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Book 1: Blood
Chapter 14: Cold-Hearted
The Blood Moon powered up as Team Avatar ran towards it; Susanowo would not escape so easily. Argho's eyes glowed as he brought up an ice pillar underneath their feet, sending them sailing toward the airship. They landed on the platform and were met by five NowoCorp soldiers, who were almost immediately knocked away with a gust of air, courtesy of Shen.
Kuan Ti immediately began searching for a way in, noting in passing the existence of biplanes attached to the sides. He found his opening in the form of the closing cargo bay door.
They did, barely sliding in as the door shut behind them. The Avatar, the Equalist, the Airbender, and the Bloodbender got to their feet and surveyed their surroundings; they were in, against all odds.
Susanowo was going down.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you our maiden voyage!" The Spirit of Tempests raised his arms to the small but enthusiastic crowd in the Blood Moon's main hall as the vessel lifted off. The airship was a modified luxury liner, consisting of multiple stories with all forms of recreation. It was his masterpiece.
All of these people...they are counting on me to lead the Water Tribes to a unified state! He turned to Kyrie Kenshi. "Ensure that all of our guests are escorted to their rooms for the time being..."
The young man cocked his head. "Lord Susanowo...?"
"Do it; then get yourself to the cockpit. We do not need an incident in front of everyone."
Understanding grew on his face. "The Avatar is coming...isn't he?"
The spirit grinned. "Yes...and today it shall end for either myself, or him."
Kyrie bowed. "What of my sister?"
"Hm...I'm still not sure..." He frowned. "If we cross paths, I'll be sure to send her your way."
The cargo hold was a good start. Unfortunately, the ship was moving and they still had no battle plan. They gathered in a circle.
"What is the best way to do this?" Argho glanced around. "Moro needs to find Kyrie and get him out of here, while I need to find and finish Susanowo..."
"You and I can take Susanowo." Kuan Ti smirked. "We've done it before."
"And Moro and I can hopefully talk some sense into Kyrie." Shen had his doubts, but the Waterbender shook her head.
"We'll get him even if I have to drag him back by his ears."
The Avatar grimaced as the sounds of merriment echoed from the main section where the "guests" were located. "We are going to split up, but try not to attract attention. Kuan Ti and I will be doing plenty of that."
Moro smiled. "Not that he could control me anyway."
"I advise caution, Miss Kenshi..." Argho narrowed his eyes. "Susanowo is still more powerful than either of you."
The sound of footsteps rang through the metal, indicating a problem. The Earthbender put a finger to his lips and motioned for them to hide amongst the crates. Two NowoCorp guards entered the cargo hold.
"Really? He said that?"
"Yeah...he was really high and mighty about it too. The guy has lost my respect..."
They apparently acquired what they had come for, because they left almost as soon as they had entered.
Several pops accompanied the sighs of relief; Kuan Ti had taken to cracking his knuckles. "I'm aware that stealth is what we're going for, but wouldn't it have been easier to take them out?"
"I prefer that we reveal ourselves to Susanowo at our own pace." Argho replied. "Now...back to business...does anyone have a map or layout of this vessel?"
Everyone shrugged; if such documents existed, they didn't have them.
"Alright then...we'll have to draw the Spirit of Tempests to us while Shen and Moro wander blindly in search of Kyrie."
The non-bender frowned. "The best place to do that is probably the bridge..."
The Avatar nodded. "Agreed. Now...we have to move quickly. We are ending this today."
Argho and Kuan Ti strode through the corridors, with the signs pointing them to the bridge. So far, they had encountered no one, and that had both men concerned.
"You think he knows we're here?"
The Avatar glanced around. "It is possible...but it doesn't matter. All we need to do is get his attention."
A particularly long stretch of hallway lay before them, and at the end of it sat the doorway to the bridge, which had two guards posted outside. The two men kept moving forward, and the guards finally noticed that they were not going to stop. One of them even opened his mouth to issue a warning as he raised his rifle, but Kuan Ti simply shoved the butt into his throat. Argho lashed out with a web-hand strike to the other's neck as well.
As they struggled for breath briefly before passing out, the Avatar shook his head. "It seems that Susanowo has been employing men of weak constitution."
"All the better for us, then." He motioned toward the door. "Shall we?"
The hiss of the opening door caused all heads on the bridge to turn their way.
Argho cracked his knuckles. "So...who's first?"
A blast of wind slammed the Bloodbender into the wall as Moro held another aloft with her considerable abilities before knocking him against the wall. Both of them turned to look upon the room they had entered, noting that they had just fought their way through a dozen people.
"Well..." Moro turned to Shen and grinned. "That was easy!"
"Was the Bloodbending really necessary, though?"
She shrugged. "It'll be fine; Argho's handling Susanowo."
The Airbender winced. "Moro...I'm not just talking about him..."
"Oh..." The Waterbender pursed her lips. "I-I know...but it's so—"
"Easy." Susanowo's voice rang out across the room. "That, I believe, is the word you were about to use."
"Is any one of you willing to tell me where Susanowo is?" Argho glanced around the bridge. Oddly enough, everyone except the guards was still conscious. "Any takers?"
One of the operators glared daggers at the Avatar. "We'll never tell you anything! Susanowo only wants what's best for both Water Tribes, and all I've seen is you misusing your abilities and status to make his life miserable!"
The outburst caught both the Avatar and the Equalist off-guard.
"Do you know what he's been doing?!" Kuan Ti took a step toward the woman. "Do you understand what he is?!"
Both men was drowned out, however, by every other voice on the bridge.
"Susanowo cares about us!"
"He wants to unite us all!"
"What are you even doing here!?"
"People, listen!" Argho's voice boomed over theirs once more. "We have to tell you who it is you truly—!"
"They will not believe you, but is that really a surprise?" Susanowo appeared behind the Avatar and the Equalist. "But I wouldn't be so concerned with them at this point; your fight is with me."
"Yes...it is." Argho's eyes began to glow. "Your move, Spirit of Tempests."
"Do you really have time for me right now?" The spirit grinned. "Your allies, it seems, ran into difficulties."
The Avatar gritted his teeth. "What did you do?"
His foe just grinned.
With a cry of rage, Argho threw himself at the Spirit of Tempest, jumping and catching him with a two-footed flaming kick to the chest, launching him into the hallway. Kuan Ti followed behind both of them, making sure to shut the door behind him.
Argho was no longer himself; the Avatar was in full control now. His eyes glowed as he continued the assault on the Spirit of Tempests. Susanowo screamed as his flesh was burned away with each flame-powered blow, and he hardly had time to recover before the Avatar sent him further down the hall with an air blast.
"You will pay in kind as to the blight you've brought to this world!"
Susanowo stood and charged to meet his attacker, and the two spirits clashed. Fire ripped through the steel construction of the airship around them, and the arbiter of Bloodbending was once again pushed back.
His wounds began to heal, as they usually did, and he began to laugh. "I love that look of frustration on your face, Avatar Argho! It seems that, for all your power, not even the Avatar Spirit can kill me!" His eyes grew completely red; nothing was there but crimson. And claws grew from his fingernails. "Now...now you get to witness my true nature! My true power!"
"And it is as twisted and evil as you are, Spirit of Tempests. This is not the end, not yet." The two combatants charged again, this time with the Avatar's foe getting in the first strike, sending the opposing spirit into the wall. The vessel shrieked with protest as their battle grew larger.
Susanowo let loose with a volley of blows designed to crush bones, but he did not count on Argho's physical resilience.
Kuan Ti looked on as the Avatar Spirit used Argho's body to take more than a normal man ever could. I have to do something...if nothing else... He glanced at his revolvers. I can be an annoying distraction!
Twelve rounds exited the guns within twenty seconds, several driving through Susanowo's skull and stopping his attack while the other ripped through his body.
Argho's eyes ceased their glow, and he took the spirit's moment of inattentiveness and ripped a jagged piece of metal out of the wall. Fire from his palms licked at it for but seconds, and it became red hot. At that moment, he whipped it around and shoved it into Susanowo's midsection, causing the Spirit of Tempests to scream.
"It...is over." Argho panted as sweat beaded down his face. "I have won; end this inane quest of yours. It will bring nothing but pain!"
Still pinned to the wall, Susanowo let out a slight chuckle before giving in to a fit of coughing. "Do you really think me that weak? I am disappointed."
"What are you talking about?" The Equalist leaned against the wall, reloading the cylinders of his revolvers. "We can beat you all day long if we have to."
"Perhaps..." The spirit grinned wickedly. "But then Shen would be in—!"
"Shen?" Argho snapped to attention once more. "What have you done with them?!"
"I didn't do anything..." His grin widened. "But Miss Kenshi has had a change of heart."
Shen and Moro both whirled around, the Airbender bringing his blade to bear for good measure, but the Spirit of Tempests simply shook his head.
"Now, now...is there any need for such weapons?" Their glares answered his question. "Very well...it seems I have a problem—"
"We're not going to listen to you!" Moro cried, rage morphing her features. "You've done too much for that to happen!"
Shen nodded, frowning. "Agreed."
"Well, regardless, I have a problem that needs solving. Four of the six Chosen are down, and they were supposed to be my lieutenants..." He glanced at Moro. "This should not be."
The Waterbender merely narrowed her eyes. "Sorry, not interested."
"I'm afraid that you have no choice, Moro Kenshi!" He stepped closer. "You will obey me, and you will kill Shen!"
Her blood-red eyes almost glowed. "Never!"
Susanowo's eyes widened. "Impossible! I-I thought it might've been the distance that allowed you to...How are you resisting?!"
Moro smirked. "I'm just that powerful."
Shen moved to her side. "Regardless, I think we should get out of here as quickly as possible..."
"Yeah..." She agreed.
"Not so fast." Susanowo gritted his teeth. "I will not have another of the Chosen escape me! If you do not do what I ask, I will kill Kyrie!"
Moro's heart froze in her chest. No...Kyrie... He would do it, too; she knew. She'd seen what he was capable of. The Blood Seal on her forehead began to burn.
"There is the opening..." The Spirit of Tempests sneered. "For all your resolve, I found the chink in your mental armor quite easily."
The Airbender put hand on the Waterbender's shoulder, but it was rigid. "'Ro...?"
"Shen...he'll kill Kyrie..." Her voice sounded unsure.
"You have your orders, Moro Kenshi! I expect you will carry them out." The spirit made his exit as both teenagers were still in a state of shock.
All of a sudden, the Bloodbender whirled around and held Shen in a Bloodbending grip. There were tears in her eyes. "I'm sorry Shen...I have to save Kyrie..."
His own heart sank. "So...you're just going to kill me?"
"Of course not!" He could almost feel the physical effects of her anger. "I would never do that! But...I...I have to do something. I'll just...I'll just knock you unconscious, okay?"
Shen felt like he was about to vomit. "Okay...? Moro, I trusted you!" He didn't know what else to do; he had to get out of this. The Airbender blew out a massive gust of air that struck her and sent her sprawling to the floor. "First...first you prove that you can resist his control, that you're different, then you...you join him anyway?!"
"I don't have a choice!"
Shen stepped closer until he was facing her directly. "Moro...you have to think! Argho can get Kyrie out of here after he defeats Susanowo—!"
"But he won't! Susanowo is too powerful!" She was shaking, whether with rage or fear, even she was uncertain. "You—you're trying to distract me!" Without thinking, she ripped water from her water skin and formed it into an icicle.
And she shoved it into Shen's stomach.
The Airbender's eyes widened in pain. "Moro...?" He slumped against the wall, blood streaking behind him as he slid down.
"Shen..." Tears fell down her face as she backed away. "I-I didn't mean to...I didn't..."
"'Ro..." He was oddly calm now, and he attributed that much to his Air Nomad heritage. "Don't...ugh...don't lose yourself trying to find your brother..."
The Bloodbender didn't respond; she couldn't. She just turned and left.
- Thus ends Book 1. Ah...I do so love my cliffhangers. ;)
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