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|Dust Settles, War Begins|
Book 3: Dawn
Chapter 9: Dust Settles, War Begins
Argho's eye widened as the Council Building collapsed, ignoring the dust and stone flinging outward around him. The shockwaves still rocked him, and he couldn't believe what he was seeing.
Fools...both of them...
"What...what have they done?!" Rioku cried.
Shen sprinted toward the still disintegrating structure, shrugging off Kuan Ti's attempt to stop him. "My parents! They're in there!"
"Wait, Shen!" The Equalist leader howled after him, but it was in vain.
Rioku shook his head. "We have to move!"
"Agreed. If anyone's still alive in that mess, they'll need our help." The Avatar took a step forward before a familiar voice stopped him in his tracks.
"You're going to need some help, Avatar." Kinzoku stood behind them, along with a dozen Metalbenders.
"Fine. Let's move!"
Shen reached the rubble within half a minute, his Airbending providing the boost in speed. Moro had followed after while Argho and the others were distracted by Kinzoku's arrival. Her eyes widened as the dust still hung in the air.
"How are we supposed to—?"
Shen frowned as an air current began to circle around him. "I've got it."
He lifted his hands, causing an enormous upsurge that lifted the massive stones out of their path. Beads of sweat formed on his forehead as he did this repeatedly, lifting the pieces of rubble out of their way. Moro looked away as they passed a good deal of bodies, trying her best not to throw up when they came upon a particularly mangled corpse. Shen noticed that several of them bore the robes of his people.
He stifled his tears. "The Council of Elders...all of them..."
Moro bit her lip. "How did this even happen?"
"When I find Otokami, I'll ask him." He replied through gritted teeth as he continued his work.
As Argho and the others caught up to them, Shen was breathing heavily, and his energy was nearly spent.
"Here," the Avatar's eyes glowed, "Allow me."
The sheer power of the Avatar State allowed Argho to move twice the amount Shen did with half of the effort. Soon, they began to feel an oddly strong wind current. It became especially evident when they reached an open pocket, and it was close.
"What the...?" The young Airbender narrowed his eyes. "What is that?"
Kinzoku scowled. "What are you talking about? It's just the wind!"
Shen pressed forward as he rolled his eyes, and Moro shook her head.
"We're dealing with Airbenders, Chief. 'Just the wind' is exactly the kind of thing we need to look out for."
Ignoring the exchange behind him, the young man pressed out with his hand against the next pile of stones, causing them to fly out into an open area, exactly where the Council Chamber was supposed to be.
"Impossible..." Kuan Ti and Kinzoku followed closely behind Shen and Moro, only to find it semi-intact and everyone within unharmed.
"How...?" Rioku marveled at the lack of corpses as he and Argho entered through the hole, coming face to face with the still living world leaders and Council members.
Earth King Qiang stood and made his way toward the rescue team. "It seems you do not disappoint, Argho!" He clapped the Avatar on the back. "Way to finally show up!"
Argho sighed. "As always, you make no sense, Qiang. This might be a minor detail, but how did you all survive?!"
"Thank those two." Chief Hodak interrupted by pointing out Ula and Gyatso. "They created a vortex as soon as the place started to collapse; it shielded us from the debris."
Shen's eyes met that of his parents, and they offered reserved smiles in return, as if to say 'we're alright.'
"What happened here?!" The chief of police marveled at the fact that something was able to bring the building down around them.
"Susanowo and Otokami happened, Chief Kinzoku," Chan replied as he stood from his chair. "We were unaware of Susanowo's identity as a spirit, and as you can see, it nearly killed us all. If it weren't for Councilwoman Ula and her husband, we would be crushed under this rubble."
The leader of the Metalbenders frowned. "I appreciate your service and your sacrifice, but as of right now," He pointed at Shen's parents, "I'm arresting anyone affiliated with these two spirits. They are a threat, and I will have no unknowns."
"What??" The young Airbender stepped in between the encroaching officers and his parents. "You can't do that; they just saved every one of the world's leaders!"
"I have no choice. When this is resolved, it is likely that they'll be released. But for now—"
Shen scowled as the wind around him picked up. "Then you take me too. I'm as guilty as they are in your eyes."
A hand fell on his shoulder. "No, Son...this is our path." Gyatso's voice was heavy. "You have to stop her before she is well and truly lost."
"Shen," Ula's firm voice interrupted, "do as he says."
As the Metalbenders pushed the young man out of the way, Argho shook his head. "Chief Kinzoku, while I appreciate your honest attempts to control an uncontrollable situation, this is not the way to do it. You should instead be working on finding out where Susanowo and Otokami have gone." He suppressed a smirk as the Chief began to frantically look around. "It seems they slipped off somewhere, and that is where your focus should be."
"Do as the Avatar says, Kinzoku." Qiang waved him off. "Those spirits are far more dangerous than you give them credit for, and I've learned to trust Argho's judgment."
"Your majesty, it's not that I don't give them credit, I just—"
"Kinzoku. Enough, you have work to do."
Shen breathed a sigh of relief as he watched the Metalbenders back off, but he also knew that it was far from over. "Actually, Earth King Qiang, we have work to do."
Kuan Ti nodded as the others stared at Shen, taken aback by his brazen statement. "He's right; we have to do this. We've been hunting these rogue spirits all over the world, and I, for one, am not going to let this green, by-the-book—"
"We get it, Kuan Ti." Rioku repressed a chuckle as Kinzoku's face reddened.
The Avatar smiled and bowed his head. "All the same, it is our responsibility, Chief Kinzoku. We are the only ones who can do this."
The Metalbender gritted his teeth. "So...my men and I are just supposed to stand by and do nothing as these spirits run amok in our city?"
"No," Shen replied, "You and your men need to make sure no one gets hurt in the oncoming struggle."
"And how do you propose we do that?"
Moro shrugged. "You could issue an order for everyone within a certain distance from the NowoCorp building to clear out until we can finish the job."
Kinzoku sighed and clenched his fists. "And what of Otokami?"
"They'll probably be back at the airship." Rioku folded his arms. "It's unlikely that they'll be the source of any significant collateral damage."
The Avatar glanced around the room. "I know we haven't gotten off on the right foot, but if we don't handle this, more people will be hurt, even killed." He extended a hand to the chief of police. "Can I count on you to aid us?"
Kinzoku stared at him for a moment before finally grasping his hand. "Fine. Let's just end the death here."
Shen was grateful that his mother's apartment had a balcony; it allowed him to immerse his worries in the cold night air. Snow fell slowly, coating the ground far below. A subtle shift in the air currents behind him revealed the presence of another.
"Cold and empty..." Moro whispered, "Almost perfect weather before a battle..."
"It keeps me sharp, at least." Shen replied, frowning as he leaned against the railing. "I'm ready to end this fight; too much blood is on my people's hands..."
"Hey...you and your parents fought against Petrine and Otokami, both actively and passively. You aren't responsible."
The Airbender felt a warm tear slide down his cheek in stark contrast to the bite of the wind. "I'm not? Maybe...but I still should've tried to stop her a year ago. If I had—"
He felt a hand grip his shoulder. "Shen, look at me." The young man turned to find himself staring into her red eyes. "Do you really think she would've listened? From what you've told me, she wouldn't have."
"You're...you're right. But that doesn't get rid of the guilt..." He spun away once more. "The Council of Elders is dead because of them, Moro...Petrine, Otokami, Susanowo...they are all to blame for this."
She nodded. "I know."
The Airbender glanced up into the star-filled sky. "So...what are you going to do about Kyrie? Do you still think he can be saved?"
"I have to try; he's the only family I've got that's not a shell." The Waterbender pulled enough snowflakes out of the air to make a small orb, which she twirled in her right hand. "Shen...I'm not going to lie...I'm angry." Her blood red eyes narrowed. "Angry at my 'father'...angry at Susanowo...angry at myself. Kyrie and I should've never been pawns in this war, but...my mother is worse off than we are. She definitely didn't deserve this."
He exhaled slowly. "I'm sorry, Moro...I can't even imagine what you've been through."
Moro pursed her lips as a small shiver shook through her body. "Why did they even come here, Shen?"
"I wish I knew..." He replied as he wrapped his white cloak over her shoulders.
"So, the plan is...what, again?" Rioku asked Argho, Kuan Ti, and himself sat around a small table in their hotel room, courtesy of the Republic City Council.
The Avatar set his elbows on the table. "We meet Shen and Moro at NowoCorp at dawn and kill Susanowo first. He will be the easier of the two, I fear."
"Was Kinzoku able to evacuate everyone?" Kuan Ti asked.
"He is doing so as we speak."
The one-eyed Earthbender shook his head. "Won't that alert the Spirit of Tempests that something's up? He's not exactly stupid."
"He doesn't care anymore," Argho replied. "His actions have revealed one crucial thing: Susanowo is desperate."
The Equalist cocked his head. "And he thinks that duking it out with the Avatar is going to end well for him?"
"I don't know what he's thinking anymore, gentlemen; that makes him the priority." Argho stood and stretched. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some old friends to chat with."
"It has been quite a while since so many of us have been called at once, Argho," Roku mused while stroking his long white beard. "Dare I ask why?"
The current Avatar glanced around at the six former Avatars before him. Aang, Korra, Roku, Kyoshi, Yangchen, and Kuruk all stood in a semicircle, awaiting his word.
He inhaled. "I have been weak these past few months, my friends. I allowed my hubris to blind me, and it caused countless deaths." The Earthbender hung his head. "I do not know if I am really the right person for this pedestal I've been placed on. Forces that I cannot stop are going to tear this world apart if I do not act, but I am not—"
"Enough, Argho," Aang interrupted, "What is it you need from us?"
"I...I learned something in Wan Shi Tong's library, and it is enough to bring an end to even Otokami's power, but I'm not sure I can take him on alone..."
"We'll be beside you every step of the way," Kyoshi said. "Simply call on the Avatar State."
Argho turned his gaze to her. "No, Kyoshi...you don't understand."
- After this comes the multi-chapter finale to IAE, and my last major foray into fanon on this wiki (barring the occasional one-shot, Vortex, and the FRS, of course). Hope all of my readers have enjoyed this as much as I have!
For the collective works of the author, go here.