Rating: T+ (to be M)
Description: The return of Tahno’s building could deal a lethal blow to the Equalist revolution. But will his last chance at recovery come through?
Tahno/Korra interaction — multichaptered
— — —
Tenzin and Lin exchanged troubled glances. The young man sitting across the table had brought along with him a gloomy, almost stifling atmosphere that neither wished to address. While Mr. Sato’s remarks had been firm and determined and his statements voluntary, the ex-pro bender could barely lift his eyes from the floor, let alone recount the fateful night for his questioners.
Lin’s lips pursed, revealing a hint of her discomfort. Both she and the elder airbender knew her methods had the potential to do more harm than help, especially considering the boy’s recent fragility.
Their eyes finally parted, and Tenzin spoke for both of them. “Tahno, we realize this is difficult for you.” His hands folded in his lap, assuming as humble a posture as possible. “But if there is anything more you’d like to tell us, or think we should know, please. We’re here to listen.”
Tahno lifted his eyes, gazing sullenly across the table at the senior benders. Tenzin nodded back at him, his brows arcing into a compassionate, fatherly arrangement. The ex-waterbender’s focus tinkered back to the ground as he filled his lungs with air, then released a heavy sigh. “I didn’t realize who they were when they showed up.” His shoulders tensed, lifting briefly. A defensive shrug. His downcast eyes had already trained to something new on the floor. “He took us down before anyone got answers. Dodged everything.”
“What happened when Amon…” began Lin, knitting her brow, racking her brain for a less abrasive phrasing. “How did you feel, facing the Equalists?”
“How do you think?” A strand of limp, dark hair swung down and across Tahno’s forehead. “They shoved us to our knees, twisted our arms. It felt like an execution. I don’t remember much after that.”
Tenzin grimaced at the young non-bender’s choice of words and leaned forward in his seat.
“I was there one second, and then I was in the water. And that’s it.”
“I see. That is all, then?” asked Tenzin after several moments of uncertain silence, sensing Tahno’s eagerness to end the interrogation.
Tahno nodded and quietly, thanklessly excused himself from the room.
“I’m convinced, Lin.” Tenzin stroked his beard pensively and flicked her a sideways glimpse, his thick brows furrowed. “The Equalists paid those refs to provide justified grounds to persecute the Wolfbats.”
“Yes,” she agreed, “They’re playing dirty. I’m hardly surprised.”
“But going after children?”
“The Wolfbats weren’t kids.”
“I’m not sure I agree with that.”
“No one is sacred in war, Tenzin.” The head chief of police pushed back in her chair, cutting the airbender with steely eyes. “It doesn’t matter.”
Tahno stepped down from the trolleybus and adjusted the stiffness of his collar, flicking it forward to better obscure his face. The trolley hissed and eased its wheels forward, plucking off towards the end of the road.
The lavish uppercrust district of Republic City boasted fine architecture and exorbitant venues, wickedly popular amongst the city’s highest rollers. Even at this hour of night, straggling parties still lingered beneath the dull, yellow buzz of sidewalk gas lamps, clutching onto one another, laughing over the cinders of recent parties and indulgent bouts of intoxication.
He quickly crossed the street and popped up the short, gold-encrusted staircase to the district library, ducking inside to avoid identification. The ex-bender shouldered a glimpse at the doors while folding his collar back down, pale knuckles briefly lifting his hair from his face as he turned to scan the sumptuous lobby of the Republic Aethenaeum.
Authentic rosewood ladders slid along bookshelves fifteen meters tall, providing access to virtually billions of pages. The bridge of Tahno’s nose crinkled as he thought about scaling one, and the inevitable, intrusive idea of diving off it.
But no he told himself, even when ensnared by devastating throes of self-pity. There was no reason for that.
Amon took a piece of his soul that night. Not all of it.
He sat down at the end of a long and empty study table, dropping his forehead to his folded arms to rest his eyes. Mentally and physically exhausted, he couldn’t fathom making another disappointing healer visit. Each one had regarded him with useless, buttery condolences and grim prognoses.
He would never waterbend again.
His lip curled and he resisted the urge to roll his eyes when the bench creaked beside him. Someone else had just sat down. “Look,” he began before lifting his head. “I’m not up for another interview, so…” He blinked and squinted when he finally came face-to-face the vaguely familiar waterbender, his original words dying on his tongue. “This library doesn’t close.”
“I’m not here to kick you out. Relax,” smiled Tarrlok, folding his fingers on top of a book. “I heard your story.”
Unfortunately for the councilman, the ex-bender possessed precious little interest in having said story repeated. He scowled at Tarrlok’s blatant friendly pretenses and quickly stood up from the bench, throwing his unkempt hair behind his ear. “You know what? I was just leaving anyway.”
“Are you sure you’d like to speed out so soon?” inquired Tarrlok, sweeping a pleasant look down at the book he’d chosen, flipping it open, still smiling.
Tahno’s neck bobbed as he swallowed. Something kept him chained to the table, his hand frozen on the edge.
“I was hoping that we could talk.”
“Your condition,” said Tarrlok, finally assuming an appropriate cheerlessness. “You may think you possess the wherewithal to repair your bending, but you lack the necessary connections.”
“Are you kidding? I’ve been to every healer in the city,” said Tahno. “I had the connections.” Though, as reluctant as he was to admit it, the visits’ expenses were beginning to drain him.
“Yes,” agreed Tarrlok, paging through his book. “That may be true.”
“You’re suggesting I missed someone?” Tahno was hesitant to believe the waterbender, despite the confidence oozing from him.
“Precisely.” Tarrlok flipped his book shut and stood, half-lidded eyes holding his own. “I believe there’s an untapped resource right under our noses. A trump card, if you will—and I’d like to see you make use of it. Your recovery would be an enormous blow to the Equalist movement. Imagine—bending is safe.”
Tahno’s eyes had hardened, and his heart gave a sore throb. It had become physically painful for him entertain the very notion of hope.
“A trump card,” he repeated, the phrase leaving a suspicious aftertaste. “What is it?”
Tarrlok’s eyes glittered.
“May I arrange for you a visit to Air Temple Island?”
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