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Book 1: Blood
Chapter 7: Frozen Tundra
The baby's cry echoed throughout Tunturia's home, and he had never been more conflicted. Today was the day his son was born, and today was the day everything would change. He stole a glance at his wife...a human woman with whom he had been bonded in marriage, at Susanowo's insistence.
Yedna sidled up to him. "What troubles you, Tun? Today should be a day for celebration."
"You are right, my dear. But I am as well..." He smiled at her. "We have a son; everything will change."
"I suppose..." Her chuckle brought chills down his spine, and even now he wasn't used to that. It felt so...human. "I'll go and feed our pride and joy; he's probably hungry."
Tunturia, the Spirit of Tundra, simply nodded.
"He is a beautiful child..." Susanowo seemed to materialize, for the other had not even heard him enter. "And powerful...I can feel it."
"Is it time?"
"Yes. Bring him here."
The minutes passed as Susanowo waited for Tunturia to procure the child from his mother. When they both arrived, the Spirit of Tempests couldn't suppress a grin.
"What is his name?" He asked as the Spirit of Tundra passed the newborn into his arms.
"Turi..." He gripped the child's hand, and a hissing sound emanated from the connection. "The Blood Seal is in place."
Upon receiving his child back, Tunturia examined the back of his left hand, noting the symbol now placed there. "How will I explain this to Yedna?"
"You'll figure it out."
"You're sure that the others will be fine?" Argho paced back and forth in the train, on its way to Tunturia Outpost. "I don't want anyone dying on our account."
Kuan Ti leaned back in his seat. "My men will be fine; we just thought it best to split our ranks. That way we draw less attention to ourselves."
"What about the fact that we have the Avatar and a Bloodbender in our midst?" Shen rolled his eyes. "That won't raise any eyebrows?"
"It won't matter soon." The Equalist frowned. "Once we reach Tunturia...we'll go to a place where not even Susanowo can find us."
"I don't like hiding...not from this...not like this."
"It's only until we can come up with a plan, Shen." The Avatar folded his hands. "Now, I suggest we rest up while we can."
"If I could interject..." Moro leaned against the doorway into the cabin. "I think Kuan Ti underestimates Susanowo's persistence. He won't stop..."
Shen narrowed his eyes. "Is there something that you're not telling us? No secrets, remember?"
"Just that Susanowo, for whatever reason, is interested in my power."
The Airbender raised an eyebrow. "As a Bloodbender."
"As a Waterbender!" She whirled away from him. "I'll be in my cabin."
Argho cast a sideways glance at the young man, the hints of a smile poking through. "Now, Shen, I only recommend probing for weaknesses on one's adversary."
A shrug, it seemed, was becoming more and more common of a response. "She isn't my friend. She's an ally, sure, but she's still hiding something."
Rage boiled in Moro's chest as she sat in her cabin, knees pulled against her body. Bloodbender...he used the word like I was one of Susanowo's dogs...
"I. Am. A. Waterbender," she said the words aloud to ensure their reality, and her mind once again dragged itself back to her task. Running from Susanowo was only half of the equation, and the Water Tribe girl could only hope that when the Avatar defeated him, the second half would go off without a hitch.
I'm coming...hold on!
"Y'know..." Shen's voice made her jump. "If you just told us everything, I would be able to trust you."
Moro's laugh was void of mirth. "Hah! With my powers? Trust me? I don't think so."
"Look...you're right. I don't trust Bloodbenders, and do you know why that is?"
"Because we're all puppets? I'm no one's puppet!"
The Airbender massaged his forehead. "It doesn't matter how you feel about this; he will use you like he uses every other Bloodbender." He turned to leave. "And while I may not trust you, I don't wish that fate on anyone."
"Those two are going to kill each other long before they understand each other." Kuan Ti mused. "Why can't you just—?"
Argho shook his head. "I can't force Shen to understand; he has to do that himself. He has to want to understand."
The other man exhaled. "You gonna tell me why he doesn't? I don't believe it's as simple as he says it is. I can understand mistrusting both an Equalist and a Bloodbender in other circumstances, but—"
"He...has a lot to deal with, on top of this."
A smirk escaped the non-bender. "Will I ever figure it out?"
"If you stay on with us...you will."
"I'm along for the ride, Argho; my men and I will follow you anywhere."
The Blood Seal on the back of Turi's hand had always confused him, but he hadn't known until recently what it would truly entail.
"Turi...we're in over our heads." His friend Rena sat down beside him on one of the many couches in the massive mansion. "We were never trained to fight the Avatar. We lost yesterday, and he wasn't even fighting!"
The confusion in his voice was unmistakable. "What would you have me do, Rena? We were bound to serve him from the beginning, and I shudder to think what would happen if we did not."
"As do I." A man in light blue armor stood in the doorway, his red eyes filled with sadness. "It seems, though, that our course has been charted for us, and so we go on." He lifted his black hair to reveal a Blood Seal on his forehead.
"You're...one of us? Why are you here?"
He smiled. "I am but a messenger, for the moment."
Kenshin paced back and forth as Susanowo sat on his desk, chuckling.
"You need not be so nervous; all of the pieces will fall into place. I am certain of it."
"But...my lord...despite my best efforts..."
"Oh, come now. I know this is not your best. You know what they say: 'If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.'"
"You know I can't do that! What if—!?"
The Spirit of Tempests laughed. "I was referring more to myself than you, Spirit of Ice. I am aware of the risks."
The other spirit's brow furrowed. "Wait...so you'll...handle this yourself?"
"Not yet. Not until I'm absolutely sure the time is right."
Tunturia Outpost was, in Shen's mind, just like any other city in the North: cold. He glanced around. No Bloodbenders in sight, no guards, either.
Well...almost no Bloodbenders. "So, Kuan Ti, where is this base of yours?"
The door of a telephone booth opened, and the Equalist stepped out, his breath visible as he was exposed to the outside air. "I just called our ride; the Ice Skimmer should be here within the hour."
"Ice Skimmer!" Moro perked up. "I haven't ever ridden one; I hear they're fast!"
Kuan Ti grinned. "Very. And very expensive. And very rare. Even if they could find this place, no one would be able to get there within a reasonable amount of time, unless they had one of those."
"And given that they were produced by the Cabbage Corporation...I doubt that they do." Argho mused. "Susanowo is too vain to stoop to utilizing his competition's equipment."
Shen's day was looking up. "Then, I think we have our chance to plan." He turned to Argho. "Do we have a plan, yet?"
"Give me time; I'll see what my past lives have to say."
"And you're sure taking in a Bloodbender is the best course of action?" Kyoshi raised an eyebrow. "In my day—!"
"You would have killed her, I'm sure, Kyoshi." Aang shook his head. "You're doing the right thing, Argho, but be careful."
"You've known me how long, Avatar Aang? I don't take unnecessary risks. Moro is lost; if we can save even one from Susanowo, I consider it a victory."
Kyoshi rolled her eyes. "Sympathy never gets you anywhere when you're dealing with someone who can command absolute and total obedience from his underlings, Argho. I caution you."
"They are lost as well. This is why the faster we take him down, the better for everyone. Any ideas?"
"Hm..." Aang stroked his beard. "You could do what I did to Koh."
"No...you ripped through layers of his very being...Susanowo is different."
"Perhaps you could send him to the center of the earth; that would take care of the problem." Kyoshi suggested.
Argho and Aang glanced at each other and inched away from the former Earthbending Avatar. "I...er...I don't think that'll work either..."
"Uh...well...I'm not sure that would..." He turned to Aang. "Help me out, would you?"
The Airbender's eyes widened. "Uh...nope, I've got nothing."
"Gentlemen, back to the matter at hand..." The former Avatar sat with a stoic expression.
"Yes! Back to it!" The current Avatar exhaled. "How to defeat Susanowo..."
Kyoshi frowned. "I proposed a completely viable solution that you—!"
"I am not sending him to the center of the earth! I can't!"
"It was a simple suggestion..."
The haze of the Spirit World was replaced by the cold wind of the Northern Water Tribe.
"Shen? What is it?"
The Airbender smiled. "Our ride's here."
The ride was uneventful, to say the least, and Shen was grateful for that. The base was carved out of a massive ice wall, and it was fortified by stone pillars. The Equalists had stocked it with food, rifles, and some of their more...interesting toys.
If we run into any trouble...not even those electric spewing staffs will be able to help them.
"Make yourselves at home!" Kuan Ti clapped his hands together. "The dormitories are down on the left, and food stores straight down the hall."
"So, Argho," Moro explored the main room with her gaze. "Do we have a plan?"
"Yes, we just keep hitting Susanowo until he falls."
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