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|Counter, Pt. 1|
Book 1: Blood
Chapter 11: Casual Conversation
Sparrowkeets fluttered outside of the train station as Lu Ten walked quickly from the building. His pace was hurried, and his message was dire. The Avatar needed to know what he had discovered.
The train had taken him all the way from Ba Sing Se to the little Earth Kingdom town where he now stood, mere miles from the coast where he would take a boat to the North.
As much as I've missed the feel of this world, at times, now I realize that I took my ability to teleport for granted...
What made it all the more frustrating was the urgency of the matter at hand. Argho needed to know what was coming, because only he could stop it.
"I want to know what happened back there." Kuan Ti sat, arms folded, with the rest of the members of Team Avatar. "I thought—"
"We all had assumptions..." A sigh emanated from the Avatar. "I had assumptions, but now it is time for us to find out what is real."
Moro Kenshi was the most upbeat of the bunch, still elated with her success. "I'm sorry I can't be of more help, but I...can't explain what happened." She shrugged.
"That wasn't exactly what I was referring to. We need to figure out what Susanowo is ultimately planning, and we need to do it quickly."
"I think..." Turi stood. "I think...no, I know exactly what he is planning. And it isn't good."
The Equalist leader raised an eyebrow. "Well, then, we don't have time to waste; get on with it!"
"He's taking his largest, most prestigious airship to the South, filled with warriors and Bloodbenders, to forcibly, if necessary, reunite them."
The silence was deafening. Everyone was in shock, with the exception of Rena, Turi, and Noulaq. "You mean...?" Shen ran his fingers through his hair. "What is this, some kind of war?"
A harsh chuckle came from the Spirit of Rain. "War is the last thing Susanowo wants; his only concern is the advancement of the Water Tribes. He believes that it will be best if they once again become whole." He blinked several times. "War would be counterproductive, but he will use force if absolutely necessary."
"And he would win..." Moro face fell. "What do we do?"
"We stop him. Soon!" Argho drummed his fingers on the table. "But how?" His chair slid back, and he stood. "I'm going to meditate; if anything serious happens, don't hesitate to get me up."
As the Avatar went to his bunk to meet with his past lives, Turi turned to Moro. "You said that you resisted Susanowo. How? It's not supposed to be possible."
Her hand moved absentmindedly to the Blood Seal on her forehead. "I...like I said before...I don't know. I was just able to...say no. It was sweet that Shen was worried about me, though." A sideways glance and a wink caused the Airbender to roll his eyes.
"Of course I was worried. You're my friend, and I don't really like seeing my friends at the mercy of evil, megalomaniacal spirits." A pain seared its way through his soul. Then why did I leave...why...?
The snap of Moro's fingers brought Shen out of his apparently lost state. "Shen...are you okay? You finished talking, but then..."
"You kinda zoned out." Kuan Ti raised an eyebrow. "Are you feeling alright, kid?"
"I'm fine. And I'm not a kid."
The Waterbender furrowed her brow. Shen...why can't you trust us...?
"I'm out of my depth here, Aang. I thought that I could beat Susanowo, but he took my blows and kept coming. And now he has this plan that I have to stop, and I'm not sure I can."
His past life smiled sadly. "Argho...every one of us has had these periods of self-doubt, but that is when you must realize that you will not fail because you cannot fail. You are the Avatar. You have the power to bring Susanowo down, of that I have no doubt."
"Well, that's all great in theory, but I came to find out how to defeat him."
"Everyone has limits, Argho."
The Earthbender's eyes widened. "THAT! That right there! That vague, mysterious language you old...people think you have to use..."
Aang simply grinned. "It's what we 'old' people do best."
"And it is why we are in charge now! You all could probably never understand each other, constantly spouting proverbs like that!"
"So, Argho...what are you going to do about Susanowo?"
"You know, Spirit of Dawn," Lu Ten shook his head. "I can't believe he allowed you to maintain your ability to teleport; to be honest, I'm rather envious."
"A lot of good it's done me..." She clenched her fists. "I had hoped that I could at least weaken him, but that proved to be an almost irreversible mistake."
"Yes, well, no offense, but your sons are becoming a pain in my rear end." The Protector smirked. "At the risk of incurring your wrath...what would Koh be doing right about now?"
She cocked her head and narrowed her eyes. "That was uncalled for...but an interesting question nonetheless."
"I suppose it was..." A ringing bell signified the boat's arrival. "It appears my ride is here; I have news for the Avatar." He bowed. "If you'll excuse me, Spirit of Dawn..."
"Why are you in such a rush? What is so important, Lu Ten?"
A frown spread across his face. "Your other son is about to ignite a conflict that could destroy a nation or two."
"Moro, why are you so invested in my personal life?!" She had been questioning him almost nonstop since his 'zone out' episode earlier.
"Because Argho said no secrets, and frankly," the Waterbender smacked him upside the head. "You're the only one who still has any! Plus...I'm worried about you."
"Argho knows everything; that was what he meant by 'no secrets'."
"What about the rest of us? You know our stories, but we don't even have an idea what's going on inside your Airbender head!"
An exhalation of futility exited from Shen's lips. "Fine...do you really want to know?"
Moro nodded. "I do."
A tear almost fell down his cheek. "I abandoned my friends and family, left them to deal with another maddened, power-hungry spirit on their own..." He turned away. "Happy now?"
"Shen..." She reached for his shoulder, but he held up a hand.
"Don't...I don't need pity. That's why I came to Argho, to get his help."
"So he knows."
"He does. And the sooner Susanowo is out of the picture, the sooner I can help right my mistake, my weakness."
"And I'll be right beside you." A smile was once more present on her face. "I'm your friend, and I'll stick by you."
Half of a smile came to Shen. "Thanks, Moro. Oddly, that helps."
"So...who did you leave behind?"
Before he could answer, Kuan Ti entered the room, cloak and revolvers not on his person for once. "Do either of you know how long Argho's been under?"
Shen raised an eyebrow, though he was thankful for the reprieve. "He's not back yet? Usually he can figure things out by now."
"I knew you would eventually come to me, Avatar Argho." Kyoshi sat before him, and she was not happy. "Has Avatar Aang made you forget your purpose?"
"Of course not; don't be absurd, Kyoshi! I simply have no idea how to go about defeating someone that can't die!"
"That does pose a problem...spirits cannot die..." She smiled in a way that sent chills down Argho's spine. "...but their physical bodies can only take so much."
"Wait...what are you talking about? I watched Susanowo heal from wounds that would kill any normal man several times over!"
She narrowed her eyes. "Think, Argho! You are more than a simple brute; you are the Avatar!"
"More than a simple brute..." He shook his head and smiled. "Regardless of whether or not that is true, Susanowo is not going to be brought down by mere words. He has proven to be beyond that solution. But I think, forgive me if I am being presumptuous, that you mean for me to hit him harder."
"I do indeed." The former Avatar allowed a small smile to grace her features. "If you force him to reach the limit of what he can physically endure, you can end his reign in this world."
"Thank you, Kyoshi; you've given me a heading."
"Are you ready for this? Susanowo wants the Avatar and his friends dead."
Kyrie grimaced. "Yes, father...I believe I am..."
Kenshin narrowed his eyes. "Your sister will be dealt with in a non-lethal manner; you can rest assured of that. But our plans cannot be pushed back any farther than they already have."
"You mean Susanowo's plans." His voice moved to a slightly higher pitch.
"Watch your tongue! I have been involved from the beginning!"
The son in light blue armor bowed. "Yes, father."
He turned and glanced out of the airship's window; the village was close.
"Moro! Rena! Shen!" Kataon raised a fairly large snowball over his head with Waterbending. "Look out!"
All three dodged the not-so-surprise attack and readied themselves as the boy brought up two more, laughing maniacally.
"I am ICE LORD! Fear my power!"
Moro and Shen each flipped in opposite directions, while Rena pressed her body flat against the snow to avoid one of the projectiles.
"You're good, kid." Shen grinned. "But I've got a few tricks up my sleeve!"
The air swirled under him and formed an air scooter, allowing him to zip around the young Waterbender.
"Whoa! Awesome!" The child's eyes lit up, and Moro laughed.
"Shen, do you know how ridiculous you look riding that thing?" She said before succumbing to another bout.
The scooter dissipated, and the Airbender's feet once more touched the snow. "For the record, Avatar Aang used to do that all the time."
"When he was twelve..." Noulaq leaned against one of the huts. "He outgrew it."
Shen rolled his eyes. "That's what I get for actually acting like an Airbender. Another thing...they liked this back at the Western Air Temple." Snow sifted beneath his feet as he stepped away from the buildings. "Although...we did accomplish it slightly differently."
The young man wheeled his arms around and jumped forward, creating an air wheel that propelled him forward.
"Okay," Moro smiled. "That's impressive!"
They shared a grin before Shen turned. When he did, his eyes widened. A fairly massive airship hovered almost above the village, and many cables launched from it, each one bearing at least ten men, all armed.
They landed and formed up in their pre-determined attack pattern, but the center of attention came in the forms of both Kenshin and Kyrie, armored and ready for a fight.
"This ends today!" The Spirit of Ice announced.
- This was one of my shorter chapters; I imagine that the next few will be more substantial.
For the collective works of the author, go here.