Icon: Part I
It wasn't the physical injuries that troubled her. The ribs, healed through the use of water healing. The cuts, the burns, they would all fade with time. None of these bothered her.
It was the images.
The punch that hit Korra revealed a torrent of memories, garbled stories that she couldn't make out, that had no context, but immense value. They were her memories, and yet they felt like the memories of another. Memories of promises, memories of hate, memories of rejection; all of these were present. But what stuck out the most were the memories of love. The memories that were jumbled together, but would give her all the answers if made whole.
She stood up from her bed and looked out the window of the apartment Avatar Affairs had rented for her in Republic City. It offered a view of the entire city, everything from the massive television monitors in Convergent Square to the crowds of human and vehicular traffic to the towers that adorned the cityscape. Looking inside, she saw two bodyguards standing by the entrance; ready to accompany her anywhere she went. She looked outside again at Republic City, wondering just what it all meant.
Korra, sitting on her bed, tried to meditate again, tried to make sense of the chaos. The images, some of them came together, pages of a book ordered and read aloud. The two bodyguards were ignoring her. Good. She had to see what it was that overwhelmed her so.
The tree in the middle of the spirit swamp was massive. Even touching it briefly she could feel the age and weight of it. Her curiosity was not lost on her companion.
"I didn't bring you here to look at the swamp. I brought you here to ask you a favor."
The old woman, no, Toph asked Korra to come here. Her white hair hung over her head, not that she would know, being blind. In her usual cantankerous fashion, she asked Korra to get over as soon as she could drag herself over, and was aloof as soon as she came.
"You? Ask for a favor? This oughta be good."
"Shut it kid. Believe me, I wouldn't be asking if I didn't need to. But I'm fighting something not even I can beat."
"Time. I'm getting old. The kind of old where you can barely move. The kind where you feel your strength leave and it drives you insane because you know exactly what you were capable of in your prime!"
"I can't cure aging," Korra answered, but Toph shook her head.
"I'm not stupid kid. I didn't ask you here to cure me. I want you to protect this place after I'm gone."
Korra was taken aback by the request. Mostly because she didn't realize Toph had it in her to ask for anything, much less sentiment.
"I've been fighting off people trying to invade the forest for the past year since Kuvira was defeated. They've been coming in mecha tanks, but I keep beating them back. Problem is…well, AGE."
"Why this place?"
Putting her hand up to a spirit vine, she shook her head. "I've gotten kind of attached to this little hole of dirt. And I know what people want to do with it. I just want to make sure that it isn't stripped bare and turned into a mall as soon as I kick the bucket."
Korra nodded at the request. "I won't let what Kuvira created be made by anyone else. Just point out who I need to stop."
The sound of mechanical whirring answered Korra's question as the sound of mecha suits approaching could be heard. Looking on, she saw at least forty, wearing the emblem of the new Earth Kingdom. It was obvious why they had shown.
"Forty against two. Seems like rough odds."
"Yeah," Toph answered, punching her fist into her palm for emphasis. "For them."
Korra looked on at the grinning old woman confused, until she offered a laugh. "I said I was old. I didn't say I was dead. And as long as I'm alive, I might as well have some fun."
As cool as she idea of her and the great Toph Bei Fong fighting off a squadron of mecha tanks and kicking butt was, it didn't answer any of her pertinent questions. What fate befell Asami Sato? Why couldn't she remember her friends and their relationships? What caused her to lose her memories in the first place? And why did they return now, in a battle with an assassin that not only could wield all four elements, but could also summon the Avatar…no. That wasn't possible. That couldn't be it.
"I'm the Avatar," she muttered to herself. "He's gotta deal with it."
"Are you feeling better H…Korra?"
Between bites of an Earth state style curry with rice and sky fowl, Korra nodded to her advisor, the Inquisitor. "I'm still hobbling a bit. My knees feel stiff and there are a lot of bruises, but the water healers expect those to go away with a few days of treatment." The massive dining room in the Avatar Affairs building was used both for Korra's meals as well as hosting diplomats, so when none were present, the large room with its chandelier above the table seemed...empty.
"Good to know," Han answered. "Especially given recent news."
"News?" Korra asked even as her chopsticks stabbed at the rice in the green bowl.
"Yes," Han answered with a chuckle. "While you were dueling The Specialist, which I still contend was ill-advised, we reached a tentative deal with Emperor Xing of the Earth Kingdom. He has agreed to all of our conditions, unilaterally, and is willing to accept his new title, if the Earth Republic breaches Ba Sing Se."
"Good," Korra answered. "Then we're one step closer to uniting the world under our banner. We will have peace within our lifetime."
She stopped when she heard those words. The image of her and Toph fighting people who wanted to disrupt the balance reflected in her eyes, as they went wide with shock and realization. She was what Toph had wanted her to protect the forest from.
No, that was ridiculous. The White Lotus had developed the Realignment for years. It was the only way to permanently bring the world into balance.
So why didn't she want to share these doubts with Han? Han had been by her side ever since she first lost her memories, an acolyte within White Lotus that was young and naïve, but supremely dedicated to her. She even suspected that he might harbor romantic feelings for her. And yet these thoughts made it seem as if he was the last one she could trust.
"Tomorrow," Han continued, "you'll see the final step instrument we have to unify the nations. I trust you will be impressed."
"I'm sure I will," Korra replied, smiling.
She was back in the forests, looking on at the trees and other wildlife. And that's when she saw her.
The woman was smiling, picking fruit from trees. She didn't have to do it, but she enjoyed fresh fruit over the processed stuff. She enjoyed being close to the earth. And when she noticed Korra, her arms opened, as if to hug her.
Korra's lips trembled, as she opened her arms.
But when she reached for Asami, there was nothing. There was no forest. There was only desert. Desert and destroyed buildings. And a sight that was utterly horrifying.
The great city of Ba Sing Se, nothing more than a dilapidated ruin, long since cleared of human life. Its palaces, skyscrapers, and roads, centuries of human progress were all buried under sand, long since re-taken by the desert.
And she would be the cause of it all.
The sight in front of her switched to other cities. Zaofu was the first, but there were others to soon follow. Capital City of the Fire Nation, the Northern and Southern Water Tribes, Republic City, all of them would burn. And she would be the cause of it all. A voice echoed as each city burned.
There will be peace in our lifetimes! Because any who would dare oppose us will be annihilated without hesitation!
Hail Quán Zhī Wáng!
A battle was fought in Republic City, on one side, Quán Zhī Wáng, covered in shadow. On the other side was another being in shadow, the Avatar. As the two titans clashed, Korra looked on helpless as she walked through what was left of the jewel of civilization. In the ruins of what was Republic City, she saw a skeleton. The skeleton wore Asami Sato's clothes. Without warning, the skeleton rose, pointing at Korra.
And you will be the cause of it all.
Korra awoke from her bed in a cold sweat, unable to process what she had seen. Looking by her bedside, she saw a clock reading '9:05am'. Her mind went to two places, Han's announcement that Emperor Xing had agreed to their terms to intervene, and the jumbled, incoherent memories of Asami Sato that haunted her very being. She needed to see someone who could help with this, but who?
Spiritual cures for spiritual ailments."
Tenzin said those words when she was beginning her spiritual training. It was meant to say how spiritual matters required a different set of thinking to deal with. And what she was dealing with wasn't physical. She was banged up, sure, but those injuries didn't hobble her anywhere near as badly as these memories did. It was then that an idea hit her. A spiritual cure.
She had to go to Air Temple Island. And she had to do so quietly, so as not to let her bodyguards know.
Korra didn't know where her sudden distrust of the staff that constantly followed her was coming from, but she wasn't about to question it. She made sure to wear clothes that wouldn't' create a scene, a large jacket and jean shorts instead of her traditional uniform, while putting her hair up in a ponytail and covering that with a hat. The sight of her old hairstyle on her head in the mirror couldn't help but be amusing.
"Huh, I haven't worn it this way in years." Hopefully this way she'd be inconspicuous.
Slowly, she opened the door to her apartment balcony, and prepared to create a wind gust to lower herself to the ground.
She tried again. Still nothing.
"Why won't you work?" she muttered to herself. The fifth attempt at air bending proved futile, and she sighed. So she couldn't air bend? Reaching for a glass of water inside her apartment, Korra focused on the liquid, letting it float in the air.
"OK, I can still water bend. This is doable."
Filling a sac with water, Korra allowed its contents to be released, the water floating into a large bubble. She stepped inside it as the bubble lowered itself to the ground, dissipating once it landed. Performing such a complex water bending technique made her smile. She was fine. The air bending was probably just affected by her injuries was all, right?
She knew who she had to visit.
The problem with going out on her own without anyone to accompany her was that she was left to her own devices when navigating the city. Normally, advisors, security, and others who ensured that she got to where she needed to be immediately accompanied all of Korra's trips, finding the shortest possible route, and pushing anyone out of the way who obstructed them.
Here, there was no such luck. She knew that she had to get to Air Temple Island and the ferry, but she was as lost as any tourist. Now, she found herself in Raiko Center, a very large shopping center filled with restaurants, offices, and stores. It was hardly the worst place to be lost, but it was annoying to be delayed in any manner.
"Hey! Frontier toys!"
Turning around, Korra found a sight that both amused and irritated her. It was a child nagging her parent about toys from a store. She recognized the show vaguely from her occasional television viewing, something about a high school student on a starship that flies a jet fighter that transformers into a robot. The toys themselves were placed below a television monitor showing scenes from the show, robots fighting aliens and the sort of loud, colorful material kids loved.
That wasn't the sight that irritated her. The sight that irritated her was the small bin by the front entrance marked "Bargain bin." It was filled with toys resembling Avatar Aang and his friends, utterly ignored for the shiny figurines of robots and jet fighters.
"Hey," she went to the shopkeeper, "no one wants to buy these?"
"You kidding?" the storekeeper replied. "The Avatar isn't exactly the most popular figure these days. She's considered too nosy for her own good. No one wants Avatar toys. We can't give these pieces of crap away!"
"They do look kind of shoddy," Korra noted, looking over a figurine labeled 'Prince Zuko.'
"Tell me about it. The company said they were going to be the biggest thing, and no one wants to touch them."
"Are there any of...Katara?" Korra asked, the name coming from the jumbled mess of her memories.
"Toy company thought toys of girls wouldn't sell," the man replied. "Look, they're on sale, but I wouldn't give these toys to my kids unless I didn't like them. But we just got the latest shipment of Nar…"
"Thanks," Korra interrupted before walking out. Her popularity was dropping? Why didn't any of her advisors tell her? They were going to be sorry when they reported this evening. If she wanted to speak to them. And of course there was the sight of the child. The memories of the court case rang in her head again, annoying her to no end.
Walking through the city provided more of the same images, images that she happily ignored just a week prior now seemed overwhelming. Above her, Korra saw a massive billboard advertising a mover "Last Days of the Great Uniter," with a picture of an actress playing Kuvira. She chuckled at the sight, only to look up again.
It was her, in Kuvira's uniform.
Gasping, Korra, fell to the ground, a small crowd of onlookers observing the fallen woman. She looked on, and saw the billboard now resembled Kuvira, or the actress playing Kuvira again.
She had to find that man soon.
"See, this is the problem with Wind Razor!" Rohan yelled as the Air Bending Gates whacked yet another student in the head. "You want to fight before you can walk! It ends poorly!"
The students in front of him looked exhausted at the exercise, but in their defense, he had run them pretty hard. They came from the Fire Nation, former Wind Razor students who journeyed to Republic City following the closing of their local school. And judging by how they performed, Rohan could only shake his head at what passed for an Air Bender taught by Wind Razor instructors.
"OK, that's enough for today," he announced to the relieved class of a dozen students. "Go clean up and head to the mess hall for lunch, then come back for your spiritual training. But we're going to do this every day until you can traverse the gates flawlessly! I'll make the lot of you true Air Benders yet!"
The relieved students all bowed respectfully and then left as Rohan looked on at the gates, smiling. It almost made him question if he had to retire. His memories of the gates ranged from annoyed at the initial swattings, to being determined to make it through the contraption, and finally proud when he did make it and seeing his father's approving face. He had no doubt that the students were cursing his infernal contraption right now, but they'd come around when they succeeded going through it. What was that old saying about needing to break eggs to make an omelet?
The Grandmaster's thoughts were interrupted as a presence emerged from the ferry, one he did not expect to see.
"YOU!" he shouted at the woman who walked off the ferry, removing her cap and looking on at the Grandmaster. "How dare you violate this sacred ground!"
"I'm not here to…"
"If you dare invade my home Korra," Rohan shouted while descending into a fighting stance, his fists clenched and legs wide, "then I will give you a fight you will never forget!"
"No!" Korra shouted, dropping to her knees. "I'm not here to fight! I need help!"
"What could you possibly need my help with?" Rohan asked, his fists loosening.
"I've been…bombarded by memories. Memories from the spirit world. And I need help dealing with them. I feel like they're the key to the memories I lost 21 years ago."
Rohan stood firm, stroking his chin at this rather revealing bit of information. "You lost your memory?"
"I will tell you everything," Korra begged, not rising from her knees, "if you will help me."
Neither spoke for a few moments until Rohan asked another question.
"And you promise you aren't being followed."
"Yes! I went alone on purpose. I feel like my memories are telling me not to trust my advisors and I don't know why."
After another moment of silence, Rohan answered.
"Very well. Come with me. But be warned, if you try to double cross me, any of your men that come on this island will return without the use of their arms and legs."
The room that Korra and Rohan sat in was dark, save the slivers of light of came in through a few windows, and the candles lit by Rohan and placed on an altar.
"What is this place?" Korra asked.
"This is a room made for meditation. From what I've gathered, the memories you've received originated from the spirit world. But that would beg the question, why would your memories be elsewhere?"
Korra looked at her hands before answering, "I don't know."
"Well, let's fix that then. You see," he began, "memories are often considered to be pieces of data inside the brain. Spiritual memories are similar, except as energy, they can be transferred. For instance, to show a vision."
"So how can we look at it?"
"A spiritual object requires a spirit to observe," Rohan answered. "Surely the Avatar knows how to spirit walk?"
"Of course I do," Korra shot back, remaining in her meditative stance. She waited to enter the spiritual mediation, and sure enough, she felt the lightness that came with being solely in an ethereal form. Next to her, Rohan stood, looking much the same, the old man now a shade of blue and white rather than flesh and bone.
"Good. This should make it easier to access your memories. Now I'm going to touch your head briefly to access those memories."
"You can do that?" Korra asked.
"Like I said before, memories are merely bits of information. Normally we can't access them in the physical world, but here, I can access and observe AHHHH!"
The form of the old master stumbled backwards, but didn't fall as he raised his hand up to Korra. "I'm fine. There's just…quite a lot of information in there. An entire lifetime to be honest. Strange."
"Yeah," Korra mused. "Strange."
Again, Rohan touched Korra's forehead, but this time, he appeared ready, gritting his teeth until finally, a massive amount of images dotted the ceiling of the room, all showing images of her life. Birth, childhood, her training in the South Pole, journeying to Republic City, battles, social gatherings, and countless others. It was, to Korra, overwhelming.
"This is everything," Rohan announced. "Now comes the process of organization."
"How long will that take?"
"Unfortunately I don't have the spiritual equivalent of paralegals to help me out," Rohan noted. "This could take hours. How about we just skip around a bit?"
Korra nodded with a smile, although Rohan's expression continued to remain stern. It was obvious immediately that he didn't trust her, his guard up at all times.
"Here we are. The last memories of this life. Let's find out how you lost those memories in the first place."
The screens began to switch from still images to a moving video as Rohan concentrated. It was an apartment, where she was resting, with an old woman next to her. Her grey hair and wrinkles didn't hide the fact that the woman was Asami Sato, who appeared to be tired after a long day. Asami smiled as the pair shared some tea before getting ready to go to bed.
Then a crash was heard.
"Who are you?!" Asami asked, only for the figure, cloaked in shadow, to stab her. Asami fell to the ground, dead. Korra, at least the Korra in the vision, readied herself for battle, when a second figure stabbed her in the back. She gasped, and looked up.
Both of the attackers looked exactly like she did.
"What the?" the Korra observing the visions asked. "Why do they have my face? Why am I seeing my own death?"
Rohan said nothing at first, but then started to laugh. And laugh. And laugh some more.
"What's so funny?!"
"This explains everything! It explains why you look like Korra, but don't act like the Korra I knew when she was alive! It explains why you 'lost' your memories! Don't you see?"
"See what? Why do they have my face?"
"When I was a child," Rohan began, "my brother Meelo and I saw a mover about a mad doctor who wanted to take over the world, so he made a genetic duplicate of the world's leaders. Clones. Then everything went south when the heroes tried to stop him."
"What are you trying to say?" Korra asked, her voice hushed.
"You aren't the real Korra," Rohan answered, his laughter finally ceasing.
"Then what am I?"
"You're a clone of the real Korra."