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|The Finishing Move|
Chapter 11: The Finishing Move
Lin Quei stared up at Izanagi, and the amusement etched in his foe's smirk angered him. "What do you plan to do? Do you think any of what has occurred matters? The Avatar is far from safe, and this is far from—"
"The Avatar is not my concern, so long as the balance is preserved," he replied while reaching down for Lin Quei, "which is why I've come for you, at all."
For the first time in decades, Lin Quei felt real fear. The scream tore itself from his lungs even as he scrambled away from Izanagi. His feet tore through the snow-covered ground as he sprinted away from his foe.
"What's the matter, Lin Quei?" Izanagi asked as he ran up beside him, keeping pace as he smashed through the door of a building across from City Hall. "I'm wounded and weak; you should have no trouble with me."
Lin Quei whirled, eyes wide, and summoned a sword as he did when he killed the councilwoman. "I will end this! No one will stop me, least of all you!"
As Izanagi lunged, he thrust his blade into his chest. The current Spirit of Chaos grinned as his red-cloaked foe grimaced.
"You see?! I am—"
"That tickles," Izanagi said, taking a step forward and driving the sword further into his own chest. When he was close enough, he wrapped his fingers around Lin Quei's throat.
"Ghh...what...what are you—?"
"A regular sword? The old human's weapon was special, and it's the only shot they had. You?" He held up his stump of a left arm. "You can't even hurt me." Izanagi grinned, an inhuman gesture that further unnerved Lin Quei. "You don't know what it is to be chaos. You think it's plans and schemes...no. I thought so until recently, but I quickly realized that I'm awful with plans. It caused this whole mess."
"You...you're a child of a spirit, Izanagi! You have all this power—"
"You have no idea."
"—and you are nearly dead! You've wasted it! The mantle is far better in my hands than yours!"
Izanagi frowned. "You aren't fit for it. Shikatsu tried three times to fill my spot on our little council, but I am irreplaceable. Do you know why?"
"Why?" Lin Quei asked. Whether or not such a response was out of fear, he couldn't tell.
"Chaos is a force of nature; I am a force of nature. All your schemes mean nothing, and they spit in the face of balance." He held Lin Quei up against the wall. "I will be taking my title back now, because you don't have what it takes to be what I am."
Argho stepped through the fog and was immediately confronted by Aang, Korra, Roku, Yangchen, and Kyoshi.
"What happened in there, Argho?" Aang asked. "We were thrown out almost immediately, but you took half a minute to reach us."
Kyoshi folded her arms. "What has that fool spirit gone and done? Now the world will be out of balance!"
"We need answers, Argho," Korra said, "are we really cut off from this new Avatar?"
The Earthbender nodded. "Indeed we are. Lin Quei has put her and the Avatar State out of our reach for the moment." When their heads sunk, he held up a hand. "However, I was able to get her to wake up; he no longer controls her. But there is—"
"You saw her?!" Kyoshi's eyes widened. "You led her out?!"
He nodded. "I did." Argho frowned as he noticed her demeanor. "What's wrong, Kyoshi?"
Kyoshi glanced around at the others when no one else spoke. "Am I really going to have to say it?"
"Say what?" Argho asked.
"You were able to not only find the Avatar—Yoriko—but also help her? Why didn't you do your duty?"
Argho took a step toward Kyoshi. "And what duty would that be?"
She narrowed her eyes. "Why didn't you kill her?"
The snow fell slowly as Sukan held Yoriko close. She looked down the steps at the members of the Order of the White Lotus, who each looked tired and ragged. The spirits who started the whole thing were nowhere in sight; so much the better for Yoriko's sake. The little girl shivered in her embrace.
"What's happening to me?" she asked, her voice a whisper.
"Hey, I'm going to need you to stay calm, Yoriko," Sukan said as she lifted the girl's chin so that their eyes met. "Can you do that for me?"
She sniffled and sucked in a breath before nodding. The officer smiled.
"That's a good girl."
Sukan heard the clicking of boots on the steps behind her, and she recognized who the footsteps belonged to before she even spoke.
"Is the Avatar alright?" Hizumi asked.
Yoriko peeked over Sukan's shoulder as the officer glanced back at the Grand Lotus. "I'm...I'm okay..."
"She's been through a lot, Hizumi," Shingen said as he sat down on the steps beside her. "We need to think about this..."
Sukan frowned. "No more talk of destiny or ownership. Not tonight. Yoriko needs to rest, to recover, and you both need to get your heads on straight!"
"You're right," Hizumi replied. "Now's not the time."
Shingen nodded. "I suppose not."
The officer opened her mouth to speak, but the sight of the red-cloaked spirit, Izanagi, stepping out of the alley shoved the words back down into her throat. Instead, orders came flying out.
"Yoriko, I'm going to need you to look right at me until I say otherwise. Do you understand?"
The girl pulled back and began to turn, but Sukan gripped her shoulders. "No! Look straight at me."
When she complied, Sukan finally focused her attention back on the spirit. His wounds were gone.
Lyre's eyes widened as Izanagi stepped out of the shadows. His arm had grown back, and he didn't seem to have a wound in his chest anymore.
"What are you?"
He twisted his neck slightly so that it cracked and let out a contented sigh. "I am the Spirit of Chaos once more, and that fool is dead."
"What are you—?"
"It means that we're finished here," Izanagi said, all the while sporting a massive grin. "I can finally go back home."
As the spirit turned, Yari stood in his way. "No, I won't let you..." He brandished onikira with one hand, as his other still hung rather uselessly by his side.
Izanagi frowned. "Perhaps I am not done, after all."
Yari lunged forward, but Izanagi merely snapped his fingers. The blade shattered into a thousand tiny pieces as Lyre and Yari both stared at the hilt in his hand.
"Now that I have my title back, not even that blade could help you. It was born of evil; I could feel it." Izanagi walked passed him. "It's better this way. Let it go."
Yoriko's eyes widened in terror as she heard Izanagi's voice. It was all Sukan could do to keep her from turning.
"Eyes on me; don't turn around!"
"He...he killed them..."
She knelt down and hugged Yoriko. "Don't do this to yourself, Yoriko. He won't hurt you; I'll make sure of it."
"You don't need to worry; the Avatar is no longer a concern of mine," the spirit replied. "My business here is done."
"Then get out of here," Sukan hissed as Yoriko quivered in her embrace.
The spirit nodded. "Perhaps it is for the best; we wouldn't want her to lose control and go into the Avatar State again."
The officer angled her body to place herself between Yoriko and Izanagi, but the spirit simply sighed and began walking away.
As he did, the young Avatar glanced in his direction and shivered. Lyre and Yari watched him walk by, and Karuta stirred. The snow seemed to wrap around him like a second cloak, and Izanagi was gone from sight in half a minute.
"Kill her?!" Aang cried, "Kyoshi, have you lost your mind?!"
Korra grimaced. "Yeah, I'm not going to even ask what you're really saying."
"I see her point, unfortunately," Yangchen said. "We have a duty."
Argho frowned. "My duty does not involve killing a child!"
"It does if she presents a threat to the Avatar spirit and to balance," Kyoshi replied, "And we've missed our window because of you. If she goes into a rampage, we can't stop her anymore! That is what we're supposed to do, is it not? Stop an Avatar if they lose control or abuse their power!"
Aang folded his arms. "Easier said if you aren't the one who has to kill a little girl with your bare hands."
"You couldn't even be bothered to kill the Fire Lord in your day, Aang, and if it wasn't for a rock, the world would've suffered for it."
"Kyoshi," Argho said as Aang turned away, "enough. I doubt even you would've been able to kill that girl in cold blood. Duty or no, she deserves a chance to live. We can work through this; the Order of the White Lotus—"
"—can barely maintain the balance in your absence." Yangchen sighed. "They mean well, but they had to face down Izanagi, a fate I would not wish on anyone."
Aang glanced back at the circle, but Roku spoke up before he could.
"They are a young team, inexperienced, and they had to protect the new Avatar from two powerful spirits, one of whom no one knew was in play until he revealed such."
Korra frowned. "So what's our play?"
"We have to hope that the Order can train this girl to fight for herself," Kyoshi replied. "Then, when she's old enough, she'll seek us out."
"And what will you do then?" Argho asked. "What will our response be?"
"We find a way to get this issue resolved, ideally without killing the host."
Jing opened his eyes to find that he was lying on his back, and his body ached. As he slowly rose, he removed the mask and let it fall to the ground. Time seemed to slow, and he noticed Karuta standing in his peripheral vision.
"I was unable to kill him."
"So why am I free?" he asked. "Didn't we have a deal?"
"I can't kill him now; he has his power back. In my condition, I am less than nothing, and he would shatter your body with a twitch of his finger."
Jing nodded. "So...what will you do?"
The spirit folded his arms across his chest. "Do with the armor what you will; I have no use for it. The Spirit World will have to serve as a place of rejuvenation for me, until I can finally match Izanagi in battle once more."
The young man frowned. "I hope you know that I'll have this armor destroyed. No one else is going to be used like I was."
Karuta shrugged. "It matters little. Do what you will, as I have."
The spirit faded from Jing's view as the world sped up once more. In a second, Lyre was by his side; he offered a small smile.
She sighed. "When I was little, I wanted nothing more than to help my parents and Avatar Argho save the world. If I'd known that the Spirit World was so dangerous—"
"—you would've still joined the Order."
"Yeah," she replied, "but I would've kept you away. I would've...I don't know...I would've asked Hizumi and my parents to start searching for the Avatar. If it wasn't for us—"
Jing pursed his lips. "She'd be dead. Izanagi and Lin Quei both would've still been after her for one thing or another, and now she has a chance."
Lyre shook her head. "But what kind of chance is this?"
"I..." He sighed. "I think it's better than the alternative. She's alive; that's got to be worth something."
Izanagi stepped through the portal quickly; he'd spent enough time in the world of humans to last ten thousand years. As he tasted the air of the Spirit World once more, he glanced down at his newly reformed arm and flexed his fingers.
"It's been a long time." The voice caught him by surprise; he almost didn't recognize that it was two molded into one.
"Shikatsu..." Izanagi brought his gaze up and found himself staring at four spirits as opposed to the one he expected. "So, this is the new council?"
The glowing spirit in the middle nodded. "Indeed they are. Much has changed in ten thousand years...give or take a century."
The Spirit of Chaos lowered his head and stared at his feet. "So...how is this going to happen? Will we fight again?"
"That depends," one of the other spirits said as she approached. Her tree-like form moved elegantly; her appearance was unfamiliar. Yet Izanagi could sense something.
"Who are you?"
She inclined her head. "I am the Mother of Faces, also known as the Spirit of Order."
His eyes widened, and the cloaked spirit took a step back. "You're Order? But you look nothing like—"
"I am not quite the one you knew," she replied. "But I do have what once belonged to her. I know who you are, and what you did."
Izanagi glanced at the other three spirits and swallowed. "And...?"
"Well," he said as he rubbed the back of his head, "aren't you going to...Order would've yelled at me. She would've said I messed up."
"But you've learned from those mistakes. What happened with the Avatar was not entirely your fault; our replacement for you was partially to blame."
The Spirit of Chaos frowned. "How can you be so calm? I killed you!"
The Mother of Faces reached out and laid a hand on his shoulder. "You didn't mean to; I know that, Izanagi. She would forgive you for that, as I have."
Tears rolled down the spirit's face, to his surprise. "But...why? What have I done to deserve this?"
"Nothing," she said. "It is freely given."
Shikatsu coughed, drawing everyone's attention. "That said, you still must answer for what you did while on earth. Killing the representative of balance in the human world, as well as several humans—"
"Oh, hush," the Spirit of Order said. "He'll have plenty of time to suffer through a lecture later. I'd say let's welcome Izanagi back with open arms. He's suffered enough."
Izanagi embraced her tightly. "Thank you, Order. I'm sorry; I'll make it up to you. I promise." He looked at Shikatsu. "To all of you."
Officer Sukan wrapped the blanket around Yoriko's shoulders as medics and healers tended to the wounded, herself included. She winced as they moved the water over her punctured shoulder, but as she looked at Yoriko, her shoulders sagged, causing another spike of pain.
"Be still," the healer said as he continued to work. "It's easier if you don't move."
"Sorry," she replied.
"What's gonna happen to me?" Yoriko asked softly. "I...I didn't mean to..."
Sukan turned the girl around slowly, careful to avoid moving her shoulder too much. "I know you didn't, Sweetie; this isn't your fault. Nothing bad will happen; I'll make sure of it."
The young Avatar blinked a new round of tears away. "Thank you for saving me...he was gonna send me back..."
Yoriko gazed up at her. "To the shadowy place. It's where I heard the voices...where they screamed at me."
"Voices?" Hizumi asked as she approached. "Avatar Yoriko, would you mind telling me exactly what happened?"
The little girl glanced at Sukan, who nodded. "The other bad spirit sent me to a shadowy place, and I heard voices everywhere. They...they screamed things..."
The Grand Lotus knelt down. "Hey, go easy. You don't have to tell me if you don't want to."
Yoriko pursed her lips and shook her head. "I...I don't want to think about it, but Officer Sukan asked first. They...they were hurting; they wanted me to hurt. Hurt people. But...but then this big man came out of the fog. He said..."
"What?" Hizumi scooted closer. "Who did you see?"
The girl's deep, brown eyes watered again. "He said he was my pred—my prel—he said his name was Argho."
Both women sucked in a breath when Yoriko mentioned his name.
"He saved me and brought me back."
Hizumi blinked rapidly. "Did he—"
"I think she's had enough for now," Sukan said. "Let's wait for things to calm down; I have a feeling we'll have plenty of time to sort this out before long."
- Izanagi is an interesting character to write. He's taken so many twists and turns.
- This is not the last chapter of Arc 1, despite the title. :)
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