Earth, Fire, Air, and Water
“I wasn’t able to see Korra, or the other spirit in there,” Light said. He hovered in front of Asami as he spoke. “There’s a barrier in the center of the tree hollow, blocking the other side of it from my view. It looked red and fiery, mostly, though I also saw some rocks flying around in front of it. It also looked like the dark clouds I saw before are in there now.”
Asami nodded slowly as she considered this. “Okay, thank you, Light,” she said. When Asami had last seen Korra, she’d been generating some sort of barrier around herself. Asami had spotted all four elements being channeled in it, though Korra would have been limited on the amount of earth and water she could use. It was likely that fire and air made up most of the barrier.
This wasn’t going to be easy. Asami had been hoping that perhaps Korra’s barrier had been dispelled in the time since Asami had left, but that had been too much to ask for. Of course, the Eternal wasn’t going to be taking any unnecessary chances. It had probably assumed Asami wouldn’t be able to get through the barrier at all, at most finding a way to get past one or two of the elements. She had the ability to get past all four, but it would take time to do so. Not much, but just enough that she would lose the element of surprise.
Well, not necessarily, came a voice from within Asami’s mind. It was the woman called Ty Zen, the firebender Asami had recruited. It’s a tree, right? It’ll burn. Even as big as it is, I could burn us a way in through the back in half the time it would take to get rid of that barrier.
“No, that’s not an option,” Asami said. At Light’s confused look, she clarified, “Damaging the tree. The tree is important. If it’s damaged, it could affect the flow of time in the world. I’m not sure exactly what would happen, but I’m sure it wouldn’t be good. It’s probably tough enough to take a few stray blasts of fire, but we can’t deliberately try to damage it.” And that was even if Ty Zen was right that she could get through. Asami suspected the tree would be tough enough to prevent that. It didn’t get this old by accident.
Asami felt Kuvira’s presence in her mind pushing its way forward. She relaxed her guard, letting Kuvira take control of her body temporarily. “There may be another way we can maintain an advantage. As I understand it, the entity in the tree has no way of knowing that you have gained the ability to bend. We can likely use this to our advantage, if we can somehow convince the Eternal to drop the barrier or give us another means of access to Korra.”
Feeling that Tenzin wished to speak, Asami allowed him to take over her voice. “As I understand it, the Eternal’s control does not extend outside of the tree hollow. This means that if we can manage to get Korra’s body outside of the hollow, it will lose its hold on her. If it does not expect us to be able to bend, then my airbending should be able to get the job done. This will require Korra being on the other side of the barrier, however.”
“Right,” Kuvira said, taking control of Asami’s voice once more. “Generally, a battle is won by breaking the enemy’s will to fight or their ability to fight. The former is generally preferable, but in the present circumstances, the latter is likely to be significantly easier. Tenzin’s plan seems like our best way to win. I do not imagine we can defeat the Avatar in simple combat, but getting her out of the tree might be possible.”
Having spoken her piece, Kuvira withdrew, leaving Asami fully in control of herself once more. “That sounds like a good option, if we can manage it. I don’t know if we’ll be able to get past the barrier without revealing our ability to bend first, though. But we’ll see.” For a moment, no one within her mind seemed to have anything to say. That likely meant agreement, though Asami couldn’t say for sure, not being able to see them and judge their body language. “Any other thoughts? ...Katara? You’ve been silent so far.”
After a moment, Katara spoke. “I think... this is a good idea,” she said. She was silent for another few seconds before continuing, “I don’t expect it to be easy, but I’m prepared to do my part to make sure we succeed.”
“Um…” Almost before Asami realized it, Ty Zen took over from Katara. “Are you all forgetting about something here? My brother could be in there too. What are we going to do about him?”
Ty Zen pulled back, giving Asami a chance to reply. “The Eternal won’t be able to control Izin,” she said. “At least not directly. If he’s unconscious, nothing changes. If he’s conscious, he might be able to help us.”
“Hmph. Fine. He just better not be being used as a hostage in there,” Ty Zen said, taking over Asami’s voice again.
“Um, Asami?” Light said. Asami glanced over at the spirit, who was still hovering in front of her. “That other spirit is in there as well, remember. And the Eternal probably can control him.”
“An unknown factor,” Kuvira said after a moment, using Asami’s voice. “We don’t know what his abilities might be. We will have to be on our guards. This doesn’t change anything, though. The best plan is still to get Korra out of the tree. We can do the same with this spirit if necessary.”
“Right,” Asami said, reasserting control of her body. She took a deep breath. They couldn’t waste anymore time. “Okay, thank you, Light. I’m going to have to head on without you from here.”
Light nodded. “I know. And I know you can do it, Asami.”
At these words, Asami allowed herself to smile at the spirit. “Thank you. I’ll make sure to prove you right.”
“I would like to speak with you,” Asami said, projecting her voice. She wasn’t entirely sure if the Eternal would actually be able to hear her. It could sense spirits, certainly, but she wasn’t clear on if it could sense her own presence. Perhaps if Korra heard her though, that would be enough.
There was no apparent reaction to her words. Asami wasn’t able to see through the barrier that Korra had set up in the middle of the hollow, so it was possible that something was happening on the other side of it. She gave the Eternal a minute to reply, taking a look around the hollow as she did so, in case she spotted something useful.
As Asami had suspected the barrier was made primarily of fire and air. Perhaps there was a sheet of water on the opposite of it, but it couldn’t be very thick; Korra had only the water in her canteen to work with. The dust on this side was pretty sparse as well, likely made up only of the dust that visitors to the hollow had brought in on their feet. Asami would have to deal with the fire and wind to get through it, but it might be possible to simply overpower the other two elements with Tenzin’s airbending. If that worked, it could give Asami a few extra moments while she still had the element of surprise on her side.
Aside from the barrier itself, there wasn’t much of note in here. She didn’t even see the dark clouds that Light had mentioned, which was perhaps a worrying sign. If they’d only now been moved to the other side of the barrier, then perhaps there wasn’t much time left.
Okay, one last attempt to communicate. “I wish to negotiate,” Asami said. “We don’t need to resolve this through force, but I am not afraid to fight if necessary. Please, talk to me, and explain what you wish to do, and we can try to come to an agreement that will satisfy us both.” Asami had her doubts that that would actually be possible, but all she needed was to get the Eternal talking, and then she could look for an opening to get Korra outside of the tree hollow.
Asami waited. Seconds passed, and then a full minute. The Eternal wasn’t in the mood to talk.
Alright, we’re doing this the hard way. Ty Zen, you first. As soon as the barrier is down, Tenzin switch in. We’ll dissipate the wind, then try to overpower the other two elements, Asami instructed.
Gotcha, Asami, Ty Zen said. Asami let her mind relax, allowing Ty Zen to take over. As she did, she guided Asami’s right hand toward the barrier, palm open. “Alright,” she said, using Asami’s voice. Her lips curled up in a half-grin. “You might be the Avatar’s fire, but that doesn’t mean she owns you. Let me show you who the real master is.”
Asami was about to warn Ty Zen about giving away too much, but before she could even form the words in her mind, her hand rapidly grabbed, twisted, and then pulled back. The wall of flame followed Asami’s hand back, as if she’d pinched a sheet and pulled on it. The fire closest to Asami’s hand began to burn a bright blue, and she only had a moment to notice it spreading to the rest of the wall before her hand punched forward. A circular shockwave shot out from Asami’s fist, tearing apart the wall of flame.
A few stray rocks shot past Asami as the flame wall was torn apart, taking much of the earthbending barrier with it. Tenzin quickly moved forward within Asami’s mind as it disappeared, revealing a barrier of wind vortices behind it, and a thin sheet of water behind that.
Tenzin didn’t waste any time. He guided Asami’s arms in a quick circular motion, gathering up air from the barrier and collecting it around her. Within a matter of seconds, he’d built up a vortex surrounding Asami. Asami planted her feet firmly on the ground as she brought her arms to her sides, stretched outward. She quickly threw her arms back and leaped, propelling herself forward with a gust of wind.
Asami lowered her head as she impacted with the water barrier. The wind helped to dissipate some of it, but she still took a heavy impact with her body. It wasn’t enough to stop her, though. As soon as she was through it, she brought her arms around in front of her bent some air to steady her landing.
This moment was critical. Asami’s adrenaline was already flowing, making time feel as if it slowed down to give her the chance she needed to figure out what to do. She was planning to quickly scan the area, find Korra, and then try to get her outside, but it turned out that the clouds Light had spotted earlier filled the area, blocking Asami’s view of anything more than a few feet in front of her.
That was easy enough to handle. Asami extended her arms to the sides and spun in place, releasing a quick blast of wind to disperse the clouds. The clouds were forced back from the force of the wind, giving Asami a bit more space in which she could see what was going on. The clouds didn’t move far away, but they did move just far enough for Asami to be able to make out an outline of a body on the floor.
Asami dashed toward the body, getting ready to lift it up. She just had to get Korra’s body up into the air, and then Tenzin’s airbending could do what was needed to get her outside. It might be a rough landing for her if she was unconscious, but she’d survive at least.
Two things got in the way of that plan, unfortunately. The first was the realization that the body on the ground was not Korra. The second was the blast of wind that hit Asami from behind, causing her to lose her footing and tumble forward. Her instincts kicked in, wanting her to move her muscles to try and turn her fall into a somersault and spin, but hers weren’t the only instincts at play here.
In a split-second, Asami decided to trust Tenzin right now. And so instead of hitting the ground, Asami leaped upward. She bent the air around her, guiding herself to spin in midair and immediately strike back at her attacker with a blast of wind of her own. As Asami found her footing, she was able to spot Korra easily dispersing the blast of wind Asami had sent her way.
The fact that Korra was active and fighting against Asami was bad, but she’d been ready for it. What was more worrying was the fact that Korra seemed to be surrounded by black tendrils, many of which seemed to extend through her abdomen. “What are you doing to her?” Asami demanded, though she feared she knew the answer already.
“I am reviving Vaatu,” Korra said. Her eyes focused on Asami as she spoke, though the expression in them was one of fear. “And I will do so no matter what you may try to do to stop me. Your interference comes too late. Cease now and I will spare your life.”
It wasn’t even worth answering. Asami shot her arm forward, guiding the air in the hollow to try to push Korra toward the exit. She was able to force Korra to budge, but only a few feet before Korra found her footing. Korra punched her arm forward, shooting a blast of fire at Asami. Asami leaped out of the way of the fire, moving herself toward the back of the hollow; it would give her a better angle to slowly push Korra out.
Korra punched again, sending another fireblast Asami’s way, followed by a quick kick which shot another fireball at her. Asami managed to evade both of them, but Korra followed up by bringing her hands together and channeling a continuous, wide blast of fire in Asami’s direction.
Let me! Ty Zen quickly overtook Tenzin in Asami’s mind. She pushed her hand forward, causing the flame to stop in mid-air, as if it had met a wall. Asami squeezed her hand into a fist, and the wide blast was slowly pinched off. Just before it was completely gone, Asami pulled her fist back, pulling off a tendril of flame. She snapped it back forward like a whip, guiding it to one of the tendrils of darkness extending from Korra’s stomach.
The flame stopped just after hitting the tendril, not making contact with Korra herself. The tendril seemed to recoil from this assault, and so Asami quickly guided it to another tendril. She was able to make contact with one more before Korra twisted away. “I already told you it’s too late,” Korra said. “You cannot stop this.”
“Forgive me if I don’t believe you,” Asami replied. She flicked her wrist, and the flame whip in her hand began to glow a bright blue. It made contact with another tendril, managing to sever it in two. Both ends of it were still connected to Korra’s stomach, but that had to have at least weakened it.
Korra moved away, managing to avoid Asami’s next strike with the whip. She planted her feet firmly to the ground for just a moment, and Asami caught sight of something moving rapidly toward her. She twisted the whip to intercept it, managing to destroy the rock Korra had sent flying her way. The next rock was already flying toward Asami, however, and she wasn’t going to be able to intercept it in time.
Asami released the whip, calling on Kuvira’s power to stop the rock in midair. Korra sent further rocks flying Asami’s way, but Asami was easily able to stop them now. As soon as it appeared like Korra was going to switch to a new tactic, Asami shot the rocks forward. She wasn’t expecting to hit Korra, but she made sure to launch them such that Korra’s easiest path to dodge would take her closer to the exit.
Korra did indeed dodge in this direction, but she’d already begun her next attack as she did so. Perhaps hoping that Asami couldn’t bend water as well, Korra had gathered up the water in the room and frozen it, shooting shards of ice toward Asami. Ty Zen! Kuvira called out within Asami’s mind. Without taking a moment to question it, Ty Zen took over and spread a wall of fire in front of Asami, melting the ice shards as they hit it.
A moment after the shards were halted, Asami caught up with Kuvira’s reasoning. She hadn’t yet revealed that she could bend water as well. This way, she kept that information from Korra, in case the surprise could serve her later.
Korra stepped forward, reaching out toward the water at Asami’s feet. As she began to pull it up toward her, Asami punched forward, shooting a ball of flame at Korra’s feet. Korra dodged back, pulling a whip of water with her and then snapping it forward. Asami dodged to the side, but Korra guided the whip to wrap around Asami.
Maybe it was time to bend water now after all. Asami was about to ask Katara to help, but Ty Zen was already in the process of protecting Asami from this attack. She brought Asami’s arms in tight to her body, generating a ring of fire around her. She positioned the fire to intercept the whip, focusing to rapidly increase its temperature. The path of the whip seemed to adjust to try to avoid the ring, but Asami was able to keep up with it.
The water hissed as it contacted the ring of fire, evaporating into steam around Asami. Asami was about to unwind the ring and shoot it at Korra, but she was caught off-guard by a sudden blast of air from Korra. With the ring around her, Asami couldn’t risk switching in Tenzin to help stabilize her fall for risk of hitting the fire. She had to get rid of the ring, which she did so by shooting it in the rough direction of Korra, hoping she’d dodge back once more.
Asami twisted her body, managing to land on her knees. She pushed forward, dashing toward Korra now and shooting off a barrage of fire at her. Korra brought her arms up to block the blasts, covering her face and dissipating each one with her own firebending, though the intensity of it did force her to take a few steps back.
When Asami got close, Korra suddenly threw her arms down, created a blast of wind around her which broke Asami’s momentum and stopped her from reaching Korra. Asami switched Tenzin in, shooting her left hand out to blast air toward Korra in turn. Korra shifted to the side to dodge it, counterattacking as she did so with a blast of wind at Asami’s feet. Asami leaped to avoid it, but Korra had already followed up with a shot of fire toward Asami.
In the air already, Asami couldn’t airbend to dodge the fire quickly enough. Ty Zen was able to jump in and dissipate most of the blast, but not all of it. Asami grunted as it hit her, trying to ignore the burning in her chest that resulted from the injury. She could deal with that later. Right now, she had to figure out a way to get the better of Korra. The Avatar’s ability to bend more than one element at a time was perhaps too much of an advantage.
As Asami landed, she caught sight of Korra preparing a follow-up attack, though her punch seemed weaker than normal, and only a weak flame came from her fist. Asami dissipated it almost effortlessly, and she looked into Korra’s eyes as she tried to figure out what was going on. The fear she’d seen earlier had been replaced with determination. Korra was fighting back.
Asami took advantage of Korra’s internal battle, switching to Tenzin’s airbending and proceeding to unleash a series of gusts in Korra’s direction. Korra was slower to respond than she had been before, but she still did manage to defend herself from the majority of the gusts. As Korra fought off Asami’s barrage, Asami caught sight of the dark clouds in the hollow concentrating above Korra, even despite the amount of wind Asami was blowing in that direction.
Colorful lights began to dance in the clouds above Korra’s head, reminding Asami of the lights she’d seen in the sky during Harmonic Convergence. They seemed to empower Korra, and she soon stopped retreating under Asami’s onslaught. For a moment, her eyes seemed to glow as if she were going into the Avatar state, but the light soon flickered out. Korra must have been fighting back in there, keeping the Eternal from unleashing all of Raava’s power. But as Korra’s eyes slowly filled with a white glow once more, it began to look like it might not be enough. Asami was having enough trouble with Korra already; there was no way she’d be able to take on Korra in the Avatar state.
Now! Let me! spoke Katara from the back of Asami’s mind. Trusting in the woman’s judgment, Asami let her move in, taking Tenzin’s place. Asami let off on the wind barrage, raising her hands up, then pulling quickly backward. The clouds responded to her grasp, moving away from Korra and toward Asami.
As the clouds left Korra, the light in her eyes began to fade again. Korra reached her hands up to try to pull the clouds back, but it soon became apparent that she wasn’t a match for Katara’s ability, and the clouds moved inexorably toward Asami. The colored light still flickered in the clouds, and even Asami could feel the power within them as they neared her.
Giving up on the clouds, Korra stepped toward Asami, unleashing a bolt of fire with a punch. Asami watched Korra’s movements closely, using her own combat instincts to dodge Korra’s attacks while Katara gathered the clouds. She still didn’t know what Katara might be planning, and Korra was getting farther from the exit now, but Asami had to trust that Katara knew what she was doing.
Asami’s hand suddenly thrust forward. “Stop,” she said. Surprisingly, Korra did, frozen in place. Her muscles struggled to move, but something seemed to be preventing them from doing so. “I didn’t want to have to do this,” Asami said, Katara’s mind guiding her voice. “I fought to make bloodbending illegal for a reason. But when someone else is already trying to control Korra’s body, I’ll make an exception.”
Katara’s bloodbending slowly overpowered Korra, forcing her to step back. It was taking nearly all of her strength to do this, however. The spirit energy contained within the clouds she’d gathered above Asami seemed to be giving her just the strength she needed to bloodbend right now. But Asami could feel the energy beginning to fade. The Eternal had some sort of control of the clouds as well, and it was pulling them away.
Asami wouldn’t be able to keep this up long enough to force Korra out of the tree hollow, but she didn’t need to. Korra was unable to fight back now, and that was all Asami needed. With her left hand thrust out, holding Korra in place, Asami dashed forward. Her right hand reached down to her belt, deftly putting on her electrified glove and detaching it from the belt.
Meeting Korra’s eyes for a moment, she gave her girlfriend an apologetic look just before she brought her right hand forward. This was going to hurt, but it had to be done. Asami hit the release on her glove, discharging energy from its capacitors. Lightning leaped out from the glove, striking Korra’s body. For a second, Korra tensed in pain, and then the electricity overwhelmed her.
Korra’s body collapsed to the ground, unconscious. Asami came to a stop, breathing slowly. She’d done it. She disengaged her glove, then reached down. She still had to get Korra outside of the tree hollow to be sure she would be safe.
“Wait,” came a rough voice from behind Asami. “I was not lying. It is already too late.”
Asami turned her head. In the far corner of the tree hollow, she was able to make out the rough figure of the meditating spirit she’d seen here earlier. It seemed now that Korra was unconscious, the Eternal was using it to speak with Asami now. “What do you mean, it’s too late?” Asami said.
“Vaatu is too close to being reborn,” said the spirit. “Even if you remove Korra from here, and cleanse her of the darkness I have been using to rebirth Vaatu, he will still be reborn, likely within a matter of days. If this happens outside, I will be powerless to control him. He will be born within the Avatar, corrupting her from within.”
Asami narrowed her eyes, breathing slowly. She wasn’t entirely sure she could believe the Eternal here. It had caused all of this after all. “Why should I believe you?” she said. “More importantly, why should I believe things will be any better if I let you continue with what you had planned?”
The spirit slowly, laboriously rose to its feet. “Because, my plan is to bring balance. The world has fallen out of balance, but I can restore it. I will use the energy of Harmonic Convergence I’ve stored here to create a new Dark Avatar, but not one like Unalaq who will succumb to Vaatu’s will. I will create one who can provide balance: A nonbender, with a mind forged and refined through hardship, which will only become more so after a merger with Vaatu.”
“In other words…” came a male voice from off to the side of the spirit.
Asami’s eyes shot over to the source of the voice, spotting the body she’d seen lying on the floor earlier. The man slowly rose to his feet, and Asami didn’t even need to see his face to figure out who it had to be. The sound of his voice, along with what Ty Zen had said earlier, was all Asami needed.“You plan to turn me into the next Dark Avatar,” Izin said.