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|More from Kugumi||Romance, Drama||PG-13||Positive||No Update Page|
|Art by Eva-Black|
Arc 1: Air
March 15th, 2013
Live in the moment before the moment is gone, or risk a fate where you can't move on.
"Mom! Kayok hit me with magic water!"
"Mom! Akiak pushed me!"
"Mom! Nini did it, not me!"
"Mom! Kinto won't let go of my wolf-tail!"
All children are born innocent—corruption is a trait that is learned. When last she had sat in this spot gazing at the waters of Yue Bay in search of answers, lights had danced playfully across the calm surface. Twenty years later and those lights had disappeared. Republic City was again in disarray, but the Avatar could not help but think that this was somehow her fault; that she could have somehow prevented such devastation from happening. Try as she might, though, Korra could not think of a single thing she would have done differently in raising her children. All she could do was ask herself where she went wrong, and that question had led her back to Air Temple Island—or what was left of it.
She had not visited the island since her youth—during the days of her air bending training. She had been able to master the art of wind manipulation under the strict guidance of Sifu Tenzin, but Korra had failed to become a fully realized Avatar; she had never been able to connect to the Spirit World like the Avatars before her. She was often told that it was something that she could not force; she had to allow it to occur naturally. She had tried many things but in her neglect for her position as the great bridge between the two worlds, the spirits had become restless—and in some cases, ruthless.
Meelo rested a comforting hand on her shoulder. When she looked at his face, she knew she was looking at the face of Avatar Aang. Though Tenzin bore many similarities to his father, Meelo's resemblance to him was uncanny. "I will do everything in my power—"
"I'm the Avatar, Meelo—and I believe in the weight of that title."
The young man offered her a warm smile, "While it is always best to believe in oneself, a little help from others can be a great blessing."
She sighed, staring out at the lights dancing on the waters of Yue Bay. She shouldn't have such conflicted feelings about this, but she did. She reveled in her solitary reflection, though, for if she revealed her true desires to anyone they would surely misjudge them. Korra leaned over the edge of the balcony and scrutinized the girl looking back at her from the water. Seeing nothing redeeming or likable about her features, she pouted and turned away from the image.
"I'm doomed to a life as a spinster, aren't I?"
The traditional customs of the Southern Water Tribe had often escaped her while she was growing up. As the Avatar, it was her duty to experience all cultures and walks of life in order to better understand the world. To derive her knowledge of diplomacy from one source would be to lack a full comprehension of balance as the keeper of peace and harmony between the nations. She did know what her native culture's traditions were, but the Order of the White Lotus had not allowed her many opportunities to act on such cultural rites. Many such rites, she had learned, were not shared with the sister tribe in the north. The members of the northern tribe were often regarded as arrogant and narcissistic, priding themselves in their admiration for art and beauty—as well as in other materialistic things. That was only one of the many reasons the tribes had long ago divided.
In the time of Avatar Aang, the tribes were amicable to one another—something that Korra assumed was in part to the south's delicate numbers. With aid from the north, the southern tribe grew in strength, but even that did not prove enough to keep their relations from growing sour once more. Korra frowned. It was obvious that she would eventually be forced into offering a compromise of peace to the separate tribes. However, she would first have to put an end to the remainder of Amon's little cult here, in Republic City. If she failed in that, then the other nations would have more to worry about than mere political treaties.
"Korra," Her eyes glanced forward at the small air bender dressed in his night clothes, "you're the Avatar."
"You can make the bad guys go away."
"Believe me, if I could I would."
He paused to rub one of his tired blue eyes in apparent thought, "I believe in you."
Korra was slightly stunned by the child's choice of words. Was he offering her inspiration, or was he making a request? She wasn't sure; it was difficult to tell when Meelo was in his sleepy stupor. Korra supposed she should consider herself fortunate that he was not his usual energetic-self this late in the evening. She watched him stumble away, presumably back to his parents' bedroom. She moved her gaze to the object clenched tightly in her hand. She knew exactly who this gift was from, and she didn't want to accept it—though to not do so could be detrimental to her all-important public opinion.
It had been three days already since he had given her the engagement necklace; Korra would have to give him her answer soon. She was sure he knew she was not from the Northern Water Tribe. Korra supposed he must have wanted to show his affection with the gesture. She winced involuntarily. Would it be wrong for her to defy her heart if her mind knew what slander the media would create with it? She stared intently at the jeweled carving cradled in her hands. Korra's face contorted into a pained expression. Frustrated, she found her strength—physically and mentally—and threw the necklace into the dark waters of Yue Bay, watching the black ribbon as it billowed in the air. She heard the water catch it in its gentle caressing waves and Korra knew they would appreciate it more than she. She let out a breath of air in a large exhale. She was relieved she had come to a decision—and also sad.
The night was short-lived and with the morning came another uneventful day—with any luck. She strolled the perimeter of the monastery, catching the sight of Mako and Asami sparring in the courtyard. It seemed to Korra that the match primarily consisted of Mako dodging Asami's electric attacks. The cheerful greeting of Korra's earthbending friend came from behind her, "Gooood morning, Korra!"
He presented her with the same thing he gave her every morning—a bagel and a daffodil. Every once in a while he would attempt—in vain—to peck her on the cheek; today was not one of those days. She briefly thanked him for the gift, as she did every morning, and continued in her routine. He joined her, knowing that she had not been feeling herself as of late—in all honesty he was worried, though that would be taboo to mention to her. "So, are you feeling any better this morning?" he asked, hopefully.
"I'm feeling," she struggled to find the right word, "less agitated."
He shrugged, "Well, I guess that's a start."
She took a furious bite into the bagel. Bolin raised a brow, noting that she still seemed rather on edge. He could tell there was something that was bothering her, but he knew that she would have told him if she had wanted him to know what it was. They walked in silence for a while, just enjoying the view from the island. They had managed to reach the very edge of the island where the sound waters of the bay met the soft sands beneath their feet. Korra was rooted to her spot with unwavering eyes. Bolin could tell that she was focused on something beyond the water, and not on the actual water itself. He wondered idly what she was thinking about. Suddenly the rage overcame her and the Avatar kicked up sand and ignited the gift in her hand before throwing the limp flower into the shallow waters. "Korra! Korra! Calm down! What's the matter? I thought you liked daffodils?"
"I do!" she affirmed angrily.
"Then what's wrong? You better start making some sense or I'm going to," he couldn't think of a suitable threat, "uh, well, just tell me why you've been so weird these last few days!"
She eyed him carefully for a moment before acknowledging her defeat, "You wouldn't understand—it's a Water Tribe-thing."
It was a sunny afternoon as sat in her personal garden. Being the supreme dictator of a city was a tiresome job, to say the least, but that meant the peace she did manage to find was well-earned. Her formal—and expensive—dress fanned out around her. She watched a small child dressed in the finest Water Tribe attire as he pranced happily among the flowers and shrubs. He extended a dirty hand to her, offering her a single flower from the large bouquet he had gathered himself. Kayok gave the boy a serene smile and accepted his gift; she loved daffodils.
She inhaled the sweet scent of the nectar and thanked her youngest brother, Tahno. A stray thought crossed her mind as she admired her other three brothers practicing their waterbending together within her private garden: her mother loved daffodils, too.
Tahno was standing beside the previously sparring duo when Korra and Bolin returned from their excursion to the shoreline. He saluted Korra with a playful smile as she approached. "Ahvatar."
"Korra, Tahno just told us about what's going on! It's all over the papers!" Mako informed her with a scowl, "I thought we were your friends. Why didn't you tell us?"
She had thought it would come to this eventually, but she hadn't really thought he would stoop as low as to tell the papers this soon. She had only just told Bolin about the engagement necklace—in all honesty, she wasn't keeping it a secret because she didn't trust her friends with it, but rather, she had just wanted to keep it to herself; it didn't seem important enough to tell her friends. Though, as she was now learning, it obviously was. "I didn't know it was that important to you guys." She admitted.
Asami crossed her arms over her petite figure. "Of course it's important to us! It's part of your culture!"
Bolin rubbed a hand over his face, "Oh man! Now, guys, I know this looks bad, but—"
"You knew about this?" Mako asked, outrage legible on his face.
The ex-waterbender cut in, "It shouldn't be news to anyone. The tribes have been on the brink of waging war for a long time. It's no one's fault, and it's no secret. What the world wants to know now is what Korra is going to do about it."
The Avatar exhaled a breath she had been unaware that she was holding. It appeared she had more to worry about than her own problems now that the Water Tribes had finally declared war on one another. She was sure a quick political fix would be accessible to her since both tribes were usually reasonable. She would definitely need to speak with both tribe leaders—one of which happened to be her father, since her cousins, Desna and Eska had renounced the role after their father passed.
"Oh, so then this isn't about that engagement necklace. Good." Bolin's eyes widened. Realizing his mistake he quickly covered his mouth with his hands, fearing what else he might reveal, "Oops."
Before Korra had a chance to thoroughly douse him in water, she was bombarded by questions from her other friends—yet the only voice she heard was that of the hurt. "Guys, guys. It's nothing, really! I'm not getting married to anyone!" she muttered under her breath, "...not right now, at least."
"Korra! Someone wanted to share their life with you! Who was it?" Asami insisted enthusiastically, with a slight sideways glance at her ex-boyfriend.
The Avatar furrowed her brow and shook her head. "It doesn't matter anymore. I threw the necklace into the bay under the full moon," her face contorted into a sneer and with a sharp tongue Korra continued, "Princess Yue can keep it."
Tears streamed down her face as the wind picked up. She had always been close with him since they were both non-benders. He wiped her tears away with his thumb and handed her the spear he had made from the tooth of a panda-whale. When the weapon was pushed into her hands she had opened her mouth to protest, but was quickly silenced by her older brother. "One day I hope to see you become the warrior you always aspired to be—just like I can now become the waterbender I always wanted to be."
smiled at his sister reassuringly before stepping on the waters of Yue Bay. She clenched the spear tightly in her hands as she witnessed her brother walk across the surface of the water and into a single ray of light from the moon. Suddenly, the water gave way under him and he disappeared beneath the waves. The light faded from the sky and found herself alone in the darkness. The tears began falling once more and she closed her eyes, hoping it was all a dream and refusing to believe that her brother was gone. She could feel a gentle hand wiping her tears away from her eyes and she opened them to find her brother's smiling face.
"Who would have thought that the son who couldn't bend water, would become the water itself."
Akiak was garbed in strange vestments that Nini did not recognize, but she smiled as she saw him take his place beside the spirit for whom the bay was named; her brother—Akiak the ocean spirit. Before she turned to leave, Nini saw him present Princess Yue with a token of his affection for her—it was his mother's betrothal necklace.
"No." The face of the Northern Water Tribe leader was stoic.
It had been a fortnight since Korra had received the news regarding the two Water Tribes. Thankfully she had learned of their plans for war before actual battle had taken place. She had sent an immediate request to the leaders with the hope that they would be willing to meet with her in Republic City to try and put a stop to this unnecessary war before it began. Tonraq was open to negotiations, but was not confident that a compromise could be forged between the two tribes. He now sat in Republic City's newly rebuilt council room joined by the Avatar, the united Republic Council—which somehow still included the scar-faced traitor Tarrlok, General Iroh of the United Forces, and the Chief of the Southern tribe. He stared down the woman with her grey dreadlocks tied in intricate knots atop her head.
"Dad, this isn't just about your tribe. This is about disturbing the balance of the world if the Water Tribes engage in a war of ideals. I mean, that's why the tribes split in the first place!" Korra argued, frustrated that her father was being so stubborn.
Tenzin stroked his beard thoughtfully. The attendees of the meeting were at a stalemate; not only was there no opposition to finding a solution, but neither was there a solution to be found. Oddly enough his sister Kya had said very little during this meeting. Tenzin got the feeling that she was more inclined toward finding a peaceful resolution rather than a violent one. She was a worthy adversary, but she was also wise. He was convinced Kya was not the party that needed the attention. The Southern Water Tribe representative of Republic City raised his hand to speak. "Would it perhaps be possible for the tribes to create some sort of alliance?" he had long ago moved his family to Republic City, fearing this precise situation, "Our Avatar was born and raised in the Southern Water Tribe, and is, as well, the esteemed Northern tribe leader's daughter. Her gilt could be used to bond the two tribes together."
"Absolutely not!" Tonraq growled.
General Iroh stood before the procession. "Please, Chief Tonraq, be reasonable. You must view Korra not as your daughter, but as the Avatar. She is beyond the traditional marrying age of young Water Tribe girls. In many households that is considered a dishonor."
"Korra is both my daughter and the Avatar. That is the greatest gift in honor."
The earth nation representative spoke this time. "But she has the opportunity to prevent the unnecessary loss of life between the two tribes if she can form a political alliance through marriage to—"
"Even if the Avatar offered herself as a method of providing peace—as is her duty to the world—I have no children of my own to violate in the name of this cause, and I can think of no one whose position is strong enough to bond the tribes together." Kya explained.
Kya had married the, now deceased, Southern tribe leader to keep the tribes amicable, but that bond had been severed with his death many years ago. Korra bit her lip. She could have solved this problem weeks ago if she had accepted that proposal—she would still have needed her father's permission, however, and it seemed he was not so willing to give it. She stood. "Father, please reconsider," Korra implored him, "this could be the only opportunity for a peaceable agreement."
"And sell my daughter's freedom away as part of the bargain?"
"You act as though I am a trophy to be had, but I have an opinion, too! I have the right to make my own decisions, Avatar or not."
"Then share with us your decision, Avatar Korra."
Her brow furrowed, but before she could speak Councilman Tarrlok rose from his seat. "If I may?" He asked with his suave smile and a curt gesture toward Korra, "It is my understanding that my engagement necklace is now sitting at the bottom of the bay—but I still seek your hand in marriage, should you renege on your previous decision."
Tenzin's voice rang throughout the room, "What?"
The chief of the Northern Water Tribe slammed his fist against the desk he was seated at, nearly rising out of his chair in protest. "But you're twenty years her senior! You're the same age as me! I refuse—"
"Ah ah ah," Tarrlok chided him, "we agreed that Korra is capable of making her own decision."
"And from the sound of it she has already given it to you!" Her father bellowed.
Tarrlok shrugged, "The situation has changed."
Tonraq didn't have an opportunity to argue further, for his equal from the sister tribe spoke. "I approve," Her brother stared at her with his mouth open as she continued, "though our Avatar is child to the Northern tribe leader, the Southern tribe still lays claim to her. As a Councilman of Republic City and the representative of the Northern Water Tribe, Tarrlok provides the two requirements necessary for this particular treaty to function: heritage and political power. Should Korra accept his proposal of matrimony, the Southern tribe will call off our warriors and retreat to show our support for this alliance."
If both tribe leaders agreed to the alliance, then the remainder of the persons present would, as well. It seemed that Korra was expected to answer Chief Kya's proposal, however. The only appropriate answer would be to either accept or reject Tarrlok for the second time. Korra was well aware her options were running thin now. She gave a quick glance to her father, before finally giving her answer to the council. "Tarrlok is right; the situation has changed. It would be my honor to accept him on the terms of truce between the Northern and Southern Water Tribes."
"As the chief of the Northern Water Tribe, I must agree to this arrangement," Tonraq said through gritted teeth, "however, as Korra's father, I will not give my consent until this man has proven his worth to me."
"Hm," Tarrlok raised his gavel, preparing to mark the end of their meeting, "I can see I'll have to work hard to earn your blessing."
Rarely did he and his wife get into fights, but this was more than just a fight or an argument—Korra was grieving. Tarrlok sighed and rubbed a hand over his face. He was unsure how to approach this situation. He looked longingly at the door through which she had left. He could not think of a way to console her aching heart. How could he? Their eldest son turned into the ocean spirit and their eldest daughter kidnapped their other four sons and destroyed Republic City. Now fate pitted the Avatar against her own daughter and he was useless to help.
Tarrlok's head shot up at the sound of the door opening, but it was not the face of his wife that greeted him. Nini stood in the doorway with eyes swollen and red from crying. He beckoned his daughter to him. In the past, he had viewed her as a waste of his chromosomes; to be blunt, she was a woman and a non-bender—worthless. That, however, was a natural association to make for the men who were well-versed in the traditions of the Northern Water Tribe. Recently Nini had become a valuable asset as a warrior for their cause.
He gave her a tight hug and pecked her forehead. A silence hung over the room, challenging them to speak. They refrained. Somehow even in silence they could still convey words with their eyes—Nini had her mother's eyes. Tarrlok rose from his wooden chair and exited the room through the door. It was raining outside and Korra was waterbending her fury. Tarrlok felt a twinge of pain in his veins when he thought about the manipulative movements of waterbending—like part of his soul was missing.
As he approached the Avatar, she managed to will the rain into blasting him several times. He ignored her water attacks toward him and reached out for her, catching her hand in his. Korra did not fight him. She allowed her tears to rush down her face in waves and she buried her face into his chest.
"Korra, you are fighting against so many things right now—I don't need to be one of them." Tarrlok held her in his arms and listened to her sorrow. Together they stayed there and let the rain wash away the agony.
Tarrlok winced as he slid his shirt on over his right arm. It was true the right side of his body had been scarred beyond repair, but the pain in his arm was not from the explosion that killed his brother. It had been a year since he had electrocuted himself with one of the Equalist gloves—he didn't really want to think about that night—but the wound never completely recovered. As he reached for his vest in his wardrobe, he wondered if he should buy a second one for Korra once she moved in—he assumed she would be moving into his home after they were wed—which reminded him that the wedding was scheduled for the following week. He finished clothing himself and started for his Satomobile parked in the large driveway to his luxurious mansion. On his drive to the city hall, Tarrlok mentally began counting the things he would need to buy in preparation for Korra's move. He was fortunate the other council members had voted to keep him on the council and dropped the charges against him, since Amon had stripped him of his ability to bend and he was now marrying the girl he had held as a hostage—of course the latter was only at Korra's insistence.
He had a good job—if a bit dangerous at times—that had fabulous pay, he came from a well-known family—though perhaps not known for the right reasons—and he was sure he would have little trouble in providing for and protecting Korra—even though she was perfectly capable of doing so herself. As he took his seat in his private office, Tarrlok ascertained he would make a fine husband. He frowned as he looked at the large stack of papers waiting for him at his desk. He had to admit, he was a little nervous about how this marriage would be received by the public and the media. He began the tedious task of reading and signing the paperwork.
Not an hour in his office and already his liaison said there was a young gentleman asking an audience with him. The councilman gave an exasperated sigh and set aside his pen. "Alright, let him in."
Immediately, Tarrlok recognized the tall, pale boy as one of Korra's friends. He gestured toward the chair before him, offering his guest a seat. "So, is this about business, or Korra?" Tarrlok asked, wanting to get right to the point.
He flipped his hair back before thinking of a reply. "Is it not possible for it to be both?" Tahno countered lightly.
Tarrlok grunted in response. At this, Tahno realized that they might actually have more in common than just being ex-waterbenders. He leaned in close, eyes wide with curiosity and with a hushed whisper inquired, "You actually love her... don't you?"
He tensed at Tahno's choice of words. When the councilman refused to answer the question, Tahno smiled. "Well, without actual communication, I guess we can't do business," he stood from the chair and raised a hand in farewell as he turned to leave, "Shame. Ciao."
For the collective works of the author, go here.