No Need Now for Words
Three years ago…
The time to wait is over. Harmonic Convergence has arrived, and I am at my most powerful. There is much I need to do, and relatively little time.
I cannot spare time to interfere in the battle between the Avatars of Raava and Vaatu, but thankfully I shouldn’t need to. Raava selected the next Avatar well; even without my aid she and her allies should be able to see victory today. And so I focus my efforts elsewhere.
The world has changed much in the ten thousand years since the last Harmonic Convergence, but most of this change has been in the past two hundred years. It began with the genocide of the Air Nomads and the vanishment of the Avatar Aang. For more than nine thousand years, the division of the world into four nations had kept the world stable, unchanging, and safe.
With the loss of the Air Nomads, the world was thrown out of balance. The Fire Nation rose to power, briefly conquering the world before the Avatar could finally stop them. But even then, the change did not end. Once it had begun, humans were not satisfied with a little change. What had worked for millennia was no longer good enough. A new nation was born, one beholden to none of the elements. Cultures that had remained separate intermingled, merged, becoming something new.
The world lost its way. It will not be easy to set it right again. But right now, I can begin. Harmonic Convergence gives me the power to give the ability to bend to even those whose parents did not pass it down to them. I am even powerful enough to affect those already living; I do not have to wait for them to grow. Right now, I can grant airbending to people around the world, and allow them to form a new nation of Air.
That will not be enough on its own. Although the world is rapidly changing, it is resilient. The simple presence of a new Air Nation will not bring things back to how they were before. The United Republic of Nations must fall, becoming part of the Earth Kingdom once again. This will not be easy, but there are many possibilities before me.
I cannot see the future, but I can see patterns in the past. Right now, I see them more clearly than ever. The course of action most likely to work is indirect, but unlikely to fail. So, as I grant airbending to people around the world, I make one addition: an imprisoned member of the Red Lotus by the name of Zaheer.
My plan is falling into place. The change will soon be undone.
“Asami?” Korra said, raising an eyebrow as Light finished his story. “Aren’t you excited? We can finally get your voice back!” Korra’s own excitement was quite obvious, though it was somewhat dampened as she noticed Asami’s lack of enthusiasm. She slowly slumped back into her seat, giving Asami a questioning expression.
Asami looked between Korra and Light, trying to think of a way to get across her thoughts. Light seemed a bit more sympathetic to her perspective right now, which made sense. He’d gone through the strange event with the other spirit there begging him for help, after all, so it was understandable that he’d be wondering a bit if something else was going on. Korra had just seemed confused when he’d told them that part; perhaps the eagerness to find a solution for Asami’s speech had kept her from noticing the warning signs.
Letting out a sigh, Asami pushed herself out of her seat and began to pace the room. She looked over the various instruments Varina had set up on the walls as she thought, in case something she saw might inspire her. The spirit herself was absent, and had been since they’d returned, but she probably wouldn’t have any objection to them being here. Korra didn’t seem to think so, at least.
On the subject at hand, Asami’s gut was telling her that this wasn’t right. There was no way that after all this work to find a way to restore her voice, they were just going to happen upon a spirit that said “Have Korra come and talk to me and I’ll give Asami her voice back.” It was too easy. But maybe if that was the only concern, Asami could have gotten past it. The world didn’t always have to follow a neat storyline. She could imagine them randomly running across a spirit who could easily restore her voice. It would be anticlimactic after all of this, but possible.
No, it was the other spirit Light had seen in the tree that had Asami worried. Another spirit was there in what seemed to be sleep or meditation, and Light was forced into sleep when he entered the tree. And as Light woke up, that other spirit begged Light for help. Everything about that told Asami that the other spirit was being held against its will. This felt more like hostage negotiations than anything else.
But how to get that across? Asami was still struggling to get across even basic concepts to Korra without words. It shouldn’t be this hard. She and Korra had been so in sync with each other before all this. She could speak back then, but she often didn’t need to in order to get across her intentions. Korra simply knew. But now even that was gone. What was going on here?
Maybe it was her frustration getting to her. Maybe this curse… disability? Ailment? Whatever it was. Maybe it had subtler effects than Asami had previously accounted for. Whatever it was, she was going to have to deal with it and find a way to work through it.
Asami stopped as she reached a wall and closed her eyes. She took a slow breath, trying to calm herself. When she was trying to get through Master Sheng’s ward, her sound chakra had appeared when she needed it. She had to focus on that need now. Thankfully, Korra and Light were giving her the space she needed, so she could take this slowly.
She needed to communicate. She needed to tell Korra her thoughts. After a few more breaths, Asami opened her mouth once more, trying to speak. “Korra…” she tried to say. Nothing. Okay, she wasn’t going to let herself get frustrated. Maybe she was coming at this from the wrong angle. When her sound chakra had spoken for her, it was when she’d admitted she needed help. “Okay, I need help,” Asami tried to say. Still nothing.
Still nothing. What else was there? Asami went back through her memory to that ward. After she’d first heard from the chakra and admitted she needed help, it had asked if she was serious about accepting help from without. It was only after that that the chakra spoke for her. Though… that was kind of in a dream. It might not work now, even if she admitted that, but she had to try.
“Alright. I need help from without. I can’t do this alone.”
“Asami!” Korra said.
Asami turned around. Had she just spoken? She hadn’t thought she heard any sound come from her mouth, but had Korra somehow heard her anyway? But no; Korra’s expression showed mild surprise; not the strong surprise she would have if Asami had been able to speak. And her eyes weren’t focused on Asami. They were focused on the shelf near her.
Asami followed Korra’s gaze. On it lay the necklace that Light had brought back with him. They hadn’t looked at it much yet, but right now it was obvious that something had changed with it. The crystal on it had begun to emit a pale light. Asami stepped over to it, picking it up and bringing the crystal to her face. There was something in the light. No… not something. Someone.
That was not a voice Jinora expected to hear waking her up in the middle of the night. The most logical conclusion, in fact, was that she was probably still dreaming, or perhaps just half-dreaming. It sometimes took her mind a bit of time to piece things together when she woke up, so a few weird sights and sounds weren’t that unusual. And auditory hallucinations were much more common than visual hallucinations, in any case. At least, that was what she’d read. So it wasn’t really that strange.
The glowing, pale blue light in the middle of her bedroom, on the other hand, was quite strange. Given the strangeness of this light, perhaps it wasn’t much of an additional leap to believe that she had, in fact, heard Asami Sato’s voice as well, despite the fact that she was supposedly on a vacation with Korra in the spirit world.
If that was indeed her, then this would be the first time that she knew of that anyone had managed to communicate from the spirit world to a normal location in the physical world. If so, this was quite interesting. Or she was dreaming. But if that was the case, there was no harm investigating.
Jinora pushed herself up to a sitting position, and then turned to face the glowing light. That was the most likely source of the voice she’d heard. “Asami?” she said. She glanced to the sides, conscious that she might wake up Ikki or Meelo if she spoke too loudly. That might not be the worst outcome in the world… but it might be best to leave them out of this if they weren’t needed. Jinora approached the glowing light and said in a lower voice. “Can you hear me?”
Something in the light reacted to her voice. It shifted color, becoming pure white now. She didn’t get a reply immediately, but a few moments later, one was indeed forthcoming. “I can hear you,” a voice said. It was a male voice. She didn’t immediately recognize it, but it was only a short sentence. It might be someone she knew, or it might not be. “I think I’m in contact with you for a reason right now,” the voice continued.
“Can you do me a favor?” spoke Asami’s voice from the light, as it turned back into the shade of blue Jinora had seen when it had first appeared.
“Of course,” Jinora said, keeping her voice low. “What’s going on?”
The man’s voice spoke again, and the light was white once more. “I don’t know if I have time to explain. I’m sorry.”
“Please, just do what I ask,” came Korra’s voice from the light now. As this voice spoke, the light turned a golden color.
Jinora blinked. It seemed to be one entity speaking in multiple voices. But if that was the case, then she couldn’t guarantee it was Asami at all that was asking for her help. “Wait, who are you?” she said.
“We’re Asami,” the male voice said as the light faded back to white. “Technically, we’re different aspects of her. Again, it’s a long story, and I may not have time to tell it to you. I don’t know how this is working.”
Jinora gazed at the light, biting her lips for a moment. “...Okay,” she said at last. It was possible this was a trick, but she wasn’t going to let that stop her. There was no way she’d risk turning down a friend in need simply out of that fear. “What do you need me to do?”
Korra nearly jumped in place as Jinora appeared in front of her. She shot a look back over at Asami. She definitely had something to do with this. Korra didn’t know how, but this had to be Asami’s doing. There was no way that Jinora would appear at random right after Asami was focusing on that strange light in the necklace. At Asami’s nod, Korra turned back to Jinora, hoping she would have some answers.
“Um, hi Jinora,” she said. “I’m guessing you’re here for a reason?”
Jinora nodded. She looked around the room for a moment, seeming to take it all in. Eventually, her eyes landed on Asami. They shared a gaze for a moment, and Asami gave Jinora a slight nod. Jinora smiled at Asami, returned the nod, then turned back to Korra.
“Right, I am,” she said. “Asami wanted me to pass along a message to you. She wants me to tell you, and I quote: ‘This sounds like a hostage situation. We didn’t find Master Sheng in his lands, and Light finds a spirit asleep in the tree, begging him for help. I think this spirit is Master Sheng, and he’s being held hostage because he’s capable of restoring my voice. This way, the other spirit in the tree has leverage to make us come. We can’t trust it.’”
Korra blinked. A blush slowly filled her cheeks as she realized that she’d missed that possibility, even with Asami’s apparent frustration at trying to communicate to her that something was wrong. “Oh,” she said simply.
Jinora nodded at her. Her eyes shot between Korra and Asami. “Um… do you two need help?” she said. “I can come back after letting Dad know what I’m doing. Or well… I guess if I do that he’ll probably insist on coming through the spirit portal himself to help out. But if you need us, we’ll be there for you.”
Korra looked over at Asami. Did they need help? Up until now, it hadn’t seemed like it was worth asking anyone else to come. A hostage situation complicated things, but it would take time for anyone else to arrive. Waiting might make things worse, and it might be possible to resolve it peacefully.
“Um… maybe…” Korra said. She glanced over at Asami, trying to glean insight into her friend’s opinion. Asami seemed cautious as well about asking for help. She suddenly tilted her head then, and raised her eyebrows. Asami pointed at her throat for a moment. “Okay, something about your voice…”
Asami nodded. She moved her hands to her hair, pulling it back and up. Korra stared at her blankly for a long moment. Something about her voice, and then a hairstyle. “Wait, someone whose hair looks like that?” Korra blinked, trying to think of who Asami might be trying to mime.
“Oh!” Jinora said. Korra shot her a glance. If it wasn’t Light beating her to the punch on this, it was going to be Jinora now? Thankfully, Jinora seemed to get the message, and she kept quiet.
Korra looked back at Asami. Okay, what would Asami want about her voice right now? Whose help would she want? Asami knew now that her problem had to do with her chakras, so… Korra grinned. She turned to Jinora. “Could you maybe ask Kya to come here? And bring spirit water as well. She might be able help restore Asami’s voice.” It was obvious once she thought about it. Only Kya and Katara were good enough healers to be able to handle something like that, and that certainly wasn’t Katara’s hairstyle Asami was mimicking. Plus, it probably was a bit much to ask Katara to come this deep into the spirit world.
Jinora looked up at Korra and smiled back. She gave Korra a wink, letting her know that she’d already figured that out. “Of course,” she said. “Are you sure that’s all you need?”
Korra looked back at Asami for a moment. Their eyes met, and she felt like there was an understanding there now. “For now. I think we need to be careful, but we should try to resolve this peacefully first, and a peaceful solution doesn’t involve calling for backup. I don’t know if we’ll be able to contact you again, so if you don’t hear from us, check back in a day or so.”
Jinora nodded. “Alright,” she said. “Good luck.”
Asami tilted her head at Korra. Her girlfriend had been meditating over the necklace for a long time, trying to figure it out, and her eyes had finally opened up. Light, meanwhile, seemed to have fallen asleep while lying down against her leg, and he hadn’t quite woken back up yet. Asami caught Korra’s gaze and raised an eyebrow, silently asking if Korra had figured anything out about the necklace.
“Well… it’s powerful,” Korra said. Asami narrowed her gaze at this. That much was obvious. Korra pouted in turn at Asami’s reaction. “Well okay, I don’t know exactly what it is, or what it’s supposed to do. And I’m not quite sure how you were able to contact Jinora with it. But I feel like if I put my hand to it… either the crystal or the stone, I could fill it up with so much energy and… I don’t know. Something.”
Asami nodded. It was probably best Korra not do that. They didn’t know what would happen, after all. Hopefully Varina would know. She was the one that Light had been asked to deliver it to, but she still wasn’t back yet. There was really no telling how long she might be out either. Asami let out a sigh. She gestured with her head toward the room which headed deeper into the cave, where they’d slept before, then toward the exit, then looked back at Korra and raised her eyebrow.
“Hmm… I kinda feel like getting this over with, honestly,” Korra said. “And I’m not that sleepy.” She reached a hand down and placed it on Light’s back, gently coaxing him awake. Once he was awake, she said, “Hey Light, how long did it take you to get to that tree?”
“Hmm?” Light said a bit groggily. He turned his head up, looking at Korra. “It was pretty far away. Maybe an hour or so. Why?”
“Just thinking if Asami and I might be up to visiting it before we get some sleep. I think I would be. Asami?” Korra looked over at Asami as she said this.
Asami considered this for a moment. She wasn’t really that sleepy either. It was hard to keep track of time here, but it didn’t feel like a full day had passed. She did have the energy in her for that much walking. The only worry was if things went bad in the tree. She took a slow breath, and gave Korra a cautious nod, hoping her friend picked up the implication there.
“Okay,” Korra said. She pushed herself up to her feet and straightened out her clothing. “Do you want to come with us, Light, or stay here?” she said. As she spoke, she placed the necklace aside on one of Varina’s shelves.
Light looked up at her, then tilted his head. “I think I should go. The spirit in the tree mentioned that ‘when I came back’ I shouldn’t enter the tree… so I guess that means I should go, and just shouldn’t go in.”
Asami narrowed her eyes. She still wasn’t sure what to make of that particular request. Perhaps the spirit was simply trying to keep Light out of danger. Whatever the reason, it was another sign that this might end up being dangerous. But hopefully it wouldn’t come to that.
Korra nodded at Light. “Okay,” she said. She looked over at Asami. “You ready to go then?”
Asami gave this a moment’s thought before lifting up her hand and raising a finger. She grabbed her pack and brought it over to the shelf where Korra had left the necklace, then searched around in her pack for her notepad and pencil. She pulled them out, then gestured to the necklace with them, hoping Korra would get her point.
“Oh! Good idea,” Korra said, smiling at Asami. She took the notepad from Asami and scribbled down a quick note for Varina, explaining where the necklace had come from, so that the spirit wouldn’t wonder about it when she returned. Once she was done, she handed the notepad and pencil back to Asami. “Alright. That all?”
Asami nodded. As Korra turned away, Asami let a smile cross her face. Korra was finally starting to get the hang of picking up on Asami’s intentions again. Or perhaps Asami was getting the hang of getting them across. Either way, it was a welcome improvement.
“Alright. You ready, Asami?” Korra said as they stood at the lip of the tree’s hollow, turning her head to look over at her friend. Asami turned to Korra, giving her a slow, cautious nod in turn. Korra pulled her lips up into a grin, hoping to calm Asami’s nerves. “Don’t worry,” she said. “I was able to talk down Kuvira. I can handle this as well.”
This seemed to help Asami a bit. Her body visibly relaxed, and she returned Korra’s smile. She reached her hand out, taking Korra’s in it and giving it a tender squeeze. Her eyes looked back for a moment, and Korra followed her gaze, focusing on Light, who was hovering just outside the hollow.
Korra gave the spirit a smile as well. “Hopefully we won’t be too long, Light,” she said.
The spirit nodded back at Korra. “Okay,” he said. “If you need my help though, just say so.”
Korra’s lips curled up into a smile once more at this. “Of course.”
She nodded at Light as she turned back toward the center of the tree. Letting go of Asami’s hand so she could get a better grip, she carefully climbed down to the floor of the hollow. Once she was down, she turned and reached her hand out to Asami, helping her friend the rest of the way.
“Okay,” she said as she turned around and stepped toward the center of the hollow, where the other spirit was still seated in a meditative-like pose, just as Light had described him. “I’ll meditate to try to contact the entity in the tree,” Korra said. She blinked as she finished this sentence, feeling the energy within her suddenly beginning to build up. “Um…” she said, turning to Asami.
Asami’s eyes widened. She brought her hand up to her face, her fingers spread out, one pointing at each of her eyes. Korra gulped as she saw this gesture from Asami, which confirmed her fears. She’d gone into the the Avatar state against her will, without any outward sign of danger. Which meant the best scenario was that Raava sensed something that Korra didn’t. Otherwise… if the entity here had the power to force Korra into the Avatar state, that could be even worse.
Korra quickly closed her eyes and sat down, assuming a meditative pose and focusing her thoughts. Raava? Is everything alright?
Raava’s voice came to her, though the words didn’t feel like Raava’s. I wish to speak with your voice so that your companion may hear. This concerns her as well. Do I have your permission to do so?
It was more than a bit unsettling to feel Raava taken over like this. Korra did not like the implications of what that meant this entity might be capable of. At least so far, it only wanted to communicate. That was what she’d come here to do, and if this was the only way it could do so, then she’d have to go along with it. Besides, as far as she knew, the entity had already obtained permission from Raava for this. Alright, she told it.
Almost as soon as she thought the word, she found her lips moving of their own accord. “Thank you for accepting my invitation, Avatar Korra and Asami Sato,” she said, though the words obviously weren’t hers. She found her body standing up, and her eyes opened, focusing on Asami. So far, none of it felt like she was being forced into it, but she wasn’t sure what might happen if she tried to resist. “Please allow me to explain why I have requested your presence here.
“During the most recent Harmonic Convergence, the dark spirit Vaatu was set free from his prison in the Tree of Time through the efforts of Unalaq, your uncle and former spiritual mentor. Your success in defeating Vaatu during Harmonic Convergence is to be commended, but it has not left matters as they were previously. Instead of being imprisoned, Vaatu has been destroyed. Do you understand what this means?”
Korra’s lips stopped moving, and she felt the power within her die down for a moment. She had full control of her body again, though it was most likely just temporary. Before answering, she took a moment to look over at Asami, giving her girlfriend a reassuring gaze to let her know that she was alright and she was indeed Korra again.
“Okay,” she said. “What does it mean…” Korra took a moment to think about this before she answered. “Well, we don’t have to worry about Vaatu breaking free from his prison, or anyone letting him out. Instead, I guess eventually, just as Jinora was able to create Raava again from the light within Vaatu, eventually the darkness within Raava will give birth to Vaatu again. I don’t know how far in the future that will be though, but…” Asami’s gaze met Korra’s, a look of horror in it. It took Korra a moment to go back and realize just what it was that had horrified Asami. “...but whenever it does happen, Vaatu will be born within the Avatar…”
“I see you understand the issue,” said the entity, taking over Korra’s voice once more before she could say anything further. “It is because of this eventuality that I have requested you come here. I was able to retain some of the energy from Harmonic Convergence, which I can use to solve this issue, but I cannot hold onto this energy forever. We must act now to draw out Vaatu, so that I might ensure he does not eventually grow within the Avatar. Once we are done with this, as my thanks for your cooperation, I will do what I can in order to ensure your companion regains her voice. May I have your agreement to do what needs to be done here?”
Once more, Korra felt herself being freed from the entity’s grasp. She looked over at Asami. So far, it seemed reasonable. But it didn’t take away from the warning signs Asami had pointed out before. And there was one other issue now. “Wait,” she said. “What do you intend to do with Vaatu once he’s reborn? You haven’t said anything about tha-”
“That is none of your concern,” it made her say. “Your choice is simple. You can-”
“No!” Korra said, cutting it off mid-sentence, just as it had done to her. There was resistance as she did so, but it weakened enough to let her speak. “It is my concern. I need to know I can trust you. Unalaq tried to ally with Vaatu as well. Even if it means the risk that a future Avatar will have to find a solution to Vaatu growing inside them, I can’t risk turning him over to someone I can’t trust. So tell me, what do you plan to do?”
For a minute, the tree was silent. No words came to Korra’s lips. She looked over at Asami, ready to let out a sigh, when the energy in her body suddenly swelled to its bursting point. Her limbs moved of their own accord, bending the four elements in front of her in a circle, gathering up power. “Very well,” the entity said through her voice. “I did not wish to force you into this, but you leave me no choice. My apologies, Miss Sato. I cannot risk letting you disturb us.”
Korra tried to fight back against the entity, but she seemed to be powerless to resist it right now. It felt like it had complete control of Raava, and with its control of Raava came almost complete control of Korra. But not complete. Korra could still move her eyes, focusing them on Asami. There wasn’t much Asami could do against the Avatar’s power, though, and Asami certainly realized this as she cautiously backed away.
As Korra’s arms spread around her body, shifting the elements into a dome, Asami’s eyes caught Korra’s for a brief moment. Korra couldn’t control her mouth right now to say what she wanted to, but she didn’t need to. Asami would be able to see it in her eyes. Right now, she needed Asami to run and figure out a plan. If the entity was worried about interference, then there was still time.
The elements suddenly swirled across her line of sight, blocking out Korra’s view of Asami. But she’d gotten Korra’s message. Korra was certain of it. They didn’t need words at a moment like this. She had to believe that.
Three years ago…
Quite an interesting game, Pai Sho. The rules always seem to be changing to fit the local culture. It’s little wonder so many humans are fascinated by it. It’s used for everything from gambling to a metaphor for war. I find it quite appropriate that it works well for both of these purposes.
To me, what makes Pai Sho stand apart from many other board games invented by humans is the fact that once a piece is on the board, it is owned by neither player. If your opponent does not think through their actions, they can leave you an opening to take advantage of their moves.
And so I must be careful with every move I make that I do not leave myself exposed. My most important piece is going to be vulnerable at several key points, and once Harmonic Convergence ends, I will be able to do little to interfere. The present is not infinite, but the possible futures are. One of them holds my answer. I must find it before the present runs out.
The world has come too far. I cannot let its change come undone.