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Book 1: Blood
Chapter 10: Rescuing Turi
"Rena has...left...Susanowo's employ." Kyrie said, his features unreadable.
Turi struggled to suppress a smile. Finally...my prayers have been answered. "So, what does that mean for me?" He attempted to sit up, but sharp pains prevented him from doing so.
"Your task is to recover; you are of no use to us in this condition. I will be in charge of retrieval."
"Retrieval?" His heart skipped a beat.
"Yes. Susanowo does not like people running away from their destinies."
Argho stood at the head of the table. "Here's what's going to happen: we'll leave the village and grab Susanowo's attention so that he doesn't come back. I have a few—"
"Avatar Argho..." Rena meekly raised her hand, fully aware that the man she sat before was one of the most powerful individuals on the planet. "We have to rescue Turi..."
"Absolutely not, Rena!" Noulaq gripped her shoulder. "I will not send you back into the clutches of that monster again!"
"Turi...I have fought him before." The Avatar stroked his chin. "And I beat him fairly badly, if I recall."
Shen got up out of his chair. "You, Kuan Ti, and I could go; that way Susanowo would have no one to control."
"Are you saying that I can't go?" Moro scowled. "No! I'm going; Kyrie is still trapped there!"
"Moro...we will do our best to save him, but you—"
"—can't be trusted to think for myself?!"
"You said about as much last night!" The Airbender gestured quickly toward the door, inadvertently releasing a gust of wind that blew it open.
A loud slap against the table caused all eyes to return to Argho. "Enough! Both of you calm down. Moro...do you honestly think you could resist Susanowo's power?"
She pursed her lips. "No...but I'm going, anyway. I'll just...find some way to avoid him."
Argho turned to Noulaq. "Can he sense the chosen?"
The Spirit of Rain shook his head. "No, not if they refrain from Bloodbending; if he could, Moro Kenshi would already be his."
"Very well...Shen, Kuan Ti, Moro, and myself will enter Tunturia Outpost and rescue Turi. Noulaq, I trust that you and Rena can handle yourselves while we have his attention."
"Rena..." Shen leaned forward. "You and your father are the only ones who can protect the village while we're gone."
"So can I!" Rena's brother, Kataon, unceremoniously interrupted. "We can beat anybody!"
Argho laughed. "Indeed you can, young Waterbending master!"
Kuan Ti slapped the side of the Ice Skimmer and smirked. "Time to go back into the thick of things, I suppose."
"We're risking life and limb for benders again, I see." Zhan, too, pressed his hand against the cool metal.
"I am. You and the others are protecting a village full of innocent people."
He nodded. "Fair enough."
Meanwhile, Shen strapped his sword to his side, and Moro raised an eyebrow. "Why do you carry around that sword if you never use it?"
"It helps to remind me..."
The Waterbender half-smiled. "Of?" When he simply smiled back, she rolled her eyes. "Spirits, you're more mysterious than I am!"
"Maybe..." His expression altered, changing from that of amusement to concern. "Are you ready?"
Her eyes narrowed, the red pupils were not lost on Shen, neither was their significance. "No...I'm not. But I've said it before; I will not be Susanowo's dog. I mean that."
"Still...I hope he is distracted by Argho, like we planned."
Moro chuckled. "How can he not? Argho's a big man, and, quite frankly, when someone like that is coming for you, you tend to put all other thoughts aside."
"Good, because we don't need any surprises."
Susanowo stood in Tunturia's office, overlooking the outpost; something, or someone, was moving against him. "The Spirit World, it seems, has not taken to my plans..."
"Why not?" The feminine voice made him jump. "You have broken so many of our laws, Susanowo, and now we have to deal with something new, something neither spirit nor human."
"Mother..." He turned to see Usha standing before him. "It is always a pleasant surprise when you're around! Even though...well, there is the small matter of the Avatar constantly interfering with my plans."
She raised an eyebrow. "Is there some reason he shouldn't? You created these...oddities...by tricking lesser spirits into doing your bidding. Is it any surprise, then, that it is all coming down on top of you?"
"I already have the power I need; not even the Avatar can defeat me."
Usha laughed. "You think too highly of yourself, my son. Did you think I would've sent the Avatar after you if I did not believe he could win?"
The Spirit of Tempests narrowed his eyes. "So you did send Argho..." He lifted his hand, catching the Spirit of Dawn in his Bloodbending grip. "Funny thing about these physical forms...you can be affected by my Bloodbending here."
She struggled. "But...I thought..."
"That we, as spirits, were immune entirely?" Susanowo chuckled. "Had you been facing anyone else, that would ring true, but I am so much more powerful than you now, Mother."
With that, the Spirit of Tempests sent Usha crashing into the wall, and she struck it so hard that cracks formed in the stone. Susanowo continued by twisting his hand, snapping her neck.
"I do hope that you're still as durable as you used to be; otherwise, this will be a very short fight." He took a step closer.
His mother snapped her neck back into place and conjured a sword, quickly thrusting it through Susanowo's chest, and a sudden flash of light aided in her disappearance. For a moment, the Spirit of Tempests seethed, but that soon passed. He had passed the test, proving himself the better of the Spirit of Dawn.
"Until next time, then."
The Ice Skimmer sped toward Tunturia Outpost, carrying the four members of Team Avatar to whatever fate awaited them.
Shen's heart beat rapidly in his chest; he was prepared to fight, to endure physical pain. But the possibility of betrayal...
Please, spirits, if you have any mercy...not again...
"Shen, you okay?" Moro sat across from him, confusion evident in her features. "You've been distracted the entire ride."
"No...I've got a lot on my mind, but...I'd prefer that you'd let me deal with it alone."
She nodded. "Sure...but...if you need to talk..."
"If and when I'm ready..." He gave her a half-smile. "You'll be the first."
"I'd hate to interrupt this—whatever you want to call it—but Tunturia Outpost is just minutes away." Kuan Ti spun one of his revolvers around his finger. "We'll have quite a fight ahead of us."
Twenty NowoCorp guards awaited Team Avatar at the gate to the outpost, and each one of them was shaking. The skimmer could be seen in the distance, and they leveled their rifles.
"Alright, men, Susanowo has ordered that none of them pass!"
"Even the Avatar?" A voice called out from among them.
"Even the Avatar!"
The vehicle was almost on top of the gate now, a testament to the speed it could reach. The faceted train turned at the last moment before it struck the gate, stopping to drop off its cargo.
As soon as Argho stepped out of the vehicle, he melted the snow before him and raised the water up as all twenty trigger-happy soldiers fired their weapons. Fortunately, the wall of water served to slow and stop the bullets before they could reach Team Avatar, and it continued to wrap around until it surrounded at least half of the guards. Argho then froze the water, making an icy prison.
The other ten ejected the spent shells and once more raised their rifles, but they found themselves unable to pull the trigger.
"Go!" Moro cried, sweat forming on her brow. "I can't hold them forever, not all of them!"
"Moro...listen...you shouldn't Bloodbend..." Shen took a step forward. "Argho can handle these guys, but if you Bloodbend, then Susanowo will find you."
She glanced at the Avatar. "Can...you handle them?"
He nodded. "Let them go; we'll be fine." As she did so, his eyes glowed, and a grin appeared on his face.
The fingers that so badly wanted to pull the triggers got their chance. In seconds, ten bullets flew toward Team Avatar, and in a moment, Argho stopped each and every one of them. They hovered, still spinning, in the air before the Avatar allowed them to hit the snow.
Everyone, allies and enemies alike, gawked at this ability, but Kuan Ti, being trained to act quickly, decided to take advantage of the confusion.
The Equalist gripped the rifle of the first soldier he got to and shoved the butt into his throat. As the man gurgled and dropped to the floor, he jumped and spun, smacking the weapon into another's jaw, sending him spinning into the ground. The third, by now, had his bearings and, forgoing his rifle in favor of a whale bone sword at his side, took a swipe at Kuan Ti. Responding with an open-handed block, the Equalist leader pulled back the soldier's arm at the elbow until it snapped and followed up with several chopping strikes at the man's midsection. The final blow crumpled the cartilage in his nose as Kuan Ti elbowed him in the face.
Seven NowoCorp guards remained, but as they readied their weapons for another volley, Shen jumped forward and thrust out, causing a massive gust to launch every one of them backward. One of them was quick to get to his feet, unsheathing his blade before Shen reached him. Two quick punches, one to each shoulder, caused him to backpedal and drop his sword, and an Airbending-enhanced open-palm strike to his chest sent him soaring into the stone wall behind him.
The second charged Shen before he could ready a proper Airbending maneuver, so instead he ducked to the side, pulling his sword out enough so that the hilt slammed into the soldier's stomach. As he fell to his knees, gasping, the young man whipped the hilt back again, hitting him at the base of the skull. A third guard resulted in a third futile attack; this time, the Airbender simply dodged to the left and heel-hook kicked the man in the back of the head as he fell past.
Moro, not one to sit things out, formed two water hammers and charged, pummeling her first target senseless. Her second had his gun broken by a water-turned-ice hammer and his face frozen in a block of ice when the Waterbender released her second hammer and froze it. Not wanting the man to suffocate, she elected to free him by flipping up into the air in a display of acrobatic skill and coming down with an overhead kick to the face, breaking the ice.
All three warriors turned to face the final two men only to find them in Argho's grip; the Avatar shook his head and smiled. "You see now that this 'let's fire on the Avatar' idea was a bad one?" He dropped them both, picked up their rifles, and snapped them in half. "I have no doubt that you are both very respectable warriors, but you are so out of your depth here. Go home and be with your families."
Both men nodded and skulked off, fear encompassing their faces. Argho turned to his compatriots. "Let us see what Susanowo has waiting for us next!"
"They're coming..." Susanowo was in two parts furious and excited. A bout with the Avatar, a real one, was long overdue. "And they are coming for me."
"Lord Susanowo?" Turi cocked his head.
"Argho thinks to take the fight to me, but it will end poorly." He glanced to the side before grinning. "It seems the last of the chosen has decided to bring herself to me."
Is he talking about Rena...or Moro? Turi attempted to sit up before grunting in pain. "Is...there anything you want me to do?"
"Yes...you will stay here and kill any member of Team Avatar that enters."
His eyes glazed over. "Yes, Lord Susanowo."
Noulaq saw the small airship coming, and that very thing enraged him. They dare to come back!? The Spirit of Rain turned to those in the village.
"Everyone, get in your homes! I will handle this; their oppression ends today!"
Cables lodged in the snow, and Kyrie Kenshi, along with three other Bloodbenders, hit the ground before the village.
"Noulaq...you have something that does not belong to you." Kyrie's light blue armor glinted in the sun.
The very same sun was instantly covered by clouds, and a kind of darkness fell over the village. "To think that I would ever let you people touch my daughter again is unimaginable! You will get nothing more from us!"
Rain began to fall, but it was oddly placed. Specifically, it was aimed at the attackers.
Noulaq sneered. "You have no idea what you've gotten yourselves into! I am the Spirit of Rain, and I am far beyond you!" The droplets began to stretch and freeze, forming miniature ice spikes.
Kyrie acted quickly, dredging up a mound of snow and condensing it into ice. He turned and noticed that his allies were under attack.
The Equalists had been utilizing camouflage and hiding in the snow banks. When the Bloodbenders were entirely focused on Noulaq's wrath, the non-benders pounced, lifting their veils and cloaks and bringing out electrified weapons. The first two were stunned into unconsciousness rather quickly, and the third held them all at bay long enough for Kyrie to turn around and notice.
As he gripped the three Equalists and held them up in the air, he failed to realize that he had left his back unguarded. Noulaq tore through the ice and gripped around Kenshi's neck.
"You are in my world now, Bloodbender." The spirit threw the armored man toward the airship.
Kyrie, however, brought up a patch of snow to catch himself and soften his fall, and found, when he stood, the unconscious bodies of his fellow Bloodbenders.
"I think it might be time for a tactical retreat."
Team Avatar stood at a crossroads; fortunately, the stone flooring provided Argho with a roadmap. "Kuan Ti and I will handle Susanowo. Shen, Moro, you two will grab Turi and get out quickly."
Moro nodded. "So...where is Turi?"
"He's down the hall on the left. Susanowo is...logically...holed up in Tunturia's quarters, where he has a view of everything that goes on down below."
Shen scanned the hallway to the left. "Let's go. The sooner we get out of here, the better."
As the two teenagers went one way, Argho and Kuan Ti went the other. They reached the end of the hall and entered the elevator. The Spirit of Tempests was waiting.
"Sir—?" Susanowo's personal guard was shocked, to say the least.
"I said leave me." The spirit drummed his fingers on the desk. "Argho and his allies will destroy you before you can even be of any use to me. Leave."
The door crashed open before the guard had a chance to comply. Argho stepped in, knocking the man unconscious with a chop to the side of his neck. "Susanowo, we would like a word with you."
"So soon, Argho? I am flattered!"
The Avatar smiled. "I cannot tell you how happy it makes me that this building is made of stone." With that declaration, he flipped forward and kicked up a large chunk of stone, launching it at Susanowo. The speed of the attack caught him by surprise as the chunk struck him in the stomach. The window cracked as his body flew into it, and as he got to his feet, Kuan Ti was waiting.
The Equalist pummeled his left arm three times, smiling as it dropped. Three more up his right ensured that one dropped as well. The coup de grace came in form of a flip-kick to the back of his knee, driving him to the floor.
"How does it feel..." Kuan Ti removed a revolver from its holster. "To be the one on your knees?"
The Spirit of Tempests whirled and planted an open hand into the non-bender's midsection. As he went flying into the wall, Susanowo rolled his eyes.
"Has it ever occurred to you that, as a spirit, my chi might just flow a little differently?" Kuan Ti groaned and attempted to get up before falling flat again. "I guess not..."
Two roars, one of flame and one of rage, assaulted the spirit's ears as Argho crashed into his foe. Fire coated his fist as it crunched into Susanowo's cheek; the hiss of burning flesh could be heard by all as he directed his next fire-powered blow to the spirit's stomach. The Avatar continued his attack, spinning around as his opponent threw out a weak haymaker. As soon as he was behind him, the Earthbender sent a stone pillar in-between Susanowo's legs, causing the Spirit of Tempests to groan in agony. When he nearly doubled over, Argho took the opportunity to whirl his arms around in tight pattern, whipping up a strong air current and channeling it through his next blow, an attack that caused Susanowo to crack the stone wall as he hit.
"Get up, demon!" Argho glared. "I know you're not down yet!"
"H-how...urgh...how right...you are..." His wounds began to heal before the Avatar's eyes. "Time for round three."
The guards to Turi's room had proved to be absolutely useless, as Moro and Shen had disabled them within seconds. Shen hardly paid them any mind, heading straight for the door.
"We have to hurry; Argho can't hold him off forever."
Tremors shook the building, and both of them glanced upward.
Moro nodded. "Agreed."
The young man twisted his arm while launching an air blast from his palm, forming an air drill that shattered the lock and disintegrated most of the wood around it. Upon kicking in the door, he was immediately lifted off of his feet.
"Turi...?" His eyes widened.
"I...I have orders...to kill..."
The Airbender dropped almost as soon as he had gone up; Moro now held Turi in her grip.
"Shen...he's still really weak. Try not to hit him too hard."
"Got it." The sword hilt came down on his temple, and the Bloodbender crumpled. "Now...we move."
The Spirit of Tempests moved with blinding speed, digging his nails into Argho's stomach. "Hurts, doesn't it?" The answer he had not expected came in the form of a snapped wrist, but his other hand was busy striking the Avatar in the jaw and sending him into the opposite wall.
Argho, instead of fighting the momentum, began to whirl when his back hit the floor. The result was a fire wave that cut the spirit in half. He flipped to his feet, noting that his foe was already healing before he fell apart.
When the Earthbender threw an unusual haymaker, Susanowo was given the time to flip up and stop the blow with an axe kick, and he followed up by backhanding him.
Kuan Ti watched, and the battle seemed to move in slow motion. As he got up, the backhand was his opening, because it sent Argho spinning out of the way. He kicked up the revolver that had been on the floor, whipped out the other one, and began firing with reckless abandon.
For such a spur of the moment maneuver, it worked. The first bullet drove through the spirit's forehead, and the others that followed peppered him with holes.
"Now might be a good time to—!"
A stone flew through the window, shattering it. "On it! Let's move!"
An ice pillar rose to meet them and brought both the Avatar and the Equalist to the ground. They were equally happy to see Shen and Moro exiting the main building with Turi in tow.
"To the Ice Skimmer!" Kuan Ti smiled as the driver opened the side panels so that Team Avatar could get in.
One by one they entered, Turi first, then Argho, then Kuan Ti. While Shen and Moro were about to get in, a loud voice echoed across the courtyard.
"Moro Kenshi!" Susanowo stood staring out of the shattered window. "Why do you continue to fraternize with those who will not accept you?"
No... Shen's heart stopped. "Moro..." He reached for her shoulder.
She held up a hand. "Quiet."
"Join us, Moro! Come be with your true family!"
The Waterbender looked up at the spirit and smiled. "No."
His eyes widened as she turned away and entered the vehicle. "Impossible..."
Shen breathed a sigh of relief, as well as a prayer of thanks, and entered after her. There would be plenty of time for answers later.
The ride back to the village was a silent one. Argho and Kuan Ti were tired, and Moro and Shen just couldn't find the words to properly express their feelings at that moment.
Upon their return, they noticed that ice spikes littered the ground.
"Dare I ask..." Argho shook his head as Noulaq and Zhan met them.
"We took care of it; thanks in part to your friend here."
Zhan shrugged. "The spirit did most of the work."
The Avatar nodded. "Good...no one was hurt, I take it."
"Just them." The Spirit of Rain sported a feral grin.
"Good...good...well...I'm going to take a nap." He chuckled. "Wake me up in a few days."
"I second that!" Kuan Ti and Argho made their way to the bunks.
Rena came up to them, a huge smile on her face. "Turi!"
His eyes opened slightly. "Rena...I'm so glad you're safe..."
"I'll take him." Noulaq smiled. "You all did very well."
"Thank you, sir." Shen bowed as he and Rena carried Turi to the healer's tent. The Airbender turned to Moro. "Are we going to talk about what happened?"
Her face was like stone for but a moment, until a massive grin broke out on her face and a bright light glowed in her eyes. Before he could realize what was coming, she jumped toward him and wrapped her arms around him tightly. "Spirits, Shen, I did it! I feared for so long, but I did it!"
Shen's surprise soon gave way to a smile as well. "Yeah...you did. I was...afraid...when he called out..."
She let him go, still elated. "I...I could feel the pull of his will...but, for some reason, I just pulled away!"
The Waterbender cocked her head, but the smile never abated.
"Kyrie is the last..." Susanowo snapped off the corner of the desk in his rage. "They...actually...escaped..."
The worst part...Moro Kenshi just defied me!
"No one with a Blood Seal has ever been able to do that!" He glanced up at the sky, fear creeping its way into his mind. "That's not supposed to be possible, is it? What are you planning?"
- Five more chapters in Book 1!
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