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|The Clash, Pt. 1 - Willpower|
Book 3: Dawn
Chapter 7: Willpower
Susanowo leaned against the glass as he looked down on Republic City. The NowoCorp office branch was placed in the middle of the city's business district. He looked out toward where he had seen the airship land and sighed.
"Kenshin, my brother is here. This is...unexpected."
The Spirit of Ice furrowed his brow and fidgeted in his seat, adjusting his ceremonial armor. "Otokami...why is he here now? Won't this ruin your plans?"
"I do not know why he is here, but it does not bode well for any future plans here." He scowled. "I need you to gather any Waterbenders who have completed their training and ready them for Phase Two; I will be taking them to the South Pole with me."
"Yes, Lord Susanowo, but what of your brother? What of Argho?"
The Spirit of Tempests folded his hands behind his back. "I will handle whoever comes at me first; although, the way things are going, I'd imagine it will be Otokami."
Kenshin bowed. "Yes...I'll see about the Waterbenders then."
"One more thing..."
The spirit stopped in his tracks. "Yes, my lord?"
Susanowo continued to gaze out of the window. "Have Kyrie find out what Otokami and his Air Nation are doing here. The answer to that will determine my own course of action."
Kuan Ti walked along the street as the wind grew cold. His breath became visible, and he wrapped his cloak tight around his shoulders.
Zhan...what changed between us? Why have you done this?
From what he had gathered, Zhan was not the only one dissatisfied with the current happenings. Most of the others had left with him, or at least, they would. He sighed, causing icy vapor to exit his lips. So much had happened in so short a time. They had allied with the Avatar, seen a Bloodbender's betrayal, watched benders go to war with one another at the beckoning of spirits, and finally, discovered that their master was murdered by an Airbender.
That, he decided, was when the turning point happened. He had been too blind to see it, too involved in Argho's war. Zhan had become disillusioned with benders, and he had failed to realize it.
"You could still join your friend." A deep voice accosted his eardrums, carried by the wind. "The Equalists need a leader."
Kuan Ti turned around, right hand placed on the holster at his hip. "Who's there?"
He met the gaze of the same cloaked man who had bumped past him in the museum. White hair hung down past the man's forehead, uncovered by the hood.
"My name is Lin Quei, and I am here to help your organization regain what it has lost."
"What are you talking about?"
Lin Quei laughed. "The Equalists need to regain the respect, the fear they once commanded. I can help you achieve that goal."
He frowned. "Who are you really?" The revolver came out of its holster faster than most could comprehend. "I'm not in the mood for games today."
"I am a spirit that is interested in helping you; that should suffice."
A spirit? "And if I refuse your 'help'?"
Lin Quei shrugged. "That is your choice. I would not recommend it, seeing as I can help you get what you've fought for your entire life: equality."
The gun remained pointed at the spirit. "Right...I just have one more question: What did you say to Zhan?"
"Simple. I told him the same thing I told you; he chose to take me up on the offer." The hooded spirit smiled. "If you do decide to join with me as opposed to the weak man you currently stand with, you know exactly where to find me."
The wind whistled, and Kuan Ti found himself standing alone once more.
Petrine sat before the Republic City Council, with Otokami looming over her shoulder. Gyatso now stood beside Ula, and the remaining Airbenders were seated outside the chamber.
"The leaders of the other three nations will need to speak to you, without the presence of...that spirit." Councilman Kulok said.
The Grand Elder raised an eyebrow. "You are welcome to enforce that, if you can." She glanced at the armored figure and cocked her head as it seemed to simply stare at her. "Fine..."
Councilwoman Maya cleared her throat. "I do not think you are aware of the gravity of what you have done, Grand Elder Petrine. This is serious!"
"I am aware, Councilor." Petrine replied. "Hundreds of Airbenders died at the hands of the Fire Lady and her armies, further proving that—!"
"Now, wait a moment!" Gaijo Lee slapped the table and stood straight up. "You attacked and tried to kill Fire Nation citizens, as well as plotted the assassination of the Royal Family! It is only because the leaders of the other nations have asked that we not put you in prison yet that you are allowed to roam free!"
"Agreed." Chong said. "You have much to answer for."
"So does the Fire Nation." The Grand Elder narrowed her gray eyes. "They slaughtered our people, and burned our homes. And what was done in response? Nothing! The line of Sozin is filled with liars, criminals, and murderers, and I was merely carrying out the justice that the blood of our people cries out for!"
Ula folded her arms. "Are you so certain that they have not already answered? Are you certain that they have not changed, Petrine?"
She frowned. "Yes. I expected better from you, Councilor; you are a citizen of the Air Nation first and foremost."
The Air Nation councilwoman nodded. "I am, and as such, it is my duty to protect my fellow Airbenders, even from a leader who cannot see where she is setting us up for destruction."
Petrine gritted her teeth. "Watch what you say, Ula. Your relation to Shen will only protect you for so long."
"So you do still care for him, then."
The remark provoked no visible reaction from the Grand Elder. "Are we done here?"
The five council members shared reserved glances with one another before Chong finally spoke. "Yes, we are done, for now. You will be called in by the leaders of the four nations soon; be prepared for their judgment."
Argho and Rioku sat down down on one of the benches outside of the city hall while Shen and Moro stared at the massive building. Petrine and Otokami had entered a ten minutes prior, and all four members of Team Avatar fidgeted.
"We should be in there now," Rioku said. "What if they decide to ignore the council and attack?"
"I don't think Petrine would do something that rash," Shen replied.
Argho frowned. "And you are certain? We cannot leave this to chance, or people could die."
The Airbender nodded. "She wouldn't do something that would deliberately put our people in danger of reprisal."
Moro furrowed her brow. "She did it once already."
The young man found himself speechless, unable to even think of a proper response. His friend had turned her back on all of the principles the Air Nomads held dear, all for a revenge that would destroy them.
"Shen..." The Waterbender spoke once more. "I didn't mean..."
"You did," he replied. "And you're right. I'm going on a gut feeling that she won't do something monumentally stupid now, and I hope I'm not wrong."
Argho suddenly stood and exhaled heavily. "Brace yourselves; we have company."
"Of what nature?" Rioku asked.
Several older men, robed in blue and white, stepped out of the meandering crowd and made their way toward the team. The Avatar scowled and folded his arms as they approached; in a matter of seconds, Argho and the others were surrounded by these robed men.
"Lady and gentlemen, allow me to introduce to you the Order of the White Lotus."
One of their number, a bald man, stepped forward, his thick brown mustache contrasting his bald head. Team Avatar did notice, though, that it was tinged with gray.
"Avatar Argho, on behalf of our prestigious Order, I welcome you to Republic City. I am—"
"Chao Tzu, leader of the White Lotus. I know who you are, and I am aware of your 'prestige'." The men winced at his inflection. "However, I do not know why you chose now, of all times, to reveal yourselves."
Chao Tzu bowed low. "Avatar, we have come to extend an invitation. We were not given an opportunity to train you, seeing as Korra expressly forbade it before she passed, but we would still see you an ally, nay, a member of our organization!"
Argho narrowed his eyes as the other three simply watched the exchange. "Why?"
The old men murmured amongst themselves. "Well...to allow us to better serve your—"
"What good could a bloated political machine do for protecting the balance? What do you pampered old men know of fighting ancient spirits?"
Shen smirked as their jaws dropped. "That was really tactless, Argho."
The Avatar frowned. "I apologize for my harshness, but I can see no viable reason for a partnership of any kind. In the days of General Iroh, this organization might've spearheaded the fight against Otokami and Susanowo, but now..." He shook his head. "Can any of you even fight?"
The mustachioed elder clenched his fists. "You insult us, Avatar! Why? What have we done to deserve this?"
Argho sighed and reached into the pouch on his belt. "Nothing, gentlemen. You have done nothing." He pulled out a white lotus Pai Sho tile and flicked it toward Chao Tzu. "Here, the Ancient Master sends this; he says you'll get the message."
One of the others spoke up. "First, the Avatar refuses us, now Master Kyani also? What have we done?"
"Gentlemen...I have a war to stop...but first, consider this: Iroh and the Order singlehandedly took Ba Sing Se from the Fire Nation, and again liberated it from Yuan Chong's forces. What will you do?" The Avatar turned away and began to walk toward city hall. "We will discuss this further; believe me."
Chao Tzu took a step forward. "But—!"
Rioku shot him a withering glare, an impressive feat for a man with only one functioning eye. "I would not press him."
Kuan Ti stared at the stylized poster of Amon in the museum, a relic of a past that refused to be forgotten. As he moved around to the other side of the display, the plaque stated that the back contained a portion of a map of the city that would show potential recruits where Amon's rally was to be held. He gazed at the full representation, and Lin Quei's words returned to him.
He grimaced. He did know exactly where he would find Zhan...and the spirit.
"First things first...I have to tell Argho." He whispered to himself. He needs to know that there's another spirit in play.
The Equalist leader turned to exit the museum. Why, Zhan?
He felt something dark coming from Lin Quei; the spirit seemed to reek of that darkness. As he made his way through the exit, a fresh snowfall greeted him, along with a chilling wind. Kuan Ti frowned.
"I can't afford to let my guard down now...as much as I want to."
Argho would probably want to handle Lin Quei. That was fine, but Zhan was his. Hopefully, he could convince his friend not to do anything rash.
Spirits...is this what Shen feels like with Petrine? Damn...
So, without so much as a sound beyond the soft falling of snow, the Equalist made his way to the one place everyone would be converging on by now. City Hall.
Petrine stood in the middle of the City Council members with Otokami at her side, as always, but the real challenge lay in diverting the coming rage of four nations. Though they had dismissed her to wait for the four leaders, she stayed. They were already on their way, according to the Spirit of Sound.
No use in leaving for any length of time.
As the massive double doors at the end of the council chamber creaked open, Petrine found her assessment correct. In walked Chief Hodak, Ambassador Chan, and Earth King Qiang, and all three of them stared her down in equal parts anger and disgust.
She bowed. "Leaders of the four nations," the Airbender glanced up at them, "Er...three, as the case may be, you summoned me and my people here?"
The Earth King was the first to speak. "You attempted to assassinate Fire Lady Saitei and her family, is that not correct?"
She nodded. "I did attempt, and fail, to eradicate the tainted line of Sozin, but I bear the responsibility for it entirely. The Air Nation was only acting on my orders as Grand Elder."
"I'm not sure we can accept that, Grand Elder Petrine." Chief Hodak replied. "Your people took part in it all, as well. We cannot just allow them to get away with what they've done."
"I pushed them into it, Chief Hodak. I exercised power that wasn't mine to lead this attack," she said quickly, drawing raised eyebrows from Ula and Gyatso. She shot them a slight glare in response, as if to silence them. "I am responsible for this, and I do not apologize for my beliefs; though I am upset at the needless loss of Airbenders we suffered."
"So, the Air Nation refuses to acknowledge its mistakes; I am shocked!" Susanowo's voice echoed through the chamber as he entered, flanked by Kyrie Kenshi and Kenshin. "Then again, I cannot expect much more from the Spirit of Sound."
Otokami clenched his fist, a wordless expression. Earth King Qiang had words, however. "Susanowo, we explicitly told you to stay out of this, did we not?"
The Spirit of Tempests shook his head. "No, you did not. You told me to stay away where Argho is concerned, and I will do so. What I will not do is allow my brother to run rampant on some misguided quest to restore a dead nation."
"Wait...your brother?!" Ambassador Chan cried out. "What are you—?"
"He is the Spirit of Tempests, gentlemen," Petrine replied. "And he is not here for the reason you think."
- After a somewhat unintended hiatus, It All Ends is back! Hopefully, I can stay on track this time.
- Chao Tzu's name is nearly identical to that of a certain character in the anime Dragon Ball Z, a character who is borderline useless.
- It seems Lin Quei has his paws in everything nowadays...
- Petrine's image actually inspired the portion of the story where she killed Kuan Ti and Zhan's master. I liked the look for the character, but I was initially burdened with the thought that she shared a cloak design with Kuan Ti. Thus, a story element that actually served to better several others was born!
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