A Rallying Cry Across Worlds
"So," Ty Zen said as she dropped down into the seat across from Izin, grinning at him. "The exiled son is now Mr. Big Shot. I have to say, if I were in your place, I'd really be having trouble resisting the urge to head back to the Capital and rub this in Dad's face."
"Well," Izin said, glancing down and to the side. He was silent for a moment as he took a sip of his cup of coffee, and then he looked up, almost making eye contact with Ty Zen. "I don't particularly relish the thought of going back to see him. I can’t really imagine any way that would go well.”
“I dunno, Dad’s kinda mellowed out over the last few years,” Ty Zen said. She shrugged as she leaned back in her chair, looking around for a waiter who might be free to take her order. Not seeing any, she looked back at Izin. “I think maybe he realized he overreacted and regrets it. Of course, when I asked him if there was any message he wanted me to pass along to you, he went all defensive again. So… yeah. It’ll take some time. But hey!” Ty Zen leaned forward again, letting a smile cross her face now. “Congrats on the Nuo Beier prize. That’s really something!”
Izin let out a chuckle, smiling at this. “Thanks, but it’s not really that big of a deal,” he said. Despite his words, pride was evident in his features. “They didn’t even pick the paper I’m most proud of from that year. And even that was child’s play compared to the general theory I’m working on now.”
Ty Zen snorted at this. “Listen to yourself! You’re being awarded with a million Yuan prize, and you’re complaining that they’re not giving it for the most amazing of your amazing papers. You really fail at the humble act.”
“Heh, fine,” Izin said, his smile getting just a bit wider as he took another sip of his coffee. “You win. It’s a big deal.”
“Yeah,” Ty Zen said. As she spoke, she took another look around for a waiter. “I’m just surprised you didn’t have anyone better than me to invite to the ceremony and… where the heck are all the waiters anyway?”
“You have to order at the counter here,” Izin said. “That’s how most places outside of the Capital do it.”
Ty Zen shot Izin a glance. “Oh. Well, thanks for bothering to tell me.”
She rolled her eyes, deciding it best to just shrug that off. She hadn’t actually told Izin that she wanted to order, so he’d probably just missed the cues that she was looking for a waiter. Apparently that was one thing about him that hadn’t changed. Ty Zen pushed herself up, ready to head to the counter, though as she did, it became quite obvious to her that pretty much everyone else in the shop was staring out the window right now.
“Okay, why the heck is everyone here so interested in a storm, anyway?” she said, glancing back down at Izin.
Izin’s eyes shot to the side, likely focusing on the window behind Ty Zen. “Well, for one thing, it looks like the storm wants to come inside.”
Dawn seemed to arrive more suddenly than usual, today. Tenzin normally found himself gradually awakened by the light pouring in through the windows of his and Pema’s bedroom, but it came at once in a flash today. Most likely the sun had been behind a thick cloud as it initially rose in the sky, only to be set free now, Tenzin considered as he rolled over onto his back and opened up his eyes. If that was the case, then it was certainly time to get up now.
But no, that most definitely wasn’t the case. The light was emanating from a source inside the bedroom, not coming in through the windows. Tenzin sat up, analyzing the source of the light for any evidence of danger. It slowly grew as he watched, shifting into a pale blue color. As Tenzin gazed at it, he could see some form of ripples in the air, though they didn’t seem to show the bedroom wall behind the source of light. Rather, he seemed to be getting occasional glimpses of some other location, perhaps with a figure there, clad in red and black, though the glimpses were too faint and sporadic to be sure.
“Tenzin? Is that you?” came Asami Sato’s voice from the light.
Tenzin glanced from the light to the sleeping figure of his wife beside him. Pema didn’t seem to have been woken up yet. She probably would wake up soon if Tenzin responded, but it didn’t seem likely he’d be able to move this conversation to another room.
“It is,” he said, nodding at it. Tenzin carefully pulled himself out of bed and moved toward the light. The least he could do to let Pema continue to sleep was to keep the volume down. In a soft voice, he said, “Is everything alright, Asami? I thought you and Korra were on vacation in the spirit world.”
“We are,” came a man’s voice from the light, just as its color shifted to white. “I don’t have time to explain right now. Korra’s in trouble, and we need your help.”
Tenzin’s eyes widened. He wasn’t going to question the oddness of this form of communication after hearing that. “Of course,” he said. “I’ll head to the spirit portal right away. Do you just need me, or should I bring others as well?”
“No, wait.” This time it was Korra’s voice coming from the light, and it turned a pale gold color. Tenzin eyed the light for any sign of Korra on the other side, but he could only catch glimpses of Asami. It seemed to be just her voice that was being affected.
“There isn’t enough time to wait for you to get to the portal and then here,” said the male voice from within the light, and it shifted back to blue. “I have a way you can help from there, though. An artifact here will let you transfer your bending ability and skill to me, which I can use to help Korra.”
The light turned white again, and Asami’s voice spoke from it. “Can you do this for me?”
For a moment, Tenzin allowed himself to ponder the changing voice. It had shifted to Asami’s voice to ask a question. Perhaps that meant something about this form of communication. But he couldn’t spend too much time thinking about that now. Asami had said time was limited. He’d honestly prefer to head there himself to help, but he would have to trust her that there wasn’t time for that. He would also have to trust her that this would work, and that it would allow her to help Korra.
With that necessity in mind, the answer was clear. “Very well,” he said, nodding at the light. “What do you need me to do?”
“Step into the light,” said Korra’s voice from it, as it turned gold again, “and meditate.” A request this time, and it was Korra’s voice being used. Perhaps Tenzin had been on to something; the form of the sentence did indeed determine the voice. Curious. But far from the most pressing issue right now.
Tenzin nodded. “Of course,” he said.
The world seemed to move around Asami for a moment, squeezing in front of her and stretching out behind her, then pulling back. Asami reached her hand out to the table nearby, holding herself steady. After a bit more shifting, as if the world was searching to find space to accommodate another person with her, things seemed to settle down.
“Try to relax, Miss Sato,” Varina said. She moved around in front of Asami now. “Your mind is your own, first and foremost. Even with the aid of the necklace, others will not be allowed entrance unless you open yourself up to them.”
Asami nodded slowly, though she didn’t look up at Varina just yet; she was still feeling rather dizzy. She took a few slow, deep breaths, then closed her eyes. As she let herself relax, she could begin to feel Tenzin’s presence. It was concentrated in the necklace now, feeling as if he was waiting at a doorway for Asami to grant him permission to enter. With that metaphor in mind, Asami focused on the image of opening a door for him, granting him entrance.
Tenzin’s presence flowed from the necklace, filling Asami’s body. She felt herself becoming energized. She felt light. As if she were young again. The stiffness her body had developed with age, coming upon her so slowly she hadn’t even noticed it, was suddenly all gone. She was young again. ...He was young again? They were. That was it. The two of them were sharing Asami’s body now.
My apologies, Asami, spoke Tenzin’s voice within Asami’s mind. I am a guest within your mind and body, and I should comport myself as such. I will hold myself back until you have need for my bending. I trust that you know what needs to be done.
Asami nodded, smiling. She wasn’t quite sure of all that needed to be done, but at least she had a starting point now. She opened her eyes, looking up at Varina, hoping her expression would let the spirit know that it seemed to have worked.
A slight smile crossing her face, Varina smiled back at Asami. “Good. Welcome to the spirit world, Master Tenzin. I am afraid we can spare no more time here, and so Miss Sato will have to explain matters to you while she returns to the Tree of Eternity.” Varina’s expression shifted slightly. She still focused on Asami, but she seemed to connect with Asami herself now, rather than Tenzin. “Miss Sato. I recommend you give yourself some time to recover your energy before requesting the aid of another.”
That made sense. Asami would need a bit of time to get used to this, after all. It would take some time to return to the Tree of Eternity, so she could stop along the way. She nodded at Varina, then turned, seeking out Light. She gave the spirit a soft, questioning smile, as she glanced to the door.
Light nodded, almost imperceptibly. “Of course, Asami. I probably shouldn’t get too close to the tree, but I can stay with you until you get there.”
Asami smiled back at him. She turned to Varina, and then gave the spirit a nod. She wanted to say something to thank Varina right now, but even if she could spare the time for it, she still couldn’t get her mouth to form words. But Varina would surely get the message from Asami’s expression.
“Farewell, Asami Sato,” Varina said, a slight smile crossing her face again. “If I can think of any other way to assist, I will do so, but I fear that this has been all the help I will be able to provide. I simply hope that it is sufficient.”
A smile formed on Asami’s face, matching Varina’s. She hoped so as well. With a final nod to the spirit, she turned and headed toward the cave’s exit. As she approached it, Light hopped off of the table and flew behind her.
If you’ll pardon me, said Tenzin’s voice as Asami exited the cave. You mentioned that you wished to borrow my bending ability, correct? I believe it would be worthwhile to test whatever your method is for doing so. If it works, we can use my airbending to accelerate our progress toward your destination.
Asami paused in her step. He had a point. If there was any difficulty with accessing his bending, she certainly didn’t want to find that out when it was too late. With a nod, Asami opened up her mind to Tenzin once more, allowing him to guide her body’s movements.
Tenzin didn’t directly force Asami’s body to move. Rather, his mind seemed to flow with hers, telling her exactly how to move each muscle just as she did so. She adjusted her legs, stepping into a lighter stance, and then circled her arms slowly around before her. The wind quickly picked up, following the motions of her hands.
Tenzin guided Asami’s hands, spinning up the air in front of her. The wind soon formed into a spinning ball, and Asami hopped up onto it, sitting as if in a meditative pose as she carefully balanced herself upon it. This certainly takes me back to my youth, Tenzin said. Alright. Let me show you how to use this to move. I believe you’ll find it’s a lot faster and more energy-efficient than running. Hopefully on the way you will be able to explain to me just what is going on here.
Asami’s lips curled up into a smile just as she adjusted the winds beneath her to propel the spinning ball of air forward, pushing herself in the direction of the Tree of Eternity. “Wait! Asami!” came Light’s voice behind her, fading in volume as she moved away. “I mean, don’t wait, there’s no time, but I can’t fly that fast, so I’ll catch up wh…” As Asami sped off, the spirit’s voice became too faint to hear, but she was pretty sure she got the message.
“Ugh!” Korra winced, which broke her out of her attempt at meditation. She was disconnected from her body right now, but she could still feel that particular burst of pain in her stomach. “Damn it…”
Korra forced her breathing to steady. It was becoming harder and harder to keep from thinking about what was being done to her and Raava right now. Somehow, the spirit in this tree was trying to revive Vaatu. It probably involved darkness, or some sort of dark energy in some way, and trying to build it up within Raava. The fact that Korra mostly couldn’t feel it didn’t make it easier to handle. In a way, it made it worse. It left her mind to imagine what might be going on, how she was being violated…
No! It was best not to think about it. She had that option available to her, if nothing else. Or at least, she’d had that option available. If that pain wasn’t a one-time thing, then she might be in store for further reminders of what was happening to her body.
Maybe there was something else she could do. She was being controlled through her connection with Raava. Maybe if that connection were broken somehow, she’d have control of herself again. But if she did that, she’d no longer be the Avatar. And without the energy of Harmonic Convergence, she and Raava wouldn’t be able to merge again. The Avatar cycle would come to an end, at least until the next Harmonic Convergence, nearly ten thousand years in the future.
Still… it might be worth it. When Vaatu had merged with Unalaq, they’d intended to bring eternal darkness to the world. If that was going to happen again, then sacrificing the Avatar might be worth it. But it wasn’t an option to take lightly. Asami was still out there, and there was a good chance she’d figure out some way to help. Korra had to hold on until then. The Avatar was worth fighting for. Even if she could, she wasn’t going to give that up just yet.
“Gah!” Another blast of pain hit Korra’s stomach, and she winced once more. An image flashed through her mind, imaging her body being forcibly filled with darkness, but she pushed it aside. It might serve to make her angry, but anger wasn’t going to get her out of this. She’d save it for later, when she had control of herself and it might be able to do her some good.
She needed to be calm right now. If she let her anger get a hold of her, she’d try to fight back, and it would put the spirit on guard. She had to wait until she knew its guard was down, and strike then. Until then, she would trust in Asami.
So how does this work, Asami? spoke Katara’s voice within Asami’s mind, once the world had stopped spinning around her.
Asami opened her eyes, gasping for breath. She hadn’t felt particularly drained after she’d contacted Tenzin, but she was certainly feeling the lack of energy now. It didn’t last long, though. Soon enough, she could feel energy flowing through her body once more. It felt unusual, though. It was foreign somehow. Perhaps… yes. It was Katara’s energy, helping to replenish what Asami had used up to communicate with her.
“Asami, are you alright?” came Light’s voice from nearby. Asami looked over in the direction of the voice. Spotting the spirit, she gave him a reassuring smile. He must have caught up with her while Asami was communicating with Katara.
Okay. It was probably a good idea to try out Katara’s bending now. They were still in the swamp, so there was plenty of water around to work with. As she’d done with Tenzin, Asami invited Katara into her mind, allowing Katara’s instincts to take over.
She turned to face the side of the path, and then reached out with her arms. She held her hands as if holding onto a rope, and then pulled back with them. As she did, the water in front of her rose up, following the motion of her hands. Grinning, Asami pulled her hands further back, drawing out a cord of water which she spun around her body. She stopped the water in place, and then let it freeze, starting at one end of the cord and then working up to the other.
Perfect, said Katara’s voice. This will do quite nicely. It’s even easier than bending on my own, at least at my age. If matters weren’t so serious, I would probably find myself having some fun with this. Asami could feel the grin still on her face. Katara was having a bit of fun anyway, though she did carefully melt the water and return it to the swamp rather than letting the fun take hold of her.
Moving her hands downward, Asami rotated them around as Tenzin had guided her to do earlier, though the air refused to move this time. Asami blinked in confusion. Varina had told her that the lion turtle’s claw fragment would be able to hold more than one type of bending at once, so Tenzin should still be there with her. But perhaps her connection to him had gotten pushed aside when she’d connected with Katara.
Asami closed her eyes, breathing slowly as she tried to focus on the energies of the two other benders. She could feel Katara easily, but Tenzin was a bit farther away. His energy seemed to have moved into the claw fragment right now. Okay, so it was probably storing it for her. That made sense; she wasn’t the Avatar, so her body would only be able to hold one type of bending at a time. She’d have to switch out as needed.
Focusing on Tenzin’s energy, Asami invited him back into her mind, while requesting that Katara back out for a moment. The energy flowed easily, quickly, and Asami soon felt her hands being guided to create a ball of wind once more. At least it wouldn’t take her long to switch, but this did still leave her at a disadvantage if she had to fight Korra. Even with the world’s best airbender and waterbender to help her, who were each possibly better with their own elements than Korra was, Korra would still have the ability to use more than one element at once. And that was even if she didn’t go into the Avatar state. It wasn’t going to be easy. But it might be possible.
As the ball of wind formed and Asami hopped onto it, she heard Light call out “Wait!” from beside her. She’d barely turned to the spirit before he’d jumped into her arms. Looking up at her, he said, “It’s probably easier for you to just carry me.”
Chuckling, Asami nodded as she sped off once more on the wind ball.
As Asami reached the edge of the swamp, she came to a stop. Dissipating the ball of wind beneath her, she stood back up. Light flew out of her arms and hovered nearby. “Are you ready to ask for more help?” he said. Asami nodded at him, and then he nodded back. “Okay. I’ll watch over you, and make sure nothing happens to your body.”
Smiling at Light, Asami closed her eyes. She let her mind reach out to the crystal on the necklace, telling it of her need for help. If she was following the traditional cycle of elements, then earth would be next. Toph was the obvious choice if Asami simply wanted the best earthbender in the world, but Asami hadn’t met her before, so she might take some time to convince to help. Bolin would be easy to convince, and he did have the advantage of being able to lavabend… but lavabending wasn’t likely to be very useful within the tree’s hollow, and it could seriously hurt Korra.
No, lavabending wasn’t worth it. But Toph might turn Asami down. One of her daughters, though… Yes, that could work. Asami held the image of Lin Beifong in her mind, concentrating on her need for help. Her consciousness drifted to the necklace, and she could feel a connection opening with the physical world once more. She guided it toward Republic City, searching out Lin.
You have my apologies, Asami, spoke Izin’s voice within Asami’s mind, with an odd echo to it. The connection to the physical world twisted away from Lin before Asami could react. You cannot win the coming battle like this. It can be won, but you must regain what you have lost if you hope to do so.
The twisting connection to the physical world finally came into focus, revealing a wooden structure floating upon water. In the center of it was a wooden prison cell, bearing the White Lotus insignia on the top. The tunnel moved in, entering the prison cell and drawing Asami’s mind in along with it.
The world blinked out for a moment as Asami’s mind moved fully over to the physical world. Slowly, she was able to make out the world once more. A figure was lying down near her, just now waking from sleep, though the nature of the connection made it hard for Asami to get a clear look at them.
“What the…?” said the figure as they pushed themselves up to a seated position and turned their head toward Asami. “What’s this about?”
She knew that voice: Kuvira.
“What?” Ty Zen said, finally giving in and turning around to see what was going on. Izin was right. The dark storm clouds seemed to have lowered to street level, and they were billowing up against the windows of the coffee shop. It really did look like the storm was threatening to get in. “Okay, that’s not right.” As she watched, a wave of light grew within the clouds, shifting between red, green, blue, and yellow.
“Definitely not right,” came Izin’s voice from behind her. “The spirit lights never come this far south… except during Harmonic Convergence, I guess. And even then, they didn’t come this close to the ground.”
Ty Zen nodded slowly. “Yeah…” she said. As she stared at the cloud, she could feel her skin beginning to tingle. It was just how she’d felt during Harmonic Convergence, except it was getting even more intense. Ty Zen found herself taking a step back from the window, nearly tripping over her chair as she did so. But as she backed away, the light seemed to follow her, pushing its way in through the window.
All at once, noise broke out in the coffee shop. People near the windows were the first to move away, with others soon joining them in an effort to get away from the light. Ty Zen, however, stood frozen in place. The light seemed to be heading straight for her, and the tingling of her skin picked up as it approached. She even found herself reaching out to it as it approached.
“Ty Zen…” Izin said. She could hear him standing up from his chair, but she didn’t turn back to look at him. “I don’t know if that’s a good idea.”
Ty Zen shook her head and cracked a half-grin. “Maybe not. But it feels right. Maybe this is what I’ve been waiting for.”
“Waiting for…? What do you mean?”
“Destiny,” Ty Zen said. She turned her head, looking back at Izin. “Fate. Haven’t you ever felt that the world was guiding you to something? Dad always talked about that, but I felt like I’d missed it somehow. Until you invite me here, and this happens as soon as we meet up. It can’t be a coincidence, can it?”
Izin shook his head, stepping forward. “Coincidences happen every day. That’s why we have a word for them. And every time I’ve felt the world guiding me to something, it just ends up hurting me. Just because something seems fated, that doesn’t make it good.”
Ty Zen narrowed her eyes slightly, glancing back to the light. It had nearly reached her now. If she stretched out just a bit more, she could touch it. But at the rate it was moving, she could also easily get away if she wanted to. Almost unconsciously, her hand pulled back from it. It was interesting, but she didn’t particularly feel like putting her fate in the control of an unknown force, when it came down to it.
“Alright. Yeah, let’s get away from this.” Just as Ty Zen began to turn, the sound of breaking glass hit her ears. The front windows seemed to have given out to the storm clouds pressing in from outside. She caught sight of the clouds quickly beginning to fill the room, and her instincts immediately kicked in. “Move!” she shouted, turning and beginning to push chairs out of the way so she and Izin had a clear path out.
She wasn’t fast enough. Darkness soon filled her vision and she was enveloped by the clouds, mixed with occasional flashes from the spirit lights. Aside from the tingling on her skin though, it didn’t seem to be doing much to her. Ty Zen reached out, trying to find Izin to make sure he was alright. If this wasn’t doing anything directly to them, then the only real risk was of tripping on something or crashing into each other.
Even though she’d been almost certain of where Izin had been standing, Ty Zen’s hands didn’t manage to find him. “Izin?” she said. “Are you there?” No sound came in response. Ty Zen cursed, dropping to the floor and searching around on it with her hands, worried that Izin might have been knocked unconscious somehow.
For minutes, Ty Zen’s hands turned up nothing. Eventually, the clouds around her seemed to dissipate, and she was able to see something of the coffee shop around her. The place was a mess, unsurprisingly. But Ty Zen couldn’t care less about that. What she cared about was the fact that she didn’t see a single other person inside.
“Izin?” she said, spinning around in place. The rear door of the shop had been left open, but would he have left without her? And wouldn’t she have heard something if he’d been running to it? Or if he’d fallen down at some point?
Dread slowly began to fill Ty Zen. Fate hadn’t been coming for her. It had come for Izin. And he’d told her it only ever seemed to hurt him.“No…” Not this time. Ty Zen focused her breathing. She could feel fire pushing at her hands, begging to be set free in blast of angry firebending. She would save that, though, for whatever had come for Izin. Whatever it was, it had chosen the wrong person’s brother to kidnap.