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"The Spirit" is the tenth chapter of The Rise of Kyoshi.

Overview

Jianzhu takes Yun and Kyoshi to visit a spirit that reveals Kyoshi as the true Avatar. Jianzhu allows Father Glowworm to take Yun as Kyoshi watches in horror. Kelsang arrives to defend Kyoshi but is murdered by Jianzhu.

Synopsis

Jianzhu, Kyoshi, and Yun travel together on Kelsang's flying bison Pengpeng. Jianzhu tells them that the airbender did not come because he needed more time to heal, and adds that they are on an "earthbenders-only" outing in which they will be doing a spiritual exercise together. Kyoshi finds it unnerving for the three of them to be traveling together and, without Rangi or Hei-Ran present, she feels like they are sneaking away to do something illicit.

As they fly near the Xishaan Mountains that run along the southeastern edge of the Earth Kingdom, Yun asks Jianzhu if they are going to a secluded area with hopes of invoking the Avatar State. Jianzhu scoffs and denies this, while Kyoshi quietly asks Yun what it is. However, the Earth Sage answers instead, explaining that the Avatar State is a tool and a defense mechanism to empower the Avatar, but he warns that if its control is lost, then they can turn into a "human natural disaster". Jianzhu tells them that, since Avatar Kuruk destroyed an entire island when he first practiced entering the Avatar State, they would not be triggering it on their trip.

They fly near empty mining settlements located over the westward side of the mountains, which Kyoshi notices are void of natural vegetation. Jianzhu lands Pengpeng in the center of a mud-walled hamlet and tells his companions that they have arrived at "an important locus of Eastern spiritual energy". Yun comments that it looks like a wasteland and Jianzhu informs them that they are here to ease the suffering of a spirit that was awakened by the environmental devastation. Yun is unsure whether he will be able to help since he knows that some past Avatars had trouble communicating with spirits. Kyoshi feels glad that Yun has voiced her same apprehension, as she knows nothing about spirituality. Privately, she hopes that Yun would glow with spirit energy that would finally cement his status as the Avatar.

The three get down from Pengpeng and then walk up the steep slope of the mountain. They eventually reach a perfectly level, large terrace carved into the mountain. Kyoshi and Yun are instructed by Jianzhu to take a seat in the center. Kyoshi feels the same prickle on the back of her neck that she felt when she stepped onto the iceberg with Tagaka. The Earth Sage informs them that, since it is almost twilight, it is the time of day when spiritual activity is at its highest, and adds that he is going to guide them in meditation as Yun helps Kyoshi with her form. Jianzhu pulls out a small brazier and a stick of incense, and sneeringly asks one of them to light it with firebending. Since neither of them is able to firebend, they stare at him before he lights it on his own with a sulfur match.

Jianzhu tells his pupils to attract the spirit by letting their energy flow from them. Kyoshi is unsure how to control her energy, but still keeps an open mind as she meditates. A rasping sound then comes from the mountain but Jianzhu tells them not to open their eyes. Kyoshi detects the smell of something fungal and strangely familiar. As they continue to meditate, Kyoshi jokes about the possibility that neither of them is actually the Avatar, however, Yun responds in a more serious note, saying that he needs to share something private and important with her. Kyoshi finds it odd that Jianzhu has not told them to be quiet, so she opens her eyes to check on him and sees that Yun is still meditating peacefully. She tries to turn her head toward Jianzhu, but it turns toward the mountain instead; inside, a hole has been opened in the shape of a pitch-dark tunnel, and in the depths "a great glowing eyeball" the size of a "wagon wheel" stares back at her.

A shriek is caught in Kyoshi's throat as she tries to scramble away, but she feels her muscles fail her. The angry spirit's eye has a disgusting shade of green and a "web of pulsing veins" grasping it tightly from behind. It moves toward Kyoshi, causing her to panic about Yun who has not moved. Jianzhu is unfazed by the spirit and greets it as Father Glowworm, who refers to him as "architect", mentioning how they have not seen each other in a long time. Jianzhu tells Father Glowworm that he has brought it a question, but the spirit acts disrespected. The spirit says that Koh has made humans think that they can demand answers from the "oldest and wisest" of them, however, Jianzhu ensures that his question is important before he proceeds to ask the spirit which one of the children is the Avatar. Father Glowworm laughs at their predicament and then reminds Jianzhu that it will need their blood. Yun and Kyoshi, who have been drugged by Jianzhu's incense, are unable to move beyond slight squirms. Jianzhu is familiar with the spirit's request for blood, noting that he has read about it in Avatar Kuruk's private journals.

Rotting green slime bound with human teeth flows toward Kyoshi and Yun. Kyoshi is overwhelmed by fear, but Yun uses all of his strength to throw himself in front of his friend, shielding her from the green ooze before it reaches her knee. The slime strikes underneath Yun's clothing, drawing blood from a spot on his back. Kyoshi manages to fight back by kicking the brazier of incense onto the slime, and the scorched spirit hisses angrily at her. Yun kneels beside Kyoshi, causing Jianzhu to be confused by his ability to move, although the boy bitterly explains that it is thanks to the poison training with Sifu Amak. The slime wraps around Kyoshi's ankle and then begins to sand her skin off with its teeth. She writhes in pain and Yun tries to pull her away from the spirit, but its grip is too powerful. Father Glowworm decisively announces that Kyoshi is the Avatar.

Kyoshi and Yun are looking each other in the eye when they learn the truth, and she notices the boy's spirit breaks as he realizes that he is not the Avatar. Though he had lied and told Kyoshi that he would be happy for her, he had never believed that she could actually be the Avatar and not himself. He lets go of Kyoshi as reality sets in, and Jianzhu suddenly slices the girl free from the spirit and drags only her away to safety. Father Glowworm becomes infuriated by Jianzhu's attack after it had just answered his question. Kyoshi tries to tell Yun to run to safety but she is unable to. Jianzhu explains that he cannot risk Father Glowworm taking revenge on Kuruk's reincarnation, and he argues that the spirit's price has been paid by his blood, but Father Glowworm demands more. The spirit's tendril wraps around Yun from his neck to his hip and suffocates him. Kyoshi sobs as the spirit pulls Yun into the tunnel, the boy and the spirit disappearing into the darkness. Jianzhu seals the passage shut, trapping the spirit and Yun inside the mountain. When Kyoshi finds her voice again, she screams fire toward the mountain like the rage of a dragon, dousing the terrace and rendering swathes of the spirit's lingering ooze into blackened, flaking char.

As Kyoshi stumbles to her feet, Jianzhu apologizes for what has transpired, he tries to tell her that all could have been avoided if she had proven herself to be the Avatar earlier. Kyoshi tackles Jianzhu off the edge of the terrace, losing her grip on him as she tumbles down the slope, she attempts to look for him once she reaches the bottom of the slope. Jianzhu earthbends a staircase as he descends toward her, while Kyoshi tries to throw a large boulder at him, which he casually splits in half along the grain; he remarks he will have to do better than teach her to think big. The Avatar then punches the ground with hopes of destabilizing the base of his staircase but is once again unsuccessful at attacking him. Standing in front of Kyoshi, Jianzhu explains that she now has a responsibility as the Avatar, and tries to reason with her, asking her not to let Yun's "sacrifice" be for nothing. Pure hatred fills Kyoshi as she promises to herself that Jianzhu will pay for what he has done. Kyoshi attempts to throw a fire fist at Jianzhu, but it comes out as a normal punch that stops short of his face as she is unable to firebend. Jianzhu frowns before he earthbends handcuffs onto her, picks her up by the shackles, and forces her into a posture of submission.

Jianzhu mocks her weakness, reckoning that he wasted time training Yun instead of spending it teaching her. Tears flow down Kyoshi's face as she asks how Jianzhu could be so cruel to the boy that worshiped him and she accuses him of using Yun. Jianzhu begins to suffocate Kyoshi with a muzzle made of soil as he denies her accusation. Gesturing to his surroundings, he declares that the entirety of the Earth Kingdom is run by corrupt and incompetent sages who would do nothing but squander her abilities to the point where her bending would be mere parlor tricks and spout useless wisdom. He claims that he has devoted his life to serving the Avatar, to ensure Kuruk's successor would not be exploited in such a fashion, and affirms that no matter how much Kyoshi fights back, he will dedicate his life to her.

He suddenly removes her handcuffs and the gag that was suffocating her. Now free from Jianzhu's shackles, Kyoshi falls onto her chest. She lays there for several minutes and catches her breath, until she eventually stands up and notices Kelsang soaring toward them on his airbender staff. Although Kyoshi feels slightly relieved that Kelsang has arrived, she notices that his wounds have reopened, staining his bandages. Jianzhu asks how he found them, and Kelsang explains that he broke into the earthbender's office and found a map on his desk. Kyoshi wants nothing more than to hide behind Kelsang's robes and sob, but her overwhelming terror suspends her. Kelsang notices her terrified face and steps in between her and Jianzhu, pointing his glider like a weapon toward him. Kelsang mentions that Hei-Ran and Rangi did not know where Jianzhu had went in order to justify his suspicion of his friend, he asks the Earth Sage where Yun is. Jianzhu attempts to show his friend the big picture and rejoices that Kyoshi is the true Avatar, claiming to have seen her firebend with his own eyes.

When Kelsang asks where Yun is again, Jianzhu is quick to reveal that a spirit has killed him, however, Kyoshi discredits him, shouting that he has murdered Yun by feeding him to the spirit. Jianzhu admits that Yun's death was his fault like he is burdened with guilt. Kyoshi feels despair upon thinking about the possibility of Kelsang believing Jianzhu over her. Kelsang seemingly believes Kyoshi and warns her to stay behind him before telling Jianzhu that he is taking Kyoshi with him. Still weak from his injuries and long glider voyage, the airbender is mocked by Jianzhu, but he responds that he will no longer have anything to do with Kyoshi since he is unfit to serve the Avatar. Jianzhu, offended by Kelsang's statement, asks where they could possibly go to escape him since he has connections with every sage and official in the four nations.

Kelsang pushes Kyoshi away and shouts for her to run as he airbends at Jianzhu, who fights back with earthbending. Though Kelsang is simply trying to knock him down and bring him to his senses, Jianzhu goes in for the kill. He slits Kelsang's neck with a thin razor of flint, causing him to collapse to the ground and die, which triggers Kyoshi to enter the Avatar State, the white glow behind her eyes taking her entire being.

Production notes

Series continuity

  • Jianzhu's account to Kyoshi of the Avatar State as a "defense mechanism [...] designed to empower the current Avatar with the skills and knowledge of all the past ones" nearly matches the explanation Roku gives Aang in "The Avatar State".[1]
  • Kuruk's mistaken destruction of an atoll the first time he practices entering the Avatar State resembles Roku's accidental destruction of the Crescent Island Fire Temple in Escape from the Spirit World when learning to master the Avatar State, both of them becoming a "human natural disaster" temporarily trapped in an elemental sphere floating high above the ground.[2]
  • Father Glowworm implies to be much older than Koh the Face Stealer, first seen in "The Siege of the North, Part 2".[3]
  • Jianzhu belies his claim in "The Boy From Makapu" that he loves Yun, leaving him for dead, calling him a swindler, and feigning remorse over his supposed death after Father Glowworm confirms he is not the Avatar.[4]

Character revelations

  • Father Glowworm fought with many past Avatars, including Kuruk.
  • Yun received poison training from Amak.
  • Kyoshi is confirmed to be the Avatar.
  • Kyoshi firebends for the first time.
  • Kyoshi reflexively uses the Avatar State for the first time.

Trivia

  • Chronologically, the prologue and the interlude chapters of The Shadow of Kyoshi succeed this chapter.
  • Jianzhu becomes the book's main antagonist.

References

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