Chapter III: Meeting Aang
The last place that Katara took Mako and Bolin was a place that they'd most certainly not been on their last visit to the island: Avatar Aang's tomb.
It was a simple room, the only feature being the sealed sarcophagus in the center and a statue of Avatar Aang standing behind the sarcophagus. It was different from the regal statue lording over the island overhead. It was more natural, showing the Avatar with a soft smile on his face.
"The statue outside is how the world sees my husband. But this is how I see him." Katara said with a smile.
Mako and Bolin could see what she was saying. This statue made it much easier to believe that Avatar Aang was just as human as they were along with Master Katara's stories.
"Was it… difficult… to love him?" Mako asked.
Katara did not respond for several minutes. "At times, it was." She finally answered. "Loving Aang was the most natural thing in the world to me. Loving the Avatar is significantly more difficult. But, I stayed by his side, no matter what." She paused, glancing up at the ceiling. Mako did the same thing.
"What?" Bolin asked.
"It's daybreak." Katara replied. "It is now the solstice."
"Do-or-die." Mako concurred.
They only had a few more moments of silence before something happened that nearly scared Mako and Bolin to death. With almost no warning at all, the eyes and tattoos on Aang's statue began to glow with an unearthly light. Mako and Bolin jumped away from it, but Katara did not react with fear. She gasped, "Aang!" and turned and ran out of the room.
Mako and Bolin quickly exchanged a look before they realized that something must've happened to Korra and they quickly followed the old Waterbending master away from Avatar Aang's remains and the creepy glowing statue.
The three made it back to the island's central chamber to find both Tenzin and Korra still mediating. However, Korra's eyes were glowing with the same unearthly light that had shown from Avatar Aang's statue.
Tenzin looked up as his mother and Korra's friends entered. "She has been successful in traveling to the Spirit World."
"What does that mean? Is she okay?" Mako asked urgently.
"She's fine." Tenzin assured the young man. "She will be fine as long as we do not move her body. Her spirit is now floating free in the spiritual world, and her physical body is her way back into the physical world."
"So, how long might this take?" Bolin asked.
This time, it was Katara who answered. "The first time Aang traveled to the Spirit World to talk to Avatar Roku, he was in the Spirit World for every possible moment that he could get until sundown. Aang could keep her there for that long."
With nothing else to do, the small group settled into the duties of guarding the vulnerable Avatar.
Crossing over into the Spirit World gave Korra an entirely unique feeling, one that she could hardly describe, so she knew that she had to be getting pulled into the Spirit World by her previous incarnation.
She was a little apprehensive about meeting him. Avatar Aang's legend and stories were still told decades later. And, now, with her recent failure, she hardly felt worthy of being in his presence.
The world dissolved around her and she was suddenly at the top of the tallest mountain in an unknown mountain range. She was not alone. She recognized him instantly from his many statues and paintings. It was Avatar Aang, in his mid-thirties. The feeling that she got from him was, to her shock, not of one of the most powerful Avatars who ever lived, but more like Tenzin, a humble man with the hefty weight of destiny on his shoulders. Of course, his time in the forefront had ended seventeen years ago. It was now his job to be a mentor and guide for the new Avatar. He gazed at her with wise eyes that were filled with equal parts happiness and sorrow.
"Good morning, Korra." Avatar Aang said. "It is so good to finally meet you face-to-face."
"You know me?" Korra asked.
"Of course I know you." Avatar Aang said. "You may not have known it, but I've been watching over you your whole life from here in the Spirit World, always ready to jump in and assist you if you needed it. I'm proud to say that you've done very well on your own. Relying too much on the Avatar State can be a dangerous thing."
"Yeah, a lot of good it's done me." Korra said bitterly. Avatar Aang did not seem put off by her rudeness at all. Though, if he really had known her all her life, then he'd know very well that she was blunt and hard-headed. "Avatar Aang, I'm in desperate need of your guidance regarding Energybending."
"I know." Avatar Aang said. "I saw the whole thing, even if you do not remember it."
"Why don't I remember it?" Korra interrupted.
"The simple answer is that when you lose an Energybending contest with someone, your very spirit is so violated by the feeling of a foreign energy taking over and twisting it into something unnatural that you make yourself forget for the sake of your own sanity." Avatar Aang said. "Come, sit with me, Korra. We have a lot to talk about."
Korra did as he asked, taking a seat across from the powerful Avatar. Avatar Aang paused for a while, seemingly to gather his thoughts, and then he began.
"I discovered Energybending just hours before I faced Firelord Ozai in that last great battle. Energybending is a lost Bending art that is older than even the Avatar or elemental Bending. Because it is older than the Avatar, it is not an ability that every Avatar has. I only had it because I am the descendent of the ancient Energybenders. You, Korra, do not have this ability."
"Then how can I fight Amon?" Korra asked.
"I will get to that. We have all day, and I need you to understand everything that you can about Energybending. I'm sure that my wife and son told you everything they could about it. I went my whole life without speaking about it in detail to anyone. I wanted Energybending to die, once again, with me and for the knowledge to be lost. And it seems that the very situation that I was afraid of has come to pass. Another man descended from the Energybenders has come to light, and he is a man who will stop at nothing until all Bending is destroyed. You must stop him Korra."
"And how am I supposed to do that?" Korra asked. "I'm sure you noticed that when Amon got me, he took away my Bending abilities. Even Tenzin said that it's permanent."
"My son has a limited understanding of Energybending, at best, and even he does not have knowledge of the deepest Avatar secrets." Avatar Aang said. "Korra, there is no being on this earth, mortal or immortal, that has the power to take away the Avatar's Bending. Even the Spirits cannot do this because they answer to the ultimate spirit: the spirit of the planet, the Avatar's immortal spirit. Your Bending has not been taken away. Even Energybending cannot permanently remove someone's Bending."
"But… what about when you took away Firelord Ozai's Bending. Katara said that he was never able to Bend again." Korra said. "She said that you took away his Bending."
"I lied, for the good of the world." Avatar Aang said. "I told everyone that it was gone for good so that they would have no hope of reversing it. Energybending cannot give what is not there, nor can it take away the fundamental aspects of a person's character, such as their Bending. What I did to Ozai was I took the spark of his Firebending and buried it so far deep into the hidden confines of his spirit that he was never able to access it again. If he had the patience to mediate for a few years, he could have rediscovered the spark within him and regained his Firebending. But he did not know that the process could be reversed, so he never tried."
"So… you are basically telling me that the process can be reversed? That I can get my Bending back?" Korra asked. "But… do you really think that I have the time to mediate for a few years?"
"No, of course not." Avatar Aang said. "Remember, Korra, I told you that I was always watching out for you. In all the time you've been alive, I've only taken over your body one time: while Amon was Energybending you. I could not stop him from winning, because that was on you alone, but I was able to stop him from making the damage too bad. I'd say a few weeks of intense mediation is all you need to rediscover yourself."
"But how can I stop this from happening again?" Korra asked. "If I cannot Energybend, how can I fight him?"
"You do not need to have the ability to Energybend to defend yourself from it." Avatar Aang said. "You do not have the power to initiate an Energybending contest, but if you find yourself drawn into one with Amon, you can defend against him and even win. Energybending requires ultimate knowledge of oneself. You must have the ability to find those core values that make up who are and use them as your shield. The one who taught me how to Energybend called it having an unbendable spirit. The person with the most conviction in themselves will win the contest, and the other person will be completely at their mercy. If you ever find yourself facing Amon in an Energybending contest again, believe in yourself. Do not stop fighting against him even if it seems like he is winning. As the Avatar, you have a spiritual strength that goes far beyond what anyone can stand against."
"Avatar Aang?" Korra began.
"I'm really sorry that I've messed up so badly." She said, hanging her head in shame.
"This is not your fault, Korra. This is mine." Avatar Aang said. "When the Avatar before me, Avatar Roku, died he left me the Hundred Year War to sort out. He could have stopped it before it started, but he didn't, and it fell on my shoulders to do so. I worked my whole life to hide the secrets of Energybending, but the knowledge survived somehow. Because I reintroduced Energybending into the world, Bending itself is under threat." He sighed. "The one thing that you must understand is that Avatars are not perfect, no matter what heroic stories you've heard about me. We have character flaws, and we make mistakes just like everyone else. Don't let yourself be overwhelmed with the fact that you made a mistake. Learn from your mistakes, and the mistakes of your past lives. Now, Korra, it is nearly sundown…"
"Sundown?" Korra gasped in shock. "But I've only been her for about ten minutes, right?"
"Time passes differently in the Spirit World." Avatar Aang said. "There is one more thing that I need to do. Will you allow me to inhabit your body so I can speak to Katara and Tenzin? I will give them the information they need to help you recover your Bending."
"Are you sure that you don't just want to see your wife and son again?"
"I do want to see them again." Avatar Aang admitted. "Will you give me permission?"
"But, wait… before you go, what if I need to speak to you again?" Korra asked. "Do I really have to wait for the solstices?"
"No." Avatar Aang said. "Now that we have completed the link between us, you will be able to communicate with me whenever you want. All it will take is simple mediation. Your permission, Korra?"
"Okay, you have my permission." Korra said uncertainly.
"Thank you." Avatar Aang said, bowing.
Korra had not moved a muscle all day, which was something that Mako thought he'd never see. Korra was always active, always getting into trouble, and never staying still for more than a minute or two.
Tenzin and Katara both watched the progress of the sun. "It's nearly sundown." Tenzin commented. "She should be back soon."
"Do you really think that Avatar Aang will be able to help her?" Bolin asked.
"If anyone can, it's Aang." Katara said.
Suddenly, all of them were cut off when a fierce wind tore through the room, centering on Korra's form. Mako, Bolin, and Tenzin took a step backwards, but Katara, who recognized what was happening instantly, moved forward.
"Aang!" She gasped.
Indeed, to the shock of the other three, Avatar Aang himself stood where Korra once sat. He smiled sadly at his wife. "Hello, Katara. Long time, no see."
"Long time, no see, yourself, Aang." Katara whispered emotionally. "Oh, Aang… I've missed you so much…" She moved forward, pulled him into an embrace, and kissed his cheek.
"Katara? Do I need to remind you that I'm only here in spirit and this is Korra's body?" Aang asked.
"I don't care." Katara replied.
Aang looked past her towards his son. "Hello, Tenzin."
"Father." Tenzin gasped.
"Korra is going to need all the help that she can in order to put things right. But before I say how to help, you must swear that you will never make this knowledge public. That goes for you two as well, Mako and Bolin."
"You…" Mako gasped. "You know us?"
"Korra knows you, and therefore, I know you." Aang said.
The group quickly swore that they would never repeat another word, and Aang quickly explained to them how Energybending worked, and gave details to Tenzin on how to reverse it, both in general and specifically for Korra. "Do you understand, Tenzin?"
"Yes, yes." Tenzin said quickly. "I can't believe that it was reversible all along. Firelord Ozai never even suspected…"
"We can use this method to maybe help all of the people who are the victims of Amon." Katara said.
"I hope that there are no more victims. Korra was able to get off easy because I protected her. Others are not so lucky." He glanced up at the sun. "I must go soon. The sun is setting and the solstice is ending."
"Aang…" Katara began, tears forming in her eyes.
"Katara, my love… we'll be together again soon, I promise." He said, and turned towards his son. "Tenzin, I'm so proud of you. And remember that Korra still needs to learn her Airbending once she gets her abilities back."
"I'll devote myself to her training." Tenzin promised. "Thank you, Father."
Aang smiled at them as the sun began to set. "I love you both. And I long for the day when we'll be reunited once more." As soon as the sun disappeared over the horizon, Aang closed his eyes, there was another strong gust of wind, and Korra was left standing in Aang's place.
Katara moved quickly, catching Korra before she fell to the ground. Channeling was always difficult on the host, and Korra's physical body was weakened to begin with.
Korra groaned as she came too. "Is it always so tiring when one of your past lives takes over your body?" She asked groggily.
"Yes." Katara replied.
"Then I hope it was worth it." Korra sighed, slumping against Katara. Mako and Bolin jumped forward, removing the burden from the old Waterbender.
"It was worth it. It certainly was worth it." Katara said with a smile. She had, after all, been given the chance to see her husband one more time, even if he was just channeling himself through Korra's body.
"It was more than worth it." Tenzin interjected. "My father taught me how to help you get your Bending back."
"Then let's do it." Korra said tiredly. She couldn't even keep her head up anymore, she was so exhausted.
"Rest first, Korra." Tenzin said. "You've done far better in the last twenty-four hours than I could have hoped for, but you will need rest for the trials ahead."
Korra, for once, didn't have the energy to argue with him. "Okay…" She whispered, allowing the brothers to support her weight.
"Let's take her back to the Temple for her rest." Tenzin suggested, leading the way out of the memorial, followed by his mother and the two boys.