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|A Proper Response|
Chapter 5: A Proper Response
Shingen leaned back in his chair as Sukan left his office and his aid entered. "I need you to get Kinzoku to lend the Republic City Council use of his men."
Varro raised an eyebrow and folded his hands behind his back. "May I ask for what purpose, sir?"
"Officer Sukan informed me that she has discovered the location of the girl whose parents were murdered last night."
"Is there a reason this is of interest to the Council?"
Shingen frowned. "Don't go spreading this around just yet, but the Order of the White Lotus has the girl. She's the new Avatar."
The aid's eyes widened. "Really? That changes things! Does she have any close relatives?"
"We did a search for next of kin in the United Republic and found none. She's an orphan, for all intents and purposes."
"I'll go and requisition units from the chief at once, then," he said before bowing.
As Varro turned on his heel, the councilman raised his hand. "Wait, I'm sure I don't have to tell you how Kinzoku will respond if he discovers the identity of the girl. You'll have to avoid mentioning that she's the Avatar."
"I am well aware, sir."
Well, it seems that six years of work have paid off; I am nothing if not patient.
Varro exited Shingen's office, and as he passed by the window, he looked and saw a face that was radically different from the one he now wore. Instead of long, black hair and gray eyes that sat on a sharp face, he saw an angular visage adorned by stark white hair. And his red tunic was replaced with a dark purple armor.
"I might as well requisition the men," Lin Quei said quietly. "It'll go more smoothly if they are the ones to take the Avatar from the White Lotus; I'm not in the mood to deal with that spirit-killing blade just yet."
The Spirit of Chaos grinned. A young Avatar with no experience could be manipulated; he might finally have a weapon worthy of his title.
Jing ran ahead of his parents as they browsed the festival booths, and his breath left as a vapor. He wanted a fresh candied apple, and he had five yuans to spend. The warm caramel coating that they dipped it in was perfect for a cold, dry day.
The stall that had the candied apples, and other assorted treats, also had a long line. Jing pouted, but his desire for the treat outweighed his impatience. He fell in line behind a girl who was slightly taller than he was.
After half a minute, he awkwardly tried to get a glimpse of the front of the line, but found that he couldn't see around well enough without getting out of the line. He tapped on the girl's shoulder.
"Hey, how long have you been waiting?"
She jerked and whirled around, sighing when she saw who had tapped her shoulder. "Sorry...you startled me."
Jing's lips tightened. "Oh, sorry."
"I've been waiting for a while; I guess they're having problems or something," she said in reply to his earlier question. Then she did something he didn't expect and clumsily offered her hand. "I'm Nana."
He stared at her hand for a second before lightly gripping it and pumping up and down. "Jing! Nice to meet you, Nana," he replied with a grin.
She glanced back toward the stall. "Y'know, I'm tired of standing here. It's cold, and I don't really even want anything."
"Then why wait in line?" Jing asked.
"It's for my sister," Nana said before sighing. "She...well, I owe her."
"I mean, I'm really craving a candied apple, so I'll wait with you!" His grin formed into a warm smile. "I don't mind!"
She returned the smile. "Well, I've got someone to talk to, at least. It beats playing around with a ball of air."
His eyes widened. "Wait...are you an Airbender!?"
Nana chuckled. "Yep!" She brought her hands together, and they slowly separated as a ball of air formed between them. "See?"
"Hey, Nana!" A slightly higher female voice drew both of the children's attention. Jing watched as a girl about his height bounded over to them; her right arm was in a sling. "How's it going?"
"It's gonna be a little while, Lyre. I don't think the caramel's heated up yet."
The new arrival cocked her head. "That's okay! I can wait in line if you don't wanna!"
"Nah, it's fine," Nana replied.
"Okay..." Lyre's gaze turned immediately to Jing. "Hi, my name's Lyre!" She held out her left hand. "Daddy always tells me to shake hands with my right, but..." She glanced at the sling. "That's not really...I can't do that right now."
He smiled and held out his left in response. "Hey, I'm Jing."
Lyre grinned. "So, Jing, do you like candied apples?"
Karuta pressed his hand against the wall for balance as he was pushed aside by Yari, who trudged past like he wasn't even there. The swordsman's gait was unsure; he'd been drinking.
"Hey," the armored young man said as he held out his hand. "We need to talk."
Yari glanced back at him. "Well?"
"The way you conducted yourself at the meeting this morning was uncalled for. Hizumi deserves a serious apology from you."
"An apology? Argho didn't give a damn about what I did on my down time, and neither should any of you. Besides," he shook his head, "You sure there wasn't someone else you'd rather I apologize to?"
Karuta inclined his head. "Everyone you insulted in that room deserves your respect."
"Respect is earned, kid," Yari replied.
"Yeah," his blood began to boil, "And I'm wondering what you did to earn Argho's."
In a flash, the significantly older swordsman was on him, pressing Karuta against the wall with one arm. "Shut up! I don't have to take this from some confused kid!"
Karuta frowned. "Confused?"
"You were mumbling something 'bout apples a few minutes ago, and this isn't the first time, either. It seems that you're reliving memories."
He gripped Yari's arm and pushed the older man away with minimal effort. "And?"
"You have to get your stuff sorted out before the Order can even think about counting on you out in the field, Lyre included. You wanna know why I'm so hard on you two?"
"No," Karuta shook his head. "I want you to answer me!"
"Fine...you asked. If you're reliving memories, why the hell aren't they your memories?"
Tears stung Lyre's eyes as she closed the door behind her. Her room was dark, by virtue of not having a window, so she flicked on the light switch. A yawn drew her attention to the bed, where Yoriko was stretching, mouth open wide.
"Sorry, Yoriko, I didn't mean to wake you."
The young Avatar scanned the room before looking at her. "It's okay..." She frowned. "Why are you crying?"
Lyre pulled her sleeve up over the heel of her hand and dried her eyes. "I'm fine; it's nothing." The Waterbender smiled warmly, attempting to forget about what had happened earlier. "How are you doing? Are you comfortable; can I get you something to eat?"
The girl nodded. "Yeah...I'm hungry..."
"Then let's get you some lunch."
Yoriko rubbed her eyes. "Lunch?"
"Yeah," Lyre replied with a chuckle. "You slept for quite awhile."
She knelt down in front of the Avatar, now sure of what to say. "I'm really sorry, Yoriko. Your parents loved you very much, and they protected you to the end."
"I...I miss them..." Yoriko's lip quivered. "Why did he kill them?"
Lyre felt tears on the edge of her eyes. "Because he wanted to get to you. Your status as the Avatar makes you a target for those who want to hurt you."
She sniffled. "I wish I wasn't the Avatar...then Mommy and Daddy would be okay."
Once more, Lyre found herself speechless in front of a scared little girl. All of her problems, in that moment, seemed to pale in comparison.
After a few moments, she stood and offered her hand to Yoriko. "C'mon, sweetheart, let's go and get you something to eat."
Yoriko took her hand without hesitation. "'Kay..."
"I'm sorry," the secretary at the front desk of the Council Building said as she frowned, "What did you say your name was?"
"Hizumi," the Grand Lotus replied as she resisted the urge to roll her eyes. "Councilman Shingen is expecting me."
"Oh, Hizumi!" Sera called out as she approached. "There you are!"
The secretary raised an eyebrow. "Councilman Sera...you know this woman? She claims that she has a meeting with Councilman Shingen, but we have nothing on file."
Sera smiled. "Absolutely! Hizumi and Shingen have known each other for years. I'm sure there was just some sort of misunderstanding; I can take her to his office."
The woman nodded. "Of course, Councilman."
As the two members of the Order walked away, Hizumi glanced at Sera.
"Where'd you have to run off to, anyway?"
"Hey, I actually have responsibilities here, y'know. I had some city business to take care of, zoning regulations and such."
Hizumi shook her head. "Sounds...invigorating."
"Oh, it is. Nothing like city planning to get me excited for work," she replied with a smirk.
The hallway to Shingen's office was covered with paintings and pictures on their right side, but on the left was a large glass window that ran the length of the hallway.
Hizumi stopped short. "This is where we part ways, Sera. I'll see you back at the base."
The Firebender leaned against the wall. "You sure you don't need any more help?"
"It's better if Shingen doesn't know of your involvement with the Order; we need every advantage we can get right now."
Karuta pulled off the mask and stared in his bathroom mirror; the black orbs stared back as he frowned. His heart beat quickly in his chest as he pondered Yari's words.
Why don't I have any of my memories? Who am I?
Despite their disagreements, Yari did have a point. Why were the only memories he had access to Jing's? It was as if there was a war in his head, and he was losing.
"I have to know," he growled. "I have to get some of my memories back; then, maybe I can finally be rid of this pain."
He thought of Lyre, of how much destroying the man she knew would hurt, and it gave him pause. Whether it was a result of Jing's persona or not, he had no desire to hurt her. His eyes widened as another thought came into being. Perhaps the Spirit World held the answers he sought.
Karuta slowly sat down, cross-legged on the floor and slid the mask back on. He could find one of the portals in Republic City, but leaving would raise suspicion. Instead, he was counting on his affinity with the Spirit World to enable him entry.
He closed his eyes and inhaled deeply, visualizing where he wanted to end up. When he opened them, he found himself sitting just in front of a massive building with a large spire. Wan Shi Tong's library awaited him, and he hoped to find answers.
The armored young man stood and took a step forward, and the double doors began to open slowly. The library's main foyer was vast, and Karuta marveled at the sheer volume of tomes, scrolls, and tablets that lined the shelves in that one room alone.
Heavy flapping drew his attention to the ceiling above, as the Spirit of Knowledge floated down on massive black wings.
"Who are you, and what are you doing in my library?" Wan Shi Tong asked as he landed in front of Karuta.
The armored young man stared up at the owl spirit. "My name is Karuta," he replied. "And I need to know who I am."
"So, Hizumi," Shingen propped his elbow on his desk and rested his cheek in his open palm. "What brings the Grand Lotus to my office?"
She frowned. "And how exactly did you know I was the Grand Lotus?"
"It makes sense," he replied with a smirk. "You were always the one who Argho relied on to lead; and after his death, it would stand to reason that things would be left to you. Now, I'll ask again. Why are you here?"
Hizumi sat in one of the chairs opposite his desk. "You are aware of our involvement in the incident that occurred last night."
"Yes, one of the on-scene officers gave me a full report; I merely need to requisition a few things to finish cleaning up this mess."
"How much did this officer tell you?"
Shingen smiled. "Everything, my dear. I know that the Order of the White Lotus is holding the young Avatar, and I would ask that you hand her over to the police when they come knocking."
Creases formed in her forehead as Hizumi's frown deepened. "I was afraid of this..."
"You knew what I'd do," Shingen replied, cocking his head, "yet you allowed Sukan to leave and report back anyway. Why?"
"Because I had hoped to convince you that the Order is the best option for her training, once her next of kin have been found, that is."
The councilman's smile faded. "She has none that we've been able to find with the information we have at our disposal. For all intents and purposes, Avatar Yoriko is an orphan."
Hizumi raised an eyebrow. "Then why do you—"
"She will be a ward of the state," he said tersely. "The girl will be in better hands with the masters that the city council can find for her than the benders of a semi-secret shell of a former power. I will see to it that she is raised as an Avatar should be. A foster family will be found, and—"
"Argho was clear that his successor be trained by us, Councilman," she replied. "That was in his will."
Shingen chuckled. "I'm sorry, Hizumi, but Argho's will says nothing of the sort."
Her eyes widened. "What are you talking about?! I was there when he had it written!"
The councilman stood. "You are welcome to check our records in the public library; I'll even tell them to expect you. I am not lying to you, Hizumi; Argho said nothing of the sort in his will." Varro reentered the room, and Shingen sighed. "Now, my aid will show you out. Do what is best for the Avatar, and let this go."
- Lin Quei is back, doing chaos-y things, it seems.
- Man, Yari turned into a completely different character than I had originally drafted him as, for good or bad.
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