|More from Mageddon725||Adventure||G (all ages)||Here||Here|
|The World Meeting, Pt. 5- Spirit War|
Chapter 14: Spirit War
As Pema and Tenzin strode through Republic City's streets, they both hoped to close the gap that had formed between them in so short a time.
"So you've lived with the Equalists for your entire life?"
She shook her head. "Only since I was ten, after...well..."
Tenzin put a hand on her shoulder. "It's okay if you don't want to tell me."
Pema nodded. "Thank you, Tenzin." She exhaled and grinned. "Now, it's your turn."
He smiled. "Already? Okay...where to begin?" His thoughts went to his father, but he realized that such a line of conversation would not go well. "I'm from the Southern Water Tribe, but I'd much rather live anywhere else. I'm not really suited to the climate."
Pema giggled. "I imagine not."
"I know, right? Anyways, my friends and I are here on vacation, and..." He laughed nervously. He was running out of topics that weren't about his family and their bending abilities. "And...um..."
Pema cocked her head. "What's with the hesitation?" She asked playfully. "It's not like your past is gonna push me away."
I wish that was true. I wish I could be entirely honest with you.
The World Meeting this particular year was relatively boring. There were no major crises, no looming conflicts, nothing of note. Aang was grateful for the peace, but it made the entire affair seem, to him, unnecessary. Luckily, the proceedings were almost over. He glanced around the room at those in attendance, noting the Earth King's presence as well as Kiryu Iran and his grandson.
That's when he felt it; a spike of fear penetrated his spirit. The Spirit World was moving, and it was moving against him.
Iroh, who had been sitting between Aang and Zuko, leaned over. "Are you alright, Avatar?" He whispered.
"No...I can feel the spirits moving, and it isn't good."
The Dragon of the West nodded. "I, too, have felt, in my spirit, a heaviness that I can neither explain nor ignore." He stood and addressed the assembly. "I'm afraid I must cut my attendance short, gentlemen, for I have urgent matters to attend to." He looked to Sokka, who sat in the back. "Grand Lotus, if you would come with me."
Aang raised an eyebrow. What is he up to?
As the song reached its crescendo, San twirled under Lu Ten's arm, and they met face-to-face again. Each smiled at the other, and they were both content to be with one another in that moment. Soon enough though, the song ended, and Lu Ten bowed to his date.
"Thank you for the dance, San." He winked.
Sanaki blushed as she returned his bow. "It was an honor, Crown Prince."
Kyani coughed loudly. "As fun as this has been, it's time for the after-party." He chuckled. "C'mon lovebirds, we're wasting time."
Sora smiled. "You're in a hurry. Why don't you find someone to dance with, Kyani?"
He shrugged. "I just haven't given it much thought. The way I figure it, I'm sixteen. I have plenty of time to find my dancing partner."
"I can respect that." She smirked. "How did you become more mature than Tenzin? I remember when you guys were exactly the same." Sora chuckled. "I'd almost say you were the more mischievous than he was."
Fiora raised an eyebrow. "Really? I find that hard to believe."
"I was immature back then. Let's just say that after a prank Tenzin helped me pull on Mom, I had the mischief beat out of me." He shuddered as Fiora giggled.
All of a sudden, it felt like a weight dropped on each of them, and they fell to their knees. Hardly able to breath, they found themselves simply some of the many victims of Spirit World energy. Something massively dark, a great evil, had arrived.
Toph's mind was already twisting and turning as she fell, trying to process everything at once. She heard Chikyuu's cry, but the identities of their attackers would have to wait until—
She hit the ground and could finally see. Given that she had clothes on her back, her vision was slightly fuzzy, but it was enough. Chikyuu used her skill to deflect or defeat her opponents, but it wasn't enough. One of the Equalists rendered her right arm limp, while another threw a kunai that scratched her face.
"Mommy!" Two of them grabbed her arms and attempted to pull her off her feet while a third whipped out a katana and rushed forward.
Before he reached her, the young Bei Fong, tears in her eyes, stomped the ground and threw up an earth shield, blocking the blade and buying Toph time.
I'm coming, Chikyuu! She twisted her arms in order to grab the two metal balls at the end of the bola constricting her arms. She smiled grimly; even the cables were metal. Who did these upstarts think they were? The Blind Bandit ripped the bola apart and slapped the ground. The corresponding rock that came up was used to crush the skull of the Equalist with the katana. Toph then busied herself with removing the bola around her feet, an act which took all of two seconds.
As she flipped up to her feet, the blind Earthbender responded to the unfortunate Equalist that had decided to attack her by sending one of the metal balls into his throat. Chikyuu had taken advantage of the distraction by twisting her foot, launching a small pillar between one of her captors legs. She didn't even register his pained groan as she reverse-grabbed her other opponent's metal gauntlet, and, purely on instinct, bent the metal so that it inverted and spikes drove into his wrist. As he clutched at his bleeding arm, Chikyuu glanced at her mother, and then at the remaining five Equalists.
Toph took everything in. Time elapsed: twenty seconds. The Equalist leader readied himself.
"Kill them! Do not let them leave here alive!!"
Tenzin had been doing mental gymnastics the entire time. I don't want to lie to her; it feels wrong. By the same token, he knew he had to be careful. I don't have the slightest idea how she'd react.
Pema sighed. "I know that we've taken things too far." She winced as she remembered Solf's cruelty. "I promise you, I'm not like that. I'm just trying to change things."
The young Airbender nodded. Maybe I can jumpstart that change. "Pema, I have something I think you should—."
An inexplicable heaviness nearly pushed Tenzin to the ground, and Pema noticed that he had turned pale. "Are you okay?"
He was breathing heavily. What was that?! "Yeah...I'm fine..."
Tenzin looked forward and was puzzled by what he saw. A veiled woman in a kimono was walking toward them, and he began to get a sickening feeling in the pit of his stomach.
Pema glanced back and forth between the two. "Tenzin...what is—?"
He shook his head. "I...I don't know."
"Who is that?"
"Once again, I don't know."
The woman came closer and spoke in a light voice. "You have no need to fear me, young one, so long as your answers to my questions are correct."
Tenzin attempted to stand tall. "What makes you think I'm fearful?"
The figure chuckled. "Come now, it is easy to see. Now, for my questions..."
"Tenzin..." Pema was shivering.
"Who are you? Answer me fully."
"My-my name is Tenzin."
Her voice grew louder. "The son of Avatar Aang." It was not a question.
Pema whirled to face him. "What?!"
He glanced at her out of the corner of his eye. "Yes..."
"Tenzin, am I beautiful?"
He raised an eyebrow. Such an odd question. "Sure, you're very beautiful."
The veiled woman gave a low chuckle. "An answer that is purely respectful, that means you cannot comprehend the situation. I will show you what I am!" She ripped off her veil, revealing her mouth, a hideous smile sliced from ear to ear. "AM I BEAUTIFUL NOW?!!!"
Tenzin's eyes widened as a katana manifested in her hands. "You will pay for the sins of your father!"
As the children recovered from the effects of the attack, Sora looked up only to see her father fly above them on his glider.
"Dad?" She cupped her hands around her mouth. "Dad!"
Aang glanced down briefly before gesturing for them to stay put. It was the worst thing he could've done to actually make them stay put.
Sora turned to the others. "We have to figure out where he's going. Kyani do you have your—?" She glanced down and saw his shotos placed at his side in ornate scabbards. "Nevermind."
Fiora grinned. "Finally, something to do that doesn't involve dancing."
Before any of the Equalists could take a step, Toph twisted her foot, sending the one on the far left spinning and sinking into the ground until only his head remained. The other four sprang into action, two of them gunning for Chikyuu, two focusing on Toph.
The elder Bei Fong surged forward, digging her hands into the ground and dredging up to large stones. She launched them at the Equalists as they jumped toward her, but only one connected. The Equalist wielding the shikkars ducked under the rock as he landed, coming face-to-face with the Blind Bandit as his partner flew backwards, carried by the stone.
In the chaos prior, she had taken the time to construct earth gloves around her hands, which she now used to block the strikes of the masked Equalist's shikkars.
"We will prove ourselves your betters, Toph Bei Fong! Maybe not here, maybe not now, but we will—ugh!" His monologue was cut short when Toph slipped a strike past his guard. He staggered backwards, and the blind Earthbender turned her concentration on Chikyuu.
Her daughter, no longer outnumbered or outmatched, had already pinned one of her opponents against the wall, and the other was on the defensive, forced to use every ounce of his skill to avoid her attacks.
Toph smiled. Excellently done, Sweetie! Her eyes widened as she felt her opponent recover his faculties enough to scale the wall. She shook her head; he would answer to her inevitably. She resolved to aid her daughter with her final opponent, but soon noticed that such action was unnecessary. Chikyuu had already knocked him unconscious.
The Blind Bandit turned to her daughter, using her vitals as an indication of her condition. "Are you alright, Chikyuu?"
Chikyuu rubbed her aching arm as a trickle of blood ran down her cheek. She grinned. "Yeah, I'm fine." She looked around at the Equalists. "We really got them, huh?"
Toph gave a sigh of relief. Thank the spirits! "Do your wounds hurt?"
The blind Earthbender shook her head and smirked. "That means 'yes', Chikyuu. Here, let me check—."
The younger Bei Fong pulled away. "Mm-mm...I'm fine, Mom."
Another sigh, this time one of exasperation, came from Toph. "Chikyuu...stop making this difficult. Just let me make sure you're okay."
"Fine." Chikyuu pouted.
Toph glanced at the Equalist with the bleeding wrist. She used Metalbending, completely on instinct! She smiled. My daughter's a child prodigy.
Tenzin jumped back to avoid the initial strike and grabbed Pema before launching both of them backwards with an air blast.
Pema whipped around to face him. "What was that?! Are you—?!"
"Later." Tenzin interrupted as he pushed her out of the way of the veiled woman's follow-up strike. Have to lead her away...
The young Airbender formed a condensed ball of wind and pushed it at his attacker, but she simply stepped through it as if it wasn't there. "Is that the best you can do? I will tear your father apart through your death!"
Tenzin increased his speed and ran up and along the wall. Unfortunately, Pema did not understand what he was trying to do and followed on the opposite building, using her skills to scale it with relative ease.
The Avatar's son glanced over and gestured for her to run, but that only served to slow him down. A shadow fell over him, and he looked up just in time to see his pursuer descending from an impossible jump, sword aimed for the kill. Tenzin attempted to dodge, but the blade still met flesh, grazing his cheek and sending him spinning to the ground. He partially caught himself with an air bubble, but he still landed hard.
As he struggled to rise with a partially damaged ribcage, the veiled woman landed on her feet and continued her forward momentum with a lunge. "NOW YOU DIE!!"
A massive fireball interrupted her attack by knocking her through the wall. "Destiny is not yours to trifle with." The Dragon of the West stepped into view. "You of all beings should know that."
The woman pushed her way through the rubble. "General Iroh...my quarrel is not with you."
He shook his head. "I'm afraid I cannot allow you to do this."
The spirit took a step toward Tenzin. "It is my right, my vengeance. And not even my respect for you will save him. Now stand aside, General; we both know you are far too old to do battle with me on even terms."
"That's why he brought me." Sokka appeared behind Tenzin.
The young Airbender looked backwards at his uncle. Where did he come from?
The swordmaster and Grand Lotus glanced up to one of the ledges to his right, where Pema had been ready and waiting to strike. "Stay out of this, girl. Do not endanger your life unnecessarily."
Pema jumped down from her perch and landed next to Tenzin. As she helped him to his feet, he looked away. "I'm sorry..."
The spirit smirked and twirled her katana. Foolish children. She turned back to the Grand Lotus. "You cannot hope to match me. I have not heard of you, so your skill must not be quite enough."
Sokka let his sword rest at his side. "We'll see."
The swordmaster made no move as the spirit sped toward him, and an almost imperceptible smile appeared on his face as she grew closer. As her blade moved to make a passing strike, a simple twitch of his muscles was all that could be seen. As she sped past him, Sokka touched his side where the veiled woman had grazed him in the attack, and his meteorite blade was now in his right hand.
"Not bad..." He smirked. "A little amateurish for a spirit warrior, though." He turned and saw blood pouring from the gash in her neck.
Tenzin's jaw dropped. When did he draw his sword?!
"Ack...kk..." Her grotesque smile widened as the gash healed within a matter of seconds. "Heh...it appears we've underestimated each other. I will allow you to leave with your life, but the boy is mine!"
Sokka snorted. "Being in our realm changes things, doesn't it? Tell me something, how many times will I have to kill you for you to stay dead?" The Water Tribe warrior lunged forward, sword at the ready. They clashed blades, exchanging lightning-fast strikes. The spirit was fast and powerful, but her abilities seemed as though they had gone unused for quite some time, while Sokka trained every day.
Tenzin was mesmerized by the fight, but even that was overshadowed by a change in the wind, or, rather, in the air currents. He looked up to see his father glide in and land in between Sokka and the veiled woman.
"So you're the source of the disturbance." Aang pointed his staff in the spirit's direction. "What is the meaning of this?"
Her slit mouth made it impossible to convey, but sheer rage emanated from her being. "The meaning, Avatar Aang...you mean you don't remember me?"
The Avatar cocked his head. "No, I—." Wait, is that... "You were at my trial." All those present except Iroh raised their eyebrows in utter confusion.
The spirit began to clap. "Congratulations, Avatar, now for the obvious question."
"Dad..." Tenzin began to whisper.
"Be quiet, Son. This is between me and the spirit."
"Oh...you mean you don't know my name?"
"Enough games!" A blue glow hid itself just barely behind his eyes. "Tell me what this is about!"
"Now, now...this is important. My name is Usha, and I am known as the Spirit of Dawn." The katana in her hand vanished as she spoke. "All of this is your fault, Avatar Aang! You have driven me to this extreme. You killed my son; now I will kill yours!"
Aang's eyes widened. "You're Koh's...?"
"YOU KILLED MY SON!" Her fingers extended into long claws, and her teeth into massive fangs. The Avatar readied himself for a fight, but as soon as the transformation began, it ended.
Usha stood staring into nothingness for a half a minute. Meanwhile, the other members of the Warriors' Legacy, sans Chikyuu, finally arrived. "What is going on—?" Sora stopped dead in her tracks, repulsed by the spirit before them.
Kyani, on the other hand, took every detail in. He noticed Pema and nodded in acknowledgement. He also noticed the blood dripping off of his father's sword and the cut on his side. What in the world is going on?
The Spirit of Dawn stood, merely staring off into space, before bursting into hoarse laughter. "Oh, Avatar...the universe works in mysterious ways..."
Aang's heart pounded in his chest, and he felt his adrenaline surge. "What are you babbling about?"
The laughter only grew. "Avatar Aang, you cannot imagine how much this revelation makes me smile."
A chill ran down both of the twins' spines. This was not good.
Fire appeared in Aang's hands. "You will leave me and my family alone! Or you will suffer the consequences!"
"It appears that I won't actually have to lay a hand on anyone." Usha grinned wickedly. "I have just been given a vision, Avatar. And all I will have to do is watch as your heart is rent in two!"
Aang's eyes widened. "What did you see? Tell me now!"
She wagged her finger. "Ah, ah, ah...if I spoil it, that would be no fun. Goodbye for now, Avatar. We will meet again..." A searing flash of light accompanied Usha's departure and left Aang furious.
"WHAT DID YOU SEE?!!" He cried to the heavens. "Answer me, damn you!!"
A cold sensation also came as the spirit left, and it temporarily incapacitated everyone except Aang. As quickly as the feeling had come, though, it too went away.
Aang turned to his children. "Are you two alright?"
The twins nodded, completely silent, and completely confused. "What was that, Dad?"
Aang glanced at Pema, who was sitting on the ground, eyes wide and jaw to the floor. I'm not entirely sure, myself. "We'll discuss this later, in detail, I promise." He looked at Iroh and Sokka. "Thank you both for this. I don't know if I would've made it in time."
Iroh bowed. "You are most welcome, Avatar, but I think that talk of this matter would be best done in private."
Aang nodded. "Agreed. C'mon kids; we're going back to the tower."
Tenzin stood and offered Pema his hand. "We can take you home, if—."
She shook her head. "No...I'll be fine...but...Tenzin, can I—can we talk?"
Tenzin looked to his father. "You guys go ahead. I'll meet you back at the tower."
"I'm sorry, Tenzin, but it's too dangerous with that spirit—."
"That spirit won't hurt us, Dad. Please..."
Aang sighed. "Fine. Be careful."
Tenzin nodded. He had a lot of explaining to do.
His family and friends were gone, and now he and Pema were truly alone. "I assume you're going to yell at me..."
She looked away. "You know what hurts? Watching someone lie to you and knowing that they had every right to do so." She glanced back at him. "Tenzin, I'd just hoped that maybe you'd have trusted me. Not Solf, not the Equalists, me."
He exhaled. "Well now you know my secrets. I'm the Avatar's son and an Airbender."
"I...I can't do this Tenzin. I can't. You...you understand?"
The young, once hopeful Airbender nodded. "Unfortunately. I am sorry, Pema."
She bit her lip. "I know. Goodbye, Tenzin."
Aang sat at the banquet table with Iroh, Toph, and Sokka. "Sometimes I really hate being the Avatar."
"We all have our moments." Iroh replied.
"As if that is supposed to be a comfort." He gave Toph a small smile. "At least you and Chikyuu are alright."
Toph snorted. "Yeah, but their leader got away from me. That is unacceptable."
Sokka stroked his goatee. "You got the others, though?"
The Earthbender nodded. "But they aren't talking, and it's making me angry!"
"Well," Aang began, "I'll meet with Kiryu Iran tomorrow to get that sorted out. The problem we have not dealt with, however, is what to do about the threat."
Iroh leaned forward. "If it was truly a vision, and I am inclined to believe it is, we cannot stop it no matter what we do."
Aang closed his eyes. "That's not necessarily true. If we knew specifics, we could stop it." But that was the problem. They had no idea what Usha had seen, and that thought made Aang tremble with fear.
- Usha's appearance and initial dialogue mimic that of a Japanese urban legend: the Kuchisake-Onna (Split-mouthed woman)
For the collective works of the author, go here.