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She felt nothing.
No sorrow as she pushed her way through the flaps hung in the tent, no regret as she took in the sight of all her friends and family gathered in the room in front of her, faces crestfallen and sorrowful as they gazed at her, already having heard the news that Master Katara had imparted. She looked ahead with blank eyes, feeling a roaring begin inside of her, one that threatened to suck in everything she was and everything she had.
Out of everyone, Lin was the one person not to look at her: Lin was the one person who knew just how empty it could feel. Her eyes scanned the remaining people – her parents, their hearts in their eyes as they looked at her, wanting to take away what had hurt her; the children, understanding the gravity of the situation but still not quite sure what it meant; Tenzin and Pema, their gazes sorrowful; Asami, Mako, and Bolin, none quite sure how to look at her now; Master Katara, the understanding and acceptance in her own eyes, knowing probably the closest of anyone who had never experienced the loss to how it felt. Hers hurt the worst.
The sound of a voice breaking the silence had Korra’s eyes shooting to Tenzin, watching his mouth move but hearing his voice as though from afar. His words echoed through her brain “It’s going to be alright, Korra...It’s going to be alright, Korra…”
“No, it’s not.”
That was the simple truth, the undeniable and indelible fact that without her connection to the other three elements that made up her being, without having formed a connection to the spirit world, she was not the Avatar. There was no longer an Avatar. She had to leave before she could see them come to that realization.
When Mako came out after her, she barely refrained from screaming, even though all else inside her felt dead. She just wanted him to go away, couldn’t he understand that? He had to know words couldn’t and wouldn’t make it all better; she needed the silence, and the solitude, and…she could feel tears threatening at her eyelids. She would be damned if she cried in front of anyone at the moment, even him. She tried pushing him away with words of her own, tried to make him leave, but when he wouldn’t go she was the one who had to flee. Naga, her trusty Naga, took her away from everyone, far from him.
The polar bear dog surging under her let her mind escape for a few precious moments, concentrating only on her destination and the flurries of snow that Naga’s pounding feet sent flying. The cliffs were her goal, the cliffs she always went to when she wanted to escape, when the crushing weight of the world became too much, when she just wanted to be alone. The water and ice there had no expectations of her. She slipped off Naga as her companion skidded to a halt a few meters from the cliff. She walked the rest of the way in calm silence, her composure cracking a little more with each step she took until she stood right on the precipice, looking down at the water.
The tears froze on her cheeks as she finally allowed them to slip out of her eyes, sinking down while crossing her ankles and resting her arms on her knees, then burying her head in the dark hole that carried no expectations. Here she could be free with her emotions and not hide behind that iron wall of self-control; if Lin could take the loss of her bending stoically, then damn it, so could she. At least around other people.
The crunch of footsteps off to her right and the flash of red and yellow in the corner of her vision had her lifting her head just slightly. She would be mortified if he saw her like this. “Go away Tenzin, I just want to be left alone.”
“But you called me.”
The voice was lighter, a floating tenor to Tenzin’s deeper one, and familiar to her only through visions. “Aang?” But she had no connection to the spirit world, no way of bridging that gap, so how could he have appeared in front of her?
As though he had heard her unvoiced question, Aang smiled slightly. “You have finally connected to the spirit world. Only when we have reached our lowest point, are we open to the greatest change.”
The array of Avatars appearing behind Aang, stretching further and further into the distance until she could only see them as blurry shapes of color, took Korra’s voice away. So many past lives, so many reincarnations, so much knowledge stored in those spirits who were also a part of her. Once a part of her.
Again hearing her unspoken thought, Aang stepped forward and stretched his thumb out, placing it in the same spot on her forehead as Amon had. The differences between their touches were like day and night – Aang’s was calm, comforting, and warm; Amon’s had been slimy, cold, and full of hatred. One allowed her to close her eyes, and the other demanded they remain open.
Then the flood of power began to flow through her body, entering through her forehead and extending itself throughout her being until she glowed. It was as though a star had been placed inside her chest and mind, a burning ball of blue light that expanded and expanded until she thought she would explode, then was absorbed into the very core of her soul. She felt herself welcoming it, felt the connections that had once been severed remake themselves whole.
Her eyes opened, but she wasn’t seeing the world as she normally would. Now she could see the life force in each object, feel the power of the elements around her. Unconsciously, she knew she was in the Avatar State. Her past lives were working through her once more in the undisputed display of mastery over all four elements, her mind and mind alone creating the wind stirring around her until she was balanced in the center of a whirlwind and rising above the ground, supported only by air. Her arms shot out and fire followed her command, exploding outwards in a ring; another push and the earth followed suit. There was one last element left, the one which she had mastered first and had the strongest connection with, the one which made up her temperament and defined her being: the water at the base of the cliff surged in a tsunami, crashing against the cliff and helped by her will to spray upwards, rising more than a hundred feet in the air to create a wall of water.
Only when the water had receded did she drop her arms slightly, letting the whirlwind begin to subside and allowing her to alight on the ground. As her connection to the spirit world began to fade away, so did the power, but both remained in the back of her mind where she knew she could call upon them again if the need arose. With her ability to control the earth restored, Korra could feel someone behind her, and she knew who had come after her.
They made her wait until the next morning before she could give back Lin’s bending, and as torturous as the time was for her, she had no doubt it was even more so for the Chief. But when the morning finally came, she stood on the front patio of the only official building of the Southern Water Tribe, and watched Lin walk slowly up the steps towards her. The woman’s face was calm as always, but if the lines didn’t seem so hard and there was a glint of hope in the eyes, nobody mentioned it. When the Chief knelt on one knee in front of her, Korra copied Aang’s movements, knowing instinctively where to place her hands: one on the center of the forehead, and the other on the sternum, just above the heart.
She concentrated on that feeling, giving back as she had once been given, feeling the gates to the spirit world opening inside her body and mind to let that healing power flow through her body like a conduit until it entered the woman kneeling in front of her. Korra could feel the Avatar State working through her once more, and had no doubt her eyes were glowing just as all of her past reincarnations’ had as well; she could also see the pearly light haloing the points at which she touched Lin, and felt the rightness of the woman’s spirit as her connection to the earth was restored once more.
She had done it.