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|Lights and Secrets|
Book 3: Dawn
Chapter 2: Lights and Secrets
Skyscrapers lined the horizon as the steamship approached the capital of the United Republic. Republic City gleamed and shined as the Earthbender, the Airbender, and the Waterbender looked upon it. Shen almost smiled at the tranquil scene, but the knowledge of his duty to his people curbed the expression.
"The Republic City Council will meet us on the dock, with their bodyguards, of course."
Something akin to a snort sounded from Rioku. "Of course. Apparently, these politicians can't defend themselves."
"Hey, watch it!" Shen replied forcefully. "My mom is very capable, but they are still the leaders of Republic City."
Moro raised an eyebrow. "Your mother is here?"
"Yeah...she's the representative from the Air Nation." He smiled. "I haven't seen her in a year."
"So," Rioku began. "We have an inside track with the council. That will make our job easier."
Shen frowned. "Hopefully...but Susanowo might have the Water Tribe reps. We have no way of knowing for sure yet."
"And let's not forget about the Earth King and the Southern Water Tribe chieftain." Moro added. "They will want answers, too."
The Airbender grimaced. "I'm beginning to wonder why I ever wanted to get into politics."
"All four of you have sided with it?!" Susanowo cried. "Why?"
The combined power emanating from the four thrones was stifling, and the reply came from a throne wrapped in light.
"We have decided that the Avatar Spirit is fulfilling its purpose better than we anticipated. It, and its human host, certainly averted disaster with this whole 'Bloodbending' mess. You should never have messed with the natural order of things, Spirit of Tempests."
The lesser spirit began to despair. "Is this truly your decision? You've sided with this...this child of a spirit?"
"Yes." The four voices rang out simultaneously. "We have."
Before he could react, a bright light flashed, and he was in front of a gnarled tree. The Spirit of Tempests clenched his fists.
"So, Brother...they rejected you in favor of this...Avatar." Koh's dark voice pierced the world around Susanowo. "How...sad."
The Spirit of Tempests kept a neutral expression. "I will deal with this, Koh, without you. I have no desire to play your games."
The caterpillar-like spirit climbed out of the hole in the tree, a tragedian's mask as his chosen face. "I can help you, you know. I can reveal what you seek."
"What are you talking about? Stop speaking in riddles."
"It's simple. I can make Bloodbending useful to you."
Susanowo almost gritted his teeth. "What is it you really want? What would be your price for this?"
Koh's face became that of a Mandrill. "I will require...a portion of your soul, Brother."
True to Shen's expectations, the five members of the Republic City Council stood on the dock. He narrowed his eyes as his gaze swept over them, and a smile grew on his face as he saw his mother. Rioku and Moro stood back from the railing and appraised the guard detail surrounding them.
"Welcome, friends of Avatar Argho." The Fire Nation representative stepped forward. "We have been eagerly awaiting his arrival. Where is he?"
Shen cleared his throat. "He...will arrive later. For now, we are here to represent him."
"Then you take temporary responsibility for his actions?" The Northern Water Tribe Councilman asked, his blue eyes piercing into each of them. "Because he needs to answer for his actions against Susanowo." Several members of the guard detail moved toward them.
Moro's right hand moved to her water skin. "You've gotta be kidding me..."
"Now wait a moment!" The Southern Water Tribe Councilwoman, an elderly woman, turned to the others. "If you're going to act rashly, don't do it with our authority!"
"But they participated in the senseless slaughter of Water Tribe civilians; we need to—!"
"Wait and see what Avatar Argho has to say on the matter." Ula, the Air Nation Councilwoman, said with a subdued smile. "I'll not have you arresting my son without reason. Besides, I'm sure Susanowo can be assured to provide an unbiased account of events."
Shen's eyes widened. He's here?! Damn...
The Northern Councilman grumbled, but nonetheless stepped back, as did the guards. Ula smiled reassuredly at the three allies. "Now, we want to know why the Avatar has seen fit to send you three ahead. So, if you'd come with us, we'll get lunch, and you can tell us why you're here."
Argho walked with Korra and Aang through the Spirit World, and he watched as spirits of all shapes and sizes milled about.
"I don't think I've ever seen them like this..." Aang said. "It's been this way for a very short time."
Korra narrowed her eyes. "They're preparing for something big; we don't have much time."
"Yes...but where are we going? I need to know everything you two do about Energybending."
Aang smiled. "Patience, Argho. We've taught you everything we know. Unfortunately, the same maneuver that deprives people of their bending, or perhaps one that allowed me to pull Katara's spirit from Koh, will not help you against Otokami."
"Yeah..." Korra agreed. "We need someone who can tell us what we need to know, or, barring that, show us where we can find it."
Argho nodded. "Alright...so, where are we going?"
As they came to a decline, Aang held his arm out. "Look out there."
The current Avatar narrowed his eyes, taking in the sight of a tall, spiraling tower. "Well, that looks ominous..."
"That is Wan Shi Tong's library." Aang replied.
Korra smirked. "You seem tense, Aang. Something wrong?"
"You should know just as well as I do, Korra...I don't think the Spirit of Knowledge will take too kindly to seeing us again..." He sheepishly rubbed the back of his head before turning to the current Avatar. "I...well, my friends and I were kind of the reason he sunk the library in the first place."
Argho frowned. "Wonderful. I hope he doesn't hold a grudge, because I need answers quickly."
Moro, Rioku, and Shen sat across from the five Councilmembers as they awaited their meal at The Bath House. Each group eyed the other tentatively as the servers went about their business. Ula glanced at each of them with a small grin on her face.
"What are you smiling about, Councilwoman?" Rioku raised an eyebrow. "I hardly think this is the time for games."
She nodded, the grin only growing. "Right you are. Now, you are Argho's former student...Rioku, was it?"
"I thought so. Now, what we need to know is this: what are you doing here? We can't have any unknowns in our city." She smiled sadly at Shen. "And this, for the moment, includes my own son, so if you could be so kind..."
The Southern Councilwoman's head bobbed up and down. "Indeed, what has Argho to gain by sending you three ahead? What does he have planned?"
Moro ran her hands through her ebony locks. "We...aren't actually here on Argho's orders. We...decided to move before he did."
This time, the Fire Nation Councilman spoke up. "Why?"
"Now wait a second." Shen began. "We're here getting grilled, and we don't even know your names...well, most of them."
For the first time since they'd met on the dock, the Earth Kingdom Councilman spoke, his gruff voice clearly expressing agitation as he moved his fingers through his thick, brown mustache. "If it is a mutual exchange of information, that is fine. I am Chong."
"Gaijo Lee." The Fire Nation representative said.
Shen's mother kept on smiling. "My name is Ula."
"And I am Maya." The Southern Water Tribe woman matched Ula's smile.
The Northern Water Tribe Councilman narrowed his eyes. "Kulok. Now, I trust you'll at least try to answer our questions?"
Shen sighed. "Fine."
Ula held up her hand. "Hold a moment, fellow colleagues. We know of Rioku, and I know my son. However, proper greetings require reciprocation."
Shen had to stifle a chuckle; his mother had always been one to try and break tension. "My name is Shen, but I imagine that you knew that already."
Chong continued to fiddle with his facial hair. "Yes...your mother speaks highly of you. But I think Ula was more referring to the girl."
Moro suddenly became aware of all of the eyes shifting her way. "My...my name is Moro Kenshi." She noticed Kulok bristle and sit further back in his seat.
"So...you're Kenshin's daughter." His eyes moved to her forehead, and Moro was glad that her bangs covered the Blood Seal.
As her own heart nearly beat out of her chest, she couldn't help but notice Shen and Rioku shift slightly so that they could move...in front of her.
Ula took a sip of her tea, seemingly unaware of anything wrong. "Now that we've got that out of the way, time for the hard questions."
Gaijo Lee leaned forward, his gray-black hair contrasting with his golden eyes. "So you say that Argho did not send you here...that begs a different question. Why are you here?"
Shen cleared his throat and stood. "Ladies and gentlemen, I know by now that this is no secret. The Fire Nation was attacked by...by my people in an effort to punish the Royal Family."
They all nodded, indicating for Shen to continue.
"When I heard that the World Meeting was taking place, I wanted to take the opportunity to bring our Grand Elder, Petrine, before the leaders of the Five Nations for trial. She has been unresponsive to my previous attempts to...get her to stop." The young man's voice nearly caught in his throat, but he forced it down. "I knew she couldn't refuse a summons from the Five Nations without inviting war, something our people are ill-prepared for."
"Ha!" Kulok scoffed. "Your people certainly showed that false in their attack!"
"That was an elaborate assassination attempt that did little more than cause a massive loss of life that my people could not sustain again. That is why she'll come. We came to make sure she stayed in line."
Ula gave an almost imperceptible nod in response to his words, but Gaijo Lee stood to match the Airbender. "Fire Lady Saitei has sent her ambassador, Chan, in her stead due to the circumstances you described, but I would like to know something. Why betray your own people? What do you gain?"
Shen's nostrils flared as he struggled to contain himself. "It is not betrayal. Petrine is setting us up for destruction, and she has tainted what we believe in. I am going to see her stopped before the Air Nomads are no more."
Chong rested his chin on steepled hands. "Understandable. If you've been fighting alongside the Avatar, we have reason to believe your claim, at least for the moment."
"Yes," Maya agreed. "Now all that remains is to hear Argho's story, and I'm certain he will be forthcoming."
"What about the incident in the North?!" Kulok glanced at each of his colleagues. "Are we just going to forget what Argho did?"
"What Susanowo said he did." Ula clarified. "I am not inclined to take a mere man's word over the Avatar, not without sufficient proof."
Shen rested back in his seat and sighed. They had allies.
The door to Wan Shi Tong's library groaned as it opened, and Argho drew on his reserve of calm. Confronting a spirit when he had no bending was a prospect he did not look forward to.
"I don't know what the Spirit of Knowledge will do, Argho." Aang cautioned as he stood in the doorway.
Korra inhaled. "Neither do I. What makes this worse is that we can't go any farther."
Argho nodded. "I'm on my own for now."
The former last Airbender smiled. "For now...that's the spirit! Pardon the, uh, pun..."
"Yeah, good for you with the optimism!" Korra said as she stifled a chuckle.
Argho allowed himself the pleasure of a small smile. "Thank you both, but it wasn't optimism. It was realism. I will get answers."
As he stepped inside, a raspy, cold voice met him. "Will you? I eagerly await the method by which you intend to do so."
- This chapter's title hearkens back to a chapter in Sons and Daughters, which itself was a play on "A City of Walls and Secrets."
- Ah, Wan Shi Tong, I've never featured him in one of my fanons before, but this is a story focused on the spirits, so he was bound to show. :)
- And it seems Susanowo is one step ahead of our heroes, for now.
For the collective works of the author, go here.