All Korra’s hopes of departure were dashed with Bolin’s bold refusal.
She had barely gone up five steps before he began to snap at her, prompting her to stop mid-step. She kept still with her eyes forward as he attracted the attention of the nearby spectators. The hot flush of embarrassment at the sudden attention was felt dancing across her skin, but she didn’t bother responding, nor did she continue walking. If this was going to be how Bolin wanted to handle their dilemma, she would let him make that choice, and she would make the choice of not being a part of this argument. Proportions now blown, all that was left for her to do was grit her teeth and bear the brunt of pain his anger had brought her.
Bolin was supportive of her until now, something she was never going to deny him. He went on, saying she changed, that she wasn’t the girl he thought she was, that she was selfish, self-centered, arrogant, and probably much more awful things. Not only did he see fit to cut her down publicly, but Bolin also felt it sensible that the situation among the Fire Ferrets be made known, loud and clear. What happened between Mako and herself was no one’s business. Bolin felt differently.
Korra turned sharply and glared at him through teary eyes, holding herself back from spitting the same venom he did. Her hands were clenched so tightly that they grew numb; she trembled where she stood, bit back from retorting, and endured every blow Bolin gave her.
He was wrong. She cared about Mako and Asami both, but Mako did come to her that night when he could be anywhere else at the time, like with the girlfriend he supposedly loved so much. Somewhere inside she knew that Mako felt something for her, something that Asami didn’t have or couldn’t quite give him. It was Bolin who couldn’t see the situation for what it was, and it took every ounce of willpower she had not to give him the pleasure of seeing her argue with him again. Since he chose to be the one to lash out, he should do it alone. She would take comfort in the truth.
His final piece was the one she did not prepare for. The very moment he spoke of Mako’s regret and trying to work things out with Asami, her rage melted into shock and confusion. Her wet eyes peered searchingly into Bolin’s to trace for a lie, yet no sign of it was found. He stood firm behind the words he spoke, and in any other situation she would find no reason to think of him as a liar. But this was different – it was about her happiness, something he wanted to take away from her. Because he was hurt, he wanted to hurt her back. That was the only explanation that made sense to her now. “You’re lying,”
she said shakily, managing a faux smile of confidence. “Mako’s just—“
An explosion from the arena ceiling cut everything between them short. Simultaneously, several things occurred: Black cables descended from the dark smoke of the crumbling ceiling, followed by a few canisters that hit the arena center and engulfed it in white smoke. The bystanders of the arena, fearing what was coming, scrambled for all available exits only to discover that they were now barred shut. Several men and women across the bleachers stood calmly and proceeded to stand closely to the arena, waiting for a sign of some kind. Lastly, the announcer for the game had been heard yelping from up high; she could just barely make out the silhouette of a masked figure with an electrified glove standing in place of the unconscious Shiro Shinobi, donning a familiar uniform and mask.
Looking down at the dissipating smoke, Korra could make out several men. At the very center was their leader and the source of all her most recent fears since their very brief encounter on Aang Memorial Island: Amon. He was backed by a handful of men, some of which held one of the teams – the Wolfbats – hostage, electrified gloves gripping their uncovered heads. The fear of what was happening and what would happen to them was plain in their eyes. She knew Tahno and his team as a gang of arrogant jerks, but no one deserved what Amon was prepared to do to them.
Before she could try and formulate a plan with Bolin, he raised a platform of earth from the splintered material that fell from the crumbling ceiling and charged ahead. He was fearless in his efforts to confront Amon, but his escort proved more than enough to handle him. It had only taken one enemy to gain his attention. Another of many had slipped down the dark cables above, throwing two metallic discs at Bolin the moment he set his feet on the ground. Two braided cables freed themselves from the discs and wrapped around Bolin’s ankles and his arms, securing his limbs in place and emitting an electric current that brought his rampage to a swift halt.
In a single minute, everything had changed. Now she was one of many, fearful of what was to come next. Amon’s introduction came after Bolin was subdued, and then every eye within the stadium fell to her still, awestruck form.
Could she really do this? Korra wondered, the only sound in the arena now was the beating of her own heart. She swallowed hard and considered what few options were left to her. There was no escaping Amon this time. And as much as he hurt her, she wouldn’t—no, she couldn’t leave Bolin to face Amon’s wrath. Everywhere she looked were eyes brimming with fear, and a select few with hope. Everyone was counting on her, counting on the Avatar, to end this threat and to set things right.
There was no other option but to fight.“Is something the matter, Avatar Korra?”
Amon asked, his booming voice echoing around the arena. “Do you intend to flee?”
Wiping away what stray tears remained within her eyes, Korra straightened her posture and descended the staircase towards the platform Bolin created. “No,”
she replied firmly. Even though she feared him, no one could see her frightened at a time like this. “Are your followers joining in this time, or do you actually plan to fight me yourself?”“You speak as if that makes the outcome any different.”
Amon watched her carefully. Once she stepped foot on the arena floor, he casually waved his hand back, prompting the Equalist group to take their hostages and step away towards the edge of the arena. Bolin unwillingly joined them, dragged by his feet. With enough space to move, Amon began to pace and flex his knuckles. Several sharp pops could be heard. “I told you before that you would be the last bender I destroy to bring about my new era. But I’ve had a change of heart.”
He stopped and rolled his neck, causing several pops to be heard once again. “You’re tenacious. And that tenacity is going to be problematic. You’re going to learn your place right here and now.”
His confidence was unshakable, and Korra was certain that his strength could back up his words with ease. She was nervous, and that was something she could admit to herself. Her whole body shook as sweat built on the surface of her bare skin. Even with three elements at her disposal to Amon’s none, she didn’t feel strong. Amon’s confidence wasn’t her own. She was unprepared for him and she knew it. Despite these facts, Korra bent her knees and prepared herself for the fight that would determine the fate of benders everywhere.“You’re shaking,”
Amon pointed out. “Are you frightened, Korra?”“…No,”
she lied quietly. “This won’t be like last time, Amon.”“I agree. This is going to be much worse than before.”
Korra unleashed a stream of flame from her right fist, accompanied by a cry that deafened all who watched on…
Mako had run over a dozen conversations in his head prior to arriving in the park with a single rose wrapped in hand, and none of the outcomes made him feel any more hopeful about how this chat was going to begin. For most of the day he paced at home and scolded himself for everything that led to this moment. If he just minded his own business and left Bolin to experience Korra himself, then he could be at home with Asami right now, cozy by the fireplace, or maybe just a walk through the very park where he stood now. Anything was better than the anxiety that choked him by the neck. He checked his breath out of habit a multitude of times, debated on combing his hair, and thought about dressing up prim and proper for her before getting here.
Thankfully, he had come to his senses. Looking better didn’t change how she felt about him, but it was the only distraction he had from her teary eyes that he still saw when he closed his own. The pit in his stomach felt endless. He could hardly eat throughout the day. Getting sleep didn’t work much better. All he did was wait until the sun began falling to make his move, only being reminded of the things he could be doing with her now. Watching this sunset with her hand in his was just one of many outcomes he’d prefer on a list of intimate moments. He’d even throw fighting Equalists with her on that list. Anything was better than feeling hopeless.
But in his self-made depression, he knew that Asami felt far worse. Now a decision had to be made, one that determined the fate of their relationship as they knew it.
Asami was a jewel in a sea of sand. Because of that, it didn’t take long to find her resting against her vehicle. Mako made his approach with his arms behind his back, concealing the rose. “Hey, Asami!”
He called out to her with a smile. “Sorry if I kept you too long. Sundown isn’t much of an… indicator… of time…so, you know… didn’t really know what the time was.” ‘Great start, Mako. Great start...’“I bought you something,”
he said, bringing the rose forward, wrapped in simple white paper. Despite its lack of friends, it still bloomed strong and stood out, much like Asami always did to him. “I know it doesn’t make up for everything I did recently. They had another rose there – sapphire, I think the guy said – but I didn’t have the money for something like that. I always thought red was more your color anyway, s-so… for you. Here.”