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|Ep.11: Team Avatar|
It was a rather odd time for Korra's team, and Zaheer's team. Korra needed some time to regain herself, but the bigger issue was with Zaheer, P'Li, Ming-Hua, and Ghazan. They could've sworn three out of the four were dead last time they recalled, and even then two were a main guess for the most part. Still, Zaheer took the time once they got to their airship to explain what happened to them with Vintana; from how Zaheer was released by Zikara, to when the four betrayed her while in Ba Sing Se. They couldn't explain everything to them, like how El Niño ended up with them (which was random anyway). Honestly, even with that all considered, they were just glad to have Korra back from being some animal taken away from them. Still, even if Zaheer was with them, it was still a temporary truce at the very least. They surely wouldn't forget on who they were dealing with in the first place. This was Zaheer: a man who was the closest in killing the Avatar compared to the other dangers so far (Katayt and Koyot being the only exception). Then again, this same man did help Korra in regaining her connection to the Spirit World, as ironic as it sounds, so it was hard to say really. If anything, the four were on probation for the time being.
At the airship, flying away from the area in question as best they could, Team Avatar and company were trying to figure out their next approach. The passengers dwindled due to others either trying to get to Vintana or aiding those injured so the passengers came to be Team Avatar, the Red Lotus, Kuvira, Jinora, El Niño, and Zikara. Mako, Bolin, Ziyou, Lin, and Kuvira were together at the moment in the main room.
"Well this is quite a twist, isn't it?" Ziyou said.
"Yeah, we got the Red Lotus on our side, of all people. Things are looking up for us," Bolin commented.
"They're not on our side - they're on probation," Kuvira corrected. Considering these people wrecked her home before, Kuvira was having rougher times taking them in, even if they helped in getting Korra.
"Well either way, let's try and figure it out. Vintana's the main problem now, and if even half of what Zaheer told us was true, we need to handle her as soon as possible," Mako explained. Something they all could agree on, or have to agree on. With so much trouble from Vintana as it was, she was a lot larger of a threat than Zaheer would be. This was the same person who brought Amon, Unalaq, and the Red Lotus back to life already, so who knows what else she could do?
"Hey, where are they anyway? Haven't heard a peep out of them since leaving," Ziyou wondered.
"They've been keeping themselves busy; watching over Zikara, and Zaheer's been meditating time and again. Let's just keep an eye on them," Kuvira concluded.
Meanwhile, Zaheer was off in his room at this point, sitting on his bed in meditation. When it came to his pass time, meditation seemed to be a rather common practice for him. He'd done a lot of it through his years being imprisoned, airbender or not, so doing this outside of his prison wasn't that much of an adjustment for him. As he was doing this meditation, his concentration was slightly faltered by a knock on his closed door. Zaheer sighed a little bit.
Soon, the door opened up, and it was actually the Avatar who came in to see him. Korra had been rather quiet from Zaheer, and it wasn't until now that she decided to talk to him. She felt only a little uneasy with confronting him again, but she tried to keep herself on a calmer level. Zaheer had his back to her, but not actually floating as before. That seemed to be bothering Zaheer a bit too, but he wouldn't show it.
"Hey ... I don't think I got a chance to properly thank you yet," Korra began.
"No need; you're friend brought you back from animosity."
"No, not that. For getting me out of Ba Sing Se. I don't think I'd get out if you didn't do anything ..." Korra found this hard to swallow, but she knew when to thank Zaheer and the Red Lotus for their help. With her bending all but gone, she had nothing much to work with. Zaheer didn't turn around, and kept his meditation going.
"I wasn't willing to let them use you as a tool. That, and she was going to have us in prison again even after what we did for her. I'm sure you know how I feel about prisons," Zaheer explained. Korra nodded, but began to notice something with him.
"Wait. You're not floating."
"Another problem Vintana caused, turned out," Zaheer sighed, getting up from his spot, and turning to Korra. He might've guessed someone was going to figure that out sooner or later.
"Correct. At first I thought she did me a miracle to revive my group, but shortly after I've realized I could no longer fly. It seemed my love was the only earthly tether keeping me down. Somehow Vintana figured that out," Zaheer concluded. He loved P'Li, that's for sure, but that came with consequences.
"A blessing in disguise by the sound of it, huh?" Korra commented.
"You took the words right out of my mouth," replied Zaheer. Korra got her subject back to the situation.
"Anyway, Zaheer. You've been with Vintana for a while ... Have any idea what we can do?" Korra may be beside herself when asking, but she was at least smart enough to know that Zaheer was willing to cooperate.
"Unfortunately, Vintana didn't talk to me very much about it. But I think I know who will ..."
Zaheer and Korra both moved off to the next room, one that was more isolated away from the others. When Zaheer opened the door, Korra found the room matching that of a chamber, with one particular person sitting right in the middle. Zikara. Since being dragged along, the Red Lotus took it upon themselves to keep her restrained until she was ready to cooperate. Zikara was chained up; hands behind her back, and feet locked together. Zaheer didn't want to do this, but times call for measures. Korra still remembered Zikara no doubt, and she went inside to confront her. Zikara meanwhile, eventually opened her eyes - she was seemingly asleep until they came in - and looking up to Korra.
"Oh. It's you. Come to finish me off?" Zikara asked, almost disgusted on seeing her.
"No I'm not. I want to ask you some questions."
"If you think you'll get anything out of me, you're wasting your time! Like I'll ever betray Raava over your breath."
"What do you mean 'betray Raava'? You're the one who severed her from me -"
"And you're the one trapping her!" Zikara cut in.
"I was not trapping her! You have to start cooperating with us right now, or -"
"Or what? You think you can scare me; you have your bending, your Avatar status, and reputation all removed. You have nothing left - you have no ways to make me talk!" Zikara made too well of a point, and one that they both knew about. Korra turned away for just a moment, knowing that she basically had nothing to really use, or nothing to do to make Zikara talk to her. Korra was just a simple, normal girl now - the lowest on the poll. Zaheer didn't bring her here just to give up though.
"Zikara, we both know you'll talk."
"And what're you going to do to change my mind? Suck the air out of me?"
Next thing she knew, Zikara was changed up, and upside down, hanging from the ceiling. A bit forward, but it wasn't really too bad compared to what Zaheer could do to her.
"This is highly unorthodox," Zikara groaned.
"We'll leave you here until you're willing to talk. Fair enough, Korra?" Zaheer asked. If they were to work together, some cooperation will do them good.
"Zaheer, let's not keep her like this too long," Korra advised. Zaheer understood this very well, but they still need to know something.
"You're wasting your time! Go ahead, hang me for weeks, it won't work!"
"Zikara, please. Vintana is doing more harm than good, so can we try to be reasonable?"
"Reasonable?! Says the lifeline who slaved Raava just for their own power. The Avatar existence revolved around using and abusing Raava's power, so don't talk to me about being reasonable, you hypocrite," Zikara yelled. Korra was starting to lose patience, even if Zikara's points were sharp. No matter how sharp they were, Zikara still pulled Raava from her, and nearly killed her at Laghima's Peak.
"Enough Zikara," Zaheer began to say, "The Avatar and Raava had been keeping balance and freedom to the world."
"Why should you care; you tried to kill her before -"
"And I helped her when our interests matched. I'm not as blind as you think."
"Whatever. Why don't you go and meditate or something, and stop wasting time interrogating," Zikara suggested crossly. At first they found it rude, but Zaheer began to consider the idea a little bit ...
"... You know. Let's do that. Come, Korra," Zaheer agreed. Korra looked a bit confused.
"Huh? But shouldn't we try to get answers," Korra reminded. But then Zaheer gave a particular glance to Korra, one which she caught right away. Zikara felt suspicious over these two, but Korra began to realize what he meant.
"Let's leave her be. She won't talk anyway."
"Alright, let's go," Korra decided. Korra made sure to at least have Zikara on the ground and not upside down before they left. Zikara wasn't sure if they were mocking her, or if she just made a big mistake ...
It took a bit, but Korra and Zaheer both found a quiet room to handle their meditation in. It was calm, and quiet so it'll do them well to try here. As long as their bodies remained in one place, then they should be alright doing this. Zaheer and Korra sat down side by side, and began to focus their energy a bit. In no time at all, both Zaheer and Korra had managed to make it to the Spirit World. As to where in the Spirit World, it was hard to say. Then again, it was hard to say anywhere in the Spirit World. This spot was a bit open, but still with plenty of spirit trees scattered around. The skies weren't too pretty though, tint of grey in the usual colors of the spirit skies. Not the most cheerful. As for the spirits themselves, it didn't take very long for them both to find some spirits nearby. These were a group of bird spirits, much like small owls with blue and purple feathers, huddled together and snoozing in a tree branch.
"Excuse me?" Korra called. The birds woke up and soon noticed her and Zaheer down below. One of them fluttered down to them. Some other spirits started to take notice too, and began to come out of hiding. They seemed a bit more curious over them both than usual.
"You the Avatar?" One of the spirits asked.
"Right, I am. We're hoping for some assistance on something," Korra said.
"Is this another human war?" One of them questioned, seemingly remembering last time Korra asked for their help during the dictator years.
"No it's not. Are any of you familiar with a human named Vintana?" Zaheer then asked. The spirits spoke a little bit to each other before a rabbit spirit hopped forward.
"Vintana? You mean the women who took off with five souls from the soul grove?"
"That's the one."
"Eh yeah, heard of her. Didn't see her though, why?"
"She's done too much damage. She needs to be stopped; she already severed Raava from Korra, she targeted the world leaders, she -"
"You mean like you did?" The own spirit blurted out. Zaheer paused and sighed.
"My motives were for freedom. Hers is just for power. And she already has enough power."
"How does that concern us? We don't get involved in these things remember?"
"She has revived people that abused your world; Unalaq is back, and El Niño had -" the spirits got spooked just hearing that name. The rabbit spirit, with ears tucked back, spoke next.
"El Niño? No way! Sorry, but you're on your own," the spirit said, disappearing fast.
However, despite her pled, the spirits were already hiding off from them both. In just under a minute, the spirits had disappeared. Korra really had dun goofed on that word, and her hand met her forehead. What was she thinking, bringing up someone every spirit feared anyway? Zaheer kept calm, although he wished they didn't just race off like that. However, on a second look, there was one spirit still standing there. This one looked like a large horned toad; stocky, round, and about as big as they were with stocky legs. It took two hops towards them both, but didn't speak apart from the low croak, which sounded like that of a bullfrog. Out of the shadows, the large toad was a blackish color, covered in large, leopard spots, and wore a ring of weeds around the neck (what neck it had anyway).
All they got was a low croak. Korra sighed in dismay.
"Let's join back with the others," Zaheer decided. However, the toad gave a forceful grunt, and continued to croak.
- crooo ... Crooo ... Crooo *
"Wait ... You mean?" Zaheer began to focus closer on the croaking. The more he did, the more he began to realize that the toad was doing more than croaking. It sounded more like a word - a name. One more *crooo* and Zaheer finally got it.
The toad nodded, and only then did it hop away. Zaheer felt troubled a bit, but it was all he had going for some clue. Zaheer then turned to the powerless Avatar in question. Korra never heard of Koh before, but Zaheer's extensive time in the Spirit World gave him more than enough information about him.
"Ready, Korra?" Zaheer asked.
"For what?" Korra asked. Zaheer held her hand, and suddenly the two began to move. Not under their own power, but more as if the world was moving by them. The forest they were in zoomed by fast, and next thing they knew, the area changed; the land turned rocky, the forest turned to mountains, and mist overcame the canyons and valleys. Zaheer and Korra themselves were standing in front of a dark cave within one of these mountains, supposedly the correct place. After this, Korra yanked her hand free.
"Zaheer, where are we?" Korra demanded.
"This is the realm of Koh. Out of all the Spirits, including Raava, he is the oldest spirit in the Spirit World apart from the moon and ocean. He might have an answer," Zaheer said. Korra looked in the cave, but she didn't see any real Spirit anywhere, let alone one named Koh. Zaheer knew where he could be though.
"Well okay then. Let's go in," Korra said. She was about to go in, but Zaheer quickly stopped her.
"Wait. There is a warning that you have to know. Koh has a deadly reputation; if you show any emotion in front of him, then he will steal your face."
Korra froze for a second.
"Uh ... Metaphorically?"
Korra gulped. But if Koh did know something that could help them out, then maybe it would be worth their trouble. The two looked into the cave again. Korra gathered her nerves, but Zaheer took the lead inside. Korra and Zaheer couldn't risk their emotions show, no matter what the case may be, or what Koh would try to do. Korra had to think on what to do when she would get in here. Zaheer can pull it off probably, but Korra wasn't so sure ...
The two continued going through within the cave, getting deeper and deeper as they went in. Light was becoming very limited, and the cave walls moist with vines. Each step echoed through the tunnel. Zaheer and Korra continued for a little bit longer until Zaheer stopped himself. Starting to hear something ...
"Get ready," Zaheer warned. Korra stayed close to Zaheer, trying to see where Koh might come from. In a dark and open place like this, Koh could come from anywhere ...
Soon, something slowly began to move in on them both. The face was white, red eyeshadow and purple lips. It gave a devilish smile, as it suddenly rushed in right in front of them!
"WELCOME," it said, the voice ghostly and in a hiss, but still good and loud. Korra kept her eyes closed, trying to be calm, but Zaheer stay stone faced.
"Koh, I presume," Zaheer said. The body looked like that of an armored millipede, and Koh's head lined with six long pinchers, all aimed at them. This beast was indeed Koh. Koh started to crawl and slither around them both.
"Well, well, well. If it isn't Zaheer; the man fighting for freedom. And is that my old friend, the Avatar? What a pleasant surprise. I told your past life we'll meet again, and look where you are now," Koh said, slow and ominous.
"So you know who we are."
"Oh, how could I forget such memorable humans such as yourselves. Not often do I hear such feats achieved by mere mortals in just a few years. I mean, the Avatar did open a new Spirit Portal after all. And you collapsed an entire empire with a few kind words. Glorious," Koh was hovering right above them both, the voice hissing in a sly whisper. Korra kept her composure.
"H-How do you know who I am? I'm not -"
"Sssshhh," Koh suddenly said, a pincher pressing on her lips, " ... I don't need to sense Raava to know that the Avatar is in here. Besides, what other humans would dare venture into my home?" Koh gently moved his pincher away, and slithered in front of them both.
"So ... How may I help you?"
"A lot has happened in the human world; souls were revived from the Soul Grove, Raava had been severed from the Avatar, El Niño had returned to the physical world. We're in need of an answer we're hoping you have," Zaheer said, all straight faced and stone faced. Koh wanted to take their faces, but without any emotion or expression, he had nothing to take.
"El Niño. Haven't heard that name in eons. And as for these souls, and this sever. I do believe there is one solution ... That is, if you're so willing," Koh hissed, giving a smooth laugh. Korra and Zaheer were getting more interested at this point.
"What's that?" Korra asked. Koh reared up, towering over them both.
"There had been many sources of power over the centuries. And these sources take on many forms indeed. In the human world, there's the power of bending; the abilities you humans use to control the earth you walk on, the air you breathe, and the water you drink. In the Spirit World, there are the staffs; items sacred even to most current spirits of this realm. Not even Raava and Vaatu know their true power and existence. The path in collecting these staffs will mean almost certain death ... If you're lucky."
"Can you tell us where these staffs are?"
"I may not know their location. But I do know who does. If you are that desperate in retrieving these staffs, seek for the Echidna at the Republic City Spirit Portal. I'm sure you'll have quite an experience ..."
Korra and Zaheer were very grateful for having their information, and now even a sure fire plan on what to do. Of course, they didn't change faces for that kind of sake.
"Thank you," Zaheer simply replied. With that, he and Korra turned around and walked out ...
"We will meet again ..."
"You did what?!" Jinora gasped. It really didn't take very long before Zaheer and Korra explained the situation to everyone on board the airship. The reactions from the others was mixed, though most of them found it either good news or a high risk. Not many of them knew who or what Koh was, but Zaheer had the honor of explaining who he is, and what main information they got from Koh.
"Apparently there's a number of staffs located within the Spirit World that can undo all the wrong Vintana had done," Zaheer explained.
"And what do these staffs do exactly? Doesn't sound like they can do very much," Ziyou questioned.
"We're not given much on that. However, if we go to the Spirit Portal in Republic City -"
Everyone turned to Ziyou, who had jumped to her feet the second she heard the name.
"Geesh, what's the matter with you?" Ming-Hua asked.
"What's the matter?! No way I'm going back to that place; mutant spirits, giant gulper fish, freaky dolls, oh HECK NO!" Ziyou said, regardless if they were aware or not. P'Li, Ghazan, and Ming-Hua all were in the dark on what the heck she was talking about.
"Did we miss something?" P'Li asked.
"It's a long story," sighed Bolin.
"It doesn't matter what state Republic City is in. Koh told us what could be the only Spirit that knows where these staffs are, and if the Republic City portal is where we have to go, then so be it."
"Hold on, Zaheer. Who put you in charge of what we do?" Kuvira questioned, suspiciously.
"Kuvira, it's alright. I've been with him, and he's telling the truth. What else do we have anyway?"
"How about fighting Vintana herself?" Kuvira suggested.
"And how will that undo anything? I've worked with her, and she won't just undo what she did for anyone of us, even if we do defeat her," Zaheer explained, which made sense. Kuvira didn't make anymore remarks, and kept quiet.
"Kuvira, it will be fine. So, Korra, you know who we should look for?" Asami asked.
"Koh said to look for "the Echidna". We just need to look around a bit until we find it," Korra concluded.
"And ... Who's the Echidna?"
"Echidna? You sure you want to meet him?" El Niño asked curiously.
"You know who that is?" Mako asked.
"He's a bit of a grump, and his spines are a pain to get out of me. I only met him once, but I still remember how long it took to get his pointy hairs out," El Niño said. The same spirit shivered in remembering, his whole body jiggling a little bit.
"Well, then YOU are gonna show us where he is," Ziyou decided.
"Me?! Why me?!"
"You're the only one who met him."
"... Oh ..."
Korra sighed, and spoke again.
"Well, okay everyone. Let's get going. Next stop; Republic City."
For the time to follow, the fleet was heading off towards where Republic City would be. It had been a bit of a while since they had seen the place. Their last excursion with a Republic City was over a year ago; fighting against the gigantic Voronon beast named Taar. However, the results were catastrophic, and they lost the city to the giant, resulting in a mist-filled death area with monstrous spirits looming around everywhere. It was risky to return as far as everyone else was concern, but if it meant to stop Vintana, then they might as well try it. Eventually, one evening ...
"We're here!" Ziyou called.
Sure enough, the group could see Republic City just up ahead. However, the city had undergone quite a few changes since both sides last saw it. The entire city was in complete abandon, and there wasn't a soul to be found. Many buildings were left crumbling, and left to rot away. That was what Team Avatar remembered, but one thing that they did not know was that there was not an inch of fog to be seen anywhere. No monsters, no mist, nothing but old buildings and empty streets. The Spirit Portal was easy to see, and the group flew right to it, watching the city below pass them by. There was a few patches of vegetation on the ground, made up of grass, trees, and flowers but they only came in small pockets much like the pockets of Spirit vines and forests that once grew freely here. Upon landing, the group walked out to clean air, and the sounds of quiet songbirds.
"Where are these monsters and freaky dolls, Ziyou?" Ghazan joked. Ziyou grumbled.
"Oh quiet, Ghazan," replied Ziyou.
"What happened to the city?" P'Li gasped, left humbled by the state of the city a little bit.
"Taar did this," Korra simply responded. The Red Lotus took a moment to look around, seeing the decrepit buildings, and scattered trees. They also noticed some small butterflies fluttering around the area, ones that they didn't recognize. El Niño joined them after a bit, and looked around the place in amazement. One of the butterflies flew right in front of his face, as he watched it go.
"Okay El Niño, lead the way," Ziyou suddenly said, catching El Niño's attention. Oddly though, he seemed a bit shy about doing so.
"But ... What if he's not there?"
"What?! Why would you think that? Let's have a long discussion on why you would think that."
Ziyou wasn't having any of it. Obviously El Niño wasn't getting out of this so easily, and they both knew it.
"Alright, I'm going," El Niño said gravely. It may be a bit of a step, but El Niño was the only one who knew Echidna, so, he might as well lead them on their way. The others followed though they weren't sure how they'll react to seeing El Niño. If one mention of his name caused some unnerving, seeing him will get them running in a heartbeat. When they got through, the land quickly changed from the abandoned city, to the lush grasslands of the Spirit World. At the moment though, spiritual activity was a little low, but the butterflies were still evident in the area. Any spirits that were there took one look at El Niño, and immediately began to panic and disappear. So much for questions.
"Okay El Niño, go on."
"Do I have to?"
"El Niño, you're the only one who actually knows Echidna, you'll have to lead the way," Korra said. El Niño still felt a bit sheepish, his water arms wrapping around himself.
"No I don't; I can't be a leader!"
"What? No no, navigator."
"Is that what you humans call it?"
"Quit stalling El Niño, and go," Ziyou said, getting impatient. This odd conversation actually got a few spirits back in curiosity. They don't remember him being so humble like this, or without his little pets with him. The first spirit to fully come over was Jinora's spirit friend; a small jerboa with ears that flap like wings. El Niño quickly noticed, as another Koala spirit soon showed up.
"G'day, mates. Haven't seen ya in a while," the koala said.
"Oh hi," Korra said.
"Eh, about El Niño. That bloke's with you, right?" The Koala asked worryingly.
"Yeah he is with us, Red Lotus too. Don't worry, there's no Qishi to bug ya this time," Ziyou said. Almost immediately after that, more spirits appeared, now assured and secured. El Niño wasn't used to so many spirits, but one wrong move and it's back to the pool for him, so he tried not to do anything.
"Oh, speaking of Spirits, we're looking for a spirit named, Echidna?" El Niño asked.
"You said you met him," Zaheer said.
"Years ago!" Retorted El Niño. The spirits looked a little puzzled, but before any of them could add in anything else ...
"QUIET, I'M TRYING TO SLEEP!"
Enter the grumpy rock spirit, which just woke up thanks to the chitchat. He knew El Niño was there, but he didn't care for it.
"Oh, you again?" The spirit groaned.
"Sorry. We're just here trying to find -" Mako tried to say, but -
"I know I know, you wouldn't shut up about it the last five minutes," the spirit rudely cut in. There was a few glares, but they continued anyway.
"So do you know anything?" Jinora asked.
"If I tell ya, will you go away?"
"Oy fine. You'll find his den off that a ways to the west, take a right at the flower, and you'll find his den at the old Oak. Now go away and let sleeping spirits lie," the Rock spirit explained. He was quick to explain, and dug into the ground before they could bother him again. Not the nicest spirit ever, but indeed a lot of help for them.
"Well you heard the lump of a rock, let's get going -"
"Zikara's not here," El Niño suddenly said.
"So who's watching her while you're running around in here? Isn't that kinda neglecting her?" For the first time since getting them, El Niño had a point. Zikara was still technically their own prisoner, so they couldn't just leave her alone.
"You want to watch her, don't you?" Mako assumed.
"What's with you? You weren't so scared of Spirits before," Asami pointed out.
"But if Eska's such a dangerous spirit, then who's to say how deadly the other spirits are?"
"Can we go?! El Niño, guard over Zikara until we get back, and NO TRICKS," Ziyou said, getting impatient. El Niño may be a little bit confused, but there was no time to really correct him. El Niño quickly took the offer, and really wanted to go.
"Sis, you sure about this?"
"Anything to get moving. This adventure is ready to begin, and I'm not waiting for a long opening, now come on," Ziyou said. Some things never change really. After that was decided, El Niño went back to the airship, and everyone else began to head west of the portal.
With the instructions given to them, the group went off towards Echidna's location. It did take some time to handle, but soon the traveling group began to notice the place turning from open fields to forests. The tall trees towered over them, their pine needles cutting down the light bit by bit to make thick shadows casted down on the team. Spirits hovered here and there, but not many of them stuck around the human caravan walking around through the forest. They had found that flower, and were now trying to find the Old Oak. It was a bit hard to work out mainly for all the other trees.
"Did anyone find anything close to this old oak?" Bolin asked.
"Oh sure, there's one every five steps," Ming-Hua said, rolling her eyes. It wasn't exactly five steps, but with how many trees, that wasn't that far off.
"This is getting nowhere. Hey, Ming-Hua, let's looks in the trees," Ziyou suggested.
"How will going up a tree help us find a tree in a forest?" Ming-Hua questioned, but Ziyou was already up the tree, and on a branch. Ziyou had a slightly better view, but with all the other branches from the other trees, it honestly wasn't doing so good. She was seeing leaves upon leaves upon branches, but nothing worth while. Ziyou went up a bit higher up until her head poked out of the top of the trees. Up there, she just saw a field of treetops.
"See anything, Ziyou?!" Asami called. Ziyou took a few more moments to look around a bit, until one tree seemed to stand out. While many of the trees were dull green, one was thick with orange leaves. Ziyou got down from the tree after that, and went right to the others.
"I saw a orange tree further off. Maybe that's the tree?"
"Well let's get going then," Korra decided, following Ziyou off.
The team didn't take very much time to find the particular tree in question. This one looked a bit older than the other trees, and orange leaves were scattered about the place. Unlike the other trees, this one had quite a large hole inside it, like an animal den would have it. It was large, dug evenly, and rather well kept. The team looked to it, taking a moment before Bolin and Mako walked forward to look in. They couldn't really see anything inside, a little too dark.
"Um, hello? Is there an Echidna in there?" Bolin called. But, nothing came up.
"ANYONE HOME?" Ziyou called. Still nothing. However, eventually, something did begin to stir inside. They began to hear digging going on, some stray dirt being tossed outside until something crawled out. The creature looked rather stocky, looking like a hedgehog, but with a long thin nose, and large digging claws. It had plenty of spins running along its body, each spine having one ring around it. The fur had a typical brown color, with the spines a whitish silver.
"What's going on out here?" It grumbled, seeing the number of humans with it.
"Excuse me, but are you Echidna?" Jinora asked kindly. However, this digger wasn't really in a good mood, and wasn't wasting time letting them know.
"Yeah I am, now go away." The message was brief and blunt, as Echidna turned around to keep digging.
"But, wait a minute. Please, can you help us find the staffs?" Jinora asked. Echidna looked back to the girl.
"The staffs? I'd sooner eat my own spines than help a bunch of amateurs."
"Amateurs?! Now hang on a minute you -"
Ziyou was shut up when Echidna tossed a bunch of dirt right at her face. This spirit obviously didn't care very much about them.
"How about you go bother something else?"
"But you're the only one who knows where to go, right?"
"So what? A bunch of normal humans won't last a day anyway, so bugger off," Echidna replied, going back into his den. Jinora kneeled down towards the den.
"But Echidna, please? We need these staffs to heal the world, and to help the Avatar. Can't you -" Echidna came back out, but a claw was placed over her mouth to keep her quiet.
"And which one of you is the Avatar, dare I ask?" Echidna questioned. Jinora pointed over to Korra, and Echidna scurried back into his den. He got back out again, but this time with a long walking stick, which looked like a staff itself. With it, Echidna got up on his hind feet, now matching height with the Avatar, and began to look her over up and down, sniffing her like a dog. Korra felt a bit uneasy on where Echidna's nose was going at a number of spots (make that what you will), and Echidna eventually paused with his eyes met hers.
"Nope; don't sense Raava anywhere."
"That's because Raava was severed from me," retorted Korra. Echidna though seemed unconvinced.
"Sure, and I had my wings severed thanks to a passing monkey." Of course this wasn't true, but it hammered in the point that Echidna didn't believe them.
"I am the Avatar, why would I lie?!"
"To trick me that's why. So how about you and your little group of friends go play in the river, maybe you'll find a crocobear to play with," Echidna grumbled. Korra tried to speak, but Echidna quieted her by a swift kick of dust and dirt, hitting her face. This was obviously getting nowhere fast. So, one member decided a different approach.
"Listen here, Echidna, the world's going through a lot of trouble. If you don't get out here, then so help me, I'll blast you out," P'Li said. It was really just a scare tactic so Echidna could cooperate ... But all that got was a kicked stone hitting her forehead. Echidna poked his head out to see P'Li stumble back, gripping her forehead where the stone hit.
"Now you can blast off your own head, now see ya."
Echidna dug back into the den, P'Li staying over by Zaheer. Not only was his little mock a bad reminder for P'Li on how she died, but it also meant that threats will not work on Echidna. Ghazan and Ziyou tried to think a bit on what to do next, but then Ghazan got an idea. He took a moment to clear his throat.
"Well alright then. Maybe Koh was wrong about Echidna after all. How about we just go and try somewhere else?" Ghazan suggested. They began to hear scurrying again, as Echidna poked his head out again.
"Wait. Koh told you about me?"
"Why yes, of course. How else would we find such a spirit like yourself?" Ziyou added in, catching on.
"Koh. The face stealer Koh? The huge centipede, mask collector, "take-your-face-in-one-second" Koh?"
"That's the one."
Suddenly Echidna didn't look so grumpy anymore. Ghazan and Ziyou were only half right, with just Korra and Zaheer meeting him, but it still got Echidna's attention anyway.
"Well then, who'd of guessed? Either Koh gave you some slack or you're tougher than I thought," Echidna said. Either way though it was an impressive feat.
"So now can you tell us where the staffs are?"
"Hey, not so fast! This is no simply egg hunt; this journey is long, it's packed with dangers, and any human would last a week if their lucky. Sure you wanna do this now?" Echidna asked once more. But everyone seemed determined.
"Whatever it takes," Korra concluded. Echidna nodded and went back into his hole, coming back out with his staff, and a map.
"You're so sure of it then here, a map of the Spirit World. I can only show ya up to the first staff, but the rest is on your own."
"And one final thing. NO. BENDING."
Now it was unfair. No bending?
"Because once you go into these areas, your bending will deactivate. Think of it like a chi-block aura for all these areas. Don't ask me, but I seen it happen plenty of times."
"Hence the low survival rate?" Ming-Hua asked.
"Right," replied Echidna. It honestly was a surprise, but the Spirit World was always full of those anyway, and if they were to find these staffs, then they had to deal with it. Korra sighed.
"Okay then, lead on Echidna."
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