Asami started with the wall. If Korra had left an opening behind them as she’d earthbent rock around their elevator, and if they were upside-down now relative to how they were when they’d started, then that opening would be below the floor now. Making a hole in it didn’t strike Asami as a good idea, though. There was too much risk of the floor giving out beneath them if she did that. It was originally the ceiling, after all, and so she didn’t imagine Korra had thought to make it very thick.
It was an option, though, if they needed to get out. But it was risky, and there wasn’t a need to take a risk like that just yet, so the wall it was. Asami found a decent seam between two slabs of rock in the wall, then placed the tip of her piton against it. Holding her flashlight between her elbow and side, she carefully struck the piton with her hammer, pushing it in inch by inch, wary of losing her grip on it once it broke through the other side of the wall.
Asami closed her eyes and let out a sigh as she felt the piton break through. She pulled it back and brought her flashlight up to inspect the hole. It wasn’t really much of a hole - pitons were designed to help with climbing after all, not making holes - but it was something. It wouldn’t allow much airflow as it was, but if she worked to expand it, she could try to breathe through it herself. That would leave more air in the elevator for Korra along, which would in turn buy Korra some more time to recover.
Asami brought the piton up to the wall again, and she began working to expand the hole. This step was simply survival. She had to think about what she could do to actually get out if Korra didn’t wake up on her own soon enough. She didn’t remotely have the tools she’d need to dig her way out, so that was off the table. She’d need to get help. If not from Korra, then from someone or something else.
As far as Asami knew, although certain people could meditate to enter the spirit world from anywhere in the human world, there was no way to do the reverse. The only way to contact anyone in the human world was to get to a spirit portal and go through it. Or else, luck into meeting someone from the human world who was meditating and projecting themself into the spirit world in the right place. This wasn’t exactly impossible - Korra said that she’d let Jinora know where they were going and to contact them if needed - but it was far from likely.
After some work, Asami had managed to get the hole just wide enough to fit a couple of her fingers in it. She didn’t quite trust it would allow enough airflow yet, so she turned to the other wall. She found a seam in it, then traced it down to near the floor. If she made a hole here, she could try to position Korra’s head near it so her friend would be able to breath a slightly fresher mix of air.
In any case, barring a very lucky visit from Jinora, Asami couldn’t count on help from any humans. That left spirits. They’d only encountered one actual spirit so far: that miniature badger mole who was digging a tunnel to Zhi-Wen valley. If she could find a way to contact it, it would almost certainly be able to help. It might not be as fast at getting through earth as Korra was, but it could do it. The question was how to contact it.
Asami ran her and Korra’s conversation with it through her mind. It had mentioned being able to smell her and Korra’s rough location from when it was underground. So there was a chance it could still smell them, and perhaps notice that they’d stopped moving. That might make it come and check what was going on. She couldn’t count on that happening, though. Perhaps there was something she could do to get its attention. Unfortunately, nothing was coming to mind right now.
Aside from that creature, they’d only encountered the strange wire creature with a large mouth, who had invited them to see Master Sheng. Korra had said it wasn’t a spirit, though. Perhaps it was an extension of Master Sheng, then. Well, it seemed to be able to travel through the ground, so there was a chance it could get in here as well. And Master Sheng was aware of their presence somehow, though Asami really had no idea how. So again, there was a chance he might notice they needed help, but she couldn’t think of anything she could do to call out to him.
Perhaps she should give meditation a try, then. It might help her get in contact with some nearby spirit. She’d never tried it before though, and she had no training in it. It had taken Korra quite a long time before she’d had any success with it, but Asami might have a bit more luck. It wasn’t very likely, but it was a possibility. It might even have been her best idea so far, at least once she got done with making another air hole. Worst case scenario, it would help slow down her breathing so she’d use less air, giving Korra more time to wake up.
The air hole was decently large by this point. Asami tried to use her flashlight to look through it, and see just what might have been on the other side of the wall. She couldn’t make out anything past the hole, though. That was probably a good sign. It at least meant there was some space out there, which meant a decent amount of air. It still had to get in though With the amount of time it was taking Asami to dig out air holes, she wasn’t quite sure the math worked out in favor of spending time and energy to make any more.
Asami turned back around and placed a hand on Korra’s shoulder. “I’m going to move you a bit, Korra,” she said. Still no sound, and she still didn’t care. “Hopefully this will let you breathe well enough.” Asami carefully shifted her friend’s body, adjusting Korra’s position so that her face was as close to the hole as possible. She then sat down herself, not far from the first hole she’d made. Time to give meditation a try.
She’d give this some time, making an effort to call out to any spirit who might be nearby. If it wasn’t working, and Korra didn’t wake up, Asami would consider trying to break through the floor. But not yet. So, first, the position. Asami sat crossed-legged, then turned off her flashlight and placed it between her legs. She closed her eyes, balled her hands into fists and touched them gently against each other in front of her stomach.
It was her first time trying this herself, but she’d spent quite a bit of time watching over Korra as she meditated. The first part was breathing. She had to keep her breath slow and steady. Focus on nothing but her own breath. Slowly in, slowly out, and repeat. In… out… repeat. Try to empty her mind now. Free herself. Let herself connect with the world, but don’t force it. She was pretty sure that was how it went.
Clearing her mind was the hard part right now. First, she caught herself thinking about how she was supposed to be clearing her mind. Then she was thinking about how she was failing to clear her mind. And then she was thinking about how hard this was, and wondering if it was even possible. But no, she could do it. She had to do this. For Korra’s sake, Asami had to make this work.
Asami was able to get a bit better at it, and she felt like she was getting somewhere. But then her mind drifted to imagining the unconscious figure of Korra. When she pushed that out of the way, her mind instead conjured up an imagined image of Korra’s head striking the floor. Asami nearly winced as she pushed this out of her thoughts. Korra was going to be fine. She’d survived that impact. If she’d been in any real danger, she’d have gone into the Avatar state and…
The Avatar state! Asami’s eyes opened. She grabbed her flashlight and switched it on again, focusing it on Korra’s face. If she could get Korra to go into the Avatar state, it would wake her up and she’d be able to get them out of there easily. And to trigger it… Korra had to truly be in danger.
Asami gazed at her friend’s face. It wouldn’t be hard at all to cut off Korra’s air supply, which would likely prompt her body to go into the Avatar state. After a long minute, Asami found that she couldn’t bring herself to move a muscle, though. That would be putting Korra’s life at serious risk, and she wasn’t that desperate yet. But if nothing changed, then Korra’s life was in danger anyway. If she didn’t wake up, then they’d run out of air eventually, and Korra would end up in the same situation. The only difference would be that Asami would be suffocating at the same time.
From that perspective, it made sense to try to force the issue now. Asami spent another long minute gazing at Korra’s face, trying to imagine herself pinching her friend’s nose shut and covering her mouth. She could feel her heart twisting at just the thought of it. No, she couldn’t do it. She’d wait it out if she had to, and take the risk that something might happen to her before Korra could save her.
But she wasn’t going to give up on meditating just yet, either. She had a more tangible goal in mind now. There was just one spirit she needed to contact: Raava. Asami figured that Raava would normally be harder for someone else to contact through meditation than any other spirit, but she was also far closer than any other right now. Perhaps it was worth trying.
Asami turned off her flashlight and leaned back. She let her eyes fall closed, and she cleared her mind as much as possible. She could do this. There was no way Korra was going to die on her watch.
Maybe it was the fact that she was in the spirit world. Maybe it was the isolation from all sound and light. Maybe it was all the time she had to commit to meditation. Whatever it was, Asami felt like she was getting somewhere. She could feel something with her. She tried to follow the connection, hoping it would lead her to Raava, but… no, it wasn’t her. It was something, though.
Asami let her mind drift. She couldn’t force this. Every previous time she’d tried to force a connection to something, it had faded away. She wasn’t going to miss this chance. She kept her mind clear, letting thoughts seep in as they might, but not holding on them. It was as if she’d been drawn into a flowing river of ideas. She had to ride it out, let it take her where it might, and simply watch the images that flashed through her mind.
She was a teenager again. Her father taught her how the engine on a motorcycle worked. She redesigned the cycle, having figured out how to improve its fuel efficiency and make it more aerodynamic. She rode the cycle through Republic City, and only barely avoided running over Mako. On a date with Mako, she learned that he needed money and saw an easy way to get in his good graces. She met Mako’s teammates; his brother was friendly, but the Avatar was distant.
Asami tried to get closer to Mako. She asked him to join her in her bed one night, but his nerves overtook him and he turned her down. She managed to get closer to his friend, Korra, showing her an exciting drive. She learned that Korra had a crush on Mako, and she realized Mako had feelings for Korra as well. It dawned on her that she’d acted too quickly, without knowing the whole situation. Her eventual heartbreak was her own fault.
Mako and Korra got together; Mako and Korra broke up. Asami’s life crumbled around her, and she succumbed to weakness. She wanted someone, needed someone, but she didn’t think about who. She went where she’d been before, and it all happened again. She kissed Mako, she got back together with Mako, and she got her heart broken by Mako. This time, at least Korra made the right decision in the end and called it off with Mako for good. It didn’t undo the fact that Mako had dumped Asami for her, but it did give Korra and Asami one thing to bond over.
They helped each other through it, and when they were both doing well again, they stuck together as friends. Asami kept growing closer to Korra, even beyond what she could call friendship. She felt things that she hadn’t felt since she was in school. When Korra was nearly killed in battle with Zaheer, Asami was willing to throw her life away to take care of Korra. But she never admitted the true extent of her feelings.
“I really should thank you, Asami,” Kei-Lin said as she got dressed. She refused to meet Asami’s eyes as she spoke. A sad smile crossed her features. “I… I suppose I needed to try this to know it couldn’t work. I’m just…” Kei-Lin shook her head, turning away. “I have to go.” She wasn’t even fully dressed, but Kei-Lin grabbed her shirt and headed out of Asami’s room, ignoring Asami’s pleas to wait.
A pain in her chest. Heartbreak all over again. Things were better now, though. That was far in her past. She could put it behind herself. She just had to let the river of thoughts move on. It would bring her to Korra. Korra. She could feel Korra. The pain in her chest didn’t go away, though. She shouldn’t be feeling heartbreak any longer. She’d missed Korra for a long while, but Korra had needed the time, and she’d returned a new person. A new person who was closer to Asami than ever before. A person who might love her back, not caring about the fact that they were both women.
The pain in her chest was worse, though. She shouldn’t be afraid of anything. She was going to get through this. There was no reason to feel heartbreak. She just had to get out of here with Korra before they ran out of air.
Air. She was running out of air. Time was running out. Korra must still be asleep. But she’d come this far. The river had brought her to the present. It had to mean something. It had to…
Asami gasped for breath, trying to take in more air to help fill her lungs. It wasn’t doing much good, though. Now that she’d reconnected with the world, she was all too aware of her body. Her head felt light, her fingers were tingling and slightly numb as she felt around for her flashlight, and the pain in her chest was getting worse.
“Korra…” Asami tried to say. Still no sound. She closed her eyes, trying to keep herself from feeling like she’d failed her friend. It wasn’t over yet, but it was close. “Korra… I need your help…” Asami said.
Asami leaned forward, feeling out for her friend’s body. She found Korra’s shoulders with her hands, then leaned forward. She rested her forehead against Korra’s cheek, and she squeezed her eyes shut to keep in the tears. She couldn’t lose Korra like this.
Asami tried to calm herself. She was so close. She felt as if her thoughts had been taking her to Korra. There must be some connection there she could communicate through. She just had to find it. Asami tried to steady her breathing, focusing on her friend. She pushed all other thoughts out of her head. She couldn’t let herself worry about running out of air right now.
...There. It was still there, just barely. As soon as she felt it, instinct overtook Asami. Words came out of her mouth before she knew she was speaking. She felt the truth in each word as it slipped out of her mouth, the sound of her voice filling the space between her and Korra.
“I need you, Korra.”
There was nothing. No sights, no sounds, no feelings. No change, no time.
No need to wait. There wasn’t a Korra here who needed to wait. Maybe she’d come along later and decide to wait, but she wasn’t here now.
There was still nothing. Probably. Still no sights. Still no feelings. Probably no sound. Asami couldn’t speak, so Korra hadn’t just heard her voice.
There was no sound to echo. Nothing to echo off of. No one to hear it.
“...I need you, Korra…”
She shouldn’t be here. She shouldn’t be hearing that. Korra wasn’t supposed to be here. Asami’s voice… she couldn’t have just heard it. But if she had… and if Asami needed her…
Light. Asami’s brain had hardly processed the fact that she’d actually heard herself speak when the world filled with light. Asami opened her eyes, finding herself face to face with the awakened Avatar. White light shone from Korra’s eyes. Asami felt Korra’s hands grasp her sides, and the room opened up around them.
The elevator Korra had carved out of earth broke apart in less than a second. Korra pulled Asami in close to her, wrapping one arm around Asami’s waist and thrusting the other arm upward. Rock opened up above them as Korra pushed a massive column of earth skyward. In the seconds it took for Korra to lift it up, Asami’s mind slowly caught up with what was happening. She let herself smile, and tears of relief began to fall from her eyes.
Asami couldn’t even see the light from the surface, but apparently Korra had cleared the way, as she lit twin fires beneath her feet and rapidly propelled the two of them toward the surface. Asami wrapped her arms around Korra, holding on through the rapid ascent. Light suddenly flooded Asami’s vision, and she had to squint to let her eyes adjust. She barely saw anything of this side of the spirit world before she felt Korra slow down, and then carefully touch down on the ground.
As her eyes adjusted, Asami caught sight of Korra carefully replacing the column of earth she’d displaced to free them. Korra’s arm remained around Asami as she did this, and it was only after she’d turned back to Asami that she moved her arm. Korra reached down, taking both of Asami’s hands in hers, and gazed into her friend’s eyes.
Asami looked back at Korra, smiling at her friend. Korra was still in the Avatar state, and so her eyes glowed pure white, but it was still quite obvious that she was gazing directly back at Asami.
“I need you too, Asami,” Korra said.
The light faded from Korra’s eyes, and they fell shut. Her body began to slump toward the ground, but Asami reacted quickly enough to catch her. She tried to shout her friend’s name, but only air left her mouth. Asami pushed that worry aside for now, though. She shifted one arm around Korra’s back to support her friend, and she brought her hand up to check that Korra was still breathing.
Asami let out a sigh as she felt her friend’s breath. She was alive. She just needed more time to recover. And apparently, so did Asami. She’d been able to speak when it truly mattered, though. Even if her voice had left her now, at least she knew now she had it in her.
“Avatar Korra? Are you alright?”
Asami looked up, catching sight of a spirit flying toward her. It had a round, yellow body, with two green leaves on its head. It flapped the leaves as it flew toward her, showing concern in its face as it looked at Korra.
“I rushed to meet you as soon as I sensed your presence,” the spirit explained to Korra. It had shifted back into its normal form, though it hadn’t yet moved from Korra’s chest. “But when I got to you, you were unconscious, being held in your friend’s arms. She hasn’t been able to say anything, but I think she really cares about you. Her face… it was just indescribable. I… Well, she was definitely worried about you. But I think she was also a bit relieved.”
“Mm… I care about her too,” Korra said, smiling at the spirit. She began to sit up, though a sudden wave of dizziness and headache struck her. She winced and lay back down. “Damn… what happened to me?”
“I think you hit your head on something,” the spirit said. “Your friend pointed to it with a worried expression. Don’t worry, though! There’s a spring not far from here, just up the cliffs nearby, and its water should be able to heal you. Your friend left a bit ago to get water from it. She should be back soon.”
“Ah. Okay,” Korra said. She carefully turned her head to the side, trying to get an idea of where she was right now. The rocks surrounding them reminded her a bit of Hai-Riyo peak, though she didn’t recognize this particular spot. “Hmm…” she looked back up at the spirit, shifting a bit as a thought nagged at her. “Um, do you know why Asami - my friend - didn’t take me to the spring herself?” Korra said. There was probably a good reason. She just needed to hear it to ease her worries.
“Oh. That’s simple. It’s because she can’t fly, and I’m not big enough to carry you,” the spirit said, its leaves flapping as it spoke.
Korra blinked, staring at the spirit in confusion. “Um, you’re gonna have to give me a bit more to go on.”
The spirit was silent for a minute. Eventually, it spoke. “Well, I was showing your friend to the spring, and she was carrying you as she followed me. When I flew up the cliffs near here, she shook her head at me. Since she couldn’t fly, she had to climb. She was able to find a place she could climb up, but she wasn’t able to carry you while she did it. And I can’t carry you at all. So I’m watching over you till she gets back.”
“Oh. Well that makes sense,” Korra said. She let out a sigh and closed her eyes. Her head was throbbing a bit, but it wasn’t as bad as it had been when she’d tried to sit up. Hopefully it wouldn’t be long until Asami returned. “Hmm… You know, I don’t think I ever thanked you,” she said after a bit. “I really did need your help back before. If you hadn’t guided me to Toph, I might still not have recovered.”
“You don’t need to thank me,” the spirit said. “After what you’ve done for the world, and what happened to you… you deserve help when you need it. I’m just happy I could figure out a way to help you. How many spirits can say they’ve been able to help out the Avatar?”
“Heh… I suppose. Hmm…” Korra opened her eyes up again, looking at the spirit. “I really should have asked you earlier: Do you have a name? I can’t just keep calling you ‘little cutie’ forever.”
The spirit tilted its head to the side. “You can if you want to. I don’t mind. I don’t have any other name, anyway.”
“Hmm… nah, I think you need a name,” Korra said. She looked at the spirit for a moment, trying to think of an idea. She furrowed her brow at the first one that came to her. “Well, Bumi’s giving me bad ideas. My first thought is to name you ‘Korra Junior,’ or Kor-Ju. I don’t think that quite works, though.”
The spirit gazed at Korra for a minute. “I don’t think so either. Especially since I’m a boy, you know.”
Korra blinked. “Right. I… um. I knew that. That’s why I said it didn’t work. So let’s see… Well… you can name yourself if you want, I suppose.”
The spirit tilted his head to the other side now. After a minute, he spoke. “‘Light,’” he said. “I’m a spirit of light, after all. So you can call me ‘Light.’”
A smile crossed Korra’s face. “I like that,” she said. She brought a hand up and stroked Light’s head. “Nice to meet you, Light.”
Asami searched for a decent place to begin her descent. She’d lost her and Korra’s bags when they escaped from the elevator, and so she didn’t have her climbing gear to rely on now. She had to be careful, especially in her descent, as she wouldn’t be able to see where she was going as easily.
Reaching the spot where she’d initially gotten up to this landing, Asami peered over the cliff. It wasn’t going to be easy, but she could manage. She’d already faced a much harder trial today, after all. A grin crossed Asami’s face as she plotted out the path she planned to take, making sure she had each step memorized before she went down. She needed to be able to do this without sight if needed.
As she got down to the final few steps, her gaze landed on Korra’s body, lying where she’d left her friend, and she caught a glimpse of motion. She paused, squinting her eyes to try to make it out. Her arm. Korra’s arm was definitely moving. She was awake.
Asami closed her eyes, letting out a deep sigh. Korra’s advice from earlier echoed in her head. Asami had been trapped, but she kept moving forward, and they were finally getting to a better place. The same would happen with her voice. She’d already seen the light once. She’d see it again.With a smile firmly fixed to her face, Asami turned around and began to climb down the cliff.