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Book 1: Blood
Chapter 4: Proving Ground
She watched him pass by, raising an eyebrow when she laid eyes on his odd clothing. Odd, at least, for the Northern Water Tribe. The girl quickly lost interest in the strange sight, however, and brought her mind back to the task at hand.
She had avoided being seen or noticed since her arrival earlier, but that would change if she went to find lodging, which would happen eventually. Then they would find her.
"That would be bad...for them." The Water Tribe girl sat down on one of the stone benches to gather her wits. "And me, in the long run..."
What am I supposed to do? Even if I succeed, Susanowo's not just gonna let us walk out...and I will not be his puppet!
It seems the universe could hear her thoughts, because Susanowo's personal guard discreetly swarmed the street. The average passerby wouldn't notice, not until they made their move. But she knew, Moro knew that they were looking for her.
She stood. They would have to work to catch her.
Shen paled. "How did you—?"
"Stupid boy...did you really think that I wouldn't recognize the military dress uniform of an Air Nation officer? My brother did not send you; he would've sent someone smarter. Who are you?"
The Airbender gripped the hilt of his sword. "Does it matter? If I'm not a spy for Otokami, than why do you care?"
Susanowo smirked. "You're right, with one exception. No Airbender would be here if not for my brother...or the Avatar. You are his traveling companion. Sad really...I don't even have a use for this knowledge. What a waste. Leave now."
A confused stare met the spirit's face. "Wait...you're letting me leave?"
"It would be incredibly easy to kill you, but it would serve no purpose outside of enraging the Avatar. If I learned one thing from Koh's death, it was this: never enrage the Avatar." When Shen failed to move, the Spirit of Tempests twirled his finger, causing the young man to twist around and begin walking toward the door. "I said leave."
Shen's eyes were wide. So this is what Bloodbending is...disgusting...
As he was essentially dragged out of Susanowo's office, the door shut behind him, and the Airbender smacked himself in the forehead. "Great, Shen! Just marvelous! You have just singlehandedly nullified the advantage of surprise!"
"So we're up against two spirits?!" Kuan Ti raised an eyebrow. "That complicates things."
"At least two." The Avatar clarified. "We don't know the full extent of their influence, yet."
Two more Equalists entered the room and stood off to the side, indicating that a message had come. "Out with it; we don't have time to waste."
Both men bowed. "Yes, Master, we have sighted the Avatar's protégé entering NowoCorp Tower. We waited outside for an hour, but he had not returned. We thought it best to come to you."
Argho stroked his goatee. "It seems we may have to pay a visit to Susanowo earlier than expected."
"Wonderful, I'll get my best men to—."
The Earthbender held up a hand. "Just the two of us; we'll attract less attention that way. If he does know what Shen is, then the boy's life is in danger."
Guards filled the plaza now, under the pretense of a "training exercise", and Moro was finding it considerably more difficult to hide.
I have to move...but where?
They were converging on her position now, and the Water Tribe girl knew that they had found her. In her haste to escape, she found herself cornered in an alleyway.
"Halt!" She turned to find a dozen of Susanowo's guard facing her, rifles pointed in her direction. "Lord Susanowo would like a word with you."
She smiled sweetly. "And unfortunately for him, I don't follow his every order."
"But you will." Two others stepped in between the guards, their pale faces and red eyes a dead giveaway. "Like us."
The surrounded girl smirked. "I'm not his shoe-shiner." She tensed, and that was enough of a reason for the hyped-up guards to fire. Fortunately for Moro, they were a second too slow, and she flipped sideways, dredging up the snow and freezing it into ice a foot thick. Cracks appeared as the rounds struck, but none was able to penetrate.
"No, stop!!" The two Bloodbenders yelled and waved their hands. "Hold your fire!"
The Waterbender took her opening and was launched into the air on a pillar of ice, finishing the maneuver with a backflip and landing on the second story roof of one of the shops. She attempted to break into a sprint, but something held her back. Her own body was now working against her.
"You may be like us, girl. But no Bloodbender can fight against two of us!"
The words that reached her ears made her angry; she didn't like being called weak. As her arms were pulled behind her back, she concentrated and snapped them forward with minimal effort, causing both of her attackers to fall on their faces.
"I-impossible...no person, Bloodbender or not, has ever—!"
"Well, I'm the first." Her red eyes nearly glowed with anticipation, and a smirk lined her pale complexion. "And I'm the best." She lifted her coat just slightly to reveal two water skins, one on each side, and formed a water hammer. "And you won't be taking me to Susanowo."
NowoCorp Tower loomed over the Avatar and the Equalist, bringing to mind the enormous task at hand. Argho sincerely doubted that Susanowo even knew who Shen was; it was unlikely that anything occurred. Nevertheless, he intended to pay the spirit a visit anyway.
"You do realize what will happen when we step through these doors, correct?"
Kuan Ti nodded. "It'll give me a chance to see what I can truly accomplish." And if I'm even worthy to carry on his legacy...
The doors slid open, and the Avatar had to smile ruefully as several NowoCorp guards turned in their direction.
"I'm sorry, but we're in the middle of a—urk!" The gurgling sound accompanied one of them as Kuan Ti struck him in the throat.
"Quick...effective..." The Earthbender grinned. "I like it!"
"Stand back. I can handle them."
Argho waved him on. "Have at it, my overeager friend!"
The Equalist rushed forward as the guards began to fully comprehend what was happening. One even managed to raise his rifle, but Kuan Ti was too quick, slipping under it and pummeling his abdomen. He moved on to the next without even a second glance, cracking against his jaw and dislocating it with an open-palmed strike. As that man fell, the third dropped his rifle in favor of the whale-bone sword at his side, but the non-bender simply spun around and gripped the guard's wrist, snapping his arm at the elbow.
Half a dozen clicks alerted Kuan Ti to just as many rifles now pointed in his face, so he brought his hands down to his sides.
"Hands in the air! Now!"
Argho stepped forward, causing the guards to alternate between the two of them. "You don't want to point those at me; it will not end well for you." He sighed. "I am Avatar Argho, and I want to see Susanowo."
"Argho, what are you doing!?" Shen ran through the group of guards. "Why are you here?"
Murmurs flowed throughout the open space.
"What is he doing here?!"
The Avatar's proclamation caused the remaining guards to lower their weapons, but Shen was livid.
"We had a plan, Argho! We were gonna take this slowly!"
The Earthbender shook his head. "Plans have changed; we've got allies now. I need to speak with Susanowo and see if he won't stand down."
"Argho, listen to me; he's more powerful than I ever imagined. We have to—!"
"Slow down, Shen! You saw Susanowo?"
The Airbender winced. "Well...yeah...see...I kinda took a tour of the tower. Our group got to meet Susanowo, and he...recognized me."
"Wait...how? No one knew—!"
Shen grimaced. "Not me, personally..."
"What is going on?!" Kuan Ti glanced from one to the other. "Am I missing something?"
The young man whirled. "No!"
"Later." Argho replied, gripping Shen's shoulder. "Now, we take our fight, if need be, to Susanowo."
The door to the spirit's office sent a chill down Shen's spine. The Bloodbending was creepy enough, but he had known then that Susanowo was so far out of his league.
Argho, always one to get to the point, kicked the door in and calmly walked inside. "Susanowo, I would like a word with you."
"Just one?" The Spirit of Tempests leaned against his desk. "Pity...I was hoping the three of you could stay awhile. Although...I do seem to be in a tight spot..."
Kuan Ti rushed forward. "Monster! I'm going to put you—what the?!"
Susanowo lifted his hand and stopped the Equalist leader in his tracks. "How rude to interrupt the Spirit of Tempests like this! Avatar, don't you teach your friends any manners?"
"Let him go, Susanowo." The tone that the Avatar now used was devoid of the joviality Shen was used to. This was business. "Now." He stepped forward.
"Tsk, tsk, Avatar Argho...now I shall have to embarrass you as well." He lifted his other hand was shocked when the Earthbender kept moving toward him, not even slowing down.
"You should know, Spirit of Tempests, that I when I first began training with my past lives, they taught me a great many weaknesses that they had and how to overcome them. Korra and Aang both taught me about Bloodbending and how to defend against it."
They stood toe to toe now, Avatar and spirit, and Susanowo flicked his wrist, releasing Kuan Ti. "Interesting...how long before your spirit is corrupted?" His grin unnerved Shen greatly, as did his comment.
"That's the great part; no Bloodbending is required of me. They taught me to place the power of the Avatar Spirit as a barrier, preventing you or anyone else from being able to access the water inside my body."
"Ha! I am impressed! It has been too long since I have had a true test of my power!" With that, the spirit lashed forward with an open-handed palm strike, hitting Argho in the abdomen, but the Avatar hardly even flinched.
He smirked as the spirit's eyes widened. "My turn." A noise like that of thunder seemed to roar when his fist connected, sending his foe spiraling into the window.
Amazing! I had no idea that Argho could just take out a spirit like that! This is gonna be easier than I thought!
"Heh...excellent power, Argho; now I know we could have a good fight!" Susanowo stood and brushed himself off. "If I didn't have other plans."
Though Shen and Kuan Ti expressed surprise, a grin escaped the Avatar. "I will stop you, but now is not the time. It wasn't meant to be here; I see that now."
"Then a rematch, Avatar?"
"I will not let your plan succeed, Susanowo."
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