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Book 1: Blood
Chapter 13: Resolve
Argho rubbed the bridge of his nose with two fingers; round five had come with a cost. Noulaq was dead, and they were running. That part made Argho feel sick to his stomach.
"Where are we going, Kuan Ti?"
The non-bender shook his head. "I don't know...the nearest base is on the Earth Kingdom coast..."
"Not to mention we have an entire village to take care of..." Moro leaned against Shen's shoulder, and he didn't object. Instead, he spun a ball of air absentmindedly in his hand.
"So...what now? What do your past lives have to say?"
The Avatar frowned. "They are as lost as I am..."
"Avatar..." The healer entered the forward facet where they were meeting. "Take us back to our village."
Argho's eyes widened. "What?! But Susanowo—!"
"...will not touch us so long as you keep his attention. You have done so much for us, but now it is our turn. We will rebuild, and you will fight. You must defeat Susanowo, or we will all lose!"
He rested his chin on folded hands. "And this is a unanimous decision?"
"We discussed it at length; you cannot do your job if we are in your way." She smiled. "We depend on you, Avatar, to bring down this tyrant once and for all."
"Very well...Kuan Ti, have them turn this thing around. We're not going to run."
A grin appeared on the Equalist's face. "With pleasure!"
Turi winced as Rena let the water from her water skin flow over his bruised shoulder. "It's been a week, and it still feels like I was run over by a Satomobile."
"You might have recovered faster if you had." Her attempt at humor was weak, but the son of the Spirit of Tundra laughed, regardless, in a vain effort to cheer her up.
When that did little to assuage her sorrow, Turi leaned forward and brought her eyes to meet his. "I am so sorry, Rena...he was a good man."
Her red eyes were hard to read, but he had known her long enough to know how she felt anyway. "He...made mistakes, but he did his best to make sure that we didn't have to suffer for it." She smiled before kissing him passionately. "And you and I...we've been friends for so long; I couldn't imagine life without you."
Turi wrapped his arms around her. "We have, and not even Susanowo will tear us apart this time."
"I hate to interrupt..." Shen leaned in the doorway. "We need Turi to tell us the specifics of Susanowo's plan. We're going to stop him before he even begins."
The Bloodbender frowned. "In that case, you'll have to stop him before he even gets off of the ground...literally."
"I remember; you had told us that, previously." Argho looked ready for a fight; they all were. Turi's news had pumped life into their bones. "So...we go back to the village, which you and Rena must defend, and drop everyone off. The healer has assured me that you are capable of defending yourselves, and Susanowo won't be a factor because we'll be in his face."
Kuan Ti grinned. "So, where does this airship dock?"
"The Northern Fortress, normally, but it will be at the Capitol for loading. Susanowo plans to bring political figures, warriors, and citizens alike on his...expedition to the South."
The Airbender gripped the hilt of his sword. "How are we going to stop him? If he has a lot of warriors, it could be a problem."
"My Equalists and I can handle every kind of warrior; we've trained for this."
Moro furrowed her brow, the Blood Seal visible past her bangs. "Except Bloodbenders, that's where I come in."
The Avatar glanced at her. "I would exercise caution, Moro; we do not yet know if you could fight Susanowo's influence at close range. No need to attract unnecessary attention to yourself."
Steam flowed out from beneath the Ice Skimmer as Team Avatar helped the villagers settle back into their homes. It was least they could do; the hard part would come later.
"There will be civilians on this airship of his..." Kuan Ti grimaced as he unloaded one of the boxes. "It's being touted as a pleasure cruise to the Southern Water Tribe. This will make things that much harder..."
"No...remember what Turi said?" Shen ran his hand through his hair. "Citizens, sure...but Susanowo would bring Bloodbenders!"
"So they'll all be pawns in his game..." Argho cracked his knuckles. "It doesn't matter; we have to stop that airship at all costs." He turned his gaze downward. "Susanowo has destroyed too many lives already; it ends today!"
The Equalist smiled. "I can get us to the Northern Capitol today."
"Perfect. There we can get ourselves onto that airship."
Moro grinned. "So what do Shen and I do?"
The Avatar raised an eyebrow. "You and Shen?"
"Well, sure, I need someone to watch my back." She smiled. "While you and Kuan Ti take on Susanowo."
A sigh sounded from the Airbender. "I suppose 'Ro and I can sabotage the airship and prevent it from launching..." A half-smile appeared as he said this.
Shen sat in one of the rear facets as Team Avatar, Equalists included, sped toward their destiny. For the first time since they had arrived in the bitter cold of the North, he was excited. Susanowo would fall, and he could begin to right his mistake.
No one else will have to get hurt. We're coming, Spirit of Tempests!
Moro entered and sat across from him, an almost feral grin occupying her face. "Today, we can finally end this, and Kyrie can finally be free!"
He suddenly grew very concerned. "What about your dad?"
Father... She gritted her teeth. "I don't know...I think I'll let Argho deal with him."
"Think about it, Moro; nothing can stop us now..."
"Famous last words." Kuan Ti poked his head in. "Don't get cocky. The Spirit of Tempests is still the most powerful spirit we've encountered; he won't fall easily."
Blood Moon, Susanowo's flagship vessel, sat awaiting its maiden voyage, and the Spirit of Ice could feel the Spirit World constricting around them.
They're angry...trying to cut us off.
"It does not matter. I have all the power needed to carry out the plan."
"Since when are you a mind-reader, Lord Susanowo?"
"You think I cannot feel it either? I can, perhaps more than you, but it does not matter." He raised his arms up toward the airship. "This is our destiny, Kenshin! Today, all of our hard work pays off!"
One of the NowoCorp sentries ran toward them, out of breath. "My lord, our watchmen have spotted the Avatar's Ice Skimmer about ten miles out! They radioed it in as soon as it passed by!"
He nodded and turned to the lesser spirit. "Kenshin, I trust that you can stall them. Do so and meet up in the Earth Kingdom when we stop for provisions."
The Ice Man bowed. "Of course, Lord Susanowo."
The door slid open, allowing Team Avatar and several Equalists, Zhan included, to exit the vehicle. They decided to make their way to the launch site on foot for about a mile and a half. Kuan Ti checked his revolvers while Zhan twirled around electrified staffs.
Argho looked through the binoculars, grimacing as he noticed a large contingent of soldiers seemingly awaiting their arrival. "Susanowo doesn't want us getting there before he launches; how about we disappoint him?"
Shen glanced back as the Equalist leader dragged a mid-size sled with a sail on it out of one of the compartments. "I'm assuming I'll supply the 'go'?"
Moro smirked. "That's one way of putting it."
"We move in swiftly and silently." The Avatar stepped onto the sled. "Any questions?"
There were none.
Shen and the others followed suit and got on to the sled, and the Airbender began to whirl his arms. A gust of wind caught in the sail and began to propel them forward.
They were ready for anything.
Lu Ten stepped off of the boat; he was officially in the Northern Water Tribe. Now, all he had to do was find Argho.
Easier said than done... The Protector smiled. "...unless I knew where he was going from the beginning."
The sobering reality of the message he bore was enough to keep him moving forward, toward the capitol city. For once, Susanowo was not the biggest threat to balance.
That entire family has just been a pain in my rear end! But in truth, he was scared; Otokami was proving to be more of a threat than the Spirit of Tempests.
Kenshin stood just in front of fifty NowoCorp soldiers and Bloodbenders; there was no way the Avatar and his allies would get through all of it quickly.
Susanowo stood on a special platform as the people of the city looked up in awe at him and his airship. "People of the Northern Water Tribe, lend me your ears! Today marks the beginning of a diplomatic mission to our cousins in the South! Today, with the support of Chief Tanoro, we might begin an era of unprecedented cooperation and unity between the two Water Tribes, and perhaps we might even unify completely!" He grinned. "I can only hope that the spirits will be kind!"
The cheer that went up invigorated the Spirit of Tempests; this was the right path for him to take. It was the only path he could reasonably take.
A shift in the wind diverted his attention however, because it was a very purposeful one. He glanced around and saw a large sled off in the distance, barreling toward the city.
"Behold, here come those who would see us weakened! I beg of you, retreat to your homes so that you are not caught up in our battle!"
As they scattered and fled, Susanowo turned to Kenshin. "Do what you must."
The Spirit of Ice nodded, turning to meet Team Avatar just as they reached the line of men. "You're too late, Argho! The men are already in the airship; you cannot defeat everyone and reach it before it takes off!"
The Avatar frowned and looked toward Moro. "I hope you bear no ill will toward me, Miss Kenshi, for what I am about to do."
She gritted her teeth. "Go right ahead..." Dad...why?
A cold laugh belted from the Ice Man. "You think you can defeat me, Argho!? Very well, then; let us see what you are capable of!" He gestured for the soldiers to rush forward.
Argho's eyes began to glow, and he stomped down. Dozens of ice spikes materialized and flew toward the charging guards, launching them backwards and pinning them to the ground and wall. Fifty men had been neutralized in a mere ten seconds, and Kenshin felt fear for the first time in years.
"You believe yourself to be better than me?!"
"On every level." The Avatar rushed forward, catching him in the midsection with an incredibly powerful punch that shattered Kenshin's breastplate and caused the spirit to cough up blood. His second blow crushed bone as his cheek crumpled, and Argho pressed two fingers against the cracks in his ceremonial blue armor. "You have no idea what power is."
Lightning ripped through the Ice Man's midsection, leaving a gaping, smoking hole. As the spirit collapsed, Argho turned to his team.
"We have to move now!"
They sprang forward intent on catching the airship before it launched. Moro glanced at his body as she passed by and had to hold back the bile that was rising in her throat. You coward...
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