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Chapter 12: Deliberation
"I hope you intend to give an answer as to why you saw fit to welcome Izanagi back," Shikatsu said. "He is a serious threat that we cannot ignore."
"And throwing him into a prison while pretending he doesn't exist is better?" The Mother of Faces shook her head. "No, he has paid for his sins."
"That is not your call. Not exclusively."
The Spirit of Order cocked her head. "I didn't forgive him for what he forced you to endure; that is your prerogative. However, I meant what I said about Order's desires. She would have forgiven him."
When the Spirit of Life and Death did not reply, she continued.
"Additionally, Izanagi has a point. The Council's replacements for Chaos have wreaked havoc on the balance, simply because our choices did not understand what it was and, more than likely, did not care. Izanagi has learned of the balance, and I believe he will respect it."
Shikatsu sighed. "If he should get out of control, I will require your help to put him in his place."
She nodded. "Of course. As is my duty."
Yoriko clung to Sukan's right arm as they, along with Shingen and the members of the Order of the White Lotus, waited for a few new arrivals. After two days of recovery, it was time for the other leaders of the Order, as well as the Fire Lady, to come and decide a little girl's fate.
In the meantime, it was decided that Yoriko would stay with the Order of the White Lotus; Shingen did not object.
"Who's gonna be here?" the Avatar asked. "What's gonna happen to me?"
Sukan pursed her lips. "I wish I could tell you, Yoriko." She could feel it as the girl shook, so she squeezed her hand lightly. "It'll be alright; we won't let anything bad happen to you."
"I don't want to die..."
The officer glanced down at her and turned, kneeling down to meet her face to face. "Don't talk like that. You're not going to die."
She nodded slowly. "...these people that are coming...they knew my pred—my..."
"Predecessor," Sukan said. "Yes, Honey, they knew Avatar Argho."
"Will they help me?"
The automatic doors slid open, and Sukan held her breath. I hope they can...
Lyre smiled as she saw her parents approach, but that smile widened into a full-blown grin when she saw Nana.
The two sisters embraced each other tightly. "It's been really boring around the Northern Air Temple without you, Lyre."
"Well, I wish I could say the same," Lyre replied. "That would mean you were here for something other than talking about Yoriko's fate."
Moro and Shen walked up to the two sisters with reserved smiles on their faces. "What? No hugs for your father and I?"
"Of course not," she said as she grinned and wrapped her arms around the both of them.
"I'm sorry we couldn't get here sooner, Lyre," Shen said. "Maybe if we'd been here—"
The young Waterbender pulled away. "It would've been nice to have more powerful benders here; Izanagi escaped."
Moro frowned. "Will he return for the Avatar?"
"He said that he was done with us," Uzzu said as he approached the family. "Whether he honors his words remains to be seen. At any rate, it is good to see you two."
Shen smiled sadly. "Had it rough?"
The Earthbender shrugged. "I watched Yari defeat the spirit that killed my father, but I would give that moment up if it meant that the Avatar was whole."
"Yoriko's been through the worst things imaginable in a matter of days," Lyre said. "No one would be whole after that."
Shen glanced at his wife. "Yes...we would like to meet the new Avatar; there is a lot to do."
"Speaking of a lot to do..." Lyre nudged her sister. "I need you to come with me."
The Airbender raised an eyebrow. "...why?"
"Just come on!"
As Lyre took Nana elsewhere, Uzzu excused himself, and a little voice piped up, "Hi...my name is Yoriko."
Shen and Moro turned face the little girl that stood in front of them and noticed that a police officer stood directly behind her.
"It's nice to finally meet you, Avatar Yoriko," Shen said as he bowed slightly. "My wife and I were both friends of Avatar Argho's."
"My...my pre-de-cess-or," she replied, pronouncing each syllable slowly.
"My name is Shen, and this is my wife, Moro."
Moro, for her part, knelt down and offered her hand to the young Avatar. "Nice to meet you, Yoriko."
The young girl glanced back at the officer, who nodded, before shaking Moro's hand. "Can you help me?"
"We're certainly going to try," Moro replied. "We're members of the Order of the White Lotus, like Lyre and Hizumi."
The officer stepped beside Yoriko. "Then where were you? They could've used your help."
Shen nodded. "I understand your concern, Officer..."
"We tried to get to Republic City as quickly as possible, but time was not on our side," he replied.
Sukan glanced down at Yoriko, who gripped her hand and scooted closer to her. "Hey, Honey, would you mind going and waiting on the bench by the wall? I have some things to discuss with Shen and Moro."
"Are you gonna start yelling," she asked, "like Miss Hizumi and the councilman?"
"No, Yoriko," she said as a slight chuckle escaped her lips, "I'm not going to start yelling."
"M'kay." As she made her way to the bench, Sukan glanced at Shen and Moro.
"She's been through hell, and I've about had it with Shingen and Hizumi. Neither of them recognize Yoriko as anything but the Avatar, but she needs time to heal." She narrowed her eyes. "I don't want her to get hurt anymore."
"Our goal right now is simply to figure out what happened, Officer Sukan," Shen replied. "Until we know that, we're staying out of any arguments or discussions as to her fate."
Sukan sighed and placed her hands on her hips. "She isn't a pawn. Shingen made the mistake of treating her like one, and it nearly got her killed. That girl has already lost her parents; now she has to deal with an Avatar State she can't control."
Moro frowned. "I'm sorry if we acted like we cared only about Yoriko as the Avatar. We've just been so focused on finding Argho's replacement that we lost sight of what that poor girl has lost."
"You talk about Avatar Argho as if you knew him personally, and I guess that makes sense."
"He was a good friend," Shen said, "and I hope that we can help Yoriko the way he helped us. That's all."
"She seems pretty close to you, Officer. Are you related to her?"
Sukan shook her head. "No, Moro, but Lyre and I are the only two people she's really willing to open up to at this point. Shingen terrifies her, and I think she's wary of Hizumi. The others don't even try to talk to her, and in the case of your swordsman, I'd say that's a good thing."
"So, Sis, where are we going?"
Lyre turned away to hide the growing scowl on her face as they walked down the hallway. "Somewhere we both need to go."
"That's...cryptic," Nana said. Lyre could hear the anticipation in her sister's voice. "Did you get a boyfriend or something?"
The Waterbender furrowed her brow. "What—? I don't...why would I take you to meet him like this?"
"So there is a boyfriend?" she teased.
"No!" Lyre rolled her eyes. "Just...it'll make this easier if I—"
As they approached the end of one portion of the hallway, Jing stepped around the corner with a grin on his face. "Lyre, who in the world are you yelling at this—" His smile evaporated, and his black eyes widened. "—time?"
The Airbender blinked rapidly as she stared at Jing, but her voice came out in a slow whisper. "Jing...what happened to you...?"
"I—I'm sorry, Nana," he replied. "I wish I could take back the things I said...to you, to Lyre. I was weak."
Nana pursed her lips. "You told me to stay out of your life, Jing. What else was I supposed to do?"
"I know...I'm sorry. So sorry..." His gaze lowered to the floor, and he took a couple of steps backward. "I have to go out for a little bit; I need some air."
When he had gone, Lyre turned to face her sister. "Nana, I—"
"What, Lyre? Did you want me to forgive him like you did?" She shook her head. "I can't, not after he just..."She sniffed, and tears began roll heavily down her cheeks. "...he told me I didn't matter to him."
Lyre gingerly wrapped her arms around her sister. "He wasn't himself. I know that—"
Nana pulled away and leaned against the wall. "He wasn't himself? When did you suddenly start defending him?"
"I never defended Karuta, Sis; I defended Jing. I hated the spirit that took him until...until I learned the truth."
Lyre shook her head. "Sorry, you'll have to ask him yourself."
"I don't think I'm ready for that. I don't know if—"
"Just do it, Nana. You'll regret it if you don't; I know it."
Yari rubbed the metal shard with his thumb as it rested in his palm. He sighed and rubbed the back of his neck with his free hand; the metal was cool in his hand.
"It's over..." he whispered. "This stupid sword...the nightmares...all of this is over."
Several pieces of the blade, including the hilt with some metal still attached, laid at his feet. Onikira had been broken by a spirit, of all things, and Yari was relieved. It would never trouble his family again.
He chuckled mirthlessly. "Not as if I've got any family left. Guess this sword did serve 'til the end of our line."
"That sword is evil!"
Yari winced and leaned back in his chair as he remembered the spirit's cry. "Evil...hell of a description from you, spirit, but not wrong..."
The old swordsman was just glad that he hadn't been there when the weapon was created. That might've scarred him far more than anything he'd ever experienced.
A knock at his door caused Yari wish that he had been destroyed with the sword. "Come in..."
When the door opened, Moro Kenshi stood in the threshold. "Hey."
"Been awhile," he said. "Wish we had better results for you."
She sighed. "It's been rough for you all; you did what you could."
"You wouldn't be saying that if you'd been there for some of your daughter's exchanges with me."
Moro chuckled. "Probably not, but I would try." She leaned against the wall. "Seriously, I know you pretty well by now. Argho's trust was not misplaced; you and Lyre just need to play nice."
Yari let the metal fragment in his hand fall to the floor. "You and I both know that Argho pitied a drunken demon-killer. His trust in me was..." He inhaled sharply. "Damn..."
When Moro simply stared at him, Yari gritted his teeth and put his head in his hands. "I've let my battles interfere with the Order's work, Moro. Why on earth hasn't someone just given me the boot already?"
"Because we need you."
"If you haven't noticed, onikira's shattered."
The Waterbender smiled. "If you think Argho picked you because of your sword, you really don't know him at all."
Yari frowned. "I guess not. So what, then? Was it pity?"
Moro shrugged. "What if it was? Argho let me join his team because he knew I needed help way back when. Maybe he did the same for you." She turned back toward the door. "Now, come on. We have a lot to discuss as a group. As the Order."
"Are you sure that Uzzu and Hizumi are going to be okay with that?" he asked. "I've been a pain in the ass for a long time, now."
Moro smirked. 'We'll see; won't we?"
Nana stepped tentatively out onto the front steps of City Hall, where Jing leaned against the pillar. She noticed that he wasn't wearing the armor; instead, he had on a tan tunic and dark pants. She wrapped her white cloak tighter around her body as she approached.
"You do matter, Nana," he choked out. "I...I'm so sorry."
Nana pursed her lips and furrowed her brow. "You can't even imagine how much it hurts to hear a...a friend...say that. Say that you don't matter to them. Lyre might be able to just forgive you, but I—" She stopped as he turned and focused all of her attention on his black eyes. The words died in her throat.
As he simply looked at her, she turned away.
As she pushed open the doors to reenter City Hall, she winced as she heard Jing begin to sob.
2 Hours Later
Yoriko's eyes darted around the room, taking in the sheer volume of people that stood or sat waiting. Waiting to talk about her.
"Uh..." She wanted out of there. She didn't like all of these people around.
Her fears subsided somewhat when Officer Sukan squeezed her hand. The young Avatar glanced up at her, and she smiled.
"It'll be alright, Yoriko; these people want to help you."
"Can...can they make things go back to normal?"
"We will try our best, little one," Fire Lady Saitei, one of the new arrivals, replied.
The girl's brow furrowed, and she let go of Sukan's hand to wrap her arms tightly around her body.
Sukan knelt down and brushed a few stray strands of hair out of her eyes. "Don't worry, Honey; it's going to be okay."
The young Avatar's brown eyes scanned the room once more, and she swallowed. "Okay..."
"Now, Yoriko," Shen began, softening the mood with a smile, "do you know if you have any other family members, or did your parents not have any close relatives?"
At the mention of her parents, Yoriko felt the tears come, and she couldn't stop them. As her body jerked with each uncontrollable sob, she tried her best to calm down.
Mommy and Daddy wouldn't want me to cry...can't be a crybaby.
"Sorry," she blurted out. When they just continued to stare at her, she glanced down at her feet. "I dunno."
Shen knelt down in front of her and offered a handkerchief that he pulled from a pouch in his belt. "It's alright, Yoriko; I understand that this is difficult for you."
She sniffled and grabbed the handkerchief. "Thanks..." With that, she blew full force into the piece of cloth, and Shen allowed himself a small smile.
"We won't talk about this for now, okay? Instead, we need to find out where you're going to live until we can find permanent arrangements."
"You could stay with us until we figure things out," Moro said. "You're more than welcome, Yoriko."
"My thoughts exactly," Shen replied.
"Um..." The young Avatar glanced at Sukan. "Can I stay with Officer Sukan?" She hoped they said yes; Sukan was the only one who was nice to her all of the time.
Before Sukan could even react beyond widened eyes, Shingen cleared his throat. "I don't think that—"
"Quiet, Shingen," Hizumi growled. The remark silenced the councilman, who shrank in his seat.
Shen glanced at Moro. "Hm...that sounds like it might be okay, but we have to talk with the officer in private first."
"Adult stuff?" Yoriko asked.
Moro smiled warmly. "Yeah, you could say that."
"Officer Sukan? If you could come with Moro, Fire Lady Saitei, and I for a moment, we'd like a word. Lyre, if you could look after Yoriko for a bit, I'd be grateful." The Airbender allowed the slightest bit of a frown into his expression. "I'd suggest we all take a break, for the moment."
Shingen used the time given by the Airbender to return to his office, which still bore the scars of his fight with Hizumi. As he settled into his chair, he finally noticed the man standing in the corner of the room. The intruder wore a thin red chestplate, and the rest of his clothes, from the hood he wore to his boots, were a dark maroon, almost black.
"Well, look at what you've managed to do, Councilman."
"It wasn't my fault!" Shingen protested. "How was I supposed to know Varro wasn't who he claimed to be?"
"Shh...settle down. We don't need a scene to bring the Order's attention to us. Now, what I need to know is this: Do you have the clout to get the Avatar where we need her?"
"No...not anymore. That screw-up with the spirits has left my credibility in shambles, and with the Order here now, I have more eyes on me than ever."
He took a step forward, flipping a small dagger in his hand as he talked. "Could you activate her Avatar State? If they kill her, it would accomplish the same thing."
Shingen winced. "No...I don't think I'd be able to before one of them would kill me. The Fire Lady is here, and from what I understand—"
The hooded man sighed. "I suspected as much. We may have to forgo our initial plan, much like our predecessors with Avatar Korra."
Shingen leaned back in his chair. "I'm beginning to wonder if coexistence between us and the spirits is a mistake."
"It's better than any alternative," the man replied. "Regardless, we might have to alter our strategy. It seems that a new Avatar requires new plans."
"And what will become of me?" Shingen asked.
"The Red Lotus needs you at your post, Councilman, no matter how temporary it might be."
- Along with Koh, I think the Red Lotus are criminally underused antagonists in the Avatarverse. Much like every other antagonist, they appear for a season and then leave just as quickly, with no trace!
- I can't help but notice how much I've put one six year-old girl through in this fanon. Yoriko's having probably one of the roughest goes as an Avatar yet.
- So Jing and Nana meet after a year of not speaking. Awkward.
For the collective works of the author, go here.