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Deep Roots Untouched By Frost

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Every year, Korra joins the airbenders for a celebration of the Harmonic Convergence. They celebrate the revival of their people and the joy is a welcome distraction from the darker memories with the day.

It’s been ten years this autumn- the newly restored Northern temple is full of airbenders and acolytes alike. There are even a few babies now, the oldest of which delight in toddling up to Korra and Naga to play. This is one of her legacies as Avatar that she will never regret.

 

Asami parks at the base of the mountain and they clamber out. It had seemed a bit much to take one of the airships for just the two of them and the journey up had been nice despite getting waylaid in a few town on the way. They hike up the mountainside until the paths fall away. After some bag shuffling, Korra snaps open her glider and flies them up the final stretch. A few of the younger airbenders, also out on their gliders, wave and call out greetings.

As they pass one of the turrets, Korra has the strangest sense of déjà vu. A sensation of leaping from her glider and running along the wall and…. It’s gone and she lands feeling slightly unsettled.

Ikki is the first to find them, tackling them both in tight hugs before starting to chatter about the preparations for the festivities. Korra absently notes that she’s nearly as tall as her now. (This is not as shocking as a couple years prior when Meelo had earned his arrows and begun shaving his head, nearly given her heart palpations when she thought she was seeing the spirit of his grandfather. Meelo had thought it hilarious and gone out of his way to prank-haunt her for several months afterwards. This had resulted in a prank war that nearly got both of them banned from the island for several months.)

They greet Pema and Tenzin who gladly assign them jobs to do after they get settled into their room.

The walk down to the living quarters is surprisingly peaceful. They pass through the courtyard and Asami slows down to look at the restored murals along the walls.

“It’s the history of the Air Nomads.” Korra says, strolling next to her. “They were restored after the Mechanist and Avatar Aang worked together to fix it all up. There used to be pipes and all kinds of machinery sticking out of the walls, but they’ve been moved so that the building looks more like what it used to.” She touches a section of the wall, fingers resting on a small depiction of an ancient Airbender. “There used to be one right here, through this monk. You can hardly tell now.”

Asami gives her a funny look.

“That’s cool, but how do you know that?”

Korra blinks and the strange double vision fades.

“I… don’t know. But it’s true. There must’ve been some pictures of the restoration in my studies with Tenzin.”

Asami nods and they continue on with their day.

 

/

 

That night she dreams of flying.

It’s not her usual method of gliding or slicing through the air ice surfing. Instead she’s tucked behind the horns of a dragon, calmly flying through the clouds. Below, she can vaguely make out a small, crescent shaped island. There’s a woman on the beach and at the distant call of her voice, the dragon dives down out of the sky. It’s exhilarating. The dragon touches down on the sand with a thump and-

-she wakes up.

Asami is sleeping peacefully next to her. The open windows of the temple let the perpetual breezes in to cool the room. Korra rolls over and falls back asleep.

 

/

 

They take a boat back to Republic City from the Northern Air Temple, opting for the slower travel option to be able to take their time on the journey. Asami would rather take an airship back, but Korra revels in being out on the open water. She smiles back from where she steers the ship, sea breeze whipping her hair back from her bright face, and Asami smiles back helplessly. Korra alternatively steers or waterbends them through the ice fields until they hit the warmer seas in Earth Nation waters.

Asami takes the wheel for a while and barely blinks when Korra abruptly launches herself off of the deck into the water. She whoops, creating an ice surfboard and bending a steady wave to keep pace with the boat as they both cut through the water. Korra waves up as her girlfriend and she can see Asami wave back with a smile. Korra crouches low on her board and lets herself revel in the feeling of being in her home element. The water rushes around her with ease and she is filled with-

-exhilaration, this race will be a piece of cake and Ummi will be impressed with his prowess. He glances to the shore where a beautiful Water Tribe woman stands, laughing and cheering. He grins and urges the wave higher and faster and-

-Korra blinks and suddenly loses her concentration on the wave, toppling over into the ocean with a yell. She bobs back up to the surface spitting out seawater and shoving her bangs out of her face grumpily. Asami is looking over the rail with worry, so she waves to indicate that she’s fine, quickly gathering up a waterspout to get back on deck. Korra quickly bends herself dry and leans over the steering wheel to give her concerned girlfriend a kiss.

“What happened? I haven’t seen you crash like that… ever, I don’t think.”

Korra shrugs. The faint memory is already fading, like a strange dream.

“It happens to the best of us, some light glaring off the water caught me.”

The rest of their travels back to the city are without any incident. Korra doesn’t go ice surfing again on the trip, just occasionally stops and frowns at the water as if it holds memories for her.

 

/

 

Weeks later, she’s preparing dinner, chopping vegetables. Asami asks something and she turns to respond, knife still in hand and-

-she is holding a heavy metal fan, facing a beautiful woman in antique Fire Nation regalia. She is laughing at something, opening her mouth to speak and-

-she is facing Asami, who is looking at her over her newspaper with concern.

“Sorry, what did you say?” Korra asks, shaking herself.

Asami repeats herself and Korra answers while her mind is racing.

 

/

 

While they’re back in Republic City, Asami leaves for the day to check on the company and Korra heads to Air Temple island for some airbending practice.

She lands and heads for the training area, waving at a few people she passes. Jinora is already there when she arrives, balanced on top of one of the tall poles. It looks like she’s meditating. Normally, Korra would respect her friend and leave her be, but it’s been several months since they’ve seen each other.

She carefully earthbends the base of the pole, shaking it just enough. Jinora topples out of her pose with a squawk, catching herself and tumbling gracefully to the ground. She whips around immediately with a scowl, clearly expecting one of her younger siblings. Korra grins and Jinora immediately breaks into a smile.

“Korra!” They hug and Jinora steps back with a slightly pained expression. “Have you been spending a lot of time in the spirit world?”

“Not any more than usual, haven’t visited for a few weeks actually.” Korra shrugs. “Why?”

Jinora gives her an odd look and Korra points a finger at her.

“There! That look! Asami has been giving me that same look for months.”

“You’re giving off a really strong spiritual energy right now, has anything weird been happening?”

“Assuming that you mean weirder than usual?”

Jinora laughs.

“Uhh, I’ve been having a lot of strange dreams and moments of déjà vu for the last six months or so.”

“Like what?”

Korra thinks for a moment.

“Like the other day I was chopping up some stuff for dinner and when I turned around I had this…. moment where I was holding a metal fan and saw this random Fire Nation woman. Just for a few seconds. And when we were visiting the Northern Air Temple for the festival I knew where all the pipes and stuff used to be in the walls. Nothing major.”

Jinora looks at her with wide eyes.

“Korra, do you think-“ She twists her hands. “Those sound… like memories from your past lives.”

Korra holds up a hand.

“No. I am not- I will not get my hopes up again about that.”

“But, Korra-“

“No, Jinora. I- I can’t.”

“….okay.”

They stand awkwardly for a moment. Korra finally musters a smile.

“Wanna see if you can beat me at airball yet?”

Jinora scoffs.

“Please, the last time we played you ended up with a negative score.”

“Race you to the court!” Korra leaps over her head and speeds off, Jinora on her heels.

 

/

 

Later that week Korra meets up with the second-grumpiest earthbender she knows.

She sits down next to Beifong on a bench near the dock, handing her one of the hot teas she carries. Beifong nods her acknowledgment, taking the lid off of the tea to let it cool as Korra stares out at the statue that looks over the city from the bay.

“Can you tell me about him?” She asks.

“What?” Lin looks confused.

“Avatar Aang. You knew him pretty well, right?” Korra asks, shifting to look at her.

“We were pretty close, yeah. I practically grew up on Air Temple Island as a kid. But why are you asking me?”

Korra shrugs.

“Seems a little awkward to ask one of his kids, since I’m him, kind of. You’re also pretty honest in your take on people. You wouldn’t try and sugarcoat anything for my sake. Like, I already know he was an awesome Avatar, but I don’t feel like I really know who he was as a person. Even Master Katara didn’t talk about him much outside of Avatar stuff, and she married the man.” Korra tries not to let her frustration spill over too much.

Lin seems to consider her words. Then she leans back against the bench, looking out at the bay.

“My uncle was the kindest person I’ve ever known.” She says softly, her eyes on the distant horizon. “He used to help me practice my earthbending after school.”

“Really?”

“Yeah.” Lin laughs a little. “My mother used to scold him about it. Said he would give me his bad habits.”

She leans forward on her knees, thinking.

“He taught me how to meditate. It’s not something a lot of earthbenders bother with, but I always liked it. Having that time to find peace of mind and center yourself. I used to join him, Tenzin, and the acolytes for evening meditation whenever I was there for dinner.”

Korra pulls a leg up to rest her chin on her knee.

“Everything I hear about him seems like he was an amazing person.”

“He was.” Lin laughs when Korra doesn’t quite manage to hide her frown. “But you have to remember that he had a head start in being raised by monks.” She sobers a little. “He went through things no person should have to go through ever, let alone as young as he was. There are still things my mother and aunt won’t talk about from the war.”

Korra does some quick mental math.

“Aang was around Meelo’s age now when Master Katara and Chief Sokka found him, right?”

Lin nods.

Korra thinks of Meelo, with his still soft face and cracking voice and stupid jokes going off to fight in a war. Having to lead an entire world to peace.

She shudders.

“He used to take us up on his glider when we were young. He’d do loops to make us scream.” Lin smiles at the memory. Korra smothers a grin trying to picture a tiny Lin hanging onto yellow and orange robes as they spun through the air.

“I had a big fight with my mother once when I was little. I wanted to join the Air Temple and my mother was aghast. Aunt Katara even kept a set of the children’s novice robes aside for me to wear when I was visiting. I loved it. But of course, then I spent time in my mother’s metalbending academy and found purpose there that I couldn’t ever fulfill as an acolyte.” Lin seems to shake herself. “Sorry, you asked about my uncle, not my life.”

“No, no, it’s fine.” Korra assures her. “Um, what was Katara like when he was around?”

Lin snorts.

“The same as she’s ever been I suppose. She and Aang balanced each other. She’s the only one of our family that has a temper to match my mother’s. They always bickered. When I was older I realized that it’s just how they showed affection to each other.”

Beifong stretches out her legs in front of them, taking a sip of her tea. Korra carefully warms her palms to reheat her tea where it’s gone lukewarm in her hands.

“Thank you.” She says. Lin nods.

They sit quietly together and watch the sun set over the bay.

 

/

 

After spending the next day training on the island, Korra says her farewells and promises to come over for dinner with Asami, Mako, and Bolin in a few days.

She waves at them from the dock and snaps open her glider to set off in the direction of the city. When she’s sure that none of them are watching her, she veers off and splashes down into the bay. Underwater, she swims awkwardly in her bubble until she reaches the base of the other island in the bay. She hauls herself up onto the shore away from the dock area. She bends the water out of her clothes and glider, glancing up at the larger-than-life statue above her.

“Hey, Aang. I’m assuming it’s fine if I just call you by your name, since we’re, y’know.”

The statue remains silent and still as usual. Korra sighs.

Dusk covers her entrance to the museum, the doors opening silently under her hand. The large, octagonal building has a set of windows around the outside with a peaceful walk to see the whole view of the bay and the city. The inner building houses the collection of relics from past Avatars, information about their lives, and the purpose of the Avatar in the world.

Korra stands outside the doors to the inner museum and takes a deep breath. Then she picks the lock and walks in. She’s pretty sure being the actual Avatar gives her the right to come here whenever she pleases.

Even if this is the first time she’s been.

She knows there’s a section for her in there- she’d posed for a few pictures and donated a couple of items for display when they’d updated a few years ago. She isn’t sure she wants to know what it says just yet.

 

Korra walks into the main room and finds it dark, the dim lights from the outside lighting filtering in only a little. She summons up a palmful of flame and holds it out as a lamp.

She cuts through the sections in the front that explain the role of the Avatar and other sorts of things that she’s fairly sure she knows by now.

Towards the back she starts passing the more recent Avatars until she reaches a case that comes up to about chest height with a mannequin dressed in tiny yellow robes. The small sign on the box informs her that these are the set of robes worn by Avatar Aang to the coronation of Fire Lord Zuko following the end of the war.

It takes her aback at how small the outfit is- he wouldn’t have even come up to her shoulder. He wouldn’t have even been thirteen yet and he’d already been a fully realized Avatar who’d saved the world. He’d been a kid, she thinks abruptly. Logically, she’s always known that, but seeing the small robes suddenly makes it real.

Carefully, she metalbends the corners of the case and sets the panel of glass down on the floor. Korra gently lifts the small set of mala off of the mannequin and sits down in a meditation pose before settling the string around her own neck, the smooth beads clicking gently against each other. She breathes deeply and tries to empty her mind of everything except her goal.

She sits, drifting slightly for a long time. Her eyes slide shut.

 

When she opens them abruptly, she’s on Air Temple island. Korra winces as she spots the back of Tenzin’s head where he’s sitting in front of her- she must’ve drifted off during meditation again. Before she can open her mouth to apologize, a voice interrupts.

“Aang!”

The airbender in front of her, who is not Tenzin, turns around at the call of his name. Korra looks to where he does and stifles a gasp as she sees a much younger Master Katara coming up the hill towards them. Aang stands to greet her with a short kiss and she hands him a letter.

“I finally heard back from Zuko, we’re all set for our visit next month.”

“Oh good, the kids will be so excited to see all their cousins again.”

“Who were you talking to today?” The couple slips their arms around each other in a familiar ease as they walk back down towards the temple. Korra trails behind them. Their voices stay clear as if she’s standing next to them. This is one of Aang’s memories, she realizes. They look even younger than during the bloodbending trials and when she looks out at the city the skyline is much smaller than the one she knows.

“Avatar Jinwei, another Air Nomad. I think she was from several cycles before Yangchen based on what she told me.” He absently rubs at a point on his back and Katara gives him a concerned look.

“Does it hurt?”

“A little, there must be a strong storm on the way.”

“Then let’s do a quick healing session before lunch.”

“I’m not going to turn down having your magical hands on me.”

Katara roll her eyes at her husband and Korra pulls a face. She follows them down to the temple grounds and to a side room she wasn’t familiar with. Looking around, she guesses that this must have served as Master Katara’s workroom when she’d lived on the island.

Aang loosens the top half of his robes to tie them down around his waist before lying face down on the low table off to the side of the room. Korra stares- there’s a massive scar in the middle of his back, interrupting the thick blue line of his tattoos. It looks old, stretched and twisted across the skin.

Master Katara bends some water out of a small pot and moves towards her husband, but is interrupted by a small figure in familiar novice robes. Korra claps a hand over her mouth to stifle a squeak as the child version of Tenzin peers concernedly at his father.

“Did you get hurt, dad?”

Aang chuckles briefly, reaching out a hand to tug Tenzin out of the way. Katara rests her hands over the scar on his back and sets to work.

“No, I’m okay, Tenzin. I got hurt a long time ago and sometimes it just needs some extra love from your mom.”

“What happened?”

“I got hit with lightning- ouch- but I was fine because your mom was there.” Aang shoots a look over his shoulder, rubbing the spot on his head where his wife had flicked him.

Lightning?” Tenzin sounds slightly horrified but intrigued.

 

The scene abruptly dissolves and Korra finds herself standing in an unfamiliar cave lit with a familiarly unsettling green glow. A rock goes flying through her shoulder and she turns to see a small battle raging, flames and rock and water splattering everywhere. She spots a painfully young looking Katara in the middle of a whirl of water. A sudden blue glow interrupts the fight, everyone pausing to watch, but one of the figures moves and…. blinding pain shoots through her and she screams and feels like she’s falling and falling and falling and…..

 

She’s sitting back at the museum in a cold sweat. Korra breathes heavily, leaning on her knees. That wasn’t something that she’d learned in studying her history.

“What the fuck was that, Aang?” she hisses in frustration.

Memories was a big step, but not a new one. She sighs. Then she sets the display to rights, returning the mala and resealing the case.

On the way back to the city, Korra ponders what she’d seen. Why would those particular memories be what she’d seen? What had Aang done that she could do now?

Then she realizes that there’s an easy solution - one of the people in both of the memories is still alive to answer her questions.

 

/

 

She takes the short cut through the spirit portals to the South Pole (after a hasty explanation and a kiss goodbye to a bemused Asami the following morning).

Normally she’d stop in to see her parents, but this time she walks purposefully to the main healing huts. She pokes her head into a few rooms before she finds Katara, thankfully not in the middle of a session. Her waterbending master’s back is to her as she advises a younger healer on something. The novice healer notices her first and his eyes go wide. Katara turns around and breaks into a smile when she spots her.

“Korra, it’s good to see you.” She steps forward and they hug tightly in greeting.

The novice healer excuses himself and Katara waves him off. She walks with Korra back to her home, listening to Korra’s latest stories as they make their way through town. She sets a pot of tea of the table for them as they sit.

“As glad as I am that you’re doing well, Korra, I’m guessing for some reason that this isn’t purely a social call.” Korra sighs.

“It’s not, even though I wish it was.” She fidgets with her teacup for a moment. “I have a question about, uh, something that happened to Aang.”

Katara’s face is calm as she sips her tea and waits for Korra to continue.

“So, I kind of broke into the Avatar museum and borrowed an old set of Aang’s mala the other night-“ Katara merely raises her eyebrows at the mention of breaking and entering. “-because I’ve been trying to reconnect to my past lives. And I figured that artifacts would be the best kind of grounding thing for it.”

“Aang did something similar with some old belonging of Avatar Kyoshi once. And we broke into Avatar Roku’s temple to speak with him as well.” Katara says with a small smile. “Did you have any success?”

“Kind of. I think I saw some of Aang’s memories, but I’m not sure what they could mean. You were in both of them though, so I thought you could help me out.”

“What sort of memories?”

Korra blanches.

“Nothing weird or private!” Katara muffles a laugh and Korra stares determinedly down at her tea for a long moment before continuing. “The first one was on Air Temple island- his back hurt and you did some healing on a scar on his back. He told Tenzin that he got it from being hit by lightning.” She looks up at Katara abruptly. “Also, Tenzin as a little kid was very adorable and I am so going to embarrass him next time I see him.”

Then she shakes herself.

“Um. And the next memory was a little disjointed- I think it was during the war. You guys were in a cave somewhere, caught up in a fight. But it cut out after what felt like reliving through when he got struck with lightning.” She shudders at the echoed feeling. “Do you have any idea why I’d see those memories?”

Katara looks thoughtful.

“You said that you’re trying to reconnect with the past Avatars?” She sips her tea. “The older memory you mentioned, in the cave, that was a… particularly difficult moment. It was during our travels during the war, in Ba Sing Se. Aang was all but killed by Princess Azula in that fight. As a result, he was completely blocked from entering the Avatar state until he faced Fire Lord Ozai.”

“Wow, I didn’t know anything like that happened to him.” Korra says, looking down into her tea. Katara nods.

“It wasn’t something he liked to discuss or want to be common knowledge, for obvious reasons.”

“No kidding.” Korra contemplates this revelation for a moment. “Does that mean he lost connection to our past lives too?”

Katara shakes her head.

“Not that I know of, although it did seem more difficult for him for a while afterwards. Roku contacted him in a dream, and they took a spirit journey together, but we had to travel to Roku’s home on the summer solstice for them to be able to communicate properly.”

Korra frowns.

“Wait… he wasn’t able to access the Avatar state, but he could still speak with the others. So, that means…. They must still be here.” She breathes, resting a hand over her heart. “They’re still with me, just like Raava.”

Katara smiles. Korra beams back at her.

“That must be what Aang was trying to tell me! The connection is weak, but it’s still there!” Korra’s mind races. “Wait you said that Aang was able to talk to Roku by going to his home island, right? And Kyoshi by wearing her clothes?”

Katara nods. Korra ponders as she finishes her tea.

Clothing had given her a brief connection to memories, maybe a location would yield stronger results. Where would a location connected to Aang be? If it was in Republic City, she would have been able to reach him before. The only other time they’d made proper contact was when she’d been here at the South Pole all those years ago. Maybe she needed to go to the Southern Air Temple?

Korra thinks about the long string of associations listed after Aang’s name for more pompous occasions. Avatar Aang of the Southern Air Temple, the Last Airbender, End of the Hundred Years War, Peacebringer, Friend of the Nations, Master of All Four Elements, Uncle…..

An older name bubbles up in her memory and she sets down her teacup.

“I know where I need to go.” She says.

She tells Katara where she plans to go and Katara nods in a melancholy agreement.

“That would be a very good place to start.” She says.

 

/

 

Korra paddles slowly, trusting her instincts as she avoids the chunks of ice. Suddenly she drifts to a stop and knows. She carefully bends a long stretch of ice to lock her kayak in place and forms a dome to block the wind before settling down in the middle of it to meditate.

She lets the muffled sound of the wind and the waves slowly fade away as she lets her mind drift.

Getting in and out of the spirit world in much easier through the portals than through meditation, but eventually she manages. (Even though it would be a lot more convenient to just be able to walk to the section of the spirit world she’s trying to reach.)

 

When she opens her eyes, she instantly slams them shut again, overwhelmed with bright light. She cracks them open again, holding a hand in front of her face this time. An almost translucent hand, nearly matching the blue of the light. Korra grins in triumph.

She quickly drops the expression when a large shape suddenly starts hurtling through the air towards her. She forces herself not to flinch as the hulking form suddenly lands in front of her with a blast of air and a grumbling roar. It’s weirdly familiar. Then she’s abruptly licked by a large, spirity tongue.

“Ack, what-“ Korra finds that the large shape has resolved itself into the familiar one of a sky bison. It looks at her with soft, intelligent eyes.

“Oh.” She breathes softly. “You must be Appa, right?”

The skybison gives a happy roar of acknowledgement. Korra grins and notices the reins tied to his horns.

“Can you take me to Aang?” She asks hopefully.

Appa seems to brighten at the sound of the Avatar’s name. Korra swings herself up onto his head by one horn.

“Great! Um, yip-yip?”

The command apparently still works for spirit skybison and Korra hangs on as Appa takes off. The strange bright light ends abruptly as they soar upwards and Korra looks back to see the shattered remains of a great iceberg fading away behind them. An unfamiliar landscape of the spirit world rolls along under them as they fly. Korra takes it in, trying to make mental notes of places to try and come back to. Appa flies into a towering mountain range encased in clouds. He seems familiar with the area because they don’t hit anything even in the dense fog. There’s a sudden break in the clouds and up ahead of them an unfamiliar temple appears. Korra admires the spires and graceful arches as they get closer. Parts of it seem familiar- the spiraling towers remind her of the Southern Air Temple, delicately arched bridges through thin air reminiscent of the Eastern Air Temple, one section even seems to look upside down like the Western Air Temple.

Appa lands with a soft thud in a courtyard. Korra hops down and gives him a grateful pat. He gently headbutts her in the back towards a far doorway.

She finds a spiraling staircase beyond the doorway. When she pokes her head to the center and looks up, it looks as though it continues forever. At least spirits don’t get physically tired. She starts climbing. The occasional small window shows her the slight change in height as she climbs the tower.

The motion becomes automatic, her breath slowly aligning with her footsteps. It’s calming.

 

She’s suddenly at the top of the stairs. They end with a smooth connection to a large stone platform  extending flatly over the temple below them. While logically she knows she’s a spirit right now and this is some kind of airbender temple, the lack of rails along the edge that overlooks the mountains still makes her stomach lurch a little.

In the distance, near the edge of the platform, sits a monk in familiar yellow and red robes.

“Hello?” she calls, taking a step. “Um, Avatar Aang?”

Korra takes another step and finds herself standing next to the airbender. He doesn’t react to her sudden presence, so she stands awkwardly for a moment. She sinks down to sit next to him, trying not to stare. Is it weird to stare at your own past life? It’s almost strange seeing the vivid blue of his tattoos in person (in spirit?), after having only the sepia toned pictures, stone or metal statues, and their brief encounter in the South Pole to draw from when picturing her past life. She recognizes pieces of him from his children and grandchildren, reassembled into a person that is a stranger, but also as familiar to her as her own self.

“It’s good to see you again, Korra.”

She jumps a little when he suddenly speaks. Aang turns to face her, gentle grey eyes crinkling at the corners as he looks at her with a smile.

“Hi.” She breathes. Then stops. “There’s… so much I want to tell you and so many questions I have for you.”

“Well, the good news is I know everything that you know. Well, up until we… lost touch.”

She laughs awkwardly.

“Oh. Right. So you kinda know everything up until Harmonic Convergence.” Korra sits up straighter. “Why was I seeing memories of yours about getting struck by lightning?”

Aang uncrosses his legs, letting his feet dangle over the edge of the wall as he leans back on his hands.

“I’d guess because that was the most recent time that the cycle was nearly broken.” He tilts his head, thinking. “I nearly lost the connection to our past lives completely, dying in the Avatar state like that.”

“Really?” A part of Korra feels marginally better knowing that Avatar Aang had gone through something similar. He nods.

“I spent several weeks in a coma, traveling through the spirit world to reconnect with the previous cycle of Avatars. I didn’t have any idea of it myself until I died and gained those lost memories of my time here back. I would have died and ended the cycle if not for Katara.”

“Do you think if I did the same thing as you it would let my connection open up?” Korra asks hopefully.

Aang looks at her, considering.

“How long has it been in your time now?”

Korra squints and counts back.

“Nearly twelve years now, wow.”

“May I?” Aang reaches out, waiting until Korra nods, curious.

He presses a thumb to her forehead, his other fingers resting gently on her hairline. He closes his eyes and concentrates. Korra feels an odd sensation ripple through her, like a spiritual searchlight has scanned her. Aang’s hand falls away and he opens his eyes.

“The connection will never be the same again, as far as I can tell.” He says apologetically.

“Oh.” Korra tries not to be disappointed. “I thought… maybe with all the memories coming through it was getting better.”

Aang shrugs his shoulders.

“Perhaps it will. Only time will tell. It will be up to you, Avatar Korra.” He grins.

She sighs and he chuckles at her exasperated expression.

“I’d love to have just one straight forward adventure.” Korra says, flopping back to lay on the ground.

“Where would the adventure in that be?” Aang asks, cheerfully. “I’m sure the world post-Harmonic Convergence has been a terribly interesting one.”

The thought that had escaped her earlier zings back with a vengeance. Korra sits up abruptly.

“…you only know what happened up until Harmonic Convergence happened.”

Korra stares at Avatar Aang, the last airbender, hero of the Hundred Year War, peacekeeper for decades. His forehead crinkles in the same way that Jinora’s does as he gives her a politely baffled look.

“You don’t know.” She breathes.

 

She remembers the look on Tenzin’s face that had lasted for days at the realization that other airbenders now existed. He’d looked like he’d truly float off the ground, some great weight that she’d never realized he was carrying falling from his shoulders, and while waiting for Asami’s airship to be prepped for their trip across the Earth Kingdom she’d caught him around the temple staring into space with tears in his eyes more than once. Something squeezes tightly in her chest as she stares at the spirit of the man her mentor had always tried so hard to live up to.

 

“I don’t know what?” Aang prompts after she must wait a beat too long. He pulls his feet up and turns to sit facing her. Korra reaches out and grabs his hands. Opens her mouth. Closes it again. Lets his hands go.

How does one even break this kind of news? Part of her wishes she could bring Tenzin here to give his father the news about what they’ve done. But another, older part of her knows that this isn’t a place she could bring anyone else. Not while they were living at least, not even the most spiritual of people.

“Jinora earned her tattoos.” She blurts out. “Tenzin’s oldest daughter. For being my spirit guide and a lot of other stuff too.”

Aang’s face softens.

“How wonderful.”

“That was around ten years ago now, but the ceremony was beautiful. All the windchimes and incense.” She takes a breath. “It was the first big ceremony that all the airbenders got to do together.”

Aang brightens.

“More of Tenzin’s kids are airbenders?”

“All four of them are actually, drove Pema a little nuts.” Korra laughs.

“Pema? That little acolyte with the crush on Tenzin?”

“More than a crush- Tenzin’s her husband and she runs Air Temple Island now.”

Aang laughs.

“I knew she was tough, good for her. I remember her being very dedicated around the temple. A good cook too. Four kids you said?”

Korra softens, allowing the sidetrack in conversation at the eager look on his face.

“Yeah. Jinora is the oldest and she’s been my spiritual guide along with Tenzin. She’s training to take over the Eastern Air Temple eventually. She and her fiancé Kai just decided when their official lifebond ceremony is going to be! Ikki is next, she just earned her tattoos a couple years ago and is thinking about being an official diplomat or professional air bison wrangler, it’s still up in the air. Then there’s Meelo. I… am pretty sure if he really wanted to, he could take over the world eventually, but for now he’s still just a student. Rohan is the youngest, he just turned eleven and loves animals. They’re all great and have been fantastic mentors in spiritual and airbending studies.” She smiles. “Harmonic Convergence caused a kind of spiritual shockwave in our world and it effected lots of people differently. It caused a big reset and lots of disruptions. The biggest shock was when reports started arriving at Air Temple Island from all over the former Earth Kingdom that-”

Former Earth Kingdom?” Aang asks, eyebrows jumping up nearly over his arrow.

“Oh, yeah. King Wu decided to dissolve the kingdom and it’s an allied group of providences now. Or mostly. It’s still kind of messy.” Korra shakes her head. “But that was a few years later. Part of the reason it was so messy was because we were in the middle of reintegrating a lost nation into the world.”

Aang’s forehead creases and Korra grins.

“The reports that started coming in were going to Tenzin because he was the only airbending master around, and there were suddenly a few hundred people in the world who woke up with the power to airbend.” Aang stares at her. Korra reaches out and grips one of his hands. “The Air Nation is going strong again. They rediscovered a couple herds of wild skybison near the Northern Temple during the early trainings. Tenzin and the kids taught all of the new airbenders everything they know and now they’re all a dedicated force for peace and protecting the spirit wilds in our world.”

She waits a moment, but Aang doesn’t move, still just staring at her.

“One of the first few of the new airbenders we found was one of Toph’s grandkids, Opal.” She adds.

This seems to cut through the shock and Aang lets out a startled laugh.

“How did she take that?”

“She’s proud, as far as I can tell. Opal is a great leader of the new airbenders. She and her brothers- a master engineer and several master metal and earthbenders- restored the Northern Air Temple.”

“New airbenders.” Aang says, looking dazed.

“Enough benders and bison to fill the temples again now.” Korra says softly. “There were even a couple of babies born at the Southern Temple last year.”

Aang’s eyes shut tightly and several strong emotions make their way across his face so quickly she can’t name them. His voice is rough when he speaks again.

“The greatest regret of my life was not being able to save my people when they needed me. I had always hoped that the spirits would see fit to set the imbalance of it to rights, but this… this is beyond anything I could have dreamed.” He looks at her with shining eyes.

Abruptly, Korra finds herself pulled both to her feet and into a tight hug. The soft, billowy robes of the airbenders feel the same in the spirit world as the human.

“Thank you.” Aang says, voice thick. “I don’t have the words to even express what this means.”

Korra squeezes him back just as tightly, tucking her face into his shoulder before letting out a shuddery breath of her own.

“I’m just glad to know I didn’t disappoint you again.”

“Korra, you never disappointed me.” He shifts a step back to put a hand on her shoulder. “I am so proud of you and everything you have accomplished so far. You are a marvelous Avatar and a remarkable young woman. Your leadership is guiding the world in unprecedented times. And you still have so much time left ahead of you.”

Korra feels a sudden unconscious weight lift from her chest. She blinks back tears.

“Oh. Well, that’s good to hear.”

Aang smiles at her, letting his hand drop. Then he looks past her at the horizon.

“I hope that we get the chance to speak again soon, Avatar Korra, but for now it looks like it’s time for you to be heading back.”

A low grumble sounds from behind her and Korra turns to see Appa hovering beside them. Aang leaps from the wall to the familiar seat on the skybison’s head. It’s a strange double vision, seeing him in the same manner she’s seen so many other airbenders in the last decade. He extends a hand and Korra grabs it, scrambling up onto Appa’s back. They take off, the strange temple disappearing in the clouds and mountains.

The sea reappears beneath them and the ice floes come into view in the distance.

Korra slides down to sit next to Aang.

“I always wanted to say thank you for asking Katara to be my waterbending teacher. I don’t think I’d be half the Avatar I am without her.” She says quietly.

“I wouldn’t have been either.” Aang says cheerfully, gently tugging on the reigns in his hands to send them lower towards the water.

The ice bubble Korra has locked herself in appears ahead of them. Impulsively, she leans over and gives Aang one last hug. He squeezes her back.

“Good luck, Avatar Korra.”

 

/

 

Korra opens her eyes. She blinks rapidly as they start watering at the brightness of the ice around her. Groaning, she gets up and stretches her stiff body before she climbs back into her kayak, bending the ice out of the way. She takes her time paddling back. The sun is shining, and the winds have died down, so it’s a pleasant trip across the water.

The future looks bright.

She feels certain in a way she hasn’t in years.

Korra smiles as the sloped roofs of the coastal Southern Water Tribe come into view and she paddles faster, grinning as the wind and water rise to meet her.