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I Say Farewell
Asami did not want to be here. Right now, there were several places in the city where she did not wish to linger, but she would rather any one of them than this place. She would rather sit in the presence of any other man but this one. But Korra was persistently insistent.
He is still your father, Asami, despite everything...
The room was small, suffocatingly so, forcing her into close proximity with him. A wall of glass split the room in two, the partition offering her some small modicum of comfort. She did not think she would be able to breathe otherwise. Asami knew her thoughts would refuse to order themselves if she must share the same space as him. In truth she still was, but behind this wall she occupied her own space, her own world, and it did not include him.
A guard stood silent and severe against the wall behind her father, arms folded behind his back. Asami's eyes briefly lingered upon the solid black length of the truncheon secured at his belt. Then her eyes turned to the man before her proper. He looked tired and dishevelled, once a man who had taken great pride in his appearance. Perhaps it was a conscious choice that he did not now.
Her father's face was ragged with age, his greying hair thin and hanging loosely around his ears. His mouth was thinly pressed as he looked at her through the glass. His gaze was unrelenting upon her, eyes hard. There was no warmth in them, the twinkling stars that they had once been long since extinguished. Asami remembered them shimmering above her when, as a young girl, she lay in semi-darkness, drifting to sleep on the sound of his voice.
Without breaking his gaze, for her own eyes had hardened to roughly edged stones of jade, Asami reached for the telephone sitting on the narrow shelf at her elbow. Her fingers curled around the cool stand, its base dragging along the surface of the shelf as she moved it to sit in front of her. Without preamble, she unhooked the bell of the listening device and brought it up to her ear. And then she waited, watching her father through the glass.
He did not move for a long moment. Neither blinked. Asami was becoming more aware of how tightly she gripped the device. And then her father slowly drew the identically shaped telephone on his side of the wall to his hand. He lifted the listening device to his right ear in imitation of her. And then he waited, watching her through the glass.
"What do you expect me to say to the man who tried to kill me, Korra?"
"I can't answer that for you. But you need to do this, Asami, for both of you."
"I don't need this. I don't need anything more from him."
"Asami, listen. Sometimes we say things we don't really mean in the heat of the moment. Sometimes...we do things that we come to sorely regret afterwards."
And so she searched her father's eyes, more thoroughly than she had ever done before. She swept aside the veil that concealed the truth of him away from her for all those years. But the only thing she could discern was the cold edge of bitterness.
"After everything that you've done, you feel nothing," Asami said tonelessly.
She did not know whether she meant it to be a statement or a question. In either case, her father did not answer. Her lips were pressed thin as she fell into silence. Further words were vying to spill first from her lips, a horde of questions that were layered one atop the other in all the months that had passed since his trial. But they all fell away when she remembered the things her eyes had witnessed.
"Your bombs tore apart the streets of this city. You destroyed countless homes and livelihoods, and shattered so many more lives. Men and women lie broken in Republic City's hospitals. I have watched as parents bury their children," Asami told him. "Future Industries is in a state of utter ruin. Its business partners are pulling their support and its workforce is facing redundancy. Day after day, I watch our family name dragged through the mud, slandered left, right and centre. This, father, is the legacy that you leave to me."
He breathed not a word in response. Asami's fingers carefully loosened around the telephone stand. She drew a steadying breath, her spine straightening as she leaned away from the glass. She could feel a slight ache pulse through her jaw, for she had spoken through tightly clenched teeth. She gradually relaxed it, her gaze cool and resolute. She understood now, that she did not know the man on the opposite side of the glass.
"He's your father, Asami."
"No. My father died the night my mother was killed. The man he left behind is a shadow."
"You told us all that you did this for my mother's sake," Asami spoke quietly. "My only prayer for you is that she never has to meet the man you have become."
His expression tightened at her words and she saw his upper lip tremble. The skin of his knuckles whitened as he gripped the telephone, the shadow of a snarl flitting across his face. Asami said nothing more. Pushing aside her own telephone, the legs of her chair scraped harshly across the floor when she stood to her feet. His voice chased after her.
She left the cold, suffocating room without a backward glance, the tails of her coat sweeping through the air. The door was pulled shut behind her, and Asami breathed again. The sound of her voice was sharp and gasping, her eyes beginning to sting. But with clenched teeth, she held onto her sorrow. She held back tears until the arms of a treasured friend quietly wrapped around her. There, in Korra's embrace, Asami wept.
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