Jian Chin still lived.
This fact was a source of amazement to him- he'd felt his body break as he struck the cliff side, and it had been damaged further by the massive amount of rock that had fallen on it. No matter how he'd survived, he knew that it was a moot point- he could feel himself being slowly crushed, and his life was ebbing from his body. He might have minutes left, if he was lucky.
The warlord groaned and tried to curse, though nothing came from his mouth but a wet cough and some blood. He was Jian Chin, the greatest warrior in the world! It wasn't supposed to end like this. It just wasn't fair…
It doesn't have to be this way, said a voice that seemed to rise from the very stones. I can offer you glory beyond your wildest imagining. Accept my offer, and Chin the Great will be forgotten- it will be your name that is the standard by which earthbender conquerors are judged!
Jian Chin tried to focus his blurry vision, but he couldn't see the person who was speaking to him. "Who… you?" he managed to gasp out.
The voice chuckled. A simple spirit who recognizes greatness when he sees it. For years I have waited and watched for a champion to wage the ultimate war and unite the mortal world under one rule. I thought that the Fire Lords might do it, and the Fire Nation's General Azun when they failed. We've met once before, when I was in the body of the girl you knew as Wei Ming. She was nothing more than an untrained commoner when I found her, and I was able to make her one of the most fearsome warriors alive. You I could imbue with the strength of a thousand earthbenders!
"Why should… believe you?"
You're alive, aren't you? The fall alone should have killed you, but I intervened. I can't keep you alive for long, however, unless you allow me to inhabit your flesh as I did with Wei Ming. Then our spirits and wills shall become one, and you will have all the power you need to bring this world to its knees. Are you interested?
Jian Chin gave a broken smile. "Yes," he breathed.
For a moment nothing happened, and then the warlord's body was wracked with agony more intense than anything he could have imagined. He felt as though something was drilling into his skull, shoving aside his thoughts and identity and restructuring them to its own liking. He'd thought he was too damaged to speak above a whisper, but now Jian Chin was screaming at the top of his lungs.
It was over with the same suddenness with which it began. The pain was gone now- Jian Chin felt healthier and stronger than he ever had before. Flexing his muscles, he burst free from the rocks piled atop him and landed on his feet, whole and alive. Power ripped through his body- he felt like he could have moved a mountain, had he been so inclined.
Now even the Avatar cannot stand against you, the voice said in the back of his mind, now sounding very like his own. Jian Chin flexed his arm and knew it to be true. For a moment he considered climbing back up to his fortress and annihilating his would-be-killer, Azula, but another plan was forming in his mind. Having apparently risen from the dead and wielding earthbending that was powerful beyond imagining, it would be child's play for him to raise an army and take Ba Sing Se. Then the Avatar and the Fire Lord- and the Fire Lord's sister- would come straight to him, and he would destroy them all before the eyes of a horrified world.
Jian Chin smiled, and the voice in the back of his head gave its full approval. "Do you have a name, spirit?" the warlord asked conversationally.
Yes. I am called Zhan Zheng. Jian Chin's smile broadened. The name of his knew benefactor was one he was well familiar with.
Zhan Zheng. War.
Author's Note: Thanks to everyone who has read and/or reviewed- I really appreciate it! I hope you'll continue with the final volume of my Azula Trilogy, Soul of Fire, the prologue of which will be posted in a few days. It will see Azula finally attempting to make some permanent changes in herself and mend her relationship with her mother- while at the same time being forced to team up with the Gaang to prevent a world war. Watch out for the Spirit World, too, as the spirit plotline takes center stage. Thanks again, everyone!