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|Counter, Pt. 2|
Book 1: Blood
Chapter 12: Blood in the Snow
Kenshin and Kyrie stood just in front of dozens of NowoCorp soldiers, ready to bring the hammer down. "Kill every last one of them, but leave Moro Kenshi to us!"
Moro, for her part, felt her heart stop. "Dad?!" He was dead...
Shen turned to her. "'Dad'? But I thought—?"
"He was dead..."
Both of them were unable to react quickly when Noulaq stepped forward. "Kenshin! You're still licking Susanowo's boots and allowing him to control your children, I see!"
"I imagined, Spirit of Rain, that the Avatar was here. If you are the only one here who can stand against me, our victory will be swift."
"So you say, Spirit of Ice...you are indeed as cold as you used to be. I could not stand by as Susanowo took my daughter, but for you, it was an obviously easy choice!"
The Spirit of Ice sneered. "Obviously. Now, Noulaq, what are you going to do, talk me to death? Or perhaps you'd like to give single combat with me a go?"
"An excellent idea. I've wanted to put you down for a while now."
Kyrie stepped forward. "It's a shame, then, that this has to go differently. All units push forward immediately!"
Over sixty men began to march forward in tandem, and the villagers began to panic. Kuan Ti whirled around to face them.
"Get inside, now! Zhan, begin evacuation procedures and ready the Ice Skimmer. We need to get these people away!" The revolvers were extricated from their holsters, though he prayed he wouldn't have to use them. "Shen, Moro, can you keep them off our backs?"
Both benders nodded and went to work. Moro stomped down on the snow, forcing a massive wall to rise. The bullets from the first volley piffed against the thick barrier and sunk into the snow. The reprieve gave Shen time to prepare a counterattack, one that he put every bit of effort into.
It began with a simple leap over the wall as the men frantically attempted to chamber the next rounds, followed by twirling arms as the young Airbender moved the air around him. Said twirling created a massive gust that pulled at the very edges of the village, and when it was released the first few lines went airborne briefly before landing once more.
Several of the soldiers who were still on their feet began to fire once more, this time aiming exclusively for Shen. The rapport of the rifles as they were fired would've caused someone of a lesser discipline to jerk, but this particular warrior was among the most disciplined that he knew. That was why he had been chosen, or rather, asked.
No distractions! Shen mentally kicked himself as the bullets flew toward him. He could feel the air displacement and knew generally where the projectiles were headed. Such focus allowed him to dodge them before they even got close or subtly redirect them with a wind funnel or two.
Moro maintained the wall of snow while Kuan Ti and Zhan assisted in the evacuation of the villagers onto the Ice Skimmer. However, she did steal a glance in her brother's direction.
"Kyrie, why are you—?"
He looked at her, sorrow written on his features. "It is not my place to change fate, Moro. You will see that soon enough." He hung back as the Spirit of Rain rushed at Kenshin.
Meanwhile, the evacuation was in full swing. "Remove the snowmobiles and use them to keep up; we'll need all the room we can spare for innocents!" The Equalists readied their own rifles, just in case, but their arsenal paled in comparison to that of Susanowo. "Where's Argho!?"
"He's still meditating in his hut!" Zhan replied. "We can't get him to wake up!"
"Now that you have this heading, what are you going to do, Argho?" Kyoshi was always one for pointed inquiries.
"Theoretically, the best move would be to strike on my own time, with my own plan. But I don't have that luxury; I have only so much time before his plan comes to fruition."
"Don't forget," Korra manifested next to Kyoshi. "You may not have the luxury of time, but you do have allies. They will be indispensable in the coming days."
The current Avatar smiled. "Yes, I do have allies, and I trust them with my life."
"Even the Equalists?"
"Especially him. Kuan Ti only wants to regain credibility with the world."
Kyoshi nodded. "As long as he continues as he has been, I see no reason to be even remotely suspicious."
"Speaking of allies, I should probably cut this short and return to them."
"C'mon, Argho," Korra grinned, exhibiting some of her lighter mannerisms. "It's not like they're going anywhere."
He shook his head and opened his eyes, back in the physical world, and was greeted by the sounds of battle. Speed was usually not his strong suit when compared to his sheer strength, but he was out of the hut in no time. The sky was unusually dark, and Kuan Ti, upon seeing his friend up, rushed over to him.
"Thank the spirits you're awake! We need to evacuate the innocents, but Shen, Moro, and Noulaq can only hold them back for so long!"
"What is going on?!"
"Susanowo...he sent a legion to attack the village and kill us all! They're led by a spirit named Kenshin."
Thoom! A noise like an artillery strike rumbled across the village.
"Two spirits in combat..." Argho frowned. "Noulaq's in trouble."
Noulaq ignored the bullets that ripped through his body as he rushed the Spirit of Ice, and the sky darkened behind him. The ice shards that rained down cut through the unsuspecting NowoCorp soldiers, yet his real target lay before him.
"So...we get to have that battle after all..." Kenshin cracked his knuckles, and his ceremonial Spirit Armor lost its glint as clouds covered the sun. Kyrie sat back at his insistence; this was his fight. After he finished with Noulaq, they would get Moro.
"Die, you damn fool!" The Spirit of Rain thrust his fist forward, only to have his opponent catch it with ease.
Ice crept up his arm, and Kenshin shattered it with a simple chop. The still-frozen end gradually fell away as well when Noulaq began to heal.
"You've...ouch...you've gotten faster."
"I kept my promise, by extension kept my new territory, and now have new power."
The next punch staved in the outmatched spirit's chest and sent him flying backward, accompanied by a loud boom. The Ice Man smiled as his foe struggled to his feet.
"You...you can't win."
"I already have." He replied as he wrapped his fingers around Noulaq's neck. The ice began to creep in both directions, and there was nothing the Spirit of Rain could do.
"Y-you've already lost...everything that matters." Freezing was slow, but final. As the last of the ice covered the Spirit of Rain, Kenshin sighed.
"This was disappointing." He vaguely heard the human girl that Noulaq had risked his life for cry out.
Then he shattered the frozen form before him.
Shen continued to dodge and redirect the few bullets that were still coming, thanks to Noulaq's attack, but he couldn't keep up the energy for too much longer. Unfortunately, he found himself focusing on the plight of the Spirit of Rain, and his split concentration cost him.
A bullet pinged against his right shoulder pauldron, and yet another grazed his left arm. Two more flew toward his midsection, but the pain from the graze drove his focus back to the matter at hand, allowing him to flip over the projectiles.
Everyone on the battlefield shifted their gaze, however, when a cry rang out.
Rena? What's going—? The Airbender turned, only to watch as Kenshin shattered Noulaq's frozen body. "No!"
Something snapped within Shen. He was an Airbender, and everything Susanowo had done violated the sanctity of life. He and his cohorts just didn't care. And now, people were dying because of them!
Thus, not thinking everything through for possibly the first time in his life, the young man charged the Spirit of Ice and leapt into a two-footed kick to his chest, and he put a gust of air behind it for good measure.
Snow piled up behind the spirit as he slid a few feet backward, clearly surprised by the ferocity and speed of Shen's attack.
"Are you sure you want to do this, Airbender?"
His response consisted of grim determination and gritted teeth, followed by a forward flip and a wind shear kick. The maneuver sent an almost visible wind blade gliding toward the spirit, who spun to the side and ran forward. When they met, he gripped Shen's metal shoulder guard, and it began to freeze. As he pulled away, it shattered; his white cloak fell to the snow.
Gotta be careful...or my arm might be next... He took a step back to assess his options, his head clearing.
"Shen, stand aside!" Argho leaped in front of him, eyes glowing and an enraged countenance about him.
Kenshin jerked back. "Ah...the Avatar has arrived."
"This ends!" The Avatar stomped the ground; the resulting shockwave sent Kenshin flying, along with Kyrie and the remaining NowoCorp soldiers. "Leave. Now!"
The glow diminished, and Argho turned to Shen. "I'll cover your escape to the Ice Skimmer! Move quickly, and I'll meet you there."
The Airbender nodded and turned, wrapping his arms around Rena's waist to lift her over his shoulder.
"No! I can't leave Dad!" Her tears brought a few from Shen, but he blinked them away as he reached the vehicle in several Airbending bounds. Grief could come later.
The Ice Skimmer had no course, no objective. They were simply running. Susanowo had managed to uproot an entire village and all because Argho had brought him there.
"Kuan Ti, if you could find us someplace to go...I would appreciate it."
The Equalist nodded. "I'll find someplace."
Turi and Rena sat in the first facet with the Avatar and Equalist leader, and the former held the latter as she sobbed. Meanwhile, Moro, Shen, and Kataon, along with many villagers, occupied the second facet.
"You're hurt." Moro's simple observation of Shen's shoulder brought some amount of comfort to him. "Let me heal it."
He nodded and held out his arm, which she immediately began examining. "So...that was your father..."
"He was supposed to be dead...Mom and I thought he was." She focused on bringing water over his graze. "I can't believe this; yet another lie!"
Shen winced as pain spiked down his arm. Now that the adrenaline was wearing off, he felt everything.
"Sorry, didn't mean to...I guess I'm just having trouble concentrating." The Waterbender gave a half-decent attempt at a smile.
"I'm just sorry he caused you so much pain." The young man's gaze was filled with concern for his friend. "I can't imagine how this must feel."
"I couldn't even tell you..." Her eyes narrowed to slits. "He's always been cold and heartless, but now that I know...he knew, Shen!"
The Airbender found that he had no response; nothing could make the fact that Moro's father basically gave her and her brother to Susanowo any better. Nothing, at least, that he could say.
"Why did they kill him?" Kataon's high-pitched voice interjected, raw with sorrow. "He was only trying to save us..."
"I'm sorry..." Moro gazed down on the boy concernedly.
It was the only thing she could say. People were dead because of Team Avatar, and now they were running away.
Noulaq's glowing blue spirit form knelt before the glowing figure, whose very light obscured the throne he sat on.
"You did well, Spirit of Rain; you proved that your love for your family was greater than Susanowo's meddling. For that, I will ensure their safety."
"Thank you, my lord, that is very kind of you. But...what of the Avatar and his allies?"
The figure stood. "They still have trials ahead, and I will not make it any easier for them."
Noulaq cocked his head. "But they've done nothing but good..."
"I am aware, and I am proud. However, if I aid them, how will they grow? They must thrive without my direct influence."
- Only a couple more chapters in Book One!
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