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Chapter 4: The Call
Aang could feel it as he neared the Northern Water Tribe; the spirits were amassing. This was something he'd never encountered before. As Appa touched down in the main hub of the city, Arnook's replacement, Hahn, came out to greet him.
"Avatar, we welcome you to our humble city." Each member of the Council bowed in reverence.
Aang was almost unable to hide his displeasure. They couldn't find anyone better for the position than him? He pushed the thought aside and shook the Chieftain's hand. "I wish my visit wasn't on such short notice, but the Spirit World is always fickle and can be counted on for the unexpected."
"Yes, I suppose it can; now, with your permission, the guards will direct you to the Spirit Oasis."
"Thank you, Hahn."
Teela flew over the vast ocean, and Tenzin was anxious. Shu Jing was now behind them, and all he wanted to do was get to Republic City. He'd heard the stories. Building began just after The War of Rulers, and it had been completed within the last few years. Travelers that had come to the rebuilt Southern Water Tribe told tales of its gleaming skyscrapers and modern amenities.
Tenzin shook his head; thinking about it now would only make the journey last longer. Chikyuu's high-pitched voice broke the silence. "Are we there yet?"
Sora sighed. "No, Chikyuu, it'll be a couple of hours at best."
Lu Ten chuckled. "Don't worry, Chief."
She glared at him. "Stop that!"
"We'll be there in no time."
Tenzin rolled his eyes. 'No time' wasn't coming soon enough.
Aang sat cross-legged in the grass, the Spirit Oasis surrounding him, and began to meditate. Once he had reached a certain point, he opened his eyes to find himself in the Spirit World.
"I will never really get used to this place..."
A familiar voice rang in his ears. "Hello, Aang..."
"Roku, it's been a long time."
The former Avatar smiled sadly. "I am afraid that we are not here for pleasantries, and I am sorry that our first conversation in years has to be this one."
"What's this all about, Roku?"
The spirit motioned. "Follow me."
Aang stood and did as he was asked. "Roku..."
"You are being put on trial, Aang."
His eyes widened. "Why?"
"The Spirit World has been in deliberation for years over your killing of Koh; they never are concise when it comes to matters like these. Kuruk was considered as well, but they decided against it."
Aang sighed with relief. "He'd been through enough as it was."
"They only chose not to try him because his attack did not kill Koh. You, on the other hand, did."
Aang narrowed his eyes. "What would you have had me do? He had Katara, for no other reason than to try and ultimately steal an Avatar's face!"
"I know, Aang; I would've shown him no mercy had I been in your position, and Kuruk and I had convinced the others of this until recently."
"What happened, Roku?"
"An older, deadlier spirit came forward, asking for your trial. And they granted the request."
The former Avatar held up a hand. "I cannot say; it is forbidden." He turned to face forward again. "It's best you never know anyway. We're here."
Aang glance from side to side, noticing that more spirits had gathered now than he had ever seen in his lifetime. Most of them looked dangerous, and Aang could not help but wonder which one had asked for the trial. A tall, pale, almost ethereal man stood in front of him.
"My name is Lin Quei. I am your judge and, if all goes poorly for you, your executioner."
Aang bowed. "It is an honor to meet you."
Roku turned to the Judge. "May I advise the current Avatar?"
Lin Quei nodded. "You may." Aang shivered; his voice sounded more and more unearthly.
"Do not let him rattle you, Aang; that is one of his tricks to catch you off guard. If you are found guilty, they will kill you, and the Avatar Spirit will be reborn in a new host. Your own spirit will be erased from the cycle, leaving a permanent knowledge gap, and you will cease to exist at all."
Aang rolled his eyes. "Thanks for that, Roku."
Lin Quei spoke, his voice shaking the ground. "Enough! We begin now!"
Tenzin grinned when he saw land. The Pohuai Strait was almost below them, and that meant that Republic City was close. "Look alive, everyone! Our vacation officially begins in about an hour!"
That got their attention. Each of them sat up and stretched, ready for the flight to end.
"How close are we?" Chikyuu asked.
Tenzin raised an eyebrow. "Uh...about an hour."
"Oh, great!" Her grin widened as the Airbender shook his head.
A loud voice sounded all around them. "Unidentified Flying Personnel, identify yourselves or be shot down!" At that moment, three airships rose up behind them.
"Um, Tenzin..." Sora looked at the cannons being pointed at them.
He smiled and held up his hands. "I've got this; don't worry."
"We'll ask once more! Identify yourselves!"
Tenzin stood in the saddle and began to manipulate the air currents. His voice, now amplified, carried across the sky to the airships. "My name is Tenzin! I am the son of Avatar Aang; my friends and I wish to visit the city and take in the sights!"
There was a long pause, and even Tenzin began to get nervous. Chikyuu shrank in on herself while Lu Ten stood. "Tell them that the Fire Lord's children are also here."
Tenzin nodded, but before he could say anything, the voice sounded again. "Touch down on the top of Memorial Skyscraper. We will escort you to your predetermined residence."
"The Avatar is guilty, plain and simple." Enma, the odd monkey spirit, stated. "He broke our laws and killed an ancient spirit. He must suffer the fate of annihilation!"
The other forms began to murmur, and Aang realized that the majority of them were against him. He stood. "Spirits! May I speak to my own defense?"
Lin Quei nodded.
"I did kill Koh; that is an undisputed fact. But my reasoning behind it—!"
"Is probably selfish and unbearably human!" Enma cried out, and the spirits around him nodded.
Aang glared at him. "It was a human decision, but it was born from a desire to stop an evil act. Koh stole the face of my wife; it was completely unprovoked. When I tore her face from him, it did kill him. But it was necessary."
Three spirits spoke out in unison. One was a dark, armored figure, another was woman in a kimono with a veil over her mouth, and the final one was an unnaturally tall, lanky, skeletal spirit. "Avatar, we have heard enough! Your murder was predetermined, and you broke the law of the Spirit World in doing so!"
They turned to Lin Quei. "Execute him for his crime!"
The Judge turned to Aang. "It appears that your decision was not made with care; it was rash and impetuous. For that, you shall—!"
"Wait!" The spirit of Avatar Kuruk stepped out of the crowd. "I have something to say."
The ancient spirit sighed. "We have heard your entreaties, Avatar Kuruk, and they have been taken into account."
Kuruk snorted. "Then take this one into account, as well. Koh was an amoral spirit, without conscience. He took faces simply because he enjoyed savoring their pain, and that alone should've warranted some sort of action," He indicated the assembly. "From this Council!"
Lin Quei shook his head. "That is not our—!"
"It was your responsibility! You knew of his ambition and did nothing! But that isn't what I'm trying to show you; Aang had every right to do what he did."
The veiled spirit stepped forward. "You lie! You were human; therefore you have been corrupted."
"WRONG!" Kuruk's outburst silenced the assembly. "You, Lin Quei, knew of Koh's ambition, his plan. He has desired an Avatar's face since the beginning, and he had been consolidating his power in order to take one. His first attempt was to steal my wife's face, in hopes that I would make a mistake in my own attempts to kill him."
The veiled spirit laughed. "Ha! Now I see. You are defending him because he aided you."
"No. I am defending him because he did both worlds a favor. Had Koh taken an Avatar's face, he would have had a pool of power unrivaled by any single face that came before. Aang has forever prevented that eventual and inevitable tragedy from occurring. Simply put," Kuruk glared at Lin Quei. "He did your job."
The Judge winced at Kuruk's words and turned to his advisors. They deliberated for what seemed, to Aang, like hours before they finally ceased. "Avatar Aang, I have reached my decision."
The seven children now stood before the overseer of Republic City, Administrator Yung, and it made Tenzin slightly perturbed that they weren't taken to the Fire Lord's house as promised. "I apologize for the unpleasant encounter, but I have to ensure the city's safety from all possible threats. However, now that this is behind us, Fire Lord Zuko instructed me to show you to his residence where you would be staying."
Tenzin glanced back at Sora and grinned, as if to say 'I told you so.' For her part, Sora just rolled her eyes.
"How far is Father's house from here?" Lu Ten asked.
Yung gestured out the large window to their left. "You see that skyscraper?"
Fiora raised an eyebrow. "The one with the large Fire Nation insignia on it?" How unimaginative.
Yung nodded. "That entire tower is the Royal Family's residence."
Tenzin smiled and turned back to the administrator. "I'm assuming there's some sort of quarters for the various dragons that the Royal Family is in possession of."
"That is correct."
The Airbender grinned. "Perfect. Let's go, guys."
As they went to leave, Yung stopped them. "Wait! Don't you want an escort?"
Tenzin shook his head. "We'll just fly there, and Teela can make use of the dragons' quarters."
The administrator and his aides bowed. "Then I wish you a good day, and I hope you enjoy your stay in Republic City."
As they exited the building, each of them soaked in the sheer awesomeness of the city. Each skyscraper offered a bright, new place to explore. They smiled. This was going to be the best vacation ever.
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