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Book 3: Dawn
Chapter 13: The End, Pt. 4
Kenshin heard the water splash against the ground, but he couldn't turn around before a stream hit him. His body slid along the ground, propelled by the water.
Moro ran toward him and pulled water from her soaked robes to form two ice daggers. "We're not done yet!"
The Spirit of Ice lifted his right arm to block the downward strike as she reached him; the blade buried itself in his arm. But instead of stabbing at him with the other dagger, Moro jumped back and discarded the weapon.
"You're the worst kind of coward, Dad," she said. "Noulaq died for his daughter; the best you could do was grovel at Susanowo's feet."
Kenshin scowled. "He was weak—"
Moro lifted her hands dragging every drop of water that she could into the air; she emptied the fountain. "He was stronger than you, and so am I."
His eyes widened as she altered the mass of water into eight large, writhing tentacles. She thrust her hand forward, and the tentacles launched at Kenshin, some through the air, others by sliding along the ground. He waved his hands, successfully dissipating three of them. The other five, however, hit him as they froze, puncturing his armor and body. Three rested firmly in a line below his right shoulder, and the other two had entered his lower body. One was buried in the left side of his hip, while the other went through his right knee.
Moro's turquoise eyes narrowed. "How does it feel? That's how Kyrie died, but you won't even do that."
The Spirit of Ice coughed before pushing himself off of the icicles. He stood tall for a moment, but he soon staggered and collapsed into a coughing fit. All the while, blood still poured from his wounds.
"What...what did you do, Moro...?" Kenshin asked as blood continued to pour from wounds that were slow in healing.
"Well, look at that. Guess I pushed you to your limit," she replied as she melted the icicles and allowed the water to splash to the ground. "That's gotta be a new low for you."
Kenshin gritted his teeth. "How dare you! I am your—"
"Don't you dare say the word 'father'! You've never been a father; you have no idea how!"
He attempted to stand, but his body would not let him. "We are not done."
Moro clenched her fists. "We are. You've got no power left, and you know it." She stepped closer. "How does it feel to have been beaten by a human, Spirit of Ice?"
He avoided her gaze as she leaned in close. "So, how painful is this going to be?"
She frowned. "Very. If you consider walking the world with all the power of a normal Waterbender painful, which I know you do."
"What?" Kenshin's eyes widened. "You can't be serious! Just finish me; end it! Do not leave me in this pathetic state!"
"Listen carefully, Dad," Moro began, "if you so much as come near me, Mom, or any member of my family, I will finish what I started." She turned away and began walking. "Maybe living as a human, not a god, might give you some humility. But I really doubt it."
As she walked away, Kenshin gritted his teeth and attempted to stand. When he could not, he cried out. "Do not leave me like this! End it!"
Moro glanced back. "No."
Kuan Ti stared at Zhan as he approached. "So, you've finally abandoned what our master taught for this lunacy," he said.
"It was not lunacy; it was a dream of true, achievable equality. It was a dream that you squandered," Zhan replied, "when you killed and maimed our brethren."
"They ceased to be Equalists when they left behind the principles of equality for rule by fear." He cracked his knuckles one by one. "Did you really think that this would be anything other than a campaign led by a terrorist of a spirit?" Kuan Ti glanced at Lin Quei, who still stood on the stage. "No offense."
Zhan pulled the mask off, allowing Kuan Ti to see his face. "It would be equality; no bender would be above us. We would level the playing field."
"The only way you could do that is if you had an Energybender, or an adept Bloodbender," he said. "Or did you think that Lin Quei actually had any power at all? Beyond being creepy, that is."
"So, this is it?" Zhan slipped the mask back on.
Kuan Ti folded his hands behind his back. "I'll send Lin Quei to the Spirit World after you; it won't be too long."
"Always so confident," Zhan said as he began to circle around to his former friend's side. "But Lin Quei has revealed several fighting styles to me."
"Really? That's good," Kuan Ti replied, "Because I was holding back on those others. This would've been disappointing if you couldn't back your decisions with action."
They didn't run. No. That would betray their intent. Instead, both men simply approached one another. Then their dance began.
Zhan threw several two-knuckled strikes at Kuan Ti, testing his defense. Without even unfolding the hands behind his back, Kuan Ti weaved around the blows. He ducked to the left on a particularly pointed attack and unclasped his hands as it sailed over his right shoulder, following the attempted strike with a swift elbow snap to his unprotected chest. His elbow sunk into the thin armor that Amon's uniform provided, eliciting a grunt from Zhan as he staggered backward.
Kuan Ti didn't even raise his hands when Zhan jumped toward him, fist cocked back. As he landed, he threw the punch, which Kuan Ti countered by leaning away and striking with three light, quick blows to his ribs. Zhan ignored the attack and swung wide with his left fist. Kuan Ti blocked with his forearm, and his foe attempted the same strike with his right hand, which he also blocked. As Zhan's foot came up to connect with his shin and get him off-balance, Kuan Ti brought his own up, slightly faster, and caught Zhan's foot mid-kick.
The mask stared back at him, and he could feel Zhan's malicious intent. "Come on, Kuan Ti. You know this armor's too thick for pressure point attacks."
He nodded. "I know; I was testing it. The elbow I hit you with would've broken ribs if not for that armor." His frown deepened. "You know I can't keep going easy on you. That ends now."
Zhan shook his head. "Easy? You're barely able to dodge as it is. You've been weakened by the ten people you fought, and you will run out of energy."
"Yes, but not against you."
Kuan Ti whipped his right foot into Zhan's thigh without any warning before quickly snapping it up into his head. As he reeled from the unexpected attacks, Kuan Ti stomped heavily above his knee, causing him to flop face down on the floor. To his credit, he immediately struggled to get to his feet, which Kuan Ti allowed.
Zhan panted as he stared at his old friend, while Kuan Ti simply closed his eyes. "You have all this knowledge that Lin Quei provided for you, and you've demonstrated nothing but predictable techniques. Didn't you learn anything from our master?"
"I learned of his weakness," Zhan replied.
"And what does that say about the guy who's kicking your rear end? He trained me, too, Zhan. Am I weak?"
The masked man cried out and charged Kuan Ti; he cocked his fist back quickly and threw out the strongest punch he could muster. Kuan Ti watched the blow come and intercepted with the palm of his hand, stopping it in its tracks.
He gripped down on Zhan's hand as his foe breathed heavily. "And what do you do when your opponent can match your brute force and tear through your technique?"
Before he could reply, Kuan Ti threw a round kick into his straightened elbow, and the snap echoed through the auditorium. Zhan hissed and gripped his broken arm when Kuan Ti let go.
"Fight's over, Zhan. Now, step aside so I can beat the ever-loving tar out of our 'patron.'"
In response, the masked man simply screamed and ran forward, leading with his good arm. Kuan Ti shook his head and strode forward to meet him. As Zhan punched, he moved in toward his bad arm and wrapped his right hand around the back of Zhan's head. What followed was a succession of ten elbows straight into his face. With each consecutive strike, the porcelain mask cracked further.
Kuan Ti stopped his assault and looked on as Zhan wobbled on his feet. He noticed a trail of blood seep through the holes where the nose was. The fingers of his left hand folded, and he extended the heel of his palm. A single ragged breath exited Zhan's mouth as he thrust his palm forward and hit the symbol on the mask's forehead. The porcelain shattered, and Zhan's body fell to the floor with a heavy thud. Kuan Ti turned his gaze to Lin Quei, who still stood on the stage.
"You'll share in his fate, Lin Quei," Kuan Ti said, "I'll make sure of that."
Koh's laugh sent shivers down Argho's spine. "Pass judgment? On me?" His smile disappeared. "I was doing my duty; I was doing it well!"
"Too well," the Shinigami replied, "you forgot about balance. Or you ignored it. The particulars in this case matter little."
"Balance? An illusion!" Koh finally managed to get to his feet. "I exist to shatter that illusion! Only chaos or order can reign; to think that both can thrive while the other exists is lunacy!"
The glowing spirit sighed. "What of life and death? Do they not work in tandem? If they can, how much more chaos and order?"
The Face Stealer began to laugh. "Point taken, but I think I should educate you on balance, all of you fools."
Hikara took a step forward. "What are you—?"
"You young, stupid spirit," Koh said. "All this intrusion has only torn through the fabric separating the physical world and our own, and I intend to truly restore this balance that you hold so dear."
Dark tendrils stemmed from his body and wrapped around one of his legs. The Shinigami looked on while the others lunged at Koh all at once. They were too late; his leg slammed into, and through, the white ground that was part of limbo. The tendrils seeped into the hole, and Koh's smile widened.
"Do you?" The Shinigami asked.
"What did you do?" Aang asked, incredulous. "What did you just do?"
Koh chuckled. "So many spirits have entered this world, but with the closed portals, the illicit means that they've used to enter has strained the barrier. I've simply pulled open a few...holes...for our spirit brethren to reenter the physical realm, where they can do as they please. And rule as they please!"
"So, the ultimate chaotic act: stir up conflict between man and the spirits so that they will eventually meet on the physical plane." The Shinigami inclined his head. "Is that your best? Perhaps it is truly time to end our game. I need a craftier opponent, someone fresh."
Koh's smile shrank. "What are you talking about?"
Argho frowned as well. "What are you talking about?"
"Izanagi was more of an opponent than either you or Vaatu have ever been, it took much more from me to end his threat than yours. Even this is child's play compared to his schemes." The spirit took a step toward Koh. "Now, I think it is time for your judgment."
The other three spirits gathered around the Shinigami who had already begun making a ball of golden energy in his hands. They followed suit, and soon four balls of energy hovered in the air in front of them. Koh's eyes widened.
"What?! No, I have not done anything you wouldn't do, Spirit of Life and Death! You are just as twisted as I am, with your manipulation and your abuse of power! I will not die like this!"
The Shinigami sighed. "What do you know of me, Face Stealer? Nothing. You have not seen what I have."
With those words, all four balls of energy rammed into Koh, and a blinding light ripped through the air. Argho closed his eyes and looked away. By the time the light dissipated, he turned back and found himself in front of the NowoCorp office building once more. The other six Avatars were gone, as were three of the four spirits. The Shinigami remained, his light slightly less bright.
"What the hell was that?!" Argho cried.
"Judgment, nothing more. Koh overstepped his bounds, so we collectively passed judgment and found him wanting."
The Avatar ran his hands through his hair. "And what did he do? Before he died..."
"He simply opened holes that will allow spirits to enter the physical world with ease. It was a desperate gambit, as if I would not be able to counter it."
The spirit turned away and began walking. "I should ask you the same. Are you not the Avatar, keeper of balance in this world?"
"Is that it? Are we done? Just like that?"
The Shinigami folded his hands behind his back. "Yes. Just like that."
Argho stomped heavily, cracking the earth beneath his feet. "You cannot just walk away without answering my questions! You coward!"
"Where were you when the Avatar spirit came into being? Or when Izanagi threatened to overrun both worlds, hm? Tell me, if you know so much. You might not understand my methods, or those of the council, but that is not your duty. Goodbye, Avatar Argho."
Another flash of light signaled the Shinigami's departure, and Argho stomped the ground again.
"Damn him..." He massaged his forehead. "Who is Izanagi, anyway?"
"Aren't you forgetting something, Argho?" Aang's voice echoed in his head. "Otokami still stands."
Argho nodded. "Right. I have work still to do; I can figure all of this out later."
- There are two or three more chapters planned. It's not quite over yet.
- I reference a lot of history of the world that I've crafted without much explanation, but I hope I made it easy to infer several basic things.
- What of Shen and Rioku? This chapter didn't finish or advance their stories; they'll be front and center next chapter, though. Don't worry. :)
For the collective works of the author, go here.