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The skies above the North Pole were bright and clear, just a few cirrus clouds flowing across the blue cyan skies, the sun up in its bright glory as it looked down onto the arctic landscape. In particular, the Northern Water Tribe itself. When it came to true changes, the main one was that the city residents coexisted with the spirits of the Spirit World, which were a problem at first, but eventually worked itself out as time went by. Unlike Republic City, which had the spirit vines to work around, the arctic conditions made the growth of such plants close to impossible. That didn't mean the spirits didn't stick around however, yet it wasn't as big of a problem.
The city square was as usual, and as usually busy. Being a big city and all, populations were usually high, and as such, a crowded place for humans and spirits alike. The spirits themselves don't really mind it, as they floated and walked around the city, basically wandering around the place as the humans went on with their daily lives within the city. Occasionally the younger kids would play with the spirits, but aside of that, they're basically ignored overall, which wasn't so bad. One of the spirits, a large cyan blue seahorse (a horse/fish hybrid), was browsing through a shop, rather uninvited by the shop owner. The creature, about as tall as a horse, did cause a bit of trouble and was quickly sent out. Its large yellow fish eyes looked around for a bit, as it walked along the sidewalk. But as it was, something didn't feel...it didn't feel right, all of a sudden. Worried, it began to look around the place. It saw humans, other spirits, buildings, occasional car...but something suddenly appeared into view as one of the cars drove by. The spirit took just one look before rearing back on its hind legs in panic, a loud horse shriek echoing out, as it turned and galloped away at high speed, rushing by a lot of people and spirits who also heard the call admitted by the spirit. The other spirits begun to panic as well, but the humans were unaware as to why they were in such a runaway. The figure in question simply watched as the spirits ran away and disappeared, humans none the wiser. The figure appeared to be a boy, about in his twenties, yet something about him looked more...ancient, to say the least. His hair, pure black (but a tint of blue in it), dangled down to his shoulders, and appeared soaked, as if just leaving the water. His clothes matched those worn by the Water Tribe, also looking equally soaked. Though his appearance seemed normal, his eyes had a completely different look that the spirits caught. His blue eyes were outlined black instead of white, a feature that was NOT a human detail. The boy looked on ahead as the spirits ran, a rather emotionless expression on his face, as he raised his hand in their direction. While the humans weren't noticing anything too odd about the boy, what came next was for all to see, spirit or not.
One at a time, the humans looked out to the sea, as a large shadow began to form from across the sea, beginning the advancement towards the Northern Water Tribe. At first glance, it just appeared to be some sort of cloud advancing towards them, but closer examination shown otherwise: as that cloud turned out to be alive! The mass of creatures that surrounded the shadow didn't look like any normal animal (even by their standards), looking as far as alien. There appeared to be about 30 different individuals, spherical in shape, and their skin, though blackened by their shadows from below, appeared almost white. Each had some sort of antennae on the top of the body, the creatures keeping in the air by a set of bug-like wings, beating like those of a hummingbird. Even if the wings were flapping, they appeared levitating rather than flying. Unlike anything they ever seen before, as the swarm begun to charge in...
Farther south of the North Pole, another city was going through some new expansion as of these past months: Republic City. Ever since after that battle with Kuvira, President Raiko had decided to expand the city, instead of just repairing the downtown area from Kuvira's attack. So far, that's became rather successful as time went on by, the results increasing the city by about a few more miles in construction. Successful, yet gave some problem with the landscape (the city itself bordering the mountains to begin with). For that day, the construction teams there were working up on the next building, being lead on by the jack of all trades, Varrick. Like many people in the city, Varrick had gone through some development through the months, since he had married his former assistant/current wife, Zhu Li, soon after the attack on the city. Varrick kept in charge of the brigade, making sure the construction was going as planned. In fact, they only had the roof to put on by that point, as some earthbenders and metalbenders, which included members of the Beifongs, helped out with the position. were levitating up the roof to set up onto the foundations. Exact placement was vital, and Varrick was making sure it was exact placement was complete. Varrick had his hand to his chin, thinking over on the position of the roof.
"Bring it to the left!" Varrick ordered. However, the benders moved it the other way.
"No, MY left!"
They moved it to Varrick's left...little too far. His hand met his face from the frustration, as he began to redirect.
"Too far! Bring it back over!"
One of them, the chief named Lin Beifong, glared towards Varrick, strain evident on her face as she struggled with the others to keep the roof from falling roughly onto the building.
"Well, isn't it right or left?!" Lin groaned.
"Trust me, I know what I'm doing! Now, go right a bit!" Varrick ordered. Lin didn't enjoy the ordering, but she and the others complied as they started to slowly move it back over, Varrick giving hand gestures to his right for a bit to signal the benders. They strained to bring the roof in proper place. Suddenly, his hands raised, him yelling "STOP!" The benders stopped moving it.
"That's it, that's it, bring it down!" Varrick called, his voice raised to the end in order for the others to hear. With pleasure, the benders finally set the roof down in its place, the walls held steady as the weight of the roof was put onto it. The same benders, given the green light, then bended the metal to seal the roof in place. And just like that, their newest building was complete (foundation anyway). Still, Varrick was proud.
"Perfect! Alright, take five everybody," Varrick announced, the benders finally relaxing their sore arms from having to move that rooftop in the right place. Soon afterwards, Varrick brought out a clipboard, checking off another house on his checklist (which the board had about 3 others marked already). As Varrick was checking it over, he had some new company that came to visit. One of them was Prince Wu, or just Wu, no longer having the anarchy of kings in the Earth Kingdom. Since his decision of removing the Earth Kingdom royalty gig, Wu had gotten some more time in responsibility, which he'd been using to help with the expansion of the city. He still looked normal, same attire and all that, though his hair did get shorter. The second person was Zhu Li, Varrick's wife. Although she was no longer an assistant to Varrick, her habit of following him still hung with her for a while, but as the months past, something...special, had happened to her, which resulted in sometime off for her, and even sometime to get Varrick to do things for her. Varrick wasn't surprised upon seeing Wu, but he was a bit perplexed on seeing Zhu Li there too.
"Zhu Li! Didn't expect a visit," Varrick commented, his clipboard at his side as Zhu Li smiled.
"Just wanted to check on the project, sir," Zhu Li implied.
"You know you don't have to call me "sir" anymore."
"I know," Zhu Li giggled, giving Varrick a kiss on the cheek. Varrick gave a smile, though again, his perplexed expression got Zhu Li's attention.
"Shouldn't you be at home, sweetie? You do have a...well...special something," Varrick said, hand placed on her stomach to make his point, which actually stuck out in a perfect sphere under her clothes. You could probably guess by this point on what that something is. Zhu Li rested her hands on her stomach, looking into Varrick's eyes.
"So this means I can't come and see how you're doing?"
"Well, no, but it's a close second," Varrick admitted, Zhu Li giggling again. Soon after, Wu gave a small *ahem* towards them, catching Varrick's attention for a minute. Varrick cleared his throat and walked over to Wu, as Lin and her sister, Suyin, joined with them.
"So, Wu, what's the follow up?" Varrick asked. Wu gave a nod to Varrick as he brought out some paper, and gave it to Varrick to look over.
"We've just finished up our next 5 projects! We even got up that sweet spa house down the street," Wu said, winking at the last statement as Varrick smiled at the news.
"Excellent news, kid! That's 7 projects done in just 2 months, a personal record," Varrick beamed, marking off the others on the checklist. It was some good news for the planner, being ahead of their schedule to be honest. Lin went over to Zhu Li after that.
"Hey, Zhu Li, how's it been?"
"Well, to be honest, it's getting rough to carry my child around sometimes," Zhu Li sighed, rubbing her stomach as she said that. Don't get her wrong, she loved the fact she had new life in her, but sometimes it was difficult for her to handle some things.
"Don't worry, sweetheart, it's natural," Suyin assured her, having gone through her situation before during her youth.
"Are you sure?"
"I've gone through this about 4 times, one of which had twins. I can assure you, this is all apart of the child growth."
Zhu Li simply sighed, but had to agree. After all, how could she argue with someone who'd gone through 4 pregnancies (not to mention a twin birth). While they were talking, Lin went over to Varrick and Wu.
"Had any of you guys seen Korra around? She should be giving us a hand here," Lin asked.
"Beats me," Varrick said, looking over the plans again. Where was Korra?
The Spirit World was just as beautiful as ever, the colorful bright landscape glistening in the ever lasting light. Colors of green, purple, blue, and so many others covered the various plants around the area where the new spirit portal beamed brightly. The grassland, about a mile away, looked like it was painted over, the color was so potent. The area also had a ton of rocks, rather large and jutting out of the ground in various places. Some spirits straying around the sky above, and hopping around on the rocks as well, observing an odd assault in progress. Trying to remain out of eyesight in front of them, 4 different Air Acolytes, 3 siblings, tried to sneak over to their target using the rocks as cover. Among them as well were a few friendly spirits who decided to join them on their mission. There were as many spirits as there were benders: one of them looking like a little mouse, but with only long back legs and ears that helped it fly. Another looked like a baby featherless bird, feet just stubs, and 2 huge leaves like a mask on its face. Another appeared to be like some sort of fennec fox, but blue furred and stripped. The last one looked, basically, like a golden hummingbird. Each Airbender was doing a fairly good job: their target didn't notice them going towards her. They were Meelo, Ikki, Jinora, and Kai, and they all had her in their sights. Kai, having his back to one of the rocks, signaling the others over. Their target: a short haired brunette, in the meditation lotus position on one of the smaller rocks. Her fists were placed together, appearing to be in deep meditation. a small, triangular blue flag stood in front of her...the 4 acolytes waited silently for a bit, all eyes sternly starring...then they all bolted for it, jumping out of their hiding places, and rushing for her!...only to run in a rock wall. Yeah, she knew, and she made the rock wall soon as they ran, causing Meelo and Ikki to run right into it, while Jinora and Kai skidded to a stop. The spirits stopped too, except for the fox, who jumped over the wall. Their target turned around to face them, smirk on her face.
"Nice try, you guys. But, you ain't gettin' the flag this time."
"Dang it, Korra! How do you do it?" Ikki yelled, rubbing her head. Yep, that was Korra who they were trying to get pass. When it came to change, Korra didn't go through as much (still her enthusiastic, yet calmer and caring self). Since the Kuvira incident, she'd grown more merciful, learning to be so due to her suffering during the time. After Ikki and Meelo picked themselves up from the grass, Korra jumped off her rock, now in front of them all.
"Geesh, Korra, it's close to impossible to sneak up on you now. We got close though," Kai stated, which was pretty close to true.
"Guess I should say I gave you all a chance that time," Korra mockingly admitted. Even if she wasn't as cocky as before, it still showed sometimes, when she's having fun anyway.
"Oh whatever, we're getting there," Meelo pouted, as Korra gave a giggle. However, soon after they've finished their little game, one of the spirits popped up from one of the rocks. This spirit looked like a grey bullfrog, but as big as a dog, and rocky in skin appearance. Its yellow eyes showed a look of annoyance and its large mouth, wide as its head, curved down in the same annoyed expression.
"For Raava's sake, can't you humans quiet down? Some spirits are trying to sleep here!" It barked, its voice croaky, and like an old man.
"Sorry, mister rock spirit, just playing a game," Meelo said. The spirit gave a huff towards Meelo, his apology not helping.
"The things you humans find fun, sneaking around like a bunch of ninnies," the rock spirit grunted. The other spirits simply ignored it, yet another spirit appeared on top of one of the taller rocks soon after he said that. This other spirit looked like a koala bear, same size and appearance. However, the star mark on its forehead made it look distinctive from normal koalas. It wasn't part of the game, but wasn't a grouch about it.
"Eh, quiet down, bloomin' crank. Let's the kids have their fun," it said, its voice having a strong Australian accent (obviously). The rock spirit groaned with that comment.
"Their fun is too loud! Can't sleep a wink with these youngsters."
"Says the spirit who sleeps his years away," the koala chuckled. The rock spirit just groaned, and disappeared again. The koala spirit just chuckled as Ikki turned to it.
"No prob, mate, Don't worry about it. By the by, did ya got somewhere to be anyhow?"
That question gave Korra the reminder; she was supposed to help with the construction back in Republic City! Must've slipped her mind when the kids got her to play with them earlier that day.
"Oh yeah! Sorry guys, but I gotta go, supposed to help with projects today," Korra told the others.
"Aww, you sure?" Ikki asked.
"I'm sure, sorry. We'll play tomorrow, okay?" Korra promised. Soon after a small agreement, she went off on her way.
The day went on for a while for them soon after that. The kids all spent an extra hour in the Spirit World before they came back to Republic City as well, only stopped when their mother began to worry over them. The portal itself was still wide open to the world around it, spirits flying around it and passing through at times, as huge groups of spirit vines stretched around the portal, city included. The city still had its pockets of spirit forests, yet not much change all together effected the forests since the opening of the portal. Speaking of, the portal was easily visible back on Air Temple Island, where Korra went back to sometime after checking in with the construction projects in the city (which Lin didn't hesitate to give her own annoyed insight on it). Korra was sitting down by the air temple stairs, looking out towards the spirit portal as it aimed right up into the night sky, spreading out into the heavens in all directions. Her chin rested in her hand while she was thinking. As she was, another person came out to see how she was doing. He was a Fire Nation/Earth Kingdom firebender named Mako, one of Korra's closest friends (and boyfriend at one time until they broke up). Mako was still working his job as detective for the republic police force, since his job for being a guard to Wu ended sometime back, so, he kept a walkie-talkie with him just in case something were to be brought up. Mako walked over to Korra, and sat down next to her, only then did Korra notice him.
"Oh hi Mako, didn't notice you," Korra said.
"Hey Korra. So, how's the construction going?" Mako asked, wanting to start up a conversation.
"Going good, got more buildings up as it turned out. Though, Jinora, Ikki and Meelo got me to play capture the flag so that distracted me for a while," Korra admitted.
"Did they get the flag?"
"Not even close."
Korra and Mako chuckled, yet Korra still looked like she had a bit on her mind.
"*sigh* I dunno. It's been months since Kuvira came here with her super weapon, and opened that portal and all. Not that it's a bad thing, but things just gone...quiet. I need something exciting, something to get me back in the game."
Mako looked to Korra with concern and confusion.
"Korra, you've helped create the portal and help expand the city."
"So? Those are all fun and good, but what's that compared to what I've done before? I done so much more, and here I am just setting up buildings. I felt good at first, but now...I don't know..."
Korra simply looked back to the portal again, leaving Mako to ponder what she had told him. But, before their conversation could go any further, Mako's walkie talkie went off by him. Such a time to get a call, though Korra let him answer anyway. Mako got the walkie talkie up and listened in.
"Mako, you there?"
"Yeah, chief. What's the problem?"
"Robbery by the republic city market. Need you here immediately."
Mako got up, a bit annoyed that he had to just go, but his job was important. However, Korra got an idea: a bit to the point and out of nowhere, but something that might help her out a bit. Korra glanced back to Mako with a grin, ready to say her idea.
"I wanna go with you on this one."
"Huh? You sure?"
"Course I'm sure. I need some sort of action, this can be it! Besides, how hard could it be?" Korra insisted. Yeah, going after a petty thief is nothing compared to fighting giant demonic spirits, or going toe to toe with the worlds worst dictator, but it's a start, non-the-less. She needed something new after the time past, and a good ol' investigation will work out just fine at this point. Mako thought about it for a second or two before replying to her.
"You know what? Alright, you can come along."
Korra got up almost immediately after the answer, ready to go. Although her experiences before told her not to be so forward when it turned to fight in action, but that didn't mean she wanted that spark to be completely gone. Besides, she liked to help when she could.
"Great, let's get going," Korra insisted, heading off with Mako towards the city. Time for a good old fashioned thief capture.
That night, one of the buildings was surrounded by various members of the police force, a few police automobiles surrounded the area, like a barrier to keep passerby away from the scene as much as possible. Various police metalbenders as well were on the scene, with Lin Beifong holding a portable megaphone by her side. The building they've surrounded was one of the many grocery stores in the city (a bit of an odd place for that big of a robbery, but still worth mentioning). Lin Beifong held the megaphone towards her lips, as she gave her demands.
"This is your last warning! Come out quietly, or we'll use force!" Lin yelled, her voice amplified by the megaphone. No reply inside. It wasn't til then that Mako and Korra arrived on the scene, driving in with one of Asami's automobiles. Mako and Korra quickly stopped and jumped out to get to Lin.
"What's the deal?" Korra asked.
"Korra, good thing Mako brought you. The thief's inside, and she refuses to come out. She claimed to have a hostage inside with her, and will attack if we try to go in," Lin explained, their attention heading back to the market. None of the lights were on inside, so none of them could really see who was in there exactly. Korra gave a sigh and turned inside.
"I'll take care of it, Lin," Korra said, as she began to walk towards the shop.
"Understood. The rest of you, at the ready!" Lin ordered, as the benders prepared themselves in case the thief decided to go on the offensive. Korra simply sighed, and lit up a fire within the palm of her hand (firebending) for light as she went in. Mako wanted to go in, but Lin insisted for him to remain outside, just in case...
Inside the shop, the darkness made things hard to fully see, but Korra's small fire candle in her palm made at least some sort of light. The store inside appeared to be normal, aside from plenty of items knocked onto the floor. All sorts of fruits, vegetables and meats were either missing or scattered on the floor. Korra continued to look around, aiming her light to the back to see the counter. Korra expected some money taken, but oddly, that remained untouched...then she heard breathing, just behind the counter. She also noticed a large sack in the back, looking like someone was inside. But as she took a step forward...
"Stay where you are!" A voice demanded from behind the counter. Korra couldn't see who it was, assuming she was crouched behind the counter. Normally, Korra would try to confront her anyway, but she didn't move as she said.
"I just want to talk with you."
"Well, stay there and talk, or the clerk gets it!"
Korra complied, and sat down on the other side of the counter, back to it. Soon as the thief heard her sit down, she asked, "what is it?"
"I would like to ask you to come quietly, and release the hostage."
"Why would I come, I didn't bother anyone until the clerk called the cops."
"He had the right to do so, you did thievery you know," Korra pointed out.
"For one, I didn't steal any money, and second, I didn't have a choice."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean that I was starving! I don't have any money on me, and I hadn't eaten in days! Besides, it's just some food, he could get some more."
Korra remained quiet after hearing that. The thief was starving, and she didn't have a choice in the matter either? She simply sighed, looking down to her knees as she thought it over.
"Are you feeling better, now that you did?"
"Well, I'm not hungry, but I want the cops off my back," the thief said, as Korra heard a bite and a crunch, assuming the thief was eating something.
"But is that the reason for you to keep someone hostage? Just because you were hungry?"
"NO, because he rat me out!"
"Either way. I understand you were starving, and you needed something to keep you going, but how much trouble are you willing to -"
"I didn't want trouble! For crying out loud, if you guys would just leave me alone, it wouldn't be a problem. Like you would know, anyway."
"In a way of suffering? I do. You suffered your own way, and I did too."
"What? I said starving, not suffering."
"And that was your own way of suffering. I can relate to it."
"Yeah sure, being kidnapped, running away AND near death by hunger you can relate to!"
Again, Korra stopped. Now the thief gone through that too?
"Actually, I can. I've gone through worse than you think."
"Did you now?"
"Yeah. Try fighting dark spirits, Equalists, and the worst dictator the worlds ever seen, not to mention being poisoned."
There wasn't much of a reply that time, the thief taking Korra's words in.
"Oh...in that case, my sob story's...a bit weak."
"Well, you can make it a bit easier. You don't have to fight, just calmly come back out, and -"
"Wait what? That's what you're doing?! Feeding me some make up crud so I would give in, well guess what, I'm not leaving until they leave!"
Korra could see her words aren't working for her, yet, she herself didn't want to hurt her. But, when push came to shove, it seemed that might be the only option...or not. Korra decided on plan B, and got back up, beginning to walk away.
"You're gonna tell them to go?"
"Since you won't cooperate, I might as well let the police do their job," she said, turning back as she was walking. A bit of a weak plan: a bluff, but something that might work on a petty thief.
"You wouldn't dare!" The thief yelled.
"I would, and I -" before Korra could finish, she took a better look at that bag. She didn't notice earlier, but the bag looked a bit uneven for a person in it. To make sure, Korra quickly blew at the bag with a good air bending blast. 2 things: one, it was just a sheet, and two, the person was just a bunch of cabbage! After a few seconds, the thief lunged at her with lightening speed, and with such force to knock them both outside in front of the police!
"That's it, you're -"
...silence...before the thief could attack, both she and Korra took a good look at each other. Korra took the shock far more than the thief did. The thief had on Earth Kingdom attire, Earth Kingdom gloves along with green shorts and top. But the shock didn't come from there...she looked exactly like Korra! Same brown skin, same dark brown hair, same blue eyes. In fact, the only difference difference between the two in terms of looks were the thief's scar on her cheek.
"Korra?" The thief quietly gasped. Questions raced through Korra's mind as her opponent was quickly attacked by metal rope, wrapping around her neck and torso as she was yanked off her. Mako helped Korra back to her feet as the thief struggled with the binds.
"Korra, you okay?"
"I...who's that person...?" Korra wondered, watching her struggle. But, suddenly, as Lin Beifong readied her cuffs, the thief shocked them all when she shot out a strong Airbender kick! She was an Airbender?! The thief made a break for it, using another kick to clear the barrier, and passing all the officers! They tried to catch her again, but she moved too erratically and quickly to get a correct aim. Korra pondered what happened as the police gave chase.
The thief ran as fast as she could down the road, as she heard the sirens of the cars behind her. Thinking quick, she cut a corner, and hid in a nearby alleyway, behind some trash cans. Typical spot, yet, it worked in her favor, the police cars rushing by. She remained in her crouched stance until she could no longer hear the sirens. She sighed in relief, no longer seeing nor hearing the police around her...but her mind was quickly changed once she felt her collar being grabbed, and her back knocked to the wall. She was face to face with the Avatar, again, and she didn't look happy.
"Okay. Who are you, and how do you know my name?" Korra demanded. She didn't plan to hurt her, but she would love some answers from this odd look-alike. She kicked Korra back, but not enough to brutally harm her.
"Is now really the best time?" She asked, roughly.
"How do you know my name?" Korra asked again, getting back up. The thief tried to calm down, fingers pressed against her forehead and eyes closed.
"Look, can we talk some other time, like when the police stop chasing me?"
"All I ask is some quick answers, alright? I'm not gonna hurt you, you've suffered a lot already."
The thief wanted to just bolt for it, but she knew that if she did, Korra would chase her down (and if she won't, the police will). She looked down to her feet for a second before continuing.
"If I tell you, will you let me go? I'm not afraid of a fight, but I'm in no mood to go to jail. ESPECIALLY if it's for stealing some food from a market."
Korra thought for a moment.
"...if you're answers are good enough, then I will release you myself. I'll say you got away, okay?...Now, who are you, and how do you know me?"
"I'm Ziyou. And I...kinda knew you for a long time? Heehee." the thief gave an awkward chuckle at the last bit, she knew it would sound crazy for Korra...in which she was correct. Korra just stared at Ziyou like she had a leech on her forehead.
"What are you talking about?"
"It's kinda hard to say, really...you sure we can't just -"
"No. How long?"
"Hm...since I ran away, I guess."
"I see. Ziyou, how did you find out about my name? I maybe the avatar, but my true name isn't brought around that much."
"Okay fine...I'm...well...your..." Before she could continue, the sirens begun to rang out closer again. Turned out, they made a U-turn back when they caught on to her trick, and they're closing in on her! Ziyou looked right into Korra's eyes.
"Meet me back at the portal tomorrow, we'll talk then."
And with that, Ziyou quickly bolted out of sight, Korra unable to react or get a chance to track her. She was alone again, as the police quickly found her in the alley. Korra had her back towards the street when they found her, benders at the ready for Ziyou's attack, only to find her gone. Lin Beifong stepped forward from the group of officers.
"Korra, where is she? Did you catch her?" Lin asked...no reply at first. Eventually, Korra turned around towards them, a face of pure neutral.
"She managed to slip away. I tried to catch her, but I lost her. I don't know where she went pass here. Sorry, Lin," Korra said, her voice as sincere as she could get it to be. Lin was surprised, more to the fact the thief was agile enough to evade capture from Korra at all. Lin turned back to her men.
"Okay, scour the area, look for any clue as to her whereabouts!"
"Don't bother. I'll find her myself," Korra suddenly insisted, catching them all by surprise as the Avatar walked pass them.
"She was forced into thievery because her life nearly ended, the least you could do is let me deal with her."
No one said anything to her...
For the collective works of the author, go here.