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|More from WaterMasterFinn||Mystery||PG-13||N/A||N/A|
|Daughter of the Rain & Snow|
The Red Spirit
Daughter of the Rain & Snow
"Hello, my son," the strong old man greeted his only family.
The young boy didn't say anything. He scampered to his room, looking down the entire way. Zygo stood up and followed his son to his room. The little boy sat on his bed, ready to give an answer for the question he knew he would be asked.
"She's so nice and fun to play with. There are no other children here. I don't want to do it. She's my friend!" Akuji begged.
Zygo sat down next to Akuji, placing a hand on his shoulder as well. He sighed. "There comes a time when we must all do something we don't want to do. But this is your destiny Akuji. You must kill her."
"There has to be another way," Akuji pleaded.
"No. There is none."
Zygo left Akuji alone for a moment before coming back with a stern look on his face.
"Come with me. We must go now."
Akuji's heart dropped. He didn't think it would happen so soon, but he knew rejecting his father's request would result in punishment.
About an hour later Akuji was left alone in the Southern Spiritual Oasis. It was quiet and nothing led him to expect what was about to happen.
The young girl appeared as if out of nowhere. Her silky brown hair swayed as she turned around and smiled at her only friend. Akuji looked down and off to the side. He didn't say a word. The girl started moving forward to the Avatar when he held up a hand. She stopped in her tracks and then turned when she saw someone standing by the Oasis.
The Oasis was protected by large shards of ice forming a teepee like structure around it. The moon and ocean spirits, brought to the South Pole by the now deceased King Dakko, were swimming in the pond in the circular fashion they were used to after so many thousands of years.
In a split second, the shards protecting the oasis came crashing down. Akuji abandoned his plan and quickly made his way to the escape exit he set up earlier. His last glance was of the woman jumping to shield the Oasis and the child. Akuji was certain she was unsuccessful.
Akuji exited the remains and walked a few feet away. His heart began sinking at the loss of his friend. The grief that held him in place was swept away by the hands of another Bloodbender. Bonyo grabbed on tightly to the Avatar and stared him directly in the eye.
"You have failed. You were meant to take the girl's life... Our leader...Your father is coming. Everything has gone wrong now! Do not tell him otherwise. It was you. You killed the girl," Bonyo urged.
Zygo strutted over to Bonyo and Akuji. He had a large smile plastered on his face. Without even asking the question, he bent over to Akuji and waited for an answer.
"I did it. I killed the daughter of the rain and snow," Akuji lied.
The measure of the amount of books which the building contained could only be described as infinite. The spirit had always intended that. For a long time he had often wished to share knowledge with the physical world but it was only a few thousand years ago—in the physical word's time—that he was able to accomplish this feat. His library held what was most precious to him; it was his heart and soul.
Upon entering the building, a calming sensation immediately transcends the observer. This effect is actually due to the nature of the Library. The entrance actually acts as a barrier between the Spirit World and the realm in which the Avatar presides. This accounts for its ability to shift and change as well as hold more books than the building seems capable of doing.
"This may take a while," the tall thin man stated. His hair was long and as yellow as the sun. He talked slowly and precisely.
"Does the library come with a map?" the Avatar asked, only half joking. "I feel like there should be an entire floor dedicated to the Avatar!"
"I am quite positive there is. But we must figure out precisely which floor that would be," Olly responded.
Olly continued forward, gazing at the immense architecture of the building filled with aisles upon aisles of knowledge just waiting to be discovered. His hands skimmed the walls as he glanced at passing titles. The Secret Rivers of the Fire Nation. The Lost Tomb of King Manato. The Original Benders. A Cross Examination of Bending Styles and Effects. Olly wanted to read them all.
He glanced back at the Avatar who was frozen in the doorway. "Hey, are you coming along?"
The Avatar took a pause and looked around. He frowned and scratched his head. "This is pointless. We might as well be looking for a leaf in a forest!" Akuji turned and looked outside at the desert.
"You haven't even tried yet! The knowledge you're seeking could be in the first book you pull off the shelf!" Olly combated and pulled a random book from a nearby shelf. He held the book up at the Avatar in defiance.
"A Guide to Elbow Leeches?" the Avatar retorted. Olly looked at the title of the book and scrunched his nose in disappointment. "Isn't there any sort of map here that can help us, Olly?"
"Of course! The Spirit!" the Earth Nation citizen suggested. Akuji took an immediate step back and became visibly nervous.
"You mean Wan Shi Tong?"
Olly nodded and headed for the center of the main floor. Akuji didn't follow, but instead looked at some scrolls kept near the entrance. They didn't seem to have any proper continuity. Akuji reasoned they were new bits of information that had yet to be sorted. He glanced through a few articles. They were mostly short blurbs about recent news in the nations.
"Avatar!" Olly called out. "It's much easier to connect to a spirit when you have the actual bridge to the Spirit World!"
Akuji didn't answer. He continued reading through the scrolls. There were pieces of information involving a mutiny in the South Western Earth Nation. A new prince was born in the Fire Nation. There was nothing about the Water Tribes, to which Akuji was happy for. His past with the Water Tribes was something he did not like to bring up.
Olly came striding over, almost too eagerly in fact. He nearly ran right into the Avatar before stopping himself.
"What are you looking at?"
"Just some scrolls. It's like finding out what's going on with the world without even being there. Who gets this information here?" Akuji asked.
"The Knowledge Seekers. They are spirit friends of Tong's. They collect information and bring it here to store safely until the end of time."
"Look at this stuff! I mean here—this scroll is about the Air Nomads. How did they even reach one of their civilizations!? And—"
Akuji was cut off by the sight of one word on a scroll dealing with the Air Nomads: his father's name. Olly had it in his hands. Akuji's face became flushed. He grabbed the scroll assuring himself that the name he saw was in fact his father. It was. He immediately looked outside. He pulled in air and surrounded himself in it. It was his own personal ball of fresh air.
"Akuji! Are you alright?" Olly asked. In the brief time they spent traveling together, he was only starting to get used to the Avatar's way of coping with things. It seemed to Olly that Akuji had a lot to cope about too. And indeed he did. His personal history was filled with more darkness than one should ever have to bear.
Akuji exited from his brief meditation and glanced back at the scroll. He picked it up, tucking it away in his bag.
"I suppose you don't wish to talk about it, sir? Well then, shall we find the Spirit?" Olly asked once again.
Akuji still didn't answer. He wasn't too fond of spirits, having never been able to really connect with them. His only connection with the spirits was his past life—Zola. The previous Avatar had been born to the Fire Nation, but died when only a baby. She couldn't speak and had no wisdom to impart on Akuji. All knowledge of what it meant to be the Avatar was lost on Akuji—other than his ability to manipulate all the elements.
"Let's come back another day. I'm tired," Akuji lied.
"The Library might not be here another day! We can't lose it again! It's a miracle we found it again in the first place!" Olly yelled, frustrated at the duration of time spent searching for the library they had done. It had been years since the young Avatar had originally met Olly and asked for his help.
"We'll find it again. Now let's go!" the Avatar barked. Both Olly and Akuji were startled, not by his harsh tone though, but by the slamming of a door behind them.
"Was that a little too loud?" the young woman asked as she let go of the giant chains connected to the doors.
Akuji and Olly stepped back, their faces painted in shock. The woman had dark brown hair and green eyes. She wore a slight grin on her face, as if she were flirting.
"You guys are quite the lookers, but you don't say much huh? Especially you, Avatar Akuji."
Akuji slowly turned his head to Olly while opening his mouth. He couldn't quite form any words to say. Olly raised an eyebrow and inspected her. She wore a red dress and had a small bag on her back. In Olly's mind she was perfect.
"I'm Clara. Why do you two look so surprised? Never seen a girl before?"
"No, I—we have," Olly finally replied. "I'm Olly by the way. This is Akuji. You see, it's just not many people can find where we are. Plus with the recent cases of missing people in this library, not a lot of visitors show up here anymore."
Olly was referring to several women who had each found their way to the library seeking knowledge—but no one had heard of them since. Even Wan Shi Tong was unaware of where they ended up. Admitting this caused him great shame.
"Oh! The tall one speaks. So Mr. Tall-and-Handsome, where are we? What're you doing here? And—"
Clara was cut off by a loud roar coming from outside. Clara's grin quickly vanished as she turned back to the two men.
"And?" Akuji asked, continuing her last thought.
"And do you know a good place to hide?" Clara stated with a little bit of nervous laughter attached.
"Hide? From what?" the Avatar questioned her. His eyes narrowed. He was still a little shaken from this bizarre meeting.
"Oh, just this spirit that has been attacking me."
"Attacking you? Why?" Olly questioned.
"Long story. But that hiding place?"
"What Spirit is attacking you? I mean, we have the Avatar! He's the bridge to the Spirit World. Maybe he can talk to him," Olly suggested. Akuji bit his bottom lip and almost stopped breathing.
"Death," Clara uttered almost too silently to hear.
"Death?" Akuji repeated, wanting to be certain.
"Yes," Clara answered in a somber tone, "Death follows me where ever I go."
"Well, Akuji? Care to take a crack at talking to death?" Olly asked.
"I...can't. But I think I have a good idea where we can hide," Akuji responded and quickly turned away. He was lying though. He hadn't come up with a plan, but simply wanted a way out of being asked about why he wouldn't deal with the Spirit.
Akuji led Olly and Clara down a long set of stairs. It led to a small room with a door on each wall. In the middle of the floor was a solid gold panel. Clara immediately inspected the gold plate. Olly pulled Akuji over to the opposite side of the room.
"What are you doing? Why don't you just talk to the Spirit?"
"None of your business."
"It is my business when a spirit might attack me!"
The Avatar remained silent for a moment. He shook his head and finally let words come out. "I can't. I have no idea about how to deal with the spirits. I'm a failure as an Avatar."
"You're not a failure, Akuji. You just have some learning to do," Olly assured him.
"You guys, look!" Clara called out. She was kneeling in front of the gold plate on the floor. It was open and revealed a staircase to a lower floor. The bottom of the door read in big bold letters: AVATAR. This is what Akuji had been looking for.
Clara backed up and let the Avatar check out the writing. He smiled a little and was about to thank Clara when he noticed the Spirit darting down at them from above. Akuji barely even thought about his next action. He simply had two things in mind. Firstly, he wanted to find more information about himself. Secondly, he didn't want to get hurt by the Spirit—he was afraid of it.
Akuji raised his arms and made his fingers tense. He breathed in deeply and then pushed his arms straight out in front of himself. Clara found herself flying back to the opposite wall. The Spirit swooped down at her old position, missing, and turned around getting ready to attack again.
Clara was left as bait as Akuji grabbed Olly and ran down the stairs through the secret passage.
"Say something," the Avatar said quietly to himself. "Show yourself and say something."
Olly watched from the doorway of a small meditation room meant for the Avatar. Akuji was trying to contact to his past lives once again to no avail. Olly focused his thoughts on Clara. Apart from her stunning beauty, Olly was certain he was the same woman he had met a long time ago that led him to the library and to the Avatar.
It was years ago when Olly was living in a small village in the Southern Earth Nation. He lived alone but worked a small shop selling fish. His life had never been too exciting, and he often longed to leave and explore the world. His first attempt to do so led him to the outskirts of the forest in the swamp. It was here he met Clara who would appear for brief instances and then vanish. She was running from something. She was dressed in red and white and wore a rose in her hair that was a mix of the two colors as well.
She would only say one thing: "Follow me." Olly did as best he could but could never quite catch up with her. Instead, he found that she had left a strange message for her carved in a tree. The message told him that he was to find the Avatar and take him to the Library.
It was at that point that Olly decided to go on a new mission to find the Avatar. His attempts were all in vain, as no one knew where the next Avatar was since the death of the previous one in the Fire Nation. He eventually decided to focus on finding the library instead.
It had been a long time since he had returned to the library from his initial visit, but he was not surprised to meet Clara once again. He was quite certain she was going to play a big role in his life—and he hoped it would be romantically.
"This is useless!" Akuji screamed.
Olly glanced at the Avatar. He was standing, breathing heavily, and had just set a few scrolls on fire. Olly gave a slight chuckle and then went back to thinking about the lovely Clara.
"I can only see Zola, Olly. Every time, everywhere I go, all I see is this baby that tells me nothing! Not one clue how to be the Avatar."
"Well," Olly began, unhappy that he was being pulled out of his thoughts, "maybe there's something in one of these scrolls."
"Maybe there's something about who killed the last Avatar. Man would I like to get my hands on him," Akuji threatened.
Akuji searched through the scrolls. Most were about different styles of bending rather than about how to be an Avatar. It was after about an hour when Akuji found a box labeled, "Zola." Akuji became ecstatic, opening the box slowly to savor the moment of finally getting an answer.
But it didn't come. There was nothing in the box. Akuji felt the anger consume him from head to toe. His hands flew in front of his face before he even recognized what he was doing. The shelves containing the scrolls were blasted with air. They fell to the ground causing a loud booming sound.
"Akuji!" Olly scolded.
Akuji didn't pay any attention to him though. He was more intrigued by a message written on a piece of paper tacked to the back of one of the book cases. The paper came off easily as Akuji ripped it off. It was from Clara, the very one he had met and left as bait only hours ago.
"What is that?" Olly asked.
"It's a message—from Clara," Akuji told him. Olly instantly smiled.
"Well what does it say!?"
"It says, Come save me. Find the cellar. I don't get it. How did she get this message down here before she knew I would even leave her with that spirit?"
Olly thought back to when he first met the Avatar. He had only known the moment would happen because Clara had sent him a note that he would. Akuji must've been thinking the same thing because he asked about it before Olly could say anything.
"I didn't meet her persay. I've seen her before, or someone almost like her. But she guided me to a message just like this one and it told me you'd find me and to give you... to give you the message I did," Olly answered the Avatar. Neither of them liked to talk about the message he delivered. It was too ominous.
"Has Clara been in the Library before?"
"Does it even matter? That spirit probably has her by now," Olly replied, prompting Akuji to dart out of the room.
He was quite a ways away from Clara. After her ordeal with the Spirit, she made her way to a long corridor. She moved closer to a sniffling sound. Turning a corner, a young girl lay on the floor wearing a yellow dress with a matching necklace that had a large yellow pendant.
"Are you okay?"
The girl looked up, surprised. "Oh yes, sorry. I just... see I'm on this vacation and it's great. It's the greatest vacation ever. But it's also not great. The only reason I'm here is to get my mind off the recent," the girl paused. "...the recent loss of my entire family. It's hard to keep your mind off the people you wish you were on vacation with."
Clara stared at the girl, unsure of what to say.
"Sorry, did I just share too much? I've been doing that recently. Well mostly at my job. I was a teacher. I moved from town to town and help educate people to the best of my knowledge. But now it feels like the only thing I know is how to feel pain and talk about how I miss my family. So I've been going on vacations. I just came back from the Spirit Oasis. I was looking for the ocean and moon spirits but apparently they've been missing since the war in the South Pole. So I decided to come here instead. Sorry," the girl apologized again.
"No, it's okay. I understand. I know what it's like to be alone. I've never even met my family. I've gone from foster family to foster family that I can't even tell you how many I've went to," Clara sympathized.
"Why are you here?" the girl asked. "On a vacation as well?"
Clara thought back to how she got here in the first place. She remembered the exact moment she made the decision. One morning, Clara was staring at a note on a table, the end of which read:
PS Go back to the library. The Avatar is coming and you must save him.
She had no choice. Clara knew she had to save the Avatar from whatever danger the Library held. She couldn't live with herself if she ignored the cry for help—even if it was a wild goose chase. Her journey to the library was surprisingly short. She found it quickly. Of course, outside she found a spirit waiting for her, causing her to run inside the library and meeting the Avatar. It happened as if out of fate.
"Yeah," Clara finally said, lying.
The girl continued trying to stop her weeping while Clara looked around for something to dry her tears with. Her search led her to stumble upon a peculiar message scratched on a tiny corner of a wall.
The cellar. Save me. -C
Clara debated the coincidence of the initial C in her name and the message. She dismissed it quickly, having never been to the library before. She stood up after she was done examining the message and turned to ask the other girl what her name was. To her surprise, the girl had vanished without a sound. Deciding that the girl must have gone off on her own, Clara headed off to the cellar to see if there just might be anyone who needed saving.
It took her a couple of detours, but she managed to find the cellar of the library. It was dark, warm, and mostly empty. The walls were lined with shelves that barely contained any items. There was an open door in the far back corner with light stemming from it. Clara slowly made her way towards it. She peered around into the room slowly, catching Bonyo holding on to the girl she had talked with only moments ago.
Clara stared at Bonyo as he spoke softly to the woman. The woman wore a ring made of a rose and was still crying. Bonyo was holding a scroll in his hand. He placed it on a nearby table, and then motioned for the woman to lead the way to another door. The two disappeared, giving Clara a chance to take a peek at the scroll the man was holding.
Clara opened it to reveal a map. She had never seen the landmarks before and was unable to make very much sense of it. It was a strange foreign land.
A loud shriek broke her concentration on the map. She jerked her head around but didn't see anything. Clara placed the map in her bag and exited the small room. The main cellar room was still dark, but something else was in the room. Her eyes scanned the place, but she couldn't detect anything.
"Clllllaara," a deep voice called out.
"Hello?" Clara replied, her voice quivering.
"I have come for you," it stated. Every word made the room colder.
Clara touched a shelf along the wall and used it to guide her way slowly back to the cellar door. The voice continued calling out her name. Clara's breathing started getting faster and louder.
"Watch out!" a voice screamed.
Clara glanced at the entrance. Akuji threw a flame into the room, revealing a tall dark spirit. It had a few bright red stripes on it. Its shape was continuously changing, like smoke. The Avatar's attack missed the spirit. The spirit began to glow and blasted Akuji with a gust of air. Clara took the chance to run around the spirit, but it noticed and sent a beam of air her way as well. She was knocked onto the floor.
"No!" Akuji yelled, but could do nothing to stop the spirit as it began to dive onto Clara.
Before the spirit could reach her, it was knocked out of its trajectory. Clara glanced up to see a large owl above her. It grabbed her, followed by Akuji, and then flapped its giant wings. The three escaped the cellar together, leaving the dark spirit behind.
The enormous wings came swinging down, pushing the air underneath him, slowing him down as he landed softly. Wan Shi Tong released the two humans he saved. They rose to their feet, unsure of what this spirit was going to do that the last one wasn't.
"Hello, Avatar," Wan Shi Tong greeted him. "And Clara, how wonderful to see you again."
Akuji quickly glanced at Clara. Her eyebrows were pressed together in confusion. The Avatar squinted, wondering if the message he discovered earlier would finally be explained.
"Again? I'm sorry. Who are you?" Clara asked, unsure of what the spirit was talking about.
"I am Wan Shi Tong. The Spirit that knows over 10,000 things. Surely you remember me," the Spirit declared.
"No, I'm pretty sure I would remember a fifty foot Spirit Owl," Clara laughed.
The Owl peered at the girl. He wondered if she had genuinely forgotten or perhaps something more was going on here. Mostly, though, he did not want to be depicted as a liar.
"Well, regardless of our previous meeting, welcome! Is there any information I can help you seek today?"
Akuji continued staring at Clara, wanting to know more of her previous visit. Clara was more concerned with what she had just seen. The Spirit did not seem to be unaware of anything about it.
"Yes, I know the man. He goes by Bonyo. A waterbender from the South Pole."
"Not just a Waterbender," Akuji added, "He's a Bloodbender."
"A Bloodbender!" Won Shi Tong burst out. "In MY LIBRARY!"
Akuji explained how he knew Bonyo and was surprised to learn that he was still alive and in the Earth Nation of all places. Won Shi Tong explained that Bonyo was there to study Waterbending. Bonyo apparently told the Spirit that he had never properly learned.
"That's because the tribe he belonged to were all Bloodbenders. Not one of them practiced Waterbending," Akuji informed the Spirit. Won Shi Tong motioned for a knowledge seeker of his to begin writing down what Akuji was saying.
Akuji explained that as a child he was kidnapped and brainwashed by a malevolent leader named Zygo. Zygo ruled over a city that operated with Bloodbending. It was only recently, with the Four Spearheads War, that the city was destroyed and the Southern Water Tribe had official declared itself a free nation in the South Pole.
"How did Bonyo escape the war?" Clara asked, intrigued.
"I'm not sure. But if he's here, he's up to no good!"
Won Shi Tong disagreed, adamantly reassuring Akuji that Bonyo was not the cause of the trouble. Clara quickly pointed out that there was trouble though, to which the Spirit conceded.
"People have been going missing. I cannot deny this. But it started long before Bonyo appeared. It is my greatest failure. I, knower of 10000 things, still have to learn what's going on in my own library."
"Who is it that's gone missing?" Clara asked.
"Just a handful of women. Mostly teachers."
"The girl I just met was an educator!" Clara gasped, half excited and half worried.
A loud cry from the other end of the hall they were in made the Spirit nearly jump. The Owl called back with a hoot and then turned to the Avatar and Clara.
"Some new information has arrived and I must learn it at once. It has been a pleasure meeting you Avatar. As for you Clara, well I'm glad to see you up and well again."
"Up and well again?" Clara repeated.
"Wait, Great Spirit!" Akuji called out as the Spirit was turning to leave. "I'm looking for a scroll about the Avatar before me. Do you know where it is?"
The Owl turned to the Knowledge Seeker that had just completed the scroll about the Bloodbenders. The Knowledge Seeker looked around, sniffing the air. Finally it moved over to Akuji and pointed its nose directly at Akuji's bag.
"It would appear you already have it," Won Shi Tong translated before finally leaving.
Akuji took out the scroll he had collected before. It was the same one that contained the name of his father. If he wanted to find out what happened to Zola, he would have to read about his father. Akuji decided not to read it just yet. He looked up to Clara instead.
"Why does the Spirit think its met me before?" Clara questioned it. "And that's not the only thing peculiar going on. How can the Spirit be so oblivious to Bonyo's actions? I saw him disappear with that girl and he knows the problem is people are disappearing!"
"Maybe's he's not that great of a spirit after all," Akuji replied, not too interested in Bonyo at the moment. He also wasn't too fond of what seemed to be Clara's connection with the Spirits. She was surrounded by them.
Akuji looked down at the scroll he was holding. His curiosity was getting the better of him. What had initially turned him off was suddenly getting to him. After all—what did his father have to do with the last Avatar?
With that question he slowly began unraveling it, tuning Clara out. She was still going on about the Owl's lack of knowledge while he furiously began absorbing the words.
What Akuji knew of his father, or rather his biological father, was that he was an Airbender named Yinlo. His mother, Melora, was not too fond of him as they were not together in the short time Akuji knew her. Yinlo had seemingly no connection to Zygo, so the kidnapping was not a direct fault of his. These were the few things he had come to learn about his father.
Now, he had learned three more things, two of which horrified the Avatar. The first was that his father had a daughter named Shofini, which meant he had a half-sister out there somewhere. Akuji did not care very much about this, as he had never wanted a sibling. He enjoyed time to himself.
The second fact about his father was able to weaken Akuji to his knees. Clara stopped what she was saying when she finally realized he wasn't paying attention. She rushed over to him and grabbed his shoulders, half expecting him to fall down.
"What's wrong? Did you find out something about the previous Avatar?" Clara asked.
"Yes," Akuji replied grimly. He didn't want to say the sentence that was bubbling at the end of his tongue but he knew he had to. "I learned that my father killed the last Avatar."
Akuji waited for Clara's response, expecting some form of sympathy. His father was a killer—not just killer but perhaps the number one criminal in the world. Killing an Avatar is one of the most serious offenses. But Clara simply replied with a crude remark of, "Well, I suppose that explains you a bit better."
"What does that mean?" Akuji asked.
"I'm not stupid. You left me for bait back there when that other spirit was attacking us! I'm not sure who you think you are—" Clara began to argue but was interrupted.
"I'm the Avatar, that's who!" Akuji retorted.
"Barely! You Bloodbended me to save yourself. That's not what an Avatar does!"
"Of course not! Because I wasn't born to be the Avatar or whatever idea you have of the Avatar in your head! I wasn't supposed to be born at all!" Akuji bellowed. He looked down while clenching his fists. The third fact he had learned about this father made his heart race and ache at the same time.
"What does that mean?" Clara asked.
"There's something else I learned about my father in this scroll. He didn't just kill the last Avatar. He killed the last two Avatars. He wanted to end the Avatar cycle. When he found out his own son was the Avatar...he tried to have me killed."
"Oh my stars," Clara gasped.
Akuji remained silent, soaking in the information that he had just said aloud. It became real once the words left his mouth. His father was a killer—and he wanted to kill him. What's more, the scroll seemed to indicate he lives in Ba Sing Se now. Akuji had been so adamant about finding his father that now that his idea of him had changed he wasn't sure he wanted to meet him.
"Why did you come back for me?" Clara finally asked.
"It was—" Akuji stopped himself from answering. He wasn't sure he wanted to bring up the note from Clara just yet. He wanted more time to investigate and discover who this woman really was. "It was because you seemed like a good person and I knew I had done wrong."
Clara gave a brief smile. Akuji looked down at the scroll describing how his father had dropped the last Avatar from a high tower. Clara looked down and read a small passage.
"Maybe he didn't do it. Or maybe he was framed," Clara offered.
"Yeah right. I mean you're right. My heritage is full of evil people. It's no wonder I'm such a screw up. It makes complete sense that my father was a monster."
"You don't really think you're a monster, do you?"
Akuji didn't answer.
"Well, there's one way to find out for sure. Why not just ask him what really happened?" Clara asked. Akuji glanced down at the last scribble. Yinlo was last seen in Ba Sing Se.
"Honestly, I didn't think I was going to see you here," a man in a bright yellow cap called out from down the hall.
"No," Akuji muttered and looked up to see who it was. "What are you doing here, Bonyo?"
Bonyo raised his hand, but when Akuji saw this he instantly went into his bloodbending stance and bended Bonyo to the side wall.
"Akuji, No!" Clara barked.
Akuji's hand was raised out in front of him. "No what? This man is evil, Clara! You saw him kidnap that girl!"
"I didn't kidnap anyone!" Bonyo protested. Clara glanced at him, ready to hear his story.
"What are you doing here?" Clara finally asked.
"I come here for knowledge. Knowledge only. I grew up knowing bloodbending. I want to know how to waterbend and shed that horrible skill that makes me feel darker with every twist of the hand."
Akuji looked down at his own hand and lowered it. Bonyo continued reaching for what he originally was grabbing before Akuji bloodbended him.
"I found this scroll, and I was trying to learn from it but I cannot understand some of it. I was asking the girl if she knew anything about waterbending."
"That is what the Owl said he was doing," Clara stated.
"He could be lying," Akuji replied.
"I'm not lying!" Bonyo pleaded. "I've been trying to be good. It's not the first time in human history someone had tried to change. What about your mother!?"
Akuji's hands flung up into the air, along with Bonyo's body. The Avatar threw the man down the hall and promptly turned away. Clara ran over to Bonyo to make sure he was alright.
"I'm fine. I'm fine," Bonyo stated as he was helped up. "Look, young girl. I'm not sure why you're with the Avatar but know this. He has darkness that surrounds his heart. He will hurt you if you stay."
Clara turned around, watching the Avatar disappear into the distance. She remained behind, uncertain of what to do from there.
Clara and Akuji eventually met up with Olly. He was studying various scrolls about Avatars as well as talking with one of the Knowledge Seekers. Olly's tall frame towered over the spirit animals. He was like a giant in comparison. He didn't seem to mind bending over to listen to the spirit or bend over to receive the scrolls.
"Olly!" Akuji shouted.
Olly turned his head and his pupils dilated. "WATCH OUT!" he screamed.
Akuji and Clara stopped and turned around. Behind them was the tall dark spirit surrounded by smoke that spiraled around its body. Akuji began stepping away slowly but Clara didn't move. She stared at its eyes, gazing at the spirit that seemed ready to kill both of them.
The spirit reached out a tentacle of smoke that began wrapping around Clara's arm. Akuji, frightened, grabbed Clara's arm and pulled her away. All three of them ran from the spirit, eventually hiding in a small closet within the library. They didn't feel too safe but felt it was as good as place as any in the Spirit World.
While waiting out the Spirit, the Avatar revealed to Olly that he found out potentially where his father would be and that he was ready to leave the library. Olly protested, arguing that he should learn more about his heritage while he had the chance. The Avatar was not persuaded.
"Why not?" Clara interjected.
The Avatar looked away from Olly and gave a blank stare to Clara. He didn't really want her involved in his personal matters. In fact, Akuji was becoming quite eager to leave the library and Clara behind for good. Except that there was so many questions surrounding her.
Since Clara had appeared in Akuji's life, she had only grown to be more and more of a mystery. Every minute with Clara led to another piece of information that made the Avatar increasingly curious. From the simple fact that she knew who he was to the stranger parts—like her message in the Library and how the Owl knew her but she didn't know the Owl. Who was she?
"Well?" Clara brought Akuji's attention back to her. Akuji still didn't want to answer, but he saw this as an opportunity to figure out Clara.
"I'll tell you if you tell me something about yourself," the Avatar finally said.
"I'm an open book. Ask me anything!"
"How did you escape the spirit? The Death Spirit?" Akuji asked her.
Clara was hesitant to explain. She wasn't sure how to consolidate her story into a few sentences that wouldn't invite anymore questions—at least about herself.
"The spirit looked me in the eye. It told me it was not my time yet, but that cannot be said about one of you two," Clara added.
Her experience had been brief, but if she was being honest with herself—it was not her first time dealing with this spirit. Clara had encountered it before and every time it would chase her and let her know that it wasn't her time yet. Only this time it gave Clara a hint about the death of someone else.
"It's me," the Avatar stated plainly. "After we leave the library, I'm afraid my time here will be ending."
"Your time here?" Clara repeated.
"I have three questions that need to be answered. Once I have obtained this knowledge I will be letting the next Avatar replace me."
"You can't!" Clara objected.
Akuji turned away, realizing there was nowhere to hide in the small closet. It was either explain himself, or face the spirit.
"I have to. I just... I'm not an Avatar. I'm a broken human with powers that belong in the hands of someone who had a real start. I wasn't born to a loving family. I had a father that apparently killed my past lives. Then I was brainwashed into believing a crazy Bloodbender was my father! And it's not just that. I've done some dark things. Really dark. I am not the Avatar. And the world needs an Avatar right now."
"So what are they?" Olly asked promptly. "What are the three questions you need to know before offing yourself?" Olly was very straightforward with his remark. The little time he spent with the Avatar was enough to know he had a dark past that affected his every movement.
"A person's actions can tell you everything you want to know about a man. So you tell me. What are my three questions?"
Clara smiled. Olly put his finger to his chin and gave it a bit of thought.
"I know one," Clara commented with a hint of a giggle.
"Why did my father leave me?" Olly stated solemnly. He immediately looked down after saying it. Akuji gave a few small claps though and congratulated him on guessing correctly.
"That's not what I was thinking of," Clara stated, but refused to say what it was. "I'm just waiting for the right piece of evidence. Once I see you do this action—then I'll guess."
"Are you a fan of riddles?" Olly laughed.
Akuji stared at Clara, wondering if she really did know what one of his other questions was. If she did know, Akuji was certain he wouldn't be entirely surprised.
Clara grabbed the handle to the door and slowly began opening it. She took a deep breath and then jumped out into the hall as quietly as possible. Akuji and Olly were about to follow when a strong gust of wind shut the door on them. The two companions heard a scream from outside the door but could not get out to investigate it.
By the time they were finally able to break the door down, Clara was nowhere in sight. Lying on the ground was a bright yellow cap.
"Bonyo," Akuji whispered to himself.
The Owl examined the cap closely, making sure it fit the description Won Shi Tong held in his memory. While he loved knowledge, he often found that too much of it led to confusing one fact with another.
"Follow me; I have something to show you. It's in a private room of mine," the Owl stated and showed them down a hallway.
There was a twisting feeling in the pit of Akuji's stomach.
"Where are we going?"
"I believe I have a photo of Bonyo in this cap. I just want to be sure. Now tell me, what was Clara doing when she went missing?"
Akuji stopped. He hadn't told Won Shi Tong that Clara was the girl who had gone missing.
"You knew," Akuji murmured at first. Gradually she got louder as she continued repeating it. "You knew. You knew all along."
"I never said it was Clara who went missing."
"Well I simply deducted that by her lack of appearance now!" the Spirit tried to explain as he entered the room with the Avatar and Olly following close behind him.
"What is this place?" Olly asked. The room wasn't too large and only had a small window as the light source. If anything was in the room, it was barely visible enough to see.
Won Shi Tong stood in the doorway. He pointed to the far end where Clara came out of the shadows.
"Don't trust him!" She shouted.
Won Shi Tong wasn't too happy that it had come to this, but now it was the only way. The Spirit slammed a set of wooden barred doors across the entrance. They were trapped.
"What's going on? What are you doing?" Akuji yelled as he ran to the gate.
"I'm so sorry, Avatar."
"You are behind it!" Clara accused him. "I didn't believe Bonyo when he told me but you are!"
"Behind it? No. But I am part of it," the Spirit finally revealed.
Won Shi Tong explained to the group how he originally met Bonyo. The Bloodbender entered the library in tears. When the Owl greeted him, Bonyo explained that his wife was missing and he needed to find her. Won Shi Tong was not sure how his library could help, but Bonyo insisted even a few maps would help in his search.
Bonyo stayed in the library for weeks at a time, always able to find it again within a few days of leaving. Whenever Won Shi Tong asked how his progress was going, Bonyo would only reply with, "I'm getting closer." Within the next few months, more and more visitors came than usual. The Spirit suspected Bonyo was spreading the word of Tong's vast shelves of knowledge. It pleased him. Eventually he began asking for knowledge as a price of admission to further expand his library. Bonyo always brought a scroll containing the history of the South Pole, written by himself most of the time.
One day, while searching for maps for Bonyo, Won Shi Tong found a disturbing sight. Bonyo was in room bloodbending a woman; hanging her in mid-air. The Owl blasted him with a gust of air, knocking him off his feet. The woman was writhing in agony. The Owl attended to her, listening to her complain that her recent travels to the Spirit Oasis, Swamp Tribe, and now the library were enough and she was going to quit if she made it out of there alive. Bonyo was knocked unconscious, coming to hours later.
Bonyo explained he actually came from a tribe of Bloodbenders who didn't know how to Waterbend. He came to the library originally to find his wife, but continued coming when he discovered Waterbending scrolls.
"So you found your wife?" Won Shi Tong had asked Bonyo. The Bloodbender turned in anger. He had not found his wife. In fact, he had not learned anything about her whereabouts. So he decided to get aggressive. He began inviting people to the library with promises of great knowledge. Bonyo's task was to attract the people who were in the same social circle as his wife. He lured in plenty of educators and bloodbended them to see if they knew anything.
"And then what?" Clara interrupted. "What does he do with the women when he's done?"
"He never killed them. Just sent them on their way. I suppose it was still a pretty nasty fate. I can't imagine anyone surviving alone in the desert. Except Bonyo."
"So you just let him hurt people?" Akuji asked, finally acknowledging to Clara that it wasn't a skill he was entirely proud of having. "Why? What do you get?"
"Knowledge," Clara answered for him. "You're greedy. You want knowledge at any cost. What's a human or two to you if you get a good fact out of it? Tell me I'm wrong."
The Spirit did not respond.
"Go on, tell me I'm wrong!" Clara urged.
Won Shi Tong quickly departed without another word. Clara cursed him as he flew away, leaving the three companions in the dimly lit room locked away. Akuji began blasting the door with air but nothing happened. He had nothing else to bend.
"Great, we're trapped," Akuji sighed.
"Clara," Olly said softly.
"I can't believe Won Shi Tong!" Clara shouted.
Clara began pacing back and forth, trying to figure a way out. Akuji had given up and sat down underneath the window in the room. He watched as the light slowly moved across the wall. Olly was staring at a dark part of the wall.
"Clara," Olly called out again.
"You would think as a Spirit he would have more respect!" she angrily ranted on.
Akuji picked up his head and squinted at the light hitting the wall. It looked like something was written on the wall. Olly noticed this too and pointed his finger to it.
"Clara!" Olly finally shouted.
"What?" Clara asked.
Akuji got up and looked at where Olly was pointing. Clara finally stopped pacing and strutted over to the letters on the wall. The light revealed the whole message after about ten minutes.
Was here. Find the silver stairs and save her! –Clara
Olly and Akuji turned their heads away from the writing and stared at Clara. She continued reading the message over and over again. Akuji looked back at the message. He thought back to the other message he found from Clara. Would she know about that one too?
"That's my handwriting," Clara confirmed for the two.
"You wrote this message?"
"No," she gulped.
"But that's your handwriting?"
Akuji stared at Clara once again. "How is that possible?"
"Not sure. What are silver stairs?"
Clara, Olly, and Akuji felt around the room to see if anything was in there. For the most part it was a simple empty room—except for a small block in the back corner. Akuji pressed down on it, revealing a hidden staircase made of silver. It shined brightly, bouncing light off from the room above.
They quickly climbed up to find a glowing blue room that was open on the far end to a tall atrium. Below was what seemed like hundreds of floors filled with shelves of books. The only thing in the room they had just entered was a shining pool of blue water. Clara didn't go near it.
Off in the corner, peering over the balcony of the atrium, Bonyo was levitating a woman above the railing. He seemed to be humming. In the corner were a stack of scrolls, all about waterbending.
"STOP!" Akuji yelled, preparing a bloodbending stance.
"Avatar. How wonderful to see you again," Bonyo harped. "I was wondering if you were smart enough to pick out a lie when you hear one. You've been lied throughout your life so much at this point I'm surprised it took you this long."
Bonyo was of course talking of Akuji's time in the South Pole. Zygo, the chief of the Bloodbending City, lied and stated he was his father. He was also denied any hint of his heritage as the Avatar. There was his mother too, but Akuji couldn't even begin thinking about her. It was too painful.
"Leave her alone," Clara ordered. Bonyo yawned.
"I've got this Clara," Akuji proclaimed. He started moving his fingers in order to bend Bonyo when Clara pulled his hands down.
"No," Clara commanded firmly as she squeezed his hands. "You have to be better than him."
Akuji gazed intently at Clara, unhappy with what she was saying. He could end this whole predicament in a matter of seconds if he could just do things his way. But the way she held his hands made him put his arms down and submit to her request.
"Look at that. She can still get to you," Bonyo noted. "Love is weakness." Bonyo pushed his arms out and released his fingers from the tight fist he had been making. The woman flew down the endless atrium. Without thinking, Clara ran off the edge and jumped after her.
"NO!" Akuji yelled.
Clara's eyes darted about, looking for any signs of the ground or the girl she had been falling after. After what seemed like minutes but was probably only seconds, a swooping spirit flew horizontally, snatching Clara from her freefall. It put Clara down on the ground level, next to a motionless body.
The spirit wrapped itself around Clara, twisting about her before finally releasing itself and circling the body on the ground. The woman Clara had barely gotten to know was dead. The Spirit quickly dove at the body, and went inside her. It came out moments later, and then presented itself right in front of Clara as if it was to say, "You're time is coming."
Clara was breathing heavily, trying not to cry. The sounds of flapping wings made Clara turn her head around. In the distance she could see more spirits coming. The spirit in front of her suddenly sent out a long winding vine from its body and it touched Clara. Clara's mind was flooded with a slew of images. The main ones she could pick out involved one of herself writing a message on the wall in the dimly lit room she had just been in. The other image was of Olly, on his knees, begging for his life. Akuji's voice could be heard in the background saying, "He's a thief and a killer."
Meanwhile, the Avatar had raced to the railing and looked down into the abyss. Clara was already out of sight.
"I have to save her!"
"Wait! What about Bonyo!" Olly tried to stop him but was too late. Akuji was using his airbending to safely glide down the atrium. He found Clara crouching over the body of the dead woman. The Death Spirit was gone. He noticed the other spirits coming at them and urged her to leave. She didn't want to let the body rot there, but time was running out.
Akuji was able to airlift Clara and himself back up to the floor where Olly lay on the ground. He was just coming to when Clara placed a hand on his shoulder.
"What happened? Where's Bonyo?" Akuji asked.
"Are you alright?" Clara questioned him in a louder, more important sounding tone.
"I'm fine," Olly said. "I was just bloodbended against the wall. He escaped."
Akuji looked over at the corner. The pile of scrolls was gone too. Whatever information Bonyo wanted about Waterbending, he got it.
"I have an idea of what he wanted," Clara said out of the blue. "It's not Waterbending he wants to learn about. It's the origin of Waterbending. The Ocean and Moon Spirits. Won Shi Tong told us that the woman he walked in on Bonyo bloodbending had recently traveled to the Spirit Oasis. So had the woman that Bonyo just killed! He must be trying to get information about the Moon and Ocean spirits from whoever has been there, hoping to get a clue to their current whereabouts. They are missing—he must be looking for them!"
"But why?" Akuji asked.
"Well I haven't figured that part out yet," Clara admitted. "But whatever he wanted to know, he knows it now. He was certainly in a hurry to leave."
Clara, Olly, and Akuji decided they had had enough of the library as well and all wished to depart. The two helped Olly to his feet and found another door that led to an exit out of the library. Before they could get out, they were stopped by the Great Owl Spirit.
"What do you want?" Clara interrogated him, almost wanting to spit on the Spirit out of spite.
"I...I wanted to apologize. You were right. I had gotten greedy for knowledge. I wanted more and more and I let Bonyo commit his evil crime of bloodbending in order to secure more. I thought he was just letting them go. I had no idea he was killing them. Do not worry Clara, I have given a proper burial to your friend."
Clara and Akuji weren't very accepting of his apology, but decided to anyhow as they wanted to leave as soon as possible. Olly however stayed behind to ask the Owl something else.
"Was Clara really here another time?"
The Spirit looked at her and then back at Olly. "Yes. Once. When she was younger and...different."
"How? How is that possible? I don't remember being here at all!" Clara detested.
"I'm not sure. Time is a funny thing," the Spirit replied. "Well, I suppose I'll let you be on your way."
"Wait," Clara quickly added, "what happened when I was here last?"
"Oh, well I'm afraid I wasn't there for much of what you did in my library. I simply know that you found me and gave me some advice. You told me to never forget who I was. I suppose that's why I've decided to make sure Bonyo will never return to my library—nor will anyone. I am going to sink it back to the Spirit World."
"And cut yourself off from all the knowledge of the physical world?" Olly asked.
"Well, maybe I'll let some Knowledge Seekers out and about now and then. Thank you Clara. For everything. Oh! There was one more thing. When you were here last you were with your mother."
"My mother!?" Clara exclaimed curiously. She had never met her mother—none of this made sense.
"Well, you were here at the same time. Ah, yes. Kyla. How I miss that bold woman." With those words, the Owl turned around and disappeared into the depths of his library.
Akuji stood frozen in place. He had recognized the name. He had even thought maybe the eyes and the hair were the same. But it was impossible. There was no way it could be.
"What's wrong?" Clara asked Akuji.
"You! You mysterious girl. How are you here?"
"I...walked. What's going on?"
"No. No. Something else is going on here. Something else strange. Something impossible. Clara—I've met you before!" Akuji exclaimed. "You—you were in the South Pole. I knew your mother! She was—extraordinary. And you—you were my friend. But then—"
"Then what?" Clara interrogated. She was becoming slightly angry as well as scared. He was describing an entire history of herself that she didn't seem to recall. There was one thing she did know though—her mother's name was Kyla.
"You died. Clara, I watched you die."
A large rumbling from behind them stopped their conversation. They quickly darted away as the library began sinking into the ground. At a far enough distance, the three collapsed from exhaustion. It had been a long day in the library that was now just a tower sticking from the sand.
"Oh my bag!" Olly announced. "I think I dropped it while running. It has all of our water!"
"I see it," Clara stated and pointed to the bag twenty yards away. She left to get it for him, leaving Akuji and Olly to talk.
"She died? Really died?"
"I held the hand of her lifeless body," Akuji confirmed. He looked back over at Clara who was bending down to pick up the bag.
Clara was thinking about what Akuji had just revealed to her. Had she really been in the library before? And why did Akuji think she had died?
She picked up the bag, but stopped when something fell out. She looked down and picked up the fallen item. It was a necklace with a large yellow pendant—the same necklace worn by the girl that Bonyo had just killed. Clara turned and stared viciously at Olly.
"What next, sir?" Olly asked, turning his sights from Clara and looking at the Avatar.
"Next... Next we figure out who she is. That... That—"
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