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Book 3: Dawn
Chapter 15: The End, Pt. 6
Moro glanced up at the airship as it rested on the ground, the massive machine aiding in the manifestation of several poor scenarios in her mind. She had arrived as Argho dragged Petrine down from the roof, but he had informed her that Shen was still in the airship.
"Is he coming back out?" She asked as she heard the Avatar approach from behind.
"I do not know," Argho replied. "He seems to have faith that Otokami won't kill him, and his instincts haven't been wrong yet."
Moro raised an eyebrow and turned to face him. "You wouldn't have said that yesterday."
"Yesterday, I was a naïve man," he said, "and I thought his intuition was based on infatuation. No offense."
She shook her head, and her heart beat slightly faster. "None taken. I thought the same thing; I'm glad I was wrong. He's been a good friend...all of you have. I haven't had too many good friends in my life."
Argho exhaled. "I have not been a good friend to you, Moro Kenshi; in fact, I have been nothing but suspicious of you since that incident in the North."
"You weren't wrong to be. I nearly killed him because I thought Susanowo couldn't get into my head. He may not have been able to control me like the others, for whatever reason, but I sure wasn't immune to his manipulation."
"No, but you did do everything to make it right, and, in the end—"
Moro frowned before interrupting. "Kyrie died."
The Avatar placed a hand on her shoulder. "Did he die free?"
Her lower lip began to tremble. "It...it doesn't matter..."
As she broke into a fit of sobbing, Argho wrapped his arms around her in a near crushing embrace. "I am sorry that it ended the way it did. If I had arrived sooner...perhaps..."
She sniffled and pulled away, her turquoise eyes narrowed. "No...we can't do this. Susanowo and Kenshin are the only ones responsible for his death."
The Avatar nodded. "I'll have to hunt down the Spirit of Ice at a later time, among other things. For now—"
"No, you don't..." Moro grimaced. "I already made sure he got the message."
Argho raised an eyebrow. "What happened?"
"He decided to pin Susanowo's failure on me," she said. "He tried to kill me himself, but that's easier said than done."
"So, has he been destroyed?"
She shook her head. "No. He'll get to experience the world, weakened, until he can learn to either cope or be humble. I warned him that if he ever caused any trouble or came near me again, I'd kill him."
"Well, I can't say that I'm happy with that pronouncement; I would've rather seen him join his master in the Spirit World. That said, if you believe he can be contained, I won't go against this. However, if he does act out against anyone, human or spirit, I will put him down."
The Waterbender nodded. "I can't ask anything more than that."
Shen covered his eyes to block the inflow of light as the airship door opened and the ramp descended. He found two people waiting for him. One was instantly familiar, his large frame hard to miss; the other was someone he knew, though she was fundamentally different in that moment.
He smiled as he walked down the ramp. "Hey guys, what's new?" Moro matched his smile, but her eyes held something else. His own grin faded as he remembered what had happened. "Moro, I'm so sorry! I didn't—"
She shook her head, and her expression never wavered. "No, it's okay. I'll be fine."
He approached her almost cautiously. "Your...your eyes, they're—" He blinked several times. "And your skin, it's...you aren't..."
Moro nodded. "I'm not going to have to bear that spirit's mark ever again, and neither will Kyrie," she said.
Shen frowned and glanced away. "Even still, I shouldn't have—"
"Shen...seriously, I'll be okay. You don't have to let go of your happiness just to keep from hurting me."
"Do we have reason to celebrate?" Argho asked.
The Airbender sighed. "That depends. Otokami's not going anywhere, not until we can stand on our own. But...changes will be made, and Petrine will be tried for what she caused."
He nodded. "Part of my job will be to convince the leaders of this world that Petrine was primarily responsible, and after that, I'm going to help form a new Council of Elders."
Moro furrowed her brow. "With you as the new Grand Elder."
"Actually, no," Shen replied as his grin manifested once more. "I told Otokami the truth: I don't have the experience necessary to help rebuild our nation. I did give him some ideas about membership on the council, though."
The Waterbender sighed with relief. "That's good."
Shen cocked his head. "What do you mean?"
Her eyes widened. "Oh, uh...it's good that you found a solution for your people."
"Ah," the Airbender nodded slowly. "I see."
Argho coughed, drawing their attention back to him. "Yes, well, if we're done here, let's go get Rioku and Kuan Ti. They might still need our help."
Both of them replied in unison, "Right."
Kuan Ti inhaled deeply as the left the convention hall and encountered a biting breeze, and he gripped his wounded arm tighter as the cold brought forth more pain.
"You need to see a healer," Rioku said, "that looks painful."
"After we see Argho. I've got more questions than answers."
The Earthbender chuckled. "Those can wait. Once you've gotten that arm checked out, we ought to celebrate."
The last remaining Equalist frowned. "What is there to celebrate? I have failed my master; he would be ashamed to see me in this state."
"I didn't know your master," Rioku replied, "but I can safely say that the state you're in now is the state he'd be ashamed of. We won, Kuan Ti."
Kuan Ti shook his head. "At what cost? Petrine's likely dead, Zhan and my friends are dead, and most of the nations of the world will bear the scars of this fight for years to come."
"Yes...there was a heavy cost. However, if you dwell on this, it will sour your memories of those you loved. Let me put it this way, if we had not acted today, or in the past, these spirits would've likely cost the world far more than we've lost."
"What have you lost, Rioku?" Kuan Ti asked. "You can celebrate because you have no stake in this fight, but I don't begrudge you that luxury."
The Earthbender sighed and folded his arms. "No stake? I stood to lose my oldest and truest friend. I stood to watch the world get torn apart by megalomaniacal spirits. I stood to lose my life. Just because I was lucky does not mean I came on this journey to have a few laughs; keep that in mind."
As the one-eyed man began walking, Kuan Ti rubbed his forehead. "I'm sorry; I shouldn't have—"
Rioku turned to face him with a grin on his face. "It's in the past. We've just helped defeat some of the most powerful spirits the world has ever seen; we have some celebrating to do."
The nonbender returned his smile. "Yeah, we do."
Shen wrapped his arms around his mother as she ran to meet them upon their return to the police station.
"Shen...are you alright?" Ula asked.
He nodded slowly as he pulled away. "For the first time in a year, I think. Everything came out okay on my end."
Gyatso took his turn to hug his son. "And what of Petrine?"
Shen turned and motioned toward Argho, who was carrying Petrine's unconscious body in his arms. "Her bending is gone, and I had to break her legs to stop her from attacking me. All in all, it's better than the alternative."
Ula smiled, but sadness hid behind it. "Pity...she had so much potential."
"She squandered it when she introduced the Air Nomads to violence," the young Airbender replied solemnly.
Meanwhile, Argho noticed Chief Kinzoku coming to meet him on the steps. He approached the Metalbender cautiously.
"I have to say, Avatar...I'm sorry for the trouble I caused you. I was not aware of the dangers posed by these spirits, but I am glad you were able to defeat them." His gaze fell on Petrine. "The Grand Elder...we can hold her in one of the cells and get a healer for her legs."
At his beckoning, two officers came and took her from Argho. Once relieved of that burden, the Avatar faced Kinzoku.
"While I understand your authority here, Chief, you might have done better to respect mine from the start. That said," he offered his hand to the Metalbender, "I hope we can work together more efficiently in the future."
Kinzoku glanced at the offering for a moment before extending his own hand. "I think we have the same idea."
2 Hours Later
"Seven Avatars against the Spirit of Chaos," Kuan Ti whistled as he sat back in his chair; his arm rested in a sling, "What I wouldn't give to see that."
All five members of Team Avatar sat around the dining room table of Ula's apartment. Argho ran his hands through his hair.
"We aren't quite done yet; the trial of the Air Nation will be coming in a couple of weeks." He glanced at Shen. "Are you ready to testify?"
The Airbender nodded slowly. "As I'll ever be."
The Avatar sighed. "On top of that, I have to find out what happened to Usha and Lin Quei; those two make for variables we don't need."
"Then you may or may not like the news I've got, Avatar Argho," Lu Ten said, causing every head to turn toward the front door.
"Spirit of Dawn...I would congratulate you, but I have a feeling that such celebration would be dependent upon your next few words," Argho said.
"So it seems. The short version goes like this: Usha offered me the mantle of Spirit of Dawn before it was to be taken away."
Lu Ten frowned. "As much as I tried to convince her otherwise, she thought so. Truthfully, I doubt that the Shinigami, or any of the others, would've cared; they have more pressing concerns at the moment. I think...I think Usha was done with all the intrigue, the struggle. She gave it up to be what she once was."
Moro inclined her head. "What do you mean?"
"Good to see you survived Susanowo's Blood Seal, Moro Kenshi; I had hoped that Kenshin would join the Spirit of Tempests in failure. Oh well."
"He is. Don't worry about that," she replied. "But you didn't answer my question."
The Spirit of Dawn smiled. "Let's just say that she and Aang had a little more in common than they'd like to admit. Now, I must be getting back to my duties, but—"
"Wait," Kuan Ti began, "what about Lin Quei? Have they destroyed him yet?"
The spirit's smile disappeared. "He is being dealt with; you have my word on that."
The former Equalist nodded. "Good."
"So," Lin Quei began as he stood before the four powerful spirits, "will I be receiving Koh's punishment? Izanagi's perhaps? What lays in store for me today, great spirits?"
Hikara's bright form thrummed as she addressed him. "You should learn your place, Lin Quei. Do you not understand how precarious your position is, or have you simply lost all reason?"
"Please, Shinigami, spare me the runaround and tell me why I'm here," the spirit said while ignoring the Spirit of Light.
The glowing, humanoid spirit leaned forward. "You convinced Kiryu Iran to form an organization dedicated to uprooting the status quo, and then used a Bloodbender, while Susanowo was unable to interfere, to nearly bring bending to an end. On top of all of that, you tried to misuse the powers of the station we gave you and attempted to find the Avatar guilty of murder."
Lin Quei nodded. "I did all of that and more; I will make no apologies for what I've done. It was all for the good of non—"
"You lie," the Spirit of Darkness replied.
Lin Quei furrowed his brow. "Come again?"
He blinked several times. "Care to elaborate?"
"You say that you care about nonbenders, but that concern only lasts as long as you can use it to gain power for yourself. I know you and your methods well; I studied Izanagi and Vaatu both. You are cut from the latter's cloth."
"Should I be flattered?" He asked.
"You enjoy manipulating others," the Mother of Faces chimed in.
The Shinigami watched the exchange with folded hands. "Indeed he does. And what are we to do with that?"
"I think we all know the answer to that, Spirit of Life and Death," the Spirit of Darkness replied.
Hikara stamped one of her feet down. "Yes, he should face the same punishment as Koh."
The Mother of Faces began to chuckle. "Oh, young one, you have much to learn."
"What do you mean?"
Lin Quei cocked his head. "I'm of a mind with the Spirit of Light, this time."
"It is very simple, Lin Quei," the Shinigami said, "With Koh finally gone, we need a new Spirit of Chaos to fill the void and restore the balance. Your abilities have proven to be most useful and should provide us with some much needed sharpening. Koh was beginning to get sloppy."
The former Judge frowned. "This is a serious offer?"
"What are you doing?!" Hikara cried. "He will bring nothing but—!"
"Chaos," Lin Quei said as he grinned. "I accept."
1 Week Later
Shen leaned on the balcony railing of his mother's apartment, and a single thought occupied his mind. The leaders of all four nations had brought Kulok up on charges for conspiring with Susanowo to bring his twisted vision to the South Pole, and at the same time had pushed up the date of Petrine's trial. He had a week to provide a written testimony, and depending on the direction of the trial, he could find himself on the stand.
Fortunately, Shen and Argho both managed to convince the leaders of the world to spare the Air Nation, so long as Petrine bore the punishment.
"How are you doing?" Moro's voice signaled her arrival on the balcony. "It's been a week, hasn't it?"
He sighed as a gust of wind passed them by, and he noticed several curious glowing insects riding the gust. "If—when she's found guilty, Petrine will face life in prison. When Argho told them that she could no longer bend, they neglected the death penalty."
"Enough people have died already," Moro said. "I'm sorry you couldn't save her, Shen."
The Airbender glanced at her, scanning her turquoise eyes. "At least she's got time to reflect and seek forgiveness, and my suffering is nothing compared to yours. I shouldn't even be complaining."
She moved closer to him and placed her hands over his. "We've both had our share in these spirits' schemes; it's not good for either of us to dwell on it."
"Can I ask you something?"
Moro cocked her head. "Yeah, of course."
"Why do I feel so guilty?" Shen backed away from the railing and leaned against the wall. He exhaled as he slid down to a sitting position. "Why can't I get these deaths and mistakes off of my conscience?"
The Waterbender knelt down to meet his gaze. "Do you deserve to feel guilty, or are you taking on Petrine's burden?"
"I...it's not that simple. I know what she did and what she was responsible for, but I can't shake..." His voice caught in his throat, and the rest of his lament emerged with a choked cry. "If I had stayed, I could've saved them all; if I'd challenged her then—"
"And you made the best decision you could've in that moment. You can't blame yourself like this; it's not healthy." She wrapped her arms under his own and began to lift him up. "Come on."
Shen gripped her shoulders as he stood. "I shouldn't have even brought this up; you have a whole lot more to deal with than I do."
To his surprise, Moro chuckled. "Are you serious? Yes, Kyrie's death has still not left my mind, and my heart still feels the pain of it. And yes, I have to go back to the North to take care of my mom. But do not think that I don't have the time or desire to help you fight your battles."
"I'm sorry, Moro; I really am an idiot." He leaned his head back and breathed deeply.
She smiled. "Better?"
"Not yet," he replied, "Not until this is over. Then...then I'll start to be 'better.'"
Moro nodded. "That's still better in my book."
Shen sighed once more. "Thank you again, Moro; if you weren't here—"
"You'd still have your family; you'd still have Argho. Don't go acting like I'm the only person who's keeping you on your feet," she replied.
He blinked several times. "I know that. Even still," he leaned forward and pressed his lips to her forehead. "Thank you for being here. It does make this easier to bear."
Moro felt a heat rise in her cheeks, and before Shen fully pulled away, she gripped his tunic and pulled him back. Their lips met, and Shen instantly melted in her embrace.
The Avatar looked on as five elderly men made their way toward him and Rioku just outside the door to Ula's apartment building. His eyes narrowed as he noticed that they were smiling.
"Chao Tzu, I was honestly surprised that you came," Argho said.
The older man bowed. "Well, Avatar, to be frank I'm surprised that you called on us. Was there something you wished to discuss? Have you considered our proposal?"
All of the White Lotus members turned when Rioku began to laugh.
"You owe me money, Argho!"
"I'm afraid I don't understand, Avatar. What does he mean?"
"Chao Tzu, my friend and I made a little bet. I naively assumed that you would know why I called you here. I was obviously wrong."
The Grand Lotus cocked his head. "I don't—"
Argho held up a hand. "I gave you one chance, Chao Tzu, one chance to show that the Order still had some stones. You failed me, and you failed the world."
The group began to murmur behind their leader, who had turned beet red. "Avatar, what is the meaning of this!?"
"Simple. I asked you what you would do when war came. War did indeed come, and where were you? Had you been involved, meager though your might may be, several regrettable deaths might have been prevented. Instead, you decided to sit in the comfort of your homes and stroke your beards in haughty hypocrisy as those of us who actually give a damn were fighting for our lives!"
Chao Tzu's jaw dropped. "Avatar Argho, we—!"
"What excuse can you offer?" Rioku asked. "What could have possibly kept you away?"
When he failed to answer, Argho shook his head and sighed. "I am done dealing with this; I don't even know how Korra dealt with your predecessors. I've hardly even interacted with your little group and already I've had enough." The Avatar folded his hands behind his back. "As of this moment, I am disbanding the Order of the White Lotus, gentlemen. I really don't care what you do or where you go, but do not think to use authority you no longer have."
"Avatar Argho, you have no say in our—"
"Take the generous wealth you've likely amassed and retire, gentlemen, or find some other way to swindle the public. Do not further shame the Order's good name, or I will not be so kind in the future."
Chao Tzu shook with embarrassment. "But...you can't!"
Argho's eyes glowed. "I did. Do not press me."
The old men took a few collective steps backward, and their grumbles ceased as they stood before a very angry Avatar.
"V-very well...you've made your point abundantly clear. Uh...what do we do about the...uh...the uniforms?"
The glow ceased, and Argho waved his hand as he turned away. "I don't care; just get out of my sight."
- This is not the final chapter. I've got an epilogue planned.
For the collective works of the author, go here.