The party had commenced and so far, everything was going well. Korra was happy dancing with her best friend, aunt, uncle and siblings, while Tenzin was chatting with President Raiko.
"I can't thank you enough for doing this." said the air nomad.
"Thank nothing of it, Tenzin." the president smiled. He was a middle aged man with gray hair, tan skin and brown eyes wearing spectacles and a navy blue suit with black pants. "After all the times she babysat for my sister-in-law, it's the least I can do. I always said, she'd make a great politician. She's got the brains and the guts."
"I know. She can be so much but she's only interested in parading around the world doing who knows what."
"I completely understand. I always did believe that our generation should prioritize their future more. Especially if they have the right person to motivate them."
"I agree. Which is why I hope this event goes well."
"Well, you won't need to worry." Raiko gestured to Tenzin's left and he turned his head to see three more guests arriving to the party. "It appears our guests have arrived."
Mako and Bolin finally made it to the party, but just as Mako had suspected, the whole place not only had a lot of people around, but also security. "I told you Bolin, we shouldn't have come here. One look at us and we'll get thrown out for sure."
"Relax, all we have to do is find Asami and she can---"
The boys immediately stopped on their tracks when a tall woman with short gray hair, pale skin, sharp cheek-bones and light green eyes stared upon them with such intensity it send shivers down their spine. She wore an official Republic City Police uniform, metal platting and arm bands to match, and two scars rested on the right side of her cheek.
"This is a private event, do you boys have an invitation?" he asked sternly. Mako and Bolin were very familiar with Chief Beifong's impeccable record, so they had all the more reason to be afraid.
Mako waited for Bolin to say something but instead, much to his annoyance, Bolin shoved Mako's emboli, meaning he wanted him to come up with something.
"Um, well, uh….you see, we're um."
"It's okay, Lin." the female voice called out and the brothers were relieved to see it was Asami, "They're friends of mine."
Lin eyed at the two. She still didn't trust them. For one, they didn't appear dressed for a party and one of the boys even had a red fire ferret on his shoddier. But, she couldn't argue with Hiroshi Sato's daughter.
"Very well, Miss Sato. You can go in." she said reluctantly and Asami took both boys by the arms and led them into the park.
"Wait, did she call you 'Sato'?" Bolin asked in awe, "You wouldn't happen to be related to Hiroshi Sato, creator of the Satomobile?"
Asami simply shrugged and smiled, her arms still linked to theirs. "Yeah, she's my dad."
"Get outta town!" the brothers exclaimed.
"Why didn't you tell us?!" Mako exclaimed.
"You didn't ask." she then pointed froward, "Oh, there's Korra."
The boys looked to where she had pointed and spotted the young woman, her hair down and bellowing in the wind, as she played with the children and her siblings. Mako couldn't believe that was her. She looked so….beautiful. The yellow lights of the lanterns gave her an angel-like glow and her face was bursting with joy as she played with the children who giggled alongside her. She looked like a princess.
"You got the necklace?" Asami asked, waking Mako from his trance and pulled the pendant from his pocket.
"I'll just give it to her real quick and we'll be out of--" just as he prepared to walk towards Korra, Asami stopped him by pulling his arm.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa, there!"
Asami scanned his cloths up and down, "Is this the best you could do?"
"We didn't have anything else to wear to a party. Besides, I didn't plan on staying that long."
Asami turned to Bolin, "Is he always like this?" she pointed her thumb to the firebender.
"You get used to it."
"Well, lucky for you boys, this girl's got a passion for fashion." she happily dragged the two boys away towards the bushes and took from her shoulder purse a sowing kit and hair products. "I never leave home without it. Okay, let's see what we can do here." she started adjusting the boy's clothing to make them look more presentable. "Bolin, maybe adjust the collar a bit, roll your sleeves down, tuck your shirt in," she took out her comb and styled his hair into a sleek sophisticated fashion. She turned to Mako, the first thing she did was reach for his scarf, until he grabbed her wrist, much to her surprise.
"The scarf stays." he said sternly.
"I wasn't going to take it off." she replied before yanking her wand off of his and began adjusting it to make it look more like a bandana. She bended his high collar downwards and rolled down his sleeves and styled his hair to the side. Asami stepped back and admired her work.
"That's better. Oh, one more thing." she took something else from her purse what appeared to be breath spray. "Open up."
The boys opened their mouths and she sprayed the stuff into their mouths but then they started coughing.
"That's perfume!" Mako said while trying to get the taste out of his mouth.
Asami read the label and blushed in embarrassment, "Oops, sorry!" she sniffed the boys, "But it worked!" she then turned to the little furry friend they brought. "And who's this handsome little one?"
"That's Pabu." said Bolin.
"Well, Pabu, I've got the perfect accessory for you." she pulled out a ribbon from her hair and made in into a bow tie to Pabu. "There you go."
"Wow, Pabu! Lookin' good!" Bolin winked, "Thanks Asami, you're a miracle worker."
"Well, let's not waste any more time talking. There's a party waiting."
Once Korra was done playing with the kids, she walked over to the punch bowl to get herself a drink. However, on the reflexion of her glass, she spotted someone approaching her. He was the last person she wanted to see. She took in a deep breath once he appeared in front of her.
"Hey, Birthday girl."
"Prince Wu, what a…pleasant surprise." she said with subtle sarcasm.
"Isn't it though? I'm just full of surprises." the prince smiled while smoothing his hair. "You know Korra, there's not a girl in town who wouldn't love to be in your shoes."
"Let me guess," she began, rolling her eyes, "cause I'm talking to you?" she said sarcastically.
"Not just that, let's just say tonight will be the night I make your dreams come true."
"What do you know about my dreams, Wu?"
"Plenty!" the prince then placed his arm around her, much to her shock and annoyance, "Picture this; you living in the lab of luxury like the princess you are destined to become--Omp!" Wu was shoved aside when Korra harshly punched him in the stomach causing him to tumble down to the ground.
"Keep your dreams to yourself, bub!" she walked away with her shoulders straight and head held high, while Wu whimpered on the ground.
Korra made her way while drinking her punch, but she wasn't looking where she was going and bumped into someone. Good thing the punch fell on the ground instead of on her cloths, or on the cloths of who she bumped into to.
Korra and Mako stood there for a few seconds before she started laughing, "We've got to stop meeting each other like this."
Mako was a tad surprised to see her laugh. He didn't think she liked him all that much, which was probably the reason why he was reluctant to hand her the necklace up front.
"So, not to sound rude but, what are you doing here?"
"Asami invited us." he replied.
"Us? Is Bolin here too?"
"Yeah, he's probably dancing with some girl by now."
Korra slightly leaned her head to her left and smiled, "Well, you're right about that."
Mako turned around and found his brother was dancing with a girl….Asami. The two really seem to be getting a long rather well. Then, Mako remembered what he came here to do.
"So, um…Happy Birthday."
"Thanks." Korra placed her hands on her hips, perfectly casual, which only made Mako feel more nervous. He was getting rather tongue tied while she was as cool as ice.
"So, sixteen now?"
"Oh, good….listen, I got something for you."
Before Korra could ask how he knew of her birthday long enough to get her a gift, she gasped with happiness at what he showed her. "My necklace! I thought I lost it!" Mako handed it to her and she quickly placed it around her neck. "Thank you, you have no idea how worried I was. This means so much to me."
Mako, amazingly, smiled. "I can relate."
Mako's eyes snapped open and he tried to find a counter to what he said, "Uh, no, nothing!"
"Well, since you're here, you wanna dance?"
"Me? No, no I don't dance."
"Oh, come on, it'll be fun!"
Without even asking, she grabbed him by the arm and dragged him to where the other guests were dancing. The music was upbeat and fun rather than slow and steady, just the way Korra liked it. Mako only stood there while Korra danced with such energy, grace and enthusiasm.
"Come on!" she encouraged.
"I've never danced."
Korra briefly stopped and took him by the hands, "It's easy. Just feel the rhythm and let your feet do the rest."
Mako tried to do as she said and attempted to go with the rhythm, but he only stumbled and nearly fell. He face palmed himself in embarrassment, "I told you I was bad!"
"No, you're fine."
"Can't we just, sit and talk or something?"
"Why? Dancing beats small talk anyway. My uncle always said its a form of self expression."
"I'm…I'm not very expressive."
"I've noticed." Korra said with a knowing smile but she did not judge him, "Well, maybe it's time to change that."
Dancing is a language that is felt instead of heard
You can whisper, sing or shout without so much as a word
Try it, go on, like so…
Korra spun around on her axis like a pro while Mako still felt self cautions. "I can never do that!"
"You don't have to."
Just let your emotions tell your body what to do
See how much a single gesture can reveal!
And every little step
Every single step
Is one step closer
To saying what you fell
Seeing that this girl was not going to quit, he decided to give it a try. Mako tried to listen to the music and flow with the sound while Korra helped him through it. She seemed to be enjoying helping her new friend.
Once the music hits you, inhibitions fall away
And you find that you're expressing things
Your voice daren't say
Don't be afraid, let go!
Pretty soon, Mako was finally getting the hang of it and found feet fall victim to the music as he and Korra danced. He would never say it out loud but, Mako was actually having fun.
Soon as you surrender, what's inside will sweep on through
As the boundaries between us disappear!
And every little step
Every single step
Is one step closer
To talking loud and clear
"See? Now you're getting it!"
Dancing is a language that is felt instead of heard
But it says much more than language ever could
And every little step
Every single step
Is one step closer
One step closer
One step closer!
To being understood!
Once the music had stopped Mako had to take a moment to breath. He really got into the rhythm of things back there. "Wow! That…that was actually kind of fun."
"See? I told you."
Once Mako took a moment to collect his thoughts, he looked at her. Korra felt like he was studying her somehow. "What?"
"Why did you do that?"
Korra scoffed and rolled her eyes, "This again? Okay, do you have something against people being nice to you or something?"
"It's not I'm against it…I'm just not used to it."
This caught Korra's attention. Her natural empathy took over and she grabbed Mako by the arm. "I think that's enough dancing for now. How about we just talk?"
Tenzin scanned the area for his daughter. He had not seen her since she was playing with the children. He was startled by the arrival of two young men. One pale in skin with amber eyes and raven hair styled to perfection, while the other one had tan skin, dark hair and wore spectacles but was tall and fit.
"Master Tenzin." they both greeted him with a bow.
"Oh, hello gentlemen. Glad you could make it."
"Thank you for inviting us." said the amber-eyed one in red clothing, trimmed with gold. "We were hoping to meet your lovely daughter, the guest of honor."
"Yes, yes, very soon just give me a moment please." he politely excused himself and found his brother and son. "Bumi, Meelo, where's Korra?"
Bumi stroked his beard in thought, "I think she walked off with some guy a few moments ago."
"Guy?! What guy?!"
"Tall, handsome, most likely firebender."
Tenzin didn't like the sound of that at all. Not one bit.
The park had a lovely bridge over a stunning pond, where turtle ducks would play in it. Korra and Mako stood side by side, looking at their reflexions in the water.
"So, what did you wanna talk about?" Mako asked curiously.
"Let's start with you." she cause casually, "What's your life story."
"No, I don't do back stories."
Korra shrugged and leaned her back against the reins of the bridge while Mako leaned froward, still looking at the water. "Okay, fine. Then why don't you ask me a question and then I ask you one."
Mako arched an eyebrow. He had never met anyone as social and fearless as she. Not even his own brother. He decided to agree, since he did want to know if this girl was for real or juts downright crazy.
"Okay. First off, what made you want to dye your hair?"
Korra reached for the part of her hair which was silver instead of brown. "Actually, it's not dyed. I was born with it."
Mako was really surprised to hear that. "Really?"
"Yeah, I think it's some heterochromia or something. So, you've ask your question, time to ask mine."
"Okay, go ahead."
Korra bit her bottom lip before thinking of her question. "What made you want to be a pro-bender?"
Mako lowered his gaze back to the pond bellow. That question was going to lead to some tough truths but, he did agree to this. "Before we became the Fire Ferrets, Bolin and I grew up dirt poor. We lost our parents when we were kids. We've been on our own ever since"
Korra could feel her heart break for the two. Even though she never knew her parents, the idea of watching them die must have been a terrible and traumatic experience for them both. "I'm so sorry. I didn't know."
"It's okay, how could you have known? At first, we struggled for food. Stealing from stores, getting in trouble with the law, we were even a part of a street gang, the Triads."
Korra's eyes snapped open in shock, "What?! You were one of those criminals?"
"No! You don't know what you're talking about. I just ran numbers for them and stuff. I did what I had to do and protect my little brother."
Korra felt awful for her outburst before. "I'm sorry. It must have been really hard. I shouldn't have snapped like that."
"It's okay. I guess this means I can ask you a question now?"
"If you want to."
"…Why exactly did you let that kid go?"
She knew what he was talking about. The other day when she let that hungry boy run off with his lunch. "I guess, I just looked into his eyes and when he looked into mine I just felt he had a great deal left to do with his life. That's all."
Every single word that came out of this girl's mouth was just astonishing to Mako. "Are you for real?"
"What's that suppose to mean?"
"Are you seriously this nice to everyone?"
"Well, most of the time, yeah. But if somebody gets on my bad side, I'm not gonna be so sweet and nice."
Mako jerked his head back in laughter, "Ha! I'll believe it when I see it."
To prove her point, Korra punched Mako hard on his arm. The woman sure had a powerful hand, he felt his arm was on fire. "OW! Okay, you've made your point!"
Korra laughed at her victory in proving him wrong. It always felt good. However, she then noticed that he was adjusting his scarf in such a way that seemed very familiar to Korra.
"Does that mean anything?"
"That scarf. The way you hold onto it like you're scared if you let go you'll loose it."
As she said this, Mako noticed how she gripped her pendant. He realized he and she shared something in common. "This scarf was my father's." he said as he gripped the fabric. "It's all I have left of him. I just feel like…like it keeps me safe." he turned his gaze away from her in embarrassment for opening up like that. "Pretty silly, hu?"
"No, not at all. I totally understand." said Korra while holding her pendent, "At least you got to know your parents. This necklace is just a reminder of the two people who cared for me…and who I never got to meet."
One of the dragon birds, Fluttershy flew down and landed on the bridge, allowing Korra to gently stroke her mane. "Hey Fluttershy."
"You know this little thing?" Mako asked.
"She's a dragon bird. I found her when I was just a little girl. She's been with me ever since. Her and the others."
"Others? You have more of them?"
"Yep! Seven in total. Each different and special."
As the little creature rested into Korra's touch, Mako found himself more and more fascinated with this girl. She certainly was not what he was use to seeing. He couldn't help but feel drawn to her, but these were feelings he still didn't understand. He didn't know what he was feeling exactly, all he knew was that he liked Korra. He liked how nice she was and how friendly. He was so close to saying that he might even consider her a possible friend.
The two teens turned around when Tenzin showed up. "Oh, hey dad. I'd like you to meet my friend Mako. Mako, this is my father, Mater Tenzin."
Mako bowed in respect before him. "Good evening, sir."
But he didn't even give him a second look, "Korra, what are you doing out here? It's rude to leave your guests like that."
"I was just having a conversation. And he was invited, so I'm not ignoring anybody."
"Well come along now, you have some old friends here to see you." he turned around, waiting for his daughter to follow. She briefly turned to Mako.
"Sorry, my dad can be really strict sometimes."
"Korra!" Tenzin called out.
"Coming!" Korra followed her father but still waved at Mako before the two were out of sight. Mako felt pretty embarrassed for not leaving a good first impression with one of the city's most important figures.
Korra was a bit confused since her father wouldn't tell her who she was going to meet up with until she did. "Korra, you remember General Iroh of the United Forces and Baatar Beifong, Zaofu's most well renowned engineer."
The handsome young men bowed in respect to Korra who did so as well. Iroh smiled at the young woman, "Korra, it's really good to see you again."
"Good to see you too, Iroh." she turned to the second young man, "Baatar Beifong, I've heard some great things about you from your aunt."
"It truly is an honor to meet you, miss."
"I was hoping the three of you could get acquainted." said Tenzin as he patted his daughter's shoulder, and she looked at him confused before he walked way. "Have fun."
For a few seconds, the three stood there in silence, Korra was pretty suspicious about why her dad wanted her to meet these boys. She had only met them once, and that was during Lin's birthday last year and Iroh was the grandson of the retired Fire Lord Zuko, who Tenzin knew very well.
She decided to start the conversation, "So, how have you two been?"
"Good." they both responded.
Korra felt really awkward, she didn't know where to start talking with these guys. Politics bored her to death, even though she knew a lot about it, sadly, and she did know a thing or two about engineering, but that didn't mean she wanted to talk about it twenty four seven like it was a passion or something.
Thankfully, Iroh spoke first by clearing his throat, "You look very lovely tonight, Korra."
"Thank you, Iroh."
"Perhaps, you would do me the honor or a dance?"
"Sure, why not?"
Bataar bowed in respect as the two walked off to dance. Iroh was a very nice young man with a charming smile and was also intelligent but humble. He was also an expert in ballroom dancing, being a prince and all.
"So, how have you been?" Iroh asked.
"I've been good, thank you. How about you, how's the United Forces?"
"Wonderful, many new recruits this year. The best of the best."
"Oh, that's wonderful." Korra kept her polite face for as long as she could. Five seconds and this conversation was already getting boring.
"So, your father tells me you are remarkably skilled in self defense."
"Yeah, ever since I was five." Korra responded politely.
"And you've studied Fire Nation history as well, correct."
"Yeah. And Water Tribe, Earth Kingdom folklore, also had like centuries of Air Nation stuff crammed into my head growing up."
"Your father also mentioned you made honor roll in your class, as well as top student in math, physical education, science and chemistry."
"Yes, that's…all true." Korra was feeling seriously surprised by all of this. When did this feel like an interview?
"Tell me, do you have any plans?"
"Plans? For what?"
"Plans on what you're going to do. You know, where I studied, Phoenix University, offers a lot of wonderful opportunities for smart women like you and--"
Korra shook her head and backed up, "Wait a second, what exactly are you trying to do here?"
"Well, I'm only explaining the benefits and opportunities we have and--"
"Wait, sorry I keep interrupting but, what gave you the idea I want to go to that school in the first place?"
Suddenly, Iroh started to get nervous. "Well, you see, um, I--"
"Iroh. Tell me the truth." she said demandingly.
Iroh knew he couldn't keep lying so, he confessed, "Your father might have mentioned you haven't yet figured out what you will do with your life so he asked me to, offer you an opportunity."
"He set you up for this?!" Korra's anger was already growing.
"I'm sorry I wasn't honest with you before."
"Is that why he invited Baatar too?!"
"Yes, he also hoped if you didn't chose my old school then maybe you would pick working at Zaofu. It is one of the safest places in the Earth kingdom and they have a wonderful educational system."
Korra's anger was through the roof. If she could, she would literally set a table on fire. She could not believe her father would do this.
"Iroh, thank you for the dance but right now I need to have a word with my father."
The man didn't even try and stop her as she stomped away in furry.
Meanwhile, Asami and Bolin were having so much fun dancing. She had never met anyone quite like him. He was bubbly and energetic and just downright playful.
"Wow Bo! Who knew you were such a good dancer."
"What can I say, I don't just got moves in the ring."
The raven haired girl giggled but then her expression fell once she spotted her friend walk pass them. Her fists were clenched and her eyes were narrowed, burning with anger. The two looked at one another with worry before following her. Asami placed a hand on Korra's shoulder, "Korra, you okay?"
"Back off, Sami!" Korra stormed off, leaving Asami and Bolin behind with worry.
"This is bad." Asami said with worry, not taking her friend's remark personally for she knew she didn't mean anything by it. She's known Korra long enough to understand the meaning behind her words.
Korra finally found her father, who was speaking with Chief Beifong, who was also Korra's unofficial aunt.
Tenzin turned around, "Oh Korra, where's Iroh? I thought you two were---"
"How could you?!"
Korra didn't bother to use her inside voice and all of the party guests heard her scream. The music stopped playing and all eyes fell on the father and daughter. Tenzin knew what this meant, his daughter had found out the truth.
"You invited Iroh and Baatar to try and sweet talk me into going to college?!"
"Korra, please. People are starring."
"I don't care! What gave you the right to choose my future anyway?!"
"I didn't, I was offering you variety!"
Korra grunted in frustration, "You just don't get it, do you? I want to figure out my own path not have one laid out for me!"
"Korra, please listen---"
"No! I'm tired of listening to you! You keep saying you want me to think about my future, well you know what dad, I have!" Korra knew it was time for her to confess. "I've been working at Future Industries for the past two years now!" Tenzin gasped in horror as did most of Korra's family, "I've been saving up money so I could travel on my own."
"What?! Why did you keep this from me?!"
"Because I you never wanted me to work at a grease factory and I knew you would try and stop me! All you ever wanted was for me to be your precious straight A little princess but you know what dad, I'm not! I don't need you deciding my future, I want to do that for myself!"
"Korra, flaunting around the world doing what you want isn't a plan."
"You know, you've always wanted to control everything I do, well you know what, I'm done!"
Everyone could only silently watch. Pema held her children close while Asami gripped her hands tightly and Katara shook her head in disappointment. Bolin and Mako watched with sympathy while Baatar and Iroh exchanged concerned glances.
Korra turned to everyone else, "I'm sorry everyone, but this party's over."
Meelo whined, "But we didn't get to eat cake!"
Pema tried to console her daughter but Katara stopped her, silently saying she needed some time alone. Tenzin tried to speak with her until Lin stopped him. "Haven't you done enough?" she said sternly. Tenzin ignored her and ran after his daughter.
Korra kept on walking away, farther from the party scene. She could hear her father's footsteps getting closer. Up on the branches, the dragon birds watched with worry, having seen the whole terrible scene before.
"Leave me alone! You're the last person I want to see!"
Tenzin was done being patient, now it was time to be firm. "Korra, you get back here right now!" but she ignored him and continued to walk, further and further into the small forest of the park. "Korra, I'm serious. I am your father, you do as I say!"
"You're not my father!"
Korra waved her arm in anger as she spun around to face her father when a bright orange light engulfed the scene. Tenzin screamed as he jumped away, ducking the flames. The dragon birds flew away as specks of the fire landed on various branches, and causing one to fall to the ground, burned. Korra stood petrified at what had happened. Tenzin was fine, but the fire could have nearly burned him if he had not jumped away in time. His airbending helped with that.
The party guests noticed the sound of flames and the orange light that emitted from an area in the park.
Korra held her hand close, shocked at what she had just done. Fear consumed her as her father looked at her with confusion and….fear.
She didn't know what to do. The moment she heard her mother's voice she ran from the scene as fast as her feet could carry her. Pema hurried to her husband's side while the others rushed over as well, shocked to see the scenery and curious to what had happened.
"Tenzin! Are you alright?" Pema asked as she helped him stand up, "Where's Korra?"
Tenzin didn't answer for he still didn't understand what had happened. Katara kneeled down and studied the burned marks on the grass.
She knew the time has finally come.