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|Ep.13: Hall of Tortured Souls|
November 22, 2016
After gaining their first staff, the group had left Molto behind, and went off out of the forest, and into less familiar terrain (if the first part wasn't short of new). The dense forest began to change into more opened plains, though the large trees were still evident in a number of places. If all that brouhaha was just the first challenge, they couldn't even imagine what others wait for them in the future when it came to this task. How many more staffs were there? How many more dangers waited? How much time will it take to do this? How soon will Vintana reach full power? These sorts of questions plagued their minds as they kept to what they had to do. Pretty soon though, at one point, they decided to rest over in an open field. Soft grass, gentle hills, partly cloudy skies, flowers blooming, and butterflies hovering. A picture perfect area to relax as they thought on their next approach.
"We got one staff. Where should we continue on to?" Kuvira wondered, looking at the Spirit World map. It didn't match their world at all, so getting their barrings was a better idea.
"Well where are we on the map, first of all?" Wondered Asami, looking over the map from behind Kuvira. Kuvira took a keen eye to the map. It took Kuvira a bit, but she eventually placed her finger to where she thought they were.
"We're right here I believe. The Spirit Portal is over here, and we moved through the forest so that sounds about correct," Kuvira said. Bolin looked to the map himself, trying to make sense of the area.
"Would've been nice to get some marks written on this map," Bolin commented. Kuvira and Asami had to agree.
As they were looking over the map on their approach, Ziyou took the time to get to know the Red Lotus a little bit. She sat with Jinora, staff in her hand, as she decided to chat with Ming-Hua and Zaheer. It was simple chit-chat to pass the time, and one that got Ziyou a bit interested.
"You can figure that much just by looking at them?" Ziyou asked curiously. Ming-Hua had just gone over what she had done during her time in prison, which was accurately guessing a guard's interests and thoughts.
"It passes the time before I was released," Ming-Hua replied.
"Oh. Hey, try me!" Ziyou insisted, pointing to her own face. Ming-Hua, not having anything better to do, decided to give it a shot. Ming-Hua took a moment to look her over before she got her assumptions.
"Okay let's see. You moved into the Earth Kingdom from the Water Tribe, you got your scar when you were about nine, and you swapped clothes with your twin sister at least once before."
Ziyou was left mouth agape.
"... You're REALLY good at that," Ziyou commented. With that over, the attention went over to the staff when Ziyou nudged it by mistake. They didn't figure out how it worked just, and it didn't do anything just yet since they got it from Molto anyway.
"Has anyone figured out how this worked? It didn't do a thing since we left," Ziyou pointed out, picking it up. Aside from looking fancy, what exactly was special about this staff that they weren't getting. Ziyou tried to swing it around, but nothing really happened. Zaheer got up on seeing her do this, and took it from her.
"It's best you wouldn't swing it around like that," Zaheer simply said. As if on cue though, after Zaheer took it, the staff suddenly began to act up. The stones gave off a very faint glow, but Ming-Hua and Jinora just noticed.
"Guys, the staff," Jinora gasped. Zaheer looked to it, and also saw the glowing stones as well. He and Ziyou looked off to where it was pointing, and turned out it was aimed right at the map Kuvira was looking over. Ziyou was a little confused, but Zaheer then got an idea with it, and walked over towards Kuvira. The stones glowed more and more, and when they got right to the map, it was impossible to ignore.
"I think we got it activated now," Ziyou said as she walked over. Asami, Bolin, and Kuvira looked at it in surprise, forgetting the map for the moment. The staff was quite active, and they couldn't really ignore that. Ziyou thought it had something to do with the map, but Zaheer had a different idea on where it was really going to. The others soon began to notice the glow as well, as Kuvira got a good look at the staff in question. It was the first time the staff had done anything since they got it, and seeing it light up now meant something was going on. Kuvira herself looked to the center stone on the staff, seeing herself in its reflection. Zaheer brought the staff a bit closer to her, until it had made contact with her. Suddenly, the staff itself glowed bright, and Kuvira quickly jumped back. In one flash, the staff had disappeared completely! Kuvira was knocked onto the ground, dazed and unsure what had happened to her.
"Kuvira!" Jinora went over, and helped her up, Kuvira trying to get her head straight. Speaking of head, Kuvira seemed different ...
"What happened?" Kuvira groaned, as she got up to her feet. But everyone soon saw what had happened to Kuvira thanks to that. While the staff had disappeared itself, Kuvira had something on her face that took everyone off guard. On her head, there were six of the same gemstones that the staff had once held! The largest one was placed right at the center of her forehead, and the smaller five ran along the top of her forehead in an upside down U shape, starting from one eyebrow, and looping over her center gemstone to the other one. They all showed green as well, much like the Staff used to have.
"What? Don't just stand there, what's wrong? Where's the staff?" Kuvira asked urgently.
"Uh ... Right here," Jinora answered, gently touching Kuvira's new stones with her finger. Kuvira of course felt the touch, and froze when she realized what happened to her.
"Well. That happened then," Ghazan said, arms crossed. Ziyou nodded in agreement.
"I'm just gonna get Korra now. Be back later," Ziyou replied. With that, Ziyou went off to get Korra. She wouldn't want to miss this sort of surprise. It wasn't clear what the staff exactly did to Kuvira, but whatever the case, it was something worth seeing.
Further away from the others, Korra had took the time to isolate herself for a short while. Since she had found Aang, she'd been trying to get him to come around, but not much luck on that part. Without Raava, Korra just couldn't seem to get a grip on it when it came to meditation. It was quite a chore for her to try, and ironic considering she was in the Spirit World, and she couldn't contact Aang's spirit. Maybe it wasn't Aang who found her? Maybe it was some other spirit who they found before confronting Molto?
"Korra! Hey Korra!"
Her concentration broke when Ziyou came bounding over to her. Korra would have to try again later, but for now, she got up and looked to her twin.
"What is it Ziyou?" Korra asked, as Ziyou stopped dead in front of her.
"Korra, come back, that Staff did some freaky stuff back with the others."
"What're you talking about?"
"I think the staff fused with Kuvira!"
Sure enough, when Korra did come back, there was Kuvira with the gemstones indented in her head. Korra didn't hesitate to ask the questions up front.
"Are you feeling okay, Kuvira? What happened?"
"I ... I feel alright, but I don't know what that staff did to me. It shines bright for one minute, and next thing I knew I had these gemstones on my head," Kuvira said, which was true. They all were still new to these staffs, and finding one indenting and fusing with one of their own friends was anything but normal. Kuvira herself never had Spirit World jewelry on her body before, and having these stones on her head was something new for her.
"You know. Maybe this can work in our favor," Zaheer said at one point.
"How does this help us at all?" Kuvira questioned.
"It wouldn't had done that if you weren't special, Kuvira. Perhaps the other staffs have a possible connection with us somehow."
"We still have to find them first you know, so let's just get -" Kuvira retorted, picking up the map from the ground again, and opening it up. She stopped talking though when she looked at the map for a second time. Before the map didn't had any markings on it, as Asami and Bolin pointed out, but this time a number of areas had been marked with a small, yet noticeable, Yin and Yang symbol. One of these looked duller than the others, signifying that it had been got. Those symbols were not there before, and Kuvira never noticed them until after she got hit. Perhaps Zaheer was onto something after all, but Kuvira didn't admit it. Kuvira did an eye check to be sure she wasn't just seeing things, and the marks were still there.
"Clever Echidna," Kuvira thought.
"What's wrong?" Mako asked. Kuvira showed him the map.
"Mako, do you see any marks on this map anywhere?" Kuvira asked, wanting to be sure of it. To Mako though, he didn't see anything different from what Kuvira was seeing. Mako shook his head.
"No I don't. Why?"
"You don't see these marks on the map," Kuvira stated, looking at the map herself. She could see them just fine, and confirmed what some had speculated. To sum it up, Kuvira's fuse with the staff got her mind set in the right direction, and her eyes set to the right places on the map. Seems Echidna didn't leave the Spirit World map blank after all.
"Kuvira, it looks like you'll be guiding us this time," Korra concluded.
"Sure. I mean, you're the only one that can see these marks right? Maybe they lead to where the other staffs are," Korra explained. Kuvira looked to the staffs, and considered the idea for a bit. It did sound like a plausible one, and if she's the only one at the moment that could see the Se marks, then she might as well do it. Kuvira eventually looked at the map.
"There's an area north of here that's close by. Let's start there," Kuvira concluded.
"Hey, you awake?"
Back at the airship, El Niño had been keeping his watch over Zikara over the last day, and so far, Zikara had been oddly quiet throughout the whole time. Not a word of complaint or distress from her mouth. Strange to see. El Niño did an eye check about ten times, and each time he got nothing from her. They were still in the ship, and Zikara was still bounded up. El Niño was still wondering what was exactly going on with her. El Niño got his water arm out, and poked her head a bit, but he got nothing from her. Not exactly a good sign for the spirit in question.
"Guess she's dead now. Oh well, might as well get her out," El Niño decided. There was no point in keeping a dead body as a prisoner, that much he knew. El Niño picked her up easily, and began to head off from her chamber, and then off outside of the airship. El Niño got himself outside pretty easily, and Zikara still didn't really move as El Niño brought her body outside. Outside, nothing seemed off (well, aside from the relic city of course). As he began to head to the Spirit Portal just a meter away ...
"Avatar! Release Zikara now, or face the consequences!"
El Niño stopped, and looked up to the sky. He didn't see anything aside from clouds at first, but soon he began to see a looming Earth Kingdom airship, hovering just overhead. El Niño was slightly confused. Did King Wu sent the ship, or was it Vintana? Either way, El Niño set Zikara down easy, and jumped up to the top of his own Airship, looking right up to whoever was up there. The person speaking had a megaphone.
"What's the matter?!" El Niño shouted.
"Give back Zikara!" The person replied.
"You're a little late - she just died a minute ago!"
"She's right here, look!"
El Niño hopped down, picked up Zikara, and jumped back up on the airship to show them. The airship flying went closer, close to landing.
"What'd you do?!" The man demanded.
"I'm just a guard until the Avatar comes back!"
"Comes back?! She's not with you?!"
"No, she's running around in the Spirit World right now! The others too! If you want the body, then go ahead," El Niño said. What was the point in guarding a dead person anyway? The other ship landed close by, and armed soldiers came out to retrieve Zikara. El Niño, thinking that she was dead, didn't lift a tentacle to stop them in anyway. The soldiers went to Zikara, and one of them picked her up, and started to bring her back to the ship. El Niño patiently waited for the guards to leave, watching Zikara being taken away without much trouble. Zikara was carried into the airship, and the soldiers began to take their leave.
"See ya!" El Niño called, as the other airship began to go. Well, that was that.
"Eh okay. I should tell the others now," El Niño figured, heading into the Spirit Portal. He might as well do so if he had nothing else to do ...
Meanwhile, back on the ship, the crew were wondering what to do about Zikara. She surely looked dead, all things considered, so what can they say to Vintana without any execution? As they were flying off however, Zikara suddenly starting coming back around!
"Hey. Are we on the ship?" Zikara asked, a little groggy.
"Zikara! Oh thank Raava. You okay?" One of the soldiers asked.
"Tired and -" her stomach suddenly growled loudly, making Zikara cringe a bit. "- and hungry."
"You're safe now. Set course for Ba Sing Se!"
Back in the Spirit World, the group kept going on their way, Kuvira at front and leading them on their way. Since she was the only one who could see the location of these staffs on the map, they were becoming quite reliant on her to figure out where to go. The terrain around them had changed quite dramatically over their travel, turning from plains, to rocky outcrops. The ground hard and dry, with the path sloping around, it wasn't exactly a good trail to walk along as they kept going.
"How much longer, Kuvira?" Jinora asked. Kuvira looked down to the map in her hands.
"Shouldn't be much further from here" Kuvira replied. Even if things were smoother, some of them were getting kinda troubled - Ming-Hua in particular. Ming-Hua kept herself to the back of the group, keeping a sharp eye on Kuvira in front. If she had her waterbending this would be easy, but she didn't had any weapons except for her own teeth. And she wasn't like Ziyou in using them.
"Peeved are we?" Ghazan asked, who was walking next to her.
"Who died and put her in charge? Who does she think she is?"
"She's the only one who knows what's where," Ghazan answered. Ming-Hua rolled her eyes.
"And she's the only one who stopped all our progress after we killed the queen, remember?" Ming-Hua reminded, more annoyance in her voice. Ghazan brought his hands behind his head.
"Eh, I was dead, so I wouldn't know," Ghazan joked. Ming-Hua groaned, and moved ahead, away from Ghazan. They were caught up thanks to Vintana while they were with her group, but Ming-Hua was not jumping to trusting Kuvira just yet.
"Something wrong back there?" Korra asked, hearing Ming-Hua groaning. Ming-Hua didn't answer her.
"We're cool, Korra," Ghazan answered. Korra needed to watch them on that regard, Ming-Hua mainly ...
They continued going along until ...
The group suddenly stopped on that voice, like before. Unlike before though, when the silhouette was far away, the figure suddenly appeared in front of them, catching them off guard. The boy looked like a teen, black hair, and Fire Nation heritage, but the scar over his left eye made it very clear on who this was by a long shot.
"Zuko?" Bolin gasped.
"Nice to see you again," Zuko replied, seeing quite a number of Korra's friends before. Seeing the same person as a young teen was a bit odd, but it was still nice to find someone familiar.
"Zuko? What're you doing here?" Korra asked.
"Same reason you are, Korra. Better question though; why are they here with you?" Zuko questioned, referring to the Red Lotus. He was pretty aware of what they had done before he came here.
"Our goals are aligned for now," Zaheer said. Zuko took his word for it, although he kept his guard up. He wasn't going to trust them THAT fast. Still, that aside, they had to find the staffs eventually, so they had to get moving.
"Okay, wasting time here, know where the next staff is Kuvira? We getting close or what?" Ziyou asked, ready to go. Kuvira looked for a moment at the map before answering.
"Just off that way, north of us -"
And Ziyou was already running off after it.
"Wait for us!"
It only took a few minutes, but the group were making more tracks on their way to the next staff in question. The area, which was rocky and dry, shifted again to a much flatter opening. This opening along the bend showed their next stop, and that itself was a giant one. The area was flattened out, but there was also a tall mountain, looking like half of it was cut clean off with a knife. Ziyou was already there when the rest showed up, looking like she was trying to talk to something in the wall.
"I'll have you know that I've faced Koh to get this far! Let me in!" Ziyou demanded. At first the others were concerned on a number of levels, but upon a closer look, a set of eyes were seen in front of her on the wall, each one as big as her head. So, she was talking to something.
"Spirits only," the figure said firmly.
"You said that ten times now."
"And I'll keep saying it: Spirits only."
"Ziyou, there you are!"
Ziyou turned around and saw the others close by, catching up with her. Looking at Ziyou, she was clearly frustrated with this stubborn set of eyes.
"These stupid eyeballs won't let me in. I swore I saw a number of Spirits pass through here - there's a tunnel past it," Ziyou explained, the spirit rolling its eyes (go figure).
"I told your friend here this is Spirits only. Go away," the set of eyes said.
"Hold on, Ziyou. You sure the staff is even in there?" Mako asked.
"Where else would it be?" Ziyou retorted.
"Get lost humans! This is Spirits only, I'm not letting you in," the Spirit yelled, reminding them the current issue. Kuvira said its up to the north from the forest, and they found this place. It could be possible for it to be inside. Course dealing with a guard again wasn't something they'd want to work with again, after their experience with Molto. Molto was a bit smarter, but this spirit was still questionable ...
"But we are Spirits."
Zaheer's sudden statement was a bit out of nowhere. It was clear that they were not Spirits, except for Zuko probably. Zaheer wasn't dead though, clearly.
"You are?" Quizzed the spirit. Zaheer nodded.
"Clearly. Me, Zuko here, Jinora there. We're spirits," Zaheer said. Those amongst the others in the group were a little bit confused, but Zaheer made a sky wink to them, sly enough so the Spirit didn't notice. Zuko was getting the idea though.
"You look like humans to me," accused the spirit.
"We just look like Humans that's all. There's plenty of Spirits that take a human form."
"They do?" Questioned the Eye spirit. Jinora and Zuko joined in on the idea.
"Sure they do. We met ten other human-like Spirits before getting here," Jinora said.
"You did? ... But what about them?"
"Oh, they're normal humans. Got caught up in their dumb games. Idiots," Zuko said.
"Hey!" Snapped Bolin.
The eye spirit took a minute to check the trio claiming to be human-like Spirits. It looked back and forth for a bit, until it nodded.
"You two are a bit more spiritual. You can pass, just float on inside."
"Just give us a second," Jinora insisted. She and Zaheer took a moment to sit down, and meditate for a brief moment. They watched the two for a bit until they made their Spiritual Projections come out. The spirit, suspecting nothing, disappeared inside the wall. Jinora gave a wink to the rest before she and Zaheer both fazed through the wall. Hopefully it'll work.
When going around inside, Zaheer, Zuko, and Jinora continued off through the interior. The inside of this mountain was filled with tunnels, all which weren't well maintained, with tons of rubble amongst the place with little light aside themselves to actually see anything. Even with that, they couldn't see too far ahead of them; only about five feet at least, and ten feet at most. Still, figuring out where to go in this place was as troubling as going through a maze as a lab rat, and even then it wouldn't been easier if the tunnels lined up. Different passages went upwards, downwards, left and right, and even looped backwards. No wonder no humans were allowed in here. Any human wandering these tunnels would not live to tell the tale, guaranteed. As for sound, there wasn't much to speak of through the first twists and turns, but soon, something did begin to present itself.
"What's that?" Jinora wondered.
Only one way to find out: go to it. The sound itself actually sounded like cheering, but not like that from any good crowd, and more like a barbaric one. Navigation wasn't any easier though with so many twists in their path. It took them a minute or two, but their path did start to light up with a faint glow around one of the bends, with the noise more prominent as well. The trio wasted no time in going on and investigating.
Passing the corner, the next bend lead to a much larger chamber. It was pretty big, and indoor stadium size. Strangely it was also built in a similar manor to a Roman arena: a large opened area at the center, surrounded by stone seatings. A number of other Spirits were there as well, filling up the seats with cheers for what was going on. Amongst them, one of these looked more important. It looked very ominous, and in a robe, with the face of a boar, and hands of a crab. One of them held a staff, which was black in color, with the tip holding a Firestone, the markings resembling a leather bat. As for what was going on, the arena center was in the middle of what at first looked like a fighting match. Two large, muscular Spirits, both human like with purple skin, and deformed faces, were running around the arena, seemingly fighting each other. That seemed a bit odd to see, but that was until they floated in for a closer look. They weren't fighting each other, but they were tag-teaming. The arena had reddened areas amongst the perimeter, and the red areas were the result of humans inside! The trio saw only two humans still standing inside, most of them down on the ground looking, for a lack of a better word, dead. One of the two humans, the trio saw, flew across the arena before slamming into the wall, getting knocked out instantly. The final remaining human looked eerily familiar, to one of them anyway. She looked to be in her teens, with black Raven hair, and orange eyes. Her clothes made her look like a weak prisoner, grey, and in rags that barely have her any protection. Her body was deeply bruised, and bloody from this onslaught, appearing to had gone through hours of it. Looking at the body count, it started with twenty others, and none of those others looked standing. The two purple ogres ganged up on the girl, who tried to dodge them for a while. Her attempts though were simply fruitless. It didn't take long before one of the Spirits managed to grab her, and both slammed their fists into her head, side by side. The hit knocked her out immediately, or if not, killed her instantly.
"Oh Raava," gasped Jinora. It was like watching a war; you know it's horrid, but you can't look away. And that was the case for Jinora, which Zuko blocked her view with his hand so she wouldn't get scarred any further. The body fell to the ground, and the two Spirits gave a victorious roar, which caused an uproar from the crowd. Zaheer looked over to the pig crab, and looked at the staff.
"There's the other staff," Zaheer said, bringing their attention to the staff the pig crab was holding. However, the other two were a little distracted by what was going on. The humanoid stood up, and aimed the staff down to the humans. The tip glowed a bit, and flames started shooting out towards the bodies. They thought that the flames would end up burning them away, but instead the flames hovered around them for a moment. The cuts and bruises they had began to actually heal, and they started to become conscious again. Despite that, the trio watched them being put back into cages in the walls. Only Zaheer truly knew what was really going on.
"It revived them? Why isn't he letting them go?"
"It'd be better for them if he didn't."
"What? Why?" Jinora gasped in shock.
"Jinora. That beast is only keeping them alive to kill them again. Souls endlessly suffering, and he won't allow them to move on to escape it," Zaheer said. Jinora looked back in shear horror at the realization. An item that can revive the dead, and he's only using that to keep victims alive to torture them.
Torture not even death can escape.
Soon though, one of the humans started to retaliate, and she tried to run out. Jinora and Zaheer watched her try to scramble out, but it was no use, and she was forced into her own cage. They looked around the area for a minute, and saw they can't exactly jump in at the moment. There was too many witnesses to jump in, and that pig crab was surely not gonna give up the object for them. That, and Jinora began to think a bit on this particular girl, still trying to escape when none of the others even bothered ...
"Tell Korra I'll be back," Jinora said. Zaheer and Zuko stood aside, and Jinora slid off into the walls, and moved off to the girl's chamber. The chamber itself was crude: a simple hole with iron bars to keep her in. The girl just sat there with her back to the entrance, Jinora poking her head out from the ground. Jinora looked back to be sure no one was looking, before she fully merged into the room. The girl looked back to see Jinora, but her look wasn't too friendly.
"A angry Spirit?"
"No. I'm Jinora." The girl turned away.
"What do you want with me?" She asked, unamused with Jinora. Jinora tried to keep calm with her, as she went on. She thought it over, and sat down on the ground.
"I want to help."
"... Help? Help how? Who put you up to this?" She questioned. Seemed this girl wasn't believing her for a moment.
"Well, we were looking for these staffs. We came across Zuko just before -"
Suddenly she was on her feet, and looked ready to kill her!
"Don't mention that traitor to me! WHY would he try to do anything to help me?!"
Her response made Jinora jump back, some of her body clipping through the bars.
"Okay, okay, calm down. You know him?"
"... He's my pathetic brother."
Brother? This now got interesting. Jinora also got a good enough impression that Azula did not like her brother too much. Jinora took that into some consideration, as she sat down by her.
"Zuko's your brother then."
"I wish he wasn't. He's a traitor to the Fire Nation, he always will be. Why would he risk his neck for me, after he turned his back on the Phoenix King?"
All of a sudden, it seemed to click in Jinora's head what Azula was going on about.
"OH. The war. Listen, Azula, is it? The war's been done for over seventy years now, and the Fire Nation has been doing pretty well with Zuko before he retired. He's not a traitor for doing that."
"Save your breath, you naive brat. The Fire Nation would've won if he didn't backstab us! I don't care what he did after: that throne was rightfully mine!" Azula growled, teeth grinding on her last statement.
"Wait. So are you mad at him for taking the throne, or for going against the nation?"
"What's it to you, anyway?!" Azula snapped, trying to hit her, just to hit air.
"I'm trying to help you."
"Can you change the past so the Fire Nation rule the world?"
"... Uh, no I can't, but -"
"Then shut up, and go away. Tyson will get us both in trouble anyway," Azula insisted. She'd push her away if Jinora wasn't just a projection. However, Jinora looked a little confused.
"And who's Tyson?" Jinora questioned.
Suddenly, Jinora was, somehow, pulled out of the cage by a large claw, and was soon face to face with Tyson. Coincidentally, Tyson was the pig crab humanoid in charge of things here! Even in her projection, she was still being held by the humanoid. The pig snout snorted right in her face.
"Don't remember you." Tyson squealed, followed by a few snorts.
"I just arrived," Jinora admitted, nervous a little bit. Tyson snorted in her face again, slobber shooting through her, as Tyson released her, just to find her floating instead of falling. Tyson's pig nostrils flared up.
"Get out. Humans staying here!"
"But you can't, they don't deserve this torture!"
Tyson laughed at her from hearing that.
"Humans staying here. She sinned beyond repair. She deserve punishment. It fun too," Tyson said, followed by a squeal again.
"Can't you give them another chance? They don't deserve to die over and over again."
"Yes they do," Tyson bluntly replied, more casual really.
"No they don't!"
Suddenly, the staff glowed, and Tyson started swinging it at Jinora. Jinora moved around it, though she didn't think it's not too dangerous for her, but that was until Tyson got a hit on her leg. The effects were draining on her, and she had to quickly fly off before another hit could be done on her. Azula just watched in her cage.
"I'll be back for you," Jinora called, before disappearing.
Zuko, Zaheer, and Jinora managed to get back outside to the others, and by the time they did it was already getting dark. They camped out not too far away from the main entrance to the place, hidden behind some rocks.
"Azula. Now why does that sound familiar?" Bolin wondered.
"She's the fire princess from the one hundred year war ... She's also my younger sister," Zuko replied.
"Eh ... Nope, not ringing a bell."
"Toph blabbered on about her during one of her visits, bro," Mako reminded.
"Zuko? Azula seemed very mad at you when I saw her," Jinora pointed out. Zuko sighed.
"She and I had a rather rough history. Mainly, she tried to kill me for a while before the war ended. Guess she still hates me." Jinora was silenced, and was left to just think it over.
"... What about you?"
"Me? I've forgiven her already. The pressure of her bring the leader of her nation during the war made her slip ..."
"Well aside from that, we found our next staff inside. A Spirit Tyson is using it to torture Azula and other people in there," Zaheer said.
"Torture how? Putting their lives on repeat?" Joked Ghazan. Ziyou and Ghazan chuckled a little, but Zaheer cleared his throat.
"Actually that is the case. Sort of. He's using that staff for when they're killed, he can revive them just to kill them again."
The joke suddenly wasn't as funny anymore. Ziyou took a look over back to the entrance alongside Asami.
"Well anybody got any idea how to get in aside the front door?" asked Ziyou. Far as they knew, being a spirit was the only main way to get passed this door spirit, and into the arena. Such a stubborn eye spirit won't let them in.
"We could try to beat it down," Ming-Hua said.
"It's a spirit, that's not gonna work. They have this physical anti-pain or something."
"Anti-pain? Don't you mean impervious?"
"Hey, I can't think of everything!"
As this was going on, Asami kept thinking about something that crossed her mind during the chat. So far, seems any normal human couldn't just go on inside. Being a spirit projection worked on the guard, and the place was spirit only. Still ...
"Hey Korra, Kuvira. You want to come with me?" Asami asked.
"Sure, why?" Korra asked. Asami brought Korra and Kuvira down, the others unsure exactly what was going on with them, or what they were trying to do now. Asami explained her idea to the other girls before getting there. Asami, Korra, and Kuvira went right over to the wall, the spirit manifesting in the wall.
"You again? Thought I made it clear this is Spirit-only," the spirit said. Asami winked to Korra and Kuvira before clearing her throat.
"Now, I'll have you know that we have all the right to be in there same as any other Spirits."
"Of the Shadow Nation. If I remember, the Shadow Nation has more connection with the Spirits than even the Air Nation by a tiny bit," Asami explained. The spirit looked surprised, but skeptical.
"Shadow Nation? ... You sure?"
"True as we're standing here. And I'll have YOU know that my friend, Asami Sato, is of royal blood to the Shadow Nation," Korra said.
"And I'm sure you wouldn't want a friend to Raava as well to get you into any trouble, do you?" Kuvira added. The Spirit's irises shrunk in surprise. A princess of a long lost nation, and a friend to their God?!
"The Shadow Nation princess? Why didn't you say so in the first place?! Course you can enter - right this way."
Just like that, the Spirit opened up a clean, circular tunnel that lead straight to the arena in question. Asami smiled, and they ventured on inside, the others following them in ...
"Why didn't we say that the first time?" commented Ziyou.
Inside, the entertainment had been calmed down a little bit. A number of spirits stuck around still, and Tyson was making his rounds with the humans in their cages. None of them, Azula included, really did much. They were tired, and awaited their own death to actually come around for once. Tyson raised his staff and the spirit crowds grew excited for the next round to start. The way it would usually go is that he'd pick a spirit from the crowd, and then the onslaught would start. Just before Tyson could choose though ...
The crowds went silent as Tyson turned his head to a part of the crowd. Asami, Korra, Kuvira, and the rest of the team, stepped out into the light. Tyson turned his body completely to face them, as they jumped down into the arena. Tyson was a little put off, but he also saw a few similar humans, Zuko, Zaheer, and Jinora, come back in. The spirits in the crowd waited to see what will happen next.
"No followers. Only friends," stated Asami. Tyson snorted roughly.
"Told your friend get out. Humans staying here."
"You can't keep them here. That, and we came to retrieve that staff of yours," said Kuvira. Tyson looked to the staff he had in his hand, but he started hovering it over the group for a moment, like a metal detector. However, it got no reaction at first, but that was just because Tyson didn't hover it over the whole crowd. There was a slight glow at one point, but Tyson ignored it.
"NO. I'm owner of staff, not you!" Tyson yelled.
"As the princess of the Shadow Nation, then I demand you hand over your staff!" Asami demanded, hand out for Tyson to place it on. The crowds started to quietly murmur to each other, Tyson not reacting at first. However, soon he just snorted at them.
"Here for staff? FIGHT ME." The statement was followed by a loud barrage of oinks and squeals. So the main trial here is to fight Tyson head on, it seems. However, this beast was a lot stronger than any human, and they usually fight with bending - something they don't have at the moment. Ziyou was quick to comply, stepping right up.
"Alright, pork chop, I'm ready for ya!" Ziyou said confidently. Tyson was ready himself, and got off his robes to show the rest of him. Turned out this beast was not only intimidating, but he was ripped! Calling him strong would be an understatement.
"Hold on, that staff glowed aiming to us. It's supposed to belong to us," Korra said.
"I saw nothing," retorted Tyson. Obviously he was just lying to keep the staff for himself.
"Give it up!" Ziyou snapped.
Then the fight began. Tyson and Ziyou charged right for each other before anybody could stop either of them. Ziyou made the first hit, pouncing at the humanoid and biting into his head. Tyson reared up, and bucked around trying to dislodge Ziyou from his head, but this human was tougher than he credited her for. Tyson reached back, and finally grabbed her by the leg, pulling her right off like a leech: clean, and getting it over with. Tyson swung her around like a rag doll, throwing her right to the wall. Korra raced out to catch her sister, breaking her fall with seconds to spare. Ziyou was hurt, but not out by any means.
"Who next?" Tyson demanded. Kuvira stepped up next, alongside Asami and Ghazan, their turn to give it a try. None of them really trained outside bending when it came to fighting, but at least one of them had more agility thanks to her own practice, and one other never had bending in the first place so she was used to it. Tyson swung his huge crab claw around, though missing each one of them and leaving him open. Ghazan jumped up from his claw, and got the humanoid in a headlock. Tyson stumbled a little bit, but he kept his footing until Asami made a low kick to his calf, forcing Tyson down to his knees. The staff ended up out of his claws after that, falling to the ground. Getting up, Korra made a run for it, but Tyson grabbed Asami, and threw her in her direction, making a direct hit. Kuvira jumped up and kicked Tyson square in the head, knocking him over to the ground. Tyson had enough playing around. The humanoid, grabbed Kuvira mid air with one claw, yanking Ghazan off with the other, and slammed them both into the ground hard!
"I WILL NOT BE BEATEN BY HUMAN!" Tyson roared. He threw them both at the group, giving him time to grab the staff to use. As they were distracting Tyson, Jinora went over to Azula's cage. Azula was surprised how much beating Tyson was getting by this group, and she had just been watching in anticipation before Jinora showed up.
"Told you I'd come back for you," Jinora said, trying to find an opening in the cage for Azula to escape.
"Why would you? My Nation wiped yours out, and you don't know what I've done before I got here."
"Doesn't matter what was done before. Even if you tried killing your brother, no one deserves this, not even you," Jinora retorted.
"You're lucky Tyson didn't kill you before! Isn't that enough?" Azula asked, sounding harsh.
"It would've been better for Tyson if he had," Jinora said. Azula felt just baffled by this. This complete stranger, Air Nation no less, who was completely aware of the risks and what she did, and she still was trying to help her out. She knew Azula tried to kill her brother, and wasn't fazed from that. Either Jinora was a little naive, or there was something Azula was missing.
Jinora continued to look for some sort of opening, but as she was, Tyson managed to notice her. He shook off his adversaries, and blindly lunged right to her! Jinora and Azula had to rush aside, and Tyson ended up making a huge error: crashing right through the bars! Tyson backed up to find the bars wrecked, and Azula rushed out before Tyson could catch her. Rather than try to help, Azula went for broke, and tried getting herself out. The girl scrambled to get herself out, trying to climb the wall, but just before she could get out, Tyson grabbed her, and held her tight, one claw holding her legs, and the other at her chest. Now Tyson had a hostage.
"HALT! I kill her and won't revive her! Surrender!" Tyson squealed, squeezing down on Azula. The groups stopped for a moment seeing this, Azula screaming as she felt herself being crushed.
"Put her down Tyson!" Korra demanded.
"You all stay here!" bellowed Tyson. Now it was getting even more troubling. However, Ming-Hua looked away, and noticed something that was left behind in the scuffle: the staff! It was laying in plain sight over by the wall, and once more, Tyson didn't seem to notice at the moment. It was her only shot to get it without Tyson seeing. Soon, Ming-Hua ran right for it, as fast as she could, only a few of the others even noticing her run for it. Luckily, Tyson was a bit preoccupied, so she got to the staff simply enough. As for picking it up, she had to improvise since she didn't had any arms, hands, or bending to work with in her favor. Down on her knees, Ming-Hua had to almost lay down to grab the staff with her own teeth. It was the best she could manage. Balancing as best she could do, she stood up with the staff in her mouth, but only then did Tyson see her.
Tyson tossed Azula right at her, but Ming-Hua ducked, and ran to the group. Azula was actually caught by Zuko, her brother taking the impact for her. As she was, the staff glowed brighter as Ming-Hua neared her group. Tyson however charged right for her! Ming-Hua could only throw the staff as best she could before Tyson tackled her to the ground hard. Ming-Hua took the full hit, but the staff itself flew in the air a little bit, bouncing along the ground, until it stopped in front of the next staff owner. It was glowing very bright now, and he wasted no time in picking it up.
The staff flashed, and vanished like before, and when the flash diminished, Mako stood with the same stones from that staff now on him! Rather than on his head like Kuvira, his was evident instead on his chest. Mako could feel them on his chest from under his shirt, just at the top of his rib cage. He pressed a hand over the center one, feeling stronger, and warmer as well.
"MY STAFF! I'LL SLAUGHTER YOU!" Tyson roared, charging right towards Mako. Mako, instinctively, brought his hands out, and suddenly blasted a huge fireball at Tyson. They all were told bending didn't work in these places, and so far that seemed right, but if Mako could do that, that means his bending is back from that staff! The fireball made a direct hit on Tyson, the humanoid screaming, and being slammed into the wall in a heap of smoke. Everything there held their breath, waiting for the result. When the smoke went away, there laid Tyson. He was burnt, and unconscious.
Tyson was defeated.
With the battle over, they were off back outside. The human souls left in there were finally released, and the spirits went on their own way from there. The group as well, shaken up and bruised, were resting off outside for a bit.
"Well, now we got Gem boy with us. Good job on ya Mako. Where're those stones at anyway?" Ziyou asked, as Asami was wrapping her bruised arm.
"I can feel them. They're right here," Mako replied, pressing on his collar.
"Let's see them, then. Gotta bandage you up anyway," Ghazan suggested. Mako nodded, and proceeded to remove his shirt. His torso was bruised up on his right side, but attention went to the stones first. Mako's stones were a bright amber, almost like his eyes, two circle stones on each side of the large oval one at the center. The stone shined in the light, as some checked it out, even seeing a slight reflection.
"Sweet gems, bro. And you got your bending back too, that's a plus," Bolin said.
"Yeah, he did. So ... Hey Kuvira, try to use some of your bending for a second," Korra suggested. Kuvira decided to give it a try, and tried some basic earth bending. Sure enough, Kuvira levitated some pebbles off the ground. It was confirmed: the bending here came with the stones. Good thing to note for whatever the next staff would be. Speaking of which, Kuvira then went on back to her map, trying to see what staffs were next.
"K, Kuvira, where to?" Asami asked.
"The closest one is to the north of us. A bit away, but it's closer than the others are."
"Sounds good to me. We should be better off that some of us can bend now," Mako noted, a fireball floating in his hand. When looking, that reminded P'Li of something.
"Wait. Speaking of fire, where's Zuko? I didn't see him when we left," P'Li pointed out. The others soon realized that as well after looking around the area. Before anyone could figure it out, Zuko did end up coming around, but with Azula next to him. Jinora got to her feet first, and went over to them both. Azula no longer looked like she was in any rags, but this time the release had actually changed her a little bit, with actual Fire Nation clothes over the prisoner rags she had earlier.
"Hi Zuko, Azula. Everything okay?" Jinora asked.
"I'm a little sore, but I'll get better. Jinora, right? ... I actually want to ... Thank you. For what you and your friends did for me," Azula admitted. Jinora smiled.
"I'm just glad to see you're free, Azula. So, what're you two doing now?" Jinora asked. Zuko and Azula looked to each other for a moment, as Zuko answered.
"We're going to find our uncle. We can spent our existence far better with him in the Spirit World," Zuko decided. Azula made a small smile, and seemed to agree.
"Goodbye. And thank you," Zuko said. They said their goodbyes, and the siblings walked off away from them. The two then soon disappeared from sight, fading away. They may be on their main mission to get the staffs, but it was nice to get some others free from their torment just as well ...
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