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February 8, 2013
This is the twenty-second chapter of the series,.
Out on the ocean, Nilak and his shipmates work hard to clean the ship as Adi and Hathi watch from the bridge. The crew had been pulling double duties for a week as Adi had pushed them, and especially Nilak, to their limits. "Lieutenant, I think it's time the troops get a little rest." Hathi says to his second in command.
"Yes sir." she says in soft voice before opening the door of the bridge and walks outside. "Alright you grunts, take a breather but don't get comfortable." she shouts outside as the young men and women disperse.
"You know, a little positive reinforcement wouldn't hurt. They have only been out here a week."
"Just pushing them sir."
"Just ease up on the drills. And I've noticed you're giving private Nilak an especially hard time." she give no answer as he walks out. "I've watched reels of the match you played against the wolf-bats years ago for the tournament championships. Dirty business on their part. But I certainly hope that has no bearing on your harsh drills."
"Uh, no sir, of course not." she says nervously as the Captain takes a stroll around the deck, greeting the other crew members. While he does this, Adi takes a walk in the other direction. As she walks she hears voices coming from one of the ships two water-bending platforms. She peers over the edge to find Nilak mopping the area as Honshi sits on the edge of the platform.
"Nilak, seriously. We're on a break, you can stop now." Honshi says as he pets Raza.
"Can't, have to finish."
"What's up with you. You've been on edge since your cake prank went horribly wrong." Adi herself thinks back about three days ago when Nilak's little joke almost caused an engine fire.
"Exactly, I realized I've been messing around my whole life. I need to get serious, need to..." he stops himself as he drops the mop on the platform. "Truth be told, I guess I'm just feeling a little out of place here. Everybody knows me as the joke guy in Republic City. But I always wanted to be just like my mother; a hero. I can't remember anything about her, she died when I was two."
"Yeah, Sakari told me. Your old man never told you much about her?"
"We didn't talk much when I was growing up. I spent most of my time with my aunt and visited my grandparents every so often. They always told me how great a person she was. I used to see them once a year during the Winter Festival."
"Winter Festival? Oh yeah, Sakari always talked about it. She said she always wanted to go, but something always came up."
"It's great, all the families from both Northern and Southern Water Tribes get together and we celebrate the whole week. This year it's going to be in the north. It starts in about three days actually. I guess this will be my first year missing it." he says a bit depressed.
"Why not ask the captain? We're not that far from the Northern Water Tribe."
"Nah, I'll be fine. Besides, we still have a lot of work to do." Nilak says, dismisses the idea before the two walk back inside with the iguana-parrot following them.
As they close the hatch behind them Adi comes from around the corner. "Great, now I feel bad for the runt."
Hokori stands over her uncle who is knelt down in front of her, the chains around his arms keeping him fastened to the wall. She moves in closer to him and looks him over, noting nothing of particular interest to her. "Do you have anything to say before I end you."
"What has he told you about me?" he asks
"He told me enough." she puts the knife to his throat.
"But did he tell you everything?" she stops as he says this, remembering her conversation with Korra.
"Listen before you act." she says under her breath, then looks back at the two guards. "Leave us."
"No can do. We have specific orders to stay with you at all times." one guard says to her.
"Does he look dangerous to you? He can barely move. I think I can handle myself." she says. "You can wait outside." she orders. The duo reluctantly agree and exit the room. "Now what is everything exactly?"
The older man takes the opportunity to attempt to get into a more comfortable position before finally speaking. "As I'm sure he told you, I did murder your father, but I was not alone. When it was discovered you were the Avatar, your father made it his goal to see your training through outside the desert. Your brother and I had other plans. I had always been jealous of your father when our father selected him to succeed him as chieftain.* He had always been the favored, I was always the screw up. Sakyu had his own plan of uniting the five major tribes under our banner. So when he offered to aid me in usurping your father I couldn't help but jump at the chance. After months of planning we struck, killing him easily in his sleep." he moves up and sees his niece none too pleased to hear this as her grip on the knife tightens.
"It wasn't until after that I learned of your brother's actions. He had already assembled a powerful force of warriors and launched aggressive attacks on several smaller tribes, enslaving many and slaughtering any who refused to bow to him. After he saw your power, he fully planned to finish his conquest once he was sure you were ready. I knew I had made a mistake, aligning myself with him. I saw why my father chose him over me and my selfish ambitions. So I took you and arranged for a friend to ferry us out of the desert. I needed to acquire the proper funds, so I left you with him and I headed out to retrieve a stash of gold hidden by my father, but when I arrived your brother and his men found and captured me, but I refused to tell them where you were. Unfortunately, I owed my friend quite the sum of money and, when I didn't arrive you were sold off to make the payment."
"That's... that's not possible. He said...you're lying." she says in disbelief.
He motions his left arm and a small necklace falls out. She leans over to pick it up. "This belonged to your mother before she passed and I've managed to hold onto it." she picks up the trinket and almost immediately images of her past flood her mind, memories which have long been repressed. She sees the times they used to camp out, her discovery of her powers, and even her uncle handing her off. "I am truly sorry for causing all of this. I know you may never forgive me for what I've done but..." he is stopped as Hokori kneels down and hugs him.
"Thank you. What should I do now uncle."
"Kill me." his statement alarms her as she steps back. "Your brother knows you'll finish me. It's to test your loyalty. Do it, gain his trust, wait for the time to strike, then stop this madness."
"It's alright, I've been able to see you again with my own eyes. I can leave this world complete now."
Hokori tightens her grip on the knife as tears roll down her face. "I love you uncle." After the task has been concluded she walks out of the room with her eyes closed tight. As the guards greet her her eyes open with a flashing white light as she shoots flames from her mouth that engulf the two as she walks back toward the upper deck.
On the deck Sakyu and Quan discuss their next move. "We simply need to swing north-east through here and it's a straight sail south through the Earth Kingdom home. They'll never expect us to take that route. Once we're home, I'll make sure you get what was promised you." the sand-bender says as he spots his sister. "Hokori, are you alright?"
"Yes brother, it's finished. Uncle has paid for his crimes." she says dropping the knife.
"Where are the others?"
"They..they were traitors. They tried to free uncle." she make up off the top of her head. "It seems our enemies are all around us."
Sakyu responds by placing a hand on his sister's shoulder. "All the better that you and I have been reunited. We'll need all the help we can get."
"Luckily you have it now." Sakari shows up behind the two, a huge smile on her face.
Hokori rushes over and hugs her friend. "Sakari, you're alright." she says slightly surprised.
"Why wouldn't I be?" she then turns to Sakyu. "Sorry for the misunderstanding. I can see how important this is for your people and I'm ready to help in any way possible."
"We all are." Chow says putting his arm around the water-bender's shoulder. She doesn't seem to mind as Sakyu and his second in command, Dochu leave the group, but not before the sand-bender turns and puts a hand on his sister's shoulder. "Well done, father would be proud."
As Hokori and the others walk along the deck, she can't help but be puzzled by the fact that Sakari allows Chow to get so close to her. She whistles sharply and gently gestures Yoroi, who grabs chow by the leg, pulling on his pants.
"Hey get off." he shouts as the armadillo-wolf takes his jacket and he chases the creature.
Hokori takes the opportunity to take Sakari aside to talk. "Are you feeling alright?"
"Yeah never better. Shouldn't we help Chow out?"
"What's with you? I thought you hated him."
"I guess I used to, I don't remember why though. But now we need to work together to help your people, so whatever problem I think we had I can put behind me. Besides, he is kind of cute." Hokori is visually disturbed by this as her brother makes an announcement.
"Alright everyone, we'll be hooking around the northern section of the Earth Kingdom close to the North Pole and it'll be getting pretty cool so everyone will be receiving some winter gear. But don't worry we'll be home soon." the crowd howls and cheers as they hear the news as Hokori starts to worry about the situation.
Miles south, Tahno's group, riding with Meelo on his sky-bison. "Thank you all for flying Air Meelo, we know you have a lot of travel choices and we're so grateful you chose us." the air-bender says happily as they continue their search.
"Just keep an eye out for that ship guys, we've got to be getting close." Mako says as the group hear a loud howl ahead on the ground.
"Down there!" Tahno says as he points to a spot in the forest where a group of people sit with a familiar animal, Naga. Meelo sets the bison down in the clearing as the groups meet. "Hasook, what are you doing out here?" he asks as one of the other water-benders treats his wounds. He motions her to stop as he stands up.
"The same as you I assume. Trying to save the Avatar. We found the ships but got overwhelmed. Had to fall back."
"Where's Sakari?" the father asks as Hasook and the others give sad looks. "What happened?"
"She held them off long enough for us to get away. I tried to get her to leave but she..."
"She's stubborn; like Korra."
"It seems every time we meet I bring you bad news. She handed me this to give to you." Hasook hands him the scroll as he opens it and reads.
I've had this letter for a long time. I take it on every mission I go on just in case. I guess I managed to mess up this time or else you wouldn't be reading this. I just want you to know that even if I'm gone, don't be sad. This is life, even if we don't like the hand it deals us, we just have to deal with it. I know it's going to hurt for a while, but I want you to know I understand. I understand why you sent me away; because every time you saw Nilak and me, you thought of mom and what happened, and that hurt. But you're strong. Mom always told me that about you when I was little and I know that even if I'm gone, you'll get through it all like before. Love you dad and tell Nilak I love him too.
Your daughter, Sakari
Near the bottom of the letter, Tahno notices the writing is fresh, not as faded as the rest.
P.S. I had a great time with you during our visit. Don't ever give up.
He clutches the letter tightly in his hand before putting it and the necklace in his pocket. "Where were they headed?"
"North of here. We've been trailing them the last few days. Best I can figure they're headed around the Earth Kingdom toward the straits to the Serpent's Pass."
"We can cut them off if we hurry." Mako says as Yi, Dogu, and Meelo head back to the bison.
"Let's burn sky!" Meelo shouts.
"Your uncle's a little weird." Dogu whispers to his friend.
(Try living with him) Yi responds.
"We'll catch up to you when we can." Hasook says.
"I'll need to borrow her." Tahno says as he hops onto Naga. "You ready mutt?" he says as the polar bear-dog takes off in a burst of speed in the direction the bison is headed. "Now I remember why I hated this."
Back on Hati's patrol ship, the crew is busy in their assignments. The ship is sailing east, close by the Northern Air Temple. As they work the ship suddenly changes direction. "What gives I thought we we're headed to resupply depot?" Honshi asks as he and Nilak are clearing some crates from the deck.
"We've suffered some engine trouble and were diverting to the Northern Water Tribe to exact necessary repairs." Adi says addressing the two as they jump up and salute. "Could take us a few days to fix, a week tops. As you were gentlemen." she says as she walks away.
"Wow, looks like you won't miss the festival after all."
"Yeah, that's quite the coincidence. Right buddy?" Nilak says as he stokes Raza's feathers. Unknown to the two Adi has a slight smile on her face as she leaves.
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