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Courting the Wind
Chapter information
Series

Avatar: Advent of Earth

Book

1

Chapter

3

Written by

The Faceless One

Release date

November 1st, 2012

Chronology
Last chapter

The Final Frontier

Next chapter

12-12-12

Intro

Fire... Air... Water... Earth. Currently, the four nations are enjoying a timely era of peace, but this was not always the nature of things. Half a century ago, the last and final Avatar, a waterbender named Korra, vanquished a maniacal extremist who called himself Amon, and hoped to rid the world of bending forever. Sadly, shortly after this triumph, Korra was killed by an illness in her sleep, and, for reasons unknown, was not reincarnated. Though at first her immediate absence was met with worldwide panic, this reaction was short-lived. As the years passed, the wounds left by her disappearance scabbed over, and have now all but faded entirely. Now, is an era of science, and it appears... spiritual figures such as the Avatar are no longer needed to maintain balance. However, there are some that say this peace is the calm before a great storm, one that, if the Avatar fails to return, will reduce the world to ashes. But these few are surely out of their minds. Surely.

Previously... On Avatar: Advent of Earth

Hardened URSA astronauts Anyu, Hiro, and Kirima embarked on a mission to the moon, only to be gobbled up by a massive wormhole event! After waking from a coma lasting five days, Anyu and Hiro were taken into the cramped confines of a mysterious government facility, and interrogated separately.

Five Days

Monday, September 26th, 220 AG

Five days had passed since the wormhole's appearance. Five days since the disappearance of the URSA moon rocket, and everyone in it. Five days since life in Republic City had been turned completely upside down. School had been closed for the time being, and Chen was now curled up on his bed, listening to the crumbling sounds of Min smashing rocks in the backyard.

His mom had been on the television earlier that morning, describing in depth the bewilderment and confusion she and her fellow scientists were going through at the moment. They hadn't been optimistic about the foreseeable future, to put it lightly. Whatever that thing in the sky was—the scientists had called it a "wormhole"—it couldn't be good. First of all, the thing was spitting out enough light to make it seem like it was noon in downtown Republic City no matter what hour it was. This was disrupting the sleep patterns of many a condominium resident. And then there was the one question everyone had been asking since the day the sky had ripped open. "Where did that thing lead to?" It was obviously some sort of portal. So, if it had indeed swallowed up the URSA rocket, where was it now? What corner of the universe had the mysterious gateway dropped it in?

URSA physicists were working round the clock, but so far, had absolutely nothing to show for their efforts. Nothing short of a probe would reveal the astronauts' current location.

Chen decided it best to put such thoughts out of his mind. Brooding over the wormhole would only make him more terrified of it than he already was.

His fear was mostly a result of the two dreams he'd experienced prior to the disk's appearance. In the first one, he'd been submerged in a frigid ice flow, which had also been on fire. He'd then been in downtown Republic City, staring up at the sky as a gigantic mouth appeared above his head and started babbling incoherently at him. Later that day, shortly after his fiasco with Ying's air gloves, he had taken a short nap and heard a strange man talking to him. If he recalled correctly, the voice had said... something like "the world will ring with his presence in not an hour's time." Chen had no idea who he was, but he had a good idea what Doctor Huang had been talking about. Chen didn't know how, but the man had predicted the wormhole.

Chen exhaled and slid out of bed. There was probably something decent on the television right about now, and nothing could divert Chen's attention like a good hour in front of the tube. And Ying had said it best, there were plenty of better ways to spend the afternoon than listening to Min earthbend.

Sidestepping another can of sea prunes, Chen made his way to the staircase and descended into the living room. Once there, he plopped down on the sofa and groped around for the TV remote. He had just about grabbed it when the telephone reported from the kitchen. With each ring, another of Chen's mental processes screeched off the rails. Chen groaned, slowly rose to a standing position, and ambled off in search of the infernal device.

He hated answering the phone. The way it usually went was: he'd pick up, greet the caller, and then spend the next few minutes being addressed as "Mrs. Ruan," Or sometimes just "Jia".

Over the phone, he sounded more feminine than his sister did.

But his parents were out, and Min would most likely beat him up if he bothered her. So... he was really the only person available to answer. He reached the phone, lifted it from its holder, and pressed it firmly to his right ear.

"Ruan residence." He shouted into the receiver, making his voice as deep as it would go.

"Chen!" Ying's voice rang out through the line, and Chen sighed with relief. If anyone were capable of differentiating Chen's voice from his mother's, it was Ying. His eccentric friend had a knack for that sort of thing. "You'll never believe what I invented this morning!"

Once again, Chen decided to go out on a limb. "You... created something to get rid of that wormhole thing everyone's talking about?"

"Nope!" Ying replied, "Something even better!"

Chen was silent for a long moment. He should've figured. "Better than that?" he finally asked.

"Way better!" Ying reported, "earlier this morning, I was examining the properties of various human pheromones when accelerated genetically."

Chen frowned. "Where are you going with this...?"

"And I found," Ying continued, paying no mind to Chen's question, "that out of all these pheromones, one responds the best to genetic manipulation. It's the one for love. Chen! I've made a working love potion!"

"Y-you have?"

When it came to Ying's inventions, Chen's opinion was usually divided. There was one curious part of him which would latch onto the exiting concepts of his friend's creations, and even agree to test them out. However, there was also the other half, which hated each and every one of Ying's ideas. In this half's opinion, all of them were horrible, dangerous contraptions, best burnt in a trash can or thrown in a blender.

This time, however, both sides strongly disagreed. A love potion? What kind of idea was that?

"—And furthermore, I think you could use a little excuse, if you know what I mean."

Chen realized he'd been ignoring his friend for the past five minutes, and asked him to repeat whatever he'd said.

"I said," Ying repeated, "I've spiked a bouquet of roses with the accelerated love pheromone, and I'm gonna give them to you. You'll can take these to Tara, who will then be susceptible to their effects."

Chen's mouth dropped open. "You want me to make Tara fall for me... With science? That's twisted!"

Ying hesitated. "Look Chen, my father used to tell me there were two types of people in this world: those who seek success, and those who sit around on their butts, waiting for success to come to them. As you can probably imagine, of these two, the former will be infinitely more prosperous."

"What're you trying to say?"

"I'm saying, you've been waiting for Tara to come to you for seven years! My pheromone science will... speed things up a bit."

"So you don't think I can do it on my own? Without your... flowers?"

Ying realized what his words had been implying, and quickly tried to repair the damage. "I never said that," he managed, "trust me, Chen, I didn't mean—"

Chen would've probably forgiven his friend's comment, but it was his fault Tara was so hard to reach now! And now, Ying was trying to repay Chen by using some science thing to alter Tara's brain chemistry. In Ying's mind, every problem, no matter how big or small, could be solved with a scientific innovation. Well, Chen had news for him.

"You know what, Ying," Chen grumbled, "You can go throw those flowers in a blender for all I care. That rocket glove disaster was the last straw for me."

The kitchen fell silent. A fly buzzed against a window above the counter. "Wait, what do you mean you've—"

And that was all Ying got the chance to say, because Chen had ended the call.

I'll show him... And show him he would. He'd ask Tara out himself, right now. Without Ying's science.

Chen picked up the phone again, and dialed Tara's number. He heard it ring once, twice, and his palms began to sweat.

Finally, on the fifth ring, he got something.

"Hello?"

Chen nearly hurtled through he ceiling. At first, he thought it was Tara speaking to him, but the lower voice revealed that it was in fact Jinora on the other end. "Hi," Chen said. He could feel courage drip into his veins like an IV from heaven. "May I speak to your daughter?"

"Sure you can... Min. Is that you?"

"No," he exhaled. What was the point in fighting it? "This is Chen."

"Oh! Well, she's in her room now; just let me get her." Chen was infinitely grateful to Tara for opting to keep Ying's rocket situation a secret from her mother. If she had told on them, Chen would've probably been hung up on before he'd even got the change to call. Somehow.

"Chen?"

Tara's voice hit him in the gut like an earth-pillar from Min. He'd wanted to start the conversation off with some suave pick-up line, but every ounce of his fear was rapidly coming back to him. The IV was running dry.

"Hi," he managed, voice cracking like a fault line.

"What did you want?" Tara snapped.

Chen winced. Her anger towards him and Ying was obviously still fresh.

"I was just wondering," Chen started, "If you'd like to—well, I mean, it's not like you have to, if you don't wanna..."

"Spit it out."

"Right, I was just calling to see if you'd like to—well, there's this movie playing."

Chen's could literally feel her eyes narrowing.

"And...?"

"And I wanted to know if you'd, by any chance, be interested in going to see it with me."

Tara's end was silent for a long while, and Chen hastily added: "you know, as friends."

The kiss of death. Why did he have to go and say that? He was Chen, purger of romance. Emperor of the friend zone.

"Actually," Tara said, "I'm not so sure if that's such a—" She stopped there.

Chen lowered the phone from his ear, and examined the receiver. He figured if his phone was responsible for the loss in connection, he'd be able to diagnose a problem with a quick look. And find the problem he did. Unfortunately, it was a heck of a lot bigger than he'd first imagined.

"Get off the phone, shrimp," Min said, who had been standing behind him the whole time, "I gotta make a call."

Chen quickly realized his sister had also unplugged the receiver from the wall, and fixed her with a defiant glare. "You can't do that!" he cried, "I was using it!"

"Really?" she snorted, "and who's gonna stop me, you?"

Chen wanted to cut his sister down to size with a blistering retort, but... he had to admit, she had a point. If things got physical, he couldn't make her do anything. She'd rocket him through the ceiling on a pillar of quartz before he had time to draw back his fist.

Min seemed to get a kick out his reaction, and curled her lips into a sneer. "That's what I thought."

All of Chen's self-preservation instincts screamed at him to go upstairs and leave Min to her stolen phone call, but—and this surprised Chen greatly—his wilder side, the same one that'd told him to fly with Ying on his gloves, was urging him to take action. This half reminded him of how long he'd been dominated by his sister's iron fist, how long he'd been forced to take whatever she threw at him on the chin, without any way to retaliate.

Chen grabbed the phone out of his sister's hand.

Showdown

Min stared at him for a moment, unable to believe her brother's sudden surge of bravery. It was only a moment however, and an awfully short one at that. Min's green eyes flashed from a look of surprise to a horrid glare as this ran its course.

Chen gulped. "I was using that," he stated, "if you'd like to call someone, wait until I'm done."

"What did you just say?" Min seethed in reply.

"I told you to wait your turn. J-just because you're a bender doesn't mean you can toss me around like a rag doll whenever you want."

Chen's voice had cracked just then, but that didn't stop him from straightening up as his sister's face contorted into a mask of fury. "Let's test that, shall we, shrimp?"

She then hung up the phone, and advanced a few steps. This almost stretched Chen's resolve to a breaking point.

But it was then that he decided he'd fight back in the best way he could: with his words. If fists would get him blasted into next year, these were definitely the next best thing.

"You know Min, I'm beginning to wonder if your prodigal earthbending skills are to blame for your whole superiority deal. I'm not so sure you'd be quite as tough if you'd been born a nonbender like me."

Min bared her teeth and growled at him. "I'll answer that right now. If I was a nonbender, I'd at least be a proud one. I wouldn't spend all my free time learning the forms of a skill I'll never have. If I really wanted to defend myself, I'd take up a martial art within my limits."

That one hurt Chen, but it was a card his sister played often, and nothing he couldn't handle. "Seems as though you're pretty confident," he said, "would you like to take this outside?"

Chen could feel himself shaking with anticipation as he awaited his sister's reply. Had he just challenged her to a fight? His rational side urged him to call it off, but he stood his ground.

"Alright..." Min finally agreed, "Let's head to the backyard, where I'll prove to you just how worthless you are, with or without my bending."

Chen nodded. "Lead the way."

Five minutes later, the boy and his sister where standing before each other, in the center of their backyard. Min had grabbed an egg timer from the kitchen on her way out, and this was now positioned on a stump some feet away, ticking down the seconds to their face off.

"Last chance to back down," Min warned.

Chen didn't move an inch. He knew that if he didn't take advantage of this new courage now, it might never return to him.

"I'm not going—" he was about to say "anywhere", but just then, the timer rang, and a nasty hook caught him in the mouth before he could.

Chen staggered backward, and almost fell flat on his bottom. That fist had been unbelievably fast, so fast in fact—

Min followed her previous hook with a vicious jab to Chen's stomach. The boy saw stars, and swung blindly at his sister, who dodged this with ease, and came back around for another blow to his chest.

The next thing Chen knew, he was lying face down in the grass, coughing up stomach acid.

But seeing her brother collapsed in defeat wasn't enough for Min. She came up behind him, grabbed a handful of his hair and pulled his face off the ground. Chen cried out in pain, and Min smiled.

"Does that prove my point?" she asked.

Chen gritted his teeth and nodded.

Satisfied she'd driven her argument home, Min let go of Chen's hair, and leisurely returned to the house, leaving him in the dirt.

Rotary Dial

After the sound of the back door clicking shut announced his sister's exit, Chen propped himself up on one elbow. How could he have been so utterly blind? Min spent practically all her free time honing her fighting skills, with and without her bending. What had given him any vague premonition of victory?

Chen stared at his glasses lying broken in the grass before him, and he realized something. It had been Tara. His feelings for her had completely blurred his sense of reason, and filled him with courage, determination to win the phone back from his sister. Chen sighed, and slowly rose to a sitting position.

Why, why couldn't he have just waited for her to finish? Tara would've most likely still been waiting for him. And now that he'd lost the fight, he would still have to wait for Min to end her phone call.

So, ultimately, he had gained nothing from this whole event, except a throbbing stomach and another pair of broken glasses.

Bones aching, Chen stood up, and walked slowly back to the house. Maybe he'd be able to salvage his sort-of date with Tara if he called her back when Min had finished, and apologized profusely, but that was a big maybe.

He reached the back door, pulled it open and slipped into the living room. The sound of Min's voice wafted to his ears from the kitchen, and he gave the noise a wide berth as he eased toward the stairs.

Once he'd at last climbed these, and shut himself in his room, Chen began to cry.

Burying his face in his pillow, Chen wept for all of his troubles. He wept for his utter inability to compare in any way to his sister. He wept for his inability to stand up to the bullies at school who tormented him on a regular basis. He wept for his failure to control his surges of bravery that never really ended up accomplishing anything. And most of all... he wept for his status as a nonbender. As long as he could remember, he'd dreamed about manipulating the earth like his parents and sister did.

If he were an earthbender, he could stand up to Min and the bullies without getting beaten up and humiliated, he could train with his dad in the academy his family owned, and most importantly, the days of feeling like an outsider in his own home would be over.

Chen probably would've thought up a few more reasons why his life would be infinitely better if he could earthbend, but he was interrupted by a series of soft thumps from outside his door. it was the sounds of feet climbing stairs.

Chen sat up, and crept closer to his door. If that was his sister returning to her room, then... the phone was free! If he could just get down to the kitchen, he could call Tara back and maybe even salvage their afternoon outing.

On silent feet, Chen slipped out of his room and into the upstairs hallway.

He descended the staircase and tiptoed through the dining room towards the phone. All signs indicated that his sister had retired to her room, but Chen figured it was better to be safe than sorry.

He finally reached the phone, and at once, his fingers jumped to the rotary dial. Though the absence of his glasses made it a bit hard to see, Chen dialed Tara's number without too much trouble—he'd memorized it ages ago. Satisfied he'd gotten it right, Chen gripped the phone and listened intently as it began to ring.

"Hello?"

Chen was relieved to find Tara on the other end, and not her mother. He quickly returned her greeting, and began the conversation.

"Yeah... um, sorry we got cut off earlier, I just—" Chen had to stop talking when he realized just how tight his throat was. No matter how hard he tried to fight it, the fact that he'd been crying for the last fifteen minutes was impossible to hide.

Tara quickly picked up on this.

"Chen," she began, "Are you...?"

"No!" Chen denied a bit too quickly, before deciding it'd just be better to come clean. "I'm not crying now exactly, but I have been crying."

"Oh, well, would you maybe like to talk about it?"

Chen sighed, and leaned against the wall. When he'd first set out to claim the girl of his dreams, he certainly hadn't imagined he would be turning to her for counseling. But, their potential romance was pretty much nonexistent now, so heck, why not?

He told her everything, and when he'd finished, waited for her to either hang up, or start laughing.

She did neither.

Tara's reply made Chen's blood run cold, but in a good way. "You know," she said, "that new Rotting Iron movie hit the theaters last Friday. I've checked the paper, and the next showing's in an hour. If you'd like to go..."

"Yes!" Chen practically screamed, "I'll go! I'd love to go!" He then quieted down a bit, and said: "Should I meet you there?"

"Sure. I'll be taking my glider, so, do you wanna just catch a bus?"

"That's fine. I'll leave a note for my dad."

Rotting Iron

They said their goodbyes, and Chen slammed down the receiver, pumping his fist triumphantly. He'd done it! Despite his mishap with Min, he'd finally gotten himself an afternoon with the girl he'd been dreaming about since second grade! Quick as a bullet, Chen shot up to his room for a shower. After that, he wrapped up in a towel, which he then tripped on--but this didn't lower his spirits.

Chen picked himself up off the floor, ran to his closet and threw on some fresh clothes.

Once he was clad in clean garments, Chen put on his second pair of back-up glasses and rushed downstairs to the dining room, where he scrawled out a note to his parents.

Fifteen minutes later he was staring out the window of a bus, watching pieces of the downtown skyline race to him, shoot past, and then recede into the distance. It wasn't long before he could see the United Cinema, with its colorful architecture and vibrant vertical lettering. Eventually, the buss screeched to a stop and Chen walked to the front alone. The bus contained only two other people, and Chen blamed the wormhole for this. Most folks had decided to remain in their homes and wait for news from the URSA, fearing the thing might gobble them up if they stepped outside.

Chen reached the end of the vacant aisle, and stepped through the sliding doors just as they hissed open. He glimpsed a blur of orange tear through the clouds.

He almost yelled "Tara!" but then realized she was currently rocketing through the lower atmosphere and would not be able to hear him. Instead, he waited until she had landed softly across the street and then called to her. She smiled at him and he crossed the road.

The two exchanged pleasantries and made their way to the theater, which advertised the new Rotting Iron movie in big black letters.

Looking back, it was hard for Chen to believe how nice things had been going before all at once, they turned sour.

He had seen many movies involving kidnappings, with criminals using chloroform-soaked cloths to subdue their victims, but he didn't think of that as the tool of choice for real kidnappers.

And so, he learned something about real kidnappers when a wet rag was pressed to his lips from behind and darkness consumed his field of vision.

Before he completely lost consciousness however, Chen heard two things. The first was the rapid burst of air From Tara's glider, and the second was the grinding sound of an earth column shooting out of the sidewalk.

The Councilman Returns

Unknown

Chen had no idea how long he'd been out, because the room where he came to contained no means of telling time. But then again, even if a clock had been present, it was doubtful Chen would've given it his attention. The rest of the room was just so hard to ignore.

Picture frames crowded a well-kept altar on the north wall, and spread out to cover the other three walls. Chen noticed other things as his eyes followed the photographs: a bank of microscopes, and a large hospital bed covered in a white sheet.

Chen tried to get a closer look at the bed, but found he was tied to a chair. After a few minutes of useless struggling, Chen realized just how strong the chair was. He eventually decided to just answer as many questions as he could from a sitting position. Foremost in his mind was the question "is Tara alright?" Chen desperately hoped she wasn't anywhere near that bed.

His eyes scanned the room once again but he failed to find any sign of her. His mind returned to the gurney, but Chen forced himself to move on to the next question. If his kidnappers really had killed Tara, it was unlikely they'd bother to place her in a covered hospital bed.

Chen refocused. The next thing he needed to figure out was his location. He took another look around and discovered that wherever he was had no windows. It did have a door though, a heavy wooden thing with a plethora of locks and latches attached. Chen decided that trying to force it would most likely get him nowhere.

After some thought he realized he was just going to have to wait for his captor-- whoever he or she was--to return, and work backward from there. He doubted he could convince whoever it was to let him go, but at the very least he'd get some of his questions answered.

He must've fallen asleep at some point because all of the sudden, the sound of the door creaking open jolted him awake.

A tall figure entered, and Chen figured this must be his kidnapper. "What do you want with me?" Chen yelled, "who are—" Just then, the stranger's identity burned through his mind.

He had disappeared long before Chen had been born—a few years after Korra's death—but Chen's parents had showed him plenty of pictures. Even though the pro-bending legend-turned politician was a bit older now—somewhere in his late sixties—the key features were unmistakable. The solid jaw, the green eyes, and that one lock of hair that curled down his forehead all screamed the same thing. Chen had been kidnapped by Councilman Bolin!

"So you do recognize me," The councilman began, "I'd have to say I'm flattered. Not many people remember me, you know. Most view me as something best forgotten." He approached Chen and slowly began circling the chair. This annoyed the boy greatly, for it forced him to risk whiplash in order to keep his eyes on the man.

"Wh-why did you—"

"Why did I abduct you?"

Chen nodded.

"I believe a quick peek under this sheet will answer your question." Bolin walked over to the gurney and quickly uncovered its occupant. For the second time that hour Chen felt as though he was looking at a piece of history, a figure he'd seen many pictures of but had never really met in person—someone who was supposed to be gone forever.

Bolin grinned as he revealed to Chen the body of Avatar Korra.

Chen would've fallen over in surprise, but he was still tied to that chair, so all he could do was gasp.

"Interesting, isn't it? She's been gone for 37 years and her body hasn't aged a day."

Chen studied the corpse of Korra, and found Bolin was correct. She could've easily passed away moments before.

"H-how did you get...?"

"I stole the body from the Helix Project--who had stolen it from the cemetery. How do you think I got it?"

"Wait, the Helix Project had—you stole... what?"

"The HELIX PROJECT TOOK KORRA!" Bolin exploded, and Chen felt the need to shrink into his chair. "They stole her from me—from all of us. When I finally got the facility's location out of Huang, I paid those vile scientists a visit, and reclaimed her."

"You knew Doctor Huang?"

Bolin ignored the question. "But she's still dead. I have her, but I don't. Now that you're here though, things'll be much better. You'll wake her up Chen, I know you will."

"How do you know my name? And... How do you expect me to 'wake up' a dead body?"

"HE TOLD ME YOU COULD!" Bolin sighed, and regained his composure. "That's how I know you can do it. He... he told me."

Chen frowned. "Well, I'm afraid whoever he is --he's wrong. I can't reanimate the dead." Chen was trying to stay calm, but the fear in his chest was building with each one of Bolin's outbursts. The ex-councilman seemed pretty convinced Chen could bring Korra back to life, but Chen knew that was impossible. What would Bolin do when he finally realized this? Chen had seen his face, so... Bolin couldn't afford to release him. That meant... The second he was no longer necessary, Chen would have to be disposed of.

Chen knew Bolin wouldn't need a gun to do away with him. A quick earth spike through the chest, and it was lights out.

Bolin smiled. "I know you can do it, Chen. I just talked with him today, and he was very, very confident."

"Just who is he exactly?"

"Not sure if I'm allowed to say, actually. Just know that he is very powerful, and has great confidence in you." Bolin undid the straps binding Chen's arms and legs, and pointed to the gurney. "Now get over there and do your stuff."

Chen figured at this point, it was best just to go along with what his captor said. Nonsense or not, Chen didn't want to get on the bad side of a man who could snap his ribs in the blink of an eye.

Chen walked over to the bed, and moved a hand towards Korra's body. The air seemed to get colder the closer he got, to the point where his breath was visible.

"So... I just touch her? Or what? I'm not really sure how to do this."

"He told me all it takes is one touch," Bolin confirmed.

Goosebumps spread across his arms as Chen reached out, and grabbed Korra's wrist. Even months later, Chen had trouble finding words to describe the events that followed.

As soon as his flesh touched hers, a jolt of electricity flew through his bones, shocking his muscles, and making his hair stand on end. His vision went black, and he felt himself crumple to the floor. All at once he was back in the desert. The warm sand beneath his toes, the dry breeze blowing across his face—Yes, it was definitely the same place he'd been in a few of his recurring nightmares.

If this had been just another one of those dreams, Chen would've begun going through his earthbending forms, but... This time, something was very different. The first thing he noticed was an immense temple, woven together out of countless thick roots, rising out of the sand a few yards away.

Avatar Korra was standing at the entrance to this temple, staring at him intently. One important thing Chen found about this Avatar Korra was that, unlike the one he'd seen on the bed, she was alive.

Chen took a step forward. Remaining silent, Korra started towards him. She walked slowly down the temple steps, her posture rigid. The two continued closing the distance between them and Chen noticed something important as soon as he got a better look at her face. She was crying. Tears were rolling down her cheeks, yet, she did not speak.

Chen's focus widened, and he took in her full form. With the sandy wind tousling her long, brown hair and the sun glinting off her water-tribe complexion, he had to admit... Korra was a knockout. A little old for him, sure, but still, If he were twenty years older—Chen shook such thoughts out of his head. His eyes belonged to Tara only.

Chen was repulsed by what happened next. Korra slowed her pace, and he realized her hair was beginning to lose its pigment. As she ambled towards him, her hair became whiter and whiter, until patches of it fell out and fluttered to the ground. They were only a few feet away now, and Chen saw that her skin was growing thinner as well. It slackened and sagged, becoming more and more diseased with each passing moment.

Chen wanted to run away, but his feet remained rooted to the spot. He stared, incredulous, seeing that now Korra's hair was completely gone, and the majority of her teeth had fallen out. Her left arm hardened into charcoal as she raised the right one towards Chen's forehead.

A sigh of relief passed through her parched lips and Korra's finger pressed into Chen's skull.

A burning sensation rippled through him, just before the advancing charcoal claimed the remainder of Korra's body, and she fell backward onto the sand. Her body shattered into dust as it hit the ground. A scream--had it been hers or his?--tore through the air as Chen popped awake.

A cold hard something was pressing against his back. Chen remembered he'd fallen to the floor. He looked up to see Bolin standing over the hospital bed, sobbing deeply. Rising to his feet, Chen saw what had provoked the man's reaction. Just like in his dream, Korra's body was now a mound of ash.

"Impossible!" Bolin screamed, "He told me she would live!" He grabbed a fistful of Korra's ashes, and raised them to the sky. "Live!" he cried, "Live!" He turned to Chen. "You... YOU DID THIS!"

Chen fell down again, and began crawling backwards like a crab. "What? I—I didn't do anything, I swear!"

Bolin wasn't listening. "My life could have been perfect again, but... because of you, it remains ruined." He raised his hand and sank into a horse stance. "I'm gonna enjoy smearing you into the floor."

The tears came hot and fast, pouring down Chen's cheeks, and onto his shirt. "P-please!" he begged, don't kill me! I'll—I'll do anything!"

This only widened Bolin's sneer. "Goodbye, Chen," he said, "and good rid—"

Before he could finish, Bolin was slammed in the chest with a pillar of steel, and thrown against the wall. He crumpled to the floor, unconscious.

Chen turned towards the bender responsible for this, and found two people standing in the doorway.

Rescue

"Get away from my—!" The last word was a bit jumbled, as the first of the pair had said, "son" and the second, "brother". But Chen got the picture. Through some miracle, Min and his Dad had come to save him!"

Chen's father stepped out of the doorway, and made a slashing motion with his hands. The metal in the wall Bolin stood against quivered, then grabbed his wrists. The unconscious ex-councilman was then raised up, arms bound to the wall by coils of steel, and left to hang there.

Still crying a little, Chen ran to them, and his dad wrapped him in a bear hug. "Chen!" he cried, "I thought we'd lost you!"

"H-how'd you find me?"

Chen's father explained that Tara had arrived on their doorstep with the news of his kidnapping, and that he, Min, and Jia had immediately contacted the police. The Republic City Police Department, however, was busy handling a massive pair of panic riots downtown which had broken out in response to the wormhole, and had put Chen's case on hold.

"That's when Min suggested we go and find you ourselves," Chen's father continued, "you mother agreed, and well... here we are."

"Where's Mom then?"

"She and Tara are poking around outside."

Chen's father led him and Min out the door and through a hallway, up a flight of stairs, and into a nice little living room. He started towards a phone in one corner. "Min, why don't you take him outside to meet Tara and your mother? I'm gonna give the police another call. See if they can sort that man out for us—now that we've done all the work."

Min walked towards the front door, but turned to Chen before she opened it. "I'm, uh," it was hard for her to make eye contact. "I'm glad you're alright."

"Um, thanks." Chen really wasn't sure how to respond to that. His sister's words had definitely caught him off guard. He might have said more, but the entire weight of recent events was beginning to press upon his shoulders. He'd been kidnapped! He'd only been held for a little while, but still... it scared him. Chen was afraid that if he opened his mouth again, he might resume crying.

When Min finally opened the front door, Chen found that it wasn't the front door after all. It merely led into hallway, one which had, until very recently, ended in a second closed door. Now however, the frame had been permeated by a number of rock columns and a cold wind was blowing through the opening. Chen could see a dark, snow-covered landscape beyond.

"Did you guys... do that?" he asked, indicating the wrecked entry. Min nodded.

Chen followed her through the hole that she and their father had created, and walked out into the frigid night.

Author's Note

So... Long. Sorry if this one dragged on a bit, but hey! What a chapter! Chen's been abducted by a senile Bolin who's also currently in possession of Avatar Korra's Body? I can only wonder what'll happen next!

Did You Know...?

  • I'm a fierce Borra shipper. (Okay, maybe that was pretty obvious). Either way, in my fanciful dream realm, the nice guy didn't finish last. He got the girl. And then went insane, but that part doesn't matter.

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