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|Loss Outweighs Victory Part 2|
Battle comes with victory and defeat
A rumble shook the entire temple. Sitting with his legs folded, Ishio squeezed his eyes shut to keep from distraction. The Air Nomads must be fighting, and here Ishio was, trapped by this selfish Spirit. Inhale, exhale. Little other choice presented itself—the Avatar was desperately trying to meditate, forcing himself into the Spirit World. Yoru did not seem willing to leave on his own, so maybe it would take the words of the other Avatars to force him out.
Unwavering still in his meditation, a mysterious wind slowly began to encircle Ishio. Beneath his eyelids, his eyes began to glow, and he was gone from the Human World. "Hmf," Yoru smirked. "So that's how it is."
Back in the Fire Nation, Liwei stood and approached the bars of his prison. A clicking on the opposite end of the door; the Firelord forced open the door and hurried into the prison chamber. "It's almost over," he said with faux confidence, a nervous twitch in the right side of his lips betraying his very words. "United Republic military has come in to assist with quelling the riot. Soon, everything will go back to the normal order... Everything will go back to normal..."
"Junjie. I know you're a good person," Liwei spoke with urgency, yet also with a calming charisma. "Resign as Firelord. There are only two possible outcomes of this situation: either you resign, and are known as a foolish king, or you are dethroned and executed as a cruel dictator."
"You...!" The Firelord stormed up to his brother's cell, bringing them practically nose to nose. "You haven't changed at all! You still think your better than me! You're blind! I'm better than you, I'm better than father! You still blindly follow 'tradition'! This is how the world is now!"
The prison cell shook. Shouting could be heard outside, with the familiar sound of fire burning through the air. "Junjie, they've already broken in. It's too late."
Junjie's brows furrowed in distress. "It's not too late! We will prevail! The world doesn't need benders! Mother and father favored you because of your ability, but I'll show them that it is the nonbenders who rule..."
"I'm sorry, Junjie. But I can't stay here. This isn't how the world is supposed to be, and I need to help the Avatar fix it." In one fluid motion, Liwei grabbed his brother's shirt and shot a volt of lightning through his body. Not enough to kill him, but enough to make him fall to his knees and pass out on the floor. Liwei fished the key to his cell out of Junjie's unconscious body, using it to free himself. "I'm truly sorry, Junjie."
Chaos; bullets flew, air whirled, and combat raged in the Northern Air Temple. Chi-blocking police had appeared, and the tide was slowly turning against the Air Nomads. A Chi-blocker rushed towards an Airbender. The Airbender produced a staff, and for a while he countered each of the Chi-blocker's attacks with a sharp strike from his staff. Then, a well-placed jab caused the Monk's arm to go limp—two more strikes and that Airbender was down. Elsewhere, Master Bingwen and a few other elders continued to fight against the police with some success. Save for Haneul and a handful of other Nomads, they were all that remained. Outnumbered and outgunned, the Air Nomads were slowly pushed back towards the main temple building.
Several rounds of bullets flew towards Haneul. His hands quickly manipulated an air shield, deflecting the bullets. But the bullets continued to come. Whether they missed or were deflecting, he quickly became overwhelmed. Using his Airbending to quicken his footwork, Haneul ducked behind a piece of rubble and waited through the rain of lead.
"Erk..." A sickening sensation shot throughout Haneul's body. His hand flew up to his mouth as he began to cough violently. Crimson liquid dripped between his fingers as his knees buckled and he fell to the ground. Another Air Nomad ducked behind the rubble as well, seeing the injured Haneul. Master Bingwen patted the young bender on the back.
"Haneul. Go get the Avatar. I promised your father that I'd look after you, and you'll be safe in the Spirits' half of the temple. And tell the Spirits that we'll let them have the temple, if they release the Avatar to help us. The lives of all these Monks, all of us, are more important than this squabble with the Spirits."
"But, Master Bingwen..."
"Don't argue," the old Master commanded. An expression of concern was painted across his face, and he carefully handed his staff to Haneul. "Take this. It's the glider staff I have had since I was a boy. I have a feeling that I will not be needing it anymore."
Before Haneul had a chance to argue, Master Bingwen ducked back out into the fray. As soon as the Elder left, Haneul knew that he had been captured. All he could do now was honor the Master's request. He held the staff in his left hand, the one not stained with his own blood, and kept his body hunched into a small shape to duck into the temple, and out of the fight.
Within the temple, it was as if everything outside was nonexistent. One could hardly even hear the battle outside, let alone feel the effects. Haneul clenched the staff in determination. Master Bingwen sent me out of the fight because of my lungs, he thought resentfully, but I won't let that stop me. No matter what, I'll get Ishio free, and we'll stop those United Republic bastards. Throughout the entire temple, Haneul found himself baffled at the lack of spirits—until he remembered that he could not see them, even if they were there. Finally, he reached the top of the temple and a sealed door.
Ishio must be in here. Inhale, exhale. Haneul quickly turned in a circle, spinning the staff as he turned back towards the door. Air shot through the holes in the door, and the Airbending symbols began to spin. A great rumble shook the temple as the door swung open. Haneul's right arm instinctively raised to shield his face from the rush of wind that came from the ancient door opening for the second time in a row. And beyond the door was a sight that practically knocked the breath out of him.
A figure sat across the room. Not recognizable, yet Haneul could still see him. A spirit that he could see? Impossible. Or so he thought. The figure's face seemed normal: long black hair, a goatee, not different from many others in the world. Had it not been for the strange flowing cloak that the figure wore, Haneul would have no doubts that the figure was a normal human. Beside the figure was a great tear, as if a tear in the very fabric of the universe, most likely the portal to the Spirit World located in the temple. And the Avatar sat just in front of the portal. Haneul stepped into the room, and the mysterious figure turned towards him.
"Ishio! What did you do to him?!" Haneul looked between the unconscious Avatar and the mysterious figure.
"I did nothing to him. When I informed him, just as I shall inform you, that my subordinate and I shall not move, he simply sat and began meditating in front of the portal." The spirit seemed bored, and gestured roughly towards the door. It promptly shut behind Haneul, trapping the Airbender in there with the Avatar.
"Why you..." Haneul growled heatedly, stepping closer to the spirit with his fists clenched. In mid-step, he remembered his purpose in coming here. It didn't matter how annoyed he was by the spirit, he promised Master Bingwen that he would negotiate with this spirit. "The monks sent me here to negotiate the Avatar's release," he finally said through gritted teeth. "If you release the Avatar, we'll let you and your spirits have the temple."
Laughter filled the room as the spirit stood from his throne. With the spirit's mysterious voice, it seemed as if many different men were laughing in the room. He stepped down onto the same level as Haneul, and seemed to glide towards the Airbender. "I knew that they would come to their senses. Unfortunately, the Avatar has chosen to meditate, and thus remain here. Unless you can get your friend to wake up, neither side will get what they want."
Haneul's right eye twitched in irritation. "You have got to be kidding me," he stated bluntly in reference to Ishio's idiotic decision. The spirit lord simply shrugged.
Both approached the Avatar, and in unison they both folded their arms and bit their lips in thought. Without much other option, Haneul bent down and grabbed Ishio's shoulders, heaving him up. He then proceeded to violently shake him. "Wake up you son of a bitch! You need to save the goddamn temple, so wake up already!" He screamed at Ishio's unconscious face.
"Try throwing him off of the top of the temple. That might wake him up." The spirit offered.
"And it would kill him!" Haneul turned towards the spirit while still grasping the shoulders of the limp Avatar.
"But he'd be released, and thus I'd satisfy my end of the bargain."
"Just sit down," the Airbender replied wearily. Without another word, the spirit returned to his throne and sat to wait.
With a sigh, Haneul let go of Ishio and his body fell to the ground like a corpse. Similarly, Haneul sat in front of the unconscious body and folded his arms in apprehension. "Come on, Ishio... What are you doing that's so important you'd let all the Nomads be captured or killed?"
The Spirit World had not changed much. Ishio awoke to find himself in a floating temple, similar to that he had just exited in the Human World. Different from the Human World, several spirits were bustling about—it was apparent that Ishio had stumbled upon some sort of spirit marketplace. He stood and looked about, trying to locate the other Avatars and ask them for advice.
"Avatar! I'm so glad you're all right!" From behind him, a spirit appeared and began speaking hurriedly and happily. Ishio spun to examine the spirit: the spirit was garbed in a black cloak which completely hid his body and a mask. A white mask, with long, closed eyes that looked like a person was smiling. Other than the notable eyes, the mask was completely blank, though the eyes made it seem as though the spirit was smiling at Ishio.
It took a moment for Ishio to recall the spirit from his memory. "You're that spirit that distracted me when I got hit by the bus!"
"Yes, Avatar! When those police got to you, I was so worried that I had just brought the Avatar to his demise! But here you are again! My friend here," he gestured to an extremely masculine woman spirit standing next to him, "said that he saw you not long after the incident! We were both so worried about you!"
"And you're that cross-dresser who stole Frost's clothes!" The memories of his journey to learn Firebending flooded back, with the spirits in Republic City, the cross-dresser, everything came back with these two spirits. His time in the temple had almost made him forget about his earlier journeys.
"Thank you so much for helping me, Avatar," the cross-dressing spirit said happily.
"I'm Jo," the other began as if his friend had never spoken, "and this is Lifu. Most other spirits don't have much faith in you, but we knew you'd save the world! We have the utmost confidence in you!"
"Um, thanks," Ishio replied hesitantly. "But I'm in a bit of a hurry. You two wouldn't happen to know where Avatar Korra and the other Avatars are, would you?"
"Of course we do!" Jo stated loudly, "Avatar Korra sent us to watch for you by this portal! We'll bring you to them right away. She and Avatar Aang's Pai Sho games have gotten so competitive that you will find both Avatar Roku and Avatar Kyoshi there as well, refereeing their game."
Without any further conversation, they departed. Meanwhile, in the human world, Ishio had no idea that the situation was slowly growing worse, to a point where the Air Nomads were practically obliterated...
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