Smoke Signal
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The Legend of Kyo



Written by

Katherine Rebekah



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Southern spirit forest

Smoke Signal

My throat was dry and stinging, tears seemed to crystallize in my eyes from walking into the harsh wind, every step was a struggle, my bones creaked like frozen metal. Still, I trudged on though the never ending abyss of white snow, toward the thin wisp of smoke, coming from what I hoped was the wreckage of our airship.

We had been lucky. The blizzard had died down. We had found space blankets to fashion into makeshift coats (and makeshift shoes for June). We could see the smoke from the downed airship, and it was relatively close. June and Jin were doing an effective job of deterring the harsh wind currents, from their place on Oma's back. Kogami was packing down the soft snow so that we weren't up to our knees in snow drifts. And yet, I still felt the whole cosmic universe must be against me.

I turned my face up to June, stuffing a freezing hand into Oma's warm fur. "How are you doing up there?"

She looked down and smiled one of her too wide smiles. "Great! I can't feel my fingers," she said it even as she moved her hands in wild, intricate swoops, redirecting the air currents.

"Can't feel your fingers," I muttered. "Yeah, that's great alright."

"Save your breath." Asaka turned her head to look at me for a brief moment. "We'll be there before long."

The time dragged on. Seconds that stretched into minutes. Minutes into hours. Hours into an eternity. An eternity of blank white snow and thoughts of failure and capture and dying an icy death.

There were a few times that I almost asked to stop. Almost asked to just lay down and quit and succumb. The only thing that kept me from it was the resolution on their faces, the set jaws and squinted eyes of Jin, Asaka, and Kogami and June's ever present smile. I knew they were doing it for me. I couldn't betray that by giving up.

And even some eternities end.

We crested one last snow drift, and there it was, the wreckage of the airship. I took one look at it, and my stomach dropped. The tail end was still smoldering with a dyeing fire. The rest was nothing more than a black, smoking lump. Visions of having to cross the vastness of frozen wasteland ran though my mind. We would never make it. We would freeze to death or die of starvation first. And even if we somehow managed to make it back to the Water Tribe, Asami's soldiers would be waiting. That was it. That was the end.

Jin slipped off of Oma, wobbled slightly before regaining his balance, and walked up to the ash.

"Will you be able to salvage anything?" Asaka asked him.

"I don't—" He took a few steeps further and sunk to his knees in the blackened snow. His look of desperation only solidified my suspicions. "I'm not a magician. I can't send a signal with soot."

Asaka rested a hand on his shoulder and gave a firm squeeze. Her expression was not yet one of defeat.

"June," I said. "Can't you project your spirit?"

"Yes," her voice was soft and melancholy, "but not that far."

"She would have contacted me a long time ago," Jin said. "If she could project that far."

Of course she would have. I was stupid. Stupid. Stupid. I turned to Kogami, his eyes cold and narrowed in deep thought.

"Even if we could get out a signal," he said, "It would have just as much chance of being heard by the enemy as by the ally."

"So that's it then," I said. "Game over. Asami wins. We'll just have to wait until the next incarnation of me."

Asaka flashed me one of her death stairs. "If you're not going to say anything useful then you should keep your mouth shut. Failure is not an option. Don't you understand that?"

"Oh, really? Because all we've been doing this whole time is failing. We failed to keep my dad alive. We failed to keep my identity hidden. We failed to make it back to the Iceberg. We failed to even teach me any Waterbending. And now we're going to fail at living because, news flash, we're going to die out here."

"If you want to die then go ahead and do it! But don't drag us down with you! We've still got a war to win!" She scowled at me, looking almost demonic through the red and white makeup. I took a step back in surprise. It was the first time Asaka had yelled.

I turned my head and bit the inside of my cheek. She was right. I was acting like a child. If we were going to die we should at least go down fighting, at least go down trying to find some way out of this mess.

"I have an idea," I said. "But it's a long shot. A very, very long shot."

Asaka looked at me with her steady gaze, all hints of anger melted away. "We need to take any shots we have, no matter how desperate. What's your plan?"

"I'm a good meditator. I can enter the Spirit World at will. Jinora, and many of the other monks, go in often. A lot of the airbenders use it as an underground of sorts, to pass on messages and communicate over long distances." I glanced at Jin, and he nodded knowingly. "The problem is that the Spirit World is vast and dangerous when you're not in your real body. There is no promise of actually finding someone to help us there. And Asami has a lot of soldiers patrolling it. But I can go in and see what I can do."

"Good," Asaka said.

Kogami did a few bending moves and packed down some snow, making an ice circle. He removed the space blanket from around his shoulders and put it down in the center. "We'll guard over you out here," he said.

I took a seat, crossing my legs and putting my fists together. "If I don't come back—"

"Shut up," Asaka said. "If you don't come back we're all dead. You're our only hope. Don't die."

I nodded and closed my eyes. Focusing. Focusing. Don't die. If only it were that simple.

I could tell the moment I entered the Spirit World, because the cold faded away. In fact, all feeling faded away. Which made sense, because I was just a spirit. No physical body attached. No bending. Alone. Vulnerable. I didn't open my eyes for a few breaths. I hated this place. I hated feeling alone and vulnerable.

You're our only chance. Don't die.

I opened my eyes and stood. It was perhaps the most generic place the Spirit World could offer: lush green grass, tall twisting oaks, speckled yellow light drifting down though the canopy, several still, crystal pools scattered throughout. It was beautiful and looked like one of the safer places in the Spirit World, accept for one tiny detail: there were no spirits. That was never a good sign.

I heard the rustling of feet in the grass, the murmur of voices, and then a burst of boisterous laughter. Soldiers. I must be near the Northern Portal.

Luckily, the trees had wonderful foot holds for climbing, and I managed to scurry up and hide in the thick branches before they got close. I watched as they passed under me, three soldiers, in their physical bodies. One airbender was held captive between them in an Energy Chamber.

Powered by Spirit Vine Energy, Energy Chambers were cages that could suck in and impression Spiritual Energy. Asami had captured many Airbenders from the Spirit World this way. It was rumored that they took the captives to Energy Plants and recycled their spiritual energy, just like they did with Spirit Vines, effectively killing the person.

I scowled. This was either very bad for me or very good. On the one hand, if I could talk to the captive, a bald boy with a freshly red tattoo and a pair of glasses too large for his face, he might be able to take me to Jinora, or at least someone who could help. On the other hand, it was one Spirit Kyo against three soldiers in their physical bodies and one Energy Chamber. If I was captured, it was all over.

I had to think of a way to disarm them, or at least get them to leave the Energy Chamber behind, without directly confronting them. This was going to be the work of an Airbender: silence, stealth, avoid and evade.

I silently dropped behind the last person in the line. The Equalist uniform was black and skin tight, with the equality symbol big and red on their backs. There were no lose objects to grab onto accept for the weapons hanging from their belts. The person I dropped behind was a woman, a waterbender judging by the waterskin at her waste. Luckily, she also had an gun and a sheathed dagger at her belt.

I slipped my hand to her waste and succeed in snatching the dagger without her noticing. There was a red strip of fabric hanging from the hilt, it would be perfect for muffling her screams.

I rose up behind her and in a swift motion brought the fabric over her head and stuffed it in her mouth. She gagged and struggled as I pulled back on her head. I stepped on the back of her knee and brought her to the ground but all of this had made far too much noise.

So much for stealth.

As soon as I got on top of her, a rock clipped me on the side of the head and knocked me on my back.

I skidded on the grass but jumped right to my feet, only to be faced with all three soldiers. The woman, on her feet, ice shards floating around her hands, a man with rocks hovering just above the earth, and another man with a gun drawn. A nonbender.


I took a sharp duck as an icicle whizzed past my head. Turned as a rock just missed me. With each evade of their attacks I got in closer. I would have to get in closer if I wanted to win.

I took a split second to look at the nonbender, who was heading to the Energy Chamber. If he opened that thing I would be sucked right in.

I was never trained in weapons but I took a chance and threw the dagger with all my strength. It buried itself to the hilt just above his knee, and his legs buckled. He screamed out.

His companions, temporarily distracted, were left vulnerable. I managed to get right next to the waterbender and take her gun. I yanked back on her hair and held the weapon to her head.

"Move and I shoot," I said, my gut dropping as I realized how dark and serious I sounded. Would I really pull the trigger if I had to?

The Earthbender stopped in his tracks and smiled at me. "Do you know how many of my comrades I've seen die? I don't care. Shoot her."

The women gave a throaty laugh, "You've never held a gun in your life, have you? You didn't even take safety off."

The Earthbender bended a rock and hurdled it at me. I could tell it was enough to knock someone out, but not kill them. Perfect. I moved the woman so that it hit her right in the head. She slumped to the ground motionless. I hoped to the Spirits she wasn't dead, but I had no time to dwell on it.

I raised the gun, fumbling to click the safety off, and wrapped both hands around it. I took the best aim I could with shaky, untrained hands, hoping to hit him on the right shoulder. I shot and missed terribly. Red bloomed across his abdomen, and he sunk to the ground, clutching his stomach.

I took a steep back, watching in horror as color drained from his face, and he slumped into the grass, writhing in pain.

I dropped the gun.

He lay there motionless. Was he dead? Had I killed him? All I could see was Kogami's face. I remembered his story. How he had been forced into doing terrible things. It was people like him that I was meant to protect. What about this man? Had he been a Kogami?

I shook my head, snapping myself out of it. This was war. I temporarily swallowed the guilt as I made my way to the Energy Chamber.

Jut as I was about to unlock it and release the boy there was a sharp pain in my calf.

I looked down to see a dagger jutting out of it. The same dagger I had used to stab the Nonbender. He smiled up at me, his face pale from blood loss.

In an unprecedented burst of anger, I yanked the knife out of my calf and swung it so that it went strait though his hand, pinning his palm to the ground. He cried out and rolled over in pain.

"Now stay there! Can't you accept that I'm doing you a favor? I'm letting you live!"

I took a few strained breathes before looking down at my calf. There was the familiar sting of pain but no blood. My spirit, however, was slowly starting to disintegrate in that area. I clenched my jaw against the pain and turned back to the Energy Chamber.

The person inside looked at me from behind their scratched up spectacles with wide, horrified green eyes. I ignored it, just like I ignored the guilt crawling up inside of me and the grunts of pain coming from the nonbender. I found the power button to the chamber and shut it down. The glass walls lost their yellow-green glow. I swung open the door and held my hand out.

"Lets go. I need your help."

He took my hand and steeped from the chamber. "Who are you?" With a small burst of embarrassment I realized this was the voice of a girl. Upon further examination I could tell she was a young adult, just short. The baggy clothes and bald head had thrown me, but she had obviously just gotten her tattoos.

"Kyo," I said, extending my hand, "Avatar Kyo."

Her green eyes widened as she took my hand and shook it, "I'm Iio. And, if you'll forgive me for saying, you do look like an Avatar, but not the Avatar of our time."

I looked down at myself and the clothing and skin tone were all too familiar, but not belonging to me. I reached a hand up to my hair. Chin length. Brown. Dressed in a battered garb of Earth Kingdom style. I looked like Avatar Korra. And not just Avatar Korra. The broken, isolated Avatar Korra.

"Sometimes in the Spirit World, our forms reflect how we feel inside, not what we actually look like. So I believe you. I can sense your spiritual energy."

"Then you'll help me?"

Iio smiled. "You are the Avatar, and you just saved my life. Of course I'll help you. But first things first, we need to move away from these soldiers. They'll forget about us, and I'll do some work on the wound to your spirit."

Iio began to walk away, and I followed her until we had moved deeper into the trees and out of the sight of the soldiers. "Here," She gestured to a root twisting out of the ground, "Have a seat, and I'll take a look."

I obeyed instruction, sitting down on the root, and extended my leg. Iio bent down to look at it.

"You said they would forget about us."

"Yes," she said, ripping a piece of her tattered, baggy shirt off, "This is called the Wood Between the Worlds. It's a beneficial place for Asami because all these pools of water you see around you transport physical bodies to different places in the spirit world. The downside, however, is that time does not exist here. It makes it a sleepy kind of place and, if you're not careful, you can forget why you came, what you're doing, and even who you are. This is why the soldiers must travel here in groups and constantly remind each other of their task. Asami has lost many of them here. You'll see them wandering around sometimes."

"So, you'll never age if you stay here?"

"That's right. The soldiers back there won't die either, unless someone comes along and kills them. They'll remain how they are." I couldn't help but feel a rush of relief. "You will too. Your gash is deep but your spirit won't disintegrate any further if you remain in the woods. You have to keep your wits about you though, or you'll forget everything. So, you should probably tell me what you need help with."

I struggled, everything seemed a milky, fuzzy white in my brain but one thought stuck out.

You're our last hope. Don't die.

The memories flooded back. "I'm a member of the United Resistance. My friends, they're a special force meant to mature me into the Avatar."

"Lead by the Kyoshi Assassin, Asaka?" I nodded. "Yes, I know of them."

"Then you'll want to know that our airship has been downed in the wastelands of the North. I need to get to Jinora so she can send a rescue team."

Iio nodded slowly, seeming to think everything over. "The trip to Jinora is is a long one. If you leave these woods," she said, "Your spirit will begin to deteriorate rapidly, and you may not survive. However, if you stay here too long, you will forget who you are, and we can't have that. I'm going to ask you to meditate back to your body."

"No. I have to make sure this message gets to Jinora."



"Do you trust me?"

"I trust no one in this war."

Iio gave a sad smile. "True. Trusting is hard isn't it? Especially when you've been hunted all your life. But you have no choice. You need to get back to your friends and wait with them there for the help that will be sent. I give you my word, as an Air Nomad, that I will give this information to Jinora or die trying. I know where she is and how to get to her. You just need to give me as specific of directions to your location as possible."

I gulped, weighing my options. Leave the Wood and disintegrate to nothingness, stay and wait and forget who I am, or go back and wait with my friends, putting all my faith in a woman I just met. None were good options. But it was clear which was the best.

"Alright. I'll give you directions as best as I can." I walked over to a pool and got on my knees so that I could draw in the mud there.

"Here's the Water Tribe." I drew a circle. "Here is the Oasis." Another circle. "We're somewhere between them, probably about here." I poked a hole in the mud. "The wreckage will still be smoking. Is that clear?"

Iio meet eyes with me, humor sparkling in them. "Clear as mud." She snorted but then stooped when she saw my, less amused, expression. "Oh, I'm so sorry. This is not the time for bad jokes." She let her smile drop. "I'll tell Jinora. We will rescue you, Kyo."

With that she stood, put her fists together, closed her eyes, and dissolved.

As soon as she vanished I could feel myself doubting her reality. I felt the forgetfulness slipping up on me. I didn't even remember what the soldiers looked like, how many there were, if I killed them. I knew I had to get out soon before I forgot.

I crossed my legs and put my fists together. Concentrating. My physical body. The cold of the North. Asaka. Jin. June. Kogami.

I felt a chilly, biting wind. I opened my eyes and sucked in a dry breath.

"She's back!" It was Jin's voice. He was soon crouching in front of me, his gray eyes too big right in front of my face. "How did it go? Did you find Master Jinora?"

My calf still ached, and I felt sick to my stomach, remembering how I left those soldiers. I wrapped the space blanket tighter around my shoulders, not meeting Jin's hopeful eyes.

"They're coming. Soon. I hope."

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