LES: Well… here it is: the final chapter. As always, finishing this up comes with bittersweet feelings. On the one hand, this story nearly drove me crazy at time, and at the same time, it was a part of my life for well over a year. I've been through a lot of things writing this story: the breaking down of my parent's marriage and subsequent divorce, a cloud of depression that hung over me for quite a while, making updates rare, getting out of my depression again and finding that my writing-bug had returned with a vengeance, and turning 21 years old. So, usually, I toasted the end of my stories with some Sprite… but now that I'm 21… *holds up glass of champagne* Cheers! Takes place 14 years later.
Chapter LI: A Nation Rebuilt
The seventeen year old Avatar Korra stared in wonder at the beauty of the Southern Air Temple. In the course of mastering Water, Earth, and Fire; she had a chance to see a lot of amazing sights all over the world, but the Air Temple had to be the most beautiful and ethereal.
She found it hard to believe that less than a century ago, there was nothing at any of the Air Temples except for weeds and a few refugees. Now each Air Temple was a bustling village, most of the residents being people from the other nations who had decided to live there, but each Temple was built around a core group of Airbenders that ruled the Temples.
She had seen Airbenders occasionally in her life, because they were all natural born travelers; but not as often since she left the South Pole. Airbenders visited the South Pole almost constantly, sometimes traveling from all the way on the other side of the world, to visit the Master Waterbender Katara.
Korra had learned about the Airbenders… it was said that almost every single one of them were descended from Avatar Aang, her previous incarnation. There were one or two Airbenders not descended from him, known as Spontaneous Benders, but there were dozens upon dozens of Airbenders who traced their lineage straight back to Avatar Aang.
It was almost too much to believe.
This particular Temple was run under the care of Master Anil, the eldest and greatest Airbending Master alive today, but she was not there to learn from him, but to seek out his younger brother, Master Tenzin, who was said to live at this Temple.
But Korra had her duties… she had to present herself to the Leader of each nation before her Bending training could take place.
As she walked, she stared in awe at the Airbenders of all ages taking to the sky as effortlessly as birds on small personal gliders. She couldn't believe that, in a few months, she would be able to do the same exact thing once she gained control of her wild Airbending.
Korra asked several Airbenders directions to Master Anil's sanctuary, and they all answered her, bowing to her, calling her "Avatar Korra." Though one young Airbender had jokingly referred to her as "Great-grandpa" before the boy's mother ushered him away, apologizing for him.
It took a while for her to find her way through the Temple's twisted corridors, all the while ignoring the feelings that she had been here before. It was a pretty common feeling when you were the Avatar, and Avatar Aang had been her previous life, so his memories came through the strongest.
Thanks to the directions proved by one last Airbender, Korra was able to find the Temple's sanctuary. The inside was beautifully lit by natural light being filtered through the windows. At the end of the room, there were five seats that had once seated the Head Monks of old. Now, only one of the seats were filled, the middle one, occupied by a man who was well past his physical prime, but still the most powerful Airbender in the entire world.
The old Airbender smiled invitingly at her, and stood to greet her. "Avatar Korra, I've been awaiting your arrival for a long time."
"You have?" Korra asked. "But my identity was only revealed four years ago."
"I know." Master Anil said. "You probably don't remember me at all, but I was the one who tested you when you were three years old and confirmed that you were the next Avatar. Though, I have to say, the test was hardly necessary. I could tell from looking in your eyes that you were the Avatar."
"My eyes? How?"
"You are aware that most Airbenders are directly descendant from your previous incarnation, Avatar Aang?" Master Anil asked.
"Yes. Everyone knows that."
"Avatar Aang was my father. When I looked into your eyes when you were three years old, I could almost see him looking back at me." Master Anil said.
Korra was slightly disturbed by that. After all, it is the rare person who would want someone to look at them and see someone else entirely. It took stripped Korra of her individuality and everything that made her who she was. "And do you still see it?"
Master Anil glanced into her eyes. "No, I don't." He said. "I see a strong Water Tribe girl, not a playful Airbender." He paused. "You see… I probably know more about the Avatar than anyone alive. Of course, there are Avatar secrets that is known only to the Avatar, but there are other things that my father left to me when he passed, different writings about the Avatar and what they are capable of. He also left me many philosophical writings about the Avatar, all in preparation for when I become your teacher."
"I don't understand. I thought I was going to learn from Master Tenzin." Korra said.
"You will learn Airbending from my younger brother. He will be a good teacher, but it will be my job to teach you about the Avatar once your Airbending training is done. I'll teach you how to enter the Spirit World, how to contact my father and gain his help, and how to Master the Avatar State."
"You can teach me how to Master the Avatar State?" Korra gasped in shock. She had several experiences with the Avatar State before, and always found it impossible to control.
"Mastering the Avatar State takes mental discipline and strength of self." Master Anil said. "It is possible."
"But I don't understand…" Korra said. "How can I assert my strength over a bunch of past Avatars who are me?"
"That is a great secret that took my father many years to discover." Anil said. "Yes, you are the Avatar, but you are also Korra. You carry the Spirit of my father, but not his being. His being is in the Spirit World, only waiting for you to call on him. He does not interfere with your daily life, and will leave most of life's struggles up to you. This is because you are the Avatar, but you are your own person. You need to make the mistakes and learn the same lessons that your past lives learned over and over again. You need to gain confidence in yourself because their time to be the Avatar has passed. It is your time now, and your choices matter. As you starting taking over your duties as the Avatar, you may find that sometimes your duty and your heart will lead you in two separate directions. But you need not give up your happiness for the sake of your duty; the important thing is finding a healthy balance between the two: don't be ruled by your heart's whims and don't let your duty take over your life."
"That sounds hard." Korra said.
"It will get easier." Anil said. "My father was a Master of it. He saved the Air Nomads almost single-handedly by participating in a plan that caused him a great deal of strife. But he never forgot what made him happy, which is why he went against the nations and married my mother."
"Your mother is Katara of the Southern Water Tribe." Korra said.
Anil nodded. "My father helped to bring back the Air Nomads, and soon, it will be your duty to safe-guard all his work and help me by protecting my newly-fledged nation. The Air Nomads are coming back. True, there is still much to be done, but we are on the rise again…" He gestured out the window to the herds of Sky Bison and flocks of Airbenders on their gliders. "As the Avatar, will you help me protect this world?"
Korra watched the carefree Airbenders do their gliding, performing tricks and constantly trying to out-do each other. A little bit of Avatar Aang rose up inside her, and she suddenly longed to go out there on a glider and join her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren in their games. She shock off the feeling. "Yes, Master Anil, I will help you."
Katara felt stranger than she had in years. One moment she had been lying down to sleep while her daughter provided her with a hot-water bottle for her aching joints. The decline of her Waterbending had been the worst thing about getting older, but she suddenly felt sweet relief from the aches that had plagued her for years.
She felt… young again. Her limbs were strong and her movements sure. Katara glanced down at herself in shock, not seeing the body of an elderly woman, but one in her prime.
"What…?" Katara gasped.
"Welcome, my love." A voice spoke, one that Katara hadn't heard in years and had desperately missed.
Crying in happiness, Katara spun around and saw him. He looked just as he did in his youth, her husband… tall, strong, and handsome. "Aang!" She screamed, rushing up to him, and pulled him into a tight embrace that certainly should have squeezed the air out of his lungs. But he accepted her embrace with a laugh and returned her embrace just as tightly.
"I've missed you so much." Aang whispered into her ear.
"But… how can this be… you're dead, aren't you?" Katara asked, and Aang nodded. "So that must mean…" Katara trailed off, realization sweeping over her.
"You are also dead, yes." Aang confirmed it for her.
"But… our children…"
"They will be fine." Aang said. "We've raised them well, and they will have the strength to carry on without us."
Katara let out a few tears as she kissed her husband with all the passion she could muster. "I continued living after you died, just as you wanted."
"I know. I saw through Korra's eyes." Aang said.
"But I wanted so badly to join you."
"You're with me now." Aang said. "Now, come with me… the best is still to come." Aang pulled away from her slightly and waved his hand.
The environment changed instantly, as if they had suddenly teleported. It was impossible in the physical world, but the Spirit World was not bound by such laws, and since Aang was the Avatar, he had a certain amount of control over the Spirit world that most Spirits of the dead did not have.
They were at a plain filled with people from all the different Nations. Lots of them were Air Nomads, Aang's lost people. Katara recognized Aang's mentor, Monk Gyatso in the front, having seen his statue at the Southern Air Temple for all of her married life. She also noticed two other Nomads who shared so much of Aang's features that they could only be his parents. But that was not all. The crowd was filled with all of her friends and family who had passed on before her… all of them gathered to greet Katara into the Spirit World. One Spirit caught her eye… "Mom…" Katara gasped.
Kya smiled at her. "Welcome, my little Waterbender." She said, and Katara cried upon hearing the voice of her mother again after so many years. "I'm so proud of everything you've done. Your husband was kind enough to fill me in on everything." She smiled fondly at Aang. "And if I may say… I highly approve of your choice of him as a husband."
"Thank you, Mom… I missed you so much…" Katara embraced her mother, and then she turned back to Aang. "Thank you, Aang. Thank you for finding all these people for me."
"I will do anything for you. Now, come, Katara… I want you to meet my family." Aang started to drag her off.
Katara stopped him. "Now will we be together forever?" She asked.
"For all eternity." Aang agreed, pulling her into a sweet kiss.
LES: I almost started crying as I wrote that final word. Seriously.
Now, for staying with me all this time, I've got two treats for you… the first is a Live Journal entry that will tell you a ton of facts about the making of "Duty Versus Love" and some of the behind-the-scenes thought processes that led to this story. (Remove Spaces)
http :/ light- eco- sage. livejournal. com /36047. html
The second is a summary for my NEXT Kataang multi-chaptered fic. And here it is:
Summary: AU story in which the War has never happened. Katara's life in the Southern Water Tribe is turned upside down when she is forced into an arranged marriage with the Avatar. But perhaps arranged marriages aren't so bad after all.
Keep an eye out for it.
As a final note, I'd like to thank everyone who read this story, especially the people who reviewed with helpful ideas. You have no idea how not-as-awesome this story would have been without all your amazing feed-back.