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"Interlude: Survival" is the fifteenth chapter and first interlude of The Shadow of Kyoshi.

Overview[]

After a very long battle in the Spirit World between Yun and Father Glowworm, the spirit suggests a truce: It will grant the young earthbender the ability to travel between the human world and the realm of the spirits, asking for people to feed on in return. Yun lies that he agrees and that he will let it merge with him, but he traps the spirit in large chunks of earth, crushing it and subsequently eating it after it becomes as small as a sea prune.

Synopsis[]

Yun mentally prepares himself to be killed by Father Glowworm, accepting his death, but, as a result of his extensive training, he reflexively makes a Sky Piercing Fist, sending a blast of mud and rocks at the spirit as he remembers his powerful connection with his native element that he can always rely on. Father Glowworm stops its attack as the earthbender sheds tears of joy, saying he can bend in the Spirit World.

Yun thinks he does not know for how long he has been battling the spirit as time seemed to work differently in the Spirit World. He recalls that at one point he crawled toward the edge of the swamp to drink water from a puddle, but his enemy's tendrils of slime had blocked his path and they continued their fight. He considers the winner will be determined by who is more hateful and stubborn, thus managing to survive.

The earthbender must choose which parts of his body he can sacrifice and still be able to live and fight with the subsequent wounds as Amak taught him. He responds with equal force to Father Glowworm's strikes, aiming columns of stone, clouds of pebbles, and a huge wave of mud at it, noticing that every time he hits the spirit, its size decreases. He becomes hopeful that he can be victorious as he is making progress in the battle.

In a moment of respite, Yun asks his opponent how powerful he is compared to Kuruk as he is certain he is the Avatar's equal at earthbending. The spirit moves with difficulty through the trees as it lost control over much of its slime, stating it would have easily killed him had it not been weakened by Kuruk many years prior. Yun screams that he is there and sarcastically says it is inconvenient for the spirit. It agrees, telling him he is more trouble than he is worth and that there are meals it could obtain easier.

Father Glowworm nestles itself between two trunks, squinting at its foe. The earthbender recalls the spirit was as big as a wagon wheel when their fight began and now it is no bigger than an overgrown calabash. It suggests a truce to Yun as it has a proposition for him and he is willing to listen. It says it can grant him some of its power, giving him the ability to cross the boundaries between the worlds of spirits and humans, asking him to bring it humans it can feast upon in return.

Yun thinks he could return home and, even if he does not want to sacrifice innocents, he knows it is important to listen to what the other side has to say during negotiations. He inquires as to what it would take for the spirit to give him such an ability. Father Glowworm replies that their forms would need to intertwine briefly and Yun asks it whether it will possess him. It says they both need to let their guards down to merge together, detailing that Yun might notice changes to his body and assuring that he would become stronger.

The earthbender considers there are both advantages and disadvantages to this, but that physical appearance is no longer a problem. He struggles with the pain in his arm, putting his hands up in a gesture that guarantees he will not make sudden movements as he says he agrees with the bargain. The spirit tells him to come closer as a layer of slime covers the ground.

Yun advances toward Father Glowworm, musing that during their fight it never left the partial cover of the trees, nor did it get out of the tunnel Jianzhu had opened in the Xishaan Mountains as an unprotected eye needed a socket. He feels welcoming energy radiating from the spirit as it opens itself to him and so does he. The earthbender suddenly moves the ground layer containing the tree roots left and right, tearing it at the middle in a line running under Father Glowworm, depriving it of its protection. It falls to the newly created level of soil, howling in surprise, as Yun nearly does the same after the effort of using so much brute force takes every bit of strength he has left, nearly killing him.

He thinks Kyoshi could have moved the ground with little effort as he hurls his arms together, trapping the spirit in an earthen vise. It becomes even smaller as it is being crushed and yells that it promised him power and he repays it with treachery, stating Kuruk would not have disgraced himself in such a way, before screaming in agony. Yun tells Father Glowworm to stop talking about the Water Tribe Avatar as he crushes it further down to the size of a sea prune.

The spirit tells him to stop as he will not be able to return to the human world without its help. He responds that he is well aware of this and that he will go back home, but on his own terms. Terrified and outraged, Father Glowworm asks Yun what he is going to do. He answers that he will do the same thing it would have done to him as he throws the eyeball that remained from the spirit's form into his mouth.

It bursts between his teeth as he acknowledges the bitter flavor of jelly over his tongue, Father Glowworm's scream ringing through his ribs. Yun notices the clouds disappearing and he feels as if the trees are covering their faces in shame. He muses that merging with a spirit in such a profane manner is a crime against order and disrupting the balance. The earthbender swallows his opponent and feels overcome by change.

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