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|Freedom and Chaos|
Book 3: Dawn
Chapter 11: The End, Pt. 2
Moro and Shen stared out of the window as the Spirit of Tempests plummeted to the asphalt below. The Waterbender also noticed Argho and Rioku approaching as Susanowo landed.
"Looks like they'll handle it from here," Shen said.
Moro nodded, but her lips trembled as a gust of wind breezed through the open window. She turned back to Kyrie's body, still hanging from four large icicles.
"Kyrie...I'm so sorry..." Tears rolled down her cheeks, and she could no longer contain herself. Her shoulders heaved as she sobbed.
She felt Shen's hand on her shoulder. "Moro..."
Moro whirled around and buried her face in his chest. "Why...? Why couldn't he leave us alone?!"
"Kyrie died a free man, Moro," Shen said before wrapping his arms around her, "And he was free because of you."
A long sigh left Moro's lips. "I know, but...I just wanted—" She glanced at his body. "I just wanted both of us to go back home. Was that too much to ask?"
The Avatar watched as Susanowo somehow managed to pull himself together once again, even after falling from the height that he did. He noticed that the spirit bore a frail scowl.
"The recent events have not been kind."
Rioku snickered. "How did it feel, Susanowo, to get thrown to the ground by two children?"
"They," the spirit spat, "Are not children! They have caused me almost as much trouble as you have, Avatar!"
"It just goes to show that you cannot force cooperation. Had you truly cared about the Water Tribes, you might have naturally attracted people to your cause." Argho cracked his knuckles one by one as he spoke. "Instead you tried to breed soldiers, no...slaves."
"Do not question my decisions, Avatar! I alone decide the fate of the Water Tribes!"
"No, Tui and La hold that distinction," Rioku replied, "All you've ever really been after is power, and now we can finally put an end to you."
The one-eyed Earthbender kicked a small rock up into the air and threw out a roundhouse kick that propelled the earthen projectile into Susanowo's chest. The Spirit of Tempests staggered backward, spitting up blood as the rock lodged in his torso.
"You...will not..." He reached out his hand to snag Rioku in his Bloodbending grip, but found that it had no effect. "What...?"
Argho gripped his forearm and squeezed, causing it to snap beneath the pressure. The spirit opened his mouth as if to scream, but it died in his throat.
"Having a little trouble holding yourself together, Susanowo?" The Avatar frowned. "It seems I do not need to use any extreme measures to end this, then." Argho let go of Susanowo's arm and gripped his throat, forming a ball of fire in his other hand.
"No," the spirit protested, "I've been...something is wrong."
Before Argho could finish his opponent off, Susanowo's head snapped backward, and he let out a choked cry. The wind swirled around him as he fell to his knees, and tendrils of dark energy slowly began to wrap around him, as well.
Rioku's eye widened. "What the—?"
Both Earthbenders glanced up as they realized that two of the tendrils were coming from Susanowo's office.
Shen let go as Moro pushed away from him; his heart skipped as she cried out. "Moro—?"
He winced as she screamed, "Shen...it burns!"
She turned to face him, and he noticed that the Blood Seal on her forehead was disintegrating before his eyes. "Moro, look at me." He grasped her shoulders. "It's going to be alright."
He watched as the mark turned to a black tendril and left her forehead, but not without cost. She had stopped screaming, but the look she gave him was one of someone in excruciating pain.
"Shen...what's going on? My forehead...it's on fire!"
He tried to reassure her with a smile. "It's going away, Moro."
That seemed to get her attention, and she relaxed in his grip slightly. "The Blood Seal...does that mean...?"
Shen noticed a tendril leaving Kyrie's body, as well, and turned to find the mark completely gone. "I think it does. Argho did it."
Moro chuckled before collapsing in his arms. "Finally...I'm free. Kyrie and I are free."
Shen glanced out the open window and sighed. "Moro...the last thing I want to do is leave you now, but—"
"Go," she said with a small smile. "You have people to save, too. I'll be fine."
He nodded and stepped to the edge of the window sill. With a final glance back at Moro, he fell backwards out of the window. As he plummeted to the ground below, he moved his hands in a circular motion, generating an air current strong enough to slow his fall. His feet touched softly on the asphalt, and he could clearly see Argho and Rioku standing over a defeated Susanowo. The one-eyed Earthbender acknowledged him with a nod, and Shen returned the gesture before picking up the glider he'd abandoned.
It was time to deal with Petrine.
Kuan Ti stared at the supposedly abandoned convention hall, the location of Amon's original rally. He exhaled, watching the vapor from his breath rise. Lights blazed through the upper windows, an odd feature for a building that was, for all intents and purposes, abandoned.
Of course Lin Quei picked here. His left hand brushed the revolver in its holster.
As he approached the building, the Equalist couldn't help but notice the banner. It hung from the roof, but it was new, unlike the building it dangled from. What was worse was the symbol it bore, a character wrapped in a red circle. It had been the emblem of Amon's revolution.
Even as he passed the threshold of the convention hall, the unease never left. A short marquis stood between him and the main hall, hardly an obstacle. He imagined it as it once was, packed with protesters. Nonbenders ready to accept Amon's judgment on the bending establishment.
What Kuan Ti saw when he finally entered the auditorium did not surprise him. The hooded figure, Lin Quei, stood on the stage, while ten of his former comrades formed a semicircle at the stage's edge.
He didn't even bother with pleasantries; the spirit knew why he was there. "Where's Zhan?"
Argho's eyes widened as the tendrils all merged in front of Susanowo. "What is this?! Speak, Spirit of Tempests!"
To both of the Earthbenders' collective shock, Susanowo chuckled. "I can't believe it...tricked...deceived. How in the world could I be so naïve?"
"What are you talking about?"
The spirit coughed as the energy formed into a dark ball. "Koh...he betrayed me..."
With those final words, six sharp protrusions ripped through Susanowo's midsection and touched the ball of energy. As his body crumbled into dust, the Spirit of Tempests merely sighed.
Argho lurched back and held a hand out to stay Rioku's own. "This is beyond you. Go help Kuan Ti; he might need it."
Rioku frowned. "What about Shen? He may be able to handle Petrine, but Otokami—"
"—will not harm an Airbender. Go, quickly, before it is too late!"
The one-eyed Earthbender nodded and began to run. Argho sighed as he left.
"Thanks for listening, for once, old friend."
"Concern for your ally, Avatar, is an admirable quality, to be sure."
Argho simply watched as the sharp spikes folded in and pulled the ball of energy to the point where it had become a flat, ovular construct. He closed his eyes briefly before reopening them; they blazed with the light of all of his past lives.
He did this just in time to see a pale face, a tragedian's mask, poke through the oval, followed by a long, chitinous shell of a body. Koh, the Face Stealer, had returned.
"Hello, Avatar, I am honored to meet you." The spirit grinned. "We are going to have fun, I'm sure."
Argho frowned as the wind picked up around them, no doubt a side effect of the spirit's portal. "I doubt you'll find this very fun at all, Koh."
The spirit's body finished coming through the portal, resulting in a long beast that wrapped around Argho in a wide arc. "What are you going to do? Avatar Aang's little attack drained me of my power, took my faces. The same technique will not kill me, but if it had not been for my foresight, I would still be recuperating and unable to have this little meeting."
Argho stepped closer to Koh's face; his eyes never lost their glow. "What did you do to Susanowo?"
The Spirit of Chaos chuckled. "Oh, he'll regain himself in a few centuries, I'd imagine. I merely attached my soul to his art, allowing me to draw on its power like he did. Although," he grinned wickedly, "he only ever really saw a fraction of the power that was unleashed by Bloodbending. I got most of it."
"That explains the waves of power I'm feeling," the Avatar said. "But I cannot just let you walk away to cause more death and destruction."
Koh laughed. "And what can you do? I underestimated Aang's power, and he was able to hold me long enough to tear me apart. I will not hold back against you! I may not get to start my new collection with your face, but at least I'll have a nice head start without an Avatar around!"
Argho kicked off of the ground and launched himself at Koh, fire whirling around his fists. The spirit, met his charge, laughing all the while. Just as they were about to meet, the fire dissipated from Argho's hands, and he dug his feet into the earth as Koh laid into him. As the spirit reeled with surprise at the unexpected stop, the Avatar pressed his forefinger and thumb against Koh's forehead.
Koh attempted to struggle, but found that he was unable to do so. "What are you—?"
Suddenly, both of them were surrounded by a brilliant white light, and Argho released his foe. He waited as Koh glanced around.
The spirit moved his gaze from one place to another, noticing that it looked almost like where they'd been before, except devoid of most color and brighter. "Where are we??"
"You were right, Koh," Argho said, "I couldn't kill you with Energybending; neither could Aang. Instead, I found the next best thing, although I was intending to use it against Otokami."
Koh smiled. "Well played, Avatar. But you haven't answered my question."
"This is a place created by our shared energies, human and spirit, and it brings the Spirit World and the physical realm to a point of...synthesis."
"So..." Koh slowly wrapped around Argho. "You dragged our energies out to make this? Ingenious. Unfortunately, there is a flaw you failed to consider."
Argho, whose eyes still glowed white, grinned as he kicked a small rock into his hand. "My bending is intact."
Koh cocked his head. "How?"
"It takes certain aspects from both worlds, including bending." Argho folded his arms. "Welcome to limbo, Face Stealer."
Moro gazed at Kyrie's body, but no more tears came. She had people to protect. To that end, she began to run down the hall to the elevator. Once inside, she began to frantically press the button to get her to the bottom floor.
The ride down seemed to take hours, but soon enough, the doors opened with a ding. She resumed her sprint, hoping to get to the airship to help Shen before he did something rash.
As the Waterbender rounded the corner, an armored forearm caught her in the chest and sent her spinning to the floor. She rose shakily, coming face to face with the one man she'd hoped to never see again.
"You damned traitor!" Kenshin grabbed her by the throat and threw her against the reception desk. "If it wasn't for you, Lord Susanowo would still be alive!"
Moro coughed as she stood. "Not really a selling point, Dad. I fought for my freedom and Kyrie's, but you wouldn't happen to care that he's dead now, right?"
The Spirit of Ice cracked his knuckles and began to close the distance between them. "He knew his place until you got into his head; his blood is on your hands."
Water flew from the skin at her side, forming into a rudimentary hammer that she soon froze solid. "How dare you!"
Moro charged forward faster than the armored spirit could retaliate, slamming the ice hammer into his midsection and quickly followed up with a spinning strike to his face.
Blood flew from Kenshin's mouth as he staggered back toward the automatic doors, and he clutched at the cracked armor that hid ribs in the same condition. He inhaled as those wounds healed, though, and stood to his full height.
"So, my spawn has some fight left?" Ice formed over his hands, taken from the air around them.
"Your spawn?" Moro splashed water from her other skin onto the ground beneath the spirit's feet and quickly turned it into ice as she slid along, catching him with another hammer strike, this time to his right knee.
As it buckled, she whipped her weapon up into his chin, sending him through the glass doors and into the courtyard.
"Is that all we were: a means to an end for you?"
Kenshin got to his feet as his knee and jaw both popped back into place. "You were supposed to be Susanowo's prized servants, but that obviously wasn't enough. You had to bed with the enemy! You helped Argho and that...Airbender...destroy your brethren!"
Moro formed a second ice hammer as she walked toward Kenshin. "Shen had nothing to do with joining the Avatar's group; you and Susanowo drove me to that. You turned Kyrie into a puppet and destroyed Mom's mind! That's why I left!"
The Spirit of Ice allowed his element to wrap around his arms and form into blades. He rushed forward, swinging precisely and aiming to kill. His frustration grew as Moro dodged and weaved around every strike, not even bringing her hammers up to block.
She jumped back to put distance between the two of them, noticing that, for the first time in years, she felt different...almost alive with energy.
"Now look at you," Kenshin said, "you've lost Lord Susanowo's mark. You truly are lost."
Moro furrowed her brow and turned to look at her reflection one of the windows. She gasped as she noticed that her skin had taken on its original brown hue, and her eyes were a bright blue-green.
She noticed the Spirit of Ice taking steps toward her thanks to the window's reflection. "You are worth nothing to me now."
Moro grimaced. "Were Kyrie and I ever worth anything to you? Did you ever love us?"
Kenshin shook his head. "I've already answered this; both of you were simply a means to an end, servants for the Spirit of Tempests."
The Waterbender turned to face him. "I just have one more question. What about Mom?"
Koh's chuckled turned into a full-blown laugh. "This is exciting! Now I see...you've brought us here to avoid collateral damage. Wise."
Argho smiled. "That is one reason, yes. I was foolish, and I allowed hubris to blind me to the death and pain my actions caused. I refused to learn from my previous encounters with you spirits."
The Face Stealer began to circle the Avatar. "And what have you learned?"
"That I need help."
Koh grinned as he slowly wrapped around Argho. "Well, I'm afraid that you're fresh out of that."
The Avatar began to glow, and before long, a blinding white light emanated from him. Koh shrank back as he only got brighter. "What is this? Are you trying to blind me?"
"No, Koh..." A new voice assaulted the spirit's hearing, and another form stepped out of Argho's. "He means us."
Even more glowing figures followed suit, until there were six beside Argho. The glow ceased, and the Face Stealer found that the six Avatars to precede Argho now stood beside him. Not only that, but all of their eyes never ceased glowing.
"Koh, I'd be happy to introduce you to my friends, although," Argho grinned as he spoke, "you've already met a few of them. These are some of my past lives."
"Yeah." Kuruk cracked his knuckles. "And we're gonna kick your ass."
- I thought about it, and the last line just feels like something Kuruk would say, although I was kinda hesitant to put it in at first.
- Koh just never learns, does he?
- Hopefully, I can get all of the remaining chapters done before NaNoWriMo; otherwise, you'll have to wait over a month to find out how it all ends (Eh...eh...see what I did there?)
For the collective works of the author, go here.