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Book 3: Dawn
Chapter 3: Prelude
Sickly yellow teeth appeared as Susanowo gleefully watched the old woman and the young Waterbender fight each other. No matter the outcome, he was confident that Bloodbending would thrive once again, after many centuries.
As the witch had begun working the power he'd created, the Spirit of Tempests felt life returning to himself. In truth, he'd been growing in strength since she'd first 'discovered' the art.
"Well, brother, apparently my own attempt to limit you was for naught." Koh's voice slithered into his ears. "Too bad..."
Susanowo glanced at him and smirked. "I regret nothing, Koh. I will only grow stronger, while your own powers seem to wither."
The chitinous exterior of Koh's body wrapped around the interior of the withered tree. "The Avatar may yet succeed in ending this chaos, but Sozin was not the first to succumb to the lure of war. He will not be the last; I have seen that much." The tree shook as explosions rocked it from the outside, and Koh's face shifted to that of his white mask. "You'd best greet your guest, Susanowo. I wouldn't make this one any angrier than he already is."
"What are you talking about?" Koh's brother whirled on him. "What did you do?!"
"Me? I did nothing."
"You warned him, didn't you?!" Another explosion shook the tree. "So he sends his 'Protector'!"
Koh simply chuckled as the Spirit of Tempests quickly exited the tree. "Have fun, brother."
Kuan Ti knocked on Argho's door; it was unlike the Avatar to meditate for as long as he had. When he heard no reply, he sighed.
"We're two hours out; we don't have time for any lengthy chats with past lives, Argho..."
"Nervous?" Zhan came up next to him. "I can't imagine why."
"You know exactly why. We still aren't allowed anywhere in the United Republic. If Argho isn't awake when we reach port, there will be trouble."
The Equalist shook his head. "Even if the Avatar is...we still might run into trouble. The benders of this city have been kind of touchy since we nearly—"
"We didn't do anything. Amon and his terrorists did." Kuan Ti rested his back against the wall and slid down to a sitting position. "Our master made sure to drill that into us, didn't he?"
Zhan nodded. "He did. Now look where he is."
Kuan Ti shot his friend a withering glance. "Do not disrespect our master. He took us in when we had nothing; show some respect."
"Show some respect?" Zhan's voice began to rise. "I had the utmost respect for him, and to see him cut down like a dog after being treated like trash for his entire life only makes me want what we deserve! What he deserved!"
Kuan Ti sighed. "I know; I spoke without thinking. But we have to be careful, Zhan. We can't let vengeance take us like it did Sarasu Iran...and his Equalists."
"Don't worry." His friend replied. "I have no intention of taking vengeance, but we do still fight for equality. We can't give up on that."
Argho glanced up at the giant owl spirit as it brought its face toward him. "I have come seeking the knowledge to defeat Otokami. I need to learn in order to maintain balance."
"So, yet another Avatar comes to my library, even in the Spirit World, to learn the ways of war." The spirit cocked his head. "What? No deception this time? I took the library from your world because you proved unworthy to bear its burden."
The Avatar frowned. "Aang may have used a pretense to gain access, but his goals were noble. Do not allow your clouded vision to hinder my mission!"
Something akin to a squawk, an angered cry, flowed out from the Spirit of Knowledge. "You dare?!"
His neck extended, bringing his beak toward Argho in a swift attack, which he barely managed to flip away from. Two crushing steps from the owl put them face-to-face once more.
"You have no power here, Avatar! Such an insult will not be abided!"
Argho rushed forward as the spirit's head reared back for another strike and slid between his legs. "You miss the point!" He flipped into a backwards handspring to gain distance as Wan Shi Tong whirled around. "I exist to help maintain balance, and I can't do that if you won't help me!"
The Spirit of Knowledge spread his wings and blotted out the torchlight. "I will not help you! You are an impertinent child that doesn't even know how to do his duty!" His avian eyes stared at Argho. "I will see to it that a new Avatar takes your place; perhaps he or she will understand what their duty to the world is!"
"Shen, how I've missed you!" Ula hugged her son as they met in her own apartment. "I expect that you'll fill me in on everything that's happened."
The young man smiled. "Of course. What kind of son would I be if I didn't?" He turned to the Waterbender, who, until that moment, was standing awkwardly by the door. "But first, I feel like I should introduce Moro—"
"Kenshi. Yes..." The Air Nation Councilwoman adopted a neutral expression. "Are you truly the daughter of that...incorrigible man?"
Moro's head dipped slightly, allowing her black hair to slide away from her forehead. "Yes. Kenshin is my father."
Ula turned to Shen. "And Kulok seemed...afraid of you." She frowned. "I need to know everything. Every. Single. Thing. I don't care who tells me what, but I will not be flying blind. I expect that you," she faced Rioku, "will verify everything for me."
Shen winced. "Mom...I don't think that—"
She raised an eyebrow. "What would you have me do instead? Have meaningless conversation over tea? Otokami and Petrine will be coming, so I'd rather know everything I can about this man, Susanowo, in our midst now. I do not trust him."
"He's not a man." Moro grimaced. "He's a monster...and the Spirit of Tempests."
Rioku nodded to confirm. "He is Otokami's brother, apparently."
Ula's eyes widened as she stared at Shen. "And you still want to bring Otokami here?!"
The young man grimaced. "I don't want to; I have to. Petrine will not listen to me. I tried."
"And what happens when they ally with each other?" She asked.
A short, mirthless laugh came from Moro. "They hate each other; they would never side with one another."
Ula sighed. "Then I have another question...what happens if they decide to fight each other here in Republic City?"
Argho's hands met the floor as he sprung backward, away from Wan Shi Tong's lightning-like strikes. The spirit charged forward as soon as his head left the crater he'd made in the ground.
The Avatar smirked as he jumped to the side, allowing his foe to pass by. "Are you sure that head-butting the ground is the best mode of attack?"
"Silence yourself, insolent child of a spirit!" The owl screeched. "I have studied every style of fighting in the history of man! You will fall eventually!"
I can't dodge him forever...this could pose a problem. He frowned. At least his method of attack is predictable for the moment.
Wan Shi Tong rushed forward faster than he ever had prior, but Argho still had enough time to jump up into the air. As the Spirit of Knowledge passed under him, he pointed his elbow downward and descended, striking at the base of his foe's elongated neck and pushing the spirit to the ground.
A shriek exited the spirit's beak as cracks formed in the floor beneath them. Argho, upon completing his attack, rolled off of the owl and landed on solid ground.
"Spirit of Knowledge, I cannot stress how much the balance of both worlds hinges on any information you can provide." He sighed. "Perhaps I was rash in provoking you." The Avatar moved to the spirit's face. "But I will not leave without the information I seek."
Wan Shi Tong struggled to rise. "You...will not leave at all! I will not let my library continually be used for war!"
Argho narrowed his eyes. "If you don't approve, I will find what I need to without your approval."
The Spirit of Knowledge attempted to lunge at the Avatar, but Argho simply met him head-on with an incredible open-handed strike.
"My physical strength partially makes up for my lack of bending here, Wan Shi Tong, but I would rather not continue this conflict."
"Leave my library, Avatar, NOW!" The owl's head slipped back to the floor, though his anger was almost palpable.
"I would really advise letting him study." A deep voice reverberated through the library atrium, and a glowing figure appeared in their midst.
"Y-you..." Wan Shi Tong squawked. "What are you doing here?!"
Argho could barely make out the being's features, as the light made it nearly impossible. However, he did notice that as the spirit stepped, odd plants would grow up out of the cracks in the floor before quickly withering.
"I am here to ensure that the delicate balance is kept, and, as much respect as I have for your tireless efforts," the strange being tilted his head toward the owl. "You are standing in the way."
Argho narrowed his eyes. "Who are you? Why have you interfered?"
"No respect from the being I helped to create, I see...I would expect the Avatar Spirit to recognize me. No matter, we have important things to do."
"I will not allow the Avatar into my library!" Wan Shi Tong finally rose, albeit shakily.
The glowing spirit lowered his head. "What if a compromise was reached?"
Moro, Rioku, and Shen all sagged in their chairs; they hadn't thought of that. A battle between the two brothers would likely result in death. A lot of death.
"So, here is what we know: we have two spirits who hate each other and will both be in Republic City." Ula stated.
"Yes." Moro and Shen replied simultaneously before glancing at each other awkwardly.
"And Avatar Argho is on his way?"
They both nodded.
She sighed and massaged her temples. "Alright...the council...well, maybe not Kulok...will need to hear this." The councilwoman looked up at them. "I need time to process this, but that will come later. For now...Shen and Rioku?"
The Airbender cocked his head. "Yes?"
"Could you leave Miss Kenshi and me for a few minutes? I must speak with her alone."
Shen raised an eyebrow as Rioku got out of his chair and stretched. "Uh...okay..." He stood and glanced back and forth between the two women. "Just don't take too long; you and I have a lot of catching up to do, Mom."
Ula smiled and nodded as he opened the door to the hallway and left the apartment. "That we do."
When he had fully closed the door, the Air Nation councilwoman turned back to Moro. "Who are you?"
Moro Kenshi narrowed her eyes; it would do her no good to feign ignorance here. "I am Kenshin's daughter...he is Susanowo's bootlicker."
"And am I to presume that Kenshin is not human? He does not seem...normal."
The Waterbender shook her head. "Kenshin is the Spirit of Ice. My brother and I only exist because Susanowo need warriors he could..." She nearly choked on the next word. "...control."
Ula's eyes widened. "So you are the child of a union between a human and a spirit..." She frowned. "Wait...what do you mean by control?"
Here we go... Moro sighed. "Do you know what Bloodbending is?"
"Susanowo uses the ability to control whoever uses it, but we...the...spirit children, I guess...must have a natural resistance to his power."
The Airbender nodded. "So, you can resist him. That explains why Argho allowed you to travel with them, despite any possible misgivings."
"Not exactly..." Moro lifted her black bangs to reveal her Blood Seal. "This is what Susanowo uses to control us, and it is what he's been using to control my brother. But...I could still resist him, and I don't know why I can and the others can't."
"You said that you 'could' resist him..." It seemed like Ula missed nothing. "I take it that didn't last."
Tears threatened to flow as Moro remembered her own struggle...and how she'd failed. "No...it didn't."
The Air Nation woman leaned back. "Yet Shen still trusts you, at least enough to travel with you." Her gaze softened a bit. "You mentioned your family, besides your...father. Tell me about them."
"But I thought you didn't have time for—"
She raised a hand to stop the girl. "I need all relevant information to make an informed decision about an individual, and your past, I'd imagine, would provide some insight in that regard."
Korra and Aang watched as Argho pushed open the library doors and made his way toward them. Both of the previous Avatars wanted desperately to run and meet him, but maturity demanded a slightly less rash approach.
Argho smiled sadly as he approached his past lives. "It could've gone worse."
Korra was the first to respond. "What happened in there?! It seems like we've been waiting for hours!"
Aang shook his head. "Korra...how many times have I told you—?"
She rolled her eyes. "Yes, Aang, I know that time works differently here." She turned her gaze back on Argho. "So, what happened in there?"
The current Avatar found a nearby rock to sit on. "Well...I wasn't sure that I would've been successful with getting the information out of Wan Shi Tong, but our...disagreement...was mediated by a third party."
Aang raised an eyebrow. "Who?"
A shrug encompassed only a part of his response. "All I know is this: he glowed so brightly that I couldn't make out any distinguishing features, and the Spirit of Knowledge seemed to fear—or at least respect—him."
Aang and Korra glanced at each other, and Argho stared at them. "What?"
"What happened after you saw him?" Aang asked quickly.
"Well...he allowed Wan Shi Tong and me to reach an agreement, but this is where it gets...potentially problematic."
Korra cocked her head. "What are you talking about?"
Argho sighed. "Well...I learned what I needed to about Energybending, but...as a consequence, no other Avatar—past, present, or future—can ever enter his library again."
- Final exams have made my schedule incredibly hectic, but they're finally dying down! Woohoo!
- Dun! Dun! Dun! Wow...Wan Shi Tong does not like humans in his library. And I decided to name the Lieutenant from LoK Sarasu Iran to allude to his legacy in Sons and Daughters.
- The glowing spirit finally makes a reappearance! I hope you're all good and confused now! ;)
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