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Book 3: Doorways
July 19th, 2015
John locates what he's looking for.
They say that truth is the first casualty in war. In the six months after the end of Harmonic Convergence and the Water Tribe Civil War, the truth was probably the most illusive thing there was. The truth about why the war began, why the United Republic got involved, all of it was up for debate. There was even a roomer going around that Korra had died from her wounds during the battle. In reality, she closed the Northern and Southern Portals, sealing off the Spirit World once again.
When the peace negotiations finally ended, President Raiko was all to happy to call a press conference and put all of the roomers and lies to rest. By put to rest, I mean he used it to promote the cause of the Republic and honor those whom he considered to be heroes.
For his flying skills, Carter was awarded the Silver Lotus. Asami, Mako, and Bolin were each awarded the Metal of the Republic, the highest civilian honor available in the United Republic. Even though she was in wheelchair from her wounds in the battle, Korra was present for when they renamed Republic City Park after her. I was there too, of course, standing at her side.
As for me, Raiko wanted to throw every metal he could think of in my direction. I wouldn't have any of it. After the loss of an arm and several close friends, there was no way I was going to let the Republic off with just a few shiny metals and ribbons as payment. Ultimately, it was agreed that I would receive a pension, and a sizable chunk of land of my choosing, providing said land was within the boarders of the United Republic.
The hardest part during those months was the adjustment, both for Korra and me. She was used to walking about, being able to fight and move on her own free will, not being bound to a wheelchair for the duration of her recovery. I helped where I could, but there's only so much I could do with one arm.
After the first month of trying to cope, I finally lost my patience. So much of my lifestyle revolved around using two arms that to suddenly have only one was maddening. I went to Asami for help, hoping that she could make a prosthetic arm. Luckily for me, this world's automatons are much more advanced then the ones back home. The result was an arm made of metal that had the same basic functions as a real one. It wasn't the real thing, but it was enough to suit my needs.
In the months that followed, I moved in with Korra to help her recover faster. Her parents and Tenzin insisted that if we were going to have that kind of living arrangement that we should get married. But Korra maintained her stance that we wait to get until after she regained her ability to walk.
She finally went under surgery to get the bullet out of her back six months after Harmonic Convergence. After that, her recovery improved significantly, to the point where she was relearning to walk again after a few weeks. I was there right along side her, learning how to use my new arm. We grew closer during those sessions, and we got married on the first day of summer in 172 AG.
Asami and Mako got married a month later, and for the moment it seemed that everything was starting to look up. Of course, being married to the Avatar, it wasn't going to last. During all that time of recovery, we kept getting reports about unrest in the Earth Kingdom. It wasn't until about two weeks after Asami and Mako got married that we received the reports of rioting in Ba Sing Se.
It was a whirlwind of chaos after that. The Earth Queen, Hou-Ting, was killed when the rioters stormed the Royal Palace. In either her short sightedness, or her arrogance, the Queen had not appointed a proper heir to the throne. Anarchy followed with the resulting power vacuum, and suddenly it seemed like the whole country was on fire.
Bolin and Mako came to me after we heard about the Earth Queen. Turns out that some of their family lived in the Lower Ring and they wanted my help in bringing them to Republic City. At first, I questioned their reasoning behind coming to me. With every nation now clamoring over each other to get a hold of the weapons that Future Industries made, it wasn't like the brothers were short on resources.
Mako made the argument that since I had the most experience and training, I was the natural choice to go on a rescue mission into an unstable county. I was hesitant at first with the new arm being untested in combat, but both of the brothers swore that they would each owe me a huge favor, so I was in.
It actually went pretty smooth. We made it to Ba Sing Se without any trouble, and I only had to fire my gun once in order to ward off some people who wanted our airship. The brothers' family, which was led by their grandmother, Yin, was huddling in their small one room apartment when we found them.
Yin was one of the most stubborn women I have ever met. She refused to leave her home, despite that fact that the place was literally going up in flames. To make matters worse, she was a traditionalist when it came to things like politics. That meant that she viewed Hou-Ting as a goddess among mortals, and it gave me a headache all the way back to Republic City. We had to carry her out of the place so that she wouldn't burn to death.
On the way back, Mako and Bolin explained how they grew up to their family, and in turn learned more about their father. When the topic turned to recent events, it was unavoidable that they started asking me questions. Of course, they had all heard the stories going around about Korra's accomplishments, but what surprised me was the stories added to the stories.
They spoke of a mysterious man always at the Avatar's side, like a shadowy guardian. The Gunfighter was what they simply called him. Wherever Korra went, there he was, watching, waiting, fighting. As accurate in his shooting as he was merciless. The brothers' uncle, Chow, believed that the stories were just that, stories. Tu, Chow's son, believed that the stories were exaggerations spread by the person to try and better his fame.
Both of them received a shock when they learned who I was.
Hearing stories about myself being told like a campfire legend got me to thinking about my image in the public eye. My marriage to Korra was still relatively on the down low, and with the trouble brewing in the Earth Kingdom it had taken a back seat in the media entirely. In the end, I decided that it was probably for the best. The stories never gave a description on what The Gunfighter looked like, what his motives were, or even an indication if he actually existed. Not enough people would be willing to go looking based on that kind of vagueness, and those that would thought twice because of the reputation the stories had.
When we got back to Republic City, I found myself in a heap of trouble. Following the Earth Queen's death, Raiko had ordered that all United Forces personal were to remain outside of Earth Kingdom territory. Not only had I gone to the Earth Kingdom Capital ignoring this order, I had also done it with a United Forces airship.
Despite the fact that I was still considered a Hero of the Republic, Raiko had no choice but to make an example out of me. I was expelled from the United Forces without a pension or any hope of work. Rather then cut me off completely, the President offered me a job in the new law enforcement agency that he had created in order to police the Republic outside of Republic City.
I didn't have much of a choice at that point, so I joined the United Republic Marshals. That's right, I make a living now with a tin star pinned to my chest. The thing is that there's only one Marshal per Providence, so that meant I had to find a place to settle down, and I had to find it fast.
Even as I write this now, it's as if the universe is telling me to get a move on. Korra just informed me that she's pregnant with our first child. She's excited, and scared, and I can't blame her. I never thought that I would survive long enough to make it this far in life. In truth, I'm scared. More scared then I've ever been before. But I also look forward to it. The idea of fatherhood is like redirecting lightning: exhilarating, but terrifying.
I've got to get going now. There's a place in the southeastern portion of the Republic, the Jílì Dé Valley, that holds some promise for a future, for a family. I'm heading there now to check it out.
-JWR, United Republic Marshal.
The summer heat bore down upon John as he ducked beneath a tree branch. His horse snickered as he trotted towards through the woods. Sweat poured down his face, causing him to wipe his brow with the back of his hand. He wore a white button down shirt with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows and a black vest. His prosthetic arm clutched the reigns with a firm grip, leaving his real arm free to draw his pistol if necessary.
John ducked under another branch before he tugged back on the reigns, bringing the horse to a halt. Before him was a wide valley with a large river in the center. Unlike the edges of the valley, the valley floor was wide and open, perfect for farming. The beginnings of a town straddled the river, making John smile slightly. He saw opportunity in this valley, not only for a family, but for a future.
"Are you what I'm looking for?" he asked as he reached into a saddlebag and produced a map. Many of the Chinese characters on the map had a crude English translation penciled in next to them. The river valley before him ran to the northwest, emptying into the large river that connected the Western Lake to the Sea. It also served as a natural pass through the mountains from the Earth Kingdom into the Southern United Republic.
The more he studied the map and the valley, the more he liked what he saw. Not only that, but the name of the place appealed to him. Jílì Dé.
"Gilead," he translated to himself with a smirk. Putting the map away, John trotted down the hillside into the valley. The valley floor was lush with wild grasses and flowers, the river was wide and lazy with fish leaping to and fro. As he looked around, he saw more and more opportunity. The river was large enough that boats could come up from the coast for trade, and the fields were lush enough for crops and cattle.
All in all, the valley looked almost untouched by the modern world. It was the perfect place where the Avatar could go and hide if she needed time to herself. It was the perfect place for the Gunfighter to retire, peaceful and away from the world.
Looking down the valley into the setting sun, John smiled. His future was here, he felt in the core of his very being. All that was left was to bring Korra here, she would love the place, of that he was sure.
Turning his horse and digging his heels into its flanks, John rode off into the sunset, and never once looked back.
Letter from Author
And so here it is, three long years after the idea was first conceived, The Gunfighter has finally come to an end. When I first sat down to write this story, The Legend of Korra was still in its infancy. Like the show, back then I had no idea where this story would lead. For the longest time, the story was set to end with Book 2 with the fall of Amon. But the premier of Spirits changed that, and Book 3 was created.
As you may have noticed, The Gunfighter will not be covering Books 3 and 4 of LOK. The reason is that the time line has changed so much in the story that trying to cover them simply wouldn't work out. Alas, for this new twisted world that I have created, there will be no new airbenders, no spirit wilds, no giant mecha tanks, no Spirit Portals in Republic City, and no Korra and Asami walking off hand in hand.
This does NOT, however, mean that the story I have created is over.
Like a long and winding road, the story goes on. There is new technology in the Avatar World, new weapons, new customs, new people. The World is not the same as it once was, and it is only going to continue to change. And amongst it all, there are new generations of The Rider Family ready to make a name for themselves.
The Gunfighter has come a long way from where it started. When I first began writing it, it was a way to get this crazy idea out of my head. In many ways, that still why I write today. Even though there isn't a comment on every chapter, I know that people read this story. Whether or not they like it or hate it, I couldn't tell you. But I do know that they read it, and that's enough for me at the end of the day. For that, I thank each and every one of you for taking time out of your day to dive into this crazy idea of mine.
Who knows, maybe some of you liked it, and will follow me down the rabbit hole a little further to see where this goes.
Long Days and Pleasant Nights to you all.
For the collective works of the author, go here.