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June 28, 2014
Chapter 1: The Return
"Hey, Sukan!" The woman glanced back in the direction of the distinctly female voice. The sound of that voice was almost drowned out by the crunching of boots through the light snow that covered the streets of Republic City.
Sukan smiled. "What's up, Ming?"
The other woman caught up rather quickly, a grin plastered on her face. "It's been awhile since we've seen each other. Chief's got ya working night shifts again, huh?"
"It's not that bad, but I'm on patrol right now. I can't—"
"Be distracted; got it!" Ming's laugh was short, loud, and infectious; Sukan found that her own smile widened. "Anyway, thought you wouldn't mind some company. I mean, your shift just started, right?"
She nodded. "Yeah, but I doubt you'll want to be out here as the temperature drops."
Ming shrugged. "Eh, then I'll leave. But right now, I'm sure you're good for some company, or backup."
A chuckle escaped Sukan with a slight wisp of vapor. "I doubt that I'll need the second one. This is the Shinjuku District, not exactly the low end of town."
Another shrug. "Still, it'll feel good to have a second gun. Believe me."
"Yeah," Sukan replied, "I guess it will."
She stared up at her parents, one on each side of her as they walked down the snow-covered streets. Hardly anyone else was out; the last person they'd passed by was blocks away by now.
"It's getting colder, Hon," the man on her left said. "We should probably hurry."
The woman on her right nodded. "Yeah, I'm starting to feel a chill down my spine." She glanced down at the girl. "We'll be home soon, Yoriko."
She grinned through chattering teeth. "I could keep us warm 'til we got home, Mommy!"
Her mother glanced at her father and shrugged. "She does need the practice."
"Sure, Sweetie," her father replied, "Go ahead and try it."
Yoriko put her open palms together and concentrated, allowing the fire to well up from inside and form into a flame in her hands.
"Interesting," a deep voice echoed from further down the street, where a man in a long red cloak stood waiting. "You've already got a handle on Firebending, at six years of age."
Yoriko's father stepped in front of the two women. "I'm sorry; we don't—"
"Know me? No, I do not concern myself with humans, for the most part. In this case, I need to make an exception."
Her father's eyes narrowed. "Now, wait—"
In a flash, the red-robed man had covered the distance between them and wrapped his hand around her father's throat. As he gurgled and thrashed, the cloaked man shook his head.
"I only do this to spare you the pain of watching her die," he said as he clamped his hand tighter, resulting in a loud pop.
A high-pitched shriek hit both Sukan and Ming's ears in the same instant. Both women immediately reached for their hip holsters as they ran toward the cry.
"What do you think?" Ming asked.
Sukan pursed her lips. "No idea, but we have to move."
They rounded the corner just as another scream tore through the night air. Sukan and Ming watched as a woman's body hit the ground, her neck lolling at an odd angle. A little girl knelt in the snow while facing a man with a red cloak.
Both women raised their weapons. "Step away from the girl, or we will fire!"
When he merely glanced at them, Ming repeated the order. "Republic City police! Step away now!"
The next sound out of her mouth was a gurgling gasp as dark spikes shot from the man's fingers into her chest and throat. Sukan's eyes widened, but she reacted as trained and pulled the trigger.
A bullet tore into the man's head, and he staggered back. The casing fell onto the snow, bent and crushed. He stared at her with what looked to be a mixture of pity and curiosity.
"I'm sorry; I've been gone for quite some time. What is that?"
What the hell...? Sukan hardly noticed Ming's body hit the snow, instead attempting to empty an entire clip into the monster before her. The little girl, who had been stunned by the sound of the first shot, dropped flat against the snow as bullets flew freely. With each hit, the cloaked man took another step backward, but refused to fall.
"Why won't you die?!" Sukan cried out as the last bullet left the barrel.
"It's not possible for any of you to kill me, even with this new weapon," he replied as he brushed bent casings from his cloak and pulled a few buried ones from his torso. "And now you complicate things. I was only here for the girl."
Sukan gritted her teeth. "I won't let you!"
The man sighed. "You've nothing left to stop me. Go home before you hurt yourself."
The magazine hit the snow, and Sukan slid the replacement from her belt and reloaded her pistol. She raised the weapon, only to realize that the cloaked man was now directly in front of her. He wrapped his hand around her throat and squeezed, but before she could even reach her hands up to grab his arm, spikes of ice burst from the snow tore through the limb responsible for her predicament.
The man released Sukan and glanced off in the direction the spikes came from. About thirty feet away stood a young woman clothed almost entirely in various shades of blue. Her silver eyes carried an intensity that belied her relatively small frame.
"So, you're the spirit that's got everyone I know worried. You don't look like much, but you did kill Argho. You won't get any mercy from us; we can't afford it anymore."
"And who are you, exactly?" The spirit snapped the icicles holding his arm in place as if they weren't there and pulled the ends out of his arm with no apparent discomfort.
"Lyre," the young woman replied as she melted the snow around her feet to form four large water whips that made a swirling, writhing barrier around her.
"I've spoken nothing but the truth," the spirit said with a slight smile.
The Waterbender blinked several times in rapid succession. "Wh...what...are you kidding me? I get that enough from everyone else!"
"It seems that, at the very least, Izanagi shares a sense of humor with pretty much every human who's come into contact with you," Hizumi stated as she stepped from shadows. Her blade glinted in the moonlight as she eyed the spirit. Her smirk faded into a thin line. "We still have a score to settle, for Argho's sake."
Izanagi frowned, and his brow furrowed. "I was really hoping to make this quick; I have other priorities." He turned his gaze back to Yoriko, but he noticed Sukan standing in between them.
"You assume we're just going to let you walk away," Lyre said before throwing out one of the whips and wrapping it around Izanagi's arm.
The spirit grimaced, but before he could pull at the whip, he noticed a shadow growing over him. He looked up just in time to see a large swordsman with a massive blade falling toward him from the ledge above.
Acting quickly, the spirit broke his liquid bonds with a small surge of dark energy and jumped backward into the darkness of the alleyway. By the time the swordsman had landed and turned around, he was gone.
"Well, that was faster than I'd hoped," Yari said.
"We don't have time to stand around," Hizumi began, "if he comes back to finish what he started, we could be in real trouble. We need to get back to base now."
Sukan glanced at Ming's body, and her heartbeat slowed to a crawl. Her vision dimmed as she shook her head. It was unbelievable that she was dead. To take her mind off of the numbing vision, she began observing the motley crew. All of them were equipped for a fight, with each one, even the Waterbender, having a sword somewhere on their person.
"Mommy...Daddy..." the girl sniffled as she crawled toward their bodies, but no tears formed. Her lips quivered, though; she was on the verge of breaking down.
Sukan stepped in between the girl and the bodies, kneeling down in order to close the distance between them. "Hey...you don't want to see that..."
The girl glanced up at her. "But..."
"I'll make sure you're safe; I promise. But to do that, we need to get somewhere safe, somewhere where that monster can't reach you."
"You can come with us; we have experience with this sort of thing...to an extent," Hizumi said.
"Are you sure that's wise?" Yari growled.
Lyre sighed. "We don't have a choice; we still don't know why he came back."
The swordsman shrugged. "We'll discuss it later. Maybe Karuta might—"
One icy stare from Lyre silenced Yari. Meanwhile, Hizumi turned to Sukan. "We can process all of this when we've made sure the girl is safe. Until then, I need you to follow my instructions to the letter."
Sukan marveled at the state of the warehouse where the mysterious group had taken her. It was stocked with weapons and supplies, and it had partitioned areas that she could only guess were rooms of some kind. One of these even had a large pipe leading up from it to the ceiling.
When they'd entered the building, four people, a woman and three men, came to greet them. Sukan noted that one of them had an odd suit of gray armor that covered him from head to toe and bore odd, almost arcane, markings. He seemed keen to speak, as he stepped ahead of the others.
"Was I right?"
Hizumi nodded. "Izanagi was there; I'm impressed, Karuta. That said, I'm sure you've noticed that we have visitors."
The armored man inclined his head. "I was going to ask about them."
Sukan took a step forward. "I'm Officer Sukan, of the Republic City police force, and your friends saved me and," she indicated Yoriko, who shrank back as she did so, "this little girl from the man that attacked us."
"Well, Officer Sukan, you're lucky to be alive," Karuta replied. "Izanagi is the spirit that killed Avatar Argho." He glanced at Hizumi. "I should've gone with you; I can fight—"
"We didn't need your help," Lyre said quickly, and her eyes narrowed as she stared at him. "Yari, Hizumi, and I handled ourselves just fine."
Karuta cocked his head. "I know that you're more than capable, Lyre, but—"
"Enough," Hizumi glanced back and forth quickly, "we have things that need done."
Sukan's gaze went from the Waterbender to the armored man. Something was happening between the two, but that wasn't what she was interested in.
"So...this...Izanagi is a powerful spirit?"
"One of the most powerful we know of." The woman who had yet to introduce herself stepped forward, and Sukan thought she looked familiar. "Karuta's right; you're lucky to be alive."
"Excuse me..." A little voice piped up from the back of the room. "When can I go home?" Yoriko scanned everyone in the room with apprehension.
Karuta took another step forward. "No...he didn't...he couldn't have..." His armored head turned to look at Hizumi. "Where are her parents?"
"Dead. Izanagi killed them; he tried to kill her."
He nodded before spinning back toward Yoriko and dropping to one knee. "I'm so sorry we had to meet like this...young Avatar."
- Part of the fun of this series will be exploring each of the White Lotus members' personalities throughout the story, and I hope you'll enjoy the process.
- For those who have kept up with the one-shots I've been writing (or the prologue) Lyre is one of Moro and Shen's daughters.
- Yari is kind of a mix of Argho and Rioku with alcohol thrown into the mix. :) I think I'm going to enjoy writing his character.
For the collective works of the author, go here.