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|Ep.14: The Observatory|
For the while, Team Avatar had continued on their eastern path, according to pure instructions by Asami and Kuvira. However, ever since their little escapade back at the shadow palace, the rest of the team was beginning to feel a bit unsure towards those two. For one thing, Ziyou's theory on them being of Shadow Nation relation was rubbing off on the others. And second, Kuvira and Asami seemed to know exactly where each one was. It was a known fact that others were spared in the past, the group seeing that while in Ba Sing Se, but none of them knew exactly where or what the things were directly, unlike the two girls. They didn't say anything, but they didn't bother much with them either. For the last two days, direct conversation had dwindled, and the girls started to notice that among their peers.
Korra was sitting in her room, alone, with the sun barely rising for the third day since fighting Toroon, and dealing with the hypnosis trick that was Asami and Kuvira. It was still early, and most of the group was still asleep, so it gave Korra time to think over the possibility of her closest friend being a part of a deceased nation. While she was sitting there alone, she heard the door open behind her. Speak of the devil: Asami Sato happened to be standing there, looking to her friend with a sad look on her face.
"You're up early," Korra said, turning to her. Asami nodded and sat down next to her like she usually would.
"I couldn't go back to sleep, my headache kept me up. It's probably good that you're up anyway, I wanted to see how you were doing."
"I'm doing okay ... I guess."
"You guess?" Asami asked. Korra sighed and looked out the window to the dark blue sky. If she should tell anyone, it should be Asami, but Asami was the main problem to begin with for Korra, especially since Asami was the one affected by the odd curse, not her.
"Look ... I've been a bit quiet about it, but I've been worried ... Ever since we left that palace, I'm beginning to wonder what will happen to you. I mean, you are involved with the Voronon in a way, right? ..." Asami knew Korra had a point: she technically was involved, although she didn't help directly. Since each Voronon never hurt her because of the supposed line of Shadow Nation descendants she was a part of, it might explain at least some of the reactivations (maybe).
"Korra, I ..."
"Asami ... I don't want to lose you."
Korra's words were purely sincere in her tone, yet worry filled in the voice as well as she said that. She knew how dangerous it was, but Asami didn't realize just how high the steaks were. Even if she didn't get hurt by the Voronon, she was still affected by that curse, and that curse could've easily kept her permanently away from her closest friends. Still, Asami just smiled.
"You won't, Korra. I'll guarantee that. Just promise you won't go away on me," Asami said. Korra, despite her worry, smiled to her friend and place her hand onto hers.
"I'll never think of it, Asami," Korra promised. After that was decided, Asami and Korra both hugged and looked out the window together to the rising sun. They both knew that they were close to their next destination, and they were ready to get going whenever they landed.
About an hour after, the group began to notice that the land began to turn to the ocean, as the sun rose. By the time everyone was up, the group was over the ocean, splitting off of the main continent with the bordering island in front of them. Kuvira and Asami, however, were getting a bit rough on their headaches, signifying that they were getting closer towards the next Voronon. However, this Voronon was different. For most of the time, it was pretty straight forward: find a Voronon, beat it, rinse and repeat, but with the new information about Asami, Kuvira, and the Voronon's involvement, what would be the right approach on this one? Should they just beat it in the ground again like most of the other times, or try a more gentler approach on the problem, like Kuvira and Asami did back in Ba Sing Se? Either way, they had to handle the issue in some way, otherwise they would keep tearing up the Earth Kingdom.
Eventually, the airship settled down within the upcoming island, after Asami and Kuvira both pointed out the exact location. Despite knowing the exact spot, the two insisted on docking the ship further away, not seeing a safe area to put the ship currently. Upon landing, the group went on outside, but Asami and Kuvira both began off already towards the direction. When they saw the others follow, Asami and Kuvira turned to them.
"No, guys, you wait here. We'll go ourselves."
"What? Kuvira, you two can't go by yourselves!"
"Bolin, if Armophlli sees any of you right away, it'll go completely ballistic. We prefer if you stay, but if you are coming, at least wait until we calm it down so it won't try to kill you on the spot, okay?" Kuvira stated. The others weren't sure, but eventually, some of the team members stepped forward while the rest stayed behind. Among the group, only Jinora and Kai stepped forward. Asami looked right to Korra, remembering what she told her earlier that morning.
"Don't worry, Korra, I'll be fine. You and the others just wait here, make sure nothing bad happens to the airship, alright?"
All Korra did was nod. She did want to go, but the Avatar could trust Asami, and if the girl said she'd be alright, then so be it. Still, Korra did wish she could go along just in case...
"It's not too far away, right?"
"It's just a mile through the mountains. Don't worry, we'll be back before you know it."
The group watched as Asami, Kuvira, Kai, and Jinora went on ahead. They could only hope that they would be back...
The four continued through the area, guided by Asami and Kuvira, with Kai and Jinora following behind. The landscape around them wasn't entirely the easiest to trek through, as the area was steep and covered in tropical forest. A mix of cooling mist, thinning air, and beating sun met them as they continued onward. It wasn't exactly the best traveling conditions, but at least it beat Si Wong Desert (in Asami and Kuvira's case, anyway). For the most part, all four members kept on their set trail as best as they could, though Kai was beginning to question whether Kuvira and Asami knew where they were going. Not that he didn't believe where the Voronon were, mind you, but more of how to get there was what bugged him ... That, and the literal biting bugs around his head.
"How much longer till we find Armophlli?" Jinora asked, as Kai slapped two bugs off his face.
"Not much longer. It should be just up ahead." As Asami moved some flora out of their way, she began to catch something off in the distance. It was hard to tell, but the group began hearing a low rumble from up ahead, Kai moving a bit faster. As Kai reached the main clearing of the forest, Kuvira, Asami, and Jinora all looked out to observe the area from there.
And boy, was there a sight to behold.
What they all saw in front of them almost seemed like something out of a dream. First there was a huge wall of water facing them, poring down in steps, flowing off down below them. While the water was clean and pristine, the waterfall's rocky steps were an almost glowing green, showing a lot of aquatic plants growing all around. The gigantic river that the waterfall flowed from looked far larger than anything they'd seen before, bordered by the mountains, with two waterfalls flowing in from the distance, creating an almost magical mist from both ways. Looking ahead, there was a huge assortment of ruins, covered by a large part of jungle. It was unsure weather it were natural plants growing for years on end, or the invasion growth of the Spirit Wilds that resulted in so much greenery, but either way, it gave a far more ancient look to the ruins. The thing was, though, that the ruins themselves didn't look like any normal based temple, or village like Accuro was. In fact, it looked like groups of domed greenhouses, with a gigantic one at the top looking like some sort of observatory. The largest one in question had its ceiling open and broken, growing out a gargantuan tree, looking similar to a banyan-grove tree, only this tree was angled to the group's right, curved upward, and had a larger trunk to it than the one at the Foggy Swamp. Smaller versions of said tree could be seen throughout the site, smaller green trees, and even green vines could be seen all over the place (keep in mind the team was a quarter of a mile away). It was like the group had just stepped out of reality for that brief moment, only realizing later that the area was real. And if those were the ruins, they could only imagine what it was like in its heyday.
After some more time admiring it, Kai and Jinora began bringing Asami and Kuvira safely down to the large river, passed the waterfall's beginning. The border of the river was fully aligned with moss-covered rocks, making navigation easier. When they were along the shore, the group took the moment to think over how they were going to get in there without disturbing Armophlli right away. The four could see stairs leading down to the water, looking like a small dock by the observatory.
"Okay, there's the main entrance. Here, we'll get you across," Jinora said.
"I bet Armophlli's in that big building to the back," Kai said, pointing to the one with the giant tree through it.
"Alright then, let's go."
With Jinora and Kai's help, the four began heading over the river as best they could. It was a bit hard with both of them carrying the two girls over the water, taking gentle hops over the water with their airbending. It took them a few more jumps until they managed to reach the stairs. Once they did reach the area, Kuvira and Asami started to look around the area. Every side had every inch covered in plant life, including vines, moss, and jungle leaves growing in the sunshine. Kuvira and Asami began to get an odd feeling while looking around the area...
"Okay, Armophlli should be inside. Let us find it first, we'll get you two when we're done, okay?" Kuvira ordered, beginning to go up the stairs. Kai and Jinora stayed put as Kuvira and Asami started up the stairs. However, before any of them could go into any buildings, everyone then heard something begin to move. None of them were moving around, so it couldn't be the group. However, the water from the deep river then started to shift slowly, something huge beginning to move from the water and up onto the island.
"What is that?" Kai asked, staring directly at the thing.
"That's Armophlli," Asami gasped. As they expected, the beast breached water, reaching full land. The giant looked like an armadillo, its armored back looking as if it was made of pure brass plates, reaching from tip to tip. Its large, blue rings of eyes were angled sideways, and forward, able to see the group on front of it. The armadillo Voronon looked about as large as a sky bison and just as broad in shape. Upon getting fully onto land, Armophlli raised up, revealing its huge broad claws, which looked like they were carved out of gold, even getting a slight reflection off of them from the sun. Before Armophlli could make an attack on them, Kuvira and Asami rushed in the way, arms spread as if making a barrier in between the Voronon, and the airbenders.
"Armophlli, they mean no harm!" Kuvira began, Armophlli not moving from its stance.
"We aren't here to fight you, and neither are they. They're friends of ours, please, spare them," Asami said. Armophlli looked to Kai and Jinora for a second, before it settled down gently on its four feet. It began moving over to the Air Nomads, looking them over carefully. Gently, Armophlli began to nuzzle Jinora; the airbender was a bit confused at first but then rubbed the Voronon's smooth forehead. The texture was similar to silver armor, even getting a blurred reflection off of its head for Jinora and Kai to see. Asami and Kuvira were glad that the Voronon wasn't hurting them this time, as Armophlli turned to face the two women.
"You know, this one's pretty sweet," Jinora said, as Armophlli began to move inland to the observatory. However, the issue came around when the group thought of what they were going to do with Armophlli. It seemed gentle towards them and didn't bother to attack after Kuvira and Asami said they were okay to stay ... Then came the observatory...
"Hey guys? How about we look around for a bit?" Asami suggested after thinking it over.
"But what about the others back at the ship?" Kai reminded.
"Oh yeah, you're right. Jinora, can you send a message to the rest of the team please? Tell them that we're okay, and we'll come back later on today," Asami explained.
"Can't they just come here?" Before anyone could reply, Armophlli started to groan a little bit on the idea, as if disagreeing with Jinora's suggestion. Asami and Kuvira looked to each other before replying.
"I think it's best if we alone look around. Just tell them what we're doing," Kuvira concluded. So Jinora got in her meditation position and began to focus. While she was sending her message, Armophlli began to move to Asami and Kuvira, nudging them over to the observatory. What exactly was inside, they weren't too sure on, but Armophlli seemed insistent. Besides, they still had that feeling in them about the place alone. It just seemed ... Unique ...
"We'll meet you two inside, Kai," Kuvira said, as she, Asami, and Armophlli began walking towards the observatory. Kai stayed with Jinora for the time being.
Some time later, Asami and Kuvira ventured into the observatory with Armophlli close behind them. The interior looked just as ancient (and just as interesting) as it was outside. Unlike the Shadow Palace or Accuro, this place didn't have any strange markings to resemble the Shadow Nation but still had that same vibe in it to say the least. Each main building they went into had a different look to it, though every single one was just as infested with greenery. Each room they went into had something special to show them, as their special feeling about the place grew bit by bit as they explored. Kai and Jinora joined them sometime later, when Asami and Kuvira went in the third domed building. The building they all went into was pretty large, roof rounded out, and even having a sort of a 'skylight' feel to it. The middle of the room had a special statue, surrounded by water, and was covered in vines, but was enough to be recognizable. The statue looked like that of a man, looking down to the floor, with a sword in front. The man looked pretty old and withered away by time.
"I wonder who that is?" Jinora wondered.
"I'm not sure, really. Guess he owned the place before," replied Asami, as Kuvira moved over to it. The statue was a rather nice one, but the markings at the bottom were illegible due to the cracks in the statue and vines covering parts of it. It didn't matter too much at the moment, as Armophlli began to move on to the next building. Kuvira, Asami, Kai, and Jinora did the same thing.
After that, Armophlli guided them all to the giant building, where that huge tree was growing out of. The entrance inside wasn't big enough for Armophlli to fit through, so the others went inside, as Armophlli waited for them. The room they went into (or at least one of the rooms) looked like a very old study. Surprisingly, many of the appearances looked more similar by their time standards. It wasn't as small as usual libraries but not large enough to match with Wan Shi Tong's grand establishment, not even close. Jinora, fascinated by the huge amount of literature, immediately started to browse the many books as Kuvira, Asami, and Kai looked around. One book pulled out was an animal study guide. The interesting part was that almost all of the animals were extinct by their time, and those who were still alive looked different. Beetle Wolves, Giant Gilacorns, and different variations of sky bison were just a few examples of what the book had to offer. Once more: the book was handwritten and dated, so it couldn't be a modern book with exact dates and personal encounters written inside.
"What're you reading, Jinora?" Kuvira asked after a bit.
"Look at this, all of these creatures are extinct, yet these encounters are personal notes," Jinora said, showing Kuvira one of the animal encounters. The exact page in particular was on the writer's encounter with a Spotted Giraffe Leopard, with some field notes within it and even a picture of said beast. Most of the details were of the creature, claiming it as a gentle heading animal, but while she was looking, she began to get a rough headache again, especially after she read what the name of the writer was.
It got to the point when she had to give back the book to Jinora before it could get any worse. While they were going through that area, Asami and Kai looked towards the outside of the library room. At the end was a door, which the two opened up. However, the other room looked destroyed, a large gaping hole leading out to the gigantic tree. They were so small compared to it, it was unbelievable. Outside, they saw Armophlli already standing on the trunk of the angled tree, looking up to them.
"She must be the owner of this place," Jinora said while looking at the Zorka name.
"Hey guys, come here," Kai said. Kuvira and Jinora went over to them after a bit, Jinora taking the book with her. When all four were present, Armophlli called to them, sounding like an odd whistle. The four thought that it wanted them down, and they began going back down. Armophlli began to walk up the trunk of the tree, towards the branches. Kuvira, Asami, Kai, and Jinora all moved up the large trunk. Eventually, the trunk stretched out to the point where the group could see just beyond the mountains and past the entrance where they arrived. The land was simply beautiful and not interfered by human beings in the slightest. Armophlli eventually stopped once they got to that point and laid down nearby.
"What a view," Kai said. Even if he and Jinora could easily fly around and get the same view that way, the sheer beauty of the place was still very good towards them both. Kuvira and Asami though were more focused on the tree. A slight breeze blew by them both, various leaves from the tree blowing by them as they were standing there.
"Kuvira? Are you getting the same feeling as I am?" Asami asked, looking up to the falling leaves.
"Yeah ... This place must have been a part of the Shadow Nation many years ago..." Kuvira replied. The two continued to look at the area of the tree. Suddenly, their headaches came back, as another vision presented itself. This vision was less dynamic than the last one they had with Awadil, but still, a good vision nonetheless. The vision showed the tree again, but no one there except for a teenaged women, in clothing similar to that of the Shadow Nation they saw on the drawings within the Shadow Palace. In front of her appeared to be a book, with her writing inside it with a quill. Next to her seemed a much younger, smaller version of Armophlli, resting alongside her. The vision only ended there, yet both of them didn't feel as enthralled in it like before, nor did it seem as deeply important as the one with Awadil. Kuvira could guess on who the girl was, as she saw the name from the animal study guide Jinora had with her ...
After a little bit, Armophlli got back up and looked to the sky, giving another gentle whistle. Kai, Jinora, Kuvira, and Asami all looked in the same direction Armophlli was. What they saw next floating in the sky left them with awe.
Up in the clouds, just ten feet above where they were, they all saw a large herd of creatures flying through the sky, gentle as ever with a swish of their tail each occasion as if swimming in the air. Immediately, the group recognized them as Sky Bison, as some began to land gently around the observatory. One of them landed close to where they were, resting for a brief moment, yet wasn't scared of them in anyway.
"Cool, more sky bison! Didn't know our herd reached this far," Kai said in glee, walking over to the bull. However, these Sky Bison were a bit different than the ones back at the air temples.
"Wait a minute. These guys don't look the same as our Sky Bison. Look, the arrow's a different color, and there are no stripes on its back either," Jinora pointed out. After another look, she was right: the main arrow was a dullish blue rather than the brown color they were used to, and there weren't any number of stripes along its back either. Once more, when it started to eat at the moss on the bark, the mouth was in a completely different shape. Instead of a bulldog-sort of look, it appeared like that of manatee rather than a normal Sky Bison. One more thing to note was that the tail was more rounded, like a round ore in a boat instead of a purely flat beaver tail. Jinora thought she had seen this type through the book and quickly skimmed through the pages until she found a match: A Sky Cow.
"Wow, it's a Sky Cow! A living, breathing Sky Cow, this is incredible!" Jinora gasped in surprise. The Sky Cow bull moved over to Jinora and nudged her a little bit, sniffing her a little bit. While it was, a few young Sky Cow calves flew down there too, curious of the newcomers. However, Armophlli moved over to them and gently nudged them away so the group wouldn't be so crowded by the creatures. None of the Sky Cows were afraid of Armophlli either, and, in fact, one of them landed on its back as Armophlli walked back to the observatory. The group looked around at the herd below them, which had landed nearby the river. While some stayed by the land, eating at the sift leaves and vines, others were actually in the water, enjoying the moss and weeds growing on the riverbed.
"I thought these creatures were extinct years ago," Asami wondered aloud.
"Well, many people thought Sky Bison were extinct too, but look where they are now. Guess these guys kept themselves safe here," replied Jinora. One of the female Sky Cows flew by them, accidentally sending Kuvira off balance. The others tried to catch her, but the girl suddenly fell off the tree. However, the female Sky Cow flew down and caught her as she fell, Kuvira landing on her back. Kuvira wasn't sure if it was a game or just dumb luck, but the girl calmed down as the Sky cow flew down to one of buildings. Jinora and Kai caught up to her fast, but Asami needed some more time before she caught up with them (unable to fly and all). They all met up back at the stairs where they came in, the herd hanging out by the water's edge. While watching the herd, the four were calming down after a while, watching the gentle giants move about. While they were grazing, Armophlli roamed back outside with some of the Sky Cow calves. When they saw it, Asami was reminded of the Voronon question they had when they arrived. Should they? ... Shouldn't they? ...
"... Guys? ... Let's go."
The group turned to her.
"Go? But what about Armophlli?" Kai asked.
"Armophlli isn't harming anyone, there isn't a reason to fight. Besides, who else is going to look after these creatures with no one else here?" Asami said, referring to the Sky Cows roaming around nearby. The girl had a very good point: no one would think of coming to an isolated location like this unless they had a VERY good reason to do so. Armophlli was the only one left from when the place was in its heyday, and it would be a shame to remove it from the world. With a nod, they looked to her with a smile.
"You're right, Asami. Let's get back to the others," Jinora replied. Before they could go, Armophlli then moved in front of them, going into the water. It didn't submerge completely, its back still high and dry. They all looked to each other before they got the general idea. Jinora and Kai both flew off ahead while Asami and Kuvira took the ride on Armophlli's back. The Voronon then swan effortlessly across the large deep river towards the other side. Upon dropping the two off, Armophlli turned and swam back to the observatory. The group felt a bit good for letting Armophlli go as they began walking back. In one day, they had found a new Voronon, an ancient observatory, and a species once thought extinct ...
It was a good day.
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