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Chapter 15: Final Curtain
Tenzin and Kyani were a step ahead of the others; both eager to get to the business at hand. First step: get to City Hall, second: Find Iran...
The Airbender, who not an hour earlier would've gone out with a clear goal, was conflicted. The source...
Spirits, Sora...just confuse me even more. He smiled to himself as they moved. Even still...it was...a release...
She had come. He still had no idea how, but...she had visited him...from the Spirit World.
He had been about to leave; it was time to end it. Tenzin and the others were ready to make that journey into darkness.
"Are you ready, cousin?" Kyani had asked.
The Airbender narrowed his eyes. "Iran and Koruhagi need to answer for their crimes."
The swordsman nodded. "We'll be waiting outside."
When he had left, Tenzin sighed. "Why didn't I see this coming? Now...she's dead because of me..."
"Come on, Tenzin, you can't tell me that you still blame yourself!"
His eyes widened as he whirled around. That voice! "S-sora?" He hesitated, wanting so badly to believe that he wasn't hearing things. He turned slowly and came face to face with his sister's form, an ethereal representation.
"Hey, Tenzin, what's up?" She smiled. "Don't tell me you've given up already?"
He shook his head. "Of course not! I'm going to avenge you! We all are!"
The spirit smiled sadly. "You still don't get it, little brother..." The glowing blue form began to dissipate.
"Wait, Sora! What did you mean?!" Tears once more had come to his eyes. "Don't go!"
"I only have a short time, Tenzin, but I will tell you..." She put her hand on his shoulder, and he was surprised when he could feel...something almost corporeal. "You gave up on yourself..."
He closed his eyes. "I should've done something! Instead I just sat there and taunted Koruhagi!"
"And you think that embarking on this quest for vengeance will end it? Tenzin, please...I was almost taken by Bloodbending; don't get taken by vengeance."
Now his goal...he didn't know what his goal was.
The anti-bender with electrified sticks was very good. Toph was on the defensive, a feat few had ever achieved. He had even managed to surround her with other opponents at the same time, but it would not be enough to stop what came next. Fire absorbed and incinerated all of the Equalists around her, with the exception of the armored one, who immediately leaped into action. Toph was about to get on Gareth's case for interfering, but then she actually felt who had intervened.
"Is that supposed to be a question, Chief Bei Fong?" He smirked as he removed his cloak. "I'll take it from here."
She blew her hair out of her eyes. "Fine..."
The armored man brandished his staves. "You seem quite confident; would you care to test that confidence?" He grinned. "Or is it hubris?"
White flames appeared in Zuko's hands as he charged. The surprise on the stave wielder's face only lasted a moment before he whipped both weapons around to meet the Firebender's attack. Zuko, however, simply vaulted over the attack in order to land inside his opponent's guard, punishing his armor with a volley of close-range fireballs.
Aang, Toph, and the others managed, in this moment, to corral the remaining Equalists. Only a fifth of the original force remained, and it had occurred in a matter of minutes.
The focus now was on Zuko and his fight. He grimaced as he dodged an overhead strike and grabbed his opponent's arm, flipping him onto his back. We still have about a dozen left...and they were the ones that were strong enough to last until now!
The Equalist rolled to his feet and began his own flurry of forward thrusts at the Fire Lord, who ducked and weaved around them with precision. The final thrust came, and Zuko gripped the electrified stick with his bare hand. The resulting energy coursed through his body, and he guided it with his other hand, allowing the electricity to flow through his stomach.
The resulting explosion of lightning from his fingertips vaporized the remaining Equalists in a matter of seconds. It was almost over...almost.
As the lightning drew on more and more energy from the anti-bender's pack, the device exploded, ceasing the flow and sending shards of metal into the metal man's back.
Team Avatar stood over their fallen foe as Gareth's jaw dropped. The armored Equalist coughed, flecks of blood being released at the same time.
"Now..." Aang bent down so as to be at eye level. "You're going to tell us everything."
The door Pema had mentioned lay before them now, their final obstacle. It wasn't much of one.
Tenzin blasted the large metal door off of its hinges. "Knock, knock..." His brow contorted in rage, and all his ill emotion boiled to the surface.
"Ah, so the young Airbender returns." Solf Koruhagi stood in front of another massive door at the end of a long room, a room filled with anti-benders. Pema knelt in front of him, hands tied behind her back.
Tenzin's eyes widened. "Shall I take her life now, as well?"
Tenzin felt the two chi-blockers dropping from above, but he ignored them and put a burst of air behind him, speeding toward Solf before he could even draw his shikkars and planting a kick into his midsection. As the two Equalists landed where Tenzin would have been, both of their heads fell to the floor, and Kyani stood, both shotos drawn.
"Tenzin, get Pema! He's mine!" The swordsman turned to San and Lu Ten. "Keep the rest of these guys off our backs." They nodded as Kyani charged forward.
The Airbender watched as Solf slid against the door before severing Pema's bonds with a downward slice. "Are you hurt?" His eyes were still filled with rage, but part of him was truly concerned.
"No...they didn't touch me..." She glanced up at him as he helped her to her feet. "Tenzin...I'm so sorry..."
"...Not your fault. Where's Iran?"
She indicated the door. "That lift will lead you straight to him; he's occupied his old office."
Arrogance...I'm coming, Kiryu Iran. "Thanks, help them hold the line while I deal with this."
She kissed him on the cheek. "Be careful...Kiryu Iran is the most skilled of them all."
He marched toward the lift. "That won't matter."
Chikyuu sat on the couch across from Fiora, pouting. "I can't believe that they left us here! We can fight!"
"We can." Fiora agreed. "But I have a duty here, and, let's be honest, if these Equalists killed Sora, we might've only been a distraction."
The young Bei Fong narrowed her eyes. "I know...but I don't have to like it!"
The princess smiled. "You don't have to." She stood and stretched. "I'm gonna go check on him."
Fiora opened the bedroom door, expecting to find him sitting on the bed sulking like he had been all night. Instead, the window was open, and the night breeze was wafting through.
"Uh...Chikyuu...can you come here? Now!"
The Earthbender bounded into the room. "What's up?" She glanced at Fiora, who was looking down the many story drop. "Oh..."
She hopped onto the bed and looked down. However, while they were preoccupied, neither of them noticed the boy sneak out the doorway.
Snap! The explosion that followed incinerated any Equalists in its path, and to Kyani, it was a welcome sound.
San and Lu Ten are holding steady. Good. He took his time getting to Koruhagi; he wanted the gravity of this fight to weigh on them both.
"So...it's down to you and me..." Solf grinned. "Perfect."
"Is it? You might want to think about this."
The shikkars were loosed from their sheaths, and the Equalist sneered. "I beat you once, with relative ease, I might add. This will be nothing."
Kyani narrowed his eyes before charging forward.
Blood dripped from the armored Equalist's mouth as Team Avatar loomed over him.
"I'll ask again. Where is Kiryu Iran?" Aang was on the verge of following through with his frustration, but he knew that would only make things worse.
"Heh...he's long gone by now..." The man smiled. "You'll never find him..."
"He's lying." Toph folded her arms. "And he's really bad at it."
"So," Sokka pressed his blade against the man's throat, drawing a trickle of blood. "Where is he?"
The anti-bender shrugged. "Eh...what've I got to lose? He's back where he 'said he belonged'...whatever that means..."
"Great..." Toph smacked her forehead. She knew exactly what that meant.
The lift door opened, and Tenzin stepped into the hallway. Kiryu Iran was close. He inhaled and exhaled calmly.
What do I want? What is my goal? Those questions had to be answered; otherwise he would become no better than them.
"Justice..." He decided. "Nothing more, nothing less."
The two massive bodyguards that came at him as he approached the door didn't worry him in the slightest, and both fell as the air was removed from their lungs with such force that both men died instantly, their lungs shriveled.
Tenzin wasted no time in blowing open the door with a gust of wind, satisfied when Kiryu Iran was where he expected, in his old seat.
When Kyani and Solf's blades clashed, the silver-haired sociopath slid back while the younger swordsman gained ground. He struck low when Koruhagi struck high and sliced into his side, forcing the Equalist to spin out of the way.
"Impossible..." Koruhagi mused. "You showed none of this during our last fight!"
Kyani's eyes widened with fury. "My father is the best swordsman in the world, you novice! And his most important lesson: never let your enemies know your true strength until it is too late. You, Solf Koruhagi, you killed my cousin. You are my enemy. And it is far too late for you!"
He rushed forward and deliberately missed the killing blow; that would've been too easy. Instead, he allowed his shoto to graze the anti-bender's cheek.
Your pain has only begun, murderer.
Kiryu Iran stood, spear in hand. "You've come to kill me."
Tenzin's lips formed into a thin line. "Not if I don't have to."
"I did not kill your twin; Koruhagi is little more than a mad polar bear dog."
"Even still, I want who let him off the leash." He readied himself.
"Huh...so be it, Air Nomad." The Equalist leader lunged forward, intent on impaling Tenzin.
However, speed favored the Airbender, and he twisted away from Iran's weapon. Instead of ceasing his spin, Tenzin continued and flipped around, bringing his foot against the ground and sending a gust of air at the former Governor-General.
Iran sidestepped the maneuver and moved forward again, only to have the Avatar's son duck under his spear and whirl his arms. The resulting blade of wind created a divot in the floor as it barreled toward Tenzin's foe. Kiryu Iran, for his part, flipped over the attack, using his momentum to thrust his spear into the Airbender's right shoulder.
Tenzin backed away, ignoring the pain; the adrenaline was going too strong for that to affect anything. But he knew one thing: this wasn't going to be easy.
The shikkar sailed past Kyani's head, and the swordsman laughed the close encounter off as he put Solf on the defensive.
"Is this it?!" He asked as he made small, insignificant cuts into Koruhagi's side. "Is killing a defenseless girl really the best you can do?!!"
He allowed the Equalist to push back, if only to make him realize the futility of it. When the knife-wielder inevitably overextended his reach, Kyani was waiting with a head-butt to the bridge of his opponent's nose.
"Come on, this can't be all you've got!"
Koruhagi panted as his back hit the wall. This was going badly. As he attempted to regain some semblance of control, the young, rage-filled swordmaster shoved one of his shotos into the wall behind, at the same time severing the tendons and nerves above his left collarbone, causing Solf to grit his teeth to stifle a cry. That arm was useless.
As he attempted to do the same to the other arm, Solf shifted enough so that the sword went into his shoulder instead.
The anti-bender chuckled as blood seeped from every wound. He hadn't even scratched the boy. "Well...heh...well played..."
Kyani kicked up one of his foe's shikkars and caught it. "It is over! Sora's death is avenged now!"
He dropped the blade toward Koruhagi's heart, but his eyes widened in surprise and outrage when a hand caught his wrist. He whirled, shikkar outstretched, and came face to face with San.
His eyes narrowed. "Let me go, San! I have to finish this!"
"It's over, Kyani..." She gazed at him like one would look at a pitiable animal. "He's done."
"No...NO!!" He wrenched away. "He needs to die!"
"KYANI!" Lu Ten stood off to the side, blue fire still in his hands. "It. Is. Over."
"But...no! I-I had him..." Kyani gazed at San imploringly. "I had him...I wore him down. I beat him! He needs to die...to avenge Sora!"
"I know you did...but this isn't the way." She moved her hands to the hilt of the blade in his. "Please, Kyani..."
He looked away. "I need this."
"Yeah? Well, first you might want to take a look at your face." Pema came over and gripped his shoulder, bringing him back to reality. "Is that face, the one filled with blind fury, the one you want to wear for the rest of your life?" I know that face...it was almost me...
Tears began to roll down Kyani's face for the first time since his cousin's death, and he fell to his knees with a strangled cry. "I..." That was all he could manage.
Koruhagi began to laugh, but it was stopped by a fit of coughing. "You are all pathetic! Not one of you has the stomach to finish me, yet you hide behind notions of honor?!" Blood still dripped from his wounds. "You should've let him finish me; you shouldn't have deprived him!"
San narrowed her eyes. "None of us will ever be like you! And we will stand by each other to make sure that doesn't happen!"
The Equalist smirked. "I suppose that's one way to look at it. Well...I look forward to seeing how that works out for you...from the Spirit World."
With that, he gripped the handle of the shoto that had incapacitated his left arm with his right and, before they could even register what he was doing, pulled down.
"No!" Lu Ten and Pema both cried out at the same time. Lu Ten in frustration and Pema in regret as the blade slid into his heart, killing him instantly.
"He...took his own life..." Kyani slowly stood, rage still evident in his eyes. But weariness now accompanied it. "Coward..."
"Kyani..." San and Lu Ten both steadied their friend while Pema glanced tentatively toward the lift.
"Thank you." He didn't even have the courage to look at them, knowing it would bring him to his knees again. "All of you..."
Tenzin was sweating; Kiryu Iran was incredibly fast. And he used his speed well. Thrust after thrust was sent Tenzin's way, and he spun and weaved as if his life depended on it.
To make matters worse, his right arm was becoming more and more useless. He had to end this fast!
He willed the air to flow around his hands at incredibly high speeds, effectively giving himself the Airbending equivalent of brass knuckles. This proved problematic for Iran as he spun his spear above his head and whipped it down toward the Airbender, where, upon contact with Tenzin's block, the shaft shattered. Now unarmed, the Equalist leader jumped back to assess the situation while Tenzin strode forward, air circling his hands.
"A new trick..." Kiryu Iran mused. "When will you learn?"
For the first time in two days, Tenzin's smile was genuine. "Probably not 'til I'm dead, but we'll find out, won't we?"
He initiated the confrontation this time, rushing forward slightly faster than Kiryu Iran could react and punching him in his midsection. The cyclone surrounding his fist tore into the anti-bender, crushing several ribs and ripping through the outer layer of skin.
Iran would've doubled over had the attack not sent him flying into the window overlooking the Central Plaza. As he stood shakily, the Airbender moved in. When he tried to strike at him, Tenzin blocked with his still encircled left hand, nearly wincing as Iran's right forearm snapped and wrapped around his fist.
"Gaah!" He clutched his arm as it hung uselessly and stumbled backward into the already cracked window.
Tenzin's eyes widened as the panel gave, and Kiryu Iran plummeted out into the cold air. Fortunately for the Equalist, his reflexes weren't completely shot, and he managed to catch onto the ledge.
To his chagrin, the Airbender now stood over him, completely in control of his fate. To his surprise, Tenzin reached down with left hand.
"You...what are you doing?"
"I made a promise...that I wouldn't give in to revenge. Now take my hand; you're not getting out of this so easily."
Kiryu Iran was about to resign himself to his fate, but a tiny, almost incomprehensible voice drew his attention downward. He smirked. Perhaps fate was his to control.
"Sorry, Air Nomad, but I will ensure that the Equalists do not die. Ever!" With that, he let go.
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