[NORTHERN LIGHTS] part 1
"La nuit, le ciel est plus grand."
An orange hue filters into the city's skyline as the sun delivers its last rays of the day, but the body of water that borders this urban landscape retains its signature shade of blue, albeit with flecks of shimmering gold that flicker like embers in his pale crystalline eyes. At the foot of Aang Memorial, he stands by the pier to observe this wondrous sight, watching the light bounce over the surface of the cool expanse, breathing in deeply the scent of sea salt and nostalgia. For a moment, he remembers his distant past, his homeland faraway, his nearly-forgotten birthname. And in that same instant, the calm ripples of the seascape escalate into sets of waves that match the increasing tempo of his usually tame heart. It's his doing— he's bending the water subconsciously— yet somehow, it doesn't disgust him, even after years of repressing and denigrating his innate ability.
He would normally only allow himself a split second of negligence, and he would quell the urge with a simple hardening of his mind, but tonight remained a special case. It's not that he's being persuaded by dormant emotions, and although the gentle breeze caressing his naked face does feel like a blessing, he is neither swayed by the temptations of Mother Nature. Tonight was different for one simple reason: the Avatar had officially announced their arrival and the wheels of his Equalist movement had consequently accelerated. From hereon, he would be working around the clock, surrounded by his followers at all times, stripped completely from any semblance of privacy despite his anonymous appearance. And if all went according to plan, bending would be purged, completely wiped away like the faded remnants of his childhood.
Just for one night, as formal closure to an already dying memory, he decided to drop the armour, hide the mask, and erase the scars. With stealth that could mock the spirits, he had slipped away from his headquarters, temporarily leaving behind his role as leader of the revolution. Amon was placed on hold. Because only for tonight, Noatak would surface once more.
His fist clenches and the water squeezes into a ball, hovering above the waves and waiting for its master's next command. Only an intake of breath is needed for the liquid to rush to his side like a faithful servant; it floats in the air patiently while he removes his shabby tunic so that he could move with more ease, savouring the warmth of the setting sun against his once-tanned skin. He then lets it trail over his bare broad shoulders, glide down the arch of his spine and curl around to his front with a brush of its slick texture against tensed muscles. Oh Spirits, he really really hates bending, but he can't deny its exhilarating sensation. It felt like a release, similar to a holy man indulging in his primal needs; he could live without it, heck, he has and will continue to live without it, but it never changed the fact that it felt so good. Just like sin.
Her feet dangle over the ledge by the water, fidgeting from pent-up excitement and ready to sprout into action. She is grateful that Tenzin finally let her stay in Republic City to complete her airbending training, but she wishes that her temporary abode wasn't so secluded from the rest of the population. Those energetic children certainly kept her busy, and the Air Temple was indeed a lovely environment— serene, peaceful, detached from the hustle and bustle of the city— but Korra had experienced quite the adventure on her first day and she was itching to explore more. The sun had barely finish setting, yet the inhabitants of this island were already getting ready for bed; she was probably expected to follow suit, but she simply could not shake off the nerves dancing in her gut.
She knows that she shouldn't sneak out, but something catches her attention in the distance, right by the neighboring island. Her senses pick up a slight disturbance in the natural flow of the water, and when she squints her vision, she can distinctly see heightened waves surrounding the pier. Someone is probably bending, and she wants to get a closer look.
A few minutes wouldn't hurt. The islands weren't that far from one another, and she could easily swim there in no time. It was the perfect opportunity to expel that excess energy because if she didn't get rid of it, she might not get a wink of slumber all night, or so she convinces herself. Without an ounce of guilt, she dives into the sea and jets off to quench her curiosity.
He refuses to believe that he is a hypocrite for enjoying this activity because he knows that it is nothing but temptation and sin. Maybe he was weak, those muscles easily giving into the urge by the influence of nostalgia— not that bending was any particularly pleasant in his childhood, but it was a mechanical instinct and at least his mind did not betray his integrity. His body, on the other hand, was simply out of control. It wasn't his fault that the environment was bending by itself: if the water wanted to fly its way to him like a magnet, he couldn't possibly be at fault for its doing. Therefore, he stays firm with his beliefs that bending is evil, since he can no longer discern reality from illusion as time and space drift away at every drop of water that rushes to his side.
Korra couldn't have made a better decision. The daunting waves are surprisingly easy to overcome because they seem to be drawn to Aang Memorial, or rather, to the figure that's wielding the element. She lets the current pull her in, and when the edge of the island comes into plain view, she bends a turret to propel herself onto the rocky surface where she eagerly searches for the source of this commotion. Just like the current, the path only leads to one direction. Her heart hammers into her chest at every heavy step she takes, until she finally finds herself by the pier, at a modest distance from the answer to her query.
A majestic sight awaits her, and she feels her mouth dry up, either from her slackened jaw hanging open for too long, or due to every drop of water being sapped away from her tingling tongue. Watching in silence, her limbs paralysed in awe, she lets the stimuli invade every inch of her heightened senses as she breathes in this fascinating creature's aura.
He glides in the air as if he was made of mist, the water following him like a shadow, and she cannot understand how a mortal being could possibly move like that. Those fluid gestures seemed too divine, hypnotic and supernatural, like she was witnessing the work of a Spirit. But what really captivated and nearly frightened her was his control over the element: it doesn't only follow his movements, but the entire sea seems to be affected by his presence. His chi was nearly palpable, like claws grasping tightly at her skin, digging right down to her bones, shaking her core and dragging her into this insane version of harmony with nature.
It didn't help that he was attractive on a physical point of view, from the pure visuals he had to offer. With dark hair flowing from the breezy rush, face framed with clean-cut sideburns and a chiselled jaw filled with charisma, there was no denying his fine features that could catch her attention under normal circumstances. It could be a trick of the dimming daylight, but he also seemed to be radiating under the effect of sparkling water dancing around his frame, further accentuating the lines of his toned muscles that flex at every exerting step.
How old was he, she wonders. She really could not guess, but he was definitely a man, and not a mere boy. The very concept makes her cheeks grow hot, utterly embarrassed by her train of thought; just what was she implying through that statement? She isn't sure, and the uncertainly leaves her peeved. He was enticing in all the ways she had not felt before— sure she had been infatuated with the opposite sexe, but never to the point of this visceral attraction. Whether it was from the suffocating feeling that she experiences from his bending, or from the sheer power of his life force dominating its surroundings, she feels her own blood pump in excitement, like she wanted to be another pawn to his command.
And where did he come from? Despite the relative pallor of his complexion, he must be from the Water Tribe if he could bend like this. If only his eyes were open, she might get a better indication of his nationality, but they instead remain shut, seemingly relaxed—was that a contented smirk gracing his strong features? In any case, she doubts that he could have earned this technique from the city, since traditional masters usually lived with their natural element, deep with nature, and he must have had to learn from the best. Maybe he could teach her some moves...
She doesn't want to break his concentration, but she grows tired of standing by the sidelines and she wants to be part of the fun. Her legs finally wake up, but she was never one to be known for her grace, so her presence becomes obvious with rather loud footsteps that approach the dock.
Immediately, his eyes snap open— the palest tint of blue, wide and alarmed like he had just been caught committing a crime. The water that he was manipulating plummets unceremoniously, drenching his entire body and splashing to the ground with a heavy blow that shatters the silence, breaking the illusion of his divinity.
Realising what she had just done, Korra rushes to apologize. "Oh no, I'm so sor-
He spins vigorously to unbend the water soaking his skin, letting it deliberately fly into her direction to obstruct her vision. He then dashes into the sea without a second glance, and she equally reacts on impulse by diving in after him.
"Slow down! I just want to talk!"
He ignores her calls, or maybe he can't hear her through the loud torrent of bended water. Their race is well matched and Korra loves the challenge. Despite his advantage, she manages to keep up with his pace, tailing behind him at a manageable distance. Useless thoughts no longer plague her mind as she deeply concentrates on the task at hand; she refuses to lose, he is determined to shake her off, and they reach a certain stalemate since neither could go faster than the other.
He doesn't understand this girl— why was she so bent on catching him? He had barely registered her appearance in the split second encounter, but he assumed that she wasn't a person of importance, so she didn't present any danger to his identity. He had fled for the sole reason of avoiding confrontation, mostly on instinct from being caught in the action of bending, since he hated being associated with this shameful act. He simply couldn't stand the thought of someone witnessing his moment of weakness, how he had let the element consume him and vice versa.
But alas, he was exhausted from the overexertion, while she still thrived on her determination to succeed. His energy dissipates, and she slowly closes the distance with every push of her life force until finally, he appears attainable. Her confidence soars. A few more strokes and she will make it, so she pushes beyond the limits of her capacity and propels herself forward with all her might.
With one last stretch, she finally reaches it: her grip firmly latches onto his ankle. He attempts to shake her off with an unfriendly kick and a blast of water, but she clamps on like an anchor and forces him to admit defeat.
Noatak may be proud but he wasn't a sore loser. She had clearly won the race, so he drops to a halt and floats to the surface, catching his breath in silence.
"Whew, what a workout!" she exhales, chest heaving with satisfaction. She averts her gaze towards him, searching for eye contact but only meeting his shifty guilty look. "Ya know, I'm not the police force or some sorta authority that's gonna fine you for trespassing Aang Memorial after visiting hours. I just wanted to talk to you cuz your bending was awesome!"
Her voice was as brash as her actions, sparking a fleeting recognition that he can't quite pinpoint. But it also inspires the sadistic urge to destroy that confidence, to put her in her place, to subdue that infuriating air of friendliness because he wanted nothing to do with this stranger, despite the pretty look she shoots at him or the hint of her lithe body under those wet clothes, the way the fabric clings onto her sturdy collarbone and down to the swell of her chest...
Anyways. Making acquaintances was not part of his plan for the night, but he realises that there wasn't much that could be done to remedy the situation. With his energies needing to recuperate, he was stuck in the middle of the sea— or ocean since they strayed very far— with the company of this cocky girl who followed him for reasons unknown. The receding light at least reassured him that the crescent moon was on its way, and the journey back should be easier once the night fully hits. But for the moment, he couldn't escape.
She wonders whether he's mute or just extremely shy, staring into his pale eyes that still refuses to meet her gaze. "So… how did you get practically the whole sea to respond to your movements? It was crazy, like all the water was just drawn to you. I practically felt it in my blood."
He winces at the statement and finally makes eye contact, with brows furrowed in irritation. "Nonsense," he snarls, deep voice full of command and inexplicably hostile.
"Whoa there, no need to bite like a tigershark. It was a compliment!"
She is disappointed with this man's attitude, and definitely shocked by the unfriendly treatment. While he was bending, he seemed so open and nearly vulnerable, as he welcomed every droplet of water as part of his being. He had given her such a good feeling, but right now, he was being a grouchy sourpuss and she couldn't even appreciate his handsome face whatwith the frown marring his attractive features. She didn't know what to say… Not that it really mattered; Korra was never good with words anyways. Instead, she expresses her annoyance through her actions.
Bending the water discretely, she hurls a ball to his face. That ought to loosen him up, as the attack comes as a surprise. He chokes on the liquid that went down his throat from the sheer force, looking like the epitome of fury.
"Y-y-you insolent little piece of—
Splash. Another ball to his face. He sputters again and she laughs at his reaction, thoroughly enjoying the composure slipping away from his control. With a glare full of revenge, he retaliates by bending a full-out jet that aims to wipe away that childish smug grin. Her reflexes are fast and she manages to dodge it just in time, but he throws another blast that she parries with a shield of water erupting from the once-still surface. The ocean shakes with waves as the two waterbenders brawl playfully. Well, she treats it as amusing, while he finds it irritating.
The game picks up when Noatak decides to implement some ice attacks, throwing shards that she blocks with more walls of water. She accepts the challenge by sending equally solid projectiles his way, and the fight escalates to a fiery duel under the last rays of the sun, the ocean coloured in orange and their attacks crackling like flames. But he eventually gains the upperhand with his efficient tactics, bending a sneaky spiral below the surface. It latches onto her ankles, and before she can unbend its bindings, he freezes her surroundings, enclosing her body in a casing of ice that forces her limbs into defeat.
"Do not underestimate me, miss."
"The name's Korra, sir."
Wait, that name… It's indeed a common Water Tribe name, but mixed with that familiar voice…
And in that same instant, before he can finish making the connection, he receives the answer: real fire erupts from her palms, melting his work as the ice cascades back into the ocean with a deafening crash, freeing her limbs and casting him aside.
He doesn't want to believe it. "You're the—
"Yeah. Avatar." She smiles at him smugly and he simply stares back in disbelief.
Spirits, what had he gotten himself into.