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October 30, 2013
(i. memento mori – remember you will die)
There will be no warning.
The knife will be thrust in, and green eyes will grow wide, held struck and horrified in a moment of suspension.
The knife will be drawn out, and green eyes will slip shut, held closed and resigned in the clawed grips of eternity.
Blood, tepid and sticky to the touch, is coating her hands like she's wearing liquid gauntlets of crimson death when Asami dies in her arms.
What makes this situation worse is that there's not a damned thing Korra can do to stop it.
Even the dark and cloudy skies above are shedding a waterfall of tears, droplets of liquid ice slicing mercilessly through the air. One would think that the weather itself is sharing in the Avatar's grief. Cold and fat little globules of rain trail a comet tail of liquid down towards the wet earth beneath Korra's sealskin boots, where they all land with a wet plop, creating the clamorous and dissonant sound of a cacophony of water droplets drumming against the ground.
Korra herself is numb all over as she quails underneath the pounding downpour and howling wind, skin as cold as liquid ice. But whether she's violently shivering from pure shock or the cold she doesn't know. Her head rests on top of Asami's limp, sodden hair; her arms are encircled around the woman's punctured torso while blood from the gaping wound in the non-bender's chest trickles out in a thick and lethargic stream—hot and red, tracing its way down to settle in a dark pool on Korra's forearms.
The blood burns just as Asami doesn't burn — she's too cold —
It moves just as Asami doesn't move — she's too still —
It's alive just as Asami isn't alive — she's too dead —
Slowly, very slowly, as if she's too scared to even move, the Avatar runs her trembling right hand over the heiress's red-sprayed clothes as if she still can't quite believe what has happened—her normally vibrant cerulean eyes are as dull and blank and pale as a newly-constructed plaster wall.
And so it comes to be that Asami is being cradled in the circle of Korra's arms, who buries her cold face in the crook of her friend's neck with her legs folded awkwardly underneath her in a sloppy kneel, mumbling incoherently as she attempts to shield the girl with emerald eyes from the rest of the world. Because even though Korra's acting very much like a selfish jerk, the world doesn't deserve Asami.
"They don't deserve her," the Avatar mumbles in a disturbingly wild manner, trying to convince herself and the nameless shadows crowding around her. "Doesn't deserve her, doesn't deserve...doesn't deserve anything..." This cruel, cruel world, who took away the spirit of one of its brightest residents at too young of an age. What did it have to give to her, anyway?
It's a numbing thought that creeps through her mind as a slow, achingly sweet poison, a poison that washes over her being in an all-consuming tide before tightly clenching itself around her chest.
That poison retreats somewhat when Korra feels the weight of a heavy and warm palm that can only belong to one of those who bend the element of fire light upon her shoulder. As if it's some sort of catalyst, her head flies up to bare itself to the raw elements, torso twisting violently to the right. Ragged and soggy brown locks swing, aimless through the air like a rider's whip before they slap themselves across a pale face streaked with cold rain. Her lips are pulled away from her white teeth in a terrible snarl while a pair of icy blue eyes promptly turns into orbs of raging azure fire that lock into a just as anguished but much calmer set of warm amber irises.
"...Let go of her, Korra." His words are spoken incredibly soft, so soft and caring, but soft bites deep past her fragmented soul and into her mutilated heart like nothing else ever could.
"I know it hurts, but you have to let her go."
She just so happens to crack a bit more in another few choice places at the words—at his betrayal, because Asami isn't gone, she can't be:
"You know? You know?!" She screams bloody murder at him, an anguished sound that she didn't even know she was capable of producing, right as her hand recklessly flails out—her pitiful attempt to punch that conniving bastard right across the face. "Don't you dare claim you know! You don't know—you don't know anything, you never knew anything—you don't know anything!" And with this maniacal rant flying like a tempest past her lips, she roughly spits out the last words as if they are burning drafts of poison in her mouth. "Leave me alone, Mako!"
No—no no no, whatever anyone says, she won't and she doesn't let go. She'll only hug the heiress ever more tightly and let her head wilt back downwards, dark brown bangs brushing the base of Asami's neck, where the pale porcelain canvas lacerated with deep red slashes and punctuated with fresh drops of dark crimson ends. The Avatar's teeth grind tightly together as she struggles to keep in check the ocean of tears rising up inside her in a roiling tumble of crashing waves.
And Korra the hotheaded Avatar, Korra the brash—Korra who's unafraid to back down from any challenge and never ever cries if she can help it finally cracks into pieces and crumbles apart, because she can't help it now in this situation—and she crashes and burns like a tower collapsing into chunks of broken rock before the eyes of all.
Asami's name is a prayer upon her bruised lips to the spirits dancing in the twinkling stars above, covered as they are by heavy black clouds, but as with everything Korra pretty much does, it's just too little and it's said too late.
Tucked deep into an alleyway looking upon this scene is a slight figure dressed in a ratty black jacket and fingerless gloves: a young woman with tortured and jaded blue eyes the color of a stormy ocean, a woman with darkness etched in every crease of her coat, a woman with the cruel touch of a smirk riding upon her lips.
It takes Mako about two seconds to realize that his ex-girlfriend isn't going to let go of his other (dead) ex-girlfriend anytime soon, so he drags a raging Korra, still kicking and screaming like a petulant little child, into one of the many police vehicles on the scene so that the paramedics on scene can whisk Asami away on a stretcher to a waiting ambulance.
You know, as if they could help.
Asami's funeral shroud is absolutely gorgeous in its dark reds and midnight blacks, and it has a facsimile of Future Industries's half-gear logo, woven out of some expensive type of silk, right smack in the center of the whole masterpiece.
Mako's speech is completely heartbreaking and by the end of it, everyone in attendance has tears in their eyes (Bolin is flat-out bawling by the middle of the reception, and he doesn't even seem to realize that everyone else realizes it).
Well, everyone except for Korra, that is, who is lost and trapped in her own boiling sea of dark grief while staring out into empty space. The painfully slow funeral proceedings continue onward without her, playing like a bad movie reel in the far distance that she can't and doesn't want to focus on.
Future Industries's emblem is the first to go when the shroud is lit on fire, and Korra breaks out of her reverie long enough to narrow her eyes at the shifting masses of orange embers slowly eating their way through the cotton—because she just can't take her eyes off of the dancing flames that lick their mesmerizing way across the shroud, across a sea of red silk towards Asami, so as to burn her into gray, gray bits of dust. Dust that's picked up by a soft breeze and swirls in looping circles by Korra's feet.
And even as the shroud burns, a grim sneer etches its way across her dark expression while the fire burns bright bright in front of her. The fire is doing what it does best—eating away at anything its eager sparks can reach: at the gear, at the very thing that was the cause of Asami's demolition, but even that small satisfaction is wiped away as the sparks begin to set aflame pale skin that, only a week before was glowing with life and health, until there's nothing left of the non-bender's body except for ashes upon ashes upon ashes.
There's no more of it.
...Everything I touch turns rotten, Korra bitterly thinks.
And now there's no more of anything anymore.
When Mako comes back to his apartment after a disgustingly long day at the police station that may or may not have had anything to do with the death of Asami Sato, he finds the Avatar passed out on a straight-backed wooden chair with her forehead pressed against an old and polished oak table that's shunted to the very back of the apartment's main room—the room with the monochromatic beige walls and scratched teak floors and plain earthy tones. Her left fingers are loosely curled around a half-filled, scuffed glass bottle containing some mysterious liquid that could either be abnormally grayish-blue water, or it could be—
The firebender swears out loud and rushes to snatch the bottle of cactus juice from Korra's slack grip.
Spirits damn the crazy human who discovered that drink, he irritably thinks as he tips the bottle upside down, watching the contents of the glass go glug, glug down the sink drain.
"Korra?" he whispers, shaking the motionless lump of blue cloth and greasy brown hair that's the almighty Avatar's current condition. "Korra, wake up." He swallows, the dryness in his throat catching the little wad of spit unawares so now he's hawking away for another ten seconds before choking out, "Please."
Maybe she hears him and maybe she doesn't, but her long, tapered fingers don't move the slightest as she softly breaths out, her exhale causing a few strands of hair that have fallen out of their little blue ivory ties to flutter through the air like feathers riding on a breeze.
And Mako gives up trying to bring the native waterbender back from the beautiful world of dreams and fantasies, because he doesn't want to see the horribly blank look in her eyes that had been present ever since Asami died—and because there is a tiny crystal of a tear slowly running its way down the slope of her right cheek.
The firebender knows that sleeping people don't cry.
Mako learns quickly enough that when Korra begins to scream out in short, staccato bursts during the middle of the night, he shouldn't disturb her in any way or try to wake her up at all, especially when the yells contain the name of a certain raven-haired girl who has long since passed into the realm of the spirits.
The red finger marks around his neck that the master of four elements left behind after the firebender attempted to do just that are warning enough, but what actually scared Mako the most was when Korra had wildly lunged for him. Her blue eyes, turned dark with rage, were open without seeing anything or anyone but some strange woman whose name she repeated, over and over again in a low, monotonic voice (all the while attempting to squeeze the very breath out of Mako's lungs).
The name was Anyu.
This phenomenon is not so strange anymore the next day when Mako catches wind of a rumor creeping through the police headquarters that a woman in the Red Monsoons, the triad that had been keeping a disturbingly low profile the past few months, has been behind several notorious crimes (bloodbending or not) during the full moon.
Mako's just wryly thinking that he's really tired and he's through and through with bloodbending, and consequentially, promptly forgets about the gossip come evening.
Korra's dreaming, and she's sure of it.
There is no world without Asami. There can't be. It's simply not possible. There is no world without emerald green eyes, without the inky black lashes that frame those gorgeous gems, without her beautiful personality and soul.
But why—oh cruel spirits above, why—did it take Asami being killed with a knife to the neck by a Red Monsoon member (and she would be damned if she didn't find out exactly who that gangster was) for Korra to see that?
Korra isn't quite aware of what she's doing anymore. Her mind is in a right confusing haze, as if she now sees and comprehends the world through a set of frosted glasses. She has long since lost her appetite; long since stopped keeping in contact with Bolin and her parents. She drifts through the long corridors of Air Temple Island, going wherever her feet take her and occasionally running into door frames while she was at it. She quietly takes orders and obediently goes through her airbending forms and eats when she's told to eat and sleeps when she's told to sleep.
Even though attempting to sleep is the without a doubt the worst part of her whole day, because heavy black nightmares rip away at whatever remains of her broken sanity while she struggles, caught halfway between the realm of reality and the howling shadows that are her thick and terrible dreams, to wake. And when she finally does break free from the ensnarement of those clinging cobwebs, she takes to blankly staring at the wood grain on her wall once her pillow has soaked up all her tears for the day and fantasizes burning the whole damned place down with her right in the smack middle of the inferno.
And she does this, she does this every night, because Korra is Korra and she's had quite a few screws knocked loose ever since Asami died.
The thoughts about burning down her world are strangely therapeutic.
(Because apparently, she's insane.)
"You're insane, Korra," Mako tells her one day during his daily visits.
"Why, thank you," Korra tonelessly replies.
"I know what you're thinking," Mako warns. "Don't do it. It won't end well for you."
Her hands twitch ever so slightly even as she maintains an even, blank composure. "And who will stop me?"
Mako glares at her and he doesn't say a word. He doesn't need to, and Korra knows this, because she turns sharply on her heel and storms out of his presence.
The part of her fractured, fragmented mind that's still functioning properly begins giving her orders.
It's time to wake up, Korra.
Now it's time to brush your teeth, Korra.
Now you have to walk to the dining room, Korra.
Bolin's talking to you Korra; now you have to laugh, Korra; now you have to eatdrinkairbenddon'tthink—
Don't listen to Mako, Korra. Listen to yourself.
"I don't want to," Korra mutters recklessly to herself, her head hanging sadly over a balcony on Air Temple Island that's overlooking the shining waters of Yue Bay.
You should go. Now.
"But why? Is it worth it?"
Oh, dear spirits, she bitterly thinks, what was it again? 'The first sign of insanity is having a conversation with yourself?'
But she slowly turns around, wandering back into the girls' dormitory.
And for the first time in a month, dark bursts of flame flare in the depths of the ocean blue.
(ii. memento vivere – remember to live)
Korra's the only one out of the KorraMakoBolin triangle to consistently visit Asami's grave, but the firebender in the trio makes the occasional trip as well. And the next time he stops by the marble headstone with long stalks of grass brushing the tips of his black boots, he bluntly tells the piece of cold stone, "I think that you're driving Korra crazy."
The cold autumn wind laughs as it tousles his hair, wrapping around him like a cloak of ice while wafting in the scent of fallen leaves into his nostrils. Mako sits down primly, his golden eyes narrowed to tiny slits against the biting drafts of air as thin and scarred fingers run their way across the words etched in sharp relief against the pale mottled stone.
"She's not the only one, you know."
And the clump of grass by his foot sways lazily in the breeze as if it's agreeing with him.
Sometimes Korra doesn't know what's real anymore.
This cannot be a good sign.
She is seeing Asami everywhere—in the long corridors of Air Temple Island, on the clamorous streets of Republic City, and oh good spirits above, her bedroom—and yet no one else can see what she sees.
Korra knows that she's hurting and sometimes she thinks she's ready to go insane. There's an empty pit in her chest, one filled with gloom and despair, a tightly coiled knot of anger and fury and hopelessness that just won't go away. She's spending half her waking hours internally screaming at people who even so much as smile (because that just makes her even more upset) and the other half trying to prevent her bottom lip from quivering and her eyes from sprouting waterworks. And she knows she's being unfair to the people around her, but it's an emotion she can't keep in much less describe—it's fear, it's anger, it's helplessness at the situation at hand, but it's guilt and heartbreak that take the lead roles in the theater acting out her rapid deterioration into hell, because Korra loved
Asami and Asami wouldn't be dead if Korra had taken the heiress up on her offer to visit Future Industries that day.
At night, she doesn't move. She doesn't speak, she doesn't sob out loud, yet she still cries. And this is without a doubt the worst part of this sad fairy tale because Korra doesn't know why she's crying anymore.
"Are there any new developments on the case?" she innocently asks him one day.
"Yeah," Mako mumbles as a response. "They're saying that the Red Monsoons are behind it. Some woman named Anyu—"
He snaps his mouth shut right as his eyes fly wide open in alarm and he wildly kicks his chair back to shout after her, to attempt to dissuade her one last time—
—but Korra's long gone.
"...The name was Anyu," Korra blandly informs him one day after lunch.
Bolin stares at her in confusion while Pabu frisks happily underneath his green tunic. "Uh. What?"
"The name of that Red Monsoon member who stuck a knife into Asami was Anyu," the Avatar calmly replies, but her eyes betray her inner turmoil, "And I'm going to find her and I will break her like she broke Asami."
The earthbender swallows at the lethal promise in her voice.
"The monks used to say that revenge is like a two-headed rat viper. While you watch your enemy go down, you're being poisoned yourself."
Korra stamps out the flicker of unease that is Avatar Aang and his stupid pithy anecdotes flitting around the back of her mind before she shuts the door to her room and throws the hood over her head.
("...So I am going to take these and mark down how much it covers your debt," she pleasantly informed the quaking man while relishing in the look of terror smeared plainly across his face, "and I will come by later this week to let you know how much you still owe. And you'd better be prepared with the money by then. I don't care how you get it. Just have it." She smiled, a brilliant white smile that didn't reach her eyes, which are hard orbs of light blue metal.
The door to the dilapidated shack slammed shut behind her.)
"Tell me where she is."
"And why would I do that?"
"Oh, you don't have to tell me anything. But I'm sure that a return of your bending is incentive enough?" Korra grins humorlessly. "I may be wrong, but must be very...difficult to maintain your position in the upper circles of the Triple Threats without your precious push and pull."
The man's dark blue eyes gleam with hunger.
"...What is it that you needed to know again, Avatar?"
Neither Korra nor Mako are at dinner that night and Bolin gets the feeling that there's something fishy going on.
The young dark-haired woman with pale eyes the color of a raging blue-gray ocean has her fingers splayed out like knife blades, searching, searching for a source of water.
She finds it running through the man's veins.
She jerks her hands up in sharp, erratic movements and smirks manically as the man screams for a split second before his neck snaps with a terrifyingly loud crack.
"Don't say I didn't warn you," she softly informs the broken body lying on the filthy street before straightening her black dog-eared vest with a sharp flick, turning on her heel to stride away from the scene.
She takes each step down the stairs, the sound of her boots clicking against the cold stone the only sound in the foul corridor until she begins to hear voices and the muted thrum of jazz drifting up from the foot of the stairs. Thick shadows cling to the walls to either side of her, slowly crossing over to the side to throw the door into a muddled shade of gray as her hand lights upon the scuffed bronze handle.
It's unlocked and she slowly pushes it open.
The door swings by to invite her in, and immediately her eyes are assaulted with a panorama of opulence and extravagance.
A large, decorated common room faces her in all its blazing glory. A lounge occupies the far wall to her left, its raised plush stools occupied by casually dressed men and women gambling, most of whom have crumpled paper yuans clutched in greedy fingers. Along the right hand wall, comfortable booths house a number of younger triad members, shouting raucously as they fixate upon two teenage boys arm wrestling on a low table. The rich smoke of cigars curls into the air, invading her nostrils with its thick and pungent scent.
As she stands there, remaining perfectly still, a ripple of unease slowly begins to spread like a shockwave across the room. Eyes turn towards her in confusion, several widening in surprise as the light of recognition reach their narrowed gazes. The comfortable, languid murmur of conversation has soon been replaced with tense and uneasy hissing. The eyes of the attendants are pulled towards her as their neighbors' voices carry across the room, bringing uncertainty along the whispers upon the wind. The gazes of the teenagers turn to her as well, indifferent and irate before they recognize who is standing before them and they promptly scramble backwards.
Perhaps they can eventually regain their footing if Korra merely continues to stand there, but instead she speaks to the room at large.
"Where is Anyu?"
The tension simmering in the air sharpens. A man to her right stands, tucking his hands into his pockets and smiling from beneath the shadow of a wide-brimmed brown fedora.
"Pretty bold of you to come down here, Avatar. Your authority," and at this he gestures nonchalantly, "doesn't extend as far as you think it does."
Korra turns and regards the man silently. After a long moment, she raises her hand before her, her palm turned towards the ground. A twist of her wrist and the curling of her fingers into a fist is all that's needed. The ground rumbles ominously beneath her and behind her in front of the gaping entrance she had previously stepped through a thick sheet of earth bursts through the floor, slamming into the ceiling with a resounding thud that effectively stops what little lingering conversation that has remained.
A stunned silence settles upon the room as the walls tremble, leaving only the hum of a soft jazz number to float through the air. Korra shrugs the cloak from her shoulders as a number of men rise to their feet around the room, eyes black with dark intent.
She turns back to the first man, who is not casually standing anymore but is wearing a cold expression as he draws his hands from his pockets.
It is little match for the frostiness of her own narrowed stare.
"No one is leaving until I find Anyu."
The thought starts idly with Where's Korra and it ends with oh shit.
Anyu sits in a chair with only a dimly burning candle for light, a heavy black fountain pen gripped tightly in her fingers. Drawing it across a piece of yellowed paper that would become a memo in a few minutes without much interest, her eyes fixed on the looping black characters blooming from underneath the ink, she's right in the middle of crossing a mistakenly written character out when she hears the sounds of a fight outside. Snapping wood and shattering glass sharply punctuates the air, causing Anyu to roughly kick her stool back, leaping to her feet right as a sense of foreboding races through her, sending chills down her spine while water from a vase shoved into the right corner eagerly leaps to greet her waiting fingers.
The door to the office blows right off its hinges and Anyu flinches as a fine shower of dust flakes down from the ceiling, the stream of water shaking in her tight bending grip while she struggles to regain her composure under the bright glare of a Water Tribe woman with fury and a hint of some burning intent written all across her face.
It's not as if Anyu could pretend that she hadn't been expecting this particular visit by the Avatar.
Korra only intends to take Anyu's bending away, but mere raw intentions are not very often fulfilled in the end.
Bolin knows that his uneasiness with Korra and Mako's disappearance is justified when the firebender comes slinking home to their little apartment well after midnight with Chief Lin Beifong right at his heels (who looks royally pissed off at that).
Meanwhile Korra, with dirt and a feral expression spread across her face like an ugly mask, has handcuffs locked snugly around her wrists.
Jinora cringes as she nervously watches her father turn a brilliant shade of dark red.
"She did what?!"
"You almost killed her."
"I did not." Korra slams her fists down onto the metal table in heated denial.
"That Anyu woman is in the hospital with first-degree burns seared all over her face and your fire completely destroyed her lungs." Lin scowls at the Avatar, her arms crossed in a no-nonsense attitude. "She'd be better off dead."
And Korra merely sneers at her.
"She deserved it."
The metalbender gives her such a withering glare that it snaps without words, Did she?
Korra turns away, fingers curling into tight fists. "I knew that none of you would get it, so—"
"I understand, Avatar, that this was about revenge and that you just ruined the woman for life!" Lin interrupts with steel lacing her tone. "You can't just go around dishing out vigilant justice whenever you feel the need to do so."
"I'm the Avatar," Korra hisses, whipping around to face the chief of police.
Lin slaps the manilla-colored envelope down on the table and stiffly points to the door. "Get out."
"No, I mean out. Get out of my city." The metalbender shoves the folder into Korra's stunned face. "And stay out until you've learned to properly control yourself!"
Inside, Korra's mutilated heart finally breaks into little bits and fractured fragments.
"You shouldn't have done what you did, Korra," Aang says.
Korra turns her back on the Air Nomad's spirit and blocks him away before venturing into the Spirit World.
"I know what you want, Avatar Korra," the darkness leers, slithering around Korra like the monster of a spirit he is. "And I can give it to you. I can give you everything. I can put you into a universe where this Sato girl is indeed alive. But you will have to pay a high price. Oh, yes, a very high price indeed."
He cackles, and the sound rips through her flesh like knives.
"Tell me what it is, and I will willingly give it up," Korra says back with a voice devoid of any emotion or empathy.
The spirit of chaos lets out a harsh laugh and he hisses without a hint of hesitation in his voice, "Give me your memories."
There will be no warning.
The darkness will envelope her, and blue eyes will grow wide, held struck and poised in a moment of suspension.
The darkness will roll away, and blue eyes will slip shut; when the shadows clear, it will be as if she was never there.
[do you really want me dead
or alive to torture for my sins?]
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