"Master Tenzin." Korra bowed. "I need you to kill me."
Tenzin didn't move from his meditation position. "Sit down, Korra."
She sat in front of him, cross-legged. Neither of them spoke for several minutes.
"Are you meditating about my request?" Korra asked.
"But I've given it a lot of thought, and I-"
Korra sighed. This would never happen in the Southern Water Tribe. In her community, if someone asked you to kill them, you at least respected them enough to discuss it. If worse came to worst, she would just return home and ask Master Katara to do it. The thought made her chest hurt. It would crush her parents less if it happened far away, in Republic City.
"I won't kill you," Tenzin said at last. "It goes against every airbender principle in existence."
Korra opened her mouth to pour out her arguments, but the look on his face stopped her. "I understand," she said, rising to her feet again. "Thank you for your time."
"Korra-" he called after her, but she wasn't going to be lectured today.
She went straight for Naga's stables and saddled up the polar bear-dog. It would be so much easier to do it herself. She imagined falling into a poison-induced sleep in a warm bath- in the White Lotus bath, of course, lest one of the children accidentally discover her body- and never waking up. She was just afraid to risk her afterlife. She'd always been taught that being killed secured you a spot in the happier afterlife, whereas suicide... well, it was discouraged. Then again, she was the avatar. Maybe she didn't get an afterlife.
Naga splashed into the water surrounding Air Temple Island, soaking Korra, who was perched on her back. "Easy," Korra said, rubbing Naga's fur. "We're just going to the arena. If Mako and Bolin are really my friends, they'll help me." But she knew, even as she said it, that they would refuse.
Mako and Bolin weren't in the arena. Instead, Korra found Asami loitering in front of the attic stairs.
"Korra!" the woman said in surprise. "What are you doing here?"
"I'm looking for Mako and Bolin," Korra answered. "What are you doing here?"
"Waiting for Mako," Asami said. "What's wrong? You look... depressed."
They sat down on the stairs, and Korra found herself spilling the entire situation to this girl she barely knew. How Amon took her bending away, even though anyone who had looked at a newspaper in the past week would know that. How it was all hopeless and she was out of options.
"So now I've failed the world," Korra finished. Tears and snot dripped down her face. "I have to die so the next avatar can be born. And I can't kill myself because... because..."
"You've lost your honor," Asami said. She gave Korra a handkerchief with an S monogrammed on the corner. "I understand. You need to die gloriously so your honor can be restored."
Korra was too drained and tired to explain her tribe's customs, so she just nodded. "But Tenzin won't do it, and I'm afraid Mako and Bolin won't either."
"You've thought about this a lot, haven't you?" Asami asked.
"I haven't thought of anything else all week," Korra said.
"You're sure you don't have any other options?"
Korra shook her head. "It has to be this way."
"Then I'll help you," Asami said. "I wish you had some alternative, but if you don't, it would be my honor to help the avatar."
"Really?" Korra asked.
"Of course," Asami said. "It's your body. You deserve the right to end your life early, if you feel it's right. Just tell me when and where."
Before Korra left Air Temple Island that night, she tidied her room, destroyed her few possessions, and turned her clothing inside out. If any of the White Lotus noticed, they apparently didn't realize that she was preparing for her own funeral. After a quiet dinner, Korra wrote letters to everyone important: her parents, Master Katara, Tenzin, Mako and Bolin. She folded each one and laid them on her freshly-made bed. Pema would ensure that they reached their destination.
Korra was supposed to meet Asami in the park at midnight. Her hands wouldn't stop sweating the entire ride there. Every time she touched Naga, her palms came away covered in white fur so thick she couldn't see her own skin. When she finally reached the park, Asami was waiting on the steps of the gazebo. A sheathed sword lay across her knees.
"I didn't know if you'd show up," Asami said. "I hope the sword is okay. I know swords are a pretty popular way to go when honor is involved."
"It's great," Korra said with more enthusiasm than she felt. "Thanks."
Asami rose, tying her long hair back. "Ready?"
Korra hugged Naga, petting her ears. "Stay here," she ordered, pulling away. "I have to do this. Don't stop me, and don't hurt Asami."
Korra pressed her nose against Naga's giant one. "I love you," she said. "Pass some of my love on to my mom and dad, okay?" She turned and faced Asami. "Okay," she said, taking a deep breath. "I'm ready."
Asami unsheathed her sword. "Are you scared?"
"No," Korra lied.
"Me neither." Asami looked less sure of herself than usual, but she gave Korra a reassuring smile. "It only hurts for a few minutes. At least, that's what I've heard."
"Let's just get it over with," Korra said, wiping her furry hands on her clothes.
"Okay." Asami dropped the sheath on the ground. "Close your eyes."
Korra shut them. Flowery perfume teased her nose, and suddenly soft lips were kissing hers. Her eyes shot open, but she found herself kissing back. Her eyelids relaxed again, hands resting on Asami's strong shoulders. This would be the only kiss she ever got in this life; she wanted to enjoy it.
The sword went through her so quickly and smoothly it didn't even hurt at first. It was just cold. Korra looked down at the blade sticking out from under her ribs. It felt like a dream, like when Naga would make a huge leap and gravity didn't apply for a few seconds. Blood trickled over the handle, over Asami's delicate fingers, onto Korra's boots.
Asami pulled the blade out, and Korra gasped from pain worse than anything she'd ever felt. The blade had come out just below her shoulders in the back, and it hurt, oh did it ever hurt! Her body was too heavy to hold up. She collapsed on the grass, Asami sitting down daintily next to her. She took Korra's hand and held it tight.
"It won't hurt for long," Asami reminded her. Her face was calm, but her throat moved as if she were swallowing hard.
"Thank you," Korra wheezed. She wanted to elaborate. Thank you for making it so quick. Thank you for trying to make me less afraid. Thank you for being the only one brave and kind enough to let me die with dignity. But it was just too hard to talk.
"Say hi to my mother for me, will you?" Asami asked. "You'll know her when you see her. We look a lot alike."
Korra nodded. The pain was fading, mingling with a buzz of pleasure. She stared up at the moon. The breeze blew her hair into her face and rustled the leaves overhead.
"Good luck, Avatar Korra." Asami's voice sounded further away, but her hand still squeezed Korra's. Her lips left a wet spot on Korra's forehead.
Korra didn't hurt at all now. The moon was blinding her; she couldn't see anything but glowing white moonbeams. She distantly felt Asami close her eyes, but the moonlight stayed.
The last thing Korra heard was Naga's anguished howl echoing off the water.