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Chapter 7: Moving Tiles
Three spirits stepped out of the portal near Aang's statue in Republic City. Izanagi, Rakudo, and Yong gazed out at the massive metropolis before them, intently focused on one goal.
"Lin Quei is somewhere in the city," Rakudo said as shadows continuously warped around him.
The Spirit of Chaos smiled. "He works with members of the City Council, according to Wan Shi Tong. We'll likely find him there."
"What would make him do something like that?"
Izanagi shrugged. "His schemes are lost on me. Proximity to the Avatar maybe?"
Yong hissed and stretched his neck out, allowing his long tongue to taste the air.
"Yeah," the red-cloaked spirit replied with a grin, "I don't understand why he does anything like that, either."
Does he actually understand the dragon spirit, or is he projecting his own thoughts on it? Rakudo wondered. He is truly an enigma.
"Onward, then," Izanagi said with a grin as the wind caught his long, black hair. "To the City Council. I want my power back."
A simple door stood between Lyre and Yari, but she found herself unwilling to knock. Dealing with the drunken swordsman was a chore, regardless of how good a fighter he actually was, and his comments during the meeting...
"Inexcusable," she said. Her knuckled rapped against the door. In her right hand rested a note from Uzzu; Hizumi needed them now.
A low grunt was the only reply that met her knock, so she repeated the gesture, louder this time.
In seconds, the door slid open, with Yari standing, slumped, before her. His cheeks were the slightest shade of red, and his black hair rested haphazardly on his skull.
"Whaddya want, kid?"
Lyre frowned. "Hizumi called a couple of minutes ago. We need to move toward City Hall as soon as possible."
He blinked and yawned. "Now's not the best time; I'm a little—"
"Drunk off your sorry butt? Yeah, I figured," she replied. "It's never any different with you, is it?"
Yari held up a hand. "Now, wait a sec—"
The Waterbender narrowed her eyes. "I let it slide in the meeting because, you're right, I was focused on Karuta. That said, I know where my place on this team is, and I will answer Hizumi's call, sober and ready to fight. You...were you even sober on the night Argho died?"
"That's it!" Yari stood to his full height, and his large, imposing figure filled the doorframe. "I won't take any more of this self-righteous crap from you!"
She took a step forward, causing him to take one back. "And I'm not going to let a drunk dictate his place on this team! Hizumi needs you and that sword; it's our only hope of stopping Izanagi, or at least slowing him down!" The rage in her piercing gray eyes caused him to take another step back. "We need you to be there when we're fighting Izanagi. All there. If you can't do that, you can get out!"
Yari jaw slacked as he endured the tirade. His fogged mind processed everything, by some miracle, and it made him angry.
"Get out? You just said that you need me! I'm not going anywhere! I'll do my job; you don't have to worry about that!"
She pressed her pointed finger against his chest. "We need you to be on top of things out there, Yari. Once all of this is over, we'll finish this conversation; I can promise you that."
"Fine," he replied. "Now get out of my face."
She took a step backward, and he slid the door shut. Lyre sighed; her hardest task was still before her. She needed to talk to Karuta.
"Jing...Jing, are you okay?"
He remembered Lyre staring at him, and he remembered what he'd said then.
He stood, letting the weight of the armor rest on his shoulders. "Jing?" His eyes narrowed. "Wait...I remember..."
Her own gray eyes tried to find his beneath the mask. "Jing, come on; talk to me. Are you okay?"
"Why do you keep calling me that?" He asked. Memories flashed through his head. "Oh, I see."
"What are you—?"
"Jing...I'm not Jing," he replied. "I remember who you are Lyre, probably as a side effect of having this body, but I'm not Jing."
He remembered the look on her face. She didn't believe it.'
"Enough messing around. At any rate, good to see you've kept your poor sense of humor."
He frowned. "Poor sense of—! Listen, I'm not joking. My name is not Jing; it's Karuta."
Lyre raised an eyebrow. "I'm really not in the mood for this right now. What even happened? One second, you're trying on the mask, the next—"
"So, that's how it happened."
The overwhelming spiritual energy within the armor had overwritten his perception of himself, but it was too weak to do more than that. Thus, he had still retained all of his memories. As Jing leaned against his bed, that thought did little to comfort him.
He was dragged back to the moment where she had realized what Karuta had been trying to say; though it was not a memory he wanted.
She had grabbed his arm. "C'mon, we've gotta get you out of that thing. Who knows what—"
He yanked his arm away. "Don't touch me! I told you; I'm not Jing!"
The force, he thought, is probably what triggered it.
Lyre took a step backward. "Jing...I'm serious. This. Is. Not. Funny. Please, just—"
"I am not Jing," Karuta said. "And I don't like the fact that you're making me repeat it over and over."
Her eyes widened. "You're...you're serious?"
He nodded. "Yes. I've been trying to—"
"You..." When she nearly choked out the words, even then, his stomach rolled in protest and guilt. "What...what the hell are you? Why...where..."
"Lyre, I don't really know how to—"
She backpedaled faster, all the while shaking her head. "No...Jing, please...tell me you're joking! Please!"
More tears fell from Jing's eyes as the memories washed over him against his will. All of the pain he had caused because his spirit, his soul, was unable to cope with the remains of a long dead spirit.
"Lyre...Nana..." His whispers were choked as he was on the verge of sobbing. "I'm so sorry..."
He jumped as a metallic knock echoed at his door, shocking him out of his introspection. The voice that came through terrified him, though; he wasn't ready.
"Karuta, I know you're there; open the door."
"It's..." He gritted his teeth. "It's open..."
The metal door slid open, and Lyre stepped past the threshold. "Karuta, I have something I need to—" She raised an eyebrow when she noticed him without the mask; the remnants of tears weren't lost on her, either. "Are you alright?"
Jing's obsidian eyes met her gray ones, and he said nothing.
"Alright, then." Her terse reply to his silence caused his stomach to roll. "I've got something to say, and since you're ignoring me, it seems like the perfect time."
"Lyre..." His whole body trembled as he stood. "I...I am so sorry..."
"Sorry?" Her brow furrowed as she watched him stand. "What are you talking about? Which part are you apologizing for, the part where you took my best friend away from me?"
Jing shook and clenched his fists. "...for everything I've done to you..."
"What...?" Lyre frowned. Karuta had never apologized, not like this. And...was he shaking?
The young man wobbled slightly. "Spirits...you and Nana...what have done?"
Her eyes widened. It couldn't be. "Jing?!" Please, don't let it be wishful thinking!
"I'm sorry, Lyre...I couldn't stop it, couldn't fight..." The words rolled off of his tongue, despite the fear. "I hurt you both; I hurt my parents. I...I thought I was—"
She tackled him with so much force that they both careened into the wall, and her arms wrapped around him tighter than they ever had before.
"Jing," she whispered as she held him closely. "Glad you're back."
His tears fell once again as his arms hung loosely by his sides. Sobs racked his body as Lyre nearly crushed him with her embrace.
She pulled away, but her smile only grew. "Forgive you? Jing, I'm just happy to have you back."
"But...it was...I was..."
"Look at me," Lyre said, lifting his chin so that their eyes met. "You have nothing to be sorry for."
He blinked. "You don't understand. I...I went to see Wan Shi Tong when I still thought that I was Karuta. I went to see him so that I could find out..."
"Find out what?"
His voice lowered to a whisper again, "How to get rid of Jing's memories..."
Lyre's eyes widened. "Oh."
"I wasn't strong enough," Jing said. "I was so overwhelmed by the energy in the armor that I was almost willing to forget. That's why I need your forgiveness. Yours, Nana's, my parents..."
Lyre furrowed her brow and gripped his shoulders. "We'll talk more on the way, but Hizumi needs us right now."
The roar of the motorcycle's engine drowned out all other noise as Uzzu zoomed toward City Hall. The orange light of the evening sunset reflected off of his helmet's visor. His woodcutter's axe was strapped to his belt, and his gaze rested on his destination.
His body was on autopilot, going through the motions of steering while his mind focused on other things. Their enemies consisted of a spirit who was powerful enough to defeat Argho in the Avatar State, and possibly a member of the City Council.
"We can't even all be in one place without fighting," he growled. "We might have some of the best benders in the world on our side, but very few of them are in Republic City."
Onikira provided them with an edge, assuming Yari would be coherent enough to use it. Lyre and Karuta would hinder each other more than they'd help, and he...
"I'm no Rioku."
Izanagi had avoided all of their attacks twice before, once while fighting Argho. By all counts, that made him at least as powerful as Otokami. His eyes narrowed as he remembered where he was going and why.
"We have to get the Avatar. We have to protect her no matter what, and we can't fail."
"We need you to be there when we're fighting Izanagi. All there. If you can't do that, you can get out!"
Yari gritted his teeth as he stared at onikira; the ancient blade sat on a pedestal on his dresser. All the while, his fingers twitched as he glanced at the bottle just in front of the sword.
"Were you even sober the night Argho died?"
A sigh flowed from his lips, and his shoulders sagged. Everyone knew the answer to that question, and the answer was something he had tried to avoid.
"He picked me up at a bar, for Koh's sake!" Yari stood and approached the blade. "I failed in my duty; my ancestors must hate me."
Regardless of her reason for saying it, Lyre had a point. He had been drunk that night, and the night they rescued Yoriko. His fingers brushed the bottle as he lifted the sword from its stand.
"Not today. Today I protect the Avatar; after that," he rested onikira on his shoulder, "Hizumi can kick me out if she wants. I don't give a damn anymore."
"Do you need my help?" Sera asked as they entered the building.
The Grand Lotus shook her head. "No, I'll deal with Shingen and make him answer for what's happened. I need you to protect the Avatar."
The Firebender frowned. "You think Shingen would retaliate?"
"It's not just him. I feel Izanagi."
Sera's heart stopped briefly. "Seriously? How close?"
"Close enough," Hizumi replied. "But there's something else that I don't recognize. That could make everything worse. I just hope the others get here in time."
"I'll defend Yoriko at all costs, then. We'll see if he can even move while his body burns."
"Hopefully, Yari and Karuta can handle him, but I have my doubts. Not that it matters." She clenched her fists. "One way or another, we'll keep Yoriko safe...from everything."
- When I began plotting this story, the Order of the White Lotus was a lot stronger, a lot more unified. But as things came up, it seemed like the better way to go story-wise was to make this their real trial by fire--one that they aren't prepared for.
- Don't worry. Jing and Lyre are not done talking, but they do have priorities.
- Man, things are not going well for the Avatar, I'll just say that. :(
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