Author’s note: In which more things than a building lay in shambles, angry words are spoken and after much deliberation the author decided that no, she is not through tormenting her characters. Also, in which the author could not read her own outline properly and stuck the opening scene for the chapter as the final seen of the previous one. Make of that what you will about my writing process.
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It was only Aang’s relative calmness that saved them from an incredibly gruesome death. The Avatar bended a funnel of air around them, slowing their descent enough to save their lives. Even so, there were a lot of pained groans as everyone picked themselves of the ground. Behind them the temple collapsed under its own weight, the damage done during the battle too great for the ancient structure to withstand. Aang hurriedly pushed the massive cloud of dust that rose away as they all watched in frozen silence. Almost all that is. Lia, despite the strain on her very essence that the Air crystal had put was the first to get over her shock, white hot fury replacing it as what exactly had just happened sunk in. She turned to Agni and with every step she took towards him the ground under her feet smouldered, what little grass there was around lighting up with sparks that escaped from her hair. She was silent but it was the silence that comes before the lightning storm and Agni watched her warily. The crystal that still hung around his neck glowed for a moment before turning even darker. Lia grasped it, forcefully tearing the chain from his neck and fastened it around her own. Sokka opened his mouth to say something, anything to break the tension, but Ao silenced him with a look. Anything could set Lia off at this moment and none of them wished to be at the receiving end.
In the end the redhead was the own to break the silence.
“The crystal was right there,” she said in a voice ominous in its calmness. Even the flickers of fire around her seemed to pause expectantly. “It was there, I could have got it and victory would have been easy. And you,” her eyes flashed and without warning lightning struck between her and Agni, “STOPPED ME?”
“If I hadn’t, we would all have been buried under the rubble,” Agni snapped back, his own temper being on a rather short fuse after everything that had happened. “All the power in the world cannot save you if you are not able to harness it properly.” The ground was beginning to melt around them, creating a small stage for their confrontation. Lia laughed scornfully.
“With all four elemental crystals on our side?” she scoffed. “We’d have burst out as easily as melting snow and you know it. Are did you feel like giving the other side a sporting chance?”
“Don’t patronise me! I know far better than you what these creatures are capable off. You’ve never had to deal with them. Or do you think I get away with everything I do just because I don’t make a scene all the time?”
“Don’t make a…when have you ever been involved in anything major and NOT caused a scene? I’ve seen you do nothing but cause scenes since the day I met you!” Agni raised an eyebrow.
“I don’t recall you complaining about me causing a scene back then. In fact I distinctly remember you being glad to see me.”
“It’s not like I knew better.” Lia crossed her arms, in a posture that was half-confident, half-defensive. “I was more concerned with those firebenders of yours.”
“Yours too love. You just didn’t know it yet.” Lia actually took a step back when she heard this.
“Never mine,” she said. “How could they be? I was mortal. You made me a Spirit.” Agni shook his head.
“You were an elemental confined in the body of a mortal. You just needed the right push to reveal your true nature.” Lia’s eyes widened in disbelief.
“Is that what you think happened? I would give back every single moment of eternity that I’ve spent if it meant keeping that day from happening.” Agni took an angry step towards her, his anger finally loose as he spoke without thinking:
“And I wouldn’t! Your place was and still is at my side as my equal and opposite and even if I could go back to that time I would not change a thing. I’m glad everything happened as it did.”
The hush that fell after that statement could only be described like the vacuum of space. All the fires around the two Spirits extinguished and even the air seemed to grow colder. It seemed that all the warmth, the fire, the very life of world around her had condensed in a ball of energy that shone like a tiny sun on Lia’s hand.
“Get out of my sight,” she told Agni murderously. “Now, or I will not be held responsible for what I will do.” Agni seemed to realise that there was no going back from what he had just said. With an angry curse he disappeared, leaving the faintest trail of smoke behind him. No sooner had he disappeared that Lia turned and without warning hurled the ball of energy at the remains behind them, reducing them to dust even as she screamed in fury. Over them the sky seemed to mirror her emotional state as it rumbled, sinister clouds appearing out of nowhere and the wind picking up. The lightning storm that her earlier chilling calm had promised was upon them.
“We need to find shelter!” Katara yelled over the sound of the storm, effectively breaking through the spell of horrified awe that had fallen over everyone. “Ao, can you get us out of here?” The blue-eyed Spirit nodded, his brow furrowing in concentration as he cast his mind, trying to find the closest place that could offer them sanctuary. They were all too exhausted to manage a long-distance teleportation at that point. Finally he nodded curtly.
“Got it!” he called out to the others, motioning them to step closer.
“Wait!” Zuko called back, noticing that Lia was still standing at the heart of the lightning storm she was conjuring, too wrapped in her own fury to notice the danger. Her brother ignored the alarmed yells of his friends and ran to her side.
“Lia!” he yelled, grabbing her by the shoulder and trying to shake her out of her trance. For the longest moment it seemed like he wouldn’t get through to her. Then Lia’s eyes focused sharply in his, helpless fury to concerned care, and she followed him silently to where the others were waiting. As soon as they had stepped close enough Ao transported them.
The ravaged landscape where the tower once stood disappeared and was replaced by a forest clearing with a small pond. The contrast between the two was eerie and more than one person shuddered at the sudden absence of the howling wind and sparking lightning. The group looked at each other in uneasy silence. Lia, seemingly having gotten her emotions under control for the moment, gave them a cursory glance. Most of them avoided her gaze, even though Zuko, Katara and Ao were giving her concerned but sympathetic looks. The redhead managed a small bitter smile before she turned and disappeared in the forest.