Who Are You?
Without warning, Takashi airbends the wall apart, allowing for an escape as he pulls Azula away with her guards following suit. Azula shoots a jet of blue fire at the ceiling as they exit, setting the house ablaze. Layla bends water to try and douse the flames but they travel through the structure faster than she can keep up with. As she battles the fire, Toph and Sokka follow Takashi and Azula out of the hole in the wall in fast pursuit.
Layla orders for the house to be evacuated, as well as the entire area of the city that Azula was currently turning into her own personal war zone. She then proceeds to bend an inordinate amount of water out of the nearest well and runs to help Toph and Sokka who were in in the midst of a heated battle with Azula, Takashi, and her guards on their own. As she makes her way over to the scene, Layla notices another woman airbending herself into the middle of the fight to join forces with the warrior and earthbender. Apparently Kaori was going to help more than she had previously thought. Layla smirks as she bends a portion of the water around her like armor and begins to lash out at their enemies. She uses another portion of the water to hail a storm of ice bolts down on Azula's guards, but unfortunately they are able to melt most of them before they can even do any damage.
"Damn," Layla mutters in frustration before getting struck by a sudden idea.
"Toph! Give me rock spikes above your head!" Layla yells out amid the commotion.
Toph stomps the ground, and a dozen forearm-sized spikes shoot up into the air from the ground around Toph. Layla utilizes her remaining water to envelop the spikes above Toph's head and begins to bend the water in a circling arc around her frame in a wild cyclone, going faster and faster until it is simply a blur of earth within the water. Layla then bends the water immediately surrounding the spikes to bond to them within the stream of fast flowing water, forming a smooth ice covering to make them look like spear heads.
Kaori looks up, perceiving what it is Layla is planning to do and shouts at her, "Layla! Let it fly!"
Layla releases the cyclone into a ribbon of rapidly moving water containing ice covered spears within directly at Takashi, Azula, and her guards. Kaori airbends the ice covered spikes out of the flow, twisting them to fly like bullets through the air, guiding them to their targets.
In unison, all of Azula's guards drop dead at once, spikes of rock and ice half hanging out of their skulls. Takashi, however, had miraculously been able to push the spikes away from Azula and himself at the last moment via airbending, leaving only the two of them against Toph, Sokka, Layla and Kaori.
148 Years Ago
Hana stands at the bottom of the stairwell, watching warily as Kaori attempts to descend the steps with an overloaded laundry basket.
"You know, if you took two trips you wouldn't have to risk your life trying to navigate the stairs while being unable to see where you're going over your own laundry pile, or better yet, you could just do your laundry more often," Hana chastises.
"So scolds the perfect housewife," Kaori quips, trying to keep her a tight grip on the basket.
"Ha!" Hana barks back with a laugh as she eyes her friend's unsteady footing before asking, "When will we have the results of the pregnancy test again?"
"Tomorr-AAAH!" Kaori screams as she slips and tumbles with a crashing fall into her friend at the bottom of the stairs, the heavy basket coming down right on Hana's belly.
"Oh shit!" Kaori screeches as she pulls back the basket and starts to apologize repeatedly as Hana curls into herself and cries out in pain. Kaori silently prays she didn't just hurt the baby by being careless and stupid.
Almost immediately, Hana begins violently throwing up, instigating Kaori to get her to the bathroom. As Hana continues to retch painfully, Kaori holds her hair and is startled to see a line of blood trailing from the bottom of the stairs to the bathroom. She looks down and stops breathing at the sight of even more blood pooling beneath her friend. Kaori suddenly realizes what just happened. She has just caused Hana to miscarry. Shit, fuck, shit, fuck, fuck, shit, shit,fuck SHIT! FUCK! It was the one thing Hana had wanted and waited for her whole life, and with one stupid, stubborn mistake Kaori had taken it away. It's all your fault.
Shaking uncontrollably, Hana looks down and sees the blood, causing her to throw up again, only this time with heartbroken sobs. She doesn't stop sobbing until the early hours of the morning. Kaori holds her all night long, never moving from her bathroom floor and never leaving her side. They weep together until they both eventually collapse from exhaustion.
At sunrise, Kaori wakes to finds herself alone on her bathroom floor. She panics and gets up, calling for Hana only to be greeted by silence. Kaori's eyes sweep over to her mantel and she spots the pregnancy test with the concluding result: positive. She feels the tears welling in her eyes as her panic deepens and she steps outside into the pounding rain. 'Maybe she went to Takashi,' she hopes, soon discovering how wrong she was. It's just light enough that she can see Hana in her still bloodstained dress at the edge of the cliff, a half mile from her house.
Kaori's heart drops. Hana wouldn't, she couldn't, can't...what about Takashi? Would Hana really leave him all alone in this world?
'It's all your fault,' runs through Kaori's head again as she runs as fast as her legs can carry her, screaming and yelling, "No!" She even airbends her way to her friend as fast as she can, but just as she gets within an arm's reach... Hana jumps.
It's all your fault.
Toph earthbends a wall of rock up from the ground, shielding Sokka just moments before Azula's flames eat him alive but the flames bounce off and hit her square in the chest, melting not only her added rock armor but the metal armor underneath, she screams as she bends it off of herself before it burns her flesh but it also leaves her wide open for another assault, Kaori steps in and airbends a shield in front of both of them, sheilding them from oncoming wave of fire before Kaori steps forward and encases both Azula and her flames within a large sphere.
"Without air there is no fire." Kaori grunts out as she tries to suffocate Azula, but Takashi airbends Kaori away into one of the rock walls, the impact crushing the air out of Kaori's lungs.
Sokka pitches his boomerang around the edge of the barrier, hoping it will strike Azula. Upon hearing a pained grunt, he peers out from behind the rock to see that he had actually managed to hit Takashi, leaving a deep gash on his shoulder which was now seeping a dark stain onto his shirt. Sokka jumps out and takes a swing at Takashi with his katana, but Takashi ducks and sends a searing hand into his back, pounding into his kidney and causing Sokka to stumble onto a knee as he tries to remember how to breathe.
Kaori recovers and sends a blast of air at Takashi's head before he could do anything else to Sokka, while Azula does exceptionally well at fighting off both Toph and Layla with her crazed firebending. However, she is unaware of Layla discreetly herding the two fighters away from the city and toward the cliffs. She does this with the intention of lessening the damage already done to Hotaru as well as to hopefully give Toph the chance to earthbend Azula off the side of the cliff.
"We could stop this you know," Kaori says breathlessly as Takashi pins her to one of the rock walls.
"You can't stop what's already started," Takashi bites out as Kaori struggles against him.
"Even for Hana?" Kaori queries in a deadly whisper, leaning her face closer to his as she stares at him intently.
He falters just long enough for her to succeed in pushing him away from her. He stares at her in shock for a moment before airbending Sokka away in a sudden, powerful blast of wind.
"What do you mean for Hana?" Takashi demands.
"You asked me at the ball what I did. What I was guilty of..." Kaori begins.
148 Years Ago.
"Remember our agreement," Kudokuten repeats as she sees Takashi running toward them. The spirit disappears, leaving Kaori sitting alone on the edge of the cliff.
"Kaori? Have you seen Hana?" Takashi asks; panic lacing the edges of his voice.
Kaori stands and faces him with her pale, trembling form and tear swollen eyes and throws herself into Takashi's arms. "I'm so so so sorry, Takashi. She miscarried and..."
Kaori begins breaking into sobs again as Takashi firmly grabs hold of her shoulders and stares her in the eye. "What do you mean miscarried?" he demands.
"Hana was pregnant, but last night she miscarried the baby and... and..." Kaori utters around choking sobs as she gestures to the cliff.
As if in a trance, Takashi lets go of her and takes the few steps to the cliff face. He stands frozen at the edge of the sheer drop as he looks down at all that is left of his wife. The red of the blood perceptibly contrasts against the black of the rocks and the dark blues and green of the ocean. What little self-control he previously had keeping his emotions in check was obliterated.
"Why didn't she tell me?!" he roars, sounding more like a wounded beast than a man.
"She wanted to be sure. She had me run a test and we only got the result this morning... but I… she lost the baby before we could even see it. I stayed with her all night, but when I woke this morning she was gone. I hoped she had gone to you but..." Kaori struggles as she tries to explain, knowing she can't tell him more than that. She watches him carefully, hoping beyond hope that he won't decide to join Hana on the jagged rocks below.
"I'm so sorry," she whispers as she slowly edges up next to him, placing a tentative hand on his tense back.
"Just...leave me alone," he mutters back in a strained whisper, not taking his eyes away from the horrific sight.
"But I don't want-"
"I won't jump," Takashi cuts her off. "Just leave," he repeats harshly.
Kaori nods, turning away slowly and trudging back to her house. She cleans up the blood and laundry but is unable to do little more than that. She collapses on her couch and is in the middle of a fitful doze when a knock at the door disturbs her.
"Takashi," Kaori greets, opening the door to him and ushering him inside. Her heart goes out to him as she takes in his appearance. He looks like hell.
"Do you still have the test?" he asks, his voice resembling gravel.
Kaori nods and leads him over to her mantel.
"Blue means pregnant," Kaori says softly, keeping her gaze on the ground as her shame stops her from looking at him in the eye.
Takashi picks up the small jar and gazes at its contents with deadened eyes as the blue liquid sloshes within. Without a word, he sets it back down and leaves.
She doesn't see him again until three days later, starved, beaten to a bloody pulp, and nearly dead.
"What if I told you that you could have Hana back? What would you give to get Hana back, just the way she was?" Kaori says as she prevents him from throwing another blast at Sokka.
"It's not possible," Takashi fires back. "I would know. I've tried."
"Not everything," Kaori counters as she propels herself toward him and knocks him to the ground.
"Why are you even bringing her up?! Don't you think I've suffered enough?!" he thunders, making the others pause to look at the two of them.
"And you don't think I've suffered?!" She screams back.
"How could your pain ever possibly compare to mine?" he sneers.
"Because I killed Hana!" she admits, the weight of her confession causing her to fall to her hands and knees.
"She killed herself," he argues back in confusion.
Kaori shakes her head, tears streaming down her face. "For the last century and a half I have been working tirelessly to fix what my actions have cost you. What they cost her. In all this time you have never asked HOW she lost the baby..." Kaori sobs, pushing herself up to sit on her knees.
"Who the hell cares?!" Azula interrupts as she lights her fists again.
Takashi snaps his attention to her and clenches his hand into a vein-popping fist in her direction as his eyes go from violet to blazing red. Azula suddenly drops to her knees as she finds herself unable to breathe. Takashi is bending the air around her throat like a vice, and she can feel her trachea start to crack as she tries to wriggle out of the invisible hold.
"You will remain silent, Princess," Takashi orders in a dark, cold voice before releasing her, causing her to spill onto the ground and gasp for air like a fish out of water.
"How?" Takashi asks as he turns his attention back to Kaori.
"She was at the bottom of the stairs and I was coming down, carrying a load of laundry that was far too big, and she told me so but I didn't listen. I was stubborn and I fell on her. I made her miscarry." Kaori recalls solemnly as she tries to stand. "Since it was so hard for her to conceive that one, she must have figured it would be impossible to conceive again. I don't think she could find the strength to face you and tell you what had happened, even though it was my fault. I'm so sorry. So very, very sorry.
"But the spirit, Kudokuten made a covenant with me that very day. If I entered into her service and helped her bring people together to find happiness, she would bring Hana back to you. But then you got lost. You went down the darkest path possible. Hana can't come back until you come back and return to being the man she fell in love with. So I ask you again, what will you give up to have Hana back? Would you give up Azula for her?"
"Yes," Takashi replies in an instant.
"No!" Azula screeches. "You could rule the world with me! You can be the richest and most powerful man that has ever walked the earth and need for nothing!"
"All of that, including you, is nothing but chaff in the wind compared to my Hana," Takashi responds, his voice deceptively steady and calm.
Takashi turns back to Kaori. "What do I have to do?" he asks.
"Give up your end of the cardinal protection of Azula and allow me to have her body for my possession. Kudokuten will bring Hana back the way she was, but with her body blessed this time. You have been in that body too long already, your tattoos are nearly permanent on your host's skin, so you might as well keep it. Please Takashi, end this," Kaori pleads.
"You can't do this to me!" Azula screams, lightening dancing around her body as her face contorts with rage.
"You've done it to yourself," Takashi states without sympathy. "She's all yours," he says to Kaori, gesturing to the rampant princess.
"Thank you," Kaori says before her host's eyes fade back to normal.
They all watch as Azula begins to struggle as she fights the oncoming possession. Only one of Azula's eyes turn blue, the other retaining its golden color as Azula convulses, striking herself and lighting her own clothes and hair on fire. She begins to cry out in anguish and frustration as she feels the control of her own body slipping away from her. In her frenzied mania, she starts shooting off lightning in random directions, filling the air with zapping flashes of deadly electricity.
Takashi, Layla, and Sokka drop to the ground to avoid the wild bolts, but Toph remains standing, unknowingly leaving herself in the line of fire. Sokka looks up just as one lightning bolt comes perilously close to striking her.
"No!" he shouts in terror, jumping up from the safety of the ground to hurl himself at her. He grabs her with both arms and drags her down, completely shielding her slight form with his muscular one.
"What's happening?!" Toph demands in alarm.
Sokka answers the best he can amid the chaos, "I'm not sure. Azula's fighting being possessed or something, and she's going crazy with her lightning. I won't let her hurt you."
"Don't jeopardize yourself for me! Let me go!"
"Never," he responds resolutely.
"Get out!" Azula screeches into the air as she begins to move toward the edge of the cliff, still fighting for control of her body and still bending fire and lightning haphazardly. It seems to the people around her that there is no end to the destruction she will create to have everything in accordance with her scheming desires.
Kaori continues with single-minded determination in her battle with Azula, attempting to subdue the fire and lightning that is still storming from her hands. In one instant, she finally gains control of Azula's voice. "Toph! Make me fall!" she manages to cry out from Azula's body.
"My pleasure," Toph says as she and Sokka rise from their position on the ground.
She lands a precise stomp to the rocky terrain, which is followed by a resounding rumble in the earth around the precipice. A giant chunk of the cliff crumbles and falls, taking Azula with it. Half way down, Kaori succeeds in taking over Azula completely. She smiles right before impact with a single thought whispering in her mind, "Finally, I have peace."
Biggest thanks to Alaburn for being the best beta ever.
Thank you to everyone who reads, faves, follows and especially reviews.
So I would like to apologize, this fight scene looked amazing and epic in my head and I've tried to convey it but, I'm still not completely happy with it, I feel like it's a shade of what I imagined but I've tried. Also I would also like to point out that the inspiration for the whole ice rock dagger thing was LoK when Tahno swept up the broken disc in his water and blasted it at his opponent. But as you can see, I punched it up a notch, tad, whatever.
But now we see why Takashi lost his shit, I mean, that kind of thing really breaks people you know? And just so you know, he ain't getting off the hook that easy. Kudokuten has another thing waiting for him.
Sorry this took FOREVER to get to you but life threw me a curve ball. Life does that from time to time, it sucks.
So yeah...I look forward to hearing from you all, the death threats are still welcome, actually I kind of expect them at this point lol.