Notes: I AM SO SORRY. You can all thank the lovely anonymous commenter who kept poking me for this one. :) Also I know Book Two has started airing, but for now this is going to stay an AU of Book One with maybe some details from Book Two worked in.
Unbendable: The Book of Earth
Chapter VIII: Resolve
When the ground trembled, Lin first turned towards the hill and then looked to her mother in worry. Toph shifted from foot to foot calmly, and shook her head. "Everything's fine."
As a second tremor disrupted the quiet tranquility of the island, Toph hesitated. "Maybe we should check on her. Just in case."
"Good plan." Lin strode back towards the narrow path with her mother close behind. They scaled the hill more quickly than was strictly necessary, but she could just imagine—the shrine in ruins and the ground turned from grass to mud—
They found only Korra, kneeling on the unblemished ground with her head bowed.
Lin let out a breath of relief, and her pace slowed to one less urgent.
As they approached, Korra raised her head. It gave Lin pause to see the white light fading from her eyes, only to be replaced by a different sort of glow. "I—I did it!" she exclaimed, climbing slowly to her feet. "Well. Kind of."
Korra wobbled. Lin quickly closed the distance between them, seizing both of Korra's arms.
"Thanks," Korra mumbled, blinking rapidly. "A little woozy."
Lin stood before her, gripping Korra by the arms until the girl straightened, shrugging gently out of the hold. "Better?" Lin prompted.
"Better." And if Korra still looked a little dazed, at least she could stand. "You won't believe what happened!"
"You entered the Avatar State?" Lin surmised wryly, and Korra deflated a little.
"Oh, well, I guess maybe you can believe it," she said, but immediately perked up again. "But I bent! Kyoshi told me I still could, and she showed me!"
"Kyoshi gave you back your bending?" Toph interjected, sounding keenly interested.
"Well... not exactly." Korra's smile faded again, her shoulders slumping with a sigh. "I didn't get to keep it. But she promised to show me it was still inside me if I promised to listen to what she had to say, and she did."
"Good news, then," Lin said.
"Yes," Lin said. "You wanted assurance you still had the ability to bend. Now you have it."
"Yeah..." Korra turned away from them, staring contemplatively back at Kyoshi's shrine. It stood as it always had, tranquil and quiet.
"None of that, now," Toph told her sternly.
After another moment of silence, Korra murmured a quiet thank you, and bowed to Kyoshi's shrine. Lin and Toph followed suit, and then, together, they turned as one and made their way slowly down the hill to Kyoshi Village.
At Lin's insistence, they spent the night on Kyoshi Island, taking a room at an inn named, like everything else on the island, in honor of Avatar Kyoshi and decorated in green and gold. Dinner was served downstairs, where Lin seized Korra by the elbow and quietly guided her towards a corner table.
"But—" Korra watched Toph head towards the center of the room.
Lin pushed her into a chair. "Trust me."
Korra understood five minutes later, when Toph sat at the head of the largest table in the room with a noisy crowd gathered all around her. "Tell us how you invented metalbending," said one.
"No, tell us how you joined the Avatar!" shouted another
"No, I want to hear how you killed Fire Lord Ozai!"
"You nitwit, she didn't kill Fire Lord Ozai. That was the Avatar."
"The Avatar never—"
"Well, I heard that—"
"Quiet!" Toph bellowed. "Settle down, and I'll tell you how I learned to earthbend."
They hushed, to Korra's surprise, and Toph launched into her story. "Well, when I was a little badgermole..."
Korra and Lin listened awhile. Lin sat with her eyes closed, nodding along at some parts and shaking her head at others. Korra supposed that meant Toph had never bent her way from the North Pole straight down to the South and battled the dragons at the center of the earth. Their food arrived as Toph started another story.
"So..." Korra swallowed her first mouthful of fish. "How much of that is true, anyway?"
"Who knows?" Lin sipped her tea and shrugged. "I'm certain she never went dragonback riding with the Fire Lord. It's true that Uncle Zuko always took us on the best adventures, though."
"You call the Fire Lord "Uncle Zuko"?"
"Of course," Lin said. "Anyway, he's not the Fire Lord anymore. That's his daughter."
"What do you call her, cousin?"
"Not exactly." Lin took a careful bite and chewed slowly. "But yes, she is family, as are the children of all my mother's friends. Yes, even Tenzin."
Korra considered that as she ate, lowering her head so that Lin couldn't see her jealousy. Like her, Lin was an only child. But she'd been raised in this great sprawling family built of people from all nations, and she'd been free to make and keep her friends. Besides her parents, Korra's only family was a disinterested, unloving uncle in the North who she saw infrequently and until she'd come to Republic City she hadn't had any friends.
"I've been meaning to ask," Lin said, distracting Korra from her brooding. "What did Kyoshi say to you?"
Korra sighed. "She said it wouldn't be easy."
"It never is," Lin said dryly. "But specifically."
"She said..." Korra frowned into her teacup. "Kyoshi told me that I had to listen, and that I had to do the right thing. And that if I did, there would be peace, and that I could bend again."
"Don't suppose she told you how."
"Ah, well," Lin murmured regretfully. "It's never that easy, is it. I'm going to bed. Stay down here if you'd like, but Mom can go on for awhile and we're leaving early."
"Good night," Korra called after her.
Lin lifted a hand over her shoulder in acknowledgement on her way out. Korra watched her go, then poured herself another cup of tea. Toph still held her audience to rapt attention, and no one seemed to care that her stories had grown outlandish to the point of absurdity. They loved her just the same, and as she listened, Korra understood why.
All the uncertainty twisted up inside of her, all the guilt and doubt that weighed her down—it lessened as she closed her eyes and lost herself in the thought of Toph punching out space rocks. There was some truth in that one; everyone in the South Pole knew the story of Sokka and his space sword, but when Katara told it there was just the one meteor.
Still. It was a nice thought, and Korra found herself wishing she could tackle the problems in Republic City the same way. Her instinct was always to fight. That's what she did, and she was good at it. Good-ish. Usually.
Korra stared at her benderless hands, and grimaced. Even so, she wasn't sure how well she would do at this listening directive Kyoshi had given her. And what if it wasn't enough? No one had seen or heard from either Tarrlok or Amon since before they'd departed Republic City for the South Pole, and that was forever ago now. Tenzin would've found a way to get word to them if something had happened, but...
Her hands quivered at the thought of Amon, but how much was fear and how much was anger, Korra wasn't sure herself. She didn't like the thought of facing him again, but at the same time—ooh, she itched to punch him in the face a time or ten. It was the least he deserved.
She was still thinking on it when Toph told her last story and came to collect her. "I hope you were listening," Toph said as they climbed the stairs together. "It was all very educational, no matter what my Lin might have told you."
Korra snickered before she could help it, and Toph hmphed at her. "Fine. Don't believe me."
"I believe you!" Korra insisted. "I wish... I wish we could solve the problems in Republic City the way you did in your stories."
"By punching it in the face a couple of times?" Toph nodded approvingly as they halted in front of their door. "If only it were so easy."
Korra lowered her voice so as not to wake Lin. "Kyoshi told me what I have to do."
"You'd best listen to her, then," Toph said. "I hear she's scary when she's mad. It's an earthbender thing. Now get some rest," she added in a whisper as they tiptoed into the room. "And I saved some of my best stories for the ride home, so don't worry about being bored."
Korra paused only to take off her boots before crawling into bed with her clothes still on. One thing was true, at least. Bending or no, she was still the Avatar and it was her duty to bring balance to the world. And one way or another, she would do it. Tomorrow.
Maybe right after she asked Toph what exactly she'd done to earn herself a permanent ban from the bending arenas. Korra smiled at the thought, and drifted into a dreamless sleep.