the bay. Here she paused, looking out over an ocean that was the hue of fire as the sun began is slow procession into the sky. The light gleamed off a tall statue situated in the heart of the bay and she felt her heart give a wild leap when she recognized that it was a likeness of Avatar Aang as he must have been when he was her own age.
"Aang," she whispered. "What am I supposed to do?"
As if the former Avatar had heard and answered, a gentle breeze sprung up to her left. It flowed over her and caressed her, and she found herself glad of it. She turned toward it, and her eyes fell on the second prominent feature of the bay.
In the golden light of dawn, with seagulls taking flight to start their own day and marionettes of clouds shuttling softly through the sky, Air Temple Island stood out to her like a beacon of serenity, peace, and comfort. Like Republic City had, it seemed to be calling to her.
She walked quickly to the ferry and bought a ticket.
Deep in the bowels of the metal prison just outside the Great Wall of Ba Sing Se, Po sat. He'd not slept or eaten since the Dai Li had arrived to take him, Taising, and the rest of the Unbelievers into custody. Instead he had meditated, finding his center and refusing to allow the hate and rage that filled the pit of his belly to have any reign over his thoughts or composure.
He opened his eyes when his cell door opened. He took a deep breath in and looked at the man peering in at him. The Dai Li was dressed smartly, in a tight fitting vest and trousers in Earth Kingdom colors.
"Your lawyer has posted your bail," the Dai Li said. "Out."
He then walked away. Po sat where he was for a moment, then stood to follow. He kept his mouth shut, but inwardly he wondered what was going on. He didn't have a lawyer.
The lawyer turned out to be the most beautiful woman Po had ever seen. She was very tall and fit, her perfect curves draped in a green and gold kimono. Her obsidian hair was ties at her scalp with a green bow, and from there spilled down over her back. She didn't smile when the Dai Li lead Po in, bowed to her, and left.
"My name is Chai," she said. "Come along."
She began walking to the door. Po fell into step beside her.
"What's this about?" He asked her, keeping his voice discreetly low. She did the same.
"My employer has been watching the activities of the Unbelievers for several weeks. He was unconcerned with Mr. Taising, but he sees a lot of potential in you. He would like to assist you in removing the Avatar from the world."
Po didn't stop walking, but shook his head.
"Not a chance," he said. "I've seen what that kid can do when she gets worked up. I'm not facing that again."
Miss Chai never broke stride.
"Not even with a six figure salary and the latest in military arms at your disposal?"
That caused Po to draw up short. He watched the beautiful woman walk for a moment, then fell into step beside her again. Neither of the needed verbal confirmation that the deal was set.
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