Sorry for the long delay. School has been rough. And I had a nasty batch of writer's block. But I finally was able to write a plot chapter that makes some kind of sense.
Chapter 54: Look Who Showed Up
Katara didn't remember when she and Tal finally fell asleep. A knock at her bedroom door awoke her. She freaked out for a second as she remembered what she was doing a few hours before, and with who. She lashed out of her bed sheets trying to find him, but he wasn't in the bed with her. Instead, he was on the floor wrapped in a blanket next to her bed, completely out of sight of the door.
There was another knock at the door and her mother's muffled voice came through it. "Katara? Are you awake? I need you to help me with some healing. Everyone is hung over like snot." Katara didn't respond soon enough. "Oh come on." Korra yelled. There was another much louder knock at the door. "Katara, wake up! I know he's in there!"
Her mother's acknowledgement of Tal's whereabouts didn't make Katara feel any better but she did rush to the door and open it. On the other side was her mother holding a damp washcloth to her forehead. She was clearly suffering from a decent hangover from the wine she had drank the evening before. "About time," Korra told her daughter. "Now...where is he?" She entered the room searching for him.
Katara could only watch as her mother found him still fast asleep next to the bed. Seeing as there was no stray clothes from either lying on the floor she assumed the two of them hadn't been fooling around earlier. She calmed down and gently tapped him with her foot. "Wake up lover boy..." She leaned over to have her face only a foot away from his. "...Your soon to be mother-in-law is here."
Tal woke up to see her and shouted in surprise. He wrestled himself out of the blanket he was in and stood up. "We didn't do anything!...I swear..." Tal said as she held up a mock salute when he saw that Korra was smirking rather than full of anger. "...Avatar's honor."
"Okay Avatar Tal," Korra told him. "Since you have mastered three elements, you must now master waterbending." She tossed him the washcloth she had been using to nurse her headache. "Today's lesson...using healing to cure your future in-laws' hangovers." Tal got the clue and went to Katara's bathroom to get some water. He was back a few seconds with a bowl of water and a newly moisten washcloth.
As Korra sat down in a chair, Tal waterbended the water in the bowl and it began to glow, barely, as it covered his hands. He might have been an Avatar, but he was barely a healer. Katara was a far better healer and so was his sister Tay. Tal had only minimal teaching in healing, struggling to keep the chi flowing in the glowing water as it whirled around Korra's head, numbing the pain. Minutes later, although Tal would have sworn was much longer, the job was done. Korra got up and appeared to feel much better.
He looked at Katara who had been supervising him during all of this. She gave him a cute smile to tell him that he had done well, it turned into a snicker when she saw how much energy he needed to heal a simple hangover. Korra had no problem finding a way to help him learn healing faster. "Good...now go heal everyone else," she said nonchalantly as she left the room.
Tal wasn't looking forward to it but Katara grabbed his hand and pulled him along as they made it to the main gathering room of the place. Inside, was over two dozen people trying to lay down on the numerous sofas, chairs, or cushions. "You would think that after this happening to me so many times...," Bolin stated , lifting a towel from his face as he laid on a sofa. "That I would never drink alcohol mixed with cactus juice ever again."
He was smacked in the face by a towel from Asami who was reclining on a nearby couch. She wasn't as bad as the others, the corporate queen had a past of drinking to quell the nerves. She was more than able to handle alcohol, all she seemed to have was a headache from listening to everyone else. "Be quiet dear..." She told him sternly, "Just be happy I don't let Eska come over and help." The water tribe princess in question was sitting next to a passed out Tahno on a pile of cushions. She was using healing on her husband. An irritated look was on her face. The only other mood she seemed to show other than boredom or anger.
"Okay..." Tal spoke over the group. "Who wants to be a test subject for Avatar healing training?" Bolin, after a few seconds of hesitated watching, finally agreed. It turned out to be an okay idea, Tal didn't do that badly. He spent the next hour helping the others, and that tired him out quickly. He might be an almighty Avatar, but he was not a good healer. When everyone else had been treated, it was Tal who passed out on a couch while the others continued prepping for a wedding.
He had been napping soundly, until Mako woke him up with a swift kick to the couch to shake Tal awake. "You got a visitor." the man told him. "...President Haipo." Tal's eyes quickly widened at the mention of the man's name. But why would the President of the United Republic of Nations just suddenly show up unannounced?
He was about to ask why, but Mako stopped him. "I don't have a clue either. But be ready, only you and Korra are able to argue with him. His position as President undermines my power as police chief." Tal saw the grim look on his soon to be in-law's face. Only Korra's and Tal's positions as Avatars gave them any power at all to argue with the newly inaugurated President Haipo.
Tal walked outside to the main courtyard to find Korra with Haipo and a dozen of his guards. When he approached then Haipo spoke up. "Ah, here he is the man of the hour." He said in a rather happy political tone. "The great hero Avatar Tal. It's about time I got the honor of finally meeting you in person." Tal stepped up to the man and gave him a small slight bow. The side lessons on etiquette and diplomacy from Korra and Jinora were helping.
"It's also a pleasure to meet you President Haipo." Tal told him and he shook an offered hand from the president. "I'm sorry I could not congratulate you after you victory in the election last month but Avatar Korra here insisted that I continue my training." Haipo and Mako each chuckled at the statement while Korra almost blushed.
"Let me assure you Avatar Tal, that will not be like my predecessor." Haipo stated. The last president was from the Earth Kingdom and had been found in contempt of the United Council. He wanted the rebelling parts of the Earth Kingdom to be brought back into the fold...with brute force. There was an impeachment trial and a new election. This was where Haipo, a small time political official from right here in Republic City, won on a ticket of peace and freedom for the rebelling factions. "However, during my latest trip to Ba Sing Se to help mend the ties we have with the Earth Kingdom. Grand Secretariat Tran Gao hinted that they might be able to do something for us if your Northern Republic went back under Earth Kingdom control."
The act of such betrayal hinted by Haipo made Tal almost lose his cool. Korra nearly did after hearing what he had just said. The new republic was Tal's project for humanity. Just like Republic City was Aang's and the spirit portals staying open being Korra's. If Haipo wasn't the president, Tal would have sent lightning at him to show that there was no way his home was going to go back to being ruled by a king whose face is never seen, and who is never even heard. "I'm sorry President Haipo." Tall told him in his calmest diplomat voice. "But the Northern Republic left the Earth Kingdom because rulers and officials in Ba Sing Se neglected it."
Haipo had angered Tal, everyone in the room could see that. Except for Haipo who acted as if there was nothing wrong with saying such a thing. But Tal was going to make sure that it was never mentioned again. "We fought for freedom and won. We elected our own government. We treat our people with true equality. Not that crud Amon, Xi Han, or other Equalists believe in." He wanted to old one of his blades to the man's neck, but knew too well that would be political suicide and would make him look bad to the public. "Since nobody before could rule the land just and right...I'll make sure that it is ruled as such by people who can."
He looked right into Haipo's eyes only feet away. His bodyguards slowly making motions towards pistols or about to firebend or bloodbend. "What can the Earth Kingdom possibly offer that would make us want to give up out home?"
"Tran Gao gave me something to give to you." Haipo replied. He motioned for one of his nearby bodyguards who produced a wrapped package from his suit. He gave the package to the President who then gave it to Tal. "Equalist files, including ones from Xi Han himself on your parents." He waited for a few seconds to let the surprise sink in to everyone present in the room. "And Tran Gao has also informed me that the Dai Li are slowing closing in on the whereabouts of Xi Han himself."
Haipo watched as Tal's eyes shifted from the package to look right at him. He could see the hatred in the Avatar's eyes. The massacre of the boy's town hurt deep in his soul. Tal wanted revenge for that. He just needed to make that hatred sink in deeper. The young Avatar was the key part of his plan for the Black Lotus. He needed Tal to lose it.
To bad he now had to deal with two Avatars who knew politics and diplomacy. Korra beat Tal to Haipo. "I'm sorry President Haipo," she told him sternly. "But the Northern Republic is not going back to the Earth King. You saw that the people up there wanted to be free."
"But who is going to preside over the region?" Haipo questioned. "Surely this new republic cannot last long with that constitution you and Avatar Tal had come up with months ago. As President of the United Republic of Nations, it is my duty to make sure that our economy is not being wasted away. Our biggest tax burdens are here in Republic City and now Tree Line's growth." He turned to Tal and pointed a finger at him. "I supported the rebuilding of the town to its original state. I did not support a war to free your home from the Earth King and I do not support sending supplies and money to your little pet project."
Haipo was playing a game with them...and he was winning. Tal, now the main target, was beginning to lose it. Tal shot right back, "It is not just some pet project Mr. President. That town and the whole region will become a refugee for those who wish to leave the other nations, which are all monarchies, and live in a society free from oppression and free from bender or nonbender discrimination." He crossed his arms in protest, a sign which nearby Katara knew, Tal was holding back himself from ending this argument...with brute force.
"And who exactly going to lead these people?" Haipo asked as he put himself into a dignified stance. "Surely because you are an Avatar, from the region and helped fight for your freedom, the people will make you their leader."
Tal glared back in surprise. "I'm not going to be made a ruler." He stopped himself from yelling anymore. He had to slow down and think. Haipo was right, surely the people would just make him their leader after all he had done. But Tal did not want that, he wanted to just be left alone with Katara and have a family. He did not want to have to be an Avatar, but also a political leader.
But how would he make sure of that? The Northern Republic needed to elect governing body soon. The United Republic of Nations had been ruling it using its United Forces as peacekeeping troops. The elections were known to Tal, but had been put well into the back of his mind as he prepared to get married. But as up to then, not one candidate looked as if they would have been any good. Alexi showed interest in joining as well, but Tal told him not to. His reasoning, that if Alexi had won, many might suggest that he had only won because of his background of knowing Tal.
Seeing that their conversation had turned into a heated argument, Haipo ended it. "Just remember, Avatar. It is the duty of both of us to keep the world in peace. I will not hesitate to stop you and your little town if you go to war with the Earth Kingdom. My loyal is to the whole of the United Republic of Nations. Not just your little rebel Northern Republic. I'll order all those troops to leave and you will be left with no military to protect you." And with that, he left to room. His bodyguards followed in tow, leaving everyone in the room feeling a bit nervous that they might attack if ordered.
When they had left and well out of earshot, everyone turned to Tal. All they saw was a twenty year old man on the verge of going insane with madness. He did not need this new development. He already had a lot to do at the moment. Including getting married the next day. When any normal man should have been solely worrying about making sure his bride didn't kill him for ruining her wedding day. Tal now had to deal with another war. Katara was going to murder him if he put their wedding off to deal with Haipo and his threats.
Even if he was crazy enough to put off their wedding, which he surely wasn't to do out of fear of Katara's wrath. Tal knew that he would be branded a traitor for going against the United Republic of Nations' own President. The entire world would see him not as the peacekeeper an Avatar was supposed to be. But rather a war mongering madman bent on solely revenge and power grabbing. He had to think of something, but what?
Tal left the room, only saying he was going 'to try and get alone to think'. Seeing the rage radiating off of him, almost everyone stayed put, trying to bring normalcy back to the party. But Katara and Korra waited a bit before excusing themselves from the group citing the need to check the fit of Katara's wedding gown...yet again. Everyone else knew however they were going to try and find the groom before he committed an assassination attempt on Haipo or something like that.
They found him under the gazebo of the meditation pavilion, well into a deep meditation and probably already in the Spirit World. Korra told Katara to sit nearby and wait while she herself went in the world of the spirits. The elder Avatar soon found herself waking up in the middle of a densely wooded area. Most likely a recreation of the forest around an ancient Tree Line. She saw a clearing and went there to find Tal sitting on a stump, looking out across a valley down to where the town of Tree Line would later be.
Korra carefully walked up to him, his back was facing her. However, when she got within a few feet of him, he turned around in surprise. "You have no clue about how conflicted I'm feeling right now so just let me be." He told her in a defeated tone.
"I thought you read up on your history Tal," she told him sternly. "I really do know how you are feeling. I had the same issue years ago during the last Harmonic Convergence." Tal face palmed himself in disgrace, he should have remembered that. Korra had indeed suffered similar issues. "You need to handle all these things one at a time." His look of puzzlement made her clarify the statement. "I mean marry my daughter tomorrow and enjoy your new life with her. I'll handle anything Haipo might do while you two go off and try to babybend without giving me another grandchild. I'm still quite young to be seeing myself as a grandparent. I'm only in my early forties."
Her attempt at lightening the conversation worked a bit. Tal smirked a bit as he faced back out to look across the valley. Far off, almost at the horizon was the small delta of islands where in the real world, sat Tree Line. "It seems the only thing I'm destined to do is fight wars." He lit up small flames in the palms of his hands. "I'm not a creator or a preserver...I'm a deatroyer."
"You are not a destroyer, Tal," Korra said placing a hand on his shoulder. "You brought back a town from extinction. You helped bring justice to people across the Earth Kingdom. You are showing that equality does not mean you are either a bender or not. You are a true equalizer."
"But Haipo can end all that with just words from his mouth." He replied, keeping his gazed fixed out at the valley, refusing to look at Korra. "All he has to do is order the military to leave Tree Line. Out economy almost solely depends on them keeping a base up there. Haipo can send my home right back into oblivion."
"You're not going to let him do that Tal. But for now, all you need to worry about is Katara." Korra turned him so that he had to look at her. "Just make sure my little girl has a husband she can rely on to be there." He nodded that he would and she threw him into a deep hug.
Haipo could wait. Tal had other things to worry about.
Well now that all that is posted. I can get started on that long awaited wedding chapter I'm sure everyone wants so badly. I even managed to get some Book 2 references in there. No if only I can not have this story utterly destroyed when Book 3 comes out.